TRUMP & PUTIN USE THE SAME BOGUS TACTIC TO CHANGE THE DIALOGUE: “Whataboutism”

http://wapo.st/2fPY0v

Dan Zak writes in the Washington Post:

“What about antifa? What about free speech? What about the guy who shot Steve Scalise? What about the mosque in Minnesota that got bombed? What about North Korea? What about murders in Chicago? What about Ivanka at the G-20? What about Vince Foster? If white pride is bad, then what about gay pride? What about the stock market? What about those 33,000 deleted emails? What about Hitler? What about the Crusades? What about the asteroid that may one day kill us all? What about Benghazi?

What about what about what about.

We’ve gotten very good at what-abouting.

The president has led the way.

His campaign may or may not have conspired with Moscow, but President Trump has routinely employed a durable old Soviet propaganda tactic. Tuesday’s bonkers news conference in New York was Trump’s latest act of “whataboutism,” the practice of short-circuiting an argument by asserting moral equivalency between two things that aren’t necessarily comparable. In this case, the president wondered whether the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville — where white supremacists clashed this weekend with counterprotesters — would lead to the teardown of others.

Donald Trump’s news conference on Tuesday offered a crash course in whataboutism. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Robert E. Lee? What about George Washington?

“George Washington was a slave owner,” Trump said to journalists in the lobby of his corporate headquarters. “Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?”

Using the literal “what about” construction, Trump then went on to blame “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at the, as you say, the ‘alt-right’?” the president said. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

For a nanosecond, especially to an uncritical listener, this stab at logic might seem interesting, even thought-provoking, and that’s why it’s a useful political tool. Whataboutism appears to broaden context, to offer a counterpoint, when really it’s diverting blame, muddying the waters and confusing the hell out of rational listeners.

“Not only does it help to deflect your original argument but it also throws you off balance,” says Alexey Kovalev, an independent Russian journalist, on the phone from Moscow. “You’re expecting to be in a civilized argument that doesn’t use cheap tricks like that. You are playing chess and your opponent — while making a lousy move — he just punches you on the nose.”

Vladi­mir Putin has made a national sport of what-abouting. In 2014, when a journalist challenged him on his annexation of Crimea, Putin brought up the U.S. annexation of Texas. The American invasion of Iraq is constantly what-abouted on state television, to excuse all kinds of Russian behavior.

In Edward Snowden, “Russia has found the ultimate whataboutism mascot,” the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan wrote in 2013. “By granting him asylum, Russia casts itself, even if momentarily, as a defender of human rights, and the U.S. as the oppressor.”

The term was first coined as “whataboutery” and “the whatabouts,” in stories about the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s, according to linguist Ben Zimmer. But the practice goes back to the chilly depths of the Cold War.

“An old joke 50 years ago was that if you went to a Stalinist and criticized the Soviet slave-labor camps, the Stalinist would say, ‘Well what about the lynchings in the American South?’” philosopher Noam Chomsky once said.”

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Read the entire article at the link.

Trump is an expert on this; most of us “bite” at least some of the time. He’s also a master practitioner of the “big lie” — a technique used by Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, among others.

PWS

08-19-17

FORMER SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD IN THE GUARDIAN: TRUMP’s WHITE SUPREMACISM IS PART OF THE GOP AGENDA!

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/19/republican-party-white-supremacists-charlottesville

Feingold writes:

“It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.

The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.

There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?

Republicans on the voter suppression commission are enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia
Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.

Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.

 

The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?

Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.

If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone. They need to take a hard look at their party’s agenda.”

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Read the full article at the link.

I’ve noticed the clear pattern going back to the beginning of the campaign: Trump says or does something totally outrageous; GOP leaders disassociate themselves and claim it doesn’t represent the “real” GOP (whatever that might be); shortly thereafter the same folks go back to supporting Trump and the GOP agenda directed at insuring White control. Nobody switches party, resigns in protest, or tells voters how incompetent and dangerous Trump is. Indeed, these guys are scared silly that they will actually turn off Trump’s White Nationalist base that insures them power even though it’s been many years since they racked up a majority of the popular vote in a national election. Trump then goes on to the next outrage, and the process repeats itself.

Someday, the majority of American voters might actually get a Government that represents their interests rather than those of a White Nationalist minority. But, not any time soon if the GOP can prevent it. So far, they are doing a bang up job of it.

PWS

08-19-17

 

 

 

 

ALLAN SLOAN IN THE WASHPOST: TRUMP’S CODDLING OF WHITE SUPREMICISTS & HATE GROUPS BETRAYS MORE THAN AMERICAN VALUES — HE FAILED TO DEFEND HIS OWN FAMILY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trumps-biggest-failure-not-standing-up-for-his-own-family/2017/08/18/e90f1bc4-8423-11e7-902a-2a9f2d808496_story.html?utm_term=.f40245641dbb

Sloan, a business columnist, writes:

“But Trump’s behavior shows, unfortunately, how right I was two weeks ago when I wrote that he’s making a classic business mistake — by surrounding himself with flunkies who kiss up to him and by not listening to the handful of strong subordinates whom he’s appointed.

If you’re a competent chief executive, you try to surround yourself with competent subordinates who don’t shrink from telling you when they think you’re wrong. You put them in a room and let them duke it out. And if you’re smart, you pay attention to what they say, because you’re secure enough to realize that they may know more about certain things than you do.

As we’ve seen from Charlottesville, Trump isn’t remotely like that.

As a business columnist, I know that I’m expected to write how some CEOs bailed on two presidential advisory committees that Trump created. And how Trump, true to form, disbanded the committees and embarrassed the CEOs who had stood by him, just so he could claim to get the last word.

But when it comes to analyzing the big picture, which is what I’m trying to do here, the advisory committees debacle isn’t even a rounding error. What really matters is that Trump is exhibiting the same behavior that led businesses he controlled into six Chapter 11 bankruptcies (which is why I call him Donald 66 Trump) as his casino-real estate empire collapsed in the 1980s and 1990s.

But that’s just business. What makes me truly angry about Donald 66 — who, like me, has Jewish children and grandchildren — is that he can’t be bothered to defend his own family. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But true.

It’s inconceivable to me that Trump, whose daughter Ivanka joined the Jewish people, married a Jew and has produced three Jewish grandchildren, can’t bring himself to tweet (let alone say) that he has a problem with a crowd chanting “Jew will not replace us.” Or with them chanting “Heil, Trump”— the Nazi salute — while wearing Trump gear.

What is wrong with this man? You can argue politics and taxes and health care and other bones of contention 100 different ways. But for God’s sake — pun intended — Trump isn’t even defending members of his own family, two of whom are among his closest advisers, against religious bigotry.

I’m especially sensitive to this because I’m an American who’s Jewish. Please note that “American” comes first; I loathe identity politics. Trump and I are from the same generation. I know, as Trump must know, what the Nazis were about. One of the many reasons that I love this country is that without America, I think the Nazis would have won World War II and murdered every Jew on Earth.

 

It’s one thing for Trump to use “America First” — a phrase that evokes 1930s Nazi sympathizers like Charles Lindbergh (a onetime aviation hero) and Father Charles Coughlin (the “radio priest” from Royal Oak, Mich., who spewed hate, was finally silenced by the pope, and whose Shrine of the Little Flower I passed twice daily during my first year at the Detroit Free Press). I’ll give Trump the benefit of the doubt on that one, and say he didn’t know what “America First” evoked before he started using it.

But for Trump to not tweet that he doesn’t want to see “heil” and “Trump” in the same sentence? To not come to the defense of the Jewish members of his family? Or the Jews among his presidential appointees? What the hell is wrong with this man?

The best thing I’ve read since Charlottesville erupted was what Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said. To wit, “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged.” That’s exactly right. And my late father-in-law, who was a total mensch, didn’t spend five of the prime years of his life in the Seabees for Nazi ideals to go unchallenged. Nor did the millions of other Americans who took up arms to defend our country against overwhelming evil.

 

The Charlottesville counter-demonstrators were fools who fell into the demonstrators’ trap. (That’s one thing that Trump has gotten right. As the saying goes, “Even a blind pig can find an acorn.”)

But the counter-demonstrators, however foolish and out of control, aren’t remotely equivalent to swastika-toting provocateurs and Ku Klux Klan Kreeps demonizing blacks and Jews and immigrants, praising Hitler’s evil crew and by implication demeaning the Americans who fought to subdue the Nazi menace.

To return to sports analogies, you deal with these trolls by using what the late Muhammad Ali called “rope a dope” strategy. You let them march, you don’t physically confront them, you don’t help them get the attention they crave, you let them punch themselves into exhaustion. No harm, no foul, no mainstream publicity. They’re publicized by the Daily Stormer, today’s iteration of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic Der Sturmer newspaper? Who cares? Let it go.

 

At this point, unfortunately, I don’t think Donald 66 can change enough to become a competent chief executive instead of a faux CEO, even if he wants to. But maybe he can learn to be a decent father and grandfather, and stand up for his kids and grandkids. We need a lot more from him than that, but I’ll take what little I can get.”

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PWS

08-19-17

How The Trump Administration Deliberately Uses The Term “Criminal” To Dehumanize Migrants!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/opinion/who-is-a-criminal.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170501&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=6&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

From Jason Stanley’s op-ed in the NY Times:

“In the United States, Donald Trump rode to victory with a call to expel “criminal aliens.” In his announcement of his run for office, he spoke of Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Since he has taken office, he has harshly targeted immigrants in the United States; at his rally on Saturday in Harrisburg, Pa., he compared immigrants — as he did last year — to poisonous snakes, to great applause. It is worth noting that this tactic of dehumanization — referring to humans as animals — has historically been used to foment hatred and violence against chosen groups. In the lead up to the Rwandan genocide, for instance, Tutsis were regularly described as snakes.

Photo

The author’s grandmother, right, at age 10.

While President Barack Obama set deportation priorities by making a distinction between undocumented immigrants with serious criminal convictions and everyone else, Trump’s executive orders vastly expand the criminal category — so much so that it essentially criminalizes anyone in the country who is without status and makes the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a top priority for deportation. Between January and March of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants, a 32.6 percent increase from the same period last year. Of those arrested, 5,441 of them had no history of violating a law.

The administration’s hard line on the standard for criminalization has gone so far as to alarm several members of the Supreme Court, as demonstrated during an argument before the Court last week (Maslenjak v. United States), in which a Justice Department lawyer argued that, as The Times reported, “the government may revoke the citizenship of Americans who made even trivial misstatements in their naturalization proceedings,” including not disclosing a criminal offense of any kind, even if there was no arrest. To test the severity of that position, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., confessed to a crime — driving 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone many years ago without being caught. He then asked if a person who had not disclosed such an incident in his citizenship application could have his citizenship revoked. The lawyer answered, yes. There was “indignation and incredulity” expressed by the members of the Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the lawyer, “Your argument is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship.” Roberts put it simply. If the administration has its way, he said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.”

EXILE FROM ONE’S HOME is historically considered one of the worst punishments the state could employ; it was, after all, one of the traditional Greek and Roman punishments for murder, their alternative to the death penalty. In the opening pages of her book, my grandmother speaks to its harshness, as well as to the complex relationship between expulsion and death:

“With millions of others, I was singled out to live two lives. One day, which seemed to be like any ordinary day, I was told: ‘“Stop just where you are. This life of yours is finished. Fulfilled or not — it stops right now. You are not going to die — go and begin another.’ ”

She continues:

“My roots were stuck deeply in their native German soil. Perhaps a part broke and remained there, for how am I to explain that my heart at times seems to be drawn by a force thousands of miles away?” The pain of being torn from her roots, she wrote, stayed with her throughout her life “as the stump of an amputated leg causes a man to say, ‘My foot hurts’; and yet he knows there is no foot to hurt.”

The president and his administration regularly stoke fear of immigrants by connecting them to criminality. Again and again, we are presented with the specter of “criminal aliens” — and not just in remarks but also in official documents, like the announcement of a new office in the Department of Homeland Security devoted to helping “victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens.”

The word “criminal” has a literal meaning, of course, but it also has a resonant meaning — people who by their nature are insensitive to society’s norms, drawn to violate the law by self-interest or malice. We do not generally use the term to describe those who may have inadvertently broken a law or who may have been compelled to violate a law in a desperate circumstance. Someone who runs to catch a bus is not necessarily a runner; someone who commits a crime is not necessarily a criminal.

Politicians who describe people as “criminals” are imputing to them permanent character traits that are frightening to most people, while simultaneously positioning themselves as our protectors. Such language undermines the democratic process of reasonable decision-making, replacing it with fear. Discussion that uses terms like “criminal” to encompass both those who commit multiple homicides for pleasure and those who commit traffic violations distorts attitudes and debates.

Deliberately obscuring the crucial distinction between someone who violates a law and someone whose character leads them to repeatedly commit serious crimes is an effective strategy for masking gross injustice. Our current administration is vigorously employing that strategy, and history suggests that it is rarely constrained to just one group. If we look away when the state brands someone a criminal, who among us then remains safe?

HISTORY: GEORGE WILL: War Is Hell On The Home Front Too — World War I Unleashed Deadly Nationalism, Xenophobia, & Racism In America, All In The Guise Of False “Patriotism” — Set The Stage For Even Worse Things To Follow!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-world-war-i-unleashed-in-america/2017/04/07/4a8412b4-1b07-11e7-855e-4824bbb5d748_story.html?utm_term=.e64d2fbd91cf

“Woodrow Wilson imposed and incited extraordinary repressions: “There are citizens of the United States . . . born under other flags . . . who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life. . . . Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out. . . . They are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them.”

His Committee on Public Information churned out domestic propaganda instructing the public how to detect pro-German sympathies. A 22-year-old Justice Department official named J. Edgar Hoover administered a program that photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated 500,000 suspects. Local newspapers published the names of people who were not buying war bonds or otherwise supporting the war. People were fired or ostracized for insufficient enthusiasm. The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to “collect, record, publish or communicate” information useful to the enemy.
In Illinois, Robert Prager, a German American coal miner suspected of spying, was stripped, marched through the streets and hanged. The Post deplored such “excesses” but applauded the “healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior part of the country.”

Josef Hofer and his two brothers were South Dakota Hutterites whose faith forbade any involvement in war, including wearing a military uniform. They were arrested in March 1918, and a week after the armistice they were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Arriving at the military prison around midnight, they stood naked for hours in a 17-degree November night. Then they were suspended naked from the bars of their cells, their feet barely touching the ground, refusing to wear the uniforms left in their cells. Fed only bread and water, after two weeks David Hofer was allowed to telegraph Josef’s wife, telling her that her husband was dying. He died the morning after she arrived. Prison guards mocked his corpse by dressing it in a uniform.”

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I have to admit that the experience of the Trump Administration is making me look at George Will, whom I had previously related to on few topics than baseball, in a new, more appreciative, light.

I continue to be amazed at how many folks seem to delight in the idea of their country going to war. Of course, the overwhelming number of celebrants are those who don’t actually fight the wars.

But, it’s still going on! Donald Trump has been bumbling through the first hundred days of his Presidency. But, finally, in contradiction to his recent statements, his campaign promises, and his cutting America’s already inadequate humanitarian response to vulnerable Syrian refugees, he lobs some missiles at a Syrian airbase.

The result, of course, was militarily insignificant, particularly since we warned the Russians (who presumably warned their  Syrian clients) in advance. Syrian (or Russian) bombers took off from the same airbase the next day to hit the same Syrian cities, only this time being careful to kill civilians with “conventional” weapons rather than gas. Are civilians hit with conventional bombs really less dead than those killed in gas attacks?

Trump couldn’t begin to tell you what his strategy is or what he sees as the “endgame” in Syria. Yet, the next morning, many (not all) of his critics were congratulating him for finally doing something “Presidential.” I guess it doesn’t get much more “Presidential” than ordering a missile attack.

Back to World War I. It started for no apparent reason, and there were no discernible principles or values at stake. It was a product of weak leaders, irrational nationalism, a gullible public, and imbecilic generals on all sides. In the end, it not only killed and maimed millions, but set the stage for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, large scale genocide, and the absolute horror of World War II.

Although the U.S. has fought some smaller wars since World War II, we haven’t really “won” any of them (except for fairly insignificant skirmishes like Grenada and Kuwait). But, that hasn’t stopped folks from thinking that the next one will be the “best war ever,” and Presidents from believing that dropping bombs and sending missiles will make them look like brave, courageous, and wise leaders — in other words, “Presidential.”

PWS

04-09-17