Learn Everything

No matter how hard some people try, we can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should learn everything, the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation.

President Biden, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge,
marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday

This week’s featured post is “Imaginary problems, real laws, real victims“.

This week everybody was talking about bills in state legislatures

The featured post focuses on some of the scary laws either recently passed or under consideration in red-state legislatures, including Tennessee’s anti-drag law and Ron DeSantis’ attempt to get ideological control of Florida’s state university system.

I left out some bills would indeed be terrible laws, but so far show no signs of moving in that direction. Remember: There are 50 state legislatures, most of which have two houses and 100-200 members. So there are thousands of state legislators, any one of whom can file a bill saying whatever. You can’t let them troll you.

So Florida also has a bill that would make bloggers register with the state and file monthly reports if they write about state politics and receive money.

If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office, as identified in paragraph (1)(f), within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer. … Upon registering with the appropriate office, a blogger must file monthly reports on the 10th day following the end of each calendar month from the time a blog post is added to the blog

The reports have to say who paid you and how much. Failure to report on time carries a $25 per day fine for each post. I don’t make any money off this blog, so it wouldn’t apply to me. But I do wonder about blogs with advertising.

Anyway, the bill was filed on Tuesday, has only one person’s name on it, and hasn’t yet even been assigned to a committee. I’m not worried about it yet.

There’s also a Florida bill to “cancel” the state’s Democratic Party, but I doubt it’s going anywhere.

and propaganda

We keep getting more information from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News, and it just keeps looking worse for Fox. Earlier we saw internal communications among the most popular Fox anchors — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — indicating that they knew the 2020 election had not been stolen, and that the guests they were promoting to claim otherwise were “insane” or (in Sidney Powell’s case) “a complete nut”. When a Fox correspondent (accurately) fact-checked a Trump tweet claiming fraud, Carlson told Hannity:

Please get her fired. Seriously….What the fuck? I’m actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.

This week we discovered that top executives knew what the network was doing. In a deposition under oath, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that Trump’s stolen-election claims were false, but disputed that Fox News as a whole had endorsed them. When asked specifically about the false stolen-election narrative, though, he did admit that “some of our commentators were endorsing it”.

Also revealed in Dominion’s filing, Rupert Murdoch gave Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, “confidential information about [President Joe] Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy” in 2020, “providing Kushner a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public,” the court filing states.

Paul Ryan, who is on Fox’s corporate board, warned Murdoch.

On at least one occasion, Ryan advised the Murdochs that the company should “move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.”

During this time, Ryan told the Murdochs that many of those who thought the election had been stolen did so “because they got a diet of information telling them the election was stolen from what they believe were credible sources.”

But of course, neither Murdoch nor Ryan did anything to stop the lies or warn the public about them.

Sean Hannity’s response to the scandal is telling. He has been caught red-handed promoting lies to his audience — not just getting something wrong, which can happen to anyone, but telling his viewers they should believe something that he knew was false and believed to be absurd.

At any legitimate news outlet he would be fired. But since he won’t be, think about the ways he could conceivably respond to his scandal as an individual: He could resign voluntarily. He could apologize to his viewers and ask for their forgiveness. He could explain that the post-2020-election period was an unusual time that created unique pressures on him. He could tell his audience that he has learned a terrible lesson and will never intentionally mislead them again.

Of course, that would be completely un-Hannity-like. He isn’t sorry, he hasn’t learned a lesson, and he intends to continue propagandizing his viewers, whom he rightly sees as gullible rubes. So what does he do instead? He hosts a segment about how other media people lie.

They lie all the time and what bothers me is that they get away with it, and they just move on to the next set of lies.

So he doesn’t even deny that he lied to his viewers (which would itself be a lie). He just tries to convince them that other people lie too.

This week a deceptive 19-second video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went viral. In it he seemed to be calling on the US to send troops to defend his country from Russia. “The US will have to send their sons and daughters … to war, and they will have to fight.”

But if you look at a longer clip, that’s not what he’s saying at all. Having been asked what he would say to Americans who oppose sending aid to Ukraine, one reason he gives is that Putin will not stop after conquering Ukraine. Zelenskyy warns that Russia will then move on to attack NATO members like the Baltic states, which the US is treaty-bound to defend. Then “the US will have to send their sons and daughters …”

So the gist of Zelenskyy’s argument is the exact opposite of what his social media critics claimed: not that American troops should go to war for Ukraine, but that the US should support Ukraine with money and weapons so that American troops don’t have to go to war later on somewhere else.

The cleverly edited clip went viral because it fooled a lot of people like your MAGA friend from high school. And I find it hard to blame them for sharing it, because devious propagandists fool ordinary people all the time. That’s their job. Ordinary people don’t usually have the time or attention or google-fu to follow the good advice CNN correspondent Daniel Dale gives at the end of this segment: “When you come across a sensational but short clip on social media, it’s always a good idea to look for the extended footage.”

But the clip was also shared by Senator Mike Lee and former Trump administration spokesperson Monica Crowley. Them I do blame, because they’re supposed to be more sophisticated than this. Lee in particular has staff that could check things like this out for him, and he has a responsibility not to mislead his constituents.

Lee has since removed his tweet, but that’s not good enough. He needs to apologize in a forum that gets as much attention as his original tweet did.

Speaking of irresponsible, do you think MTG was just fooled by the viral clip, or was she actively being dishonest during her CPAC speech?

I think the Republican Party has a duty. We have a responsibility, and that is to be the party that protects children. [applause] Now whether it’s like Zelenskyy saying he wants our sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine …

As Rick Perlstein pointed out back in 2012, conservative politics has had a long and intimate relationship with grifting. After all, both rely on identifying and exploiting people who are easily fooled. So it should surprise no one that Don Jr.’s fiance Kimberley Guilfoyle was pushing her precious-metal investment company at CPAC.

and you also might be interested in …

I don’t want my kids reading books that make them feel bad about being big and bad.

Last week I talked about mainstream news sources like CNN, the NYT, and WaPo trying to avoid being cast as “the liberal media” by giving undeserved attention to conservative voices. Well, Wednesday brought a new example: “My Liberal Campus Is Pushing Freethinkers to the Right” by Princeton senior Adam Hoffman, published in the NYT.

Increasing radicalism among conservative students, Hoffman claims, is the fault of liberals.

For those on the right, the experience is alienating. The typical American’s views on gender ideology or American history are often irrelevant to his or her day-to-day life. But for the conservative college student, life is punctuated by political checkpoints. Classes may begin with requests for “preferred pronouns” or “land acknowledgments.”

I’m not getting it. If someone asks you what pronouns you prefer, it’s not a “political checkpoint”, it’s a question. You can just answer it, the same way you’d answer someone who asked how to pronounce your name. (I’ve found “he/him” to be a perfectly acceptable response.) And having someone tell you which Native American tribe used to live here is alienating why exactly? The trauma escapes me.

One reason I follow David Roberts is that he doesn’t just vent about something like this, he uses it as a teaching opportunity:

I just want to highlight what a perfect example of Murc’s Law it is. Murc’s Law says, basically: only the left has agency; the right is merely reacting, having its hand forced, being “pushed” or “shaped.”

This is not some quirk, it is central to reactionary psychology. Every fascist (and fascist-adjacent) movement ever has told itself the same story: our opponents are destroying everything, they’re forcing us to this, we have no choice but violence.

It is, at a base level, a way of denying responsibility, of saying, “we know the shit we’re about to do is bad, but it’s not our fault, you made us.” Once you recognize the pattern it shows up *everywhere*.

I don’t understand why some crimes or trials catch some network’s attention while the vast majority don’t. I can’t count the number of times I’ve channel-scanned through CNN in the last month and immediately kept scanning because they were telling me about the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. The CDC says there were about 26,000 homicides in the US in 2021, the most recent year I could find numbers for. I have no idea why I should care about this one more than the others.

The public fascination with the O. J. Simpson trial in 1994 made some sense to me, because O. J. had been a celebrity for years; many Americans probably felt like they knew him. But I still remember how puzzled I was by the way the JonBenet Ramsey murder case dominated the news for months in 1996. During that time, dozens or maybe even hundreds of other little girls were murdered or vanished without a trace. But we didn’t hear about them, we heard about Ramsey.

So this week Murdaugh was convicted and sentenced. I have no opinion about whether that was a fair outcome or not, because why should I? I just care that it’s over, because maybe now CNN can get back to covering the news.

Eli Lilly announced plans to cap insulin prices at $35 per month. It’s not that they’ve decided to be the good guys, but it’s bad PR to so publicly be the bad guys.

David French responds to the “national divorce” idea, echoing many of the points I made last week. He adds a disturbing historical observation.

The South separated from the North and started a ruinous and futile war [in 1861] not because of calm deliberation, but rather because of hysteria and fear — including hysteria and fear whipped up by the partisan press.

So my question is not “Is divorce reasonable?” but rather, “Are we susceptible to the unreason that triggered war once before?”

Here’s a fun tweet storm:

My sustainability class just finished a module about disinformation. I had them write me a letter assuming they were flunking and arguing that they deserve an A, using the techniques of disinformation we discussed, like cherry picking, false experts and ad hominem. HOO-boy.

The thread of examples is both amusing and instructive. More classes should try this exercise.

Even Fox News’ Jesse Watters has started to notice that the House GOP majority isn’t accomplishing much, even by their own standards. “Where are the bombshells? Have the investigations even started? … Where are the smoking gun documents?”

But he isn’t ready yet to reach the obvious conclusion: Maybe the “scandals” the Republicans promised to uncover are actually a bunch of crap that can’t stand up to scrutiny outside the friendly environment of Fox News.

But Matt Gaetz has an answer to that problem: one-party rule.

It is no longer time to go back to the old, low-energy Paul Ryan, Trey Gowdy days of fake oversight. These are the Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz days. And if the Democrats are going to obstruct our investigation, then I am calling to remove the Democrats from our investigation. They shouldn’t be allowed to sit in the depositions and hear the evidence if they are going to use that to try to get in the way of thorough, rigorous oversight.

Think about what he’s saying here: His side won’t be able to make their case if anyone in the room can fact-check, or ask the witnesses unscripted questions. So get them out of the room.

I can anticipate an objection to what I just said: “Isn’t that what happened in the 1-6 committee hearings?” Two counter-points: (1) Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were Republicans; they just weren’t MAGA Republicans. (2) Kevin McCarthy is the one who pulled his people off the committee, because he thought he could de-legitimize it.

and let’s close with something local

The library about half a mile from here has a charming annual contest to make a diorama with peeps. It may or may not be great art, but it has become a beloved local tradition. I hope your town has something similar.

Here’s my favorite from last year: the “Immersive Van Peep” exhibit.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Anonymous  On March 6, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    Ah, I was President of said library 48 years ago!
    Dave Weissbard

  • George Washington, Jr.  On March 6, 2023 at 7:22 pm

    Murc’s Law sounds a lot like the excuse every abusive husband gives while he’s beating his wife – “look what you make me do!”

    • weeklysift  On March 8, 2023 at 6:43 am

      Roberts agrees. The next line in his tweetstorm is: “(If you know an abuser, you’ll also find it in their rhetoric.)”

    • Eric L  On March 11, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      Good grief are we really analogizing explaining that someone isn’t persuading you to explaining why you’re beating them? How is what Adam Hoffman doing different from saying that abstinence only education makes kids have more sex or DARE makes them more likely to try drugs? I genuinely think Trump caused a lot of people with moderate views to adopt further left views; is that abuser logic? Thought experiment: if in a few years a Florida college student publishes an op-ed saying that kids are reacting to attempted ham-handed conservative indoctrination by moving further left politically, what could that op-ed do that this op-ed does that would seem off?

      • George Washington, Jr.  On March 11, 2023 at 4:27 pm

        You’re misunderstanding my point. An example of Murc’s Law would be when a Putin apologist (usually a conservatives) blames the U.S. and Ukraine for “pushing” Putin into invading. It’s our fault because we “orchestrated a coup to put Zelensky in power” or “threatened to allow Ukraine to join NATO and put missiles on the Russian border” or some other conspiracy theory, so Putin was merely reacting to that. The parallel with the abusive husband is that he is only beating his wife because she “pushed his buttons.”

      • Eric L  On March 12, 2023 at 9:13 am

        Fair enough. My objection is to Doug/David applying Murc’s law to the opinion piece, not to the general concept.

  • Thomas Paine  On March 7, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    The NYT continues its descent into tabloid ‘journalism’. Princeton senior Adam Hoffman also happens to be the Editor-in-Chief of the Princeton Tory, the campus conservative magazine. Somehow, the NYT neglected to mention that little detail of his personal biography, as if he’s just another right-leaning student on campus making his way through the challenges of no longer being surrounded by the constantly reinforcing homogeneous world he grew up in and sorting out his personal confusions.

    As his reaction to his college years seems to be, well, reactionary rather than expansive, perhaps his personal growth is yet to come. After all, what emotionally healthy adult chooses a behavior simply to lash out in defiance of differences he encounters? This is the behavior of the “you’re not the boss of me” three year-old. It’s a shame the expense of an Ivy-League education has been wasted on arriving at this point in a Princeton senior’s life.

    And, it’s even more of a shame that the NYT insists on continuing to publish this drivel and intentionally misleading its readers about the resume of the author of it.

    • weeklysift  On March 8, 2023 at 6:48 am

      Thanks for doing the extra bit of research I should have done. I never thought to google Hoffman.

      • Thomas Paine  On March 8, 2023 at 2:18 pm

        When I run across items like this, especially from the NYT, I like to see what the Twitter response is because invariably sharp commentary will help me quickly sort what I may specifically want to drill into.

        Tweeters didn’t let me down. They knew this isn’t the first time the NYT failed to disclose the right-wing bias of its latest guest on the op-ed page doing its “both-sides” bidding, and provided the information any decent j-student would immediately know needs to accompany the piece.

  • Ed O  On March 9, 2023 at 3:38 am

    If it’s a misuse of our attention for the press to cover the Murdaugh trial but not the other 26K annual homicides, isn’t it a similar waste of space for the press to blare all the mass shooting stories, which collectively amount to a small fraction of all homicides?

    Prior to Columbine, there were occasional mass shootings, but I think the bulk of the coverage would be local. The national press would mention them once or twice and then move on. Now we see dozens of stories about each one. That’s probably one reason we have so many more mass shootings now than we used to: the press has got everyone thinking about them constantly and makes each one into a national story, so anyone with a deep grievance knows one way to make a big splash. It makes sense to report about a mass shooting to the affected community, but why do I even need to know about one somewhere across the country? Should we all spend weeks bemoaning each car crash with multiple fatalities too?

    Doug, do you have a principled way of thinking about this?

    • weeklysift  On March 12, 2023 at 7:55 am

      I guess I don’t. One reason mass shootings get national attention, I think, is that there’s a national issue involved: Why do we allow the possession of guns that can put so many bullets in the air so quickly?

      I’ve been reacting viscerally to the Murdaugh coverage because CNN virtually defined itself as the Murdaugh-trial network, and I never heard an explanation why I should be interested. So I kept scanning through CNN and having a “not this again” reaction.

  • fgsjr2015  On March 10, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    It is increasingly a buck-and-a-byline ‘journalism’ out there — i.e. a dependable company paycheck and a frequently published name with stories/articles — rather than a genuine strive to challenge the powers-that-be: To truly comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable in an increasingly unjust global existence.

    And increasingly such ‘journalism’ is becoming systematic — i.e. the ethical (and sometimes even the moral) standard has been further lowered — that those who are aware of it, notably politicians and political writers, don’t bother publicly discussing it.

    Maybe there’s also an informal/unspoken agreement amongst the largest mainstream news-media: ‘Don’t dump on me, and I won’t dump on you.’

    Many reporters and editors nevertheless continue to reply to their critics with, ‘Who, me? I’m just the messenger.’ Whatever the news media may be, they are not ‘just the messenger’; nor are they just a reflection of the community — or their products’ consumers, necessarily — in which they circulate.

    Hell, even Canadian media conglomerate Postmedia is on record allying itself with Canada’s fossil fuel industry, including the mass extraction and export of bitumen, the dirtiest and most polluting crude oil.

    Also, a few years ago, Postmedia had acquired a lobbying firm with close ties to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in order to participate in his government’s $30 million PR “war room” in promoting the industry’s interests.

    Furthermore, in May of 2021, Postmedia refused to run paid ads by Leadnow, a social and environmental justice organization, that exposed the Royal Bank of Canada as the largest financer of the nation’s fossil fuel extraction. …

    Also troubling: newspaper and other current-affairs websites, including The Washington Post‘s website, are increasingly converting to pay-to-say formats, where the reader is allowed to consume the article without charge but must buy a subscription in order to comment on the article.

  • Josh  On March 11, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    I believe you care about people, but I don’t think you understand how that wolf cartoon sounds. It looks intended to be a left cartoon attacking conservatives for wanting to censor school libraries. It attacks them by calling them villains, and their children are villains, and given the subject matter at issue, it’s not a jump to imagine that they are white villains. So the tacit assumptions of this cartoon are that 1) the books people want to censor depict white villainy, and 2) whites, old and young, are just as villainous as the books claim, and 3) they want to censor to avoid responsibility, and 4) they are using “protecting children” as a pretext for protecting and continuing villainy.

    This is very wrong. This is racism of the first order. It attacks white people for not wanting to be called or described as villains because they are white. It attacks white people for not wanting their kids to be called villains because their kids are white. And the cartoon makes this argument by simply assuming white villainy as a given. It is circular, hateful, and typical of the extreme left, and sadly, typical of the sort of thing the moderate left (the space you inhabit) passively accepts and promotes.

    These arguments are lazy and retrograde. Apart from the first-order damage they do to white people, particularly kids, they undermine 60 years of Civil Rights work. It opens the floodgates for racist statements of all kinds. After all, if you’re allowed to dehumanize and demonize my kids for the color of their skin, why shouldn’t I do that to your kids? I really don’t think liberals understand the fire they are playing with here, and really, really need to pump the breaks on the anti-white rhetoric. I’m actually rather shocked you would promote such a thing, as you’ve always struck me as a reasonable moderate. You must be strong on principle here, not get distracted by a redefinition of racism that is itself racist. Things can change quickly. I’m a white man worried about how his young white son will be treated. I’m angry that my concerns get laughed at, or painted as itself malicious or manipulative. I’m scared that so many moderates ignore my concerns, conflate them with ignorant MAGA screed.

    • weeklysift  On March 12, 2023 at 7:46 am

      I think the more obvious interpretation is that the wolf is demanding that people who have actually been victimized — the three pigs, red riding hood, the sheep, the chicken — shouldn’t be able to read about their victimization.

    • weeklysift  On March 12, 2023 at 8:24 am

      For what it’s worth, I am white, and I have read more than a few anti-racism books. I have yet to run into the idea that I should feel guilty for being white. I think that whole argument is a straw man.

      • Josh  On March 12, 2023 at 9:36 am

        I’d hoped for better. The pattern of dismissal is going to drive a huge number of moderates who speak up about this to first go silent, afraid of being ostracized. Then, in private, they will adopt more extreme positions. They will do this because it’s not rational to continue debate with someone who dehumanizes you by ignoring, minimizing, and gaslighting you about your most serious concerns about yourself and your children. They aren’t debating with you, because you’re a cardboard cutout. They feel safe ignoring you, deriding you, because you’re evil, a wolf, who just can’t see it.

        That cartoon calls white people big bad wolves, and specifically attacks the white people that would claim its not so. The framing indelibly separates humans into groups, the victim and oppressor. It’s the most perfect encapsulation of left-wing racism I’ve ever seen, and if you can’t see it, and it seems from your terse response you neither want to see it nor care to see if you did, I fear for our future because it means communication is not viable.

        You claim to be unaware of growing anti-white sentiment. Here’s a good video to catch you up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFpUjyM0orQ

        I don’t want to be negative, but based on your response I don’t think you’ll watch the video, and if you do, I think you’ll be very motivated to continue along your current path. I can’t stop you. But you’re doing great harm to the world on this path. No-one deserves to be demeaned and dehumanized. I can imagine many white people doing the same thing to black people living under Jim Crow.

      • George Washington, Jr.  On March 12, 2023 at 12:13 pm

        I watched the video. I noticed the guy didn’t also mention the TikTok videos gleefully pointing out “black on black crime” or juxtaposing huts in modern-day Africa with the Parthenon (as if all Ancient Greeks lived in houses that looked like that). I’m sure you can come up with an explanation of how those videos are “outliers” while the ones in the video you linked to are “representative.”

        This is a perfect example of how equality can feel like oppression.

  • Anonymous  On March 13, 2023 at 8:27 am

    If trump gets put in jail and later gets elected president do you put bars on the White House or paint the prison white?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: