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Hometown: Green Mountains
Home country: US
Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:27 PM
Number of posts: 11,704

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Dave Barry's Year in Review: 2019 was an 'eventful' -- bad -- year


An egregious example of "both-siderism". I'm surprised, coming from Barry.

It was an extremely eventful year.

We are using “eventful” in the sense of “bad.”

It was a year so eventful that every time another asteroid whizzed past the Earth, barely avoiding a collision that would have destroyed human civilization, we were not 100 percent certain it was good news.

We could not keep up with all the eventfulness. Every day, we’d wake up to learn that some new shocking alleged thing had allegedly happened, and before we had time to think about it, the political-media complex, always in Outrage Condition Red, would explode in righteous fury, with Side A and Side B hurling increasingly nasty accusations at each other and devoting immense energy to thinking up ways to totally DESTROY the other side on Twitter, a medium that has the magical power to transform everything it touches, no matter how stupid it is, into something even stupider.

FACT: This year O.J. Simpson got a Twitter account, and the reaction of nearly a million people was: “What? The attention-seeking psychopath who got away with murdering two innocent people wants followers? Count me in!”

Speaking of attention-seeking psychopaths: The epicenter of the year’s eventfulness was of course Washington, D.C., an endlessly erupting scandal volcano, belching out dense swirling smoke-plumes of spin, rumor, innuendo, misdirection and lies emitted by both sides, A and B — or, if you prefer, B and A — filling the air with vicious rhetoric, always delivered with the pious insistence that OUR side, unlike the OTHER side, is motivated not by ego, power-lust, greed or hatred, but by a selfless desire to Work For The American People.

Meanwhile, from out beyond the Beltway, the actual American people warily watched the perpetual tantrum that was supposed to be their government. And more and more their reaction, whatever side they considered themselves to be on, was: Nah.

Excellent post by Heather Cox Richardson: Chuck Todd, Turley on impeachment, media / disinformation


Today began and ended with Trump melting down. This morning, after a silence during the holidays, he came out swinging at the Democrats generally, and at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi specifically. Then this evening, apparently against the advice of his lawyer, he retweeted a story that named someone claimed to be the whistleblower, a person who currently has a security detail for protection, not in a foreign war zone, but in our own nation’s capital.

It seems clear that Trump cannot bear that Pelosi—whom he is calling “Crazy Nancy”-- is not rushing to send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate for a trial… a trial that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already promised will exonerate Trump. It is worth noting that it has been only a week since the House passed the articles of impeachment, and we have had major religious holidays in that time, and yet Trump is obviously angry and desperate for movement on impeachment. But he’s got to wait even longer. The House will not be in session again until January 7—twelve days from now—and the Senate calendar for January is still in flux.

In other impeachment news, you will recall that Noah Feldman, the Harvard Law Professor who testified before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of impeachment, wrote an op-ed last week saying that Trump was not officially impeached until the House sent the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Trump jumped on this idea, and has been saying that he is not really impeached. Today one of the other law professors who testified, George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley, who was called by the Republicans and was opposed to impeachment, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “I testified against Trump’s impeachment. But let’s not pretend it didn’t happen.” The title pretty much sums it up. As Turley concluded: “The House speaks in its own voice and in its own time. It did so on Dec. 18, 2019.”

For all the drama of these two stories, I have been more interested in what feels to me like a changing trend: it appears that media is finally recognizing that it cannot simply report “both sides” of the news as if they are equally valid when one side is lying. On the evening of December 24, Rolling Stone magazine published a short interview with Chuck Todd, an NBC journalist who moderates Meet the Press and who is the Political Director for NBC News. On December 29, Meet the Press is doing a show on disinformation and how it is weaponized, and this interview was a teaser.

It's really important to understand that “misinformation” and “disinformation” are different things. “Misinformation” is bad information caused by errors-- someone makes a mistake. “Disinformation,” though, is deliberately false information intended to manipulate public opinion. Another word for disinformation is propaganda.

In the interview, Todd laments that he has been “absurdly naïve.” Right up until he had Senator Cruz on his show recently and Cruz echoed Russian propaganda, Todd apparently believed that the Republicans were acting in good faith when they talked to the media. Todd says he was “stunned” by Cruz’s embrace of Russian disinformation, especially since he was the third senator to do exactly that on the show. Cruz had asked to come on, and Todd thought that since Cruz had always been a Russia hawk, he wanted to set the record straight. When, instead, he followed the party line, Todd finally got it: Trump Republicans are using the media to spread propaganda.

Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, responded to this revelation by pointing out that it was on Todd’s own show in January 2017 that Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway launched the concept of the administrations lies simply being based on “alternative facts.” But, Rosen writes, media leaders nonetheless treated officials’ lies as hyperbole, just Trump and his spokespeople being ridiculous.

The upshot is that, three years later, Trump’s base is divorced from reality, while other Americans are so tired from incessant gas lighting we have lost faith that we can still perceive reality. This is why gaslighting is effective propaganda: having lost confidence in their own perceptions, people are so eager for peace they are willing to accept a strong leader who will promise to create stability.

I’m with Rosen on this. There is no excuse for such “naivete” on Todd’s part. He’s the Political Director for NBC News, after all, and should have had a better handle on the well-known methods at play here.

Even more, it has been very clear that today’s Republican Party has risen to power by rejecting facts and creating its own reality. After World War Two, Republicans and Democrats both shared a belief that the government had a role to play in regulating the economy, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure. Indeed, that belief about government was so widely embraced it became known as the “liberal consensus.”

In 1951, William F. Buckley, Jr., fresh out of college, wrote a book attacking that consensus by attacking fact-based argument. In God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom,” Buckley said that trying to reach the truth by constructing arguments out of facts—the premise of the Enlightenment-- was a worse superstition than the Dark Age traditions the Enlightenment tried to root out. When presented with fact-based arguments, voters kept choosing the liberal consensus. So far as Buckley was concerned, that consensus flew in the face of God’s laws. So, Buckley concluded, it was imperative to stop arguing based on facts, and simply promote a “Conservative” view of the world by whatever means necessary.

The construction of a narrative undercutting the popular liberal consensus took the modern Republican Party further and further away from a fact-based reality, until by 2002, journalist Ron Suskind had this extraordinary exchange with one of President George W. Bush’s aides.

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles…. He cut me off. 'That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. '…When we act, we create our own reality…. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

Ten years later, in 2012, Thomas E. Mann from the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute warned that it was imperative to stop saying “both sides do it,” because the parties were not equally polarized. “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics,” they wrote. “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

We now have a president who has made more than 15,000 false or misleading claims in fewer than three years in office, and it has become increasingly clear recently that those lies echo Russian propaganda. Senior officials repeat his claims to the media, creating their own reality.

It is my sense that Todd’s revelation is a sign that media figures are starting to see how they are being used to advance disinformation. There has been discussion emerging of how to report the news without providing a platform for lies. If it takes hold, there will be an important shift in media coverage of the administration and congressional supporters in the new year.

Personal benefit vs. intentional national damage. That's probably the usual viewpoint

But when someone like the peeResident is being blackmailed by his moscow buddy (vlad, not mitch) and being told to perform certain actions against the US national interests; is that one or thother? Or is it both.

I think poor donny-boy(db) is caught in Mr. Dobson's dilemma. He has committed crimes against the US (and states and others), and he is beholden to foreign interests. db will try to survive as long as possible but one of his adversaries will get to him and his family. Maybe slowly, maybe speedily. Maybe painfully or perhaps ...

So telling: Obama's appointments flatlined once the (r)epuglicons/(mc)turtle took control

How to make the judicial branch purely partisan. Way to go fedsoc, tea-partiers, kochs.

But that is/was your intent, wasn't it.

You want to screw democracy.

I have also wondered if they missed the good wave. They fell into a trough and will be submerged

and hopefully breathing water.

We all ascribe great capabilities to putine and the corporatist machines but they are also fallible. And perhaps a bit over-anxious. But they will keep trying, even in another time. Witness all the other failed (r)epuglicon coups.

"moderate republican voters" - I'm mystified.

By today's performance, the republicans are making Trump's base their exclusive target. Attempts to muddy the waters with emotional turbulence will be unlikely to appeal to moderate republican voters. It will energize Democrats, from the grass roots to Washington, DC. And it will repulse the majority of the undecided citizens. It reeks of desperation.

Are there any of those alive? How would they identify themselves safely?

Maybe take a page from the old Tories and rebrand themselves as (C)onservatives?

Leave the tea-baggers and shouting idiots the proud Рepuglicon designation. After all, the rouble ₽ fits nicely with the repuglicons agenda.

Frankly, if they are not safe for LGBT or any major group of people, they are not safe for anyone

who doesn't adhere to whatever "principles" they may have.

I won't visit a country where anyone would not feel welcome. These countries can stay back in the dark ages if they want.

Lots of conduits besides the NRA. Citizens United essentially put the US government on eBay.

Nice chart. So many ways to subvert information flows. Sometimes the smallest org is the most


At first glance, if I wanted a way to manage the message, I'd head to that little "Staff" box at the bottom. I'm sure it's riddled with special interests - and of course, with highly professional professionals.

I would have put the emphasis on *THEY* since they are obviously not us.

THEY are a separate class perhaps separated by a totally unique genome.

Definitely separated by wealth and access to more than the mere basics of life.

THEY are the ones who are destroying the democratic process. THEY do not want us to have a say in THEIR activities. Laws are only for THEM.

THEY can pal around with others around the world who are intent on harming us. THEY only care about THEIR bank accounts and sometimes their families.

THEY don't care about the state of the world or its climate because THEY can insulate THEMSELVES for a while. But not forever. THEIR time will come.
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