Today when we were playing tennis the ball flew out of the court and rolled between the wall and the fence. No-one could get it out. Notice: I said “No-one” — but when I worked together with someone on the other team, he lifted up the fence an inch and I pushed it out with my racquet.
Prior to Trump, I thought that’s what politics was like in America. Different teams working within a common framework. My opponents are not my “enemy” — and if the rules of the game are put aside and truth does not matter and whoever has the most power gets to demand victory no matter what the score is…? What’s the point of playing?
Self-quarantining in a fashion, I suppose.
Despite their fights, their fondness grows.
Don’t you wish that I could teach what each of us already knows?
How to hold a grudge forever and forever and forever and a day.
One of the sadder misconceptions about a fascist dictatorship is that life will at least be clear and predictable. There will be clear rules, laid out in black and white, and if you keep your nose clean and do as you’re told, you’ll be safe and your family will be safe. Only trouble-makers will get in trouble. In this view, Democracy seems like a cool idea, but in reality, there is endless discord and disagreement. Some begin to think that we’ll all be so much better off if we just have one source of information that we all agree on, regardless of how bogus that source is.
What will actually happen under a dictatorship is the opposite of this promise.
There will be more chaos, not less.
Think about it. In our current society, truth ultimately rules over power. Yes, of course, there are people who are afraid to speak truth to power. And most of us have had that boss who is simply inept or opinionated and doesn’t care much about reality. But they are the exception. Most people in a corporation can be brought round if you have truth on your side. For some decision makers, convincing them of what is best for the organization as a whole is enough. But sometimes, you also have to find a way to explain that it’s also in their personal interest to do what’s best for the company. But most bosses and managers don’t act like complete jerks. And part of the reason is that they know they will be held accountable in some way if they behave too far outside the norm.
In a culture where power trumps truth, however, the only thing that matters is power, not truth. Some people will nonetheless have a tendency to be regular in their behavior. So, you can count on that, at least. Except, of course, that you cannot count on that. Because at any time, and for any unforeseen reason, that person who follows some principles or values or code or flow-chart or best practices — they can be over-ridden by someone higher up. If they don’t toe the line, they will be fired and someone else will replace them who will do as they’re told.
You might be doing a great job when all at once you’re fired — not for anything at all related to your performance — no, you could be fired for telling the truth. And, you could even be fired for your brother telling the truth.
There is no predictability. There is only chaos. Chaos is what a dictator thrives on. By continual change, dictated from the top in completely unpredictable ways, the dictator gains more and more control. For instance, let’s imagine that the dictator (or even a would-be dictator with inside knowledge) brokers a wonderful trade deal with China in which both parties benefit; a real win/win situation. If this happens in real life, word will leak out and eventually there will be confirmation and the stock market will tend to go up. But it’s a lot of work to make such a deal.
Imagine instead that you decided to grant some monetary favors to some of your largest donors. You tell them that you’re about to make a big announcement of a wonderful trade deal with China. They buy stocks low. You make your announcement. The stock market goes up. They sell stocks high. Everyone discovers there’s no “there” there and the stock market goes back down. Meanwhile, your friends made millions.
For everyone else though, it’s simply chaos. It makes financial planning hard; it makes career planning difficult; it makes all planning difficult. Remember: at any time and for any reason, an “order from headquarters” could render all your previous planning useless. The person you have teamed with for years could be hauled off suddenly for a political crime. Of course, at first you’ll find it hard to believe. After all, you’ve known Frank for years. He never seemed like the type to step out of line. But there is no-one to plead the other side in a dictatorship — not honestly. All trials become sham trials. The outcome is known in advance. If the powerful like you, you go free, no matter how heinous your crime and how strong the evidence. If the powerful don’t like you, you’ll be jailed, or executed, or (most fun of all) tortured until you give the names of five or six of your friends as also being enemies of the state. Truth doesn’t matter any more. The rule of law doesn’t matter any more.
More and more wealth will be funneled to the already very rich. That will make everyone else more desperate and crime will increase. More and more people will be incarcerated essentially being a slave work force. They will literally be working and surviving and nothing more. No more attempts at rehabilitation. Who wants them rehabilitated? They are cheap labor. And, what’s equally important, they serve as a great reminder to everyone not in prison that prison is theirs for the asking. All they have to do is utter the truth or fail to shout “Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!” loudly enough and they too can have a one way ticket to hell.
What happened when Mao became dictator of China? Educated people were sent out into the fields. Many were executed. Society was turned completely on its head. Russian Revolution: Same. Hitler’s Germany — much of it was bombed, millions killed, turned ordinary people into monsters. It’s always the same. The founding fathers had seen it over and over in country after country in age after age. Absolute power cannot be safely bestowed on anyone — not even a person of great character and wisdom.
George Washington faced danger, exhibited leadership and helped our young nation survive.
Yet, he did not want to be king.
Donald Trump ran from danger, exhibited no leadership and will have needlessly killed a quarter million Americans. He’s isolated us from our allies. He’s divided the country against itself. He’s railed against the free press since day one. He’s replaced non-partisan experts throughout government with inept lackeys. He is preparing for a fascist state. He’s a willing accomplice in the destruction of American.
Yet he does want to be King.
And if he does? Life will be less regular and less predictable and less organized. It will be more chaotic as well as more sadistic. Is that really the world you want your kids and grandkids to grow up in?
Dmitry paced the fifteen feet of his fifth floor studio apartment, sat down, immediately got up and began pacing again. “Damn!”he muttered under his breath. “I should have never gotten involved in this to start with.”
Natasha knew better than to follow her instincts and try to comfort him. She knew from their decade together that Dmitry never liked to be comforted when he paced. Instead, she tried to reason with him. “Why are you so sure you’re in trouble? Maybe … “
“Because I know, dammit. How many times has Vlad called someone in for a “special meeting” and that person simply disappeared?”
Natasha nodded. “OK,” she admitted, “but this time may be different. Do you have any idea what it’s about?”
“Oh, hell yes. I know exactly what it’s about! The GRU took up my idea to morph the American political party known as GOP into a death cult. They double checked my computer modeling and eventually most everyone agreed it was worth a try, however absurd it seemed on the face of it. But in six months of work, we have yet to find anyone depraved enough to come on board. We’ve compromised quite a few GOP Senators, but none of them will go along with actually killing tens of thousands of their countrymen.”
Natasha frowned and said gently, “Should you be telling me this?”
“No, but what the hell. I’m going down anyway. We couldn’t find anyone that crooked. No-one.”
Natasha realized that if Dmitry really did get disappeared, she was in mortal danger as well. After all, her job was to ensure his success. And, if he really did fail big time, the axe would fall even harder on his handler. He knew damned well that he shouldn’t be saying anything about this to his ‘girlfriend’. Maybe she would report him. Maybe not. First things first. “Hey, what about a prominent actor or businessman? It doesn’t have to be a politician does it? Didn’t they have a popular President who was only a second rate actor?”
“You don’t think we thought of that? We tried … we got close with a few. They’re okay with stealing money, but actually killing people — so many wimpy Americans. For some weird reason, they draw the line at murder. We need someone who has no grasp of reality. On the edge of insanity. Most business successes — unless they just inherited all their wealth — and even then, they’ll just lose their inherited wealth if they can’t face reality so … and actors? Sure there are a lot on the edge. But not over the edge…well, none that would be popular enough. We’ve tried successful people in religion, business, show business…but no luck. There has to be something. But we haven’t found it. What are we missing?”
Natasha spoke quietly. “What about unsuccessful people, Dmitry?”
“What? What are you talking about? Why would we want someone unsuccessful?”
“OK, Dmitry, just hear me out. Someone who is actually successful has some sense of accomplishment. They are not going to be that easy to puppetize. On the other hand…if you could find someone who is actually a failure as a politician, or a failure as a businessperson or a failure as an actor….”
Dmitry stopped pacing and looked at Natasha. “Wait a moment! You might be onto something, Natasha! We have been baying at the moon all this time when we really should be baying at the streetlight!”
Natasha smiled, “Or, even a porch light. Or a picture of the moon.”
Dmitry frowned. “A porch light? What are you talking about? What picture?”
Natasha tilted her head and clucked her tongue. “He — or she — but probably he — he could be a complete failure. But someone who wants to be seen as successful. Someone who has lied about his success would be perfect.”
Dmitry began pacing again. “I see what you mean, but there’s one problem. Someone that inept would be too inept to carry out the assignment even though — I agree that they might be willing — how can they be inept and competent at the same time?”
Natasha thought for a moment. “Their ineptitude could actually be an asset, Dmitry. They could be saying and doing all sorts of random and idiotic things. But that would distract the American people from the real action. See what I mean? The more inept and stupid he is publicly, the more people will discount the effectiveness of our puppet — to the point where they won’t see our operations and plans at all.”
Dmitry walked over to the window and stared out at the harsh sodium lit streets of Moscow. He wondered why he hadn’t thought of this himself. Someone who was actually an abject failure but who liked to project the image of a success. Someone who was a complete sociopath, obviously, and so hungry for success, they would betray their country, their party, everything. But does such a person even exist, he wondered. He turned back toward Natasha.
“It might just work. If I could go in tomorrow with a few likely names, I might just turn this thing around. Can you start searching? I’m not sure how to find such a person, but it’s worth a try. I’m going to call — it’s late — but not too late. I’ll get a research team on it too. I can’t tell them why. I just need the names of some complete frauds, maybe even someone in legal trouble but not in jail. There has to be someone in a country of 370 million people.” For the first time in many days, Dmitry laughed. “Maybe we can put an ad in FORBES or FORTUNE. Wanted: Complete business failure. Must be vainglorious and divorced from reality. If only we could be that open about it!” He laughed again.
Natasha smiled. She wondered whether Dmitry would ever discover her own assignment. She liked Dmitry. She really did. She enjoyed their love-making sessions. How would he react to discover that their falling in love had been orchestrated by the GRU. All their so-called geniuses had to be overseen. After all, how else could the Kremlin ensure that people such as Dmitry didn’t become jaded, compromised, or even double agents? Maybe she could make him see that. But maybe not. When it came to mathematical modeling, not to mention chess, Dmitry really was a genius. But when it came to people, his career would have been minor indeed without Natasha taking care of the people side of things.
She had grown genuinely fond of him. It was sad to think that if she succeeded in helping Dmitry carry out his audacious plot, she herself would probably have to be the one to poison him. Maybe she could talk her superiors into making it a quick-acting one or even a fall from the balcony? She had to be careful though. Too much push in that direction would bring suspicion on her. Her handlers might think that she had “gone soft” — really fallen in love. She couldn’t let that happen. No, she’d carry out whatever plans they had. There was always an outside chance that the powers that be would not want to “tie up the loose ends.” After all, he did do excellent modeling. And, teamed up with her, they might even be rewarded with a bigger apartment and a higher salary. Natasha doubted it, but — one never knew.
First things first, she thought. She sat down at the keyboard. How the hell to find someone who is both a gigantic failure but also a con man who has always portrayed himself as a success? Rich. That’s where to start. Someone who inherited a lot of money but never actually accomplished much on their own. As for Dmitry…she really hoped the GRU decided to keep him on. It would be a pain to be assigned to someone else. Ah, well, she thought, such is life.
She typed: fraud loser business failure con man
She smiled and thought to herself: This may be easier than I thought.
Democrat still clinging to the Rule of Law: “Are you against the Affordable Care Act? Do you realize destroying it would put the health of millions of Americans at risk and that we are in the middle of a pandemic?”
AB: “I don’t comment on things in the abstract so I can’t say.”
Democrat believing in the Rule of Law: “But you did write opinions that it should be trashed.”
AB: “Oh, that!. Oh, sure. But I was just writing as an academic. Just expressing my opinion as an academic. It has nothing whatever necessarily to do with what I would do in a specific case. I’d have to read the law, listen to the arguments, pray for guidance, confer with my colleagues, understand the facts of the case and then rule however the President told me to.”
Democrat: “And you do realize that the President read your opinion…well, no, didn’t read it I’m sure, but he was no doubt assured by the Federalist society that you could be counted on to do whatever he says. Right?”
AB: “Oh, I’d be so flattered if he read it, but I didn’t know that. I’m sure it’s just my sheer brilliance that made him pick me.”
Democrat: “You realize that he has said publicly that he would pick a judge who would tear down the Affordable Care Act, right? So, he at least thinks he knows how you would vote. Correct?”
AB: “Oh, my. I have no idea what such a stable genius as the President might think. Who knows? But I can assure you and everyone listening that I would look to the law and the facts and make a fair and informed decision. You know, justices have to swear to be impartial.”
Democrat: “Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of ‘Oath of Office.’ After all, Trump swore an ‘Oath of Office’ to defend our country. But what he’s actually done is sell it out to Putin and the Russian oligarchs to whom he owes half a billion dollars. And, the GOP Senators swore a solemn oath to run a fair trial after Trump’s impeachment. And, all the while Mitch McConman laughed, smiled, and said he could guarantee that Trump would walk free and that he would “coordinate” the trial with Trump’s legal team. And, the GOP Senators refused to call witnesses or subpoena documents, so, again, I’m pretty clear how much an oath is worth when it’s made by the Gang Of Putin. But let’s examine another issue. Trump has also said he wants to be lifetime dictator. If he claims he wants to be dictator and the case comes to the Supreme Court and you are confirmed, can you assure the American people that you will not take his side? Is it ever okay for the President to become a dictator?”
AB: “Well, as I have said so many times in the last few days, I’m a strict constitutionalist. I don’t believe it’s up to us to re-interpret the Constitution but to hang instead on its every word. That said, I can’t comment on hypotheticals. So, who knows? But I can assure you that I would read the applicable law and the facts of the case and make a decision based on the constitution.”
Dem: “So you cannot — right here — today, assure the American people that you will not approve Trump’s bid to become dictator?”
AB: “It would depend on the specifics. I can tell you this though. The word ‘dictator’ does not appear in the Constitution. So, apparently, the Founding Fathers must have thought it would be just fine. Otherwise they would have put a clause in specifically forbidding it. And they didn’t. So…but I am in no way promising that I would approve his dictatorship. It would depend on the arguments and so on and so forth ad nauseam.”
Dem: “Putin’s Puppet seems to think that it is vital to get you on the court right now so that you can rule on his bogus claims of voter fraud. He has publicly said that’s why he needs you on the court.”
AB: “I’m flattered, of course, that he needs me. I had no idea he said that. How sweet. But I would have to look at the arguments on both sides, and the applicable law, and the facts of the case. Then, I would make a determination.”
Dem: “You realize that study after study has found that voter fraud is a nearly non-existent problem?”
AB: “Since the President has already said he’s going to put this case before the Supreme Court, I can’t really comment on a case which I may have to rule on.”
Dem: “Since the President has said that he is putting you on the court now because he will need you to make sure he wins regardless of the vote totals, don’t you feel you should recuse yourself from such a case if it does come to the Court? Otherwise, even if you were trying to be fair, don’t you think a reasonable person would infer that there is a conflict of interest?”
AB: “Well, my mentor Judge Scalia did not recuse himself from a case where Dick Cheney and he had an extended hunting trip together right before the case. Cheney had a material interest and I want to be more right wing than Attila the Hun. But I can’t actually say. You know? I’d have to see exactly what the case was and then decide not to recuse myself. I mean, why would I? I’m always fair in my own mind, so why recuse?”
Dem: “Do you think black people should be allowed to vote in this country? Are you aware that we are in the middle of an election right now and that the Republicans are suppressing the vote in a whole host of ways? In rich white neighborhoods, people might wait five minutes, but in many areas where there are a preponderance of people of color, there are lines that are up to eleven hours long. Is this equal protection under the law?”
AB: “Well, you know, I don’t want to give opinions on things unless I actually know the facts of the case. You say there are long lines and that the black vote is being suppressed but who knows? What does reporting prove? What does eyewitness prove? Unless it is brought to court and we have a chance to review the law, check with the President and see what he wants to do, who knows?”
Dem: “Did you say you would have to check with the President?”
AB: “Absolutely. Oh, wait. Did you think I said President? I said precedent. Maybe if you’d take the damned mask off, I could understand you better. The pandemic’s over anyway. Our fearless leader already said that. But whatever. I don’t see what my religion has to do with it.”
Trumputinist Senator: “Exactly. The Constitution guarantees religious freedom and yet the Democrats here today have repeatedly said you shouldn’t serve because of your religion! It’s preposterous!”
AB: “I know! I have a right to believe the earth is the center of the universe and that it’s 6000 years old and that women should be utter slaves to their husbands and that birth control, abortion, and in vitro fertilization are all tools of the devil if I want! And, yet the Dems keep saying I can’t serve because of my religion! I don’t see why a Catholic can’t be on the Supreme Court. It’s not like I’m Muslim or something weird like that.”
Dem: “What Senator has said that you could not serve because of your religion?”
AB: “I forget. Lots of them. All of them. None of them. But they intimated it.”
Dem: “Which Senator intimated that you are unworthy to serve because of your religious beliefs?”
AB: “Somebody. I don’t know. Maybe they were wearing a mask. Which is silly. Because the pandemic’s over. It’s over. Our Fearless Leader said so! You were asking me about voting rights. That’s one example. The Bible says only white people should vote — people like Jesus.”
Dem: “You think Jesus was white?”
AB: “Well, sure. That’s what the picture looks like in my church. Blond hair like me and blue eyes like me. See, there you are again, questioning my religion.”
Dem: “No, I’m not. I’m questioning your history. Jesus was almost certainly dark-skinned and dark haired and brown eyed.”
AB: “Where does it say that in the Constitution?”
Dem: “Constitution? What are you talking about?”
AB: “You know, the law of the land, the … oh, I mean … I mean, the Bible. Where does it say in the Bible that Jesus wasn’t Aryan? And, anyway, did you know I adopted colored children?”
Dem: “That’s very nice. I firmly believe that you, like other Americans, can believe as you wish. But it concerns me that you may sometimes confuse what the Constitution says with what the Bible says. Does that ever happen?”
AB: “Absolutely not! But if it did, let’s not forget that the country was founded by Evangelical Christians!”
Dem: “Partly, perhaps. Thomas Pain was an atheist. Thomas Jefferson was a deist. As was Benjamin Franklin. As was Alexander Hamilton in his later years. Anyway, would you support the idea that America should be a religious theocracy?”
AB: “I wouldn’t care to speculate about hypocrites or hypocrisy. They have a long and stories history in American politics. It would depend on the specifics of the case.”
Dem: “Hypocrisy? Do you mean hypotheticals?”
AB: “Yes, that’s what I said — hypotheticals. I don’t do hypotheticals.”
Dem: “So, if the President intentionally killed a quarter million Americans, and a class action lawsuit were brought by the families of those intentionally killed, you could not say whether that was okay or not?”
AB: “Of course not. That’s a perfect example. The President is so gentle, I’m sure he wouldn’t hurt a fly intentionally. Well, not unless it were stealing the show from Pence. But you know. I would need to know specifically which quarter million Americans were killed and many of them were probably nobodies or old, sick people anyway. And many of them just didn’t take care of themselves. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes…aren’t these really just the products of bad decisions?”
Dem: “Sometimes. Often people are born with pre-existing conditions. And sometimes, people get those diseases from bad luck although certainly lack of financial resources can play a part as well.”
AB: “Well there you go! If you’re not born rich, whose fault is that? But as I say, it would depend. I can’t say anything. I was told not to say anything and I’m pretty sure I succeeded.”
Dem: “So, just to recap, if the President breaks the law and then argues that he should have absolute power and be able to break any law he wants, you would say — what?”
AB: “I can’t say. I really can’t say. I’m under orders not to say anything about anything. And — we’re done! We’re done! I’m in! I’m in! No-one has a conscience and no-one will vote against me! I avoided saying all those bad things you were trying to get me to say and I win! I win!”
Two different stories originating in antiquity on the Isle of Right provided two theories about how the island had come to be.
According to one story, a giant rock fell from the sky. The rock was so big that a third of it still stuck out of the water. And that third is now the Isle of Right.
According to a different story, the earth growled beneath the ocean. Hot molten rock burst forth in great quantities. Eventually the sea and the air cooled the molten rock. And that once-molten rock is now the Isle of Right.
Sometimes, after a day of hard work, some of the people who believed that a giant rock in the sky birthed their island sat together around a fire and debated with some of the people who believed the island sprung from beneath the sea. Some of the people really enjoyed debating. But many more people enjoyed watching and listening.
And, it happened on rare occasions, that someone spoke up and said, “It actually makes little difference how the island got here. But here it is now. Here. And, in this moment, there are things that need to be done. And we could think together about how best to do those things so that they would be effective and enjoyable and cause as little harm as possible. And we all want those things. And we all know how to think and how to do things. So let’s work together on that.”
Such a one as this was met with blank stares, however. And the people went back to their debates.
Small harm done. Things were not quite as effective and fun and safe as they might have been, but on the whole, people spent the vast majority of their time working together to get things done regardless of how they thought their island was formed. Because, although the people enjoyed the debate, as a practical matter, they understood that they all needed fish and that the fish came from the sea and they traded ideas about how best to catch the fish and thus improved their fishing. So, by and large, the debates were little more than entertainment.
Those who did not themselves debate but enjoyed watching began to cheer for their favorite debaters. And since people liked a contest between bests, eventually one storyteller from each side would argue their side of the case. And, all the people listened.
The storytellers, to make the stories more interesting, began to embellish their creation myths with many further tales. For example, when the rock sank into the mud two third with only one third remaining above, that was, according to the storyteller, a sign that we too are sunk two thirds in the mud, and we must follow the “Way of the Rock” if we are to live a good life. And, by the way, the Rock makes the Sea look beautiful! (BTW, “The Way of the Rock” was something he or she totally made up at the moment).
“Oh, yeah!” Said his worthy opponent. “Well, if you follow “The Way of the Sea” you will not only live a good life here on this island, but after you die, you’ll go to a whole other island and another and another and another forever! For -EV-er! So follow the Way of the Sea! For it is the Sea that makes the Rock beautiful!”
The opponent however, was not so easily crushed, though they had to admit the unprovable claim of infinite reward was pretty cool. “Hogwash. Offering someone a reward, even if a bogus reward, doesn’t mean that if they take that reward and agree to believe as you say — that’s no argument for the validity of your position. That’s only an argument about the moral character of your followers. Not to say that that is why all your followers believe as you do. But the ones who take the bribe certainly don’t add any weight at all to the truth of your argument.”
Over time, as the storytellers became more and more skilled at rousing the passions of their audiences, they began to intimate that people who held the other point of view were not all that good at fishing, or farming, or raising children, or making love, or fixing meals. And because of this animosity, the people who believed their island came from Rock began to call themselves “The People of the Rock.” And they tended to avoid “The People of the Sea” whenever they could and for their part, “The People of the Sea” were equally loath to work or play with “The People of the Rock.”
I don’t need to belabor you with the details. You can guess the ending, right? All “The People of the Rock” and “The People of the Sea” are no longer arguing. They’re all dead.
And, they never did find out whether their island was formed by a rock from the sky or an undersea volcano. Ironically, if they had kept working together and focusing on what they could do, their science would have reached a point where they could actually and factually answer the question. It turns out, it was formed by a volcano…. But that’s kind of not the point.
There’s no-one left on the Isle of Right to care.
The coyotes certainly don’t care —just as long as there’s fresh meat aplenty.
Here’s an interesting thing about the way we learn. And, when I say “we” I don’t just mean all my 7.5 billion human brothers and sisters out there but also other, more distant cousins. What creatures tend to do is put particular emphasis on their first experiences. In my culture, we memorialize this truth with comments such as: “Now, make sure you look nice on your first day. It’s important to make a good first impression.” Given the prevalence of this kind of advice, I think most people seem aware of this effect when they go on job interviews, first dates, etc.
There seems to be an interesting asymmetry about our folk wisdom though. While most of us seem quite aware of how we can influence others by first impressions, we seem fairly oblivious to the impacts that others are making on us.
“I can’t understand it. They seemed so nice on our first date. And, then, every one of our six dates since, they treat me like trash. I might have to break up.”
Imagine instead someone saying this: “I can’t understand it. They treated me like trash on the first date. And on the second. And on the third. And every one of our first six dates. And, now, on the seventh, they seemed so nice!”
Many studies confirm the primacy effect under a wide variety of circumstances. In this case, the folk wisdom about the importance of first impressions is confirmed by science.
This has an interesting ramification for propaganda effects.
Let’s suppose that you live in a country where there are two competing parties. Each of them typically likes to put a certain “spin” on events. For instance, let’s say that there’s a big plane crash in the Colorado desert or a hurricane in Florida. These events are reported on the media. Now, the two parties might frame or reinterpret these events in different ways. One party might try to say that the crash was likely due to drug use on the part of the pilot and that drug use among pilots is because pot is legal in Colorado. And, they might claim that even though there is no real evidence. In fact, subsequent events actually confirm that the pilot was not on drugs, nor has there been any uptick in drug usage among pilots (they would lose their jobs) and these particular pilots lived in NY and just came from NY. They did not suddenly score a joint 30,000 feet in the air. But because people in the audience heard that story about pot usage being responsible first, some of them may recall it even years later — and are much less likely to recall the actual facts that came out later.
Conversely, let’s imagine another party puts out a statement that blames the crash on lax standards for air safety. It blames these lax standards on the other party. It further points out that the airlines who pushed for the lax standards were heavy campaign donors to the party who fought for the lax standards. If you hear this version of the story first, you will have a different first impression. It will be just as “uncomfortable” for you to now consider evidence that perhaps the pilots were high than it will be for the people in the scenario above to consider that lax safety standard were involved.
Similarly, one party might relate the hurricane and mention that global climate change makes for more and more severe hurricanes. Another party might use the opportunity to request funding to put up a hurricane fence around the Gulf of Mexico to keep hurricanes out. One of these explanations would be supported by the vast majority of scientists. Of course, no-one is saying that a particular hurricane could not possibly have happened without global climate change. But warming waters mean more energy goes into hurricanes in general. On the other hand, no real scientist would imagine a hurricane fence would do much to keep a hurricane out!
But if you hear about the hurricane fence story first, and then find that scientists think such a strategy is absurd, instead of rejecting the idea for the bunkum it is, you might check the Internet for someone to support the idea. And — given the nature of the Internet, you will definitely find someone to support the idea — a Russian troll, a nutcase, or an operative for the other party. Rather than using the Internet as a way of determining whether a particular idea is or is not reasonable given the balance of evidence, it will be tempting instead to use the Internet to find a way to reinforce your first impression rather than challenge it. Who gets the story out first has a big advantage.
You can see why parties compete to get their own version of stories out first.
The above scenarios were examples of reactions to external facts that “happened.”
But what if your party is not only reacting to disasters — what if they are intentionally creating disasters? This gives them a crucial and perhaps crushing advantage. Because they are creating the crisis, they can have a narrative for every story worked out ahead of time. They can release it contemporaneously or even slightly before an event occurs. In this way, they will be able to frame the narrative first every single time. And, equally importantly, people who eventually hear both sides of the story will underestimate how much they are swayed by the primacy effect.
Does it seem odd to anyone else that — no wait. Hold on. I was about to say: “Does it seem odd to anyone else that the Trump death cult is only united by their devotion to Trump and the only common value in their “platform” is that they value hate and dividing people, not uniting people — and yet, they are completely unified. They are unified about division.”
But then, I realized, in a twisted sort of way, this is actually logical. *Because* they are united in hatred and dismissing anyone different, they are terrified to stray from the pack. But what if they do it by accident? What if they see something that looks interesting or useful and head toward it? NO NO NO! They might be culled from the herd! (A fate that could literally be worse than death if they & Trump continue to destroy the rule of law). No-one in America will be safe. Neither red hats nor assault weapons will keep you safe from Trump’s predations which will include the same horrors that other cruel dictators have employed because they think it helps keep them in power and because they simply enjoy making others feel pain.
How can such a tight pack keep from disintegrating? By listening to Trump. To them, he is the ultimate authority on every single topic. In precisely this way, the entire flock knows exactly what to say (at least today; yes, it could change tomorrow, but they’ll be watching for his tweets again tomorrow or listening to Fox News to tell them what is real). They listen to the Oraclown and his reflection.
For some reason, the real-world evil and treachery of Putin’s puppet always makes me think of these *purely fictional* stories about a child sociopath.
(Not suitable for children or people without a well-developed sense of values. To reiterate, these are pure fiction meant to illustrate how a sociopath “thinks.” For details about Donnie’s actual life, try his niece’s book: