Publication Archives: Blog > Deception and misdirection

Deception and misdirection

Tragedy, as politics: Exploiting Ferguson

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]

African-Americans have long been the victims of oppression by politicians and bureaucrats. That’s been true from the 17th Century when slavery, a practice older than civilization, began to be associated with the concept we now call “race,” through the era of Jim Crow and one-party Democratic Party rule in much of the country (a time that included FDR’s racist National Recovery Administration), to the present time (when, for example, in Washington, DC, African-Americans are eight times more likely than others to be arrested for marijuana offenses, and are disproportionately the victims of horrific public schools and of laws that restrict small-business opportunities).

Often, law enforcement officials have been part of that oppression. During Jim Crow, African-Americans were often framed for crimes, then rented out as laborers, a practice that was, in effect, a partial restoration of slavery. During the Civil Rights Movement, police often looked the other way when violence was visited upon civil rights workers and on everyday African-Americans, and sometimes police were active participants in these crimes.

I grew up around police officers, studied law enforcement beside them in college, and worked as a police reporter. I have the greatest respect for these men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. But I understand why many African-Americans are deeply distrustful of the police.

If, in fact, an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, had shot and killed an unarmed young man, Michael Brown, in the back, or while Brown was trying to surrender with his hands up, and if that officer did not have full justification for his actions, I would support punishing the officer to the fullest extent of the law.

The problem is that that version of the story, it appears, is not Read all »

That Lyndon Johnson quote (Part 2)

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Last week, at http://capitalresearch.org/2014/10/we-have-lost-the-south-for-a-generation-what-lyndon-johnson-said-or-would-have-said-if-only-he-had-said-it, I took a look at that story that has circulated in recent years as, in essence, a smear of Southern Republicans: that President Lyndon Johnson, after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, said that “We have lost the South for a generation.”

More from my investigation of this quote:

► Almost all uses of that version of the quote are from the past 10 years. However, I found a close variation in a 1988 Washington Post article by Patricia Brennan in which she quotes Johnson aide Ben Wattenberg. (Wattenberg was one of the first “neoconservatives” in the original sense of the term, a New Deal liberal who came to recognize the failures of Big Government policies.) As quoted by Brennan, Wattenberg said that, even during Johnson’s 1964 landslide, “there were six states that Barry Goldwater kept: Arizona and five states in the South. You trace it forward and you see that they never came back. They were out because of civil rights and they stayed out. . . . The day they passed the civil rights bill, LBJ said to Bill Moyers, ‘You know, I think we gave the South to the Republicans.’”

I suspect that Wattenberg, apparently speaking off the cuff, paraphrased another Moyers quote of Johnson (about which, more below). Further garbled over time, as in the Telephone Game, that quote in the Washington Post article may have been the source for the lost-the-South-for-a-generation version. Or it’s possible that the quote originated as an indirect quote, one without quotation marks, that appeared in the magazine The Economist in 2002. By 2004, the quote was appearing in articles with quotation marks. I can find no direct reference to Johnson saying it or to whom it was said. It is always used as a quote that, well, everyone knows.

 

► In the early 1990s, another version of the story held that the Johnson statement was “There goes the South.” The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald used that version November 4, 1992.

Timothy Noah of the left-wing online magazine Slate (then affiliated with the Washington Post) wrote (January 27, 2004, posted at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2004/01/forget_the_south_democrats.html):

“There goes the South for a generation,” Lyndon Johnson is said to have predicted as he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. Actually, it’s been two generations, but otherwise Johnson was dead-on. For 40 years, the Democratic Party begged Southern Democrats to return to the fold.

Considering that all Southern states except Virginia voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, while Carter was losing the rest of the country as a whole, and that, with the exception of in 1964, the South was significantly more Republican than the country as a whole beginning in 1988 at the presidential level and in 2010 at the local and state level, the fake Johnson quote was hardly “dead on.” Still, I suppose that Noah deserves credit for only half-lying because he qualified his use of the fake quote (“Johnson is said to have predicted”).

 

► The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2000, published an interview with Johnson aide Harry McPherson and Jack Valenti in which McPherson was quoted as saying that another Johnson aide, Bill Moyers “came in on the evening of the passage of the Voting Rights Act.” (Note that he referred to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 rather than the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)

. . . Johnson, having had a wonderful day signing the bill, everybody around him praising him, was sitting, Bill says, with his head in his hands at his desk. Bill said, “Mr. President, it’s the greatest day of your presidency.” Johnson said, “Yes, and it’s the day we gave the South to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes.”

Interestingly, Valenti wrote an account of the passage and signing of the Voting Read all »

“We have lost the South for a generation”: What Lyndon Johnson said, or would have said if only he had said it

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

“We have lost the South for a generation,” President Lyndon B. Johnson told an aide after he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Not really, of course. Johnson didn’t say that.

I’ve examined more than a hundred uses of that quote, going back to what seems to be its first appearance in 2002 (as an indirect quote, one without quotation marks) and what seems to be its first appearance as a direct quote in 2004. That would be some 40 years after Johnson supposedly uttered it. Some falsely attribute the story to Johnson aide Bill Moyers, but not one writer or commentator using the quote includes a citation that tracks back to anyone who heard (or claims to have heard) LBJ say it. The quote directly contradicts earlier versions that appeared closer to the event. So it can be said with a high level of confidence that the quote is fake. There is simply no reason to believe it.

Yet it’s part of left-wing gospel.

Every person who follows politics has heard some version of the story: LBJ made the comment at some point on the day they passed the Civil Rights Act, or later on the morning of the day Johnson signed the legislation (that legislation being the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or maybe the Voting Rights Act of 1965), or he said it that evening as he lay in bed, or he said it at the conclusion of the signing ceremony when he turned to a friend, or maybe an aide, and said, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” Or “for your lifetime.” Or “for a generation.” Or “We have lost the South for a generation.” Or maybe he said, “There goes the South.” And he was absolutely right: As a reaction to Johnson’s act of courage, the South turned Republican immediately, overnight, instantly, only 46 years later. Yessiree. That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it. Read all »

This is what “Al Qaeda on the run” looks like

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Now it’s the Intelligence Community’s fault. You know — that Clapper guy!

We know the President’s telling the truth because of how quickly he moved to fire that Clapper guy (James Clapper, the director of national intelligence). Which is to say, he didn’t fire him. When someone who serves at the pleasure of the President seems to be unfit for his or her office and doesn’t get fired, there’s a good reason. That person is the President’s fixer (Eric Holder, John Mitchell), or has information that could do the President in (Janet Reno, J. Edgar Hoover), or is the President’s fall guy. Given the state of the world (best summarized as “in flames”), the DNI makes a convenient fall guy. Read all »

Shut up! Just shut the heck up! argued Kennedy and the Warmers

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

This may be the week the Global Warming movement jumped the shark.

In New York, where, in 1933, 250,000 marched down Fifth Avenue in support of the racist and fascist National Recovery Administration and where, in 1938, Nazis rallied at Madison Square Garden (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPGT7EaCiIY), the Global Warming community held its People’s Climate March on Sunday.

Organizers did little to hide the role of extremists and hate-mongers in the festivities: Featured participants included former Clinton/Gore consultant Naomi Klein, author of a new book on how Global Warming means the end of capitalism (This Changes EverythingCapitalism vs. the Climate); New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supported the Soviet Sandinistas in Nicaragua and honeymooned in the socialist paradise Cuba; and Al Gore. Sponsors included not just the extreme Left (Greenpeace, the SEIU, MoveOn.org, the Union of Concerned Scientists) but self-described socialists (the Socialist Party USA, Socialist Alternative, Democratic Socialists of America, Ecosocialist Horizons, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, the international Socialist Organization, the Freedom Social Party), anarchists (The Ruckus Society, the Anti-Oppression Forum Anarchist Collective, the Black Rose Anarchist Federation) , and outright communists (the Ben Davis Club [an openly Communist group named after a supporter of the mass murderer Stalin and of the Soviet invasion of Hungary], the Communist Party publication People’s World, and the Communist Party USA itself).

One wonders how the organizers explained the Communists’ sponsorship to Chinese-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Polish-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, the Hmong, and others whose relatives have suffered under Communist oppression. One wonders how the organizers can align themselves with the Communist Party, which has murdered 100-150 million people. Then again, the Warmers support an anti-science ideology that, as it becomes the basis for economic policy, will trap billions of people around the world in abject poverty. Compassion and a decent respect for humanity are not exactly things that you associate with Warmers.

Among the prominent speakers at the March: the conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy Jr. Read all »

Why scientist-activists are always wrong (Part 1)

The collapse of Global Warming theory puts a harsh spotlight on the involvement of scientist-activists in efforts to deceive opinion leaders and policy-makers.

Later this year, I’ll attempt to explain why scientist-activist groups are always—yes, always—wrong about politics and public policy. This week, here’s a quick look at one of the reasons: that scientists may be good at analyzing the results of replicable research and experimentation, but they’re not good at analyzing things that are unrepeatable.

Consider this problem in political analysis: The period of strong economic growth that began in late 1994/early 1995—Was it more the result of President Clinton’s economic plan, which became law in August 1993, or was it more the result of the election of a Republican Congress in November 1994?  Without one factor or the other or both, would the economy have grown faster or slower?  There is no way to determine the answer—not  in a scientific way.  We cannot rewind history, change one or two factors, and do the experiment over.  Scientists who get involved in public policy often get confused and frustrated, because they don’t understand the difference.  (Policymakers have little understanding of physical science, too, but that presents different problems.)

Even Albert Einstein, who sought to organize scientists for political causes, recognized the limitation of applying scientific methods to political problems.  In 1949, in the first issue of the Marxist publication Monthly Review, Einstein wrote:

It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible.  But in reality such methodological differences do exist.  The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately.

Most political questions are unrelated to science.  Science may tell us something about the stages of development of a fetus, but it cannot answer the question of when a fetus (or an embryo) becomes a human being who should be subject to the protection of the law.  Thus, science has nothing to say about abortion laws or about whether the federal government should increase funding for embryonic stem cell research.  It may be able to tell us whether a particular spot on earth, at a particular time on a particular day of the year, has a higher temperature than on the corresponding day and time a year before.  But science has nothing to say about whether the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto treaty.

That limitation is particularly important in light of the fact that there is no evidence scientists understand politics any better than chicken farmers understand politics, or that scientists understand politics any better than politicians understand science. We should listen to what the scientific community says on political issues, just as we listen to the janitorial community or the truck-driver community, but no more so.

Einstein wrote that “we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.”  Einstein, who strongly endorsed centralized economic planning—perhaps the most discredited-yet-popular idea of the 20th Century—knew what he was talking about when he warned us “not to overestimate science and scientific methods.”

Richard Pipes, who headed the famous Team B of intelligence analysts during the Cold War, addressed the problem. [A note on terminology: “Idiographic” is a term from Kantian philosophy describing the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, accidental, and often subjective phenomena.  It is contrasted to “nomothetic,” a term that describes the effort to understand objective phenomena.]  In a chapter in the 1982 book Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s: Analysis and Estimates, Pipes wrote:

In the natural sciences, once you arrive at a validated law, any subsequent experiment will always yield the same result.  That assurance of repeatability is the essence of the natural sciences. Once you have found, for example, that water boils at a certain degree on the thermometer (atmospheric pressure being constant) it will always do that. In contrast, the idiographic sciences, of which history is one, have to deal with concrete situations which contain certain elements familiar from other phenomena but the combination of which is always unique and therefore unrepetitive.  For this reason, there can be no science of history.  There are certain ancillary disciplines within history, such as statistics and demography, which are close to science.  There may be a science of analyzing documents.  But the actual process of arriving at historical conclusions is never precisely the same because every situation is unique.  For this reason history is so very appropriate as training for intelligence analysts, in as much as the situations which confront the intelligence analyst also are forever concrete, unique, and unrepeatable

Pipes was too generous regarding statistics and demographics. For example, the U.S. census does a pretty good job manipulating information in those fields by, for example, targeting certain groups for inclusion in the Census and by creating or eliminating ethnic groups to create false impressions (e.g., the fake and racist “America will soon turn into a non-white country” meme). But his general point about the different types of science was correct.

To be continued.

Trolling Facebook

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

This week I’m giving our faithful blog-readers some insight into various aspects of deception and/or Big Government, as noted in comments I posted on Facebook.

► A friend posted this picture:

sja America sideways looks like a duck 140908 1509695_276960175794812_34656293_n

[My response, focusing on how our perception of images and ideas depends on perspective:] Try this: Take one of those beautiful “birth of stars” pictures from NASA, and turn it upside down (there is no “up” in deep space) and change the color scheme (which is artificial and computer-generated), and you can make it look kinda disgusting. In other words, the awesome beauty is there because someone put it there.

sja Hubble turn it around and change colors deception 140908 hubble-web1 http://saint-lucy.com/wp…/uploads/2011/03/hubble-web1.jpg

 

► A friend linked to this article: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/31/does-antarctic-sea-ice-growth-negate-global-warming-theory/

…which led to this exchange:

 [name redacted: Let’s call him “Bob”]  It is amazing to me that people whose main interest in life is politics, who have little interest or background in science, should be such experts on scientific matters because of scattered articles that seem to support their contrarian views. We Americans just can’t stop being know-it-alls, especially the most ignorant of us.

[Me:] Given the record of the “scientific community” in support of white supremacy and eugenics and the Population Bomb concept (resulting in China’s murderous one-child policy), and its support for the species collapse idea and Nuclear Winter and action-reaction arms control theory and homosexuality-as-a-psychological-disorder and spinach-as-rich-in-iron and canals on Mars and phrenology and scurvy-caused-by-bad-hygiene and ulcers-caused-by-stress, along with the “impossibility” of missile defense and of biological weapons and of the survival of 24-week fetuses and of continental drift, and its belief in SETI (based in part on a failure to understand math), you might think that the utter collapse of Global Warming theory would put an end to people trying to justify their extremist political positions (e.g., the War on Coal) with half-baked or fake “science.” But don’t worry. They’ll never run out of [baloney].

[Bob:] SJA: you might have added fusion energy. Your idea of science and mine differ. Science is self-correcting; lots of s**t is proposed, only the good stuff survives. And, yes, sometimes too long. The alternate to science is eternal truths everywhere, including that humankind need never worry about over-population or the end of fossil fuels or the harmlessness of spewing poisons into the air.

Read all »

The President’s deliberately deliberative policy of deliberation

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

The word of the day is “deliberative.”

Last week, President Obama let slip that “we have no strategy’ for dealing with ISIS (also called ISIL, based on a variant translation of the group’s name). Lest anyone accused me of taking his out of content, here are 200+ words of the exchange with NBC’s Chuck Todd:

QUESTION: Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?

OBAMA: You know, I have consulted with Congress throughout this process. I am confident that as commander in chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently. As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress, and I do think that it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in and we’re — that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are. And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.

But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

“We don’t have a strategy yet.” That’s an astonishing admission, given that one of the key jobs of the national security community is Read all »

Business Insider story: What Dorian Johnson said about the Brown shooting

One of the main ways in which the media lie is simply to leave out relevant information. Here’s an example: a Business Insider account, posted at http://www.businessinsider.com/eye-witness-account-of-michael-browns-shooting-2014-8 (accessed 8/26/14) that was based on an MSNBC story. See if you can spot the key fact that was left out.

 

This Is The Version Of The Ferguson, Missouri Shooting That Police Don’t Want You To Hear

A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed, black 18-year-old named Michael Brown on Saturday, sparking riots and protests in the St. Louis suburb. At least 50 people were arrested in three days.

Details have been hazy about the shooting, but two competing stories have emerged. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says Brown assaulted the officer first, and then the two began to struggle with the officer’s gun.

The police version is at odds with another story, corroborated by multiple witnesses, including 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was “within arm’s reach” of Brown when the first shot was fired. Johnson spoke to MSNBC last night and gave his account. Here’s a summary of his version of the events. (Police have reportedly refused to interview Johnson.)

On Saturday afternoon, somewhere between 1:40 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., Johnson says he saw Brown walking on the street and went to talk to him. As the two caught up, they headed back to Johnson’s house. When they were a 1-minute walk away, they went to cross the street. As they walked in the middle of the road — jaywalking — a police car drove up. The officer told the two to go on the sidewalk, according to Johnson.

“His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson told MSNBC.

Johnson told the officer they were almost at their destination. Thinking the officer was giving them leave, they began walking again. Instead of driving away, the officer switched his police truck in reverse, tires screeching, and nearly hit the two, according to Johnson.

At that point, Johnson said, he and Brown were in line with the officer’s side door. The officer asked them what the two had said and then tried to push his door open, according to Johnson. Because the two were so close to the door, Johnson says the door hit Brown and closed. The officer then allegedly grabbed Brown by the neck.

Brown then tried to pull away to avoid being choked, Johnson says.

“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt … It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you,’” Johnson said.

The two realized the officer had pulled out a hand gun and pointed it at Brown. The officer repeated, “I’ll shoot.” Seconds later, the first shot went off. Johnson says the officer let go after he shot Brown.

Brown and Johnson then ran towards a line of three cars on the side of the street. Johnson went behind the first, but Brown ran past. Brown yelled “Keep running, bro!” But by the time he got to the third car, the officer shot Brown in the back, according to Johnson.

Johnson says Brown stopped, put his hands up, turned around, and yelled he didn’t have a gun.

The officer allegedly shot several more times, Brown fell to the ground, and Johnson ran to his apartment.

“It was just horrible to watch … It was definitely like being shot like an animal,” Johnson told local news station KSDK.

The account of another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, 19, seems to match Johnson’s.

The St. Louis County police department have opened its investigation of the incident. Meanwhile, the FBI has announced that it will open a parallel civil rights investigation of the shooting.

——–

So that’s the version police don’t want you to hear, right? That’s the account of Dorian Johnson, whom police “have reportedly refused to interview,” right?

Johnson, of course, was Brown’s accomplice in the robbery/assault that Brown committed at a convenience story within 10 minutes prior to the shooting. Does the story mention this, oh, slightly relevant fact? No, it doesn’t.

Obviously, it should have been corrected once Johnson’s role was known, and appended-to when it became known that Johnson previously served jail time for lying to police. This is the Web, after all, where you can post corrections with the original stories. (I accessed this version of the story on August 26.)  But even the original story should have evidenced skepticism toward a “friend” of Michael Brown and his account of the altercation in which Brown was shot. A real journalist would take the word neither of the police nor of Brown’s friend.

 

The Court of Memes: Why people believe fake facts

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

A meme, as it’s called by experts in communications theory, is an idea that spreads in the manner of a virus from one person to the next. You may be familiar with the use of the term to describe a particular sort of meme, a graphic commentary of the type often posted on Facebook.

People can be infected with false memes as they are infected with viruses. How many of us believe that 97 percent of scientists believe in Global Warming theory, or that Columbus was warned he might sail off the edge of the world, or that the United States was responsible for wiping out most of the American Indians and taking their land, or that Thomas Jefferson, who was in favor of slavery, probably fathered one or more children with Sally Hemmings? All false memes.

After the death of the great actor/comedian Robin Williams, one TV tribute included a section from one of his performances in which he made fun of Sarah Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. Dan Harris, a resident leftist at ABC News, recently, on a news boradcast, made fun of Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. One estimate was that 87 percent of Obama voters in 2008 thought that Palin made that remark, which was actually made by the “Sarah Palin” character on Saturday Night Live.

In the worlds of politics and public policy, false memes often have very real effects, providing the basis for bad laws that hurt people, or twisting people’s view of history to make them easier prey for extremist politicians.

 

As I write this, the radio in my office is carrying news from Read all »