- Evangelicals not allowed
- Guerilla journalism double standards
- Don’t bet against Obama spying on Trump
- “What is truth?” revisited
[O]ur vice president has outed himself as a cultural criminal of the first order by revealing that, like some conservative Christian men, he doesn’t put himself in situations where he could be tempted to compromise his marital vows, or be plausibly accused of same. He never eats alone with another woman, or goes to events where alcohol is served unless his wife is with him …
Were the Pences Orthodox Jews or practicing Muslims, nobody would have batted an eye. But they’re Evangelical Christians, so that means it’s open season on tearing them apart.
HuffPo puffed a gay couple who started a store catering to diaper-wearing pervs, but ran a piece criticizing the Pences as weirdos for the patriarchy. Given their standards (if “standards” is the word), I would take criticism from HuffPo as a compliment.
If the videographers at the Center for Medical Progress had wanted to avoid prosecution, they should have secretly recorded conversations with Michael Flynn. But instead they chose to conduct guerrilla journalism against Planned Parenthood and its associates in the abortion industry. The result was the Tuesday announcement of 15 felony charges against activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Much of the left is taking in stride the news that two people could go to prison for creating undercover videos that embarrassed a large national organization. But it turns out that at least some of our media brethren really meant it when they said they believe in a robust First Amendment.
Nobody can reasonably accuse the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times of being unsympathetic to the pro-choice movement. So the Times is packing an influential punch with the title of an editorial published this morning: “Felony charges are a disturbing overreach for the duo behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos.”
“In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals,” continues the Times editorial.
Speaking of animal welfare, such cases are among those exposing the double standard of California justice. Commentary’s Mr. Rothman notes: “In 2015, the group Mercy for Animals, which routinely produces undercover recordings of food production facilities, released a video featuring the cruel treatment of chickens at the Fresno-based Foster Farms poultry slaughterhouse. The slickly-produced video was released to the public and was even presented by ‘The Price Is Right’ host Bob Barker. The tapes led to an investigation by the local police and eventually resulted in misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against one the facility’s workers. No charges were filed against Mercy for Animals.”
Perhaps Mr. Becerra, who received campaign money from Planned Parenthood while he was a Democratic member of Congress, is still struggling to grasp that he is now in a different line of work.
Mr. Nunes earlier this week got his own source to show him a treasure trove of documents at a secure facility. Here are the relevant details:
First, there were dozens of documents with information about Trump officials. Second, the information these documents contained was not related to Russia. Third, while many reports did “mask” identities (referring, for instance, to “U.S. Person 1 or 2”) they were written in ways that made clear which Trump officials were being discussed. Fourth, in at least one instance, a Trump official other than Mr. Flynn was outright unmasked. Finally, these documents were circulated at the highest levels of government.
To sum up, Team Obama was spying broadly on the incoming administration.
Mr. Schiff’s howls about Mr. Nunes’s methods are bluster; the Republican was doing his job, and well. Mr. Nunes has spent years cultivating whistleblowers and sources as part of his oversight responsibilities, and that network scored him information that has otherwise remained hidden.
(Kimberly Strassel, Potomac Watch, Wall Street Journal)
It’s obviously bad for those looking into presidential misdeeds to discredit themselves by promoting and championing fanciful claims that don’t pan out. But the consequences could well be broader, and much worse, than that. By contributing to the spread of nonsense throughout the media, liberals may be doing as much to advance Trump’s Putinite aims as anything Russia did in he run-up to the election.
Before the postmodern era, authoritarians ruled by promulgating a single lie and enforcing it publicly with the threat of violence. But Putin has managed to exert enormous political power, as well as personally enrich himself, for nearly 18 years by taking a very different approach. Rather than spreading a fixed line of propaganda, Putin deliberately sows chaos and confusion. Not one official capital-T Truth, but numerous conflicting, equally plausible (or even a mix of plausible and implausible) truths.
In a recent highly illuminating podcast on Sam Harris’ website, author Anne Applebaum explained the way Putin’s government deployed this technique after a passenger jet broke up over Ukraine in July 2014, leading to nearly 300 deaths. We’ve since learned that the plane was shot down by Russian anti-aircraft fire on the ground. But in the days and weeks following the crash, Russian state media went out of its way to prevent any single explanation from taking hold. Here is Applebaum:
[The Russian media] didn’t say, “We didn’t do it.” No, instead it released literally dozen of different explanations. There was one explanation that the Ukrainians shot them down because they were trying to hit Putin’s plane. There was another explanation that said a lot of dead bodies were put on the plane on purpose and it was crashed on purpose to discredit Russia. Many of them were absurd. But the proliferation was such that it created mass confusion around this event. And Radio Free Europe did a very good series of interviews in Moscow just afterwards, and they asked people on the street, “Why did that plane crash?” And overwhelmingly people said things like, “Oh, we have no idea and we’ll never know.” “It’s impossible to find out.” “The truth cannot be known.”
The effect of Putin and Putin’s press with this multiplication of explanations was that it obfuscated the idea of truth. … And that’s very useful to a dictator. Putin doesn’t want people to believe anything — because, you know, maybe somebody will print how much money he really has. … What Putin wants is for all these stories to be undermined. If you tell lots and lots of lies, then people don’t know what to believe.” [Applebaum]
This phenomenon, which Applebaum describes as an effort to “pollute the information space,” has played an important role in Eastern and Central European politics for years, but it came to the United States for the first time during the 2016 election. Some of it originated with Russian-controlled Twitter accounts and websites spreading what a few months later we began calling “fake news.” Trump himself contributes to such pollution when he tell blatant falsehoods, links to a nonsense story at InfoWars, or lends credence to a baseless conspiracy promoted by Andrew Napolitano on Fox News.But liberal opponents of the president also inadvertently contribute to the problem every time they promote unverified rumors and spread implausible stories of Russian intrigue and espionage in and around the Trump administration.
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)