Arpaio Pardon: Smart Strategy, Dumb Arguments

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With the Arpaio pardon, Trump got major exposure. Bigger than normal, because of everyone watching the storm. He said that this was by design. When this happened, the response was vocal and widespread from his critics. By releasing the news on Friday, critics had the whole weekend to be outraged about it and spread memes about what an awful person Arpaio is and how the pardon is bullshit and on and on. It’s the sort of news that you don’t have to be rabidly anti-Trump to have a distaste for. This was also by design.

Then Monday Trump defends himself in a press conference. Again, high visibility seems to be part of the strategy. In the press conference, he mentioned pardons granted by Presidents Obama and Clinton that a reasonable person may have found questionable. In the case of Clinton’s pardons, they look especially suspect. People still remember celebrating the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, so that might not have landed as well for Trump.

Sidebar: 2 things about this argument:

1. This is the old, “your guy did this, so it’s ok that my guy did that” thing that facebook political debates are made of. the talking points go no further than to point out something kind of like the current issue having been done by the other party. Emphasis on kind of like because these counters are made with no thought of the context. For example, defending any president’s perceived or actual manipulation of the media by saying Lincoln did that and worse.

2. Why is POTUS making arguments this way to the public? Obviously, because it lends itself very well to vids with banners at the top and bottom on facebook saying “TRUMP DESTROYS JOURNALIST ON ARPAIO PARDON.” In other words, they play well to the rubes. BTW these arguments made me think again about what to make of this pardon, so I’m included here. However, I’m sure there’s more to it than this tit for tat bullshit.

This whole play, the timing of the announcement, the weekend of letting opponents spin their wheels, and the counterexamples on Monday, was kind of brilliant in the Scott Adams, Trump-as-master-persuader-playing-5D-Connect-Four sense. Think about how this plays on your Facebook feed. Friday, the pardon drops, anti-Trumpers lose their minds. Memes about what a shit Arpaio is flood the social mediaverse. Everyone thinks this is a bad thing for Trump to have done.  Two examples: Image result for arpaio pardon memesImage result for arpaio pardon memes

The whole time, Trump supporters – ostensibly still a significant portion of the population – are seeing these memes and maybe holding their tongues. Maybe a few of the older folks in the crowd share stories of being upset at a Clinton pardon they hated or something like that. For the most part, anti-Trump people think the pardon is a complete disaster and no one can imagine how Trump will recover from this misstep.

Then Monday comes, and the presser. Trump delivers that old chestnut of bullshit political arguments, cherished by all who refuse to examine events except in contrast to how “the other side” did this or that. Supporters cheer. Antis, for the most part, look at their shoes, not quite sure what to make of these counterpoints.

And there it is. If you stop looking into this topic you probably think that Trump wasn’t so wrong to pardon the former Sheriff, and that the douchebag liberals who spent the weekend bashing Trump for this have no idea about historical context.

UPDATE: It looks like the comparisons were not so apt. The biggest differences appear to be:

1. While the other questionable pardons were for people who had already served some time, Arpaio hasn’t yet, so the pardon is not merely saying he’s paid what he owes already, this pardon is a shield against any punishment whatever.

2. Arpaio defied a court order, which is what led to his conviction. By pardoning him, Trump is siding against the judge that issued it and the rule of law in general.

UPDATE 2: Ben Shapiro had some comments to support the pardon, in view of the above two points, or at least the second one, and it sounds reasonable. More to think about here.

This looks like another one of those issues that both sides will tally for their side without considering the very real counterpoints to their talking points. I can see this being one of the many “reasons to impeach Trump” on lists that are probably already circulating the social mediasphere. Conversely, it will also probably feature on lists of “great accomplishments” that supporters will be sharing around in the months and years ahead. The truth is clearly somewhere in between.

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Good People On Many Sides?

After the Charlottesville incident, people looked to President Trump to say something about it. Many analysts say he failed a moral test by mentioning that there was horrible behavior, “on many sides.” Supporters were quick to point out that Antifa has a track record of unprovoked violence against those they disagree with.

After the initial negative reaction to the “many sides” comment, the White House released a softened statement on Monday. However, in a press conference the very next day, Trump reverted to the original sentiment and doubled down on it. He pointed out that there were many good people in the “Unite the Right” crowd, who were merely protesting what they saw as a wrongful removal of an historical statue.

Here, I’d like to take President Trump at his word, and give a reasonable person’s look at what that good person might have seen in Charlottesville.

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Imagine you’re a good person in Charlottesville. One of those “good people” in the torchlight march. You’re not a bigot, you’re not a Nazi, you don’t hate blacks or jews, you’re just a conservative man that happens to be white with a respect for history that makes you righteously angry that the Robert E. Lee statue is being removed. You feel that, regardless of what Lee stood for, his life left an impact on history that is more than worthy of being commemorated by the statue. You feel that those who want to remove the statue are trying to erase history. You may even be OK with the idea of the statue being moved to a different location, perhaps a museum, but you don’t want to see it simply torn down. So you decide to go to this march. You’ve got your tiki torch and you’re happy to see that there’s a sizable group of several dozen or even a couple hundred other people.

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Milling about, you notice that there are a couple people with Confederate battle flags, the stars and bars. Maybe you recognize it as an homage to Southern heritage rather than as a hate symbol, but you are also aware that some people aren’t too keen on the flag itself. If you’re the type of person to get outraged about a Robert E. Lee statue being removed, you probably don’t care that some liberal snowflakes think it’s a racist flag. Fuck those SJWs, amirite?

Then you see someone in a shirt that has the fourteen words on it, or a KKK logo. At this point, do you start to question the march you’ve joined for good reasons? You might even see someone with a Nazi flag. Are you worried about the lot that you’ve thrown in with, or do you think, well, we disagree on some things, but we’re united by a genuine respect for a historical figure and the statue dedicated to his memory?

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The march begins. Your interest in preserving the statue are purely historical, so a few of the chants confuse you. “You will not replace us!” for example, seems unrelated to the cause that you’ve come to champion. “Blood and soil,” doesn’t make sense either, but you remember that it was a chant favored by Nazis. By the time you hear, “Jews will not replace us!” you’re past the point of surprise. Still, you’re one of the good people, right? Because even though you’re marching, demonstrating, and even chanting with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, you’re not actually one of them.

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At what point during this do you go from being a legitimately concerned citizen who sincerely and non-racistly wanted to preserve history, to being a white supremacist, determined to fight for the establishment of an ethno-state?

It seems to me that the “good people” did a piss poor job of making their cause the main reason for organizing when they effectively let the hate groups take over with their displays and their chants. Think about who you march with.

How I Was Not Quite Right About Tomi Lahren

Tomi Lahren has been on my radar for a while now. I know her best from short videos shared on FB by my more conservative friends. The stylized typewriter intro to her signature segment, “Final Thoughts” is something I’ve seen more times than I care to remember. I don’t remember how, but I started thinking of her content as politically conservative punditry in new media – condemning BLM for being party to riots, refuting 3rd wave feminist talking points like the wage gap, speaking about the need for children to be safe from crossdressing predators. When I saw them, I felt like I knew the arguments already, so I continued scrolling. I didn’t think she added much to the conversation. I  honestly thought she was nothing more than a younger, better looking conservative pundit, useful for churning out three minute “mic drop” talks so that barely literate, incredibly partisan people can announce their political conservatism on social media. I thought she was completely polar, and so I kind of put her in that box and didn’t think about it again. Barely literate, incredibly partisan people on the left have their own social media heroes, in case you think I’m saying that conservatives are barely literate by nature.

She appeared on the Daily Show and, according to her fans, completely SHUT DOWN Trevor Noah; MIC DROPs were happening left and right. Hyperbole aside, I have seen clips of it, and it looks rather like she got the better of Noah on many points. From the clips I’ve seen, I also get the feeling there was a bit of the “talking past one another” that I complained about in my last post. From this appearance, if not from the frequency of shares I’d seen, it’s clear that her profile was rising at this point.

Then Bill Maher. Now The View. Network television. She’s a star now. Was Glenn Beck ever on The View? Turns out, yes, he was. Not that The View is anything more than disposable daytime TV, but they have a big audience, and this probably meant exposure to lots of people who aren’t New Media savvy for Tomi.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Tomi was pro-choice, because it went against the grain. To go against the majority of the people that you politically identify with takes thought and a fair amount of courage.  I recall Dave Rubin bemoaning the tendency of people to simply go along with every position of their chosen party. For example, (with apologies to Dave, I’m paraphrasing) if I know your position on same sex marriage, I should not be able to predict your position on gun control, or abortion, or climate change, but in many cases, you can. Should your position on one issue be a 100% indicator of your position on the other ones? Are you allowed to have a different position than the expected result?

As I’ve found out, her position on reproductive rights isn’t exactly new. To quote the New York Times: “She is pro-choice and does not object to gay marriage.” But I guess most people didn’t read that story either, because her View appearance and the reaction by The Blaze made headlines.

So, now The Blaze is suspending her. For disagreeing with them on an issue? What’s she supposed to do, change her position? I find it odd that this had never come up before on The Blaze during her meteoric rise. A rise which, it should be noted, raises the profile of The Blaze. They must have enjoyed a bump from her popularity. This ideological difference leaves The Blaze in a conundrum: how severely can they afford to punish their new star? Can you name someone else at The Blaze, other than Glenn Beck? I can’t.

Abortion is an issue that people have very strong feelings about. If The Blaze, or Tomi, for that matter, really wants to be ideologically consistent, this might be a dealbreaker between them.

I mentioned Dave Rubin earlier. He used to be part of The Young Turks, but left them because of ideological reasons. Now he’s got a great show of his own on YouTube, based around the idea of people finding areas of agreement and improving your understanding of differing positions. If Tomi Lahren wants to go solo, this might be a good time to do it. She’s a legit star, appearing all over media, this big story about her disagreement with The Blaze’s party line puts her in the spotlight while emphasizing her status as a person who thinks for herself. As of yet I’m not a fan, but this story has given me a reason to reconsider.

 

 

The Principle of Charity

Have you had a disagreement with anyone recently? Did you feel that all participants were understood by one another? Here’s a test: Could your opponent(s) state your position in a way that you would be satisfied with how they describe it? Could you do the same for your opponent(s)? If the answer to either of those is a flat “no,” you are like most normal people having these conversations. I’ve had conversations over social media lasting weeks where I never once felt that my interlocutor wanted to understand where I was coming from. I’ve heard this referred to as “talking past one another” and it’s impeding conversations at every turn.

There are two basic facts that were very, very hard for me to recognize (and I still need to remind myself of them today). Here they are:

1. People have different positions than you do.

2. People think they have good reasons for holding those positions.

Note the word “think” in number 2. I’m talking about everyone. I could not claim that everyone has good reasons for thinking what they think. I can only go so far as to say that they think they have good reasons. They can be wrong about those reasons, whether it’s from poor facts or poor reasoning.

I was browsing /r/philosophy earlier, and I found something that I really think needs sharing. In their Guide to Arguments on the sidebar, they talk about the principle of charity. I’ve highlighted the important bits in red:

charity

 

That says it better than I’m able to, so I think this is about it. If we can apply this principle as we have conversations, we might be able to gain a greater understanding of each other.