Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Megan McArdle Experience: "A Lie Is Not A Lie" Is Not A Lie

Justice is blind, not stupid.

It's an unfortunate fact of life that if you want Paul Ryan to kill Obamacare, you have to defend the Trump Administration. When Trump falls, all hope of taking health insurance away from sick kids also falls. Therefore, Megan McArdle managed to drag herself to the keyboard to support racist AG (for now) Jeff Sessions. Let's take a look at McArdle's propaganda, just for lols.

McArdle begins by attempting to minimize the unbelievable parade of scandals, mistakes, and rat-fucking that is the new Republican Administration.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the center of Washington’s scandal-du-jour.
Minimize the scandals as a daily occurrence, and therefore unimportant. (Please note that there was no scandal-du-jour during the Obama administration.)
The allegation: Sessions lied to Congress about contacts with Russia, which feeds into worries that the Trump campaign was somehow in bed with Vladimir Putin, and may even have had something to do with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
At issue are two meetings that Sessions had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak while the campaign was going on -- and while Sessions was a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sessions says that he routinely met with ambassadors from many nations as part of his Senate duties, and that nothing happened. Democrats say that it’s suspicious -- and that the fact that he lied to Congress about them makes those meetings more suspicious still.
Democrats asked Sessions if he met with Russians during the campaign. Sessions said no. He lied. It is very clear.
After perusing these alleged “lies,” I don’t think Democrats have the slam-dunk case that many on social media were claiming this morning.
Oooh, not only are they alleged lies, they're so-called lies. And the fact that Sessions was caught re-handed lying to Congress isn't a slam-dunk case that Sessions lied.
Mostly, the “lies” seem to come down to the difference between written and oral language.
And this is where I started laughing. McArdle is not all tedious propaganda and liberal insults. She is also quite the comedian. Of course her "reasoning" is nonsense, but so is her "intellect" and "morals."
To see what I mean, consider the substance of these two alleged falsehoods. The first came during Sessions's [sic] confirmation hearing, when he had the following exchange with Senator Al Franken:
FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.  
FRANKEN: Very well.
The second was a written response to a letter from Senator Patrick Leahy:
LEAHY: Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?
Now, I don’t know whether Sessions has been in contact with Russian officials or not about the election; neither the senator nor Kislyak have chosen to confide this information to me.
Note the attempt to add to the confusion by adding the words "about the election." Sessions was asked if he met with the Russian. He said no. He lied.

It's hard for me to remember that McArdle is a "journalist," not a propagandist, and evidently it's hard for McArdle to remember this as well. Let's find out if Sessions did indeed meet with a Russian official or not. Maybe some "newspaper" has "reported" on it.

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
Good god! It was possible to find out if Sessions met with the Russian ambassador! We know he lied about it because we saw the testimony just now in McArdle's quote. Case solved! It's Miller Time!

But let’s assume for the nonce that he wasn’t. 
I'm sorry, what?
 But let’s assume for the nonce that he wasn’t. 
Are you shitting me?
But let’s assume for the nonce that he wasn’t.  
Why the hell would I do that? Except to write a half-ass post off the top of my head that attempts to make my party look like anything but the World Of Fail that they are.
Was his response to Patrick Leahy’s letter reasonable? Eminently. It is reasonable even if, in the course of a meeting on some other topic, the ambassador idly asked how the campaign was going.
And we're off to the races, if by races you meant inept propaganda, and I do. McArdle follows with a bunch of irrelevant bullshit which I will present in full because she accuses you of lying if you don't quote her.
Sessions was an early Trump surrogate, and it would have been unsurprising for the ambassador to ask about the race in passing; if Sessions then replied with campaign boilerplate little different from what he was saying in public, that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a meaningful contact with a foreign power. Anyone at the Kremlin could have gotten the same information by turning on CNN.
But what about the exchange with Franken? This was what really seemed to seize the imaginations of Twitter this morning, where cries of “perjury” were flying left and right. Well, OK, mostly left, actually. I don’t think, however, that those charges are going to stick.
Which is why Sessions recused himself, no doubt. Because the "allegations" didn't "stick."
Franken offered a lengthy preamble suggesting that the Trump campaign had been exchanging information with the Russians, then asked him what he’d do if there was information that someone in the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russians. In the time-honored tradition of congressional hearings, Sessions said he hadn’t had any such communications, had no knowledge of such communications, and therefore wouldn’t speculate about the hypothetical.
If you read the latter part of this exchange extremely strictly, chopping off the preamble, then you can argue that Sessions was technically untruthful.
The triumphant return of "technically true but collectively nonsense"!
The problem is that this is not how verbal communication works. The left is attempting to hold the attorney general to a standard of precision that is appropriate for written communication, where we can reflect on preceding context and choose exactly the right word.
Sessions was under oath. Those are the standards he is being held to. Fortunately for McArdle, her readers are mostly not very bright and will accept any excuse, because this latest attempt at "reasoning" is unbelievably lame.
Oral language is much looser, because it’s real time.
Real time means that we don’t have 20 minutes to puzzle over the exact phrasing that will best communicate our meaning.
Sessions was being approved for the head of the justice department. Lawyers and judges are ruled by exact words and phrases. And "no" is actually extremely clear.
(For example: Reading this column aloud will take you perhaps five minutes. It took me nearly that many hours to write.) 
This may seem like an odd aside to you. It's not.

What took 5 hours? Her refusal to do any research, even to read the facts? Her reason-free reasoning? Her stream-of-consciousness rationalizations?

On the other hand, our audience is right there, and can ask for clarification if they are confused.
Demanding extreme clarity from an oral exchange is unreasonable.
Why do we even bother with trials if people are incapable of answering questions under oath? Silly liberals.

No doubt when P. Suderman, boy Reason dogsbody, proposed to her she refused to accept unless he submitted it in writing.
Moreover, everyone understands that this is unreasonable -- except, possibly, for the chattering classes, who spend their lives so thoroughly marinated in the written word that they come to think that the two spheres are supposed to be identical. Most ordinary people understand very well that there’s a big difference between talking and writing (which is why most people, even those who are dazzling in conversation, have a hard time producing fluid and lively prose).
So much bullshit.
That’s not to say that it’s wrong to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Investigate away! If the Trump campaign knew about, or colluded with, the hack on the DNC, then Trump should be impeached. But at the moment, we have no evidence that Sessions committed a crime, much less attempted to cover it up. The court of public opinion is probably going to require somewhat better facts to convict.
 So much dishonesty.

There's a footnote:
One reason that we writers spend so much time thinking about precise wording, and larding our prose with extra paragraphs meant to clarify exactly what we’re talking about, is that language is rife with ambiguity. This is why, at one time, Annapolis cadets were required to take a class in which they would write orders, and their fellow cadets would tear them apart looking for ways that a simple order could be misunderstood. It’s also one reason so many people get into so much trouble on Twitter: they write like they talk, but stripped of cues like context and facial expression, what they say is very easily taken the wrong way.
This passage might seem odd too. Again, it's not. McArdle and I tussled on Twitter, and that'll be the content of my next post.


Kathy said...

It is so hard to read Argelbargle's rationalizations. I mean, its physically painful, as well as demoralizing. Her reasoning: Verbal lies aren't really lies, because... ? Lies under oath don't count? Many court judges would beg to disagree, for the nonce. Nonce. Huh.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh. It's not her best argument, and that's saying a lot.

Mike from Oak Park said...

I like how she thinks "larding" prose with extra paragraphs is a good thing, necessary for clarity. Does she ever give any thought to word choice? Is English her first language? Worst. writer/thinker. Ever.

Susan of Texas said...

In her jane galt days, before she had an editor, she was even worse.

Kathy said...

Justice is not only blind, but deaf & dumb? Also: If somebody else committed a crime similar to yours, then your crime ISN'T such a big deal, is it? Right.

Andrew Johnston said...

With that "oral v. written language" crap, I'd bet money that she's recently read Neil Postman or someone similar. She really has turned into circa 2007 David Brooks but she's somehow a lot worse at it than he was.

Also, I'm not sure how a relatively short post with no research and is about half quotes could possibly take five hours. I'm the most obsessive writer on the planet and I could still knock that thing out in under fifty minutes, especially if it was my job.

Ken Houghton said...

"McMegan: 'Moreover, everyone understands that this is unreasonable -- except, possibly, for the chattering classes, who spend their lives so thoroughly marinated in the written word that they come to think that the two spheres are supposed to be identical. Most ordinary people understand very well that there’s a big difference between talking and writing (which is why most people, even those who are dazzling in conversation, have a hard time producing fluid and lively prose).'

SOT: 'So much bullshit.'"

If you assume she is dazzling in conversation, the above paragraph is self-referential.

But that would be an even more tenuous assumption than "let's assume for the nonce that [sic] he wasn't."

Clever Pseudonym said...

"We writers" don't read columns aloud. She really doesn't know what a crony fluke it is for her to get paid on this crap output, does she?