Thursday, August 11, 2016

Anti-Trump Bias / Blindness / Hysteria / Dishonesty

   Trump is still a national humiliation and potential catastrophe, and he's spewing out evidence of that at a genuinely alarming rate.
   However, liberals and the (let's face it, liberal) media are still treating him unfairly with some frequency, e.g. by interpreting things he says and does in the worst available way.
   Consider the baby incident--just one example, but one I never got around to complaining about. It was clear that Trump was kidding around, and yet the usual suspects freaked out, spewing nonsense about Trump kicking babies out of his rallies. By now, this pattern is well-established: liberals and the (face it: liberal) media say a significant number of false things about many things Trump says and does with the effect of making these acts and utterances seem worse than they actually are.
   I don't say that these liberals are lying because mostly what they do is on the borderline--they kind of believe it, they're kind of spinning...they're somewhere in that epistemic twilight zone where these things happen. They've got to realize that they're not being completely honest/objective much of the time, but they're not clearly and unequivocally lying. Typical political quasi-bullshitting. Much like what Trump himself does.
   Is this what is going on with interpreting Trump's "Second Amendment" comment as an assassination threat against Clinton? Anybody? Me, I'm not sure. It was such an outrageous, indefensible, bone-headed, tone-deaf, dumb-ass thing to say that it was kind of difficult to know what to think about it. I think I kind of thought that's what he was saying at first...though I think I pretty quickly concluded that it wasn't a threat, but rather...something else. I mean, it was, I thought, a non-trivial matter to figure out what was going on there. So we might say that it was an honest mistake. OTOH, I'm pretty sure that liberals would have pretty quickly figured that out had Mrs. Clinton made a similar error (difficult as that is to imagine--and, no, the Kennedy comment doesn't count.)
   Yeah, Trump is dangerous. Very, very dangerous. FiveThirtyEight still has him at like a 15% chance of winning. That's about like finding out that there's a 15% chance of a giant asteroid hitting the Earth. It's not a source of comfort. This is a very, very alarming situation.
   So, some will argue that cheating/dishonesty is warranted in a case like this, and that epistemic punctiliousness is out of place.
   Well, I'm really just pointing out that dishonesty is afoot on the left. I'm not suggesting anything about what ought to be done about it.
   But, uh, while we're on the subject, it ought to stop.
   This is the point at which people traditionally make prudential arguments about how being honest will also achieve good outcomes.
   That could be true...but it sounds a little panglossian to me. Maybe honesty will help bring down Trump, maybe it won't. I'm not saying I'd opt for scrupulousness if I new that a single white lie was the difference between Trump winning and not winning. But we can play consequentialist would you rather until the evening return of the bovines.
   Here's the standard advice: we have an obligation to be honest. We don't know that dishonesty will help, so just close off that option right now.
   Furthermore, for people who just have to have the prudential argument: liberal media dishonesty about Trump part of what helps Trump. More importantly: it's part of what Trump supporters are right about. Liberals and the liberal media are often dishonest about conservatives, and often dishonest about Trump. Conservatives and Trump supporters are right about this. Most liberals seem incapable of believing such things, and have no inclination to try. But the things are true. And this kind of cheating is part of what's driving this madness.
   Furtherfurthermore: there's no need to do it. Trump is awful enough that there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for making shit up. He provides us with way more than enough legitimate ammunition.
   I'm not saying conservatives are any better. That's a different question for a different time.
   Anyway, I guess I'm making the standard panglossian argument that virtue and good outcomes converge: honesty is the best policy in both respects. Or, rather: we ought to be honest, and we have no reason to believe that this will be any less effective than dishonesty. And we shouldn't even be doing such calculations anyway.
   tl;dr: damn liberals, be honest.


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