Spicer’s Lies Mean More Than You Think

There is a post that’s been going around on social media explaining the purposes served by the blatantly dishonest press conference given by Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer.

Sean Spicer at Press Room Podium
Sean Spicer. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by user GrahamHughey

I’m worried that the significance of the crazy lies is greater than most people realize, and that the outrage over the new normal will fade.

For most of us (two thirds, according to the post), Spicer’s lie wasn’t meant to convince. It was meant to establish. It’s not like a guy with pockets full of jewelry telling the police that he had nothing to do with the jewelry store that just got robbed. It’s more like the same guy with a gun telling a witness, “You didn’t see a thing”.

With this new normal, Trump can tell us that the economy is booming even if it collapses. He can tell us that public schools are working even as public school students slip further behind their wealthier peers. He can tell us that he has actionable evidence of crimes committed by his political adversaries (“Lock her up!”), and it should go without saying that he can start wars on false pretenses for economic gain or to distract from domestic issues.

Trump and his team know that there has been and will continue to be a backlash against this new normal. They’re prepared for it. Which means that we have to give them more than what they’re prepared for. The resistance must be greater than what any of us have expected. Introverts and TV addicts have to start getting active. People who have never voted before have to start taking an interest in political activity, and it would be great if Sanders and Clinton supporters could come together.

Below is the post that I referred to. It was originally tweeted by Anna Rascouët-Paz, but written by “someone who worked in a past administration”. I transcribed the text ( using Google Drive ) because the original was in a graphic format, so any grammatical errors might not be from the original.

If you are puzzled by the bizarre “press conference” put on by the White House press secretary this evening (angrily claiming that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in history, accusing them of faking photos and lying about attendance), let me help explain it. This spectacle served three purposes:

1. Establishing a norm with the press: they will be told things that are obviously wrong and they will have no opportunity to ask questions. That way, they will be grateful if they get anything more at any press conference. This is the PR equivalent of “negging,” the odious pick-up practice of a particular kind of horrible person (e.g., Donald Trump).

2. Increasing the separation between Trump’s base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong – that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong – they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here likely to pay off is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as “fake news” (because otherwise they’d be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)

3. Creating a sense of uncertainty about whether facts are knowable, among a certain chunk of the population (which is a taking a page from the Kremlin, for whom this is their preferred disinformation tactic). A third of the population will say “clearly the White House is lying,” a third will say “if Trump says it, it must be true,” and the remaining third will say “gosh, I guess this is unknowable.” The idea isn’t to convince these people of untrue things, it’s to fatigue them, so that they will stay out of the political process entirely, regarding the truth as just too difficult to determine.

This is laying important groundwork for the months ahead. If Trump’s White House is willing to lie about something as obviously, unquestionably fake as this, just imagine what else they’ll lie about. In particular, things that the public cannot possibly verify the truth of. It’s gonna get real bad.

Jeanne Assam was a Cop

Making rounds in the Internet is an image macro which describes how Jeanne Assam shot a church murderer in Colorado in 2007. The image praises her for pulling out her “legal, concealed gun”, then says you would never hear about her from the “Liberal Media, because she is an inconvenient fact in their war to disarm America”.

According to the image, the liars who take credit for it are TeaPartyCommunity.com.

They are lying only by omission when it comes to the shooting and the heroic take-down by Ms. Assam. They are leaving out one important fact: Jeanne Assam was a retired cop and she was on duty as a security officer when she pulled out her “legal, concealed gun”.

That’s a big omission, because the so-called liberal plan to disarm America would not have extended towards Jeanne Assam. Even people calling for tighter gun control generally aren’t saying we should disarm cops and qualified security guards. In fact the Colorado Springs shooting might be a perfect example of the point that Liberal America is trying to make: It should be harder for deranged lunatics to get guns, and guns belong in the hands of properly trained public servants.

Tea Party Community may be lying by omission about Assam, but they are lying directly about the media. The incident was covered at the time. In fact, the press coverage of Assam was extensive enough to be used as an example in this critique by NBC on the use of the word “exclusive”:

I’m tired of these fake so called exclusives wherein networks make us to believe that the only place to have a certain of information. If you’re watching cable news Monday night, you might have seen interviews with Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who killed the gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. She was on CNN on Monday night as indicated in their exclusive banner and the next hour, she was on FOX News. If you tuned in to GOOD MORNING AMERICA on Tuesday morning, lo and behold, GMA exclusive.

And the website for Assam’s book has quotes from the press. Four years later Ms. Assam was in the spotlight again, when she said the church which she so bravely defended asked her to leave because she was gay.

So another right wing lie goes viral and those willing to take a little time to do some fact checking bang our heads in frustration.

Edit 2015/6/21: The Snopes article originally failed to mention Jeanne Assam’s police background, but has been updated, so I removed this paragraph: Sadly, Snopes has the misleading image macro in an article which explores the question, “Was a church shooting foiled by an armed woman in the congregation?”. Indeed the answer to that question is “yes”, but Snopes, like Tea Party Community, fails to mention that Assam was an ex-cop and a security guard, and the use of the image in that article strongly suggests that the words in the image are true.

A Subscription to Mother Jones

Thanks to Bill O’Reilly’s endorsement, I subscribed to Mother Jones.

O’Reilly helped my decision by calling Mother Jones a far left magazine with low circulation, and by saying the magazine is considered by many to be the bottom rung of journalism in America. It was also helpful to me to see so many conservatives circling the wagons around O’Reilly after MoJo presented incontrovertible proof that O’Reilly lied about being in the Falklands, and by O’Reilly’s reference to MoJo’s reporter David Corn as a liar and a “guttersnipe”. Joe Concha of Mediaite, while defending O’Reilly, called Mother Jones a niche magazine for Liberal Democrats.


A subscription to Mother Jones is pretty cheap. I signed up through Amazon and got the Kindle subscription for $1 a month (It will go to $3 a month after the introductory price expires). It’s the same price for paper. I also found an offer on Facebook for a year of MoJo for $10.

Yes, There Really Were Gunshots in Buenos Aires in 1982

After Mother Jones posted a story by David Corn accusing Bill O’Reilly of lying about being in the Falklands during the war that took place there and exaggerating his experiences in Buenos Aires, O’Reilly has been defending himself by denying ever having said he was in the Falklands, and by saying that his coverage in Buenos Aires counts as being in a combat zone.

I think that if O’Reilly had admitted that he misspoke about being on the Falklands but emphasized that he did cover the violent protests in Argentina and had been in dangerous situations elsewhere, this all would have washed over. But what O’Reilly did instead was cover his lies with more lies and with straw man arguments, pretending that the Mother Jones story denied his ever seeing violence in Buenos Aires and touting video clips showing the protests.

But Mother Jones never denied the violence. In fact, the original article noted,

Dispatches on the protest filed by reporters from the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and UPI note that thousands did take to the street, setting fires, breaking store windows, and that riot police did battle with protesters who threw rocks and sticks. They say tear gas was deployed; police clubbed people with nightsticks and fired rubber bullets; reporters were assaulted by demonstrators and by police; and a photojournalist was wounded in the legs by gunfire.

But O’Reilly exaggerated the violent reaction of the government against the protesters. According to the original article

O’Reilly noted that soldiers “were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the streets” with “real bullets.”

Mother Jones called O’Reilly on his placement in the Falklands and on his exaggerations about the Buenos Aires protests, not on the fact of O’Reilly covering violent protests at all.

Bill O’Reilly is defending himself against accusations that were not made, because he cannot defend against what Mother Jones actually reported.

Unfortunately, after the article and O’Reilly’s initial defense, some reporters made questionable comments in their efforts to discredit O’Reilly. Eric Enberg put up a long post on Facebook in which he called the riots “relatively tame”. But when CBS released the old clips, Enberg’s comments became easy fodder for O’Reilly and his supporters, such as Mediaite’s Joe Concha who suggested Engberg must have been sleeping very soundly to have missed the sirens and gunfire.

O’Reilly lied by embellishing his experiences, then told more lies as he defended himself when his earlier lies were exposed. But the only thing Right Wing audiences will hear is how there really were gunshots in Buenos Aires, as if MoJo ever denied that there were.

Today, July 15th Net Neutrality Comments Deadline

Although I’ve seen posts yesterday implying that the deadline was last midnight, I’m pretty sure that the deadline is midnight tonight. So if you’ve been procrastinating about sending in your comments about net neutrality, you have a few hours left.

I wrote, “The Constitution grants the government the right to establish post offices and postal roads, to ensure that the people of the United States of America have access to information. The internet is a new postal route. In fact, it is now the primary source of the kind of information that the framers hoped to protect. We should not allow information to be throttled by private interests. We have a duty to protect this new route of information.”

I can understand if you haven’t acted on this issue yet. It’s technical, and the other side seem to have a good point. Why shouldn’t content providers pay more for a higher level of service?

Well if you haven’t seen John Oliver’s segment do so now, and if you’re still skeptical read Slate’s evaluation.

John Oliver explains perfectly why you’ve been procrastinating and why you should stop immediately. My only point of contention with Oliver’s very good segment is he frames the debate in terms of entertainment, ie Netflix vs Comcast (well that and the fact that he ripped off “nutflix” from “Idiocracy”).

What he leaves out is that the debate isn’t just about watching movies. It’s about information. What if your cable company doesn’t like the reporting done by a news organization that isn’t supportive of big corporations? That is the bigger issue. If net neutrality is abolished, your cable company will have an easier time throttling information that they don’t want you to hear. To put it more bluntly, they will have an easier time limiting the news that your low-information neighbor sees because your low-information neighbor doesn’t work very hard to get informed. that news will only be news that his provider wants him to see, and that will be what he takes with him to the polls.

There are several ways to submit comments. You can go to the FCC’s comments page, or, for a friendlier interface submit through organizations such as Free Press or Battle for the Net. I used Battle for the Net’s interface but I asked them if the message goes to the same place.

Hey Ben,

Yes, our form submits directly to theirs, we just tried to make it a bit easier for people since their’s is a bit confusing.

-Evan at FFTF

Which it is.

If you miss tonight’s deadline, there is still a reply period, but it’s best to get your comments in now.

Negative Articles against Cuccinelli Not a Smear Campaign

Lorraine Yuriar of the Hampton Roads Tea Party posted, on the Suffolk Democratic Committee’s Facebook page, a link to her HRTP article about a smear campaign against Ken Cuccinelli. Her article was prompted by a Virginian Pilot article concerning possibly misleading information that Cuccinelli provided about his service in the United States Marines.

But while she gives the journalist a pass for digging up dirt, she uses search results from the Pilot’s website, hamptonroads.com, to theorize that the Pilot is biased against Ken Cuccinelli.

… in total, of the 8 stories on the first page of search results for Terry McAuliffe, half of the articles are favorable to Terry, and only 2 of the articles were old.

On the other hand a quick search for Ken Cuccinelli turns up 8 articles, but all of them are old! The latest article on the first page of the search is dated November 2012.

I found that very strange considering Ken Cuccinelli’s involvement in the Star Scientific affair. I figured the Pilot must have written about Ken Cuccinelli more recently than November.

It has. Unfortunately, HamptonRoads.com has a lousy search engine.

Although the first page of search results for McAuliffe does have more recent articles then the first page of search results about Cuccinelli, if you add the second page you’ll see that Cuccinelli brings up more recent results. I found that the first two pages of results on “Cuccinelli” contain nine articles in July, while the first two pages of results for “McAuliffe” contain only three for July.

Ms. Yuriar is right about the overall count of negative articles about Cuccinelli vs the count of negative articles about McAulliffe, but that is due to Cuccinelli’s involvement in Star Scientific.

Cuccinelli has been investigated for owning stock in Star Scientific and accepting gifts from Star Scientific executive Jonnie Williams, while defending the State of Virginia against a lawsuit filed by that company. News about Ken Cuccinelli’s involvement in Star Scientific is part of a larger scandal surrounding the company’s relationship with Virginia’s governor, Bob McDonnell.

As it turns out, news broke yesterday that Ken Cuccinelli has been cleared of ethics violations in that scandal. Not because he’s squeaky clean though. It still holds true that he only recused himself from the case after Cuccinelli’s relationship with Star Scientific became public. And he still broke the law by not reporting those gifts and his stock in a timely manner. So even if at the end of an investigation into whether or not Cuccinelli’s relationship with Star Scientific violated Virginia’s weak ethics laws, Cuccinelli’s relationship with Star Scientific was, and still is, news.

The Pilot has no obligation to ignore Cuccinelli’s inappropriate (even if not illegal) behavior just to look fair and balanced.

Update (same day as posting) I changed the title from: Negative Articles against Cuccinelli Not Necessarily a Smear Campaign.

Suffolk News Herald Sort of Covers Mark Herring’s Visit.

The Suffolk News Herald covered Mark Herring’s visit to our city, but a large portion of the article was devoted to defending Mark Obenshain from one of Senator Herring’s campaign talking points. The article briefly mentions how Senator Herring described Senator Obenshain’s bill:

Herring said his fellow senator supported a bill that would require women to report miscarriages to police within 24 hours “like they were a potential criminal.”

, then continues to summarize Senator Obenshain’s explanation,

With filing deadlines approaching, Obenshain introduced the bill with the intention of fine-tuning the language during the session. However, he ultimately dropped the bill after concluding that any bill addressing situations similar to the Rockingham case “would have unintended consequences for women suffering a miscarriage,” Garst said in Logan’s statement.

You can read Senator Obenshain’s own words on Not Larry Sabato.

After receiving backlash, Senator Obenshain stated that he would rewrite or withdraw the bill. But the backlash was easily predictable by the reaction to John Cosgrove’s very similar bill in the House.

No amount of fine-tuning could have kept that bill from being exactly what Senator Herring described it to be. A major rewrite could have made the bill less extreme, but then it wouldn’t have been the bill that Senator Obenshain introduced.

Another unfortunate aspect of the article was it lacked any mention of Kerry Holmes, who spoke before Senator Herring. Kerry Holmes is running for the State Senate 14th District against Delegate John Cosgrove, in a special election to replace Harry Blevins on August 6th. It was John Cosgrove who introduced the miscarriage bill in the House.

Gathing at Campaign Office

Reasonably be Characterized

My wife and I raise animals for meat. We occasionally grow fond of a certain animal and decide not to eat it. That animal can “Reasonably be Characterized” as a pet, because certain rules of pets apply to it. But other rules don’t apply, and therefore we don’t consider it a pet. And I’m not a big liar when I tell you that it isn’t.
Sow and Piglets

Not the Party of Racists

After G pointed out a mistake I made in a previous post, I followed his blog and was surprised to see a pretty strong argument against the commonly accepted fact that Dixiecrats became Republicans in response to the Democratic party’s support of civil rights. In his post he discusses the long history of the Democratic party’s obstruction of civil rights progress and makes the case that the Republican party should not be branded as the party of racists. I agree with the second point, but I still take issue with linking the Democratic party of today with the Dixiecrats of the past.

G points out, correctly, that only one of the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Stom Thurmand, ever became a Republican and states, “One man switching parties can not undo over 150 years of historical fact that Republicans have always been the party of freedom.”

But I think the voters are more telling. Most of the regions which historically kept racist Democrats in congress started electing Republics in the mid and late sixties. I find it easier to accept that a core of Dixiecrats in congress stayed loyal to their party even as they disapproved of the new direction in which the party was going, than to accept that voters who always elected racists switched parties because they embraced the civil rights movement.

Another flaw in equating present Democrats with old Dixiecrats is ignoring the stark contrast between Dixiecrats and the rest of the party. While it’s correct that Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while many Democrats tried to block it, it’s also true that Northern Democrats supported the act more strongly than Republicans did as a whole. Dixiecrats and Northern Democrats may have been in the same party, but they were not the same people. Today, the Dixiecrats are gone and the Democratic party reflects the history of those Northern Democrats who supported civil rights in a far greater percentage than either Northern or Southern Republicans did.

I find it offensive that some right wing websites equate modern Democrats with old Dixiecrats by rehashing the sins of the Democratic party in the past. It’s especially bizarre since other right wing websites equate Democrats with black racists, as if a single political party could appeal to old Dixiecrats as well as the Nation of Islam. But to give G and his peers their due, the Republican party has a long history of supporting civil rights, and it’s to that history that most Republicans are attracted.

Lying about Employment with Charts and Numbers

In response to Mitt Romney’s boldface lie that Obama is a “job destroyer”, Greg Sargent has been calling on Romney to explain himself. The truth is, as soon as the stimulus took effect, the hemorrhaging of jobs that occurred as a result of deregulation and lack of oversight started to turn around, and jobs have been created; not destroyed. How can so many people be fooled when the numbers are readily available and how can pathological lier like Mitt Romney be hailed as the Republican candidate most likely to beat Obama?

Take a look at these two charts:

Series Id: LNS11300000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Seas) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data: Percent or rate
Age: 16 years and over

Series Id: LNS12000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title: (Seas) Employment Level
Labor force status: Employed
Type of data: Number in thousands
Age: 16 years and over

Both are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One was pointed to in a Hot Air article to suggest that Obama’s policies, specifically health care reform, destroyed jobs (The article is titled “ObamaCare, the Job Destroyer”). The other is similar to a chart in Paul Krugman’s blog demonstrating that Obama has created jobs.

How can two charts about employment data look so different? Because only the second chart, “Employment Level”, shows whether jobs have been created or destroyed after the President’s fiscal policies took effect.

The other chart represents a problem and is concerning, but it does not indicate what Hot Air wants you to believe and does not undermine the fact that after the stimulus passed, the job decline turned around and our economy created over two million new jobs.

What the first chart, titled “Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate”, shows is the percentage of U.S. population who are either employed or looking for work. Employed or looking for work means you’re part of the labor force. How does a person fail to be counted as employed and also fail to be counted as looking for work? Certainly, when someone gets fed up after weeks of not finding a job and becomes discouraged, that person drops out of the labor force. Like I said, it’s concerning. But also people who stay in school rather than finding a job, stay at home parents, and retirees are not in the labor force.

The baby boomers are retiring, and that’s having a real effect on labor force participation, as are discouraged workers.

To get a feel for the meaning of employment level vs labor participation, and whether a drop in labor force participation makes Obama a “job destroyer”, imagine a group of 10 people. 8 are working, and 2 are looking for jobs. One new job appears and one of the job-seekers snatches it up. The other gets discouraged and stops looking. Has employment improved or have jobs been destroyed?

When someone says that Obama is a Job Destroyer, they are mistaken or lying. And you cannot trust any news source or presidential candidate that promotes such a fallacy.

Update: I had the first chart labeled incorrectly, and incorrectly referred to the second chart in the text when I was talking about the first chart. I had mislabeled it “(Seas) Civilian Labor Force Level” instead of “Civilian labor force participation rate”