Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect — Jonathan Swift
We’ll start today’s topic gently, with the apparent denouement of Buz Sawyer‘s latest adventure at Comics Kingdom, which originally ran in 1957 when the US was deep into the practice of supporting sonsabitches as long as they were our sonsabitches.
Roy Crane did with Buz Sawyer on the comics page what Efraim Zimbalist Jr. did with “The FBI” on television: Cooperated with his background sources not so much as an intentional propagandist as a cooperative dupe, telling good stories from a carefully vetted point of view.
Such things can be unintentional: Joe Liccar uses a well-embedded historical myth about the cause of the Great Chicago Fire to link peaceful BLM protesters with the fire-setting lunatic fringe in that movement.
Liccar is based in Independence, Missouri, far from either Kenosha or Minneapolis and so it’s fair to assume he hasn’t visited either place to see the damage for himself. His use of Mrs. O’Leary is an innocent grab at a familiar myth, and his conflation of peaceful demonstrations with arson seems to come from the Roy Crane/Ephraim Zimbalist school of being perhaps a bit too trusting of friendly authority figures.
John Branch is less accepting of The Official Version, and, while he’s certainly not the first to point out that Trump warns of an America he built himself, I like the way he’s packaged the accusation with a list rather than one particular example.
And, by the way, you have to probe history to find the truth about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, but you don’t have to work very hard to recognize the grotesque exaggeration in Trump’s citing of “the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis.”
For perspective, here’s a view of the smoldering ruins in Chicago.
And here is a contemporaneous illustration from Scribners for an article on how the gutted department stores set up on the street to begin their recovery.
I don’t mind a bit of disagreement: Show me similar, wide-angle landscapes from Minneapolis.
But, as Dean Swift observed, it doesn’t matter how long the falsehoods hold up. What matters is that, in their short lives, they are believed.
And so we come to this
Juxtaposition of the Day
Two contending uses of the familiar “monster under the bed” trope, both based on the idea that there really is one.
Telnaes, however, presents the monster as someone spreading lies and nightmares, while Benson suggests a hidden, disquieting reality.
Someone at the park asked me yesterday how I felt about Michael Moore’s warning that Trump may well win re-election, reminding me that he’d called the victory four years ago.
My response was that, while I agree with him that liberals underestimate enthusiasm for Trump at their peril, I gave up on Moore’s self-promoting nonsense not when he began releasing carefully edited faux-documentaries, but several years before that, when he would park himself outside GM Corporate HQ with a bullhorn, demanding to see the CEO.
Which happened to come at a time when I regularly interviewed big important men in expensive suits, not by grandstanding on their doorsteps but by calling and asking for an appointment.
Getting in the door is easy. It’s what happens next that defines you.
You can’t assume that their willingness to talk to you indicates an intention of telling you the truth. But neither can you assume they are going to lie. You have to listen.
Which brings up an amusing Tale From The Newsroom:
Back in 1979, I was writing a soft feature for the Denver Post, contrasting the Div II football program at the Colorado School of Mines — where all the students were engineering majors — with the Div I at the University of Colorado, which was not so rigorous.
But the gloves came off when CU Athletic Director Eddie Crowder calmly lied in my face.
My editor agreed that we couldn’t simply call him a liar, and we discussed how to handle the situation.
I like the solution we came up with:
That wasn’t my opinion. I just reported what the experts said.
What Eddie knew at the time, but I only discovered a few weeks later, was that the NCAA was on the verge of handing his program a major beatdown, which might explain his attempt to put a halo on things.
In any case, there’s no excuse for any journalist to be suckered by access into believing whatever they’re told. I have more respect for deliberate propaganda than for fatuous gullibility.
And if you think my piece offered Eddie a thumb-to-the-nose, here’s how Sports Illustrated covered his problems a year later. (Warning: Do not attempt to drink hot coffee while reading it.)
But back to things that aren’t funny, and Mike Thompson mocks the transparency of Dear Leader’s warnings about how Fair Housing will destroy the suburbs.
To plug the book once again, one of the tenets of Stuart Steven’s excellent, readable “It Was All A Lie” is his tracing of how the GOP gave up on the African-American vote after the Goldwater debacle and began courting the white vote while seeking ways to suppress minority turnout without explicitly mentioning race.
As he points out, the GOP uses the term “workingclass” to mean “white people,” completely ignoring the Black and Hispanic blue collar workers in that economic stratum.
Conversely, “poor” means “minority” to them, such that, when Trump warns of “poor people” moving to the suburbs, he’s not talking about income levels.
Nor does he have to.
But don’t worry, Bill Bramhall reassures us: We’ve got one of the world’s top intelligence experts carefully monitoring the upcoming elections.
The truth will out!