Political Quackery

Whenever I hear someone from the medical profession in the news, it’s a fair bet they are engaged in politics rather than medicine. Probably the best examples are the public health fascists that Christopher Snowdon and Dick Puddlecote talk about, but what I saw this morning was quite different:

Lawmakers concerned about President Donald Trump’s mental state summoned Yale University psychiatry professor Dr. Bandy X. Lee to Capitol Hill last month for two days of briefings about his recent behavior.

In private meetings with more than a dozen members of Congress held on Dec. 5 and 6, Lee briefed lawmakers — all Democrats except for one Republican senator, whom Lee declined to identify. Her professional warning to Capitol Hill: “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”

That would be this Dr Bandy X. Lee.

In an interview, she pointed to Trump “going back to conspiracy theories, denying things he has admitted before, his being drawn to violent videos.” Lee also warned, “We feel that the rush of tweeting is an indication of his falling apart under stress. Trump is going to get worse and will become uncontainable with the pressures of the presidency.”

I wonder what this “internationally recognized expert on violence” is basing her evaluation on. Has she even met Trump, let alone examined him? If a structural engineer were to issue a public statement declaring a bridge unsafe on the basis of a photo or drone footage, he’d be laughed out of his profession and rightly so.

Lee, editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” which includes testimonials from 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assessing the president’s level of “dangerousness,” said that she was surprised by the interest in her findings during her two days in Washington.

Pray tell, what is the difference between the behaviour of Lee and her 27 colleagues and that of a preacher in rural Texas clutching handfuls of rattlesnakes?

The tweet resuscitated the conversation about the president’s mental state and the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the president from office if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet deem him physically or mentally “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Isn’t retaliating to a nuclear strike one of the duties of his office? Or have these professional psychiatrists divined a first-strike intention from his tweet that passed me by?

The amendment is purposefully set up to require a high burden of proof…

Well, yes. The drafters didn’t want a bunch of quacks sitting down with the President’s political opponents, declaring him insane, then running to the press with their findings.

On Wednesday, Lee and two other medical professionals released a statement following Trump’s late night Tweet baiting Kim Jung Un into a potential nuclear war. “We write as mental health professionals who have been deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s psychological aberrations,” the statement read.

“We believe that he is now further unraveling in ways that contribute to his belligerent nuclear threats. … We urge that those around him, and our elected representatives in general, take urgent steps to restrain his behavior and head off the potential nuclear catastrophe that endangers not only Korea and the United States but all of humankind.” The statement, released on behalf of the National Coalition of Concerned Mental Health Experts, was signed by more than 100 medical professionals.

During the Cold War, one of the most damning criticisms the Western powers made of the USSR was their practice of declaring political opponents insane and locking them away, subjecting them to all sorts of nasty treatments to “cure” them. The willingness of doctors to break their Hippocratic oath in this manner was monstrous, but at least the Soviet quacks actually met the people they were certifying and pretended to carry out an examination. In modern America they don’t even bother to do that. How anyone can support this, let alone put their name to it, and call themselves a medical professional is beyond me. They’re political hacks and nothing more, just like their Soviet counterparts were.


Taxpayers’ Money at Work

Staying on the subject of Donald Trump’s tweets, these don’t upset me too much either:

Yes, I know that diplomacy is about not stating the bleedin’ obvious, but if everyone else in a position of power is going to go along with the charade then someone has to say it. That person might as well be Trump.

And this is pure trolling:

It’s going to be hard to go back to listening to an ordinary politician after his time in office is up.


Trump’s MAD

I’m pretty sure they don’t teach this in diplomacy school:

Naturally, this has made the usual suspects terrified that he is about to start a nuclear war with North Korea. For once they might have a point, more so than when they squeal that he’s about to shut down the independent media or let Putin tell him what to do.

But for my part, I’m not worried. A central feature of a nuclear deterrent is a willingness of the owners to use them; if this is in doubt, or it is obvious they won’t, then it is useless. During the Cold War the willingness of the nuclear powers to resort to the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a first strike or a faced with an existential threat was never in doubt. In fact, the lines were so clear that the US and USSR could fight proxy wars with one another, safe in the knowledge a nuclear confrontation would be avoided. This meant both sides having to pretend there were no Russian pilots flying MiGs in the Korean and Vietnam wars, but it was a workable deception. The credible threat of massive retaliation was the basis of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Since the Cold War, things have got a bit murkier. MAD only works if both sides have an interest in self-preservation; if one party is a suicidal lunatic, it doesn’t work. But whereas foreign policy experts point to countries like North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran as being the suicidal maniacs rendering MAD-doctrines unworkable, what nobody wants to talk about is the other side of the coin: piss-weak leadership in the West.

If London was on the receiving end of a nuclear attack during Obama’s presidency, does anyone believe he would have unequivocally supported Britain’s right to retaliate in kind and honoured his country’s Nato commitments to joining in? I have no confidence he would whatsoever, and I’d not be surprised if his first reaction was to tell Britain to suck it up and not do anything other than reflect on why it was targeted in the first place. This is idle speculation of course, but we can also look at Obama’s foreign policy record in office. Most damning of all was his infamous “red lines” remark about Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The worst part about it wasn’t that he failed to act when Syria did use them, it was that the threat was so damned vague. A whole bunch of chemical weapons? As Streetwise Professor said:

“A whole bunch of chemical weapons”?  ”A whole bunch”?  Really?  WTF constitutes “a whole bunch”?  Is he saying to Assad that he can move around and use a few chemical weapons, as long as he doesn’t cross the “whole bunch” line?  Wherever that is.

If you’re going to make threats, you need to be sure your enemy knows exactly what actions will cause you to trigger your retaliation. Speaking in such vague terms as Obama did only served to muddy the waters between what is acceptable and what is not.

The other thing Obama and Kerry used to do, which I found infuriating, was to react to major foreign policy events by telling their enemies what they weren’t going to do. Shortly after Russia annexed Crimea and attacked eastern Ukraine, Obama fell over himself to rule out military force in response. Now this was in itself very sensible – America doesn’t want to go to war over Ukraine – but why tell Russia that? The US is not obliged to share its military strategies with Russia, so why tell Putin he has a free hand? What made this so dangerous was it severely increased the risk of a miscalculation, whereby Putin – unsure of where the line was – might have accidentally stepped over it forcing the US to respond in a way neither side wanted. For example, by attacking Estonia. Or, now you come to mention it, shooting down a passenger jet operated by Malaysia Airlines. Obama also ruled out military intervention in Syria as well, giving Assad the confidence to go for broke. In my opinion, this behaviour from Obama was one of his major failings, and made the world very much less safe for everybody.

I suspect the Kims looked at Obama and saw a man whose response to their waving a nuclear bomb about was weak, and understandably supposed he might be equally spineless if the bomb actually got used. This embolden Kim Jong Un, who until recently had been unsure of what he can get away with so kept pushing the boundaries. Trump is now telling him, albeit using a very inappropriate medium, that he and his nation will be annihilated if he launches a nuclear attack – confirming something which has probably been US doctrine since rumours first surfaced that North Korea had nuclear technology. Unless Trump is bluffing and is ignoring the imploring advice of his military planners (which I doubt) his words will have the effect of making a miscalculation on the part of Kim Jong Un less likely. His detractors won’t see it this way, but after Obama’s flip-flopping and prevaricating, Trump is injecting some much-needed clarity into the situation. Everyone knows the Russians and the Chinese would not tolerate a nuclear attack on their interests and allies; Trump is merely restating that the same is true for the US. Personally, I think this makes the world a touch safer than it was.


Nikki Haley and the UN

Back in November 2016 I wrote about Trump’s choice of American representative at the UN, Nikki Haley:

The Indian-American, who is in her second and final term as governor, was elected in 2010, riding the wave of the Republican Tea Party with the support of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Prior to becoming the state’s chief executive, she served six years as a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

I’ve noticed that Haley appears to be generating a rather warm following from the American right, not least because of performances at the UN like this one:

She is referring to the vote in the UN General Assembly “rejecting” – as if the US was asking for permission – the decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I also liked this:

She appears to have her boss’ support, too. Here’s Trump being as diplomatic as ever:

A lot of people are decrying this as bullying on the part of the United States, which leaves me a little confused. I’ve encountered bullies in many places throughout my life, but never have I seen one handing out substantial sums of money to those they are supposedly bullying. If making discretionary payments dependent on the behaviour and attitude of the recipients towards the donor constitutes bullying, parents had better not cut off their kids’ pocket money in future.

The motion itself was tabled by Yemen. Yes, Yemen, that bastion of human rights and enviable governance which is now in its umpteenth year of all-out civil war which has left millions dead or homeless. Now I can see why the likes of Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, etc. all voted to condemn the US. I can also see why countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, etc. voted for the motion – they have to pay lip service to the man on the street that they hate Israel and the west, even if they hate each other more. What I don’t quite get is why certain other countries voted for this appalling resolution.

Notably among them is the UK. What the hell May thinks she’s doing in voting for a resolution tabled by Yemen condemning the US I don’t know. She’s thick beyond belief, but even she must realise she needs all the friends she can get right now, but instead she seems determined to drive a wedge between the UK and US at a time when she should be building bridges. At the very least, the UK should have abstained; Australia and Canada did, to their credit. The rest of western Europe predictably went along with Yemen’s motion, almost certainly because they believe pandering to the Muslim world and condemning the US will somehow help address the serious terrorist problems they have within their own borders. It’s a sad fact that most Europeans think more highly of Middle Eastern despots than they do Trump, but this is nothing new: George W. Bush was subject to much the same treatment. Notably Poland and Hungary abstained, probably after a moment’s consideration about which horse is worth backing in the long run should things turn nasty. That the EU suspended Poland’s voting rights in protest at the policies of its democratically elected government probably sharpened some minds in Warsaw.

What is more surprising is that South Korea and Japan voted to condemn the US. If I were Trump I’d be sorely tempted to believe the whole Kim Jong Un problem just solved itself right there. The South Koreans and Japanese don’t believe the US has the right to locate its embassy in Jerusalem? Okay, fine. Perhaps we should now ask US citizens whether they believe they’ve any obligation to involve themselves further in what amounts to a regional dick-waving contest. If I were Trump, I’d be ordering my units in the DMZ to stand down immediately and wishing the Japanese all the very best in their dealings with the Chinese and North Koreans in future.

That won’t happen, but what I do hope is Trump makes good on Haley’s promise to stop shovelling more money at these countries which despise them, and to pull funding from the utterly contemptible United Nations. I also hope that Haley makes a run for president some day. She seems likeable and capable, and nothing would drive a stake into Hillary Clinton’s corrupt heart like a Republican woman becoming the first female president in her lifetime.


The Case of Masterpiece Cakeshop

There’s a good discussion going on over at Samizdata regarding the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop which is currently before the Surpreme Court. A summary of the case is as follows.

A gay couple approached Masterpiece Cakeshop and asked the proprietor to make them a wedding cake with a unique message for their upcoming nuptials. The baker, who is a devout Christian, refused to do so on the grounds that his religious beliefs forbade him from participating in such a ceremony, and that making a cake and decorating it in the manner requested would constitute doing so. He was happy to sell them an existing cake off the shelf, but not make one and decorate it specially. At this point I should mention that the gay couple could have gone to any one of hundreds of other bakers, but instead they deliberately sought out a Christian one in the hope he would refuse and they could run around screaming about how oppressed they are. As such, they took the baker to court which found him guilty of discrimination on grounds of sexuality, and dismissed his defence that in refusing to comply with the couple’s request he was exercising his right to free speech. The matter has now reached the Supreme Court and they are busy tying themselves in knots over it.

The reason they’re tying themselves in knots is because Americans, like so many other advanced nations, have spent decades writing ever-more detailed and prescriptive laws attempting to control what people do, say, and think. A feature of modern governments is they believe there is absolutely nothing on Earth which cannot be subject to legislation, and the more the better. Unsurprisingly, these laws have started contradicting one another. If freedom of association is a right guaranteed in law, it logically follows that freedom to not associate is similarly protected. The Founding Fathers, being sensible folk and not the cretins which pass for modern-day politicians, didn’t see the need to actually write this down because it is so bleeding obvious, but our current ruling class blithely assume these guys would be progressives and hence fully supportive of the idiocy we see today. Personally I think the Founding Fathers, were they permitted to see contemporary America, would wonder why they didn’t just take up beaver trapping and fishing and give nation-founding a wide berth.

Some at Samizdata are arguing that it is a free speech issue, others that it is one of property rights, in the sense that the baker’s labour is his property. Both are undoubtedly true in the abstract sense, but in the context of US law I don’t think either is true. Fraser Orr sums it up well in this comment:

In regards to the baker himself, let us be clear on what the case says. It does not force him to use his labor to make a cake, or force his store to support something which he doesn’t believe in. In fact what it says is that to engage in the business of cake making in Colorado you have to meet certain standards, such as hygiene, treat your workers fairly, provide for disabled customers and, yes, provide your services without discrimination.

And again here:

The bakers are not required to make the cake, only they may not sell any cakes unless they do so without discrimination. So there is no involuntary servitude here, only involuntary non servitude.

Note that Fraser isn’t saying that this should be happening, he’s simply stating what the case is. What it boils down to is whether the baker’s personal beliefs extend to how he makes cakes and for what purposes, and whether they override any customer’s right to be served regardless. Frankly, any society that struggles over this question for more than twenty seconds is probably in its last century of existence, at least in its current form. There may be some genuine instances where society needs to get  their heads together to work out a compromise, e.g. if a group of people are going without vital goods and services due to wholly artificial restrictions on supply, but I remain to be convinced that gays being denied bespoke wedding cakes from a single bakery is one of them.

But here we are, with the Supreme Court trying to decide what happens when an irresistible force meets and immovable object. I have no doubt they will rule against the baker, because to do otherwise would drive a coach and horses through decades of progressive legislation which, however you cut it, most of the population seems to endorse (if you disagree, kindly point out that last time American conservatives voted in enough numbers to install a government which conserved anything). When the ruling is handed down, progressives will cheer heartily about how bigoted bakers have no place in American society and make lots of noises about how decency prevailed over hate and other such nonsense. The decision will be presented as evidence that society is moving forward, inching towards progressive utopia, as they did when the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was in fact enshrined in the constitution even though its authors neglected to mention it. Not for one moment will they think the societal arrangements that, in defiance of most of human history, prevents people massacring each other for fun have just had another pillar kicked from under them.

Where they think this is heading is anyone’s guess. Where gay men like the ones persecuting this baker think they’re going to hide when Daddy Government takes a turn for the worse or doesn’t show up to protect them I don’t know. I’ve mentioned this before, but if I was a minority in any society I’d probably not go around deliberately antagonising people, and I certainly wouldn’t put my future well-being in the hands of people who shit themselves because Trump said “pussy”.

I suspect this case will become an amusing footnote of history, along with so much else that progressives think is inevitable and will therefore last forever. The rate we’re going, we’re going to make the Incas look sane.


An Election in Alabama

So Roy Moore lost the Alabama Senator’s race by a whisker, with Democrat Doug Jones winning 49.9% of the vote against Moore’s 48.4% (1.7% of the voters opted for a write-in, which in the context is quite important).

I already wrote about Roy Moore here, and since then the allegations against him are looking ever-more fabricated. Firstly there was the timing, the Washington Post running the story at a crucial point after the nominations were closed and when Moore was polling a 10-point lead over his rival. Secondly, it now appears the owner of the yearbook Moore allegedly signed when she was 14 added some text to it later. Might have been worth mentioning that at the beginning, eh? But the signature is real, oh yes.

Nobody should be surprised at this, least of all Republicans, but the reason Moore lost was probably less to do with the allegations as his response to them. I fully agree he should not have apologised, but he should have looked the camera in the eye and called his accuser a bare-faced liar whose parents ought to have raised her better. Instead he did an interview with Sean Hannity – hardly the person to shore up anyone’s reputation – which made him look extremely shifty, and the comments emerging from those around him right up until the vote didn’t help him one jot. He didn’t come across as anyone you’d much want to vote for, even if you didn’t believe the allegations against him.

What surprises me a little is the naivety of the Republicans. Actually, no it doesn’t: most of them come across as spectacularly dim. The Democrat-supporting media releasing allegations of sexual misconduct against a Republican politician with exquisite timing is nothing new, and is now standard practice: the release of Trump’s decade-old Access Hollywood interview was timed precisely to lose him the election, and had he been running against anyone other than Hillary Clinton the plan would have succeeded. Any Republican running for office should expect a media storm alleging sexual misconduct and/or tax evasion on his part at a crucial point in the election and prepare for it. If the Republicans haven’t figured out how things work by now, then they’re simply too dim for office.

Of course, the media refrain from sand-bagging Democrats in the same way because they are almost unanimous in wanting Democrats to rule in perpetuity, and the few that don’t are rabid anti-Trumpers who think Jeb Bush would have made a good president. The allegations against Al Franken gained some traction, but this was mostly to make Republicans look like hypocrites in backing Moore. He gave a speech last week implying he was going to resign, but he’s still there. I think the intention was for him to hold on until Moore got elected and then say “Why should I resign when the Republicans have elected Moore?” Now that they haven’t, it puts him in a rather tight spot. Good.

The only way Moore lost that election is by GOP voters staying at home or plumping for Jones. I think this confirms what we already knew from the Trump election, which is that American voters fall into four distinct categories:

Group 1. Hardcore Democrats. This lot think Hillary was amazing and wouldn’t give a damn if someone on their side, i.e. Hillary’s husband, had serious sexual allegations leveled at him. For them, winning is everything.

Group 2. Moderate Democrats. They want to vote for a decent candidate and didn’t like Hillary much, but they still see any Republican as being worse than Hitler so if Jeffrey Dahmer ran against Mitt Romney, the brain-eating serial killer gets their vote.

Group 3. Moderate Republicans. These are split further in two. The aforementioned anti-Trumpers who think the neo-cons had it right and Reagan-style leadership was just around the corner were it not for that blasted Trump; and those who realise something has shifted quite severely in the political landscape but aren’t willing to jump on the alt-right bandwagon just yet. Both of these are the people who stayed at home in Alabama last night, or voted for Jones.

Group 4. Hardcore Republicans. These guys will vote Republican no matter what, and a lot of them will be delighted with Trump. These could also be broken into sub-groups, but doing so wouldn’t add much to my post.

What is clear from this is that any switching between Groups 1 and 2 doesn’t matter. Democrats will vote Democrat regardless of the state of the candidate. One major feature of the 2016 presidential election was the number of Republicans who reluctantly voted for Trump versus the number of Democrats who enthusiastically voted for Hillary. Whereas the Democrats can count on Democrat voters voting Democrat (or in the worst case, staying at home), the Republicans have no such advantage: half the time supposedly Republican voters are cheering for the other side and even if they don’t, the candidate they support might as well be a Democrat. So it is Group 3 which is swinging politics one way or another in the US right now: “conservatives” who voted for Obama returned to voting Republican in November 2016, and wavering Republicans choosing not to back Moore last night.

What I think will happen, and probably already is happening, is that Group 4 will grow at the expense of Group 3 as the moderate Republicans get fed up with playing nice and start to take lessons from the Democrat playbook. In other words, they won’t care if the Republican candidate is an accused child-molester, he’s a Republican and that’s all that matters. Oh, and fuck the media. I am sure these people had a role in making the race so tight last night: a decade ago, Moore might not have even made it to polling day and Jones would have run unopposed. Had anyone else but Trump been president, that’s probably what would have happened.

Demographics aren’t going to be kind to Group 3 either. The Reaganites and neo-cons are yesterday’s men and long in the tooth, being replaced by youngsters more impressed by alt-right shitlording than those who have accepted they’ll lose from Day 1 but wish to do so gracefully and in the polite company of people who pay them to say things that don’t upset anyone. This lot will be buoyed by yesterday’s result, but they’re fighting a losing battle. It’s only a matter of time before the remaining right-wing moderates decide it’s better to fight dirty than lose honourably.

Demographics will also help Groups 1 and 2, though. Immigration and the penchant for young people to lean left will swell their numbers, which might speed up the transfer of right-wingers from Group 3 to 4 as they realise what’s going on. Race will also play a greater role: if blacks are going to vote Democrat regardless and make a big deal out of it, whites are going to respond in kind. Indeed, the rise of the alt-right shows this is already happening. In a generation we’re probably going to be left with only 3 political groupings in US politics: 1, 2, and 4 with 3 almost disappearing completely. Perhaps 2 will vanish as well, merging completely with 1. It might well be that Republicans and Democrats share the votes of 1 and 2 while a new party pops up to gather up all those in Group 4.

I am sure today’s media will be filled with many stories about how “decency won” last night – as if publishing fabricated allegations of child abuse in a national newspaper in order to throw an election is decent – but I think the direction of travel is obvious. There will be more dirty tricks, more tribalism, more division, and more nastiness in the years to come. I doubt it will end well.


Help a Liberal Today!

Remember this?

I live in a Muslim neighborhood and it’s making me sick thinking about how terrified everyone must be. I’m going to talk to a Muslim coworker today about who to approach and how, and exactly what I can do.

Time for all those grateful Muslims to repay the kindness:

I’m sure Muslims and Jews just love being accosted at work for their views on the Middle East because some white liberal is “scared”, almost as much as they love random idiots coming up trying to “help” them.


America’s Embassy in Israel

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, senior administration officials have said.

He is due to announce the controversial decision in a speech later.

Mr Trump is also expected to approve moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but not for several years.

Nowhere in this article does it mention that in June the US Senate voted on a resolution to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital which passed by 90-0. To do so would detract from the narrative that Trump is making rash, unilateral decisions which bring the world closer to war.

Israel welcomes the changes but the Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned they will jeopardise any Middle East peace process.

Note they don’t specify which Middle East peace process would be jeopardised, presumably because none exists.

Successive presidents have signed waivers to get round the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates moving the embassy.

Oh. So basically Trump is the first President to actually uphold a law that was passed by Congress over 20 years ago. This is a bad thing, apparently.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told Mr Trump the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”

Could it be that, having listened to Muslims all over the world spending the first year of his presidency branding him an enemy of Islam, Trump isn’t really interested in what they think at this juncture?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”

Yeah, that might have worked ten or twenty years ago, but it’s now worn so thin you can wear it as a mask and still watch TV.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a “day of rage” this Friday and said “Palestinian people everywhere [would] not allow this conspiracy to pass”

Business as usual, then.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could sever ties with Israel

I doubt there are many in Israel counting on ties with Turkey since Erdogan’s rise to power.

France, the European Union and the Arab League have also expressed concern.

The Arab League? We have proxy wars raging in Syria and Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia at each other’s throats, Iran and Turkey sending troops to prop up Arab governments, Libya overrun by jihadists and Egypt heading in the same direction. I didn’t even realise the Arab League still existed, but the minutes of their AGM must make interesting reading.

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise. There is no other obvious reason he is doing this now.

Fulfilling campaign promises, enacting Senate resolutions, upholding the law as passed by Congress? Is there nobody who can save us from this monster?!

Administration officials said he would simply be acknowledging reality

A rare trait among modern politicians.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia are custodians of Islam’s holy sites and have issued strong warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world.

Okay, we’ll add it to the list.

It sounds like the Palestinians will get nothing.

Except for the four or five hundred million dollars per year the US sends them, of course.

Perhaps there is a wider strategy at work but it looks like a workaround so the president can satisfy his pro-Israel voters.

And comply with the Senate, Congress, and the law in a manner that his predecessors refused to.

In other news:

The BBC is to launch a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information.

They’re perfectly placed to do it.


More in Trump’s Twitter Trolling

Polkamatic makes the following comment under my post on Trump’s Twitter trolling:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it. And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

This deserves a proper response. Let me take this part first:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it.

This is obviously true: Trump seems to spend as much time trolling the media as he does anything else. Is this appropriate for an American president? Personally I don’t think it is, but then I also believe it’s a moot point.

If Americans wanted a president who acts in a presidential manner, then they ought to have left the door open for such a candidate to step forward and get themselves elected. Instead, the media and political establishment decided they would back the Democratic candidate regardless and carry out a complete and utter character assassination of the Republican candidate. I remember when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama: he was called a Nazi, a religious fundamentalist, a misogynist, and a tax-evader. He then spent the entire campaign mumbling apologies, explaining himself, and reacting to every media revelation his political opponents aired. Sure enough, he lost by a mile. Had Jeb Bush won the Republican nomination in 2016, the same thing would have happened to him and we’d now be listening to President Clinton screech at us from our TV screens.

I’ve said it many times on these pages, Trump is a symptom of the malaise in American politics, not the cause of it. The reason you have an egotistical asshole in the White House is because the media and political establishment made it impossible for any decent non-Democrat to win a presidential election. Any Republican candidate who would have behaved in a presidential manner in office would never have got close to the White House, he’d have been destroyed by the media using every dirty trick in the book to bring him down. This didn’t work on Trump because he simply didn’t care, had his own money, owed nobody anything, and refused to apologise.

My post was simply to point out that Trump figured out the media’s role in American politics and rather than reacting to every story they put out about him, he plays the tune while they dance. And let’s be honest here: if he wasn’t doing this, and he had settled into the role and was doing his level best to do his job in a highly professional manner, the media would still be pumping out one anti-Trump hatchet-job after another, wailing about Russia and calling for his impeachment. Anyone who thinks the media, political establishment, and Democrat supporters would allow a Republican president to quietly get on with the job at hand is absolutely deluded.

And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

As I said in the original post, the people screaming about Trump are preaching to the choir. Part of the reason Trump was able to shrug off the media attacks during the election campaign was because millions of Americans had come to believe they are interested only in political campaigning and are hence highly selective about the stories they choose to cover. The diminished influence of the MSM was laid bare when, against all their dreams and predictions, Trump won and Hillary lost. If there was ever a time for self-reflection and recalibration, that was it. Instead, they’ve just trebled-down on the hysteria and hammered the point home they’re partisan hacks with no interest in reporting objective truth.

Is the public interested in a tawdry spectacle? Well, it certainly provides plenty of Twitter-fodder but the likes of the NYT, WaPo, BBC, and CNN are not tabloids: I am sure most Americans would prefer it if they started reporting the news properly instead of pasting up headlines regarding who said what about Trump on Twitter. Now maybe the MSM is enjoying healthy profits by pursuing this approach, but my bet is they’re losing money hand over fist.

On another note, I don’t think Trump’s method of communication is part of some overall grand strategy, I think he’s just doing what comes naturally to him. But regardless of why he’s doing it, the effects are substantial. I don’t know why he retweeted the videos that Britain First put up but it caused all manner of journalists, celebrities, and politicians to vent their outrage at what they see as his endorsement of a racist party. This has had the knock-on effect of:

1. Highlighting the rank hypocrisy among Britain’s political and media establishments. Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of the IRA and Hamas, anti-semitism is rife across the British left, people with blood up to their elbows are welcomed with open arms, yet Trump retweeting a video from Britain First is deemed beyond the pale.

2. Exposing who is thinking what in Britain’s supposedly Conservative political circles. I wouldn’t expect any Conservatives to endorse Trump, but if they’re queuing up behind Labour politicians and left-wing media loudmouths in calling him “racist” and “not welcome in Britain” and “irresponsible” then they’re doing everyone a big favour. I suspect much of the British public couldn’t care less about Trump’s tweets and when they hear he’s posted something on a subject their own political classes refuse to address, they’re probably quite glad. I haven’t seen the videos in question (I generally find this sort of thing on Twitter to be presented in a wholly misleading context), but if the political classes think Trump tweeting videos of Muslims allegedly being violent and murderous is something that will horrify the public, they’ve not been paying attention.

3. It is now confirmed that retweeting does indeed equate to endorsing. Expect the trolls to have some fun with this over the next few weeks.

Trump’s tweets are often filled with infantile posturing, but the reaction to them is stuff that will fascinate historians and social anthropologists for years to come.


Trump’s Twitter Trolling

North Korea is lobbing missiles around again and the hapless Theresa May is shipping billions of pounds over to Europe in the hope they’ll make her life a bit easier next month, but here’s the BBC’s lead story:

It’s reached the stage that I think Trump is simply trolling. The outrage machine is still going full blast more than a year since his election, but there he is, still sitting pretty as president. He knows that by simply clicking a few buttons on his iPhone he can send the world’s media – who hate him anyway – into one meltdown after another, giving them no time to catch their breath in between. Historians are going to look back on this and recognise it as masterful media manipulation; he really is playing with them like a cat does a mouse.

What really gets me is the disparity of effort. Master trolls don’t hang around writing screeds online, their role is to throw petrol on a fire and walk away, leaving everyone else to waste days or weeks fighting each other. In Trump’s case, he can tie up tens of thousands of his enemies’ manhours and get them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by retweeting a video, an action which takes less than a second. This must be costing the media companies an absolute fortune, and for what? The BBC won’t care because they extort money from the British population, but for the rest who rely on selling copy or getting eyes on screen, Trump’s making them dig their own graves. For all the million articles and interviews decrying Trump, nobody’s much changed their minds about the man: all they’re doing is preaching to the choir. They desperately need to start covering stories professionally and recapturing their lost audiences in order to survive, but instead they’re stuck with this blinding obsession. How none of the shareholders or executives realise this is incredible.

Trump is unlikely to leave office remembered as a great president or even as a good politician, and I suspect his legislative changes won’t even amount to much. But I think there’s no doubt he will be remembered for the manner in which he completely outflanked a hostile media and led them straight over a cliff. For all his other faults, Trump is probably the first major political figure to really understand the power of social media. Twitter should give him a seat on the board when his time in office is up.