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I Read the Comments on Breitbart So You Don’t Have To

When the executive chairman of a far-right “news” website becomes chief strategist to a new American president, the nation’s eyes justifiably turn toward that website to see what it’s all about. What we found there has been in turns hilarious and terrifying.

That anybody mistakes Breitbart.com for a news outlet is bad enough, but things get even worse when you discover that otherwise sapient human beings feel inspired enough by its content to positively comment after reading it. And they’re not all mostly harmless comments like this one:

The Church was deliberately infiltrated by Marxists and homosexuals … to sow doubt among the faithful. Obama et al. were involved in the coup against Benedict XVI, who was attempting to take down the ‘Gay Mafia’ inside the Vatican.

…or merely ridiculous, like this one:

Dude no one likes homos anywhere around them ever, as soon as it leaves the jokes start. Even with all your gay pride bs your just as much freaks now as ever.

No, some of these comments aren’t just casually ignorant or silly — some of them are truly poisonous.

 

The Vilification of Liberalism

For years, poll after poll has revealed that the American electorate is far more liberal than our “representative” government would have you believe. That may be stoking the frustration of some of those Breitbart commenters:

Eight years of monumental failures, worldwide ridicule of POTUS, the doubling or our national debt and the moral decay of our society is lauded by democrats as a success. I guess liberalism really is a mental disorder.

A fellow commenter helpfully followed-up: “Democrats hate God, America, Freedom, Babies, White Males, and Puppies in that order.”

Where do you even start? Obama was often better-liked overseas than he was back in the U.S. As for national debt, it’s complicated, but Obama demonstrably didn’t “double” the debt and in fact caused it to rise by far less than some of our more “celebrated” Republican presidents.

Finally, to suggest liberalism is a “mental disorder” and an existential threat to America’s “puppies” is to ignore the fact that liberalism delivered the end of slavery and the beginning of suffrage for women, ended child labor, achieved workplace dignity in general for millions and built a host of other public programs and institutions — Social Security, Medicare, the post office, public roads and parks, fire departments and ambulance services — that help people who can’t help themselves.

Compassion, then, according to this proud Breitbart sage, is probably also a “mental disorder.”

 

The Straw-Man Argument

Of course, once in a while, something appears on Breitbart that at first glance appears to be a reasoned argument but then dissolves into inconsequential hate-filled confetti upon a closer reading. Case in point:

Understanding that no one has a right to another’s labor must be where the solution starts. This is a philosophical and ideological issue directly tied to immigration with proponents similarly split. Failing to minimize government’s role in healthcare as the global community has increasingly looked to the U.S. for its welfare will undo our sovereign republic and eliminate those incentives to professional commitment…

This comment was left behind underneath a story about the Republican Party’s never-ending travails to repeal the ACA. The commenter suggests that dispensing needed medical care to somebody whose life would end or be worse off without it is “labor” to which nobody is “entitled.” There is no way this comment was written by any of the 600,000-plus Americans who are forced to declare bankruptcy each year because they can’t pay their medical bills.

It was also likely not written by somebody who understands dozens of other countries whose governments have “gotten involved with” healthcare enjoy far lower prices and far better outcomes. That’s the problem with commenting anonymously. You can hide behind that anonymity to present untruths, unworried that you’ll be unmasked. You can push whatever idea of reality appeals to you.

This comment isn’t profane or overtly racist — instead, it’s “merely” quietly and catastrophically misinformed. It reveals a person who’s content with riding into battle against straw-men arguments — somebody for whom politics is a means to a selfish end, but who can’t quite be bothered to figure out what voting in their own self-interest actually looks like.

 

When the Headlines Are Even Worse

Let’s just say birds of a feather tend to comment on the same far-right websites. In our case today, that means the quality of a given Breitbart headline can generally tip you off about the content and general quality of the comments. Don’t ever let it be said — the way it’s said about Trump — that the ignorant, hate-filled wretches caught up in the site’s wake are merely a coincidence.

The gospel of Breitbart, like the gospel of Trump, is nearly universally hateful toward anybody who’s not white, American and Christian. Where it’s not being purposefully cruel, it’s being disingenuous. And when it’s not doing that, it’s just being gross.

Lest you start believing Breitbart’s comments section is a weird outlier, consider some of the headlines to which they were appended:

There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews

 

Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield

 

Planned Parenthood’s Body Count Under Cecile Richards Is Up To Half A Holocaust

 

Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy

 

Half a holocaust.

 

Are you still laboring under the delusion this is a news outlet? Is anybody? Sadly, it doesn’t matter — Breitbart wasn’t designed to complement the national discourse on politics and culture — it was meant to replace it entirely. “Alternative facts” are for people who can’t win elections in ordinary reality and can’t handle the fact that their entire political ethos is rejected in full by an increasingly compassionate, informed, equality-minded electorate.

 

A Dangerous Game

Dark comments like the ones on Breitbart have always helped lead our discourse — and in many cases our actions — down very dark roads. This isn’t just pathetic — it’s amazingly dangerous.

History is littered with great mistakes, including the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans, the holocaust, U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans, you name it. All of these tragedies were possible because people either didn’t have or did not want the information that would change their minds. As a result, only the loudest and most outrageous voices held sway.

 

The “Wisdom” of Crowds

There is no wisdom in a crowd — only pure, blind feeling. And feelings are vulnerable to a very wide range of influences, including hatred. Hatred behaves like a contagious disease, which is why blowhards can manipulate it so lazily and still win elections.

Since we’ve been divided and pushed into neat little boxes bearing the names of our political parties and our movements, we don’t share information with one another anymore. We believe what we want to, because we want to.

Cultural awareness suffers. Empathy suffers. Hateful and ignorant comments flourish in the dark corners of the internet and especially behind veils of anonymity. The internet is, for the moment — and should always remain — a place where people can discuss issues of extreme importance peaceably, candidly, and without fear of retribution from the state, private citizens or anyplace else.

But as for how we get through to people who only expose themselves to “facts” that justify their beliefs, I have no idea. If Breitbart disappeared tomorrow, it’s likely the site’s most faithful readers would merely find a new bubble where they can feel comfortable and vindicated.

 

It’s Not a One-Sided Issue

Guess what, Democrats? You’re just as guilty — there is true lunacy on both sides.

Unfortunately, liberals are just as susceptible to ignorantly partisan saber-rattling as conservatives — a fact evidenced most recently by the almost fanatical attention paid to Trump’s Russia problem. The situation has erupted into several full-blown, ongoing, increasingly hysterical accounts of purported “conspiracies,” none of which are helpful.

Do you see it? Partisanship is a wheel that never stops turning. It’s why, every four years, young people in America ask their parents: “Hey, what about a new way of thinking? How about a new political party?” and they’re met with a blast of condescension from the older generations about “lesser evils” and how things have “always been done.”

When provided with facts, folks usually reject hatred and embrace cooperation. We need to smash every piece of the apparatus that has bastardized the English language if the truth is to break through the din and get something done for a change.

 

Image by CJS*64


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Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about politics and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, Only Slightly Biased. You can also email her at kateharveston@gmail.com with questions or writing opportunities.

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305 thoughts on “I Read the Comments on Breitbart So You Don’t Have To

  1. It’s highly disenguous to say Dems are “just as guilty.” MSNBC is insipid, but it does not broadcast anything analogous to the Seth Rich story. Anti-GMOers are annoying, but they have very little support in the mainstream Democratic Party… in marked contrast to the embrace of climate change denialism by the mainstream right.
    Whether this disinformation asymmetry is due to underlying psychological differences or historically contingent factors is a worthy subject of debate… but another BSDI tut-tutting article only contributes to the problem.

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  2. Yeah count me as someone who doesn’t think that the Democratic Party is just as bad when it comes to this kind of thing.

    As Brian points out above, MSNBC is largely neutral except for Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and Lawrence O’Donnell. Their morning host is a former conservative Congresscritter and they are allegedly going to give right-wing partisan hack, Hugh Hewitt a show. Can you imagine Fox News giving a slot to Amy Goodman or having Russ Feingold be their morning host? I cannot.

    There is no equivalent of the Seth Rich conspiracy on the left. There is Louise Mensch/The Palmer Report but there are also plenty of mainstream liberal sites immediately raising flags against this stuff:

    https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/19/15561842/trump-russia-louise-mensch

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    • MSNBC is largely neutral except …

      I think you miss the point about skewed journalism.
      Typically, the stories reported strive to attain some degree of neutral tone.
      Nonetheless, it is very evident in the type of story approved for coverage, or the questions asked (very easy to spot with Terry Gross).
      The skewing of the coverage is fairly subtle on the Left, because of the costume it wears, that of the “sensible,” where some basic assumptions lie unquestioned.

      I dislike the bean-counting, and will leave that unaddressed (other than to note that I dislike that sort of thing).

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      • The skewing of the coverage is fairly subtle on the Left, because of the costume it wears, that of the “sensible,” where some basic assumptions lie unquestioned.

        Worth examining – to what extent is the apparent sensibility of the American left a “costume”, and to what extent has the kind of sensibility that in most other countries would be simple centrism or just apolitical discussion of fact, been defined in America as “left”…

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        • Maybe because I am more involved in it. I see a lot of gradations on the American left that are seemingly invisible to many who don’t identify as liberal or left.

          My general experience is that the American Left just gets glomped together in one big blob even though say the radicals at Pacifica/Democracy Now generally hate the Democratic Party as much as the Republican Party, if not more so. We are just squishes to the revolution with our liberal bourgeois attitude and all that.

          But also the American overton window has moved so far to the right that I am a lefty in America but in Europe would either be a centerists or even center-right voter.

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          • That’s what I’m talking about, more or less. I’m not suggesting there isn’t a lunatic fringe on the left. I’m proposing that, as you say, the US Overton window is so far extended to the right, that the center (US spelling) is way over to the global right, just a smidge left of entering lunatic fringe territory.

            So the centre (non-US spelling) region where calm examination of facts can take place, is almost entirely within the US-defined left.

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              • The centre of the Eurozone is probably left of global centre, but I’m guessing (only guessing) that it’s not as far out left as the US center is out right of global centre.

                If nothing else, it’s somehow worked out that in the Eurozone-reference-point “left” there is somewhat more room for evidence-based reasoning. There is of course also a lunatic fringe on both left and right in the Eurozone.

                I say, knowing very little of Latin American, African, or Asian politics.

                As far as Putin, I don’t think he’s notably left or right in his politics – the only thing notable in his politics is autocracy.

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                • Latin American countries are generally more communitarian. They tend to have better table manners.
                  Other than that, there are few applicable generalizations.
                  It’s something of an odd mix.
                  The concept of a “legal drinking age” would seem like an infringement of basic rights, but providing medical services is generally accepted as something a government is supposed to do for its people. Mexico had a national health care system long before the U.S. OTOH, a 16-yr old sitting in a bar drinking isn’t unusual.
                  There are a number of differences from one nation to another. For example, Costa Rica is very conservative in dress and manners, but women in the workplace and government are mandated by law (as is the case in most LA nations: Costa Rica 50%, Argentina 30%, etc.).
                  Higher education is generally free at public institutions, but the books aren’t. College loans would seem an unnecessary system to them (and they would be right).

                  I only know the politics of a handful of African countries, and they tend to run on nepotism and patronage much more than we would find acceptable.
                  Our concepts of Left & Right mean even less there than in LA.

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            • I think as an important point. When people complain about America being right of center or overly religious, what they really mean is that White Americans are right of center compared to White Europeans and all Americans are on average more religious and socially conservative than Europeans. But on a really global level, America comes across pretty liberal-leftist even though American liberals and leftists sometimes think we are trapped in a fascist nightmare.

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              • White Europeans and all Americans are on average more religious and socially conservative than Europeans.

                I could do with more tits hanging out, but it might make me say, “Jesus!” more often.
                How about a compromise?

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            • For whatever reason, on an effective level, Asia is never considered to be part of “the world” whenever people of the Left start comparing the U.S. to “the rest of the world.”
              As are the Arabic nations.
              Latin America.
              Africa.

              If you read “the rest of the world” to mean “Sweden,” you won’t go far from wrong.
              The arguments make more sense that way.

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            • Murali,
              Well, I’m not in favor of the genocide being promulgated in Asia. (And yes, that’s the Right Wing plan. The leftwing plan was more babies, come hell or high water).

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      • There seem to be two classes of problem: Subtle bias that comes from worldview when you’re trying to just deliver data and get it right, and the editorial slant when you’re trying to tell your viewers “what it all means.”

        A big part of the problem is how little of cable news is actually reporting information and how much of it is “analysis” (read: speculation and bullshitting). I don’t mean “analysis” like, “This is a field with a real concept of expertise and we’re talking with an expert about it.” I mean, “We’re going to have the same 4 talking heads who pretend to be experts on everything pontificate.”

        By volume, most of cable news seems to be bullshit analysis and editorializing. It’s infotainment for people who aren’t especially bright but like to think of themselves as highly informed. But it’s cheap to make and it turns out that it sells best when it tells your viewers what they want to hear.

        All outlets seem to have some infotainment ratio, but Breitbart is practically 100% infotainment. I don’t know how Fox or MSNBC or CNN compare on the volume, but all seem to be infotainment the majority of the time I turn them on. IIRC, when called out on the crazy things that people like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were saying a few years ago, FOX basically responded, “That’s not fair. They’re personalities. Their shows aren’t news. You have to judge us by our news!” It’s a bit like saying The Daily Show isn’t news but then failing to note that your network is 95% The Daily Show and 5% actual news that you stand by.

        If you ignore infotainment and look at core news, most outlets agree on what happened and are decent sources of factually true data. I think the remaining “bias” is pretty simple to look out for. They don’t all think the same stories or details are important, so there will be pieces missing. Pulling from multiple sources and ignoring analysis / speculation makes that more subtle type of bias a lot less problematic. A few years ago, I would have worried that subtle bias is more insidious, but now I think it’s a lot easier to deal with it than it is to avoid succumbing to the siren song of infotainment.

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        • I’ll co-sign with this.

          CableNews seems to follow the old News Radio format where they repeat a lot of stories. I’ve seen this happen from walking by it play in lounges at random times during the day. So there is always a hunt for new content where non might exist or new content is too expensive to produce on a regular basis and will erode profit margins.

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          • If it’s anything like radio, there are a number of stories coming over the wire at regular intervals determined by how much they’re paying for their subscription.
            It prints out on a piece of paper, and then whoever is on-air goes through the list and decides which stories get told.

            Newsrooms are run a bit differently, because they have to come up withe original content. It’s always more clean to get the station’s camera guy out to shoot some footage for a VO than to try to clear everything with the time constraints of getting things on-air. There are agreements in place to facilitate this, e.g., an ABC station in Indianapolis can easily get footage from an ABC station in Miami, but this isn’t really necessary. WGN has the Chicago market cornered, and they remain an independent station.

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    • You say that “there is no equivalent of the Seth Rich conspiracy on the left”, then you link to an article denouncing the equivalent of the Seth Rich conspiracy on the left. I assure you I could link to articles denouncing the Seth Rich nonsense.

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      • What is the left-wing equivalent of the Seth Rich consipracy, though, and how many prominent media or political figures on the left are pushing it? The fact that there are sensible people on both sides pushing back against nonsense is good news, but I don’t think it addresses the complaint.

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        • tf,
          The equivalent of the Seth Rich “conspiracy” on the left was an FBI investigation of Walker, that was quietly quashed in return for him not running for the Presidency. But not the quashing. Just the investigation itself.

          Or, if you want Sensational, you want the Sarah Palin Secret Lovechild thing.

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          • OK, let’s look at those a little more closely. What were the details of the Walker case and what do we know? And what major figures were involved?

            I think the Sarah Palin Secret Lovechild story is illustrative of the original claim: Who were the major news figures pushing it from the left? Sitting members of the Congress? Ex Speakers of the House? Former Presidential candidates? Let’s stack rank them from “most influential” to “kooks with no following” and see which side of the aisle runs out of heavy hitters first.

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            • tf,
              With the DNC hack, we have an organized conspiracy of intelligence officials having their arms twisted to say that The Russians Did It. (This was what the Clinton campaign came up with, after a LONG TIME of being told that they couldn’t simply deny the e-mails).

              Nobody is saying that the e-mails aren’t true.

              The DNC hack was damaging in ways that most people don’t want to talk about. It made the Clinton team panic, in a “what will be released next”, because they had some seriously bad shit that didn’t get released.

              If you believe that MarkRich wasn’t assassinated, well, you also believe that the DC madam killed herself in prison. And that Eliot Spitzer was that stupid.

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              • You know what else ties all these loose ends up? That Seth Rich was a Russian operative tasked with leaking DNC emails damaging to Clinton’s campaign and was murdered by Trump’s people when Kislyak let the connection slip in a private conversation with Kushner.

                That’s The REAL Story!

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                • To a point Saul made about the BSDI equivalence: are any liberal/lefty online or mainstream sites, or CCers on the Hill, promulgating this ironclad purely non-partisan account of Seth Rich’s death?

                  Why not? I mean, it makes perfect sense! Right?

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                • You know what else ties all these loose ends up? That Seth Rich was a Russian operative tasked with leaking DNC emails damaging to Clinton’s campaign and was murdered by Trump’s people when Kislyak let the connection slip in a private conversation with Kushner.

                  Yeah, basically.

                  As I’ve pointed out before, Seth Rich was murdered *after Wikileaks had the emails*.

                  This literally means it makes no sense for the Clinton campaign to do. Not only does it not solve any of their problems, now they’ve *killed someone* who was leaking information, which is just going to lead their enemies back to them.

                  Now, it’s possible that they didn’t know that, or that he had the emails on a deadman switch and they got sent out when he didn’t reset it (The timeline doesn’t really have enough time, but it’s theoretically possible)…but that just points to the *other* huge problem there, in that they supposedly just *murdered him very quickly in public*.

                  Instead of, oh, capturing him and *interrogating* him (And I point out that he *worked there*, so capturing him would be trivial.), which might have allowed them to stop the email from going out (If we buy a deadman’s switch theory), or at least allowed them to learn what was coming and prepare.

                  This conspiracy *cannot possibly make sense*. Even if we assume that a) he was a leak, and b) that the Clinton campaign is the ultimate evil, *their actions do not result in any benefit to them*.

                  What is the theory here? That they were sending a message? ‘Don’t fuck with us or we’ll murder you?’ Wouldn’t it make more sense to, uh, send that to someone who is *obviously* their enemy, instead of their own staffer who, as far as *they* knew, no one would ever know betrayed them?

                  But, while we’re down this rabbit hole, let’s continue with the idea that Seth Rich a) was the leak, and b) murdered because he was the leak. But the Clinton campaign didn’t do it…and then we look around and there’s an *obvious* entity that would want him dead right then:

                  Whoever he was working for.

                  Aka, the Russian. Or Wikileaks.

                  Or, as you say, the Trump campaign.

                  Seth Rich was murdered at literally an impossible point in this conspiracy for the Clintons to be behind he. He was murdered *after* the leak, but *before* it came out.

                  Aka, when loose ends are tied up.

                  Of course, in reality, he was murdered by a mugger, but seriously, this conspiracy is idiotically stupid. If Seth Rich had disappeared and been discovered a month later, clearly tortured, sure, fine, a Clinton conspiracy makes sense.

                  Randomly murdering someone who has leaked your information without questioning them, hell, *without taking his phone*, is completely nonsensical.

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                  • David,
                    Okay, let’s postulate that Clinton would be willing to kill someone in order to get EVERYONE ELSE who KNOWS MORE to shut up and keep very quiet.

                    In that case, Clinton wouldn’t need to be right about who actually had done the leaking. (I frankly think she was wrong. But Assange has skin in the game about protecting his leakers).

                    This is a very sensible thing to do, if you think you’re invulnerable and have blackmail on anyone who might possibly want to put you in jail (not quite true, by the way. she had dirt on the higher ups in the FBI, not everyone, dude, there are tons of people at the FBI). Releasing to the public is literally the only way someone could put a caltrop in Clinton’s plans.

                    NOBODY who has a leaker who is giving them information EVER wants them dead. They MIGHT GIVE THEM MORE. Plus, if someone dies, it’s a pretty big tipoff that something’s wrong.

                    Funny how you want so badly to believe that it was a mugger. I’ll tell the same thing I said to someone else on this thread — if you believe that, you’ll believe that the DC Madam committed suicide in jail. And that Eliot Spitzer was really that fucking stupid.

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                    • Okay, let’s postulate that Clinton would be willing to kill someone in order to get EVERYONE ELSE who KNOWS MORE to shut up and keep very quiet.

                      Because shutting up instead of releasing the information is a *sane* response to someone who is killing people who know things.

                      Again, I point out that, in this hypothetical scenario, Seth Rich was murdered *before anyone knew he had leaked information*. Maybe the campaign did, maybe not, but certainly random other people didn’t.

                      Which means if anyone *did* understand the Clinton campaign had murdered him (Which is a somewhat unjustified hypothetical.), they would, for the next two weeks, assume the Clintons murdered him *before* he could leak.

                      Do you know what the solution is if someone is murdering people who might know their secrets, and *you* know their secrets?

                      You fucking *tell everyone*! Sure, you’re probably *still* going to be murdered, but you’ll take them down with you!

                      I swear to God, every attempt you guys make to fix the nonsensical plot holes in this story just make it worse, because you keep ignoring the fundamental fact a straight-up murder at *that point* in the hypothetical sequence of events makes no sense.

                      Releasing to the public is literally the only way someone could put a caltrop in Clinton’s plans.

                      …and, weirdly, you agree with me that the response to the message you *claim* the Clintons were trying to send is everyone going public.

                      So, parsing this, either you think…no one else has dirt on the Clintons (Which means that attempts to threaten people into silence conceptually makes no sense.) or that…you know, I can’t even figure this out at this point.

                      Again, this is one of those movie plots that seems to make sense at first glance, but later you try to *dissect* the supposedly motives for the villains, and it *makes no sense*. It’s like one of those movies where it turns out the villain needs the good guy alive at the end to trick him into doing something…but spent the first half of the film clearly trying to kill him.

                      NOBODY who has a leaker who is giving them information EVER wants them dead.

                      This is a dumb thing for someone to say who claims to have as many connections as you.

                      Intelligence sources kill their own informants _all the time_ when they decide the future information they might get from the informant is not worth the future danger that the informant, and thus them, might be exposed. Killing the informant means both that whoever the informant was leaking to cannot be backtracked, and also that no one can be quite sure the full extent of what was leaked.

                      They do this *especially* right before operations that will almost certainly expose the fact there is an informant. Like, oh, releasing the information in two weeks on Wikileaks.

                      The especially nice intelligence agencies will help their informant defect to them instead. But I’m pretty sure people cannot defect to Wikileaks. They *can* defect to Russia, if we go with that hypothetical, but perhaps Seth Rich did not know he was working for Russia, or just did not want to defect.

                      Thus, murder.

                      Like it or not, your plot has a pretty clear villain with an obvious motive, and it’s *not* the Clinton campaign. It’s whoever Seth Rich was handing information to. *That* is the entity that it makes sense to shoot Seth Rich on the street at that point.

                      The Clintons would *at least* interrogate him enough to figure out what he had leaked and who he had leaked to.

                      In that case, Clinton wouldn’t need to be right about who actually had done the leaking. (I frankly think she was wrong. But Assange has skin in the game about protecting his leakers).

                      Assange is clearly a troll, but let’s pause for a second and note that he has so far *refused* to confirm that Rich was the leak. He’s created some *trolling* twitter messages about it, but he’s not only failed to prove it, he’s failed to even *state it* as a fact.

                      Why? There’s *absolutely* no reason for him not confirm that if it’s true. None at all.

                      But he’s failing to confirm it because it *isn’t* true, and he thinks he has a reputation for truth. He doesn’t actually have that reputation, of course, specifically because of stupid trolling shit like this, where he likes to give nods and winks to conspiracy theories.

                      But there appears to be a line he will not cross, and, in this case, the fact he’s not confirming Seth Rich was his source *really should* give everyone pause, as there is no reason whatsoever for him not to do that.

                      And perhaps at some point it is worth pointing out the the Wikileaks leaks *literally did not reveal any Clinton secrets* anyway. The entire premise is bullshit.

                      I know the right that believes these conspiracy theories has it deeply embedded as a fact that the DNC document dump shows all sorts of Clinton wrongdoing, but in reality it shows that…people in the DNC were pissed at Sanders and said some intemperant things about him. That was it. That was the entirety of the information revealed. It, at worst, shows the DNC was biased. It doesn’t even show any *wrongdoing* on the part of the DNC, and it certainly doesn’t show any on the part of Clinton!

                      Oh, wait, I know. She got a obvious question ahead of time for the debate. That information is *certainly* worth murdering someone over.

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                      • David,
                        No, she’s not killing people who know things. She’s killing a Single Person who squealed.
                        Yes, I’m dead certain people have “dead man switches”. We call that Wikileaks, I’m pretty fucking sure. Great way to put out all the info you like, after you are dead.

                        Clinton was, in this scenario, sending a message to keep quiet, to people in her employ. Those are the people most likely to know that they had a leak.

                        David, there are several other solutions to Clinton Gone Crazy Enough To Kill Us All. Please, sit down a moment and think of a few. I can wait. If you cannot think of any, you have lost a good deal of your mental flexibility and really should work on that.

                        This is the age of the internets — it is quite possible that if Rich had leaked the data, he wouldn’t know everything he leaked. Copy and Paste, then Hit Send. Interrogating him at that point would be pointless, although Clinton may not have understood something like that (not the most tech-savvy person).

                        If, for the moment, we accept that Russia was behind it all — everyone’s already blaming Russia. I’m sorry, but this is penny ante shit. Nobody goes to war over it, and we haven’t even slapped sanctions on Russia. Even if Clinton wins, there’s no loss for Russia (Assuming Russia got the Memo on the whole Clinton Gone Crazy, which, considering I got that memo, seems likely).

                        Now, let’s look at the idea that it was Wikileaks. Really, what the hell can Clinton do that hasn’t already been tried? Trumping up rape charges on Assange seems to be about the limits of what Pissed Off First World Governments are willing to do. No assassination of him… and believe you me, the State Department leaks were a LOT more damaging than anything from the Clinton DNC hoard. And, wikileaks is gonna know that, because they have the documents.

                        So, we have this: Someone fingered Rich as the leaker (and, most probably, got it wrong) — worst case, this is the actual leaker, putting Rich’s fingerprints on it. Clinton panicked and hired an assassin. (Which, um, is happening pretty frequently these days in case you haven’t been paying attention).

                        Wikileaks revealed plenty of wrongdoing, but none of it illegal. It’s perfectly legal for the DNC to rig their election, which is what they did. And for perfectly obvious reasons

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                      • I know the right that believes these conspiracy theories has it deeply embedded as a fact that the DNC document dump shows all sorts of Clinton wrongdoing

                        And, in fact, this is a pretty stupid premise *anyway*.

                        If I was a murdering and vote-manipulating Democratic politician, you know who I *wouldn’t* tell about that?

                        Everyone. The entire planet. Everyone would be kept in the dark unless absolutely necessary.

                        Everyone would include the Democratic National Convention staff, which, it must be pointed out, I literally have no control over.

                        I dunno, maybe *I* would be stupid enough to think the DNC has anything to do with the state primaries (Like the Bernie conspiracy theorists.), so I would need to involve them in my scheme to rig those primaries…except, well, they *don’t* have anything to do with that. Or super-delegates. Or anything that would let me get elected.

                        So I’m not sure how that conversation would play out.

                        Oh, and you know what I *wouldn’t *use to communicate my evil plans with them? Assume, for the sake of this hypothetical, that I was a politician that, a year ago, I had spent *months* dealing with allegations about emails and the Republicans had suppeana’d all my emails?

                        Email. Email is the answer. I wouldn’t use email.

                        And thus I would treat any DNC document leak as *a complete non-issue*. They don’t have any of my evil plans in their email! (And it turns out, I’m correct about this!)

                        Now, it did eventually turn out they internally said some catty things about my opponent, that made them look biased, and some of that splashed on me and made me look bad, but I sure as hell wouldn’t know that *at the time*.

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                        • David,
                          It is pretty clear from job performance that the DNC were Clinton Flunkies. They literally didn’t care about 2010, which was when we lost the House for the next ten years.

                          Clinton did rig the primaries. That’s perfectly legal, of course.

                          Everyone uses e-mail nowadays. And clinton’s camp was totally freaking out because Everyone Had Done Something Stupid, and they weren’t sure what was going to get released.

                          [Now, my friend the Clinton operative was just munching popcorn, but he’s the type who knows exactly what information he’s given to Absolutely Everyone.]

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                  • The problem with saying Rich was assassinated isn’t the assassination (that could make sense with imperfect information, someone gives the order and it’s not carried out for a week)…

                    …the problem is I don’t see the baggage that would come with it.

                    If we assume Rich was killed by someone at the DNC, then someone at the DNC has command access to assassin(s) and/or a murder squad. These things exist, other players have them (Putin, Israel, the mob, our military).

                    But if you have that tool, it’s going to get used, you’re occasionally going to get caught, and you’re going to have people from the team go public and/or even switch sides. You need ways to prevent this tool from turning against you.

                    I just don’t see evidence of any such support system. There is a world of difference between the existence of the team being secret and simply trying to keep secret what exactly they do.

                    It’s possible to picture some way to do this without a support system & team (one fanatical military trained bodyguard), but that seems super risky and runs the strong possibility of creating more problems than it’d solve (that military trained bodyguard isn’t trained in defeating police investigations, how do you really know he’ll do it without opening yourself to blackmail, if he’s willing to kill for you he’s willing to kill for himself, there are issues with stability, etc).

                    Which leaves one of the known players doing something like this, but those also seem problematic. How does the DNC hire the mob to do this without opening themselves to blackmail? A mob assassin having this chip to play if he gets arrested seems like a problem. It seems really risky for Putin to pull this on a DNC employee on US territory.

                    Unless we have more dead bodies show up or someone turns State’s evidence, it seems more likely imho that whatever happened was normal. If the murderer deliberately targeted him (as opposed to, random chance), then we’re probably looking at something like sleeping with the wrong woman, or man, or burned his dealer.

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                    • You’re overthinking it. The powers that be just need to know the right guy, and it’s probably some slightly portly dude that they’ve known for twenty or thirty years.

                      All you need is someone who possesses loyalty, patience (99% of the problem is following the target around till they’re alone), and fair to middling marksmanship.

                      In the Rich case things are even easier because there’s a compelling and valid reason to kill him. Going to the police about the leak would cause all kinds of bad PR, undercut the talking points about the Russians, and perhaps turn the guy into a folk hero with the Bernie bros. From the DNC standpoint, what he’s leaking is worse than leaking US national security secrets. He was a problem that needed to go away, and in a way that might serve as a little “wink wink” example to anyone else who might be similarly inclined.

                      And the Clintons have had such people around since their time in Arkansas. One of Bill’s lovers, a former major beauty pageant winner, left the country for a few years because her own brother, who was working on the Clinton campaign, warned her about what they would do to her if she opened her mouth.

                      And of course you shouldn’t unfairly think assassins are bad people, or psychopaths. Many are extremely nice, religious family men who just happen to kill people for a living.

                      Here is a documentary about Pablo Escobar’s hitman, who confessed to murdering 250 people and organizing the killing of 2,500. He’s now a popular blogger and political activist, very much loved by a great many people because he’s so nice, so honest, so brave, and so down to earth, polite, and charming.

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                      • Here is a documentary about Pablo Escobar’s hitman, who confessed to murdering 250 people and organizing the killing of 2,500…

                        Pablo Escobar was always known to have killers and also known to be living outside the law.

                        From the DNC standpoint, what he’s leaking is worse than leaking US national security secrets. He was a problem that needed to go away, and in a way that might serve as a little “wink wink” example to anyone else who might be similarly inclined.

                        Make up your mind. Do people know that the DNC has hired killers or do they not know? Either answer brings us to contradictions. The “knowing” part presents the problem that the DNC is going to have problems recruiting high level staff if they know their lives are forfeit James Bond style if they screw up…

                        …and I’m sure President Trump would love to have the entire DNC arrested (or even killed). Trump currently has *lots* of death squads in the form of the military and the police’s SWAT teams, it’s in his political/economic/etc advantage to blame the DNC, if he knows or even suspects this is going on then boom, he’d go to war.

                        And of course you shouldn’t unfairly think assassins are bad people, or psychopaths. Many are extremely nice, religious family men who just happen to kill people for a living.

                        That’s fine… except if it’s actually his *living*, then he needs to do it every now and then. And that’s where we run into problems.

                        If he’s paid per “item” (murder), then either he’s not only servicing the Clintons or they’ve got a lot more dead bodies around than even theorists think and no investigation has come close to it. If he’s paid salary, then what is his public day job?

                        And… who else knows about this? HRC’s Right hand? Her scumbag congressman husband (whom she had print out top secret documents) and who is facing jail time? If he turned state’s evidence then that’s a get-out-of-jail-free-card and he desperately needs one. Has their pet killer aged out over the last 30 years? Needed money? Retired? If so, how did they replace him?

                        *This* is the kind of support system which makes having pet killers problematic and I’m just scratching the surface.

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                        • Dark,
                          The DNC doesn’t have “termination clauses”. Clinton hires some people whose terms of employment have “termination clauses.” They’re off the books and under the table. They do not collect normal paychecks. They’re not allowed to leave the country.

                          … they are not hitmen. They are spies and blackmailers. Clinton has tons more use for both of those than murdering people.

                          Mark Rich’s killer, if he was an assassin, was paid per item (and took credit “publically” for the job). The mormons have assassins on payroll, Clinton’s not nearly that big, and doesn’t use assassins that often.

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                    • Dark,
                      Hiring an assassin isn’t something that just the big players do.

                      We have 8 people dead at google in the past two years under “questionable circumstances” (by which I mean ‘someone took credit’).

                      One targeted hit to shut someone up is plausible. It gets a lot more plausible when someone takes credit for it. (And assassins do take credit for their hits).

                      Still looks an awful lot like “this wasn’t the leaker, but he still got killed by the Clinton/DNC team”. This was neither smart nor wise, but at this point, my reports (from a Clinton operative) say Clinton was clinically insane, and that means all prior bets are off.

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                    • Dark,
                      A trained assassin doesn’t need a team. Haven’t you been reading the Darwin Awards? ;-P
                      (However, Clinton didn’t have assassins on the payroll. That implies a body count upwards of … 3 a year? Something like that, or the “I put this person on it who really does something else” thing — in which case, the person’s actual job is spy/blackmailer or something like that.)

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                • tf,
                  Yes.It’s conversation shaping. Because the whole MarcRich thing is about as much of a conspiracy theory as The Knights Templar (which is to say: yes, they exist. I could tell you where, if you cared).

                  Now, if you want to talk Walker — there’s the whole “aide of his mysteriously finds ballots in her backseat of her car, that swing a judicial election” thing (I forget if this was the actual FBI investigation under question).

                  If you want to talk Sarah Palin Lovechild thing, that was run by dailykos, and I’m not sure how much it got picked up past there, but the credible evidence presented (some was obviously questionable) caused Sarah to admit that her daughter was pregnant.

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      • It was a Seth Rich conspiracy theory back when the odds were 10,000 to 1 against Seth being the person who leaked highly damaging DNC information about how Hillary and Debbie Wassermann Schultz rigged the primaries against Bernie.

        Now the odds are about even that Seth Rich was the leaker.

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          • Pinky,
            So, erm, you’ve got enough connections to be able to definitively say that it wasn’t professional assassins? Ya know, people who build their reputation on admitting to stuff like this?

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                • Only if they desperately need new customers.

                  Being a professional assassin for the Clintons is more of a career in itself. Steady work and steady pay.

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                  • George,
                    Oh, lay the hell off it. Clinton hired blackmailers, and you could have a full career off of that. She wasn’t killing THAT many people.

                    The mormons have more assassins than Clinton had on payroll, for god’s sake!

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                    • In 1993, Bill Clinton’s first year in office, there were 501,093 pregnant teens who had babies. In his last year in office there were only 470,506 pregnant teens who had babies. Now, aside from asking what percentage of those babies were fathered by Bill Clinton, what happened to those 30,587 teen mothers who were around in 1992 but apparently missing by 2000? That’s 3,823 teen moms a year just dropping off the face of the Earth, or ten a day.

                      I don’t know whether they were picked up by unmarked black vans and dumped into pits, but I do think Hillary was behind it.

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                      • Don’t be absurd. The math is clear there: 30,587 teen mothers-to-be must have had abortions in 2000. (I’m pretty sure the math on that tracks.)

                        Wait. Or maybe it was indeed Bill Clinton! Maybe he was just less able to father children while in the White House. A reduction of ten pregnancies a day sounds like his sex life was at least halved, or maybe more! (That is how math works, right?)

                        I suspect Hillary was behind that, too.

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                    • The mormons have more assassins than Clinton had on payroll, for god’s sake!

                      That can’t possibly make sense.

                      Why would you put assassins on the *payroll*?

                      Surely you pay assassins under the table, through cutouts.

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                      • David,
                        There’s books, and then there’s the REAL books. Yeah, sure, you don’t put on the fake books that you paid your blackmailers or assassins. You still gotta give money to them, just like Clinton’s team had to get money to the rioters who made noise after the election (which was supposed to win the election for Clinton in the case of a close election).

                        I do know a forensic analyst — hiding money that’s flowing somewhere is a bit harder than you think. He wasn’t at all surprised by the Edwards scandal.

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  3. So the adults in the room here, instead of looking at the ideology of Bannon and make a case, sift through the comments section Breitbart and make their stand for liberalism from that bar. Do we really need to sift the comments section of Salon or LGM?

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    • I agree with the critique that this article is nutpicking. And I also agree with the idea that both sides can be nutpicked.

      That, however, is where the BSDI point loses its validity, though. If someone really wants to argue that it’s no big deal to have an NSA head compromised by the Russians (or beholden to Turkey), that’s an entirely different argument that has nothing to do with the degree to which Breitbart is nutty.

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        • It’s a portmanteau that basically refers to “cherry-picking out the nuts/crazies”.

          Like deciding the face and most representative voice of a political party isn’t, say, the President but instead a first term legislator in Alabama because said legislator said something really nuts and you can pretend the whole party stands for it.

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          • I see. This appears to be the way a substantial number of people (including a lot of writers at Breitbart itself) portray The Other Team.

            I shall integrate this portmanteau into my vocabulary forthwith. It strikes me as immensely useful.

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            • Don’s is a bit of a better definition — I’m used to it more in the political sense, but anytime people argue it’s not an uncommon tactic.

              In practice, calling someone on it gets really subjective and contextual really fast. Sometimes it’s pretty cut and dried — two Presidential candidates represent their parties and their beliefs and are pretty good examples, whereas Bob the unknown PR consultant to Tony the freshman councilman from a tiny town in Utah probably does not, you know?

              It’s a little more sticky if you’re talking about think-tanks and political ideologies, that sort of thing.

              And even bringing it up can be an effective derail — you move away from the discussion and the purported straw-man (supported by nutpicking) into an argument over Who Is the True Scotsman.

              Actually, now that I think about it, nut-picking kind of is the reverse of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

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            • Woo! I educated! (with two strong assists).

              I had a whole definition written out, but now that you understand the point I think you’ll see the lack of value (this article, for example, could be “The NYT/WSJ/Fox/CNN fails to educate its users, because their comments say [horrible things]”).

              I see two primary harms. One is that it leads to polarization, because it’s easy to dismiss Those Jerks if the whole team is tarred by their worst commenters. The other is that it further lowers the BSDI-bar by allowing criticism of a politician for saying something terrible to be offset through citation to some random person’s tweet.

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              • Indeed, there’s been some forced nutpicking in the media’s endless quest for “balance”.

                On any topic.

                “Here’s a bunch of dentist’s claiming flouride isn’t a mind control agent. On the other side, we have Bob would lives out of a van and thinks that flouride is. And also he believes he’s married to an alien”.

                Mostly you see it on the controversial ones. “Here’s literally all the climate scientists in the world, top of their field. Here’s Tim the ME from Ohio who’d like to explain the sun has simply gotten hotter”.

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                • Mostly you see it on the controversial ones. “Here’s literally all the climate scientists in the world, top of their field. Here’s Tim the ME from Ohio who’d like to explain the sun has simply gotten hotter”.

                  The science says the world is warming. It doesn’t say we need to do something about it or life-as-we-know-it-ends. It’s expected that “doing something” will be translated into “the Left takes their desired control over the economy”.

                  It’s like the politics of gun control. A reasonable interpretation of the Left’s position is “no X, at all, and any compromises which restrict X will simply be pocketed along the road to no-X… so you’d better save fall back room for when you lose”.

                  The Right’s lack of reasonableness is the mirror image of the Left’s lack of reasonableness. I’m not sure which came first (or if that even matters), I’m also not sure if this is a Right/Left thing or just a human thing, or a “this society” thing but whatever.

                  That the media focuses on the Right’s lack of reasonableness and not the Left’s is a reflection of where the media’s leanings lay. A microscope is put on the Right “denying science” and not the Left’s “inflating science”.

                  Nor does the media normally talk about “if they’re correct why aren’t they screaming for nuclear power” nor “what happens economically if we get rid of global warming gasses” nor “if the Left’s plan works then we pay Trillions and delay warming by a few years over the next century, so what would have happened in 2100 will instead happen in 2103.”

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  4. Are you still laboring under the delusion this is a news outlet?

    I’m certainly not laboring under the delusion that this isn’t a liberal hit piece. Perhaps she could give us the definition of news outlet, first before she simply declares that Breitbart.com isn’t one. Just b/c an outlet doesn’t carry your news doesn’t mean that it isn’t news to someone else.

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    • Here, I see an interesting point: “Just b[ecause] an outlet doesn’t carry your news doesn’t mean it isn’t news to someone else.” The news is the news — events occur, and those events are not themselves inherently liberal or conservative or of any particular ideology. They aren’t proprietary to particular partisans. A report of a particular event is accurate or not, the event is meaningful or not. What can fall into a liberal or conservative camp is a decision about whether a story is meaningful or not, and if it is, what dimensions of that story are the font of its importance. So certainly I don’t question the assertion that there is liberal journalism and conservative journalism.

      What I read in the OP is that Brietbart does not consistently provide information about events that are meaningful; and it often enough deviates far enough from what can be called “accurate” in service of fueling its ideological lens that it can no longer be called “news” at all. It’s propaganda, and our author has chosen to look for evidence of this in its comments section, presuming that the comments of readers reflects their mental state after having been exposed to the content Brietbart offers. It’s an interesting way to make that argument, I think.

      Now, one might say, “Brietbart offers facts and its analysis of those facts and it’s not responsible for how its readership reacts to those things,” but that would be disingenuous. It’s a for profit site and, to my knowledge, it is actually realizing its goal of generating profit. To do this, it must necessarily know how to deliver content that attracts readers, readers whose attention are in turn valuable enough that its advertisers are willing to pay. In other words, Breitbart’s editors push the content that they believe will be popular, so as to attract dollars.

      I also wonder what the comments here would have been to our OP had the author not taken the time to note that there are some pretty kooky things being written by people on the left side of the spectrum as well. Substantially more vitriolic, methinks. But the core argument seems solid enough to me: Breitbart has assumed a place of distinction among right-wing information outlets by offering ideologically homogenous propaganda masquerading as “news,” producting an undesirable effect within its audience.

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      • That first paragraph sums up how I feel better than I’ve ever been able to.

        It seems like “fake news” should be an objectively measurable thing. Is it true or not? The problem is that people are so used to faux analysis and dishonest debate being part of their news that they think bad analysis / editorial positions they disagree with are the same thing as objectively false claims about real facts in the physical world. It’s all just “fake news” right?

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        • There are seven different characteristics of “news,” and any news story will have at least one of them.
          I’ll leave that to you to look it up, if you’re really interested.

          With newspapers, the opinion pages are clearly marked.
          Not so with TV/cable.
          That appears to be the crux of the issue.

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  5. Good morning!
    Can I ask you to do something about the planned genocide of multiple nations worth of people?
    Or are you too busy reading comments?

    I can assure you that the genocide currently on the books isn’t caused by stupid people posting on the internet. It is caused by World Leaders worried about Big Concerns (the words Demographic Armageddon may sound familiar, but they take on a slightly less sinister cast when you realize which country I’m referring to).

    The genocide, when it occurs, will not be a MISTAKE. It will be intentional, and a planned activity.

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      • Best guess is the post-2050 starvation of tens of millions due to synergistic impacts of climate change.

        These include: more very hot days (leading to reduced crop productivity and crop death), increased variability in rainfall (causing both more drought and more flooding than existing infrastructure can manage), increased ocean acidity (leading to loss of reefs and other ocean nurseries), among others.

        Before anyone concludes that the US is at risk of not being able to feed itself any time soon, three points are worth noting:

        1. Americans throw away a staggering number of calories — up to 40% according to some estimates.

        2. The US exports billions of dollars of food annually. A quick search does not reveal any sources which measure exports by calorie.

        3. The US ag market is incredibly inefficient, measured on a calorie basis. There is ample room to repurpose our ag system to grow more useful calories.

        All that said, the poorer countries around the world may be at serious risk of food insecurity in the next 20 – 30 years.

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        • 20 years from now, American agriculture is likely to only be able to support 200 million people. That’s a third less than the American population.

          Ogallala is going broke (drying out), Cali may be in a long term drought.
          20 years from now, you can chop 10 days off our growing cycle. That counts, in terms of overall food production.

          If you want exports, pull some of the commodity trading numbers. They’re likely to mention how much is exported, as opposed to sold in America.

          You assume that a calorie of corn can be grown on the same area as a calorie of beef. Grasslands tend to be in a lot of crummy places (WV raises cattle). And we aren’t even getting into blueberries (which, due to unique soils, are not readily fungible to producing cherries, let alone more corn).

          And Starvation isn’t the issue overseas. We’re talking actual dead zones where humans can’t live (It’s not the Heat, it’s the Humidity).

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        • The best way to prevent these horrible outcomes is to reduce the world population by 90%, using a combination of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It’s the only way to keep people safe.

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      • Will,
        Ah, so many to chose from.
        Australia is going to do genocide Trail of Tears style, with all the climate refugees that they’re going to get because they’re nearest to Malaysia and Micronesia and bunches of places currently in danger.
        Japan wants something like a “humane” genocide, where they invite guest workers into their country — but only if they agree to be sterilized (yes, this is still genocide).
        India built a wall to keep the Bangladeshi out, and they’re likely to drown (or die from waterborne diseases from flooding). Deliberate prevention of people from emigrating to your country, when you know exactly how likely nearly all the populated portion of Bangladesh is likely to run into deadly problems.

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  6. Its generally easier to identify drivel from other sides than your own because the drivel of the other side confirms your priors while drivel from your side does not.

    -Commenter LeeEsq

    I have never been to Breitbart, don’t watch Foxnews. But as I drifted away from the D’s I started noticing just how bad the news in the country was. I am the son of an NPR DJ and I find their softly whispered propaganda nauseating. Oh, the facts are true, but only one side is presented and they always break to the left.

    According to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll, which was provided exclusively to The Hill, 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media.

    That number includes 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats. Eighty-four percent of voters said it is hard to know what news to believe online.

    “Are you still laboring under the delusion this is a news outlet?” That you wrote this under a set of opinions is interesting in that it can be taken that you are mistaking opinions for news. If someone believes that abortion is murder, then it does indeed look like a holocaust. Because that is their opinion. This doesn’t denigrate the holocaust (which I lost family in) but neither does calling the holodomor a holocaust do such.

    We are in a bad spot regarding news, and saying sources you don’t like are fake news news or wrongthink cuts both ways. You are absolutely correct when you say there are many horrors in history and the world, but glossing over the concerns of others, or assuming bad faith in political opponents, won’t get us any further any faster.

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    • We are in a bad spot regarding news, and saying sources you don’t like are fake news news or wrongthink cuts both ways.

      Part of the problem is that the big MSM outlets, including the Serious papers of record like NYT and WaPo, have doubled down on their worst pathologies i.e. deference to authority (as long as it presents a certain way), relying on anonymous sources so that agendas are masked, and mistaking blue state cultural norms for morality. They’ll never get their credibility back or be able to credibly criticize online propaganda until they address those shortcomings.

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        • Not really. Anonymous sources are never going away. Further, the idea that those sources provide false information is wildly overblown. Further still, the idea that only information from named sources is credible makes no sense, as we’re seeing in the current GOP and Trump administration where the number of on-the-record lies are pronounced and impossible to deny.

          Add: I mean, lies which are easily verified by checking yesterday’s “official statement” or the contents of the AHCA or CBO score.

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          • Of course they’re never going away and sometimes they might even be credible. The problem isn’t that they exist, it’s that they aren’t being scrutinized appropriately by the outlets who publish them. These papers have been used too many times by operatives of various politicians, administrative agencies, and the intelligence services.

            Obviously it doesn’t mean that the anonymous source is never right but it has become impossible to distinguish between whistleblowers and controlled leaks meant to further an agenda. Personally I don’t understand how anyone with any brains can take anything an anonymous source says seriously absent hard corroborating evidence. And yet here we are in Blue America, post Operation Iraqi Freedom, wondering why it is people don’t trust the latest from Fred Hiatt’s unnamed bud at Fort Meade.

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            • Personally I don’t understand how anyone with any brains can take anything an anonymous source says seriously absent hard corroborating evidence.

              Well, I do. Taking them seriously doesn’t mean accepting their truth without question. It does require actually engaging the evidence presented, tho.

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      • What blue state cultural norms do you think are confused for morality?

        This issue is tricky because blue state cultural norms can cover everything from dissing on chain restaurants and liking modern furniture to saying don’t make jokes about LBGT people, climate change is real, and black lives matter has point.

        Some are matters of taste, others really are matters of morality.

        Note that a lot of Fox News and Breitbart stuff is being upset that you can use terms like Fag and BullDyke anymore. Bannon himself called Feminism a conspiracy from 7 Sisters School Dykes.

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          • Which I still think says more about the people getting upset than anything else.

            The New York Times like everything else is built for an audience. That audience (the bill paying ones as opposed to people sneaking around the fire wall) are largely middle-class and above people with educations, urban sensibilities, and a general passion for what is usually called “high culture.”

            The New York Times covers theatre and dance and art exhibits in NYC because it is still an NYC paper and its audience does wonder “Should I go to the Whitney Biennial or the Cheek by Jowl performance at BAM this weekend?” It covers NYC restaurants because that is what NYC residents go for.

            So a lot of this taste stuff is seemingly symbolic of butt hurt in my view. The NY Times gives good reviews to comic book movies yet it is somehow still an existential threat to red America or geek America or whatever if the Eric Rohmer retrospective at Film Forum also gets reviewed.

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    • We are in a bad spot regarding news,

      No, we’re not. We have more media outlets reporting facts and evidence than ever before in recorded history. So we’re not in a bad spot regarding news. We’re in a bad spot because lots of people – too many people – are too lazy and/or angry to actually consume news as a participatory exercise requiring them to engage the facts and evidence presented.

      The problem isn’t the news, no matter how you slice it.

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      • Stillwater,
        For fuck’s sake. I know people who are in Public Relations.
        They write the fucking articles. Then a nice reporter puts their own name on the byline and runs them.

        If they provide a graph, they can even be on the front page of the business section.

        http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/ Look at those reviews. Do those really look like critical reviews, or do they look like the type of horseshit that someone writes and then gets someone else to publish. Hell, the New Yorker doesn’t do video game reviews much, do they?

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        • Not sure what your point is Kimmi. Propaganda as a discipline predates the MSM as we currently understand that term. It even predates Public Relations (since PR is propaganda by another name).

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          • Stillwater,
            My point is that half of the WAPO is simply not written by the journalists.
            NO fact-checking, simply slap your name on it and move on.

            This INCLUDES investigative articles, by the way.

            Some of the articles on this site have been pure propaganda (hilariously enough, Saul was trying to make one of them a “pro-San Francisco” piece. It was actually written as a pro-Pittsburgh piece. I know the author).

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      • Not so.
        Lack of newspaper coverage is actually the single biggest reason why human rights complaints are dismissed.
        There has to be enough coverage from a reliable news source to establish a threshold pervasive knowledge, and this is typically done by submitting newspaper articles.

        Editorial decisions confer tacit complicity in human rights violations on a regular basis.
        Not small potatoes.

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        • Not so.
          Lack of newspaper coverage is actually the single biggest reason why human rights complaints are dismissed.

          I’ll see you’re not so and raise you one: the reason human rights complaints are dismissed* is that most people, in practice, don’t care about them (virtue signalling to the contrary) coupled with pragmatic problems accompanying action to remedy those types of problems.

          *I’m exactly not sure what you mean by this. I take it you mean disregarding the seriousness of human rights violations in other countries. Maybe you meant something different tho.

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        • Will,
          I bring up human rights concerns, and you say “dude, I don’t care.”
          I gotta say, if you don’t care — and you’re one of the more interested people — who do you expect TO care, if news coverage is the only thing stopping them from caring??

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          • Two different animals.

            A country has a right to secure its borders.
            A sovereign state has an obligation to impose limitations on entry.
            That knocks out Australia, Japan, and India.

            I can agree or disagree with them.
            What I do or don’t do does not make it an issue of human rights.

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            • For Japan,
              You’re now okay with forced sterilization, so long as it only occurs to foreigners???

              For Australia,
              No, this isn’t about limitations on entry. This is about allocation of resources once people enter the country as climate refugees. (They do, for what it is worth, have enough resources to support these people.)

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              • Australia:
                I have no claim to their resources, nor on how they might choose to allocate them.
                If that’s the issue, we can start talking about Nairobi.

                Japan:
                To say that they have a right to impose laws on those within their borders does nothing to indicate my own feelings on the matter.
                I believe their right to self-determination trumps my feelings on the matter.

                FWIW, yes, I do have an issue with “the right to procreation.”
                This is a recognized right granted under the State of Illinois’ Constitution.
                As a result, accommodations need necessarily be made for persons incarcerated to have children.
                It completely obliterates that “With rights come responsibilities” thing.
                I dislike that childbearing is removed from parentage.
                Children should have parents. They should at least have the opportunity to have parents.

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      • Actually, part of the problem is what happened to the news over the past decade. Due to the Internet, massive numbers of journalists (well over a hundred thousand) lost their jobs, especially at newspapers in the heartland and in smaller communities. But those had tended to balance some of the slant in the coastal elite’s newspapers. But also due to the Internet, massive numbers of new (and rather inexperienced, fresh out of college) journalists were hired – by Internet sites concentrated in the coastal elite’s home turf.

        Those coastal areas with all the dotcom startups, where these new journalists were, were thriving. The heartland was suffering but there wasn’t anybody reporting it. The new journalists and the established coastal journalists were unaware of the profound economic problems and discontent. They downplayed and dismissed the things that were being felt hundreds of miles inland, and when they did address those problems, they did so with contempt and derision.

        The election was in part a rejection of the coastal elite’s views that were being pumped out on nearly every communications medium.

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        • Not really.
          The mass job loss to journalists happened decades ago, due to consolidation in the industry.
          Since that time, alternative weeklies have tended to thrive.
          The independent ones, that is. The chain newspapers tend to be rather bland, and tend to have much lower readership, with the exception of a few special issues each year.

          If anything, the internet answered the question of, “Why should spend money buying a newspaper for news anyway?”

          That said, I believe it’s around 35% of Americans polled indicate that the internet is their primary source for news.
          I think a lot of this is people linking to things on FB.
          Also, a lot of people believe that what celebrity is doing on any given day is “news,” and that is the type of news they prefer.

          I do agree with your assessment of anti-coastal populism.
          It suggests that global climate change isn’t nearly so much a “problem” as it’s made out to be, so much as a flushing mechanism.

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          • Here’s an article on journalism employment at newspapers with a table at the bottom listing employment by year.

            It peaked at 56,900 in 1990, stayed relatively stable for a long time, hitting 56,400 in 2001, and then very gradually declining to 55,000 in 2007, and then it started to plummet to 32,900 in 2015. It’s probably dropped well below 30,000 since then.

            Given how recently the big drop happened, I suspect smart phones had more to do with it than anything else.

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          • Will,
            Okay, when we have large swaths of the world unlivable (and I don’t just mean the fucking coasts)… Did you mean to sound that racist? Because we’re talking large portions of the world where people will no longer be able to live (without air conditioning, but that assumes money these people don’t have).

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            • Kimmi, please.
              Most often, I find some sort of merit in your comments.
              The suggestion that an indiscriminate swath of landmass might somehow be racist is not one of those occasions.

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    • Also, re: the polling on people’s views that there’s “fake news” in the media:

      The bare evidence that a majority of people think the MSM presents fake news isn’t conclusive of anything regarding the actual news. If Fox News is considered a MSM outlet , and it should be, then I’m surprised that the numbers aren’t even higher: Fox watchers will be inclined believe everything else is a “fake news” outlet and non-Fox watchers will believe that Fox is. What constitutes fake news isn’t determined by merely labeling it so.

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    • I can’t find the Twitter post because I forgot to save it, but there was actual favorable/unfavorable polling on various outlets and basically, the only actual orgs that were underwater were Fox News and Brietbart.

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  7. Re: Americans want more liberal representatives.

    I’ll put this in the “This is Complicated” category.

    The polling you pointed to is absolutely correct and Americans are generally more on the left than both Democratic and Republican politicians imagine. But the GOP created a lot of districts where their only viable challenger is primary challenge from the right for a variety of reasons. I suspect that politicians of all parties understand their donors more than their regular voters and the donors are probably more conservative.

    But there is also a lot of polling that shows people like Bernie’s social program platform but when you show them the tax increases needed to pay for it, support drops by at least 20 percent.

    TL/DR: Americans want social programs but they don’t want to pay for them.

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    • I’d also point that in 2012 and 2014, many voters happily voted for liberal ballot measures but voted for Republican politicians very unlikely to implement them. This happens a lot.

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    • Americans want social programs but they don’t want to pay for them.

      Yes, that exactly.

      Then we have the Left focus on the “want social programs” aspect of it, and the Right focus on the “not willing to pay for it” aspect of it.

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  8. I miss Andrew Breitbart. He was genuine, and he was usually right. He was also too smart for his own good, and badly ADD, so he figured that everyone could follow the points he was making. He would love the confrontational nature of the Breitbart sites, but he’d hate the falsehood and bullying. He hated bullying. Unfortunately, as I’ve often said here, it takes about a generation to go from hatred and fear of bullies on one side to becoming a bully on the other.

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    • Burt, if that was a question to me, the answer is no. I haven’t visited those sites in…wow, I think literally years. Ben Shapiro left Breitbart.com under Steve Bannon (and describes him as a horrible person but not an anti-Semite) and runs The Daily Wire, a site I visit every day. The site has its sensationalist moments but Shapiro is really insightful.

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      • I’ll have to add The Daily Wire to the list. I like Shapiro. We’re at opposite ends on most things and he’ll say eye rolling things he’s too smart to say from time to time, but I’ve found he’s generally intellectually consistent and honest. If I want a clear, well articulated summary of the best possible arguments for something I disagree with, Shapiro has consistently done a very good job.

        Basically, I like it when I can boil my disagreement with somebody down to, “Here are the axioms we differ on,” or, “Our weighting of preferences leads us to conclude different things from the same facts.” I get that from him instead of, “Jeez, this guy is an idiot / hack / performance artist.”

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  9. I don’t know what this article is proving. The comments are completely irrelevant as to whether or not something is news.

    The way to prove Breitbart is not news is to point out some of the gibberish that they’ve presented on the flimsiest justification, and then continued to defend long after it was proven nonsense.

    Which they’ve done plenty of times. I wandered over there just now to see if they had any blatant lies up, but they didn’t, probably because the only actual news they’re focused on let them be Islamophobic. Their other news appears to be either mostly cookie-cutter news stories straight off the newswire, and a bunch of puff pieces about how people respond to things…but that’s sorta how it always is over there.

    In fact, not having visited for a while, and seeing how many of their puff pieces are desperate attempts to defend Trump, I wonder if they’ve transitioned from ‘making up crap about Democrats’ to ‘making up justifications about Trump’.

    Which, weirdly, are probably going to be slightly *less* blatant lies, because stuff made up about Democrats exists to harm the Democrats, and can be used over and over and repeated for years, long after it’s be proven incorrect, whereas false defenses of Trump only need to exist long enough to provide some thin cover long enough to move on to the next topic, and then never repeated again. (Because they would just remind everyone of the original wrongdoing.)

    So weird, under Trump, under a president they are constantly having to defend, Breitbart might have gotten more truthful. Because they’re having to move faster, so the information isn’t *provable wrong* when they present the story.

    Of course, actual news outlets still retract stories they get wrong. And don’t just present random rumors they like as news.

    Well, I mean, they don’t present rumors as news unless they’re Fox News, but even Fox will retract false stories. Eventually. If enough people complain.

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    • Yeah, I just checked in over there as well. The first three stories weren’t well-written, and they had their spins, but they weren’t false. The headlines were combative, and the comments threads were…ok, truthfully, there was no way I was going to check those. But most every internet site has bad headlines and awful comments.

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    • If you’ll allow me a rather wide sojourn: I think of it as being similar to the terrain my sister, who is an academic historian, had to travel back in her early career.

      Back then it was still something of a novelty to the non-academic world that historians would want to study the lives of common people from various times, as opposed to simply the Great Historical Figures. The very notion of studying people who weren’t important was mocked by mainstream people and columnists like (at the time) George Will, Russell Baker, Peter Hammill, Breslin, Buchwald, etc. Over time, however, it’s become accepted not only in the mainstream but on the Right was well that how people lived their lives and how they saw and experienced their world is an important part of history that should be paid attention to. Not at the expense of major historical figures, but alongside.

      I would argue that examining comments sections and similar minutia are similar territory. Bretibart’s writers and editors should be (and are) examined on their own merits. But so too should the community they create.

      I’m pretty disdainful of “journalists” who follow and write about a single anonymous commenter because that person says things that are so outrageous as to ensure clicks and ad revue by de facto promoting that commenter and bringing them greater fame. But looking at how mass commenters act and see the world seems important to me, and a valid topic of inspection. (In the same way, I break with almost every other anti-Trumper I know in that I think why people voted for Trump is important and worth exploring.)

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      • I agree with that. Sociologists should examine comments sections. Epidemiologists should study Breitbart’s comments sections. If the article had done just that, I’d be ok with it. But highlighting the comments and the headlines does two things: it shines the light on the worst areas of most sites, and it ignores the content of the articles.

        I’d argue that Breitbart’s commenters were the tail that wagged the dog there. They’re definitely a story worth telling.

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      • I would argue that examining comments sections and similar minutia are similar territory. Bretibart’s writers and editors should be (and are) examined on their own merits. But so too should the community they create.

        And in a recursive sense, looking at how misinformed the commentators are certainly *does* reflect, in some manner, on a site that *claims* to be informing people.

        While I don’t read that many right-wing blogs, so I have no idea if they do it, but I *have* seen left-wing blogs specifically address something *their own* commentators are consistently wrong about. Stuff like ‘please stop repeating this conspiracy theory, it is making our side look dumb, there is no evidence of it’.

        I suspect there are *serious* right-wing blogs out there that do the same thing.

        I understand why news sites do not _police_ the comments of contributors, but I don’t understand why news sites don’t do the same thing, why they don’t write articles that says ‘Look, people keep saying this in the comments here, and it’s flatly not true. Here is a summary of every news story we’ve written on this.’.

        And then, they could even go through and *annotate* the comments. If someone says a fact that is not true, they put a link next to it pointing to their own story about it. (Hell, do it to true facts also!)

        So while I like the fact there are discussion forums all over the place, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of three paragraphs of news, followed by pages and pages of random lying gibberish. It seems akin to a local news where every two minute story is followed by an hour and half of drunken ranting by some guys in a bar. I am not sure what ‘And now we cut to some drunk people yelling about this’ is actually *contributing* to anything.

        And it eventually gets us poisonous ‘communities’ like Breitbart. There is a rather large difference between ‘a community of commentators’, aka, a blog, and a *news source*. The only community a ‘news source’ should have is…everyone in the geographical area it covers.

        Of course, to a *much* lesser extent, this is problem with running discussion forums on news channels also. “We’re temporarily taking over this news platform to distribute random views’. But at least there all sorts of constraints on that, the people doing it are employees, and there’s backlash when they just lie.

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        • And in a recursive sense, looking at how misinformed the commentators are certainly *does* reflect, in some manner, on a site that *claims* to be informing people.

          This 1000x. I judge the quality of an information source quite a bit by the comments underneath it if it allows comments. I don’t know whether uninformed idiots are attracted to the sweet smell of bullshit or if reading nothing but bullshit turns you into an uninformed idiot or if it’s an unholy death spiral of both things, but they clearly go hand in hand.

          If you claim to be a news source and your followers are idiots, you have to ask yourself if you’re misinforming them and, if not, you have to ask yourself what it is about your reporting that drives smart/informed people away.

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            • There are certainly a number of posters who are like that on those sites. Every comment section is a mixed bag, but some are complete sewers. I wouldn’t call the WaPo or NYT comment sections great, but they do have a decent percentage of people who aren’t uninformed weirdos. On the partisan hack sites, there are plenty of articles where most or all of the posters are uninformed weirdos.

              People who draw equivalence between the two are doing almost the same thing as people who say that NYT is “fake news” and thus equivalent to Info Wars because, hey, they’ve both gotten facts wrong in the past.

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              • I wouldn’t call the WaPo or NYT comment sections great, but they do have a decent percentage of people who aren’t uninformed weirdos.

                And just as relevantly, that isn’t the ‘community’.

                News sites get just as much, probably more, traffic from incoming links as they do from people who ‘read the site’.

                It seems to be there is a rather large difference between someone who *lives* at Breitbart, or, let’s say for a partisan site for the other side, HuffPo, who rants and raves about fringe conspiracy theory X…and someone who follows a random link to the NYT and comments there.

                Likewise, I feel there’s a bunch of cases where the news organization has actually made their idea of the facts very clear, and the posters appear to be *hate-reading* the site.

                Which is why pointing specific comments is nonsense, and even some sort of average really only applies to the site’s ‘community’…and, as I said, an actual *news* site shouldn’t really have a community like that.

                There doesn’t seem to be any systematic way to get useful information from the commentators of a site…except the one specific circumstance where the site *posts rumors as news*. Which maybe means it’s worth checking out how many people still believe the totally discredited rumors later, to see how good the site is at issuing corrections, or even if corrections are issued at all.

                On the partisan hack sites, there are plenty of articles where most or all of the posters are uninformed weirdos.

                Yes. While it’s somewhat hard to figure out what the comments actually show, or what we should take from it…it is worth pointing out there appear to be sites where 80% of the comments are uninformed loons, and sites where 20% of the comments are uninformed loons, and not a lot in the middle.

                Or, rather, everything in the middle is completely random, based on where the article is linked from…because there isn’t any ‘community’ at all, it’s all just random people. But when there *are* communities, it’s either ‘almost everyone is talking nonsense’ or ‘almost no one is talking nonsense’.

                And before anyone thinks that’s just a partisan lens I’m wearing, I will mention RedState as a right-wing blog that has mostly *fact-based* commentators. I mean, the commenters are dumb in other ways, but they do appear to be actually consuming actual facts and having (IMHO dumb) viewpoints based on those facts, instead of hallucinating information about pizza sex rings.

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  10. Guess what, Democrats? You’re just as guilty — there is true lunacy on both sides.

    Very interesting post. I largely agree but I’m gonna pick on the above comment to make a narrow point about what I think is a common confusion: collapsing the distinction between the cultural and the electoral political. On this view, outlets like Breitbart, which are fundamentally political in nature, are best understood as being motivated by electoral politics and partisan political outcomes. And by that metric of analysis Breitbart’s goal is merely to promote GOP policy initiatives and candidates by opposing Democrats and liberal policies. But that strikes me as misguided if not downright wrong. Outlets like Breitbart, and likewise Rush Limbaugh and the (old, ever shrinking) Fox nighttime lineup, etc., are primarily concerned with developing and promoting a specific type of conservative intellectual and moral culture – broadly speaking, a certain type of conservative ideology – founded on the premise that liberals as individuals are intellectually and morally debased and that liberal political ideology is fundamentally corrupt. Likewise, they believe that an accurate “description” of that hidden reality – a reality which is intentionally concealed by the liberal media and the liberal intellectual elites – will open a person’s eyes to The Real Truth. In order to achieve that goal and maintain the pretense of a coherent intellectual rather than a purely emotionally and psychologically-driven argument, outlets like Breitbart and Fox and etc., jettison evidence, sound argument, and the “common sense” conservatives are so reflexively drawn to, whenever those elements present a conflict with ideology they’re promoting. So, lots of conservative news consumers end up rejecting any media source which doesn’t circularly confirm their own beliefs that the liberal media is a lie. There’s nothing inherently partisan about that belief structure and the circular dynamics required to maintain it. So in my view the dynamic isn’t motivated by a political conception of what conservatism entails, but by a cultural impulse to define – even create – a conservatism which fundamentally rejects liberalism, which of course has political implications. Not only for Dems, of course, but the GOP as well. Trumpism and Palinism are proof of that.

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    • Hmmmn, I’m going to push back on part of your push back:

      But that strikes me as misguided if not downright wrong. Outlets like Breitbart, and likewise Rush Limbaugh and the (old, ever shrinking) Fox nighttime lineup, etc., are primarily concerned with developing and promoting a specific type of conservative intellectual and moral culture – broadly speaking, a certain type of conservative ideology – founded on the premise that liberals as individuals are intellectually and morally debased and that liberal political ideology is fundamentally corrupt.

      It seems you are promoting Cleek’s law to an ideological movement… I think that’s a stretch; It can survive as a political rallying point of the sort you acknowledge and push back against.

      That it might become something of an incoherent Political Identity is about as far as you can take it, I think. Suggesting that Fox et al. are engaging in Moral and Cultural building isn’t something I’m seeing them doing.

      Maybe we could agree that a Political Identity increasingly suffices for moral and cultural bearings… and maybe you’d say that its a distinction without a difference… but then, I’d say that the distinction is precisely worth differing as the Right’s Political Identity is a hollow tree and we’re one good windstorm from it coming down.

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      • That it might become something of an incoherent Political Identity is about as far as you can take it, I think.

        Yes, but that’s where I DO want to take it. There are real reasons so many people gravitate to the type of political identity building I’m referring to, and even tho it may result in purely partisan electoral outcomes (and it does), and even tho its constructors (Rush, O’Reilly, Hannity, Breitbart, etc) may have intended that such identity building would merely serve electoral political ends (and their own pocket-books), the appeal of that identity to the news consumer is the creation and reaffirmation of a broadly cultural conservative identity which goes beyond partisan (ie., GOP v Dem) politics. It strikes me as primarily a cultural identity, one with wide ranging political and electoral implications, including rejecting the very structures upon which partisan politics is built.

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        • I largely agree and I think there’s a much simpler way to say it- they’ve created an identity politics for a group called ‘conservatives.’ Policy and even electoral success, while impacted, don’t drive the allegiance, the identity does.

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            • Maybe I misread Stillwater but I don’t really see how Marchmaine’s critique addresses what he’s saying. Marchmaine is right, the conservstive identity is hollow in that it isn’t based on policy or rational operation in our existing political system (which is how I interpret Stillwater). Where Marchemaine is wrong I think is that the conservative identity is a relatively powerful allegiance, and turned out to be stronger than the GOP establishment, corrupted and brittle as it has become.

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              • InMD: Where Marchemaine is wrong I think is that the conservative identity is a relatively powerful allegiance, and turned out to be stronger than the GOP establishment, corrupted and brittle as it has become.

                Enough people have stayed loyal to the GOP to give them control of the White House and both houses of Congress, as well as maintain the balance of power on the Supreme Court after an ally’s death.

                It’s the conservative identity that’s been turned completely inside out by Trump and Trumpism. Insulting war heros, roughing up conservative female journalists, making nice with Putin and Russia, having the son of Jerry Falwell take a picture with a man whose playboy cover is framed on the wall behind them – that’s all things many self-identified conservative activists from the various legs of the stool are all fine with now.

                Heck, Rumsfeld is giving Team Trump kudos this morning. Though I’m not sure whose reputation is harmed more by that.

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                • It’s the conservative identity that’s been turned completely inside out by Trump and Trumpism.

                  To that point, I’ve been reading some of the on-the-ground reporting from Montana today, and all the voters who expressed a view said the same thing: that they either don’t care that Gianforte body slammed the Guardian reporter and will still vote for him, or cheered his having done so because reporters deserve it. That’s the conservative base in 2017.

                  Rush is feeding the circular cycle of justifying violence against the press because Ben Jacobs is a liberal.

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                    • Of course plenty of liberal types said it was wrong for Spenser to get punched. There was plenty of critisism of it. And the puncher was some guy behind a mask, in Montana it was a pol which seems like a difference.

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                      • Oh, I’m not saying it’s identical.

                        Indeed, it’s even worse than the punching of the Nazi.

                        I imagine I will be able to link to this post in a few months and you can, again, post something like “Yes. Identical. Both the incident and the response.”

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                        • There’s a textural difference between the two things, Jaybird. A significant one, at least as it relates to my upthread comments: contemporary conservatism is increasingly driven by a fundamental animosity to the press, which they view as populated by liberals promoting liberal objectives and therefore as a political enemy. (Well, except for press outlets which conform to their pre-concpetions of what constitutes non-fake reporting.) Ironically, tho, it was a Fox News reporter who put the lie to Gianforte’s publicly stated accounting of the events, yet lots of people (including Rush!) think the assault was justified except for the political fallout it creates, a fallout, presumably, driven by the very same liberal media which deserved to be attacked in the first place.

                          Rush: “[L]adies and gentlemen, I must do something. I must join the chorus of people condemning what happened out there. This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama-clad journalist, a Pajama Boy journalist out there.

                          “The story is he grabbed his neck and threw the guy to the ground because the journalist was being insolent and disrespectful and whiny and moany and accusatory. And the manly, studly Republican simply didn’t realize that on the big stage you can’t do this kind of stuff and kicked the guy’s ass to the ground. This cannot be accepted. This must be condemned. I wonder how many people in Montana are now gonna vote for the guy, though?”

                          It’s only because the stage is big – ie., that he couldn’t get away with it – that Gianforte’s actions are wrong because in the end, the whiny, moany reporter deserved it. Gianforte didn’t understand this subtle aspect of reality, so he’s just not ready for the Big Time.

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                          • Stillwater: (Well, except for press outlets which conform to their pre-concpetions of what constitutes non-fake reporting.) Ironically, tho, it was a Fox News reporter who put the lie to Gianforte’s publicly stated accounting of the events, yet lots of people (including Rush!) think the assault was justified except for the political fallout it creates, a fallout, presumably, driven by the very same liberal media which deserved to be attacked in the first place.

                            The fox news part of it here and the fact that the reporter Lewandowski assaulted now over a year(!) ago was from Breitbart (!) makes it hard sometimes to figure out which is the tail and which is the dog and who is wagging who.

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                          • Bob Etheridge from North Carolina didn’t go as far as body slamming, but he got real hands on (for a longer time, too) when someone approached him on the street, put a mic in his face, and asked him about Obamacare.

                            But he also lost his next election.

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                            • So if the criticism is “Poorly behaving politician”, sure, both sides have that.

                              If the criticism is “Voters rewarding poorly behaving politician”, and, specifically, one who’s “poor behavior” was criminal violence… we don’t really have a BSDI do we?

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                              • So if the criticism is “Poorly behaving politician”, sure, both sides have that.

                                To a first approximation, I’d say that neither side has it (at least as far as violence goes). Body slamming a reporter (which the police say didn’t rise to a felony) makes the national news because it’s “man bites dog”.

                                If the criticism is “Voters rewarding poorly behaving politician”, and, specifically, one who’s “poor behavior” was criminal violence… we don’t really have a BSDI do we?

                                If it’s about violence, then since neither side really does it, then neither set of voters reward it. IMHO behavior like that shows you don’t have the temperament to be a politician and this country has no “can arrest him because he’s in office” rule(s). Serving out part of you in-office term behind bars is such a political problem that it’s a ticket to being thrown out of office.

                                He may have won the election, in no-small part because of votes from before that point, but he’ll either not run again, be arrested, be primaried, or lose. His seat isn’t technically open but there’s blood in the water.

                                If you’re trying to expand the discussion to non-violence, then for President we just had one shockingly unethical politician run against another.

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                                • People (especially Jay) want to put this as a unit in a broader pattern.

                                  So we need to figure out how we’re catergorizing this.

                                  The violence is new.
                                  Voters explicitly stating they were enthused to vote for him because of the violence is new.

                                  So maybe there is a pattern but only if you use a really broad definition. Which seemed more important to Jay… finding the pattern that *he predicted* would happen. More important, even, then denouncing this violent act committed by a candidate against a media member doing his job.

                                  It’s not enough to denounce wrong doing for Jay. He’s got to also stake the moral high ground for himself. So here we are…

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                                  • I won’t comment on him, but I will answer those for myself.

                                    The violence is new.

                                    I disagree. Violence in politics was ancient before Caesar’s assassination. There are lots of examples from all sides, even here. We had a sitting congressman beaten unconscious because of his speech, by another sitting congressman, on the floor of Congress while his supporter held everyone off at gunpoint.

                                    However in the last century in this country there has been broad consensus that politicians don’t engage in violence nor are they subject to violence. Law enforcement treats this seriously.

                                    Voters explicitly stating they were enthused to vote for him because of the violence is new.

                                    Both the Left and Right try to brand the other as supporting or engaging in violence. Pointing to an idiot politician and asking some other idiot what he thinks about this is a great way to do it. It’s up there with “racists support Trump”, and “BLM supports the murder of white police officers” thing.

                                    However, the question is “how significant is this political support” and does it rise above one or more idiots? There’s also “what does law enforcement think of this”?

                                    Moving back to this idiot politician, While I’m sure it did earn him votes, I assume it cost him more. If he’d done it at a different point in the election cycle he would not have survived. In this case a lot of people had already voted and it was too late for the GOP to replace him.

                                    After that I’m not sure what the issue is. The GOP presumably does not have either the legal or moral authority to simply give his seat to someone else. Very likely his career is dead, if he serves jail time then definitely, everything else seems to be “why didn’t the GOP deliberately hand the seat to the Dems” reasoning which is a question which answers itself.

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                          • “Which Dem politician body slammed a reporter the night before an election and had people at the polls raving about him and the assault?”

                            Imagine a world where we didn’t have to respond to “violence is wrong and shouldn’t happen” with qualifiers and rationalizations and excuses and justifications.

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                      • It’s not “Both Sides Do It”.

                        It’s “I said that it’s going to get worse and it’s getting worse”.

                        Maybe I should wait to see if he wins before freaking out…

                        But if he wins…

                        This business will get out of control.
                        It will get out of control and we will be lucky to live through it.

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                        • The confirmation bias is strong. Assaulting people is sort of an old story. What was the name of that Confederate douchecanoe who beat a northern rep with a in congress? How long were lynchings a thing. Certainly this incidence and Spenser are ugly but this is not some new thing popping out of the weeds.

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                            • Brooks and his family were specically insulted by Sumner during a speech on the floor. Maybe he should have challenged him to a duel and killed him that way.

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                              • said this two days ago:

                                Cultivating the skill of ignoring people is an adult skill that some haven’t tried to master.

                                Now he’s saying that beating or killing someone over insults is fine.

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                                  • You think it’s fine to severely beat someone for insulting slaveholders, and fine to legally strip Jews of their citizenship because of European antisemitism, and fine to commit treason in order to defend slavery. This is alongside more pedestrian but still revolting stands like saying it’s good that employers refuse to hire black people simply for being black.

                                    On the other hand, you think that punching someone for being a Nazi is just terrible.

                                    You’ve made it incredibly clear that your allegiance is with white supremacy, and that you think that it should be defended by any means necessary.

                                    I’ve been told by multiple people that your presence here is valuable because it provides insight into the mindset of knee-jerk partisan Republicans and Trump supporters. Perhaps they’re right.

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                                      • Dude, you were defending racial discrimination in employment that’s going on now, just like you’re the first to say that an unarmed black kid has it coming when a cop shoots him. You were saying that people who say that Jews weren’t citizens of European nations *now* are right.

                                        I know what you are, and what you are is a white supremacist who loves seeing racial and religious minorities subjected to discrimination and violence, preferably lethal violence.

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                        • Yes, this is much, much worse. So much so that attempting to connect dots is silly.

                          Do you think he did this because that Nazi guy got punched? Yes or no will suffice.

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                          • I’m saying that “violence is being normalized”.

                            Did a previous example of violence being normalized directly cause this example of violence being normalized?

                            No.

                            But my argument is not “these two things are connected to each other”.

                            It’s “these two things are both connected to the same thing”.

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                                • It doesn’t strike you as… ineffective… to do what you did instead of just saying, “The phenomenon is happening”?

                                  Unless, of course, the effect you were trying to have was something other than pointing out that the phenomenon is happening.

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                                  • What do you think that my argument “really” was?

                                    “You don’t have the right to be upset by the reporter getting body slammed unless you were against Richard Spencer getting punched and I’m not going to bother checking the comments of these threads to see if you were against it at the time, I’ll just assume that you were one of the pro-punching Nazi people so, therefore, I win”?

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                                      • This is weird, dude. I told you what my argument was. You’re telling me that my argument was not that. Now I have to guess what you think my argument *REALLY* was?

                                        I’m thinking “No.”

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                                    • Kazzy is saying You Have To Understand That This Time It’s Different Because Reasons.

                                      Like, it was okay to punch Richard Spencer because Nazis doubleplusbad. But it’s also okay to claim that physical violent assault is always inherently wrong, never justifiable, because otherwise politicians will punch people who ask questions.

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                                      • Only I never said it was okay to punch Nazis — here or elsewhere — or condone those who did say that.

                                        What I’m saying is that, in response to an act of violence, Jay could have said, “Hey… why the fuck are we normalizing violence? This is a bad trend as evidenced by exhibits A,B,C.” With the attack on Spencer exhibit A.

                                        Instead, he said, “Hey, remember when this other violent attack happened?”

                                        Now, we can take Jay at his word and say he was innocently pointing out a phenomenon. Or, we can be realistic and say he was playing his usual BSDI game and was not pointing out the phenomenon as evidenced by his, ya know, not pointing put the phenomenon.

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                                        • What I’m saying is that, in response to an act of violence, Jay could have said, “Hey… why the (heck) are we normalizing violence? This is a bad trend as evidenced by exhibits A,B,C.” With the attack on Spencer exhibit A.

                                          Instead, Jaybird said “This story here is exhibit B. Here are some links to when we were discussing exhibit A.”

                                          “BOTH SIDES DO IT!!!!!!!”

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                                        • I guess I dont understand. There were folks that defended punching Spencer. These are the folks normalizing violence. On the other had no one defended ruffing up the journalist in Montana. If one is okay why isn’t the other?

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                                        • “What I’m saying is that, in response to an act of violence, Jay could have said, “Hey… why the fuck are we normalizing violence? This is a bad trend as evidenced by exhibits A,B,C.” With the attack on Spencer exhibit A.”

                                          Oh, so Both Sides Do It, that’s where you’re going with this? You think that A and B are anywhere near as important and meaningful as C? And I note with interest that A and B are examples of supposed Democrat perfidy; got a message you’re pushing here, maybe? Just a little bit?

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                                          • IF your position is, “X is happening,” and you say “X is happening,” and then support that argument, we’re on the path to a fruitful conversation and can resist those looking to derail it.

                                            IF your position is, “X is happening,” and instead of saying, “X is happening,” you respond to an incidence of X by Side A with a link to an incidence of X by Side B AND you have a history of BSDIing, you’re going to come across as BSDIing it. That derails fruitful conversation.

                                            And here we are, debating how Jay framed something and what he may have meant instead of discussing X (normalizing political violence) or Y (using force to change the role of the press in our Democracy).

                                            Why did it take so long for Jay to say what he thinks is happening?

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                                            • said immediately after:

                                              “I can find you plenty of conservative types who have (and are) condemning the bodyslamming of the reporter.”

                                              That completely undermines his claim. Why say that if you want to talk about the phenomenon? He didn’t. He was BSDIing, hard and fast.

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                                              • What was the comment that I immediately after said it to?

                                                Was it one that was arguing against violence being normalized by pointing out that lots of lefties opposed the Nazi being punched?

                                                If we are doing something as a society, pointing out that it’s happening in a lot of places is not an argument that is knocked down by screaming “You’re saying ‘Both Sides Do It’!”

                                                I mean, “you’re wrong, we, as a society are not doing the thing that you’re saying is happening…” would at least be an argument.

                                                You’re not making an argument.
                                                You’re yelling “BOTH SIDES DO IT!” as if it were an argument.

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                                              • “A GOPer punched a journalist.”
                                                “Remember when a liberal punched a Nazi? And some liberald cheered?”
                                                “Some liberals denounced it.”
                                                “And some conservativss denounced this.”

                                                If that isn’t BSDIing, I don’t know what is.

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                                                • There seems to be a lot of punching for political reasons going on… more-so than in the past.

                                                  Does that mean anything? Yes, No, Maybe?

                                                  JB is being oblique in his questioning as is his charism…but even when he spelled it out (part of the new JB I’ve observed) we didn’t want to change tacks and say, “Oh, hmmn, yeah I wonder if that’s true or if I’m just imagining more political violence…”

                                                  So, what I’m saying is that both sides in this argument did it.

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                                                  • I agree that this escalation and normalizing of violence is concerning.

                                                    I disagree that the best way to talk about it is Jaybird’s preferred tack.

                                                    He splashed a bit of gasoline on a heat source and then said, “Who me?” when a fire blazed up. It’s lame and unproductive. And he knows how to do otherwise and opts not to, which means he can’t claim innocence when this reaction arises.

                                                    He’s not quite a troll, but he engages in troll-adjacent behavior and I’m not going to pretend otherwise or not call it out.

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                                                    • Whelp… I disagree that’s its anywhere near trolling – but when I see a JB comment I usually assume there’s something of a puzzle there – sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. Not every gauntlet requires picking up.

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                                                          • So the argument is that when someone with a history of obfuscation says, “A” we should not respond to him saying “A” but should instead do the mental gymnastics to determine that he really meant “B” or maybe “C” or possibly even “G with some L sprinkled in” and that is a better way for us to do things here?

                                                            We should assume people are misleading us?

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                                                            • “So the argument is that when someone with a history of obfuscation says, “A”…”

                                                              You seem really, weirdly angry that you can’t figure out what Jaybird is talking about.

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                                                              • It is frustrating to take someone at face value only to realize you’re being manipulated intentionally.

                                                                It is frustrating when the manipulator paints himself into a corner and then triples down instead of just acknowledging maybe he wasn’t playing 12th dimensional chess and just fucked up.

                                                                I come here to engage sincerely with people. Increasingly, our response to insincere engagement is to say, “Just ignore them.” Which isn’t invalid but with enough bad behavior and consistently poorly behaving people, I’m approaching, “Just ignore the site,” territory.

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                            • There’s nothing wrong with physically assaulting a reporter.

                              Ben Franklin, in writing on the First Amendment, advocated for it.

                              My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. Thus far goes my project as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities; but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket.

                              If, however, it should be thought that this proposal of mine may disturb the public peace, I would then humbly recommend to our legislators to take up the consideration of both liberties, that of the press, and that of the cudgel, and by an explicit law mark their extent and limits; and, at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the security of his reputation.

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                              • Wow a quote from a famous person. It’s adorable that you think it proves something. But on the other hand it would make it just ducky for Rich’s family to beat the living crap out of Hannity and some other folks.

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                                • Ben Franklin isn’t just famous. He’s one of the Founding Fathers.

                                  Sean Hannity is an avid shooter and a long time and quite serious martial artist, so he’s certainly prepared to defend against cudgel wielding viewers. It should be part of the job.

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                          • I wonder if Rob Quist is wondering if there was anything he could have changed to take advantage of what appears to be a 6% drop from the Presidential Election’s Republican support.

                            Of course, what profiteth the party if it loseth its plank.

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                          • I saw that up to 75% of votes were cast early, before the incident occurred, which basically makes it impossible to figure out how it actually impacted voters’ minds.

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                            • Ah, now that is an interesting piece of info.

                              Doing some quick searching, I find this which has the lowest number being 62.3% of all the counties and 73.4% being the highest of all early votes being returned.

                              Nate Silver is now reporting that Gianforte won by 7% and he says that that puts us smack dab in the middle of nobody really being able to say what the outcome means.

                              I checked to see what Sam Wang said about the election, he didn’t mention anything about it (in the first few post anyway) but he did link to a recent Reddit AMA. The interaction I enjoyed most was this one.

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                • turned out to be stronger than the GOP establishment, corrupted and brittle as it has become.

                  One additional thought on this, the big surprise of last year was how brittle (though I wouldn’t say corrupt) the Obama coalition was. It only worked when there was some big bad in the White House, whether Bush in his second term or Trump in his first 100 days. Other than that, it required Obama to be a person everyone was voting for right then.

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                  • Obama’s legacy on party leadership is something I really go back and forth on. I can never decide if I think Clinton was really just the wrong candidate for the moment (realistically she only isn’t president because of a few hundred thousand people around the Great Lakes who voted Obama last time) or if Obama’s rise just happened to come at the perfect moment and therefore masked the rot in the Democratic establishment.

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                    • Speaking of rot in the Democratic establishment: when Obama ran against Hillary he (apparently) created institutional structures entirely divorced from the DNC and DCCC because he didn’t trust those folks to treat his candidacy fairly. Personally, I think the rot goes pretty deep. We need some anonymous sources to come forward and tell the tale. :)

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                  • I suspect Clinton I and Obama were once in a lifetime political talents for their respective generations and both had a real gift of charisma.

                    There is also something about voting for the first African-American President which increased the GOTV among certain aspects of the Obama coalition and this went away in 2016 but not as much as anti-HRC detractors state it did.

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                    • It’s way too early to know if this is so, but is it possible that Trump is also a once-in-a-generation charismatic political talent? It would explain a lot of what we’re talking about with regard to conservative identity and inconsistency.

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                      • Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and now Trump are all once-in-a-generation Black Swan charismatics?

                        Seldon’s plan wouldn’t have survived one Mule, much less four in a single generation.

                        Or maybe these various leaders’ charisma quotients aren’t quite as rare, or as high, as suggested. JFK made people swoon, but only some of them. He also made other people really, really angry.

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                        • And let’s not forget Nixon, who could charm your socks off in person.
                          Or LBJ, whose form of ‘charisma’ got results out of the US Senate (which shortly thereafter said Never Again).

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                        • I’d add that winning a presidential election isn’t an indicator of special Charisma in itself – maybe winning *all* the votes would be cool… but ultimately we judge game changing Charisma by the game they change while they are president.

                          Reagan and FDR could make a case, none of the others pass that bar for me (Maybe Boy Clinton, but I’m confused if his Charisma was such that he changed *his* game to get stuff done)… Trump is currently hoping that Harding can be disinterred and run again.

                          Then again, Trump does have almost 4 years* to execute a Charismatic game changing plan.

                          *assuming various constitutional articles and/or amendments stalking him don’t strike.

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                          • Then again, Trump does have almost 4 years* to execute a Charismatic game changing plan.

                            Oh, I think he’s already well down the game changing path, tho I’m not sure the word “plan” exactly captures what he’s doing. I’m pretty sure at this point that he’s already changed the international game in significant and perhaps irreversible ways, and that the wild, seemingly blind devotion he’s inspired in his base and the GOP has shifted domestic politics to such an extent that repairing those relationships and re-establishing the US’s role in geopolitics isn’t already politically highly unlikely. So, you know, that’s not nothing.

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                            • And re: the “plan” portion of his agenda:

                              If he has a plan it seems limited to tearing down existing institutional structures, both domestically and internationally. Beyond that, like Willard in Apocalypse Now, I don’t see any method at all. (Unless we get all Russia-gatey and so on. :)

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                              • Yeah, I know that’s your sense of things so far… in this case I get to play the agnostic. Nothing I’ve seen so far survives the first hundred days of President Oprah.

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                        • Yes. You can be a one-in-a-million charismatic talent and not be in the top 300 most charismatic people in the US. We hate to admit how easily we’re tricked, so we make the trickster sound superhuman. And this playing field we’re talking about, do we want to say that John Kerry is near the top of most charismatic people? If we don’t say that, are we left saying that Bill Clinton was merely charismatic compared to people like John Kerry?

                          Nevertheless: people swooned over Trump, and acted and voted differently than usual.

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                        • There aren’t that many Presidents of any given generation. It’s probably four on average. And generally speaking, of course the US President is likely to be an especially talented politician.

                          “That President is a once-in-a-generation talent,” says a lot less than it appears to, IMO.

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                            • Webb has decent charisma but outside that has little political ability. I like him, but he wasn’t anything like Presidential material.

                              I agree with you about Franken.

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                              • As a liberal, let me say this: I hated the fact that Franken ran. Hated it. Would have voted against him in the primary in favor of, well, virtually anyone with a functioning brain.

                                I dislike celebrities running for office on what seems to be a whim.

                                I would have been really, really wrong in his case. I was most impressed by the fact that, bluntly, he took the job as seriously as it’s supposed to be taken from the beginning and continues to do so.

                                But I still get very intense negative reactions towards the rich and famous deciding they want to try “public service” on a lark — starting with the Governor’s seat or Senate, anything lower is for the plebeians of course.

                                Party or political ideology doesn’t matter. When I see someone like Zuckerburg or such talking about office — I just see the rich or famous either looking for a distraction, looking for a way to increase their wealth or status, or otherwise viewing political office as some sort of toy or adornment rather than something really vital that will affect countless lives.

                                Just irritates the hell out of me. Like fingernails on blackboard, skin-crawling, instant rejection.

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                                • I have the same initial reaction to celebrities running for office, but I also try to bear in mind Reagan’s speech years ago when people thought it was ridiculous for an actor to run for Governor of California. It boiled down to, “I meet the qualifications and the whole point of our democracy is that anybody from any walk of life can stand up and run for office.” It was pretty inspiring.

                                  I think Franken is a great example of that principle at work. He didn’t run on his celebrity and he took both the campaign and the job seriously. He was just another American with a non-government background who thought he could do something good in government and stepped up to serve.

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                                    • I had a pretty good overall opinion of him, at least in terms of not being cynical or a self-aggrandizing dick at the expense of doing the job. He wasn’t especially effective, but that’s not unusual.

                                      During the election, it was clear that he often didn’t have much of a clue about what he was talking about and that he was primarily running on, “Remember how I was The Terminator? You liked that, right?” rather than the command of actual policy that Franken exhibited. But I did get the feeling that he was running for the right reasons and pushing policies he believed in, which is refreshing on its own.

                                      I think that celebrities often run for office because they think they’re just going to use their Star Power to Get Things Done. Just like how business leaders are going to be The CEO President–something that doesn’t exist and hopefully never will. That’s how it works for them day to day. People agree with them and do what they say because they are who they are. So they assume that’s how it’s going to work when they’re in office.

                                      I think that Schwarzenegger suffered from that delusion, and I think that Trump suffered from both forms of that delusion quite badly. Franken didn’t make that mistake, but he also had the advantage of never being big enough to be constantly surrounded by yes-men. I could imagine a big-name comedy type monopolizing the Senate floor to draw attention to himself and his issues as if it would actually get something done instead of just embarrassing him and his supporters.

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                                      • What happened to Schwarzenegger was that he didn’t realize just how willing the unions were to fuck the people over to preserve their money.

                                        Like, “tell cops to quit” levels of fucking-over. “cut the fibers that serve data to Silicon Valley” levels of fucking-over. “shoot out the transformers at the San Jose substation” levels of fucking-over.

                                        They made it clear that they’d burn California down before letting go of what they had, and he didn’t have anything meaningful to do afterwards.

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                        • By generation, I meant their generation/cohort. So Reagan for the Greatest Generation (though JFK was here too), Clinton for the Boomers, and Obama for Generation X.

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                • Maybe I’m not being quite clear. Trump’s triumph is the triumph of the conservative identity over that which is substantive. They voted for someone with a background and stated policy agenda in severe conflict with what has been the stated conservative platform since the late 70s. All Trump did was adopt the identity (and have the money to give him a platform without going through the party of course).

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              • Thanks for clarifying… but where I think you are both wrong is eliding “conservative” with Team Red Machine.

                Team Red Machine has slipped the bonds of anything that might once have been “conservative” or “libertarian” or even “neo-con” … I think that’s a big part of Tod’s overall media critique.

                Team Red Machine has no masters… not Rush, not Hannity, not Trump. The guillotine awaits them all.

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                • Actually reading this I think we might be mostly in agreement. I said ‘conservative’ identity. I don’t think it has anything to do with policy. I think it’s the just the name they’ve given themselves as an identity group. They aren’t voting for policy they’re voting for the one speaking for the identity group regardless of what policies he or she may support. See also my comment above to Kohole at 9:16.

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  11. When provided with facts, folks usually reject hatred and embrace cooperation.

    Except, I’m pretty sure that recent research suggests that when provided with facts, people double down on their prior beliefs ignoring what they find inconvenient.

    Finally, to suggest liberalism is a “mental disorder” and an existential threat to America’s “puppies” is to ignore the fact that liberalism delivered the end of slavery and the beginning of suffrage for women, ended child labor, achieved workplace dignity in general for millions and built a host of other public programs and institutions — Social Security, Medicare, the post office, public roads and parks, fire departments and ambulance services — that help people who can’t help themselves.

    Liberals have been calling conservatism a mental disorder for longer. And its often dressed up much better as well. e.g. Right-wing authoritarianism or What’s the matter with Kansas?

    The first suggests that conservatism is a kind of personality disorder and the second says that conservatism is not just somewhat less reasonable than liberalism, but an absolutely crazy view that obviously should be discarded. And this is just a representative sample from the academy. Social psychology is rife with the assumption that no moral and rational person could ever be a conservative. (In fact, your own writing suggests the same, e.g. the whole section on “the straw man argument”.

    Also, saying that Liberalism was responsible for the end of slavery and women suffrage is like saying that the Republicans are the party of Lincoln. Yes, something called liberalism did end slavery. But the thing called liberalism in america today is a very different beast from the thing that ended slavery. That was classical liberalism which is much closer to libertarianism than it is to what passes for liberalism in america today.

    Also, has infrastructure (except for high speed rail) ever been much of a partisan issue on the national scale? Crediting liberals for public roads and ambulances seems strange.

    Regarding the whole straw man section, are you familiar with Robert Nozick’s argument for why taxation is like slavery? What is the moral difference between being taxed x% of your income and being forced to work x% of the time without pay? Why is there a moral difference between the government taxing some x% of my wealth to fund welfare and some random guy from the street taking x% of my wealth to give to a food kitchen?

    If your answer is going to involve subtle distinctions that even tenured political philosophers will dispute, then the comment is not as crazy as it may initially seem. Not to mention that there are lots of smart people who think that right wing economic policies will benefit the poor and that it is left wing economic policies which are hurting the poor.

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    • Regarding the bit you quoted, Democrats were the party of slavery and Jim Crow and Susan B Anthony went to jail for voting the straight Republican ticket.

      Liberals tend to look back at history and decide, contrary to evidence, that they did all the good things and conservatives did all the bad things.

      Putting Indians on reservations. Forcing them into schools. A very progressive idea, and for the most part a good one, that modern progressives despise as cultural genocide just to add to their claims of genocide genocide (which never occurred).

      Putting Japanese in internment camps: An idea only publicly opposed by Republicans.

      Sterilizing black people and mentally disabled people was a progressive idea. They were going to make the US a better place, with prancing unicorns and everything.

      Packing blacks into ghettos. Who was running the big northern cities for the past 70 or so years? Hint: It wasn’t conservatives.

      Often what happens is that as the moral calculus evolves over time, the reasoning for past decisions are no longer understood and people look back at the decision and think “That certainly wasn’t done by us! Must’ve been those other guys.”

      A lot of those past decision make sense in context, and some of them were actually correct. For example, we were going to upgrade the Native Americans, destroying their way of life, because we weren’t going to let people run around as illiterate stone age hunter gatherers who used witch doctors to treat their childhood illnesses. Within about a generation they were commanding aircraft carrier battle groups. We even had an Indian Republican Vice President (back then they were Indians and whites were native Americans) who only spoke English as his third language. His native language was Kaw.

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      • It’s also worth remembering that the reason for the suffrage movement was the Temperance movement. The women wanted to vote because they wanted a Congress that would pass the Volstead Act.

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        • Yes, but those Progressives were, very often, *Republicans*. And, hilariously, evangelicals.

          It’s a bit hypocritical to try to blame the current liberals for what the progressives did back then, and at the same time blame the current Democrats for what the Democrats did back then.

          I.e., blaming the Democrats for literally both sides.

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          • I recognize that I’m responding to George Turner’s post, but I’m not accusing modern Democrats or current liberals of anything.

            “those Progressives were, very often, *Republicans*. And, hilariously, evangelicals.”

            Really? Not as far as I’ve read. The Republicans of the time were against Prohibition on the grounds that it interfered with businessmen making money (albeit in the sense of “we wanna sell cheap hooch to blacks and Jews who are too dumb to know better”, not anything so noble as freedom of action or personal responsibility.)

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            • Really? Not as far as I’ve read. The Republicans of the time were against Prohibition on the grounds that it interfered with businessmen making money (albeit in the sense of “we wanna sell cheap hooch to blacks and Jews who are too dumb to know better”, not anything so noble as freedom of action or personal responsibility.)

              No. The Temperance Movement was somewhat non-partisan (Like the entire Progressive Movement, in fact.), but where they ran up against opposition, it was *usually* Democrats opposing them.

              For example, the Anti-Saloon League (The main group behind it.) supported the Republican Herbert Hoover against the Democrat Al Smith. (He, incidentally, was the first Catholic major-party presidential candidate. Don Zeko is right, religion was a big part of this.)

              It was much less a partisan issue that we, in our partisan world would expect, but the Temperance movement was like 2/3 Republicans and 1/3 Democrats.

              In fact, the first (and only) Democrat elected under Prohibition, FDR, proceed to weaken it with the Cullen–Harrison Act, allowing light beers and certain wine, right before it was repealed.

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              • “It was much less a partisan issue that we, in our partisan world would expect”

                So you agree with me that it was pointless to bring Democrat/Republican into this because trying to map Prohibition to party lines has, at best, only a 2/3 chance of being right?

                Thanks, I guess, although you’re the one who brought it up in response to my comment that suffragettes had a specific goal and people just kinda dooooooon’t talk about it these days.

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            • DD,
              Mennonites and Quakers were a prime driving force for Prohibition. Main Street Republicans from Philly.
              (I’m not sure if they count as evangelicals. Dunno).

              The other prime force for Prohibition was ScotchIrish Women sick and tired of not having enough money to feed their children. (Hill Country Prohibition, which is still a thing)

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              • I find it difficult to believe that Mennonites would engage in political activity long enough to support Prohibition, seeing as how the vast majority don’t vote due to the worldliness of it.

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      • Progressivism is different from liberalism which again different from the Democratic party. My point was that the ideology associated with the name liberalism during the time of Lincoln is different from the ideology associated with liberalism now. It is also true that the ideology that was called liberalism then was more associated with the republican party rather than the democrats. It is also true that that ideology is not really associated with either major party at the moment. It is also true that such an ideology opposes everything that Trump stands for.

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    • You make a lot of sense here, and to clear a few things up:

      Infrastructure:
      This was one of the main planks of the Whig Party, as was a national banking system later. Jackson was opposed to use of federal monies for infrastructure improvements, because he thought they only benefited a certain area at the expense of other areas; i.e., he saw no common benefit. The Whigs saw infrastructure as necessary for development, primarily economic. There was a big speech Lincoln gave to support the canal in Chicago (which was a small town at the time) that marked the first time he was viewed as a state-wide Whig leader. John J. Hardin was the natural leader of the Whigs of Illinois until killed in the Mexican-American War, after which Lincoln rose to prominence. During his short time in Congress (for members of the same party to take turns in Congress was normal for the time), Lincoln worked to expand the roads and postal service in the frontier states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, etc. He also patented a device for getting riverboats unstuck at that time.
      Other than that, the WPA of the FDR years comes to mind.

      Slavery:
      This is a difficult issue to explain in a short space. Suffice to say that abolitionists were of several lines of thought, differing on issues such as whether federal monies should be paid to procure freedom of slaves, whether slavery should be abolished in the South or merely limited to that area (i.e., restricted from the territories), conditions and rights of manumission, etc.
      That was actually the issue that founded the Republican Party from the Whigs.
      It’s worthy of noting that the Whigs only had the occasional President, and I believe all of the elected ones died in office, while Tyler was ejected from the party while still in office; but the Presidency has effectively been a Republican institution since the founding of that party, with only the occasional Democrat as President, the FDR years a notable exception.

      Women’s suffrage:
      The first were actually the Western states, Wyoming, then Utah, iirc, who granted the right to vote to women because they needed to meet a threshold number of voters to become a state. Utah actually had to revise its voting laws to disallow women as a condition of statehood.

      Evangelicals:
      There was a period of the early 19th cent. in the U.S. known as “the Great Awakening,” which was a rediscovered interest in Puritanism, basically. Temperance societies formed at this time, and records from that time will note whether a person was a member of a temperance society along with their religion. A lot of the various denominations of Protestantism has their roots in this era.

      If you look at Jackson’s policies and compare them with the Whigs, you will see plenty you would recognize as Left and Right on both sides.
      “Conservatism” didn’t really become an issue until much later, early 20th cent.

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  12. For years, poll after poll has revealed that the American electorate is far more liberal than our “representative” government would have you believe.

    Sure, liberal policies are absolutely popular (free stuff!), it’s the paying for them which isn’t. That mismatch is one of the big problems in politics.

    RE: Understanding that no one has a right to another’s labor must be where the solution starts.
    This comment was left behind underneath a story about the Republican Party’s never-ending travails to repeal the ACA. The commenter suggests that dispensing needed medical care to somebody whose life would end or be worse off without it is “labor” to which nobody is “entitled.” There is no way this comment was written by any of the 600,000-plus Americans who are forced to declare bankruptcy each year because they can’t pay their medical bills.

    Doctors are going to insist on getting paid, and the argument is that medicine should be “free”. He’s pointing out we don’t have the money to pay doctors for what you want to force them to do, and he expects the left to, at some point, insist on doing it without money.

    Further, from the posted link:

    …you’d think that Canada would have a lower rate of bankruptcy than the United States… but… bankruptcy rates are statistically the same on both sides of the 49th parallel….

    Further, even with a socialized healthcare system, some Canadians go bankrupt because of medical expenses. Approximately 15 percent of bankrupt Canadian seniors — those 55 and older — cited medical reasons, including uninsured expenses, as the main culprit for their insolvency.

    (Other parts of that suggest in the US it’s only 10 percent).

    dozens of other countries whose governments have “gotten involved with” healthcare enjoy far lower prices and far better outcomes.

    Other countries are less murderous, less fat, and have cultural factors which greatly affect cost, outcomes, and system usage. There’s no way to import those factors.

    No country which has gone to the system wanted has seen HC spending drop, as in “go down”. The American experience (and Supply/Demand economics) suggest these sorts of systems are expensive, although perhaps better at keeping down prices over the long haul. However the expensive parts of our system are already baked in.

    For example it’s less expensive and more efficient to have a ward system where a dozen patients are in one room and can be overseen by one nurse. We don’t have that, we’re not going to be knocking down hospitals so we can build them that way.

    If the desired utopian system is actually going to be less expensive, then do it without tax increases. Also write the laws so if *(*when*) costs explode there’s a way to deal with it other than breaking the budget.

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    • Sure, liberal policies are absolutely popular (free stuff!), it’s the paying for them which isn’t. That mismatch is one of the big problems in politics.

      Those policies are popular among a very wide majority of people, Dark. So on that issue the body politic is WAY more liberal than our elected CCers. Enough so that using taxes as a wedge to account for partisan divide amongst voters makes no sense whatsoever.

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      • Those policies are popular among a very wide majority of people…

        The intentions of these policies are popular, there’s great marketing, the outcomes are a problem.

        (From your link)
        “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”
        “there are different rules for the well-connected and people with money”
        “the wealthy and big corporations are the ones really running this country.”

        So let’s make a *complex* set of rules enforced with huge federal bureaucracies which result in HRC being able to sell political influence to the tune of $2 Billion.

        Let’s make it so that no one can truly know what’s illegal without a team of legal experts because mom and pop businesses (which historically were responsible for more than half of job creation) will have issues.

        Let’s talk about taxing the wealthy… with an insanely complex tax code which results in high priced tax lawyers to deal with it and just be *shocked* that the wealthy can afford tax lawyers and normal people can’t.

        If these policies had resulted in growth, opportunity, and jobs then people would be supporting them. What we’ve got is excuses, HRC, and claims that growth is impossible and the jobs are gone.

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  13. Having poked around in the Breitbart comment section a bit, what strikes me is that ugliness often seems to be the goal, not a byproduct. If you respond to someone who is arguing that gays should be arrested in their bedrooms by pointing out that that isn’t exactly consistent with small-government conservatism, you’re called a libtard fag or some such thing. And this is true whether the respondent is a likely liberal poking at the bear or a fellow conservative pushing back against the ugliness.

    The ugliness is the goal, not a byproduct.

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    • Interesting that you should observe this.

      I just had a conversation this morning about politics with a colleague, and we concluded that the George W. Bush phrase “compassionate conservatism” appeared to be treated by the Breitbart crowd with the same level of dignity and respect that they gave to “liberalism,” as they seemed to equate the two.

      We wound up going back two Presidents further to George H.W. Bush, and determined that where Bush the Elder spoke of creating a “kinder and gentler America,” Republicans in the Trump era, and by act if not deed, Trump himself, seem to be aimed at the target of creating a “meaner and crueler America.”

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