"Delusional, demented, and paranoid is no way to go through life, son." Charles C. W. Cooke says Plan A is doomed: Democrats Can’t Fix What’s Wrong with Joe Biden.
Over at Politico, Jonathan Lemire offers his readers a hallucinatory missive, ordered direct from an alternate universe. It’s a good example of the sort of reported essay that begins to crop up ineluctably whenever it dawns upon the D.C. press corps that its personal hopes for the incumbent Democratic president are likely to be dashed. The problem with this president, Lemire suggests throughout, is not that he has attempted to govern in a manner unwarranted by his support in Congress and his popularity in the country at large, but that the “bygone era of D.C. may, indeed, be gone,” and that the White House is only just starting to recognize it. The solution? Going forward, Biden must be “less scripted and more on the offensive.” Out in the distance, one can hear Republican ad-makers popping the champagne.
The assumptions that undergird Lemire’s report should be depressingly familiar to anyone who follows American politics. They are, in no particular order: that Democratic presidents should get whatever they want, and that if they don’t, something is broken; that the Republican and Democratic parties secretly agree on everything, but, for some reason, keep failing to put their agreement into action in the legislature; and that all Democratic presidents are kind, reserved, bipartisan, avuncular figures who, having lived unblemished lives of purity and goodwill, eventually become shocked by the coarseness and misanthropy of their opponents. “Biden,” Lemire reports, “has taken to telling aides that he no longer recognizes the GOP, which he now views as an existential threat to the nation’s democracy.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before.
So it's on to Plan B, Democrats: try to scare the crap out of people.
We won't have the DGB to kick around anymore. Well, it was fun while it lasted. But Robby Soave analyzes a post mortem apologia in the WaPo, demonstrating just how reality-impaired the Beltway Bubble is: Nina Jankowicz’s Faulty Record, Not Her Critics, Doomed the Disinformation Board.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has placed a "pause" on the newly-minted Disinformation Governance Board; its first executive director, Nina Jankowicz, has resigned.
The board's existence, which was announced just three weeks ago, prompted serious concerns from many civil libertarians and inspired Ministry of Truth comparisons. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tried—and largely failed—to address these concerns by noting that the board would serve in merely an advisory capacity and not have any actual power to police speech. That the Disinformation Governance Board did a bad job of communicating information about itself did not exactly instill confidence, and evidently DHS has now realized that the entire project is a bad idea.
It's unclear whether plans for the board will be un-paused in the future; Jankowicz had initially decided to resign, reconsidered when she was told the pause might be temporary, and then ultimately left anyway.
This news comes from an exclusive report by The Washington Post's Taylor Lorenz, whose scoop is buried underneath layers of pro-government verbiage. Lorenz's story excessively flatters Jankowicz—she is glamorized as "well-known" in the field, having "extensive experience," and "well-regarded" in just the first two paragraphs—while ignoring legitimate criticism of this so-called expert's track record. Indeed, there is zero mention, none whatsoever, of the fact that Jankowicz was flagrantly wrong about the pivotal "disinformation" episode of the 2020 election cycle: the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Robby provides extensive quotes from Lorenz's tongue-bath of Jankowicz and the DGB. It very much brings to mind that old Scooby-Doo line: "And we'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling right-wing attackers."
Yes, the Taylor Lorenz article contains six occurrences of "right-wing" and three occurrences of "far-right". To put it mildly, it gives an inaccurate impression of the breadth of the DGB criticism. I mean, even the ACLU was a little queasy about the DGB.
Bryan Caplan, as always, clears away thick layers of bullshit. His latest Substack entry is a classic: Misinformation About Misinformation.
“Nazis run Ukraine.” “Biden stole the election.” “You can cure Covid by injecting bleach.” “Lizardmen run the world.” These statements aren’t merely false; they are “misinformation” that endangers democracy and the world.
Or so I keep hearing. My question: What exactly is the mechanism of misinformation supposed to be? For the critics, the story seems to be roughly:
Self-conscious liars make up absurd lies to advance their agendas.
Some listeners believe whatever they say.
Some of these listeners repeat what they hear, sparking a cognitive contagion effect.
Other listeners ignore the liars, but this sparks no contagion effect.
The net effect, therefore, is to push public opinion in the desired direction. With strong contagion, the net effect is large.
One obvious follow-up question is: “Can anyone do this?” If this is how the world of ideas really works, why does anyone bother with facts or logic? Or does misinformation require some unmentioned silent partner to succeed?
Bryan goes to the heart of the problem with the "standard misinformation story":
The story focuses exclusively on the flaws of speakers, without acknowledging the flaws of the listeners. Misinformation won’t work unless the listeners are themselves naive, dogmatic, emotional, or otherwise intellectually defective. In economic jargon, the problem is that the story mistakes an information problem for a rationality problem.
It's not nice to blame the gullible for their gullibility, though.
But as Herbie Spencer said: "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. "
Misinformation about misinformation leads to… As Scott Johnson observes: A grim milestone in grim milestones.
We have reached a grim milestone in grim milestones. A Google search on the term “grim milestone” now returns more than 6,000,000 results. It is a “grim milestone” in the unstoppable progress of a brain-killing media cliché.
The “grim milestones” retailed by the media always seem to have a political twist and the political twist always seems to be detrimental to Republicans. If it can’t be given a twist detrimental to Republicans, the “grim milestone” is likely to go unrecognized if possible.
For example, the press has proclaimed no “grim milestone” in inflation under President Biden. Yet this week prices for gasoline climbed above $4.00 a gallon in every state for the first time in our history. If you had no aversion to clichés and were in the business of declaring “grim milestone,” you should have gone to work on it this week.
As I type, Googling "grim milestone" is pretty much all Covid. And yes, one of the top results is "The role party affiliation played in getting US to grim new milestone of 1 million COVID deaths". Any guesses on the party they're talking about?
But near the bottom of the first page of results is something differently grim. "Grim milestone: More than 500 Florida manatee deaths recorded so far in 2022"
As near as I can tell, there's no effort to blame this on DeSantis. Give it time, though.
But I was told this panacea would work! Jacob Sullum explains: Why Background Checks Do Not Stymie Mass Shooters.
A background check did not faze the man charged with murdering 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store on Saturday. The reason for that is straightforward: The shooter passed the background check that was completed when he bought the rifle used in the attack from a federally licensed dealer in Endicott, New York, because he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record.
That is typically true of mass shooters. According to a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ) report on public mass shootings from 1966 through 2019, 77 percent of the perpetrators bought guns legally. In some cases, teenagers or young adults obtained guns from their families. Just 13 percent of mass shooters obtained firearms through illegal transactions. In other words, background checks would have been no obstacle in 87 percent of the cases.
The Biden administration nevertheless "renewed its calls" to "expand national background checks in the wake of the attack in Buffalo," The New York Times reports, "as it has done time and again after mass shootings." Speaking to reporters today during President Joe Biden's trip to Buffalo, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We're going to continue to call on Congress to expand background checks." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) likewise urged "passage of federal legislation to expand gun background checks, which she said was a 'huge priority' for Democrats."
Failure of existing laws? Obviously that means we need more laws!
You're not obeying the rules we just made up! A persecuted political minority speaks out in the NH Journal: Dartmouth Continues to Persecute Republicans on Campus.
Motivated by bad faith, malice, and ill intent, the Dartmouth administration’s actions this year have revealed a pattern of egregious and discriminatory behavior toward the Dartmouth College Republicans. Our group has faced threats of violence from fellow students, has had a major event canceled by the Dartmouth administration, has been billed for thousands of dollars in security fees by the college, has been subjected to frivolous investigations, and now faces the threat of derecognition.
A lot of recent history is described. But the latest is a corker:
The college’s treatment of our group up to that point was disgraceful. However, the true breaking point came on May 5 when we received an email from the Council on Student Organizations (COSO), the student group that oversees clubs at Dartmouth and which is coincidentally led by Anna Hall, stating that our group was in violation of a number of its guidelines. In particular, it claimed our group had violated rules regarding logos, bylaws, and affiliation with a national organization. It was heavily implied at the end of this email that if we did not immediately comply with the demands, our group would face derecognition.
To justify its decision, it linked us to a page of rules we’d never seen before! Sure enough, after a quick investigation, we found the page had only been created on April 27, a week after the James O’Keefe event and the confrontation in the hallway. In other words, they had made up rules specifically designed to target our club and retroactively punish us.
That's impressive. Hope nobody at the University Near Here is taking notes.