‘It Has to Stop’: Georgia Election Official Lashes Trump – The New York Times

Gabriel Sterling, a voting system official in Georgia, harshly criticized the president for failing to condemn threats of violence against people overseeing the election in his state.

Go to article to see the Video!

By

ATLANTA — In one of the most striking rebukes to President Trump since he launched his baseless attacks on the American electoral process, a top-ranking Georgia election official lashed out at the president on Tuesday for failing to condemn threats of violence against people overseeing the voting system in his state.

“It has to stop,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol, his voice shaking with emotion. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.”

He added: “This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much.”

Mr. Sterling’s outburst of anger and frustration came amid a sustained assault on Georgia’s election process by Mr. Trump as he seeks to reverse his loss to his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Sterling, who previously said he had received threats himself, said that threats had also been made against the wife of his superior, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state.

Opinion | 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Getty Images

“HAMBURG, Germany — It may well be that Germans have a special inclination to panic at specters from the past, and I admit that this alarmism annoys me at times. Yet watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler, which would be absurd. But the Dolchstosslegende provides a warning. It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s irrational claim that the election was “rigged” as a laughable last convulsion of his reign or a cynical bid to heighten the market value for the TV personality he might once again intend to become, especially as he appears to be giving up on his effort to overturn the election result.”

David Lindsay:
What do Jochen Bittner and my sister Elly Lindsay have in common. It is at least an interest in history. I graduated from high school in three years complicated by anti Vietnam war activities and drugs. My parents supported me in a gap year, where I lived in Cambridge MA with my sister Elly. I worked as a volunteer stage carpenter and electrician at the Harvard Loeb Drama Center, while Elly finished her senior year at Radcliff College at Harvard. Elly was the president of the Harvard Dramat at the Loeb Theater, and acting in shows, while studying history and literature. She was particularly proud of one of her major papers for the history department, where she examined how Germany fell into fascism, and she wrote in her conclusions, that Americans would not have been immune to the forces at work in Germany. We could in similar circumstances, be just as horrible as the Germans were in World War II.
Bret Stephens wrote about Dolchstosslegende in a piece I posted last week. This piece adds a great deal to the discussion, or better put, to the warning. Trump insisting that the election was stolen, is dangerous. Republicans of any patriotic worth, should quickly disavow it.

David Brooks, largely describing the work of Jonathan Rauch. “The Rotting of the Republican Mind,” – reactions

I’m still grappling with, and excited by these two articles I have referenced or posted, by David Brooks, largely describing the work of Jonathan Rauch. “The Rotting of the Republican Mind,” is about fake news and conspiracy theories become the tools of dangerous populists, despots and dictators. I am now looking at the comments to the Brooks piece, here is a sampling. The most popular comment:

Dan B.Southern CaliforniaNov. 27Times Pick

It is not the Democrats who have systematically deprived people of quality healthcare, education and a living wage. It is the Republicans. How do you convince voters that their economic success is being sabotaged by those who they put and keep in power?59 Replies3699 RecommendedHere is one that I have mixes feelings about:LlenzBostonNov. 27Times Pick”Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?” Because Republican economic policies contribute more to the growing wealth gap – the disenfranchisement of everyone but the very wealthy – the Republican party can only maintain power by fleecing a large portion of the electorate. They know it’s easier to fleece people with less training in critical thinking, such as those without college degrees, or people who were raised to take the words of the Bible literally, without question. They knew their marks and groomed them perfectly for someone like Trump. Cynical emotional appeals to people opposed to abortion and gay marriage all too easily gave way to an outright disinformation strategy, fashioned by Fox and weaponized to full extent when the internet came along. The flood of disinformation available due to the internet is destabilizing governments around the globe. Honestly, if we don’t figure out a way to address this problem, we’re tanked.

32 Replies 2871 Recommended

DL: We can quickly fix a lot of fake news on Fox, by returning an law turned off by Ronald Reagan, the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC, that requires any news organization if they put forth an side of an argument over Federal airwaves, they are required to put forth the other popular or competing arguments as well. They have to give the other side equal time. FCC fairness doctrine – Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org › wiki › FCC_fairness_doctrine”The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.”

Here is a comment that is full of promise, though I don’t know how easy to accomplish:A. W.Brooklyn NYNov. 27Times Pick

A third thing that can be done is to shift education’s focus from rewarding students for the answers they give to rewarding them for the questions they ask . If we train our youth to challenge information offered them from their earliest years they will be better equipped to ask the urgent questions needed before voting. Spitting back facts on exams to get a good grade does not hold a candle to learning to ask the teacher, “ How do we know that is true?” A student body that is used to asking this question is more likely to become a thoughtful citizen. And to be clear, training in this way doesn’t require a college education. It can be done at the earliest levels in our classrooms. As a former elementary school teacher I asked my students to challenge my statements. And bit by bit they did. I had to prove where my information came from and they had to decide whether to believe me because I was the authority in the classroom or because my answer to their questions conformed to their growing sense of how we should access truth.

32 Replies 1281 Recommended

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind (second half) – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . . .  People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.

People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. He and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime. The internet is an ideal medium for untested information to get around traditional gatekeepers, but it is an accelerant of the paranoia, not its source. Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.”   -30-

Opinion | The Rotting of the Republican Mind – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Dan Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

“In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?

Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. I mostly reject this view. Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?

My analysis begins with a remarkable essay that Jonathan Rauch wrote for National Affairs in 2018 called “The Constitution of Knowledge.” Rauch pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge.

This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.”

Over the past decades the information age has created a lot more people who make their living working with ideas, who are professional members of this epistemic process. The information economy has increasingly rewarded them with money and status. It has increasingly concentrated them in ever more prosperous metro areas.

While these cities have been prospering, places where fewer people have college degrees have been spiraling down: flatter incomes, decimated families, dissolved communities. In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives.

People need a secure order to feel safe. Deprived of that, people legitimately feel cynicism and distrust, alienation and anomie. This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center calls this the “Density Divide.” It is a bitter cultural and political cold war.

In the fervor of this enmity, millions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending. Millions not only distrust everything the “fake news” people say, but also the so-called rules they use to say them.”

. . . .

Opinion | Trump Lives in a Hall of Mirrors and He’s Got Plenty of Company – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

If Donald Trump loses his re-election bid, there will be a lot of ruin to sort through. But his most damaging and enduring legacy may well turn out to be the promiscuous use of conspiracy theories that have defined both the man and his presidency.

The president’s cruelest policies, like intentionally separating children from their parents at the border, can at least be ended, although their devastating effects will reverberate for decades. It’s less clear what the half-life is for his conspiracy theorizing, which fundamentally distorts the way people think about politics, our country and reality itself.

There have been so many conspiracy theories it’s easy to forget some of them, and this list is hardly exhaustive, but it includes Mr. Trump claiming that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind the death of their former aide Vince Foster; suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy and that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a staff member nearly 20 years ago; retweeting claims that SEAL Team 6 didn’t kill Osama bin Laden in 2011; insisting that Ukraine was hiding Hillary Clinton’s missing emails and that Mr. Obama wiretapped Mr. Trump’s phones; and promoting QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that believes, as Kevin Roose put it in The Times, that “the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.”

There was a time when popularizing such crazed machinations would have caused one to be cast to the outer fringes of American politics; in the case of Mr. Trump, it helped elect him and has created a cultlike devotion among tens of millions of his supporters. And because of Mr. Trump, conspiracy theorizing is now a central feature of the Republican Party and American politics.

The Biden Contradiction – WSJ

I finally got around to asking google for any endorsement by the Wall Street Journal of either presidential candidate. Here is their non-endorsement of Donald Trump. He is not defendable, but Biden is unacceptable. There are more lies and falsities in this editorial than I have fingers and toes. If you can’t identify at least ten of them yourself, ask me, and I will break it down for you.  If this sounds like what you heard when sampling Fox TV, it is not a coincidence. Rupert Murdoch owns the WST and Fox. They appear to reflect each other.

“The Wall Street Journal hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate since 1928—Hoover—and we aren’t about to change this year. But we do try to sum up the risks and promise of the candidates every four years, and we’ll start today with the contradictory candidacy of Joe Biden.

The former Vice President is running as a reassuring moderate, a man of good character who can reunite the country and crush Covid-19 after the disruptive Trump Presidency. Yet he also is running on the most left-wing policy program in decades.

Voters have little idea about these policies because Mr. Biden mentions them only in the most vague, general terms. The press barely reports them. Americans may think they’re voting for Joe’s persona, but they will get the platform of Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

***

In Mr. Biden’s sunny telling, he will be the anti-Donald Trump. He won’t kick down, won’t trash norms and won’t alienate allies. He’ll work with Republicans to forge bipartisan policies, restraining the passions of his party’s left. In that sense he has been the perfect Democratic nominee to appeal to women and suburban Republicans tired of polarized politics. He has run a disciplined campaign on character and Covid that has made the election a referendum on Mr. Trump.

We too would like to believe Mr. Biden could govern in a less divisive way because it would be better for the country. Left to his own instincts, and if he were a decade younger, he might pull it off. Every Republican who negotiated with the White House over a budget compromise in 2011 told us they made progress when Mr. Biden was in the room, only to have Barack Obama take it all back when he joined the talks.

But what evidence is there today that Mr. Biden will restrain his increasingly radical party? Across his long career he has been the consummate party man, floating right or left with the political tides. As a presidential candidate this year he has put no particular policy imprint on the Democratic Party—not one. The party ha put its stamp on him.

This is extraordinary in modern political history. Bill Clinton ran as a centrist New Democrat for welfare reform, George W. Bush pushed compassionate conservatism, Barack Obama ran as a racial pioneer and political conciliator, and Donald Trump broke from GOP orthodoxy on trade and immigration.

Mr. Biden has instead conformed himself and his agenda to the priorities of the regnant left. He has ditched his long opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion. He supports tax rates on income and capital higher than any since the 1970s. His pro-union agenda harks back to the 1930s’ Wagner Act. His version of the Green New Deal would spend $2 trillion in four years and aims to eliminate fossil fuels with mandates and regulation.

These are not exaggerations. The details are on his web site and in the Biden-Sanders unity agenda Mr. Biden endorsed after he won the nomination. Primary winners usually move to the center. Mr. Biden moved left to keep the Bernie brigades mobilized. Anyone who thinks Mr. Biden will be able to forget all this if elected doesn’t understand the fund-raising and media power of the Democratic left.

The best chance for Mr. Biden to govern from the center would be if Republicans hold the Senate. Then he would have some leverage over Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who fears a primary challenge in 2022 from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Otherwise how would Mr. Biden stand up to them next year if he won’t even clearly criticize court-packing now?

***

On foreign policy, Mr. Biden sounds at his best like a typical liberal internationalist. He would restore good relations with allies like Germany, and he’d stop using tariffs as a weapon against friends like Canada and Mexico. But he’d also run head long back into the flawed Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord that restrains the U.S. but not China.

Mr. Biden has tried to outdo Mr. Trump as a China hawk, though no one really believes it. Our worry is that he’d downplay Beijing’s security offenses in favor of papier-mâché promises on climate, as Mr. Obama did. The news in recent days of his family’s attempts to do business with sketchy Chinese figures close to the government raises real questions of how he’d deal with Chairman Xi Jinping.

As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously put it, Mr. Biden has been wrong about every major foreign policy issue in his career. During the Cold War he opposed Reagan’s arms buildup and missile defenses, and he voted against the first Gulf War.

He supported the Iraq war when it was popular only to turn against it when his party did, and then he opposed the 2007 surge that saved the day. He also opposed the raid on Osama bin Laden. It’s impossible to believe Mr. Biden would have acted to kill Iranian terror chief Qasem Soleimani, as Mr. Trump did.

***

The biggest risk with Mr. Biden is his physical and mental condition. He looks increasingly like an old 77. His campaign’s strategy of letting him out only once or twice a day, and his refusal to take nearly all media questions, isn’t reassuring. The truth is that Americans don’t know if Mr. Biden’s clear deterioration from even four years ago is routine aging or something more serious.

A fair consideration for voters is how long Mr. Biden will be able to handle the burdens of the Presidency. A capable staff and a forgiving press corps will cover for him as long as they can. But he surely won’t run for re-election, if he makes it four years. Americans who vote for Mr. Biden may be voting for Ms. Harris as his successor sooner than they imagine.

Mr. Biden has led in the polls for months, and tens of millions of voters clearly have Trump fatigue and dislike the President’s handling of Covid. They may elect the man they think is Mr. Trump’s opposite in the hope of restoring more decorum and calm to American politics. They should know they may be voting for disruption of a different kind from the political left.”

Source: The Biden Contradiction – WSJ

Opinion | I Spoke to a Scholar of Conspiracy Theories and I’m Scared for Us – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Lately, I have been putting an embarrassing amount of thought into notions like jinxes and knocking on wood. The polls for Joe Biden look good, but in 2020, any hint of optimism feels dangerously naïve, and my brain has been working overtime in search of potential doom.

I have become consumed with an alarming possibility: that neither the polls nor the actual outcome of the election really matter, because to a great many Americans, digital communication has already rendered empirical, observable reality beside the point.

If I sound jumpy, it’s because I spent a couple of hours recently chatting with Joan Donovan, the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Donovan is a pioneering scholar of misinformation and media manipulation — the way that activists, extremists and propagandists surf currents in our fragmented, poorly moderated media ecosystem to gain attention and influence society.

Donovan’s research team studies online lies the way crash-scene investigators study aviation disasters. They meticulously take apart specific hoaxes, conspiracy theories, viral political memes, harassment campaigns and other toxic online campaigns in search of the tactics that made each one explode into the public conversation.”

“. . . . Donovan worries about two factors in particular. One is the social isolation caused by the pandemic. Lots of Americans are stuck at home, many economically bereft and cut off from friends and relatives who might temper their passions — a perfect audience for peddlers of conspiracy theories.

Her other major worry is the conspiracy lollapalooza known as QAnon. It’s often short-handed the way Savannah Guthrie did at her town hall takedown of Donald Trump last week — as a nutty conspiracy theory in which a heroic Trump is prosecuting a secret war against a satanic pedophile ring of lefty elites.

But that undersells QAnon’s danger. To people who have been “Q-pilled,” QAnon plays a much deeper role in their lives; it has elements of a support group, a political party, a lifestyle brand, a collective delusion, a religion, a cult, a huge multiplayer game and an extremist network.

Donovan thinks QAnon represents a new, flexible infrastructure for conspiracy. QAnon has origins in a tinfoil-hat story about a D.C.-area pizza shop, but over the years it has adapted to include theories about the “deep state” and the Mueller probe, Jeffrey Epstein, and a wild variety of misinformation about face masks, miracle cures, and other hoaxes regarding the coronavirus. QAnon has been linked to many instances of violence, and law enforcement and terrorism researchers discuss it as a growing security threat.

“We now have a densely networked conspiracy theory that is extendible, adaptable, flexible and resilient to take down,” Donovan said of QAnon. It’s a very internet story, analogous to the way Amazon expanded from an online bookstore into a general-purpose system for selling anything to anyone.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Farhad Manjoo. We need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine as the law of the land.  Here is the most popular comment which I endorse:

Matthew L.,   Chicago1h ago,   Times Pick

“Stopping Coughlin’s hate took a concerted effort, involving new regulations for radio broadcasters…” “Media manipulation” used to be called propaganda. The FCC revoking of the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration opened the door first for conservative talk radio and then for Fox News to flourish as propaganda media for the far right, with no responsibility to truth or objectivity. With the rise of QAnon to political prominence we are now seeing even uglier consequences of the reluctance to regulate either broadcast media or the internet. After 40 years of government-is-the-problem deregulation, does America even remember that yes government can serve the needs of the common good? Do we even believe in a common American good anymore? We had better start. What was once deregulated can be regulated again.

8 Replies408 Recommended

Opinion | When Antifa Hysteria Sweeps America – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Amy Moss Strong/The World

“What can we possibly make of the crisis that unfolded in the remote Oregon seaside town of Coquille?

Coquille is a sleepy logging community of 3,800 people, almost all of them white. It is miles and miles from nowhere. Portland is 250 miles to the north. San Francisco is 500 miles to the south.

But Fox News is in a frenzy about rioters and looters, and President Trump warns about the anti-fascist movement known as antifa. So early this month as a small group of local residents planned a peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protest in Coquille, word raced around that three busloads of antifa activists were headed to Coquille to bust up the town.

The sheriff and his deputies donned bulletproof vests, prepared their MRAP armored vehicle and took up positions to fight off the invasion. Almost 200 local people, some shouldering rifles and others holding flags, gathered to protect their town (overshadowing the handful of people who had come to wave Black Lives Matter signs).”

“. . . .  Race-baiting extremists have also tried to manipulate public fears. One Twitter account purportedly run by an antifa group, @Antifa_US, announced on May 31 that “tonight’s the night … we move into the residential areas … the white hoods … and we take what’s ours.” But Twitter said that the account was actually run by white supremacists posing as antifa.

These antifa panics are where racism and hysteria intersect, in a nation that has more guns than people. They arise when a lying president takes every opportunity not to heal our national divisions but to stoke them, when people live in a news ecosystem that provides no reality check but inflames prejudices and feeds fears.

You might think that this kind of hysteria would be self-correcting: Citizens would see that no antifa people show up and then realize that they had been manipulated by people who treat them as dummies. But the narrative actually gaining traction in some quarters is that guns forced the antifa to back off.   . . . . “