Tales From the Loop
The Gentlemen

Did Trump Actually...oh, never mind

Every few days, at least once a week, I see headlines about something outrageous Trump has said. Until recently my reaction tended to go like this:

1) Gosh, that sounds bad.

2) I wonder if he actually said it.

3) I will look for the transcript or the tweet and learn the truth.

Two months ago, I wrote a post condemning the way journalists distort Trump's words. At least one commenter (who hasn't been heard from since) seemed to take this as a defense of Trump, but it wasn't. It was an objection to the press making a bad situation worse by making Trump look even worse than he actually is: pouring gasoline on an already dangerous fire. From that post:

I do care about the transformation of most of the national press into a weapon for [Trump's] enemies, because it means that the institutions which are supposed to inform us, and are always eager to preen themselves upon their own importance, have more or less abandoned that duty where domestic politics is concerned. 

Well, that was a happier time, a time when I was naive enough to think that the distinction between "true" and "false" could make much difference in the level of rage consuming our politics. Now my reaction to the latest Awful Trump story is:

1) Gosh, that sounds bad.

2) I wonder if he actually said it.

3) Oh, who gives a ****?

It doesn't matter. Trump haters don't care whether he actually said it or not. Trump lovers, if they care, will assume the reports are false. Both will probably soon forget about it, but their anger will have been pumped up a bit further, and the cold civil war will get hotter.

By the way: I made the first notes for this post last weekend, prompted by that moment's outrage. Today, when I sat down to complete it, I had to stop and think to recall what the outrage had been about. I'd be surprised if you remember (looking it up doesn't count).

Comments

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I probably didn't even know that it happened.

AMDG

I am trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the number one bigtime media event at the moment is a play about the Founding Fathers with a cast that is almost exclusively made up of people of color, at the same time there is this cry to erase the Founding Fathers from history. It's some weird kind of societal cognitive dissonance.

AMDG

I'm sort of watching for that to blow up. I know a couple of people who are huge and I mean huge fans of the play and also old leftists. They seem to feel (I'm guessing, and I haven't seen the play) that one of the cool things about the play is that it shows the universality of the founding principles. But it's exactly that idea that's being attacked by the more, um, advanced.

Maybe the young Red Guards aren't paying attention, though.

But if you search for "hamilton problematic" you get some complaints.

These days his comments that are not attacking anyone may be the most problematic. "99% of coronavirus cases are totally harmless." He either said that, or someone made a video that sounds and looks a lot like him.

That's an exaggeration, but at least in Alabama, it's actually not so very far off, depending on how seriously you take "totally harmless." Hospitalizations between 6 and 7%, deaths around 2%.

But it doesn't matter anymore. If he'd said 93%, or "the vast majority," or if he had had used the most precise and widely accepted nationwide number, you wouldn't think any better of him, and his committed supporters wouldn't think any worse if he said 99.99%.

I wouldn't call myself a "Trump lover" - though I'm probably more pro-Trump than anyone else here - but I've gotten to the point where I don't believe anything "the mainstream media" says if it can even indirectly reflect on Trump. I thought they hated Reagan (well, they did, but he made it more difficult). At this point I think Marvin Gaye (or whoever he got it from) was right.

I don't trust anything I read, but I think maybe I'm too afraid to be taken in. "The dwarfs are for the dwarfs!"

At this point it's only reasonable to disbelieve the mainstream media on Trump. Not just to be skeptical, but to assume there is some major inaccuracy or distortion. His speech last week is a case in point. News stories should not state as if it were simple fact that a speech is "dark and divisive." But that's small potatoes compared to saying he defended Confederate monuments etc, which apparently is a total falsehood. I say apparently because I didn't read the whole speech and am taking the word of people who are generally trustworthy and are not especially pro-Trump.

It's like they never heard the story of the boy who cried "wolf!". Or if they did they thought the moral was that the boy should have screamed louder.

I love it that his rally in Oklahoma MAY have been the reason for the surge in Covid cases there.

AMDG

I guess that's comparatively restrained. Surprised they didn't say "probably."

Mainstream media were directly quoting the executive director of the Tulsa Health Department:

President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday.

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday.

Although the health department’s policy is to not publicly identify individual settings where people may have contracted the virus, Dart said those large gatherings “more than likely” contributed to the spike.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said.

https://apnews.com/ad96548245e186382225818d8dc416eb?

I just did a search and found a number of headlines that put "likely" in quotes. That's fine.

The search also turned up this rather creepy thing:

https://www.westernjournal.com/craigslist-ad-sought-people-infected-covid-attend-trump-rally/

I don't know anything about the site so it could be baloney.

https://babylonbee.com/news/trump-says-i-dont-want-americans-to-die-nyt-quotes-as-i-want-americans-to-die

The man behind Western Journal (earlier called Western Journalism) is the same man who did the Willie Horton ads. Ugh.
https://www.newsweek.com/2016/12/16/floyd-brown-maestro-media-manipulation-528591.html

The site definitely looks dodgy. Pretty much screams it, really. The Craiglist ad does look real, but that doesn't mean it represents a serious plan (as opposed to just sort of trolling) or that anyone actually carried out the plan.

I laughed at this line in the Newsweek story: "Critics say much of their content is, at best, misleading." Pots and kettles.

Don: :-). I guess you know Snopes has published "fact checks" of the Bee several times.

I did a look at the stats for Tulsa and Oklahoma. I was especially interested because we visited Oklahoma for my mom's funeral on June 30. We were concerned that there was a spike going on in OK and also that the rally might have "not helped the situation." In fact, the surge in OK began on around June 7. It definitely has ramped up in the last couple of weeks, JUST AS IT HAS EVERYWHERE. Wisconsin, where I live, is especially bad. Now, Trump and Pence have visited here in the past couple of weeks. So..........

Did the rally contribute to the surge in OK? Sure. It is the kind of thing that would. Like a big party or a protest rally or a Memorial Day celebration or frequenting bars--all of which happened in OK and everywhere. How much did it contribute? One percent more? Ten percent? Even if it were one percent, you would still be able to say it "likely" contributed.

What we don't have in journalism any more, if we ever did, is a careful sifting of the facts.

I’m out of town and can only tap out comments on my phone. So I’ll just say yeah, I know. It’s a shame the whole pandemic thing is all tangled up with the political conflict.

I find that Vox does a good job sifting through and explaining things, like in this piece on June 27, "The US’s new surge in coronavirus cases, explained" and this one on July 8, "Just 4 states meet these basic criteria to reopen and stay safe".

I would certainly not take those articles as definitive. I see a number of very debatable assertions there put forward as simple fact. Which in my limited experience is typical for Vox. They are quite partisan, not disinterested arbiters of truth.

Here’s an example of the kind of journalism that is disgracing the field and fueling the animosity and division:

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/07/14/politics/donald-trump-police-brutality/index.html

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