Thursday, July 13, 2017

Social Cost

Watching the Trump/Anti-Trump phenomenon is somewhat interesting in terms of popular culture and serious culture. However, we've seen this before - Sarah Palin making her opponents embarrass themselves hating, and the lack of price they paid with their own people comes to mind. There were few voices to cry halt from the left then.  With Trump, there are some from the right very willing to criticise him.  I'm not sure there are many voices from the left consistently criticising the anti-Trumpsters for going overboard, but then I wouldn't tend to see that in my usual online places anymore.  Alan Dershowitz, maybe.

But that's all be fairly predictable, and will likely continue with nothing new to chew on.  What has been new has been looking at myself and my own reactions. I have not liked Trump, and while his coarseness has been odious, that hasn't been what bothered me most. He lies, and he lies reflexively.  He lies more often than the Clintons (though his style is different). Even habitual liars tell the truth most of the time.  When someone asks "where's the butter?" is is a rare pathology which would attempt to consistently mislead people at that point.  This is in fact part of how liars succeed.  The do tell the truth most of the time and so have a lot of practice looking honest.  They mostly lie by leaving things out. Hillary, John Kerry, and Al Gore had strong tendencies to be bullshit artists, making up stuff to look cooler or more important, but their lying about important stuff was usually far more precise and controlled.  They would choose words carefully, they would answer related questions in order to avoid the point. They would flat-out deceive at times, but tried to avoid it as much as possible. Trump does some of that, but much less.  He is much more blustery, off-the-cuff, and careless.

This bothers me, because you never know how deep this is going to go.  He could do this about something very large. (This next part is not central to my main point, but I think needs to be said just for balance, to avoid giving the wrong impression.) To date, however, accusations against him tend to be big news for a little while, but when you push them for what they definitely are versus what they might possibly be they shrink.  Trump Jr met with maybe a real spy-person!  Therefore, he could have done very bad influenced-by-spy things, and it looks bad! Well yes, that might turn out to be so.  But we don't know it to be so. When politicians lie, we immediately suspect - with good reason - that they are covering something big.  I don't know if that applies with Donald.

Anyway, the point is about observing myself. I find that my default position in such matters is to look for personal cost, especially social cost, and respect the group that is paying that.  Who pays a cost socially for opposing Trump?  Almost no one in my entire circle, including my right-wing friends.  There has been a nice social niche carved out for some conservatives to deplore Trump. Yes, the Trumpsters are louder, and maybe ruder, but there's nothing new here. Liberals, of course get a lot of support from each other, and even some surprising alliance from centrists and conservatives.

They pay no social cost. No new social cost, anyway.

There are families, and districts, and churches where a liberal can be treated badly, and nearly everyone has someone in their universe who can inflict pain on them for their beliefs.  But I don't think being anti-Trump has added to the already-present cost of being anti-Tea Party, anti-Bush, anti-Republican, etc. Being pro-Trump does carry new social costs, however. You get harangued even more than you did for being for Romney or in the Tea Party or whatever.  The liberals hate you more and now even some conservatives are making fun of you as well.

Trumpsters do pay a new social cost.

I knew reacting against social reward was part of my makeup, but I had not realised it was this strong. It doesn't logically extend to the outer limits, because some things are unpopular and subject to social cost for very good reasons, after all. Deploring is a weapon that allows us to forego violence or boycott over every little thing. But I don't think I'm going to back away from this position just yet.  People will land in the places where it is easy to land, yet congratulate themselves on their courage. I find my sympathies lie in the opposite direction. If you are paying a cost, I want to know about that, and I think I am looking for ways to defend you from unfair criticism.


james said...

When people around me go into over-the-top mode, my default reaction is to suggest some good words for the underdog. Balance things a bit--this isn't Lucifer we're talking about, right?

Unless they're in mad dog mode, in which case I tend to mutter the equivalent of "Nice doggy" while looking for either an exit or a big stick. No pearls before swine...

Boxty said...

What lies? What are his top five? "Nobody is a greater supporter of Israel" kind of statements? Isn't that part of being a showman/salesman/master persuader? I can imagine Zig Zeigler or Howard Cosell saying something along those lines.

I forget who keeps saying it, maybe Dennis Prager, but someone from New York said that's how New Yorkers talk.

Those kinds of statements are inconsequential. On the other side you have "a YouTuber is responsible for Benghazi," "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," and "U.S. guns are creating crime in Mexico" (Fast and Furious operation).

Clinton, Kerry, and Biden (you forgot about him) are rarely confronted about their outright lies and crimes by the media. But their whole political philosophy requires lying to the public in order for it to pass. Clinton's hero was Alinsky for crying out loud. Barack Obama's was a card carrying commie, and I'm not referring to Reverend Wright.

Seriously, name the lies.

Aggie said...

I commend you on your instincts for basic fairness. It is not so easy to be a contrarian.

Trump's condemnation comes from virtually all sides. One has to ask oneself: What does he gain, what could be his motivations? It would be hard to imagine that his ego is so monumentally needy, that he would undertake the Office out of gratification. The man is a billionaire, after all.

Trump's was purely an 'outsider' themed campaign, I would say it was the least-party-supported campaign effort in the post-WWII era, possibly in the post-19th century era. In an age of machine politics, he pulled it off; how could he be a buffoon? If I were to cut the man a little slack, watch who he is surrounding himself with, look at the administration's actual progress, then it's possible to conclude that his motives appear to align best - not perfectly - with altruistic leadership, not venal self-interest.

What is harder (for me) to imagine, is how anyone could swallow, promulgate, or align to the notions that he is a buffoon, a criminal, a dangerous lunatic, mentally unstable, etc. etc, the Litany of the Pejoratives. How uncritical is that thinking? It falls apart under its own ridiculous weight under the most casual scrutiny.

But then, we got the same thing with Reagan being an amiable dunce; with GHW Bush, the decorated war hero and career public servant, being a spineless wimp. The same, with GW Bush being a moronic fool. And so on. No man reaches this office by being incompetent, there is wizard-level competition for this kind of power.

Any horse race has a winner's circle, but for the Republican Party, there is a Loser's Circle and it's defined by the left. Instead of laurels, the winner of the contest is parked there for all to despise for their entire term, and we have seen one Republican after the other suffer through it gamely without publicly allowing it to distract. But that's the whole point of the tactic, distraction and loss of influence.

Trump has figured out (correctly I think) that this is unfair advantage, and he is willing to turn the rock over to let the sunlight get at what's underneath. Good for him. CNN, the Washington Post, and the NYT and their minions are having their currency re-examined, and it is a great thing to finally see them properly de-valued and de-throned. Thank the Good Lord for the internet; Maybe now we'll see some decent ideas flooding the marketplace of political discourse. I've read some pretty terrific commentary over the past 2 years, but none of it has been forthcoming from the industrial left, and precious little from the right, either. The Democrats seem to be bereft and incapable of any newly constructive thinking, and that is far from being a good thing.

Christopher B said...

Hillary, John Kerry, and Al Gore had strong tendencies to be bullshit artists, making up stuff to look cooler or more important, but their lying about important stuff was usually far more precise and controlled. They would choose words carefully, they would answer related questions in order to avoid the point.

Though I generally agree with Boxty I won't be as rough (maybe). It might be comforting to think that somebody who parses a narrative carefully, comes up with the lawerly almost-but-not-quite-the-truth phrasing, is therefor going to remember where the boundaries are. The hard evidence from the last campaign is they don't, or at the very least the people they hire and those that move in their inner circles of advisers don't. The line between reality and the preffered narrative gets blurry, the parsing becomes self-justification, and everybody starts believing the bullshite. Suddenly you aren't ever seen in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania but you're worried about getting your popular vote total up so you aren't elected the way that horrible Republican W was, and then on 8 November the orange-haired short-fingered oaf is beating you like a rented mule.

A con man has to fake sincerity as well but he must keep foremost in his mind that what he's doing is running a con.

GraniteDad said...

Boxty, a couple points.
1. Hillary, Kerry, and Biden aren't president. So while I'm as frustrated as you are that they get to say things and no one challenged them on their lies, it's a moot point. They're losers who lost. Obama was president, but he isn’t anymore. I don’t believe in falling into the BDS trap of “But Bush!” that we heard so much from 2008-2015.
2. Maybe it's just me, but I expect more from "our side" than theirs. Growing up, it was very clear that my school was angled towards rewarding girls who were quiet and helpful over true intellect and/or boys. That was unfair, but it taught me life isn't fair and to do well anyway. I expect our side to not break the law, to respect the constitution. There’s a difference between campaigning rough and campaigning dirty, and I expect us to stay in the lines there. I also don’t buy the argument that “they” fight dirty (ala Alinsky) so we have to as well. I’m not implying you think otherwise, just laying down my markers for what’s “in bounds.”
3. Trump’s lies aren’t all bluster. Some are, sure. But others are just lies to lie, as AVI said. I’ll take a recent example- not saying it’s the most egregious thing or the pinnacle of evil, but it’s illustrative. When he’s at G20 and claims everyone’s talking about Podesta and the email server? That’s not true and it distracts from a real message and real action. I don’t buy that he’s doing these things as 4-D chess- he’s letting himself get distracted.

I will say, I think the lies and the bluster do get mixed in people’s minds sometimes. Probably because so much of both are harmful to accomplishing things. Blustering about a “mean” healthcare bill kneecaps the House that worked with him to build it. I thought the bill was weak, but you solve that in the backroom, not in front of the world. It gives the impression that he wants accomplishments without having to put in the effort on it, and will distance himself from any failure, even if it’s his own fault. I’m not saying that’s true, but with who he is, he can’t give off that impression. He needs to be working hard and showing that he’s working hard. The left will never give him credit for any accomplishments, but he can still accomplish good.

AVI, I'd disagree on Al Gore. As I saw it (and I was young then so may have misunderstood), Gore's issue was that he couldn't leave a story alone. He would take something true- his support for spending on what became the internet- and turn it into something untrue- "I created the internet." He couldn't be helpful, he had to be a hero in every story. It's an odd character flaw, and maybe not unique, but very different from Biden, Hillary, Kerry, or Bill.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Christopher B - essentially agree. I was noting mostly that Trump's style of lying is different, but you are right that I may have been suggesting they have better control, which ain't necessarily so.

Granite Dad - I was thinking of Gore's claiming promises to his dying sister about tobacco, followed by identifying-with-tobacco-farmer campaigning. I admit that's one incident.

Boxty - I love a challenge like that. Many of the accusations against him that he has lied, he turns out to be at least partly true, certainly. He would say "Hillary wants to (some irritating thing)" and the fact-checkers would sayOh no, her website says something the opposite. Yeah, sure. Her website. Or he would say things like "we don't profile for terrorism," or "we don't have any manufacturing anymore" which weren't true but captured a trend. I don't count those. Plus, I enjoy the things on the list of lies sites where they count his saying he was ahead in one state or another and they pointed out he was behind. How'd that work out?

I do count saying that Ted Cruz's father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald. I do count saying the the real unemployment rate is 42% (58% for black youth, 63% for Asians). Saying that Hillary was outspending him 50-1, or that she'd raised $60M from 20 people in a single month. That Scott Walker went from $1B surplus to $2B deficit. That Trump U had an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. That the Bush White House had tried to suppress his Iraq War opposition. That he rescued Marines at Camp Lejeune. Predicted Osama bin Laden. That he was going to save $300B in prescription costs, or that he would eliminate $19 T in debt, impossible numbers. Exaggerating numbers a little is regular politics, but an order of magnitude is just a lie. He claimed Hillary wanted to bring in 650,000 refugees. It was 65,000. He said Obama wanted to bring in 200,000 Syrians. It was 10,000.

He said he had no business dealings with Russia. I don't mind that he had business dealings with Russia, because it's the nature of real estate and development. But you can't just lie about it so that you don't look bad. He said we are the highest taxed nation in the world. Eh? Trump claimed he ran no attack ads against Kasich. The Heritage Foundation estimated the cost of Climate Action at something over a trillion bucks by 2030. That should have been a big enough number, but Donald had to claim it was 5 trill.

Important things or petty things, he just shoots from the hip. I also don't think it's part of a grand strategy, though it may be something he just learned over the years that works in business negotiations.

Grim said...

I agree with AVI about this. Trump frequently says things that just have no relationship to the truth. Maybe that's an NYC idiom, as Boxty's source suggests; maybe it's just a heartlessness about whether what one says is true. Either way, the only reason to avoid calling it a lie is that "lie" implies an attempt to deceive; I don't get the sense that Trump cares if anyone is deceived, as long as they are battered into going along with the thing for the moment.

I also disagree that the 'whole political philosophy' of Kerry, etc., depends on lies. He didn't lie about meeting with the Communist North Vietnamese in Paris while a serving Naval officer, and he went on to become Senator and then Secretary of State.

Why bother to lie if you can be sure of their support for your infamy?

Boxty said...

Apparently Blogger doesn't like long comments so I'll pare this down. Sorry if my previous comment was rough as Christopher B mentioned.

AVI: I was expecting lies on the level of "I remember landing under sniper fire" but all you gave me are examples of hyperbole, which is a valid rhetorical device used by everyone, or demanding precision in off the cuff conversation that is not seen outside the court room. I'm a bit disappointed because I see it as nonsense by smart people.

Ted Cruz's dad linked to Lee Harvey Oswald: I can't find the National Enquirer piece, but I gather from the totally unreliable that it was written one month before Trump brought it up at one of his rallies. Did Cruz deny the story before Trump made it an issue? I can't tell from the articles I've skimmed. He did deny the story *after* Trump brought up the issue. Still, this was an example of Trump speaking like a normal person and not a lawyer.
Was Rafael Cruz a former communist? He claims to have been a revolutionary fighting with Castro's movement against the Batista government. Beyond that I can't say. Looking specifically at Trump's off the cuff statements, they can be read however you want.

Real unemployment rate: A quick Google search for "black youth unemployment" finds an article saying Bernie Sanders claimed that the black youth unemployment is 51%. From "His terminology was off, but the numbers he used check out, and his general point was correct..."

Trump U had an A rating from the Better Business Bureau: From the BBB: "The BBB Business Review for this company has continually been “No Rating” since September 2015. Prior to that, it fluctuated between D- and A+." "As a result, over time, Trump University’s BBB rating went to an A in July 2014 and then to an A+ in January 2015." The last time they gave Trump U a rating was A+.

Saying that Hillary was outspending him 50-1: Without wasting too much space on this, "Hillary Clinton Slated to Spend 53 Times as Much as Donald Trump on Florida TV Ads" (ABC News). The larger point was that she did outspend Trump by a massive amount and lost.

Claimed Hillary wanted to bring in 650,000 refugees: I think you have your quotes wrong. Polifact, "Trump says Hillary Clinton wants to let 500 percent more Syrians into the U.S...Clinton has, in fact, said that in response to the refugee crisis she would raise Obama's limit of 10,000 to 65,000. That's 550 percent more, a bit higher than what Trump said." Polifact's only quibble is that Trump said they would not be vetted, which they say is untrue. Tell me, how do you vet a person from a war torn country with no police records available?

He said he had no business dealings with Russia: Are you referring to the government or private citizens and businesses? Did the Miss Universe pageant count as dealings with the Russian government?

Boxty said...

Aggie: Find Oprah's interview of Trump on YouTube. He has stated for several decades that he thought the country was going in the wrong direction but that he didn't want to run but would if he felt the country was in trouble and that he believed he would win. That's Trump's motivation right there.
GraniteDad: As Ann Coulter has said, conservatives have failed to even conserve the girl's locker rooms from men. They have been a failure due to their desire to virtue signal over getting their hands dirty. The ends do justify the means when fighting evil. Just read what God did with the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, Exodus, etc.

Christopher B: They lie like children. They grasp at the first seemingly plausible narrative and are willing to go down in a hail of gunfire with it. That is how we got the whole 'Benghazi was due to a YouTube video' cover up and conspiracy that they have yet to be prosecuted for. All they had to do was admit that it was due to a terrorist attack. Instead they had an innocent man jailed for it. Every member of the Democrat party has gone along with that narrative.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

No, those are not just hyperbole and a valid rhetorical device.

Whether other people also lie is not my real point here.

I'd be cautious arguing the Bible with Granite Dad in general.

GraniteDad said...

"They have been a failure due to their desire to virtue signal over getting their hands dirty. The ends do justify the means when fighting evil."

I guess we will have to disagree then. I was going to point out some historical groups you could align with, but don't want to be petty. Suffice it to say that history is filled with stories of those who believed as you do. And I don't find the argument convincing.

Boxty said...

AVI: Every example of an outright lie you gave was wrong by a mile. I could level the same charge against you if I were an unfair person.

Granitedad: Go ahead and say it. It's the Israelites, isn't it? Or were you going to say the Democrats?

And yeah, let GraniteDad argue the Bible. He looks no better than Jonah on the issue of fighting evil from where I sit. The ends justify the means with God all the time in the Bible.

Boxty said...

You've all probably read this as it was linked by Althouse and Instapundit:

"The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas"

Generally speaking, we discovered that they are characterized and driven by four types of errors of thought:

2-A lack of historical context or awareness
3-Cherry-picking of evidence (especially visual evidence)
4-A failure to adhere to Occam’s Razor — the common-sense understanding that the simplest explanation for an event or behavior is the most likely.

I think the list you gave me AVI falls under one or more of these categories.

Trump rescued marines at Camp Lejeune: That wasn't a Trump story, it was a Sean Hannity story. We don't know what Trump said about the story from the reporting.

That Scott Walker went from $1B surplus to $2B deficit.: "Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is projecting a $2.2 billion deficit heading into the 2015-17 budget cycle" (Wisconsin State Journal). This has to do with the way the state defines "structural deficit" but does not mean Trump knew it was an erroneous use of the figure when he gave it. Obviously, being wrong doesn't mean you are lying. So to continue counting it as a lie is a lie in itself.

I'm still open to hearing about a clear cut lie. Something like, "We don't pay ransom money for hostages" the same week we give $1.4 billion to Iran and get our hostages back.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Boxty - A lot of my accusations remain intact - even a few of the ones you have claimed to have dispelled. Refusing to deny that your father aided Lee Harvey Oswald is not confirmation that he did. The real unemployment rate is not 42%. When attacking opponents (and you will notice I have a long memory for unfair accusations against Republicans when a recent Democrat seeking their nomination) one had damn well better get it right. Trump didn't, and he didn't, and he didn't. You are making threadbare excuses for him.

Plus, I did not print my entire list.

The fact that some people falsely accuse Trump does not mean that I have.

Have your final say, and give it your best shot, for I will not respond again.

Boxty said...

My final say is that you can't give a clear cut lie like "I did not have sex with that woman."

Every "lie" I try to check doesn't hold water. It's usually based on a misattribution of what Trump said, usually off the cuff, and out of context on top of it. The biggest tell is that all those articles accusing Trump of lying never quote him directly.

Trump did not accuse Rafael Cruz of being in cahoots with Oswald. The National Enquirer did. Cruz has said he was a revolutionary against the Batista government. Was he a communist as well? It sounds like an interesting and newsworthy story to me. This was after Rafael Cruz was quoted as saying that Trump "could be the destruction of America" while campaigning for his son. So he's Fair game for investigation in my book.

Trump said, "I've seen numbers of 24 percent -- I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent." According to Polifact, the 42% may come from President Ronald Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, who uses the number of labor hours lost to compute his statistic. Other articles say that including everyone above the age of 16 who is not working will get you above 40%. So it's not unlikely that Trump saw a number above 40% for unemployment.

At any rate, I continue to enjoy your blog as I have for many months, even though I think you're totally wrong on this subject.