Looking on the Bright Side

A friend, depressed by the depressing political news that is fed to us steadily, asked me to only send her news items that contained a ray of hope. I mustered a little hope, which I will describe below.

It may seem only a small glimmer of a bright side, though all hope can be seen that way. This bright side could be the cusp of a political tipping point in our violent clash of cultures. It is nice to imagine that our Department of Justice will now pursue justice, cast a careful eye over the evidence of the Mueller and subsequent Senate investigations. A legal examination of a series of very openly transactional quid pro quos is certainly in order.

It is worth pointing out again, humans are not often ruled by reason or logic. If we were, it would be hard for nationalist racism and fascist logic to prevail in so many countries worldwide. There would be no debate, in a reasonable world, about the right of everyone to live free of terror and violence. In most places that’s a proposition you will need to fight about.

Of course, we have never lived in a calm or reasonable world, and those of us who hope for rational public debate that ends with more fairness for everyone will be waiting a long time. Here in the US we’re at the mercy of a no-compromise/filibuster political party that is anti-debate and has the means to stop any important political discussion before it happens. That we may not succeed in convincing adversaries this fierce of anything they don’t already believe doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to act.

We need to keep in mind that it is impossible to convince anyone of anything just by clearly presenting the facts. The facts never add up to much, if you already hold a strong opinion about the matter.

At a time when a lie carries as much weight as an indisputable truth, and Big Lies have often changed the course of history, we must be creative in how we present our accursed “facts.” We have to take care to avoid sounding smugly superior (as the rest of this sentence no doubt fails to do) to those who fervently worship at the altar of powerful emotion, low-information voters of unshakably held opinions, based strictly on faith, which they believe to be infinitely superior to fallible human “rationality”.

The biggest obstacle to convincing anyone of things that are otherwise true and urgent (like the need to take energetic action to avoid total climate catastrophe) is the ease of spreading even the most easily disprovable lies in siloed, algorithm-driven echo chambers on “social media”. One of our two major parties is now, officially, the Party of the Big Lie (Trump, the loser, actually won — in a landslide), at a time when spreading a lie to millions who will never see the lie contradicted has never been easier.

The most important measure to reverse this pernicious, increasingly deterministic trend, is holding liars accountable for spreading lies. There is currently no price to be paid for spreading even the most obvious lies. In fact, in Trump’s GOP, aggressively promoting a featured lie is a certain path to promotion. See how quickly anyone who calls out the lie is attacked and unanimously canceled by quick voice vote.

There is a simple test for weighing the value of absolute “free speech,” including demonstrable lies, against speech that should be actionable in court — the harm that the false speech causes. It is the same test applied to all other free speech [2].

Under our current law you can’t shout “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire, because a panicked stampede is predictable if you do. Free speech does not protect an American’s right to use words to inflame hatred in a way that predictably leads to violence. Violence-provoking lies should be treated the same way in the on-line world.

How about this for a single, absolute ground rule:

promoting, supporting or endorsing an incendiary lie over “social media,”

AND

refusing to publicly retract the lie when confronted with evidence that it is a lie, and called on it by the platform’s monitors, means that you forfeit your right to use the platform.

Period.  Sounds fucking simple enough, no?

Of course there will be violent contention about what is “incendiary” as well as the definitions of “promoting” “endorsing” and any other words chosen.

It is often easier to see the incendiary nature of a lie after the fact, looking at events in light of the lie. That’s why Twitter banned Trump for life after his long, lie-filled speech on January 6th sent thousands down to the Capitol to violently interrupt the counting and final certification of Electoral College votes against Trump. When Trump eventually went on Twitter to disperse his mob, he told them they were right to be angry, that they’d been cheated, the election stolen from them all, that they were special, that he loved them, to never forget this day, but that it was time for them to go home in peace.

Twitter immediately did what it probably should have done years earlier — took away the platform Trump used on January 6th to remind rioters in the Capitol that Mike Pence had betrayed them. If they’d found Pence, and strung him up, would our discussion today be much different? Hard to know, though I think probably not, at least among Trump die-hards, now the dominant strain of the GOP.

The full damage of a lie is not when it is first told. The real harm sets in each time the lie is replicated, insisted on, every time someone else is converted to belief in something that is destructively false.

The predictable growth cycle of a lie is its most dangerous aspect.

Justifying the January 6 riot at the Capitol requires endless new lies — BLM did it, antifa faked it by posing as a MAGA mob, there was no riot, only Trump supporters died (so where’s the harm? That one trampled to death? shit happens) the cops were lying, only a few of the 140 “injured” were seriously hurt, the “lost eye” story is bullshit, the cop who was “killed” died of a natural heart attack, the videos of the rampage were fake, the protesters were law-abiding, nonviolent tourists, for the sake of our country we need to just move on, there’s no need for a Commission, radical Democrats are just trying to get revenge out of blind hatred of Trump, like they always do, and so on.


While we live in this Age of Trump, the age of wildly insane lies taken, literally, as gospel, the only good political news I see at the moment is the heavy shit storm gathering over the head of the defeated former president who insists he actually won in a landslide. The evidence of Trump’s lifelong pattern and practice of cheating and obstructing justice is rapidly mounting. His day of reckoning in several different courts of law approaches.

I don’t see how he beats the rap in the upcoming Georgia criminal case, where he violated the election meddling statute with great thoroughness and specificity– and is recorded doing so. His best hope may be a stand-off between Ron DeSantis’s Florida troops and federal forces in an interstate extradition battle.

A criminal conviction and more major losses in civil court (where cases are decided, 99% of the time, based on the evidence), plus the conclusions of the January 6 Commission,  should loosen Trump’s death-grip on all but the diehard 39% of his cult of personality. Full public disclosure of the extent of Trump’s corruption and contempt for the law will give his many mostly silent, terrified enemies on the right a shot of courage.

Revelations from the likely Rudy Giuliani prosecution should have a similar effect, even in our arational nation. I think bad news in court for Trump could sway many “swing voters” away from his party.   When he had an attorney general who would constantly fix things for him, Trump didn’t need to worry about the law coming down on him. Now he has great reason to worry about the law finally catching up with him, after a long life of getting away with whatever he wanted because he’s super smart, and a big star, and, when you’re like that, you know, they let you do it.

The pieces seem to be nicely lined up for an obstruction of justice case: 

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn will finally testify under oath that Trump asked him to create false records of their conversation about firing Mueller. Having Trump’s first White House lawyer testify that Trump told him to create a false record is a firm building block for an obstruction of justice prosecution.

Trump’s most competent and accomplished enabler, Bagpiper Bill Barr, the AG who advised Trump to have his people defy all subpoenas and muzzle critics, is in the federal court record as a man judges found “lacks candor”. Three federal judges, in three different cases, concluded that Barr’s rationalizations were not credible and his legal reasoning was in the service of partisan politics. Barr was most recently found “disingenuous” when he tried to illegally conceal other records, falsely classified as “deliberative memos” drafted the day he misleadingly told America and the world that Mueller’s report had found basically nothing on Trump.

Barr’s demonstrated lack of candor, and his relentless. public re-election campaign-related criminal investigation into the the origins of the Mueller “witch hunt” require a DOJ re-examination, based on the actual documents. The same goes for Barr’s rationale for falsely announcing that the Mueller Report basically exonerated Trump for both criminal conspiracy with a foreign power and obstruction of justice. Barr’s conduct was an integral, and crucial, part of that obstruction of justice.

Barr’s repeated untruthfulness, including his lies about the secret Mueller “memo” he classified as supposedly used in his deliberations to declare Trump “exonerated” as he’d promised to do before Trump hired him, will come into play in the obstruction of justice case against Trump.

Add to that all the evidence that has come out since Mueller concluded he had insufficient evidence to find “criminal conspiracy” between Trump’s campaign and the Russians. We have more details about Trump’s corrupt quid pro quo pardons to Manafort and Stone, both of whom lied to Mueller for Trump’s sake, to cover up their closely coordinated work with the Russians. The secret internal polling data that Manafort gave Putin (via Kilimnik) steered Russian influence efforts toward American voters in close districts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the three states that gave Trump his Electoral College victory [2].

There are a hundred other related details including Trump’s partially successful attempt to disrupt a joint session of Congress (mission accomplished) to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after he lost the election he still claims he won in a landslide (70% of Republicans polled believe Trump won in a landslide).  How about his enlistment of Republican allies like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Kevin McCarthy, each of whom made pilgrimages to meet with him in Florida in a show of loyalty, to promote his Big Lie and continue to obstruct formation of a January 6 Commission?

Truly sickening that it is taking so long, but such is life in a democracy hovering on the brink of extinction. It takes time for a prosecutor to make a strong, airtight case ready to be tried in court. Hopefully the rule of law will prevail, before it’s too late for law.

You people are such fucking losers.

[1]

outside of the unlimited dark money “free speech” of corporate persons, of course.

[2] Remember this?

The most important states, though, were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes. Those three wins gave him 46 electoral votes; if Clinton had done one point better in each state, she’d have won the electoral vote, too.

source

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