Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nothing says "establishment" as Vox's attack on Trump

I keep seeing this Ezra Klein Vox article attacking Donald Trump. It's wrong in every way something can be wrong. Trump is an easy target, but the Vox piece has almost no substance.

Yes, it's true that Trump proposes several unreasonable policies, such as banning Muslims from coming into this country. I'll be the first to chime in and call Trump a racist, Nazi bastard for these things.

But I'm not sure the other candidates are any better. Sure, they aren't Nazis, but their politics are just as full of hate and impracticality. For example, Hillary wants to force Silicon Valley into censoring content, brushing aside complaints from those people overly concerned with "freedom of speech". No candidate, not even Trump, is as radical as Bernie Sanders, who would dramatically reshape the economy. Trump hates Mexican works inside our country, Bernie hates Mexican workers in their own countries, championing punishing trade restrictions.

Most of substantive criticisms Vox gives Trump also applies to Bernie. For example, Vox says:
His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. ... His message isn't so much that he'll help you as he'll hurt them... 
That's Bernie's view of the economy as well. He imagines that economy is a zero-sum game, and that for the 1% rich to prosper, they must take from the 99% of everyone else. Bernie's entire message rests on punishing the 1% for the sin of being rich.

It's the basis of all demagoguery that you find some enemy to blame. Trump's enemies are foreigners, whereas Bernie's enemies are those of the wrong class. Trump is one step in the direction of the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. Bernie is one step in the direction of the horrors of old-style Soviet and Red Chinese totalitarian states.

About Trump's dishonesty, Vox says:
He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying.
Not true. Trump just lies badly. He's not the standard slick politician, who lie so fluently that we don't even realize they are lying. Whether we find a politician's lying to be objectionable isn't based on any principle except whether that politician is on our side.

I gave $10 to all 23 presidential candidates, and get a constant stream of emails from the candidates pumping for more money. They all sound the same, regardless of political party, as if they all read the same book "How To Run A Presidential Campaign". For example, before New Years, they all sent essentially the same message "Help us meet this important deadline!", as if the end of the year is some important fund-raising deadline that must be met. It isn't, that's a lie, but such a fluent one that you can't precisely identify it as a lie. If I were to judge candidate honesty, based on donor e-mails, Bernie would be near the top on honesty, and Hillary would be near the bottom, with Trump unexceptionally in the middle.

Vox's biggest problem is that their attack focuses on Trump's style more than substance. It's a well-known logical fallacy that serious people avoid. Style is irrelevant. Trump's substance provides us enough fodder to attack him, we don't need to stoop to this low level. The Vox piece is great creative fiction about how nasty Trump is, missing only the standard dig about his hair, but there's no details as to exactly why Trump's policies are bad, such as the impractical cost of building a 2000 mile long wall between us and Mexico, or the necessity of suspending the 6th Amendment right to "due process" when deporting 20 million immigrants.

Vox's complaint about Trump's style is mostly that he doesn't obey the mainstream media. All politicians misspeak. There's no way to spend that many hours a day talking to the public without making the most egregious of mistakes. The mainstream media has a way of dealing with this, forcing the politician to grovel. They resent how Trump just ignores the problem and barrels on to the next thing. That the press can't make his mistakes stick makes them very upset.

Imagine a situation where more than half the country believes in an idea, but nobody stands up and publicly acknowledges this. That's a symptom of repressed speech. You'd think that the only suppressor of speech is the government, but that's not true. The mainstream media is part of the establishment, and they regularly suppress speech they don't like.

I point this out because half the country, both Democrats and Republicans, support Trump's idea of preventing Muslims from coming into our country. Sure, it's both logically stupid and evilly racist, but that doesn't matter, half the country supports it. Yet, nobody admits supporting the idea publicly, because as soon as they do, they'll be punished by the mass media.

Thus, the idea continues to fester, because it can't openly be debated. People continue to believe in this bad idea because they are unpersuaded by the ad hominem that "you are such a racist". The bedrock principle of journalism is that there are two sides to every debate. When half the country believes in a wrong idea, we have to accept that they are all probably reasonable people, and that we can change their minds if we honestly engage them in debate.

This sounds like I'm repeating the "media bias" trope, which politicians like Trump use to deflect even fair media coverage they happen not to like. But it's not left-wing bias that is the problem here.

Instead, it's that the media has become part of the establishment, with their own seat of power. Ezra Klein's biggest achievement before Vox was JournoList, designed to help the established press wield their power at the top of the media hierarchy. Ezra Klein is the quintessential press insider. His post attacking Trump is just a typical example of how insiders attack outsiders who don't conform. Yes, Trump deserves criticism, but based upon substance -- not because he challenges how the press establishment has defined how politics should work in America.


Chris said...

Who cares? I come here to read about network security, not your opinion on politics. Stick to security and keep your outside opinions to social media.

Throsby said...

i'm here for the security perspective too, but rather enjoy Rob's contrarian views on disparate matters. I can hear him muttering "who's blog is it anyway?"

Yellow Individual said...

I enjoy this blog very much. Especially this posting, since it seems I never read political or more "news editorial" styled posts from people with the IT security mind set or even just logical mind set really. So cheers, your blog is both intensely informative and subjectively entertaining.