Monday, February 27, 2017

Who Knows?

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. There are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.  — Donald Rumsfeld..

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Oh, for the good old days of relative clarity in Washington. The new regime has taken the follies of Bush II to new depths.

It was the Bush mastermind Karl Rove who first demonstrated how effective a political tool psychological projection could be.  That’s when you deny your own most negative qualities and attribute them to others, particularly others you deem to be enemies.

The titular president loves the tactic. Always has. He found it useful in his tabloid-press wars with social, business and reality TV rivals. Alt-Pres. Bannon, too,  is fond of such projections.  His acolyte, the sleazy James O’Keefe, recently offered a $10,000 reward to anyone "who can provide evidence of corruption, malfeasance or wrongdoing” — in the media! Bannon himself, of course, specializes in alternative facts.

Fending off this administration’s tsunami of lies is like holding back the tide at Fundy: can’t be done.  The lies serve the regime’s purposes for at least two reasons.

One is that they involve things the base voters want to hear — terrorists streaming across our borders and through our airports; unnecessary environmental regulations preventing our altruistic corporations from creating millions of jobs; Obama, the Kenyan, secretly plotting our downfall with his Muslim friends and relatives; and, of course, the lying media. Absolute proof that “they” are out to get “us.”

They other reason is that exposing the lies responsibly requires an alert and ethical set of news  organizations.  If they’re busy digging up the facts to refute a dozen irresponsible tweets and Spicerisms every day, they’re using resources of time, people and money that could otherwise be employed digging up the awful truths about this regime.  The titular president’s tax history; his abuse of litigation to crush adversaries; the foreign business and personal connections that compromise his responsibilities as president; the real effect of his hostile policies on issues of vital national interest such as the environment, the social safety net, the infrastructure, women’s rights, minority rights, in fact, the rights of anyone who is not part of the ruling oligarchy.

While the responsible media are busy refuting the regime’s lies, an emboldened right-wing propaganda machine pretending to report news is busy “verifying” the White House falsehoods.  Sometimes, they get serious egg on their faces, which is entertaining, if not particularly significant.  Take the recent Sweden flap.  It began with the titular president telling a crowd of his supporters that something bad— he didn’t say what, but implied it was terroristic — had happened in Sweden.  This was news to Sweden, and led to a lot of wicked humor on late-night TV.  

Faux News’s bloviator in chief, Bill O’Reilly, stepped into that affray with both feet.  He produced one “Nils Bildt,” a “Swedish defense and national security advisor,” who provided all sorts of lurid details in support of the original fabrication.  There were a few problems with this.  1.  The guy’s name isn’t Bildt.  2. He doesn’t live in Sweden.  3. He is no more a defense and national security expert than La La Land is the Oscar winner for best picture. 

None of this, of course, makes a bit of difference to the Worshipful Masses.  It’s just another known unknown.  Or something.


  1. The latest blatant example of psychological projection: the NRA -- the NRA!!! -- accuses the New York Times of not telling the truth. In a TV ad in response to a Times TV ad during the Oscars telecast that said the truth has never been more important than it is now. See how well the Trumpsters play the game?

  2. When I was a newspaperman, we had another term for this: "pot-calling." As in, "The pot calling the kettle black."