Article Review:Should We Be “Terrified”?

 

The following is a REVIEW of an article from the Daily Intelligencer. This review is written by Richard Bramer, Editor in Chief at the Blackboard. Below is the article’s headline, tagline, photo and caption, for illustrative purposes.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-12-20-28-pm
Above is the headline, tagline, photo and caption of the reviewed article.

 

I DO NOT want my peeps to calm down, give up or “wait and see”.

OTOH, I am aware, painfully aware, that social media pushes fear and anger.

I DO NOT want my peeps to calm down, give up or “wait and see”, but I also wonder if my Peeps can see the “FEMA Camps”, “they’re coming for your guns” or “Birther Conspiracies”, etc., etc., etc.. equivalents on our side being pushed by that same media?

As an exercise in Rational Thought, and NOT an effort to get you to Calm Down, I offer the following analysis of a recent headline that had “terrifying” in it’s headline. (Full Disclosure: the one thing I find terrifying, in the sense that it keeps me up nights, is the damage we are currently doing to the environment… So I don’t deny there are some things to be afraid of..)

The article referenced here is:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/every-terrifying-thing-that-donald-trump-has-done.html

The Headline: “Every Terrifying Thing That Donald Trump Did This Week”

I will review each of the claims to terror individually.

1. “Derided protestors as paid professionals whose acts of free speech are fundamentally “unfair.””

This claim is based on a tweet where Trump criticized protesters under the patently false claim they were paid. (The story was debunked: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/nov/17/blog-posting/no-someone-wasnt-paid-3500-protest-donald-trump-it/) and was repeated by patently falsified websites (http://abcnews.com.co/donald-trump-protester-speaks-out-i-was-paid-to-protest/).

What did Trump actually do, in context? He Tweeted a false story and nine hours later seemed to counter it in a second Tweet. Was there harm done? Sure. Should we be terrified? No.

2. “Invited the manager of his “blind trust” to a meeting with the prime minister of Japan.”

Trump has set up a blind trust with his children at the helm to look after his business affairs while he’s in office. The headlines decrying this move almost always have put the words “blind trust” in quotation marks, in that age-old effort to imply lack of faith in their meaning. The Truth is that setting up a “blind trust” is the time-honored method of separating oneself from one’s business affairs and oneself while in office. Hillary Clinton was going to leave The Clinton Foundation under daughter Chelsea’s control while in office. Mitt Romney was going to leave his under the control of friends at Bain Capital, where he once worked and made his millions, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/11/donald-trumps-questionable-blind-trust-setup-just-got-more-questionable/). Daughter Ivanka Trump was then invited to his first meeting with a Foreign Leader, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.

What did Trump actually do, in context? He has used his children in his transition team even while naming them as heads of the “blind trust”. Such positions frequently land one a job in the new Administration as well. We don’t know if the Trump children will be working in the Trump Administration, but the claim to be putting them in charge of the blind trust would lead one to believe the answer is “No.” Was there harm done? Not yet, not really. The transition team doesn’t set policy – but their work does set up the team that WILL set policy. It isn’t good, but this has been the nature of American government for decades. It IS ugly and fraught with opportunity to put profit before country, but it is not new and it isn’t even confined to one person or one party. This is how Washington is run – Trump just didn’t bother with the thin veneer of respectability, much as his supporters said he wouldn’t. Now, one could (and SHOULD) argue that this is exactly counter to “draining the swamp” as he said he would, but should we be “terrified”? Not if every Administration since Eisenhower didn’t terrify us, no.

3. “Assembled a team of racists to lead his White House.”

The team so far is Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn. If you haven’t read up on them yet, you can start here: (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/donald_trump_is_bringing_america_government_by_the_worst_men.html). Bannon has never held a government post, but he helped immensely in Trump’s victory. Campaign Strategists are almost Always given plums in the new Administration. The other two, Sessions and Flynn, have both been working in the Federal Government for decades. Flynn is a Lt. General from Military Intelligence and Sessions is one of Alabama’s Senators since 1997. All three are ideologues from the extreme right.

We need to resist them and act up against the horrible policies they will undoubtedly push, but what did Trump actually Do, in context? Rewarded a Campaign Leader and hired two long time public servants. This is not different, in form, than the same decisions made by all incoming Administrations. Should we be terrified? I think here we have a mixed bag. How much of their poison can make it into Public Policy remains to be seen. We still have an existing Judiciary, though weakened by the GOP in recent years. This is surely an area of grave concern for the nation and will undoubtedly be one of significant conflict in the years to come. We need to resist the racism. We need to continue our socio-political revolution. I think our reaction here should be intense concern and resolve; the claim to “terrifying” is closest to rational in this area, (especially if you intend it as the product of terrorism) but to call it “terrifying” does us no good.

4. “Took credit for the fact that Ford will not be relocating a plant to Mexico (which they never had any intention of relocating to Mexico).”

Trump tweeted the claim that his discussion with Ford CEO Bill Ford saved the plant and the jobs. Some sources have called this a lie, but Bloomberg’s reporting on it gives his claim some validity: (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-18/trump-says-ford-called-to-say-keeping-lincoln-plant-in-kentucky).

What did Trump do, in context? Bluster, brag and ignore other people’s discomfort – in this case Ford Executives. Should we be terrified. No – especially in the context of easily checked facts.

5. “Declared America’s leading newspaper a “failing” institution.”

Again, an unsubstantiated, false claim in the form of a tweet, unless you look at the context of print newspapers across the country. Many folks HAVE declared that medium “failing” – hence the move on the part of EVERY leading newspaper – to subscription websites.

What did Trump do, in context? He hurled an easily misinterpreted false claim against journalists who criticized him. Is it unprecedented? Not really, it’s just unpolished, as is so much of what Trump does. Should we be terrified? No. I don’t think even the journalists who are the object of his unfounded derision should be terrified. They shouldn’t be toning down their criticism of him though, and that is where we might have a real issue. So far that is patently not the case, however.

6. “Abandoned his press pool.”

He did not escape the public eye this way… he went to dinner with his family and was seen. The reason for a “protective pool” around a President or President elect is because in the case of catastrophe (we’ve had one ever since JFK was killed in Dallas) the public will know how the government is handling it.

What did Trump do, in context? Snuck out of Trump tower with his family for a steak dinner. He was recognized at the restaurant to a standing ovation by onlookers. Should he have? No. Will he make it a habit? We’ll see – perhaps this was one of the mistakes that newcomers make. Should we be terrified? No.

7. “Floated the idea of hiring his son-in-law to a White House position, in possible defiance of laws against nepotism and norms against conflicts of interest.”

He mentioned the possibility of putting Jarod Kushner in the new Administration. It hasn’t happened yet. The position he might hold hasn’t been named yet. Lyndon Johnson signed the anti-nepotism law as President – he was known to Despise Robert F. Kennedy, whose brother, President John F. Kennedy, had appointed Attorney General.

What did Trump do in context? Talked about giving an appointment to a key campaign person. (Read about Kushner’s steadying hand to the campaign here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/us/politics/jared-kushner-donald-trump.html). Should we be terrified? No.

8. “Took calls from foreign leaders on unsecured phone lines, without consulting the State Department.”

The content of these calls was undoubtedly congratulatory and requests for future meetings. Foreign heads of State would NOT start divulging Top Secret material in such calls. I mean – Would You?? These calls are always the same and any policy references are only of the type that set out markers – inform the other party about where, what, why they will be pursuing whatever they will be pursuing in the real talks, if that much.

What did Trump do, in context? Hypocritically put conversations with foreign leaders outside the reach of Federal Record keeping – the very grounds of the criticism of HRC’s private email server. He can’t do this for long – the State Dept. will secure the lines to Trump Tower and/or his calls will be from the White House. Should we be terrified? No; if it continues we should be critical however. But this is mostly a records-keeping issue, not a ‘keep American secrets secret’ issue; if it continues it becomes more the latter and less the former.

9. “Referred to his White House transition as though it were the next season of The Apprentice.”

Another ill-informed tweet from Trump. He’s unpracticed and unprofessional. We know he’s not ready for the Presidency. He IS getting schooled, however. Obama proved that he can learn his lessons pretty quickly. He’s not dumb.

What did Trump do in context? Tweeted out a self-aggrandizing message about the transition process. Should we be terrified? No.

Now, as I’ve said, the danger to our Environment really DOES scare me. This article didn’t even mention the environment on its “terrifying” list, even though the Chinese government sent a message to Trump that he was wrong about his claim they invented the Climate Change “hoax’ as a maneuver to weaken the American economy. Notably, Trump hasn’t responded yet.

The racist ideologists taking positions of power in the White House should concern everyone – and raises to the level of “terror” if we consider them potential legal terrorists – but all in all I think when the social media sells us headlines that induce “terror” they are doing us a profound disservice. And it is up to us as consumers of information from that same social media, to be aware of the appropriate reading of and the appropriate response to that information.

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