Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The true believers in Trump have adopted a new strategy. Whenever there is an accusation, from pandering to the alt-right, to Bannon's beliefs, to Trump's ties to Russia, the defense is "it's biased media", and, sadly because the right has become far too comfortable using "media bias" as an all purpose argument against any news report, some are accepting it.

But that is not the reason I wrote this blog post. Instead, I am writing to talk about two other common arguments, made not by Trump supporters, but by more conventional conservatives, that help support this foolish argument.

First, there is the very silly idea that "if it upsets liberals, it must be good." I have seen this used any number of times to justify a Trump decision. "I don't know the guy he is appointing, but if it upsets liberals..." The problem here is, liberals are not 100% wrong on everything, they are also humans and have feelings and beliefs they share with the rest of us. For example, a proclamation ordering the execution of every black person, or of all under 18 years old would upset liberals, but would be bad for everyone as well. Or, to be less dramatic, appointing David Duke to the cabinet would upset liberals, but would still be a bad thing. In short, just upsetting liberals is not enough, a decision needs to be good as well.

The second argument is probably the more serious, as it is used to deflect a lot of legitimate criticism of Trump, and also happens to bolster his fans' "biased media" argument. This is the claim that the media has "played the race card" too often. And, to a degree, this may be a valid argument. Some on the left, and in the media, seem to buy the old saw that there is some affinity between conservatism and Nazis, or else accept the Democrat premise that somehow conservatism means closet racism. It is a belief that has been disappearing slowly in recent years, but it still made the rounds from time to time, and thus, there has been a tendency to exaggerate the role of racism in conservative policy. For example, opposition to welfare* was often argued to be founded on racism, while in most cases it was actually based on purely economic and political beliefs. So, yes, the media has made excessive allegations of racism.

On the other hand, that does not mean every such allegation is false. In "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", he may have lied, but remember, in the end, the wolf did eat him. He told the truth in one case. Similarly, the press may exaggerate their charges of racism, but that does not mean every such charge is without foundation. Thus, do not allow the past history to blind you to real problems with Bannon, or some of Trump's other followers. Not every allegation is unfounded, and not every story told by the press is a lie. Do not allow the Trump supporters to use the conservatives' lazy habit of dismissing media out of hand to immunize Trump from criticism.

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* I have never understood this. if I were to say blacks received more welfare than whites, I would be accused of racism. But if a liberal says I want to get rid of welfare out of racism, because more blacks than whites receive it, it is not. I am sometimes puzzled at the ability of people to hold completely contradictory beliefs.

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POSTSCRIPT

I fear my footnote may lead to a mistaken impression. I am not saying that I claim more blacks receive welfare than whites; in absolute numbers, clearly whites are the largest group of recipients. As percentages relative to percentages of population, those numbers are different, but that is neither here nor there. My point is, claims of blacks benefiting disproportionately from welfare are dismissed as racism, but claims associating ending welfare with racism are not. They seem mutually contradictory positions, yet are often held by the same person.


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