Tag Archives: donald trump

The debriefing paradigm

Image result for trump cartoons twitter

Readers will be familiar with this weekend’s POTUS tweet accusing former President Obama of authorizing wiretaps of Trump Tower. The controversy surrounding these tweets regarded the apparent baselessness of the claim (or its apparent base in Brietbart news). As of this AM (as far as I know) the POTUS has refused to offer clarification on the question of the basis of his claim.  Background here in case you’re behind.

This hasn’t stopped his court followers from coming out to iron man his claim. This is a pattern we’ve seen before. Trump says something manifestly false or outrageous, then come people to interpret what he says to sound more reasonable than it actually was. That’s the iron man. What differentiates Trump from, say, Palin is that she had the sense (or lack thereof) to shut up about it after (usually). Trump tends to reject the iron man version of his view. It’s what makes him strong and decisive.

Here’s another variation on Trump’s strategy:

I have learned that some — though definitely not all — members of President Trump’s inner circle share his belief that the Obama administration tapped his Trump Tower phones in October. And a White House official told me President Trump not only doesn’t regret this weekend’s fracas despite the lack of evidence for his astonishing claim, he is “absolutely convinced” he’ll be vindicated.

“The president just has a great nose for these things,” the official said. “It’s the bureaucratic leaks — the deep state — that bother him most. Even if it turns out not to be true that they surveilled Trump Tower, he will have a very good point to make about the level of sabotage coming from Obama holdovers.”

This, by the way, is a variation on “spitballing,” identified by Talisse and Aikin at 3quarksdaily and discussed again here.

But there’s a parallel to another interesting case of epistemic failure.

Contrary to the what the source above says, Trump will not, of course, have a good point to make in any epistemically meaningful sense: he didn’t offer any relevant evidence (and apparently doesn’t have any, note the “if”). What’s amazing, however, is that the destruction of the basing belief here (the wiretap) doesn’t seem to undermine the case at all in the mind of the source. Such a failure at belief revision has long baffled psychologists. You can read about that here.

It runs basically like this. You give people a false belief on purpose, then you tell them that you gave them a false belief. Then you ask whether they continue to believe the false belief. Oddly, and sadly, they usually do. This explains, I think, the basic strategy of spitballing Trump-style: say a bunch of false things because once they’re out there and people believe them, they will continue to do so in the face of fact checking, even of the most direct variety.

A golden age of iron manning

Donald Trump has, somewhat ironically, ushered in a golden age of iron manning.  Here’s how it goes: Candidate Trump says something false, crazy, racist, etc., and Trump surrogate  appears somewhere to recast what he said as totally reasonable. This is now a daily occurrence, so you can fill in your own examples (here’s one).

The iron man works best when the person who’s getting iron-manned plays along. Oddly, this doesn’t always work with Trump. He often seems unaware that he needs help. Here is Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt trying (and failing) to iron man him:

I’ve got two more questions. Last night, you said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

DT: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.

HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.

DT: I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?

HH: Well, that, you know, I have a saying, Donald Trump, the mnemonic device I use is Every Liberal Really Seems So, So Sad. E is for Egypt, L is for Libya, S is for Syria, R is for Russia reset. They screwed everything up. You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I give it to, I gave the co-founder to Hillary. I don’t know if you heard that.

I’m informed now that Trump finally gotten the picture. Turns out it was sarcasm. Yeah, like’s that’s good defense.

Donald Effin’ Trump

Over at National Review Online, Dennis Prager has some important things to say about Donald Trump's choice of words.  Well, what choice of words, first:

The following comments were made in a public speech last week by a man considering running for president of the United States.

On gas prices: We have nobody in Washington that sits back and says, ‘You’re not going to raise that f***ing price.’”

On what he would say as president to China: “Listen, you mother f***ers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent.”

On Iraq: “We build a school, we build a road, they blow up the school, we build another school, we build another road, they blow them up, we build again. In the meantime we can’t get a f***ing school in Brooklyn.”

Ho hum.  The reality is that I love me some F-bomb.  I do object to Trump's sentiments, though.  But it's not the fact that Trump puts some salt on his verbiage, it's the fact that he thinks he can yell at China and say he can tax a trade partner at 25 percent.  Protectionism is great, until you pay for it with their tariffs and so on.  We're in the can with the Chinese, but I'm unsure that this is the solution. Washington doesn't set gas prices, either.  And Iraq?  Anyone who was for the war knew going in it was a 'you break it, you buy it' deal.  And Brooklyners don't need a school for f***ing.  They already know how (joke by amphiboly — like cooking school).  Regardless, Prager has other issues.  Yeah, it's with the dirty words, especially with their use in public.

But there is a world of difference between using an expletive in private and using one in a public speech. For those who do not see the difference, think of the difference between relieving oneself in private and relieving oneself in public. It usually takes a university education and a Leftist worldview not to see the enormous moral distinction between public and private cursing.

One disanalogy: nobody has to clean up a puddle when I tell a dirty joke.  Another: I'll still privately curse in front of my neighbors. One more: some cursing is artistic and is wasted unless it is shared with the world.  I can't help it: It's OK for someone to collect all the dirty language someone else has used.  Fine, fine — I do understand Prager's point, though.  It is unseemly to curse like that.  I get it, and I've even got a university education and everything (read the quote again, if you didn't get that last one).  I'm glad that Prager made sure to get in an unseemly jab at educated elites while chastising a Republican for acting indecently and uncivilly.

If we cannot count on Republicans and conservatives to maintain standards of public decency and civility, to whom shall we look?

Geez. Is this another false dilemma without the other option?

Did it for the lulz*

For whatever reason, honestly and firmly believing what you argue seems to be a fundamental requirement in a critical discussion.  On account of this, a key challenge to an opponent is that not even she really believe what she's saying.  It's a kind of (non-fallacious) ad hominem scheme: "you don't believe what you're saying, so I'm not going to waste time with you."  Basically, it's an accusation of trolling.  Enter O'Reilly and Trump (via the Huffington Post–sorry, boycotting New York Times' pay wall):

O'Reilly said his show had looked into the claims about Obama's birth certificate. Once they found the two Honolulu newspapers which announced his birth, he said he "put [the issue] to bed," since "that is impossible to make happen" if Obama was not born in a Honolulu hospital. O'Reilly labeled Obama's mother a "hippie," and scoffed at the notion that there was a "sophisticated conspiracy" to smuggle Obama into the U.S. and forge his identity.

"What is he, baby Jesus?" he joked. Trump said that he remained convinced that there was something fishy going on. "People have birth certificates," he said. "He doesn't have one." He then repeated the speculation that had so angered Whoopi Goldberg—that something on the birth certificate must be so radioactive that Obama is covering it up. "Maybe it says he's a Muslim, I don't know," Trump said. "…If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the great scams of this time."

O'Reilly finally said he didn't believe that Trump was serious in his skepticism. "It's provocative, I think it gets a lot of attention, but I don't think you believe it," he said.

This is an obviously legitimate employment of it–good for you Bill O'Reilly–but I wonder what you'd call the illegitimate use–should we just call it "trolling."  How might we identify it?  What might be the scheme?


UPDATE.  Can't believe I forgot the recent revelation from a Fox News personality that he advocated for an idea he found "privately" to be "far-fetched".  I guess he did it for the lulz.