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If He Did Nothing Wrong ...

If He Did Nothing Wrong …

By Dennis Loo (9/5/18)

Trump and his supporters say “your president has done nothing wrong” and Giuliani signals that Mueller’s report, whenever it becomes available, will be censored in part by the White House. If Trump were innocent, then why does he try at every turn, to stop the inquiry? Why does he try to protect Michael Flynn from the FBI? Why does he try to make the FBI his (open) play thing? Why does he threaten to fire Sessions, Rothstein, Mueller, and actually fire Comey as well as many others who have left or been fired? Doesn’t Trump want to clear his name of any suspicion by letting any inquiry go on to unearth the truth? Doesn’t he want any doubts about Russian influence through cyberwarfare and false fronts to be in this nation exposed and rooted out? That is, if he were actually not guilty and there was such a thing as an investigation in order to determine what is true through that process?

I am reminded of an argument that a reader of my book Globalization and the Demolition of Society’s Introduction had with me. In that Introduction, I systematically take apart the godfather of neoliberalism, Frederick Hayek. As part of that critique, I draw out the implications of what Hayek says, and this reader (of just the Introduction since Amazon let him read that much free) objects to my doing that: complaining that Hayek never said this and that. Of course, Hayek doesn’t directly state some of those things because then you’d know how ridiculous he is being, and moreover, one doesn’t always draw out what one is saying and what it leads to in any case. The argument I make is in part a demonstration of inferential reasoning, and this reader regards that as impermissible, as if one can only say things directly and explicitly, as if nuance and connotation don’t exist, as if one can have a fire without any smoke, as if we were to cut off an arm as superfluous of our language, as if you say things and there is never any ambiguity, ever, as though there is denotation, but never any connotation, implying nothing ever.

If that was really true, then there would only be a single definition rather than the multiple meanings for each word. Languages would be flattened out and stale.

I am further reminded of the former GOP spokesman, their first black to hold that post, Michael Steele’s NPR 2009 interview with Steve Inskeep where Inskeep uses the term more “nuanced” to describe Steele’s statement. It becomes apparent after several minutes that Steele sees nuance as an insult rather than as the compliment that Inskeep intended.[i]

The right-wing has been trying for many years to reduce language to very simplistic elements, thus undermining thought itself. I wish that I could say this phenomenon were restricted to the right-wing but that is untrue because I am seeing evidence of this trend across the board. In my students, for example there is a real tendency to ask you to restate what you obviously wrote before, as if people doubt their own eyes, professing that they are “confused.” What are they confused about when the answer to their very question is in their own query?

This phenomenon of wanting “someone to hold your hand” and reassure them that what they thought is true after all runs through our society like an epidemic, embracing right-wing and left, in ordinary people who doubt what they see, even with their own eyes.

This should not have to be said: we live much our lives based on inferring things. We have to and there is nothing wrong with that. Those who undermine that give rise to people not even believing what they have read – and that is a very dangerous and backward way of doing things!

How does humanity get to the truth? By relying on authority to tell us how we should think, or from evidence?

It is ironic that the public is now treated as if they all presumed they are, or might do something, wrong and criminal, yet POTUS is above the law.


[i]If you are accustomed to thinking in dichotomous ways – it’s either A or B and it cannot be some hybrid of the two – then these matters will remain puzzling to you. When Michael Steele, for example, was head of the Republican National Committee (the first African-American to fill that role) he was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep in 2009 about Medicare. Steele was trying to have it both ways regarding Medicare. He wanted to keep it while nonetheless railing against government run programs, despite the fact that Medicare is a government run program. In the course of the interview Inskeep pointed out to Steele that a comment of Steele’s seemed to show a more “nuanced” approach regarding Medicare than previously. Rather than feeling complimented by this, Steele expressed umbrage that Inskeep would call him ‘nuanced’: ‘I’m not trying to be nuanced. I’m not trying to be cute.’ To Steele, ‘being clear meant not being nuanced. To some such as the leadership of the Republican Party, reality is black and white. Or as Bush put it in relation to the war on terror: ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.’ This is the kind of reasoning that dovetails with those who think it’s perfectly all right to indefinitely detain suspects in a war that Dick Cheney said will last generations. ‘These men are our enemies,’ they declare, ‘and until they give up their war against us, we can do what we want with them.’”

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