WHEN TRAPPED IN A CORNER OF YOUR OWN MAKING, BLAME THE MEDIA

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This morning (Thursday, 1/5/17), Donald Trump tweeted: “The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people.… to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

With apologies to readers who can’t stand the sight of Trump, here are screenshots of his actual tweets:

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Trump’s tweets are so full of fallacies that I don’t know where to begin, so I guess I’ll just dive in with several sets of questions.

First, whom is Trump calling dishonest? Why doesn’t he name anyone specifically? Is he, in fact, claiming that every reporter and all news media are dishonest, or is he leaving it to his Twitter followers to blame the ones that he’s attacked in the past? Is the ultimate purpose behind his blanket statements to sow distrust in news media as a whole?

Second, do the dishonest media—whoever they may be—actually say that Trump is “in Agreement with Julian Assange,” or do they do what Trump says he does, that is, “simply state what he [Trump] states” and leave it to “the people to make up their own minds as to the truth”? If he has examples of media quoting him falsely, why doesn’t he cite them? Granted, Twitter allows only 140 characters per tweet, but Trump could add a screenshot of the false claim to his tweet or put links in his tweet to the stories that contain the false quotes—if there are any—or he could cite multiple examples in a series of tweets.

Third, does the following tweet look like the work of a “big fan” of U.S. intelligence agencies to you? Please note that the quotation marks Trump puts around the words “Intelligence” and “Russian hacking” indicate that he’s mocking the U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election.

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Fourth, if Trump is such a “big fan” of “Intelligence,” why didn’t he publicize the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the election? And if he’s not in agreement with Assange, why did he go out of his way to tweet to his millions of followers that Assange said the “Russians did not give him the info”? (See screenshot of tweet below.) Don’t Trump’s actions indicate that he gives more credence to Assange than to U.S. intelligence agencies?

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So, what is Trump up to here? I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that he suffered a narcissistic injury when he—along with rest of the world—learned that all of the official U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia intervened in the U.S. election in order to harm the electoral prospects of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Worse still, the C.I.A. concluded that Russia actively interceded in Trump’s behalf. How humiliating! Well, Trump, who has deluded himself into believing he won a “historic electoral landslide” couldn’t let that stand. So, in a narcissistic rage, he lashed out at the intelligence agencies by publicly doubting their conclusions and having his transition team release a statement that, in effect, called the agencies incompetent.

But now (oops!), the intelligence agencies’ report is about to be released, and Trump has painted himself into a corner. What does he do? He blames the “dishonest media,” of course! He tweets: “The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!” Trump’s a big fan? Yeah, right!

Let’s not let him get away with it.

 

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A Language-Spinner Sees the Light?

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In today’s New York Times, Frank Luntz counsels the winner of tonight’s presidential election to appeal to the common ground that unites us and bring the American people back together.

If you haven’t read his article and would like to, here’s a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/opinion/how-to-begin-the-healing.html?emc=edit_th_20161108&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=26749800

I’m glad to see that Frank Luntz is counseling the winner of the election to seek common ground, but I can’t forget that for years he has advised Republicans to use poll-tested phrases to spin arguments to their advantage. Care for an example? He told Republicans never to say “estate tax,” but to say “death tax” instead. Why? Because “estate tax” sounds like something only the rich pay, and “death tax” sounds like something everyone pays — even though the tax only applies to individuals inheriting over $5.45 million. Luntz’s Machiavellian twists of language have been influential in driving Americans into hostile camps. I hope he now turns his talents and attention to coming up with phrases that will help bring Americans back together.

Pity Poor Exxon . . . . . . . . . . . Not!

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Last week, a number of environmental and civil rights groups launched petition drives aimed at encouraging Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Exxon Mobil. The groups accuse the company of disregarding the results of its own scientists’ research and launching a systematic disinformation campaign to sow doubt about the existence of global warming.

This morning, in “The War Against Exxon Mobil,” Washington Post economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson defended the oil company against being cast “as the scapegoat for global warming’s dilemmas.” According to Samuelson, environmentalists are engaged in a campaign to deprive the company of its first-amendment rights. “If you care about free speech,” he argues, “you should pay attention to the campaign now being waged against Exxon Mobil.”

. . . The advocates of a probe into Exxon Mobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions. These opinions may be smart or stupid, constructive or destructive, sensible or self-interested. Whatever, they deserve protection. An investigation would, at least, constitute a form of harassment that would warn other companies to be circumspect in airing their views.[1]

In fact, the probe’s advocates are not proposing — essentially or otherwise — that “the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” No doubt, the probe’s advocates would be delighted to hear the company’s actual opinions, because, as evidence uncovered by investigative reporters shows, if Exxon Mobil had expressed its actual opinions, it might have said something like: In our opinion, company profits are more important than scientific evidence; hence, regardless of the scientific evidence, in our opinion, the science isn’t settled; therefore, in our opinion, we should fund groups that will chant, like a mantra, “climate change is a hoax.”

No, the probe’s advocates aren’t attempting to infringe on the first-amendment rights of Exxon Mobil or any other entity. They simply want the oil company to be held accountable for reaping billions in profits while spending millions on a disinformation campaign that successfully delayed action on climate change for decades.

In the meantime, more and more carbon has been pumped into the atmosphere, making the associated problems harder and more expensive to confront. And would you like to take a guess who’s been slated to pick up the bill for the consequences of climate change? You, that’s who! Yes, tax payers — especially future tax payers — will be picking up the bill long after the Exxon-Mobil executives who established the disinformation policy are dead and gone and unavailable to be held accountable.

So three cheers for the groups that are encouraging the U.S. Attorney General to launch a federal investigation. They aren’t posing a danger to free speech, they’re merely attempting to recapture for the rest of us some of Exxon Mobil’s ill-gotten gains.

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[1] Samuelson, Robert, J. “The War Against Exxon Mobil.” Washington Post. November 9, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-war-against-exxon-mobil/2015/11/08/094ff978-84a6-11e5-8ba6-cec48b74b2a7_story.html?postshare=1791447078862248