the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: News

Coup D’Etat?

Political talk is everywhere and nowhere these days.   I say that it’s everywhere because with three 24 news networks, traditional media outlets, and blogs, there is certainly no shortage of gum flapping about politics these days.  I believe that it is nowhere because all the yammering on is doing little to create understanding or build consensus.

A case in point is this little bit of business that popped up on my “news” feed on the Blue & White Social Network:

obama_coup

This sort of thing always scares me a little.   It scares me because someone is out there apparently raising the question “should we take up arms against our government?”  Living through armed insurrection is rarely pleasant.  It also scares me that people I know (some since childhood) blithely pass this sort of thing along to others without apparently recoiling in any kind of discomfort about the content.  That suggests a measure of anger and righteousness that is never pleasant to encounter, especially if it one day holds a gun.

Of course, the fact that it is probably untrue also bothers me.  I may not agree with the “all the God fearing Armed Forces veterans need to rise up and take back our Constitution from the Kenyan usurper” crowd and not read their news sources, but I happen to think that if a Marine General called for coup it would show up in the news that I do read.   A little research shows that it is indeed not true.   No need for a coup was mentioned, and while the Murdoch & Ailes News Network and The Washington Times did make some statements about “a Marine General openly criticizing the Obama Administration”, these proved to be something of a stretch upon closer reading of what exactly was said.

The hubbub seems to be over a statement made by Marine Corps Commandant James Amos at The Brookings Institution a few weeks ago:

I have a hard time believing that had we been there [in Iraq], and worked with the government, and worked with parliament, and worked with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, I don’t think we’d be in the same shape we’re in today.

I found the most insightful reading of what actually happened at web outlet called War On The Rocks.  I’ll let them pick up the story of what actually happened:

After some pushback from an editor at War on the Rocks to clarify context, we had the opportunity to review a full transcript of the speech. We discovered that the remarks being pieced together in the various press accounts were in responses to questions from the audience, not the general’s prepared remarks, and often not in the context or order in which they were placed in the reports.

For one thing, the actual line from the transcript is more nuanced than that quoted in the press reports: “I have a hard time believing that had we been there and working with the government and working with parliament an working with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, and the governance and the rule of law, I mean, all of that stuff, that I don’t think we’d be in the shape we’re in today.” More importantly, rather than a planned commentary on the ISIS mess, it was in response to a question asking, “Are you concerned that the same thing [that has happened in Iraq] will happen to the Afghan security forces once we leave?”

Further, in the sentence right before the supposedly damning quote, Amos declared flatly that Iraq “didn’t need combat forces when we left. They’d already had, they were trained up.” So, Amos was actually saying exactly the opposite what Ollie North and others are claiming he did. The Commandant wasn’t criticizing the drawdown of American combat forces, but rather lamenting that the Iraqi leadership has failed so spectacularly at governance and arguing that American advisors at the ministerial level might have helped on that front.

Moreover, when asked directly about the ISIS situation much earlier in the dialogue, Amos described the pride his Marines had in what they’d accomplished in Iraq and added, “it was time for us to leave. We’d completed. We’d done what we said we were going to do. And actually we’d done what we were told to do.”

So, why the vitriol?   I could say its an election year, and that keeping people angry is a great way to get more of your people out to the polls in an off election year… forgetting that the most outrageous lies can take on the appearance of truth if they are repeated long enough and often enough.   We all have to eventually live in a world where such “truths” exist.

A web article that a friend enjoyed pointed to a baser and simpler explanation:

I’ve said for a decade that the media is neither good, nor bad. It is neither Left nor Right. It answers to one god: Sensationalism. Which leads to traffic. Which leads to revenue. There’s a reason why crazies who say stuff like “if you were on a ketogenic diet you would never get cancer” – because it follows the equation: Sensationalism -> Traffic -> Revenue.

Rinse and repeat.

Who needs truth when you can have dollars?

Why My Patience With All News Media Is Growing Rather Thin

A friend on the Blue & White Network posted a link to a breaking bit of news from a major market television station web site regarding capital punishment in California.  The story led with the line:

A federal judge in Orange County on Wednesday declared the death penalty “unconstitutional” in the state of California – the first ruling of its kind in the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in Orange County called the system “dysfunctional” and “arbitrary” in his 29-page ruling.

My immediate reaction was three fold.  First, I know that capital punishment in California has been under assault (pretty much unsuccessfully) for some time now, so this was news.  Second, I don’t claim to be an expert on capital punishment but I had the fuzzy recollection that the United States Supreme Court had issued some kind of ruling back in the 1970’s that invalidated capital punishment on constitutional grounds until states had modified their procedures.  Third, I recalled that Charles Manson got his capital sentence commuted to life in prison because the courts had invalidated California’s capital procedures before.  So… the “first of its kind” hyperbole smelled fishy to me.

Using the Web for what it’s good at (finding somebody’s version of the facts quickly), I was able to find two pieces of information in Wikipedia in under 10 minutes:

  1. The California State Supreme Court voided the death penalty in California under the State Constitution in 1972 in State of California v. Robert Page Anderson.  California modified its Constitution to re-institute the death penalty.
  2. In the same year, the United States Supreme Court created a nationwide four year moratorium on the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia, stating in scattered, non-controlling opinions that the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Constitution.  This forced states to re-write capital punishment laws to implement more uniform impositions of the death penalty in order to pass Constitutional muster.

Now, if I, as a curious reader, can find this out with almost no effort, why can’t a reporter who is informing thousands or millions of people do the same thing?   It provides essential context, and helps avoid the kind of hyperbole that rattles cages and calls people to arms.

I know so many people today who are so angry about the state of this nation or the world because some blogger or talking head on TV or web site told them however overtly or subtly that the should be angry… generally over things that 20-30 minutes of research can put into context with a few facts.  That context goes missing, and we get people thinking that Steven Spielberg killed a triceratops — a dinosaur that went extinct 66 million years ago.

Perhaps that’s my problem:  I’m in love with facts.