Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fake News


In regard to the currently hot topic of fake news, one is tempted ask whether “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” is an example and whether the dire predictions about the ravages of climate change to our planet by 2010 is another. One could ask the same question about any number of apparent hate crimes roundly condemned in the press, which have subsequently been exposed as lies--as when the homosexual pastor in Austin, TX, for instance, himself adorned with a slur a cake that he had purchased at Whole Foods or the recent burning of a black church in Mississippi by one of its members, who attempted to shift suspicion by painting the slogan “Vote Trump” on the side of the building. Although such incidents show that the left can traffic in political lies as well as anyone, the current left-wing obsession with fake news nevertheless does rest upon a serious dread.

That dread is the suspicion that we can no longer trust the masses of people--hence, of voters in our democratic society--clearly to understand the world around them and make rational decisions about it. In a stable world, anyone who spent half a minute looking at the story currently known as Pizzagate would see instantly that it is laughably false. (And one can also see instantly that belief in such an idea can have devastating results, even for perfectly innocent people.) Such analysis, however, isn't innate to human beings any more than is analysis of the physical world or the world of numbers and mathematics. The human mind can turn itself to and approve all manner of objects, including selfish desires, material wealth, kindness, hatred of the stranger, Sanskrit, chocolate, or Elvis Presley. The mind can also approve ideas for a variety of reasons, some of which have little to do with their truth or falsity--one need think only of the yes-man among the middle managers willing to approve any suggestion, no matter how inane, of the people upstairs so that he can join their ranks. The left is correct that in a democratic society voters must be able clearly to distinguish between truth and falsity in order to make correct--and therefore wise--decisions that will affect themselves and those who live with them.

Other forms of analysis--of musical harmony or the human body--require training of neophytes by experts, and democratic society has provided for the formal education of its young and the training of their minds before they participate fully as citizens by voting. (Hence the voting age in the United States coincides, for the most part, with graduation from school.) If it is now disturbingly common in our society for people to believe that John Podesta is a satanist or that a pizzeria in Washington DC favored by staffers of Hillary Clinton is a den for the ritualized sexual abuse of children, then one must surely ask not why these beliefs in particular have gained such wide acceptance but why those who believe them are unable or unwilling to analyze them and see them as preposterous on their face.

If people genuinely believe that 9-11 was an inside job, then we should ask why they lack even the rudimentary skills necessary to see the absurdity of such a claim. The fault must lie in large measure with our system of education. For decades conservatives have decried American public education as a scandal: now we see that twelve or more years devoid of serious demands on students’ intellect may in fact pose a serious danger to democratic society. And the irony that at long last the American left is beginning to reap the harvest of the substandard education they have so long fostered is at best very bitter indeed.

Another problem, however, may rest not in the inability to recognize truth but in the moral failing of holding beliefs for the sake of political convenience. As the middle manager may agree with his superiors only because he wants to be one of them, so also many people in our society seem to espouse beliefs not because they are correct but because doing so is necessary for them to belong to the tribe. Recognizing this bias in myself helps me see it as well in a very well educated friend who once told me that Sarah Palin is mentally challenged because claimed to be able to see Russia from her home in Wasilla, Alaska. When I pointed out to him that his statement was false, he refused, despite his inability to produce any other evidence, to change his assessment of Palin. To do so would have put him beyond the pale of those he had come to regard as enlightened, a group that he has staked his identity upon joining. His desire to speak the shibboleth with regard to Sarah Palin, an infallible gauge of one’s political correctness, is essential to his self-image, regardless of whether or not what he believes about her is true. Precisely the same is true about the belief of some conservatives with regard to President Obama’s being a Muslim. Back in the day, William F. Buckley, Jr. insisted on excommunicating from the movement anyone who made the idiotic claim that President Eisenhower a card-carrying member of the Communist conspiracy. Hindsight shows just how prescient Buckley’s insistence proved to be.

But if a person’s simple inability to detect a manifestly fraudulent claim indicts our system of education, then a person’s unwillingness to accept what he knows to be true calls seriously into question the moral training we give to our young. That problem reaches the heart of what is most vital to a civilization and its cultures--and is a subject proper not for a brief meditation or a post on a blog but for a lifetime of study and practice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tight


According to the conventional wisdom, while President Obama and Mitt Romney are running almost even in the popular vote, the President is handily ahead in the Electoral College. Close examination of the Electoral College tells a different story. If one visits the Realclearpolitics website and looks for the Do It Yourself electoral map, one sees immediately that the conventional narrative is not correct. On the DIY map, one begins with the Realclearpolitics map, in which the President is indeed ahead but nowhere close to the 270 electoral votes needed to secure reelection. At present, the map shows the President with 121; if one awards North Carolina nd Virginia to Romney--both of which I think are very likely--then the electoral count is 119-121. Romney will need to fight hard to get to 270, but so will President Obama. The race is much closer than the pundits say and at the moment is at least as likely to go Romney's way as Obama's.

That's one reason for increasing Democrat worry, which TMH thinks will manifest itself in a bitter, sardonic, superior and generally off putting Democrat Convention next week. Another reason for their desperation to reelect the President is that the Democrat Party faces a most uncertain future. Who, for example, can they nominate four years from now if the President should not be reelected? The only Democrat we can think of who has a favorable national profile is Hillary Clinton, while as they showed at the convention this week, the Republicans have an attractive array of people plausible as national candidates. From Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico to Nikki Haley of South Carolina, from Mia Love to Paul Ryan himself the Republican Party has an amazing and attractive deep field of inspirational leaders.

Friday, August 10, 2012

We Told You So


Well, not precisely, but TMH did make the point some time ago that the much-praised Fareed Zakaria is, upon close inspection, a bit short on ideas. As if to underscore the point, Zakaria apparently (partly) plagiarized a recent column in Time. As if further to underscore the fact that while appearing to be an independent thinker he is actually a high-toned liberal, Zakaria plagiarized from The New York Times.

On the credit side of the ledger, he did not claim to be a victim, and he did not blame other people--not even George W. Bush--for his error: he took full responsibility for what he did. Perhaps, then, as with so much else about the man, we need to revise our judgment that he is simply a liberal.

Time has apparently suspended his column for a month. We suppose it's just to rob him of his voice for appropriating the voice of another and to do so only temporarily since he plagiarized only a little. We wonder, though, whether since he did this once he might have done so on other occasions.

That Sly Carney Smile


Today the White House press briefing apparently witnessed quite a clatter about the advertisement by Priorities USA that presents the testimony of Joe Soptic, a former steel worker, who claims that his being laid off after Bain Capital assumed control of his company led to his wife's lack of treatment for and death from cancer. It has now become clear that Mitt Romney was no more connected with Mrs Soptic's death than was Kevin Bacon, yet Jay Carney again and again deflected any suggestion by the press corps that the President should denounce this fraud.

While we had thought that the Clinton Administration epitomized postmodernism, press briefings such as the one today gild the lily by showing that this White House can even spin spin. Far more worrisome than the ad itself--it's not as if we haven't seen and survived outrageous attacks before in American political history--is Jay Carney's supercilious treatment of the matter. With his smile telegraphing a smug certainty that his side only benefits from the controversy, Carney himself did what the Administration has been doing for the past several days in refusing to respond directly to the issue itself. The ad claims quite fraudulently that Romney is partly responsible for Mrs Soptic's death; on the other hand, it is now quite clear that the White House itself is the origin of the lie told in the ad--a lie compounded by the lie given out earlier this week that the White House had no connection to the ad whatsoever. So we are left with a completely bizarre situation of the White House casting opprobrium on Romney for something he never did, while flatly lying about its own behavior.

How to account for this mess? The White House is doing what it's doing because it knows that for the time being, it can only profit from this situation. So far, the White House has managed very successfully to avoid responsibility for any of its bad behavior, intentional or unintentional. With the economy in a dangerous deceleration and fuel prices again on the rise, the White House continues to blame George W. Bush, and the mainstream media utters no protest. In short order, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, which among other things will show the abysmal failure of the President's policy in the Middle East, and again the White House simply refuses to talk about the matter. In the rare moments that anyone pays attention to the deficit, which is rapidly increasing under Obama's tenure, the White House points out that Romney's tax proposals would...wait for it: increase the deficit.

And thus the White House sticks with the tactics that have served it so well over the past several years. Since the mainstream media acquiesced four years ago and refused to hold Obama accountable for any of his shortcomings--from a breathtaking lack of experience to his deeply suspicious associations with people like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright--the White House knows that the majority of the media will refuse to hold the President responsible for any other mischief he may get up to. That leaves more centrist and conservative news outlets, such as Fox or the Drudge Report, but these institutions have been successfully ghettoized by the Administration and those in the mainstream media in competition with Fox and Drudge. Indeed, just days ago Jay Carney attacked the Drudge Report with a wink and a nod, insinuating for all those in the press room who speak his language that Drudge is an unreliable source, and the Obama Administration has practically made a second career of attacking Fox News. Not only, therefore, does itself never take responsibility for any of it's many failings but it has insulated itself from any criticism by others.

So the White House knows that if the President does not disavow the ad, the press will soon neuter the issue by beginning to report not on the President's lack of response but on the controversy as a controversy, which promotes the matter from being a crisis to which the President should respond to a matter that people are talking about. In the meantime, while people talk about it, the original claim--that Romney killed Mrs Soptic--continues to be made over and over, the claim will continue to run up Mitt Romney's negatives, and the swing states will slip ever further into to the blue column. Romney will lose, and in the warm glow of the second inauguration everyone will forget the filthy politics of the Reelect Obama campaign. And all the while, the lie that Mrs Soptic died because of being without health insurance will bolster support for Obamacare. On the other hand, if this controversy should suddenly grow into a crisis for the President, he can always step in and denounce the ad at any moment, in which case Romney's negatives will have still have increased, and the President will look like the post-partisan shining white knight that in his previous campaign he claimed to be.

The only way to handle such a crisis is for Romney himself to forget himself once and for all. He needs to quit thinking that this election is about him, his record, his resume, his ambition, his kind and moral decency and to engage in the fight filled with the conviction that the campaign is about three things (none of which happens to be Mitt Romney): the nation, which is rapidly deteriorating, the utter incompetence of this president, and the outrageous venality of a White House so desperate to fulfill its lust for power that it not only capitalize on the agonizing death of a good woman but freely, smilingly lie while doing so and about doing so. Romney needs, in short not to defend himself in the matter of Mrs Soptic but to talk fiercely and relentlessly about this situation as one that shows the utter corruption of this Administration. And he needs to select as his running mate not an avuncular Midwestern slice of bland white bread but a person with enough of a vision of what American liberty really means that the Republican ticket can wage a bold, inspiring campaign in the late summer and fall. Mitt Romney has a responsibility to all Republicans and all conservatives to do just that.

Whether Romney has the humility to forget himself and think only about the good of the nation is an open question. We sincerely hope he does. Having sought the nomination for president, he has a responsibility to do everything--within the bounds of honesty--to win the office. If he doesn't, those on the other side will have learned, once again, that the way to gain power and to govern is to lie with impunity, destroy the reputations of good people, and smile--ever so knowingly--while they do so.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hate?

Breaking Update: Far Left Goon Is Fired After Abusing Young Female Employee at Chick-fil-A

Having been schooled in the contemporary lexicon of political correctness, we should all note the hate spewed by the employee here and the respectful tolerance of Mr Smith, who as the CFO of a corporation talking to a fast food cashier is obviously speaking truth to power.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Don't Blame Us for the Culture War, Part II





This morning, The Weekly Standard had this to say on its website about the apparently record day of sales at Chic-fil-A yesterday: "Pastor Rick Warren reported last night on Twitter that fast food chain Chick-fil-A 'set a world record' yesterday. His claim is based off a phone call he had with Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A who ignited a culture war when he expressed his preference for traditional marriage." While we generally love The Weekly Standard, we recognize that as a fallible organ it occasionally misspeaks, and so it has here.

Dan Cathy did NOT "ignite a culture war": first of all, the culture war has long been raging. Second, Cathy merely said what, for example, President Obama used to say as recently as this winter. Third, those who came out to support Chic-fil-A yesterday showed how opposed they are to an escalation of the war. When one can be punished by the government (in the form of municipalities that refuse to allow your business to expand in their towns) express an opinion that was apparently fine just six months ago, then we are on a very slippery slope to a nightmare world governed by adepts in Doublespeak.

Or maybe it's reached the level of Triplespeak by now. How many of those who say that a person must be punished for saying today what was fine for the President to say several months ago would be willing to punish radical Muslims who think not just that marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals but that those who disagree ought to be killed?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spread the Wealth

A retweet today--a review at Powerlineblog of what appears to be a most interesting book. The thesis is that given a second term President Obama would make it a major goal to tax the suburbs to redistribute wealth to the cities. It sounds plausible, given everything we know about this President:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/07/michelle-obamas-shhhh-moment-and-what-it-tells-us-about-her-husbands-plans-to-spread-the-wealth.php





As often, the details are the most telling. I haven't read the book and so can't endorse it, but at the very least it seems worth knowing about.