Streetwise Professor

January 21, 2019

Two falsehood fly, and the truth comes limping after it

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 9:56 pm

Two events over the weekend illustrate the utter depravity of modern media (especially social media) and political culture. (These really cannot be separated.) The first is the BuzzFeed story that Mueller had evidence that Trump had instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. The second is the confrontation between a group of Catholic high school students and some activists in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.

It is hard to say which is the most egregious. The Trump-Cohen story’s claim for precedence is its obvious political importance, given that if true it would provide a justification for impeachment, with all the potential for political chaos and strife that entails. The Covington High story is appalling because it set off a frenzy of hatred, doxing, physical threats, and threats to the future prospects of a group of high school kids, that went on for hours–and still continues to some degree. Orwell blushes that he only conceived of a Two Minute Hate.

Both stories share a common thread: virulent hatred, mainly on the left, but not exclusively so, that makes the haters believe any anti-Trump, or anti-conservative story (especially if the conservatives are white males), without reservation, and to repeat it, without reservation. Despite the fact that so many previous stories have proven completely false. These are stories that are not only too good to check, but which must be repeated relentlessly in reckless disregard of the truth, and callous indifference to the effects that defamatory lies have on the targets, or on the country, or on the fabric of civil society.

The Covington High story was fueled by (a) a highly biased account from a clearly partisan and interested man, Indian activist Nathan Phillips, and (b) an video that presented a snippet of the interaction between Phillips and the Covington students, edited to reinforce Phillips’ claim that he, a lone and beleaguered protestor, had been set upon by a group of racist high schoolers bedecked in MAGA hats.

The deference to Phillips is truly nauseating. We are supposed to accord some moral standing to “activists”–especially minority ones. Especially those with drums! So authentic! This to a large extent reflects white liberal guilt, which operators like Phillips are past masters at exploiting.

I, on the other hand, hear the word “activist” and immediately suspect a manipulator, and a con. I suspect a guy who has figured out that whites fall for the Magical Indian shtick, and who plays it for all it is worth.

Once the field of vision was extended beyond Phillips and the video edited to substantiate his story, the narrative fell apart. The Covington boys had been harassed by a small group of “Black Israelites”, who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at them. The N-word was lobbed liberally at black Covington students. Phillips saw an opportunity, and waded in, banging his idiotic drum in the faces of the students. They didn’t get in their grills: he got in theirs.

Phillips made claims (e.g., the students shouted “build the wall”) that are not supported by the full video. He also neglects to say that his followers told the students to “go back to Europe.”

Insofar as the Black Israelites are concerned, to call them fringe lunatics would be to understate matters. I can only say that if a group of white fringe lunatics were to harangue people at the Lincoln Memorial, you’d be hearing about them 24/7. The Black Israelites, however, are merely bit players in the mainstream narrative about this event.

But the falsehood had already flown, and continues to fly. And the hatred–truly virulent hatred–has taken wing with it.

I’m so old, I remember when “rush to judgment” was a bad thing. Now its de rigeur, indeed mandatory, if the judges are left and the judged are right.

This illustrates another axiom of mine. There is no better tool for manipulation and distortion than a cleverly edited or shot video, in which the filmmaker or editor evokes verisimilitude by presenting actual visuals–the camera doesn’t lie, right? In reality, however, by controlling the range of vision or the events portrayed (and those not portrayed), the filmmaker/editor can lie outrageously by presenting a grotesquely incomplete and hence misleading portrayal of events.

There is always the Rashomon problem: even honest observers will disagree on what happened during a particular event. But when there is a political agenda at play, things are far worse. A dishonest filmmaker or editor can lie outrageously while only presenting things that actually happened–but only some of the things. In the wrong hands, the camera is the biggest liar of them all.

In court you have to swear to tell the whole truth. Because the most vicious lies can be partial truths. And much of the art of filmmaking is to tell partial truths.

I therefore suggest: the more viral and provocative a video appears, the more skeptical you should be.

Visuals–photos, but especially video–are the most effective form of agitprop. If you see visuals that advance a prevailing social/political/media narrative, you should immediately suspect agitprop. The more powerful the visuals are, and the more that they conform with the narrative, the deeper your suspicion should be.

One thing truly atrocious about the Lincoln Memorial fiasco was the haste with which ostensibly conservative figures joined the condemnation of the Covington students–they foolishly and seemingly eagerly ignored my advice of caution. Methinks this reflects a form of Stockholm Syndrome, combined with a craven desire for acceptance by a mainstream media and political culture that hates their guts. These alleged conservatives apparently feel compelled to bend over backwards to to prove they are not hypocritical, and that they will call out their own. Better to kill the innocent with friendly fire, than–heaven forfend–be seen as reluctant to castigate the guilty. They have their minds right, boss!

I can guarantee that the left has no such scruples. This is an asymmetry that repeatedly cripples the right, and advantages the left.

The Diocese of Covington in particular deserves scorn. It bought the BS shoveled out by the media hook, line, and sinker, and offered condemnation and an abject apology.

Note to the Catholic Church: those attacking the students hate your church with a particular virulence. The Diocese were craven fools empowering their sworn enemies.

Another suggestion: never believe the narrative pushed by the media. If you do, you are a sucker, and worse–a useful idiot. All of those conservatives who did so in this instance should be deeply ashamed.

Insofar as the BuzzFeed story is concerned, the “publication” claimed to have seen (or not seen, depending on which of the two bylined reporters you ask!) documents showing that Trump had suborned Cohen’s perjury. CNN and MSNBC repeated this over 200 times, breathlessly intoning that this foretold Trump’s doom.

Then Mueller’s office denied it. Stated that the story was inaccurate. When a desperate media claimed that the denial was equivocal, the special counsel’s office made an adamant denial.

You know this story was shopped (most likely by someone within Mueller’s office) to every other major publication–which didn’t touch it. But after BuzzFeed (which should be renamed BottomFeed) ran it, the rest felt liberated to repeat it. (By the way, what do you call those who live off the excrement of bottom feeders? The MSM, I guess.)

Again, the story was too good to check, or to question. It advanced a narrative detrimental to the media’s main enemy. So go with it!

I don’t like to be pessimistic, but I think the point of no return has been reached. The utter lack of prudence, discretion, and basic fairness appears to be too deeply entrenched to be displaced. Worst, respect for truth has become obsolete, replaced by the basest political relativism: whatever advances my cause is right, the truth be damned. It is far more important to crush one’s political and social enemies, than to attempt to learn the truth, or to be cautious about reaching erroneous conclusions no matter how damaging those errors may be to ordinary people or political or civil society.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say are pre-revolutionary conditions. When honest disagreement is impossible, and a desire to seek truth is sacrificed to political expediency and political or social advantage, force is all that remains to arbitrate difference. We are rapidly reaching that point, if we have not already done so.

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  1. I was talking to my mother over the weekend, and I told her that I’m frankly surprised that we haven’t seen political assassinations yet ala Law Abiding Citizen.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — January 22, 2019 @ 4:48 am

  2. Civil War? Between the Country Party and the Court Party, effectively. Your side, the Country Party, won’t win unless the Armed Forces support you. If they do, and you win, you will then have to impose one hell of a slaughter on your enemies to secure your position, because they couldn’t possibly be trusted to keep any agreement they negotiated. (That’s why Charles I had to be executed – he wouldn’t keep his promises.)

    Whereas if the Forces support the Court Party, their victory would be followed – after an initial slaughter – by enslaving the losers. Though you can bet the verb “enslave” wouldn’t be used.

    In either case, how would you avoid the Armed Forces effectively ruling the USA indefinitely?

    The more I think about it, the more I’m impressed by the restraint the Parliamentarians exhibited after the English civil war – but even then they fell under a military dictatorship ended only by Cromwell’s death. Franco’s regime ended only with Franco’s death.

    Comment by dearieme — January 22, 2019 @ 9:07 am

  3. @dearieme–The armed forces recruit primarily from Jacksonian America. It is the left’s fantasy to unleash B-2s on the sticks. It would never happen.

    I am also somewhat amused that those who emphasize (with considerable merit) how the most powerful military in the world was unable to subdue guerrilla forces in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan think that it could (not that it would try) similarly prevail in an internecine conflict. They also forget the experience of Reconstruction, or the Revolutionary War in the South.

    The English Civil War example is interesting food for thought, though. And yes (with the Irish perhaps excepted), Cromwell was something of a pussycat by dictatorial standards.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 22, 2019 @ 9:20 am

  4. The British defeated the Boers in the guerilla war in South Africa.

    The US military destroyed the Viet Cong in Vietnam, and defeated the NVA. The loss in Vietnam came on the streets of the US, not in the jungles of Vietnam.

    If one wanted to actually win in Afghanistan, one would fight in Pakistan.

    Comment by Pedric — January 22, 2019 @ 11:45 am

  5. 1) we all know that a New Yawk shyster, Cohen, would never lie, unless Trump told him to do so, right? 🙂

    2) it occurs to me that there is a vicious, vile and unrelenting campaign going on being fomented by lefties/libtards; Goebbels woud be proud. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat: roosha, roosha, roosha; Trump is racist (no evidence of this either); Trump is a puppet of Putler (no evidence of that); Trump is a rooshan agent (no evidence);

    The goal is definitely not accuracy or truth – it is endless repetition of falsehoods, and those falsehoods are repeated by certain members of Congress as well.

    Easy work for media idiots, who for the most part are lazy and stupid.

    Ultimate goal – chaos and destruction.

    Goebbels would be proud.

    3) BuzzFake is “standing by its story” – libtards lie – it’s part of feeding/propagandizing their mythology; when they are caught in a lie, they double down and triple down on lying, and scream their lies even louder. Have you seen the 2 marshmallow BuzzFake “reporters”? They look like little fat, overweight flakes, and talk like they have no brains at all – which fits them perfectly into BuzzFake.

    Comment by elmer — January 22, 2019 @ 12:02 pm


    pre-planned event?

    AustinHoldout says:
    January 22, 2019 at 1:44 am

    I watched well over 2 hours, all the videos I could find from the incident at the Lincoln Memorial, and I was so impressed with how the catholic students resisted more than an hour and a half of badgering and name calling by the “Black Hebrew” group. Anyone who wants to hear what real homophobia, racism and bigotry sound like, tune in to that crew. They repeatedly called the one black student in the group the N word and a “Coon” for associating with the white students. They told him his “dusty a$$ cracker friends were just waiting until he was grown to steal his organs. The only reaction they got from the students was that one student responded “he’s just a kid, why do you want to call him that name?” Three or 4 of the students hugged or patted the black student and said “we love you bro”. But none of that footage was newsworthy.

    After watching it all, I believe the Black Hebrews’ failure to trigger any of the students and get the “racist” media clips they were after is what prompted the Native American drummer and 7-8 others to push themselves into the center of the group of students and try harder to get a media worthy reaction. Which is what we all saw. No one showed that the students had turned their backs to all the protestors and were minding their own business when they were infiltrated from the rear by the drum beating activist. The left is sick.

    Comment by elmer — January 22, 2019 @ 1:28 pm

  7. I get this, but I’d love to know what that group of girls did wrong to prompt one of the boys to shout at them “it’s not rape if you enjoy it”. Maybe your wide angle still isn’t quite wide enough?

    Comment by David Mercer — January 22, 2019 @ 2:06 pm

  8. Early in my career in markets, a wise old hedge fund hand made a comment that’s stuck with me – “The media is lazy and careless”. One might add “unspeakably cruel” to that list these days.

    Also, re: David Mercer, it seems the offender in question wasn’t associated with Covington Catholic – I think we’d all do well to remember to withhold judgement on *anything* reported by the media. And even if true, it does little to justify the vile treatment directed at the Sandmann boy.

    Comment by Quodvultdeus — January 22, 2019 @ 2:17 pm

  9. @Pedric-You are cherry picking examples. The British “victory” came after a long and disastrous war. And by the way, the British were also beaten in Afghanistan–even though they also carried out campaigns in the NWFP (the part of Pakistan that you would fight in).

    Insofar as destroying the VC is concerned, that was a completely self-inflicted wound. The VC were destroyed during Tet ’68 because they abandoned guerrilla tactics and attempted a nationwide uprising.

    And do you actually think that a protracted guerrilla war in the US would not cause unrest in the streets? As if.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 22, 2019 @ 6:34 pm

  10. Both episodes are misdirections. The Buzzfeed fake news was another attempt to obscure the real story: the Cohen DoJ investigation is about Cohen’s involvement in illegal lobbying by Clinton buddies, including Podesta. That connection has been conveniently overlooked and unreported by the MSM.
    The Covington farce was completely fabricated to excite the Hollywood lowlife that becomes incontinent easily. It served to distract from the real Cohen & Podesta connection, and to essentially black out any coverage of the Baker testimony.
    SWP, you are quite correct about the point of no return. The few apologies and feigned backtracking isn’t going to repair what has been destroyed beyond repair.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — January 22, 2019 @ 6:51 pm

  11. I think what is most depressing, although not at all surprising, is the behaviour of the Diocese of Covington. I expect the left wing media and the celebrity hangers-on to rush to judgement. That is what they do. What I also expect, however, is that the Catholic heirarchy would demonstrate the moral courage that our faith demands and refrain from a similar rush to condemn – and, more to the point, when it is proven that its behaviour was intemperate that an apology would quickly follow. Sadly, the bishop and the school principal (acting one presumes upon advice of the former) have made no such admission of error. I am not a member of the parish in question – I am not even American — but I am a practising Roman Catholic and I am very upset by the moral cowardice within the RC Church, from the head down. The case of the high school students underscores yet again just how far that institution has now decayed when it won’t even behave according to its own teachings. (And I know that there are other cases, some much worse. It is the drip, drip nature of the problem that is so spiritually exhausting.)

    So all this is to say that it is not just the case of a depraved mass media, for the problem is much bigger. The degeneracy of the leaders of institutions, that at one time we looked to for moral authority, has created a vacuum that the political left has rushed to fill with all its inanities. In other words, we have done this damage to ourselves.

    Comment by Ben in Ottawa — January 22, 2019 @ 7:54 pm

  12. @Ben–Thanks for that. I couldn’t agree more.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 22, 2019 @ 8:28 pm

  13. @Quodvultdeus. I wasn’t suggesting that this justified the attacks, just that neither “side” really acquitted themselves with any honor. I’m always of the opinion that if you can’t handle the heat in such a situation, just turn your back and walk away. No shame in that.

    I’m guessing you guys stateside aren’t seeing the nonsense happening daily outside of our Parliament here in London? The intimidation and invective does appear to be coming from one side of the political spectrum (any guesses?). Weirdly the media – and the authorities – here seems to be giving them a free pass too…

    Comment by David Mercer — January 23, 2019 @ 5:56 am

  14. @cpirrong, I wasn’t cherry-picking any more than you were. The US also won the guerilla war in the Philippines, whatever one thinks of its brutality or lack of necessity.

    Comment by Pedric — January 23, 2019 @ 8:34 pm

  15. I don’t know, I am not worried, I used to be worried, but no longer, I get the feeling, sometime this year, America is going to get a look behind the curtain and see corruption so deep and pervasive coming from both sides,involving politicians, corporations the courts, Silicon Valley and Wall Street and the media, going on for decades, that we will be astonished and change will happen on its own.

    Comment by Tom Henderson — January 23, 2019 @ 8:44 pm

  16. Professor, I think this is the first time I read here the popular sentiment you expressed in your last paragraph. If someone as calm and collected as you feeling that we’re close, it must be true…what am I still doing in the Rotten Apple?!

    Comment by Tatyana — January 23, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

  17. Interesting essay from 2016 about why Trump won:
    ‘To the surprise of no one who understands human nature, many whites didn’t appreciate being told that they had to die off for “progress” to be achieved…In the last days of Hillary’s doomed campaign…one of her top celebrity surrogates publicly hailed the “extinction” of straight white men as a step in the right direction…running against working-class whites—at almost 40 percent of the electorate, the biggest voting bloc in America—is the definition of political insanity.’

    Since when the left has learned nothing.

    Comment by Green as Grass — January 24, 2019 @ 8:09 am

  18. There is doom and gloom everywhere, see Seth Klarman at Davos, so I say buy, things are not nearly as bad as you see on social media and how about dumping social media altogether from your daily habits?

    Take a look at the personality that designed Facebook, would you want to have a beer with him? Facebook etc. are designed by angry , childish people, that want you to be like them, no wonder everybody is “woke” and in a bad mood all the time.

    Ditch social media.

    Comment by Tom Henderson — January 24, 2019 @ 8:45 am

  19. @SWP: is none of the Covington MSM coverage legally actionable as libelous? I know it was news in the public domain and 1st Amendment, yada yada…. but is there no protection of minors from slanderous MSM reverberations? The hypocrisy of our regulations: worrying that vaping will harm HS kids in the long run, and yet it’s ok legally for them to be traumatized in media character attacks? Does the MSM (who controls the information distribution assets and weaponizes their “news” content) have no laws obligating them to demonstrate journalistic due diligence before distributing their content? Are there no slander laws that apply here? I guess its a complicated topic (1A and all) but the velocity of the damage inflicted by MSM and Twitterdom is disturbing. Kids are undeservingly easy targets of this kind of MSM malpractice.

    Comment by Woodman — January 24, 2019 @ 11:48 am

  20. @Woodman–I believe there is a libel case to be made here. These are not public figures, so making false defamatory statements should be sufficient. What’s more, in this case, many of the statements were made in reckless disregard of the truth.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 24, 2019 @ 5:48 pm

  21. I am not a lawyer, but as the students were actively protesting at the time of this event, they will have a hard time convincing a court that they are not ‘public figures’ where the protection of the reasonable private man apply. I could be wrong, but it is very different if this would have happened in a private home.

    As for the MSM, it’s true that once again what Trump has noted long before many of us – they are venal, bigoted, and hateful sub-humans with an agenda to ‘fundamentally change the US’ in the way Hitler would have wanted. Having pointed this out, I have to say that a muzzled press, without the protections of the 1st A is far more dangerous than any kind of free speech we currently have. Remember, that those in power in a press restricted environment can work to suppress speech from the right, as well as the left.

    Let’s not forget the ultimate goal of the MSM. No, they are not here to shape opinion, or to show events for the greater information of the pubic. The ultimate goal of the MSM is to sell beer, and shampoo, chevys, fords, couches, perfume, shoes, music, etc. The best, if most disgusting way to do this is to increase their viewership by using any means possible, including fomenting outrage by a section of the public.

    Comment by doc — January 24, 2019 @ 9:40 pm

  22. @doc

    “As for the MSM, it’s true that once again what Trump has noted long before many of us – they are venal, bigoted, and hateful sub-humans with an agenda to ‘fundamentally change the US’ in the way Hitler would have wanted.”

    Are you counting Fox as part of MSM? I mean, its not like they’re averse to a bit of outrage fomenting.

    Comment by David Mercer — January 25, 2019 @ 4:06 am

  23. I am. finding 95,000 non-citizens on the voter register in TX is outrage-worthy. I am certain it has affected the representation of my, and our hosts state govt. An old native Amer who engaged in stolen valor, banging a drum in the face of a HS student protesting doesn’t even move my outrage meter at all. I would call that ‘manufactured outrage’ intended to sway the weak minded toward undeserved sympathy for a minority position advancing a narrative of compassion for a group not worthy of such. The native Americans were defeated in many battles, in many locations across N America, and other parts of the world. They can get over it, and assimilate or they can drink, and remain in the lowest strata of our culture.

    Comment by doc — January 27, 2019 @ 9:24 am

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