Fake News and Fascists: The Paranoid Style in American Journalism

Donald Trump may suffer from a lack of humility, but he is not a fascist.

In his essay entitled, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1965), Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter explored what he believed to be the inextricable connection between conspiracy, paranoia and conservatism in American political life during the Goldwater era. According to Hofstadter, the linchpin of the paranoid style of right wing politics was the “existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character.” Hofstadter distilled the elements of contemporary right wing thought into three; First, the presence of un-American traitors who desired to “undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government” thus paving the way for socialism or communism. Second, the view that the United States government was already “infiltrated by Communists, who sold out American interests”. Third, the revelation of an alliance between Communist agents who had infiltrated the “whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media and our education system to “paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans.” Although historian-cum-pseudo psychiatrist Hofstadter asserted that he had “neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past and present as certifiable lunatics,” that is precisely what he did in his diagnosis that Rightism was not a system of rational political beliefs, but rather a pathological disorder. Hofstadter made a distinction between the clinical paranoiac in society and the paranoid spokesman in right wing politics; the former “sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him.” The clinical paranoiac in right wing politics finds it “directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone, but millions of others.” Despite this fundamental difference, an extemporaneous and symbiotic relationship is forged. Thus, the existence of enemies, either real or imagined, serves as the foundation that right wing politics is built on.

At the same time, Hofstadter offered evidence that paranoia was not the exclusive domain of politics and conservatives in his claim that a paranoid style was often a component of the left-wing press. The history of journalism as seen through the lens of paranoia and grandiose conspiracy is well documented. Fox News provided the fertile ground for President Trump’s birther beliefs from 2011 to 2016. Even so, on December 8th, 2015, Rachel Maddow and MSNBC took the paranoid style of journalism to heights hitherto unknown. Proceeding with a seemingly innocuous synopsis of various styles of auto racing from around the world, Maddow transitioned from auto racing to an old story about Max Mosley, the former boss of the Formula One organization, and son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists in 1932. In 2008, Max Mosley gained infamy when a video of his sexual escapades surfaced. Maddow conveys how the British tabloid News of The World broke the story of the five-hour long video tape with the headline: Formula One Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy with Hookers. What Maddow fails to mention is that later that year, Mosley won £60,000 in a privacy action against News Of The World. In his judgement, Mr. Justice Eady “found no evidence of Nazi themes in the video,” and said that Mosley’s life had been “ruined” because of the tabloid. Nevertheless, Maddow used the Max Mosley sex scandal as an introduction to the true purpose of her feature, which was to draw parallels between Sir Oswald Mosley’s failed efforts to move Britain towards fascism, and the rise of Donald Trump, which she considered the beginning of a “flirtation with fascism” in the United States based on Trump’s desire to call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. She concluded her character assassination of Donald Trump by raising the question as to whether fascism as a word was too “over the top” to use to describe politics in America, or “helpful because it was accurate.” She chose the latter, and closed the segment stating that the rise of Donald Trump can be viewed as “America’s Sir Oswald Mosley Moment.”

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A Call for Constitutional Amendments

First and foremost, the United States Constitution, the greatest political accomplishment of the modern world, does not need to be replaced and is not outdated.  The previous link comes from a right of center institution; the left often draws the same conclusion: less freedom, less representation, more centralization and concentration of power in smaller hands.  We should feel lucky this document has lasted as long as it has and we should do as much as we can to preserve it. However, slight alterations at times that preserve freedom and limited government, rather than radical changes that diminish freedom and diminish legislative bodies, is what best reflects the outcome of the movements we have experienced over the last decade or so.  The founders gave us the amendment process to expand liberty and to protect the rights of the individual over the mob or the state, not do the opposite.

Over the past decade there have been a series of movements by the people of various ideological backgrounds and factions to take back government and return it to the people.  Notable movements such as the Tea Party Movement, the Contract for America (the outcome of the Republican take over of Congress in 1994), and Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement all aim to put government back in its rightful, subservient place. Despite these movements, and others, there never seems to be the sweeping reform America needs to truly reflect the change the people desire.  The only true way to secure the change the people currently demand is to etch in stone a series of amendments that secure the blessings of liberty and respect for the rule of law within the framework of limited government.  Therefore, this author argues that the following amendments should be proposed to our national constitution:

The Clarity Amendments and Liberty Amendments:

These will be a series of amendments that either through new language altogether or through slight modification of existing amendments will bring about more freedom (not less) for individuals and the family unit.  For example, some argue that the original meaning of the word “militia” in the second amendment does not mean the individual and only pertains to law enforcement or military members. Further, some would suggest there are weapons the public should not have altogether. To settle this, we should amend the second amendment to leave no doubt what we, citizens today, understand the militia to be, the individual; and arms shall be defined as any weapon available to the general public used for defensive purposes.

Beyond clarity, it is time to write new language into the constitution expanding our freedoms and right to defend ourselves. The people shall have the right to defend their property and livelihood against assailants aiming to threaten the peace and security of one’s domicile. Many states have passed what is known as Castle Doctrine.  Yet some protest this idea thinking it is a dangerous abdication of power from central authorities to individuals.  It is unacceptable to live in a world where people have to doubt whether or not they can defend themselves, their family or their property should violent criminals present themselves on one’s property.  A Castle Law amendment would go a long way in showing the world America is a place that defends life and respects the concept of private property.  Government has a responsibility to defend its citizens and that responsibility starts with unshackling the people to defend their homes and livelihood.

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The Right Wing Extremist Lie

Back at the end of January, CNN announced a job opening for a Senior Writer dedicated to uncovering Fake News. So when on Feb. 4th an article by Reza Aslan entitled, “Facts still matter on US terror threat,” appeared on CNN’s website, I wondered if this article would be one of the first to be exposed by the nascent Fake News department.

In the article, Aslan makes the claim that “Americans are almost seven times as likely to be killed by a white extremist than by an Islamic one” and he links this stat to a New York Times article entitled, “The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how he got to this number. Here is what I think happened: The New York Times article Aslan links to references a few studies, two of which are important here. One is a 2013 study by Arie Perliger, published when he was with the Combating Terrorism Center, that tracks right wing violence in America. The other is a 2015 study by UNC’s Charles Kurzman that tracks Muslim-American violence. The former study claims American right wing extremism was responsible for 254 fatalities in the “decade after 9/11.” The latter study claims Muslims Americans have been responsible for 50 fatalities since 9/11, a stat which covers the time period from right after 9/11 to 2014. Then the average fatalities per year were calculated for each group: 254/10 years = 25.4 fatalities per year caused by right wing extremists and 50/13 years = 3.85 fatalities per year caused by Muslim Americans. 25.4/3.85 = 6.6. Thus, the stat offered by Aslan that “Americans are almost seven times as likely to be killed by a white extremist than by an Islamic one.”

This of course, is horrific statistics and completely dishonest. In statistics this is called “discarding unfavorable data,” and “data manipulation.” First, he uses selective time frames for each group. For right wing extremists, he chooses a study covering year 2002-2011 and for Muslims he chooses a study that covers post-9/11 to 2014. In both studies, the number of people killed is calculated starting after 9/11. Now it’s silly that we aren’t including 9/11. Can data not occur in clusters? This is not how stats work. If we include the victims of 9/11, deaths caused by right wing extremists are dwarfed when compared to deaths caused by jihadists.

Then, the New York Times article, and studies therein, that Aslan’s article links to is from 2015. More jihadist attacks have been perpetrated since the studies came out that the article references, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino attack.

The New America Foundation, a source behind some of Aslan’s information, actually now list the post-9/11 kill count at 94 perpetrated by jihadists to 50 by right wing extremists (the disparity in violence by right wing extremists between studies has to do with the liberal way in which Perliger’s study defines “right wing extremist”). So, Aslan’s information ignores at least 44 fatalities caused by Islamic jihadists. In all, Aslan gets his stat by starting his count after 9/11 and then eliminating any attacks that have happened after the beginning of 2015, despite his article coming out in February 2017.

By the way, what I think actually happened is this: after a quick Google search, whoever did Aslan’s research for him, or Aslan himself, found this article from Think Progress, also from 2015, which has the “7 times” statistic in its headline and references the same New York Times article Aslan references. Aslan then bypassed the Think Progress article and linked the “7 times” stat in his article directly to the New York Times article. Now you see how fake news is made.

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Let’s Discuss Walls

“The Great Wall of China, built 2,000 years ago, is 13,000 miles long, folks. … And they didn’t have … tractors, they didn’t have cranes, they didn’t have excavation equipment.” – Donald J. Trump

When the question arises, as it often does, “Was the Great Wall of China a success or failure?” one may answer one way or another, but undoubtedly any response to such an inquiry would have to contain something along the lines of “it’s complicated.” You’d have to compare Qin walls with Ming walls, you’d have to weigh the cost, in material dollars and human life, against the effectiveness of the Wall(s) in meeting its objectives, you’d have to consider variables such as strength of armies defending the wall at any given time, you’d have to take into account that when invaders evaded the wall they were still slowed on their path to potential conquest, and so on and so forth. It’s complicated, really complicated. Of course, it was all for naught when Ming general Wu Sangui just opened the gates for the invading Manchus, but alas, that’s not what this post is about.

See I have mixed feelings about the Trump wall, but, like many other things, regressive liberals have pushed the conversation to a point where I have to defend it. It’s not so much that there shouldn’t be a debate about the wall, it’s just that arguments against it have been simplified into: “wall, bad, no wall, good.”

Shouldn’t the conversation really surround the question “is the wall a good idea?” That’s the question I ask myself. It’s a legitimate question. Will the wall really stifle the cartels? Will the wall stop drugs from coming into the country? Will the wall have a national security application in the distant future (possible migrant crises?), Can the wall be built cost/time efficiently? If we believe the answers to those questions are “mostly yes,” then the wall is worth a try. After all, we’ve failed to secure our border for the three or four decades that border security has been a national issue.

And yet, if you support the wall today you are a hateful bigot according to leftists. This is despite the fact that ten years ago a wall was not seen as such a radical idea, despite that there is almost 700 miles of fence and wall along our southern border already, and despite the fact that Hillary Clinton once supported a border barrier and stated that she is “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”

Leftist rhetoric pertaining to the wall is derived from one thing: leftism… obviously, it has nothing to do with a rational debate about the wall. Few wall opponents stop to consider what they are arguing against. Though, many on the right don’t ask the critical questions about it that they should be asking either before shouting, “BUILD IT!”

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Why the Wall?

Let’s talk about the wall.

This article is written to accompany a fantastic article just written by my friend and colleague, Ben Sweetwood, which masterfully sifts through the hysteria over President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Here at Griffwood Post, we constantly seek to challenge the prevailing narrative of the day. We live by an important motto: if everyone seems to be in agreement about something, be skeptical.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to have a problem with President Trump’s idea of building a wall along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. This includes those who are left, right, libertarian, and everyone else in between. Some of the consternation has produced perfectly valid criticisms of the idea that should not be overlooked. But I write to contend that the idea to build the wall actually has its merits.

Those on the right, and those who abhor government spending, criticize the wall for its cost and complexity. The wall will indeed be expensive—and the proposed methodology of taxing a portion of the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit does eventually pass the cost of the wall on to the consumer. However, in context, the tax does have implicit benefits to the American consumer beyond the wall. The trade deficit exists because the U.S. exports to Mexico about $60 billion dollars in goods less than it imports from Mexico. However, the entirety of the U.S.’s annual imports from Mexico total around $300 billion. Now, 20 percent of $300 billion is enough to pay for three walls at Trump’s price-point of around $20 billion per year. So the cost, in context, is not outlandish. This is not to mention the benefit of protecting and encouraging American industries that directly compete with Mexican products. And if there is any American president who can spur the behemoth of the federal government to actually build something on time and under budget, it’s going to be Donald J. Trump.

But $20 billion is still $20 billion. That’s a costly project.

Another valid criticism is the complexity of building the wall. The Cato Institute has done a great job of illustrating just how complicated the process will be. Building a wall along this 2,000 mile stretch of the American southwest means overcoming geographical challenges, replacing existing walls and fences, equipping the wall with proper surveillance equipment and, of course, maintaining it. This is not to mention the inevitably long amount of time it will take the federal government to argue the hundreds if not thousands of eminent domain cases that will be necessary to gather the lands needed for the construction of the wall (much of the land abutting the U.S.-Mexican border is privately owned.) The wall may not be feasibly possible in Trump’s term.

But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s impossible[1]. We got to the moon, we can build a big wall.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that many if not most illegal immigrants come into the country by airplane, on lawful visas, and extend their stay indefinitely. Obviously, a comprehensive immigration reform package would need to address that. But the cartels, the drug runners, and criminals fleeing Latin America are not buying group ticket packages on commercial airliners. They’re the ones taking advantage of the porous border, and they’re certainly the ones we want to stop first.

I give criticisms from the left credence as well, but they are becoming a bit too ‘one-sized fits all’ to have retained their bite. I also abhor identity-politics and think the hysteria around Donald Trump is contributing to a dangerous narrowing of political discourse.

Continue reading “Why the Wall?”

Post-Election Thoughts and Hopes

I wish our new president success and clear-minded wisdom as he begins to prioritize his work.

I applaud all of those, from Clinton supporters to never-Trumpers, who have committed their support to the new president in moving forward and binding our wounds after a divisive election season.

I plan to hold Trump to his promises. We all should. Those include his commitment to being a better man than he was when he made those comments on tape that we all detest.

But America voted for Mr. Trump because he will be the president that will upend the Washington bureaucracy. Obama spent eight years feeding the country unwanted, inefficient, bureaucrat-heavy government expansions masked as solutions. When America rejected them by returning Congress to Republican control, he used his pen and his phone to circumnavigate the pesky electorate. Ms. Clinton’s policies promised only more of the same tired, failed focus on more regulation and centralized control. In the face of a dangerously large national debt, America said no.

In voting against Ms. Clinton, Americans rejected a bad candidate with a concerning ethical track record. They did not reject the idea of a woman being president. The first female president’s time will come, and likely soon. I hope to be able to vote for her. Ms. Clinton was not the one.

The left cannot possibly be a productive part of the unification of our country if they continue to use identity politics to describe the outcome of this election. Tactically, throwing around the labels of “racist,” “sexist,” and “xenophobic” did not work for them in their bid to convince the American people that their ideas were best for the country. This did not allow for the exchange of ideas, rather only deepened factionalization. 33% of Latino men, 26% of Latino women, and 52% of white women supported Trump. This cuts a big hole in the narrative that Trump’s win was on the back of a sexist or anti-immigrant populist wave. Looking at the electoral map, it is clear that middle class, blue collar working states in the rust belt rejected a Democratic dynastic control of their electoral votes for a candidate who focused his campaign on job creation and regulatory relief to put Mr. Trump over the top and in the White House.

One more thought: anecdotal evidence proves nothing but is easy to use to manipulate emotions. Cherry-picking specific instances to prove a larger point is wrong. Were there anecdotal examples of racist or sexist motivations in voting for Mr. Trump? Sure. There will be in any election, for every candidate. This doesn’t mean the nearly 60 million people that voted for Mr. Trump fit that bill.

In fact, my desire, which I know that many share on both sides of the aisle, is that the country can now move closer together and away from identity politics. Where racism, sexism, and ugly collectivism in any form does exist, let’s eradicate it. Let’s fix those broken parts of our government that we can and get rid of the parts that don’t work. Let’s lead the world with a clear, righteous morality that will offer a new hope to the oppressed and the war torn. Let’s make America even greater, and let’s all be a part of the productive conversation as to how that is achieved.

-Bryan Griffin

Stats:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3920042/A-breakdown-Deplorables-33-Latino-men-26-Latino-women-voted-Trump-52-white-women.html

Further Reading:

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/09/sorry-uncovering-americas-racist-underbelly-wasnt-why-trump-won-commentary.html

 

Looking Back at Trump’s Victory

I have no reason to gloat. President-elect Trump now has to follow through on his message to better this country and the world. In his victory speech he extended a hand to those who opposed him and he promised to address the problems in our inner cities. This is a good start.

While the hysteria that has plagued this election has persisted on social media, with many Hillary supporters declaring the onset of the apocalypse, I have to say, I have also seen quite a few Hillary supporters and Never-Trumpers make statements about uniting and working together. Credit to those people. Hillary supporters should know, they are not my enemy, and I admit to there being plenty of stupidity on both sides this election.

However, now the divisive, hyperbolic, defamatory rhetoric needs to stop.

Americans voted against the far left. They were tired of being called racist and sexist simply for holding opinions contrary to what democrats believe. They were tired of having their words policed while real problems are ignored. They were tied of regressive groups that disseminate untruths and neglect actual victims of suffering. They were tired of an overwhelmingly leftist mainstream media that looks down on them and presents them as stupid and uninformed. The American people also rejected the establishment politicians who have perpetuated the same wasteful, gluttonous, corrupt system that has plagued our country for decades. They rejected convention and they voted for change.

What Trump did is miraculous. He was an outsider who came in with no political experience and won the GOP nomination for president. He then went on to take out the Clinton machine, all the while contending with fierce opposition from the left and from his own political party, and with an entire mainstream news media telling the country he couldn’t win. Trump did what few believed he could do, and what neither John McCain or Mitt Romney could do: he beat the Democrat to win the presidency.

In the end, Hillary lost because like President Obama in 2008, Trump became a symbol, a symbol representing the fight against PC culture, against corruption, and against the demonization of America and Western Culture. And whether fair or not, Hillary became a symbol of the opposite.

America has spoken: Donald Trump is to lead us. You can now choose to be part of the solution or the problem. I hope most people choose the former.

-Ben Sweetwood

Super Tuesday Breakdown: Trump and Clinton Dominate

Here’s the likely winners for Super Tuesday states with avg. of polls lead in parenthesis:

GOP primaries:

Alabama: Trump (+17)

Georgia: Trump (+14)

Tennessee: Trump (+18)

Oklahoma: Trump (+11)

Massachusetts: Trump (+27)

Vermont: Trump (+15)

Virginia: Trump (+15)

Alaska: Trump or Cruz (Trump + 4 but only from one poll)

Arkansas: Trump or Cruz (Cruz +4)

Minnesota: Rubio (+2 but only from one poll)

Colorado: Trump or Rubio (Carson led in last major poll from Nov)

Wyoming: Any

Texas: Cruz or Trump (Cruz +9)

 

Democratic primaries:

Alabama: Clinton (+48)

Georgia: Clinton (+37)

Tennessee: Clinton (+26)

Oklahoma: Clinton or Sanders (Clinton +2)

Massachusetts: Clinton or Sanders (Clinton +7)

Vermont: Sanders (+74)

Virginia: Clinton (+22)

Arkansas: Clinton (+29)

Minnesota: Clinton (+34)

Colorado: Clinton (+28 but last major poll from Nov)

Texas: Clinton (+30)