CSotD: Spin, Hype, Lies

I find it perversely comforting that, having praised Popeye the Sailor Mensch on Saturday for giving away a million dollars, I find in Monday’s Thimble Theater (KFS) that he’s having trouble doing it.

“Perversely comforting” in that, while I wish it were otherwise, it’s clear that even back in 1937, we had plenty of cynics amongst us.

It makes me feel better to know we didn’t just invent such lousy attitudes, though it makes me feel worse to suggest that they’re not just going to go away.


Morten Morland, one of my favorite acerbic cartoonists, shared this tweet this morning, which sent me to the Googles to find out who Julia Hartley-Brewer is — a covid denier —  and also to find out why Brits spell it “sceptic,” which turns out to make a great deal of sense.

The spelling, that is, not her attitude towards covid nor her idea that “sceptic” is the same thing as “contrarian.” It’s perfectly valid to be a skeptic and demand proof. It’s not the same thing at all to call yourself a skeptic and invent proof or twist it around to fit your contrarian stance.

As with the poor widdies in Thimble Theater, being too skeptical can be expensive.

Also, depending on the names they call you, there’s a chance they’re right.

Judging by the recent revelations of Dr. Deborah Birx, there’s a proper time for calling out phony “skeptics.”

People are furious with Birx for only now speaking up to let us know White House advisors were apparently falsifying statistics to make the pandemic seem less serious.

I suppose there’s a “better late than never” element mixed in with the “accomplice” factor, but we should remember that, while John Dean got a reduced sentence for his Watergate testimony, he was still disbarred and served some jail time for his part in the crime.

While, strictly speaking, one does not have to be Caucasian to escape strict punishment, White House staff and — as Jeff Danziger (WPWG) notes — little girls with attentive parents, seem to get off easier than poor folks.

You can be skeptical about our justice system, BTW, but looking for proof of its unfairness won’t take up your whole day.

Still, while it’s amusing to wish we could have thrown Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon into Attica instead of some minimum security country club (or, as it turns out, nowhere at all), I think the more farsighted vision would be to make the Atticas less brutal.

Maybe invest in more ankle monitors so that poor kids could go home while awaiting trial instead of spending weeks and months in the Tombs because they can’t afford bail.


Though if you want to see traitors in the joint, you have to overcome the defenses of their powerful accomplices, as Pat Bagley (SLTrib) puts it.

There is talk of not prosecuting people who entered the Capitol but didn’t break anything, which reminds me of a kid who told me in all earnestness that he wasn’t guilty of burglary and theft because he hadn’t stolen the bike.

He only held the door for the kid who was wheeling it out.

Ann Telnaes (WashPo) has little patience for co-conspirators who refuse to abandon the lie that there was fraud in the 2020 presidential elections, but there are, particularly in the absence of prosecutions, plenty of advantages available for those willing to willfully, intentionally deceive voters.

Which brings us back to the central question of Watergate: What did the President know, and when did he know it?

What did any of these people know, and why should we believe them?

Let’s look at some stages of commentary:


David Fitzsimmons (Cagle) is almost entirely right, except that Lincoln gave his second inaugural about a month before Appomattox, so, while the South was indeed devastated, they hadn’t actually, technically been defeated.

That’s nit-picking and his point stands.


Tom Stiglich (Creators) offers spin, which is to say, it’s perfectly true that Biden picks the Church positions he supports and rejects others.

But this poster was not issued by the Curia and to pretend that American Catholics obey every papal decree is blind nonsense.


Though Thomas Nast and the Ku Klux Klan would disagree.

Still, it’s reasonable political spin and Mario Cuomo faced the same opposition from ultraorthodox Catholics, since his position was like Biden’s: He was an observant Catholic but declined to impose his church’s doctrine on the people he governed.

Wothehell anyway: Nixon was a Quaker and he sure didn’t impose their doctrinal beliefs on anybody.


By contrast, Al Goodwyn (Creators) goes over the top with a bit of hype.

He’s not “skeptical” of Bernie’s proposals as we’ve defined skepticism above, because five minutes on Google would clearly reveal that Bernie has never recommended any policy that wouldn’t be paid for.

Though I suppose you could argue that a lot of Bernie’s proposals benefit people who make less than $400,000 a year, and he’s not, strictly speaking, asking them to pay for it.

I do not find this a credible defense for the accusation, but it’s not quite a lie.


This A.F. Branco (Creators) cartoon is a lie.

There’s no “skepticism” involved: Biden wants to protect DACA and offer undocumented immigrants a path — a somewhat complicated path — to citizenship, which is not in any possible way a proposal for open borders.

It’s like saying someone who suggests raising the speed limit from 55 to 65 wants to do away with drivers’ licenses and traffic laws.

And, BTW, I doubt that anyone would draw a cartoon like this, or choose to run it in their newspaper, if we shared a common border with, say, Norway.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so skeptical, but when Ted Cruz says Biden is putting immigrants ahead of American workers, I’d suggest he gather his supporters and go pick all the fruit and vegetables before the braceros have a chance to.

That’d learn’em!

And the law would even be on his side.

Here’s an even better idea: I knew a guy who had to cut cotton when he was doing time in a Texas prison.

Why not have those January 6 patriots solve the immigration problem?



5 thoughts on “CSotD: Spin, Hype, Lies

  1. This long piece in /The New Yorker/:


    (which doesn;t seem to be paywalled) covers a lot of ground, and paints a more sympathetic picture of Birx. In particular one section (“16. Thelma and Louise”) relates her final falling-out with the denialist cadre in the White House, and the subsequent 6-month road trip she and a colleague took to meet with governors and other state officials. Their effort to get people in charge of on-the-ground policy to take the virus seriously seems to have had some success.

  2. Thank you for this, Mark. A hefty piece but worth the reading and I urge it be spread far and wide. Journalism at its best. I also feel a lot more sympathy for Birx who could have taken the easy road and walked out, but instead took the long one.

  3. While I am not familiar with the further verses of “This Land Is Your Land” that have been repeatedly cited here, I am familiar with his song “Deportee.” And also “Pastures of Plenty, which I have always preferred to “This Land Is Your Land.” Thanks for including “Deportee.”

  4. I like the Birx piece, and it’s important, but also important is the question of when you call bullshit and bail out, and I don’t have a answer because those moments are not common.

    My dad bailed on the bullshit and I admired him greatly for it, when he left his job because HQ was going to destroy our community. It happened anyway, of course, but not with his help, and that’s how you measure things: Not “can I prevent it” but “should I be part of it.”

    You are responsible for what you do with your life. You can’t always prevent evil, but, by god, you don’t have to be an accomplice.

  5. I feel fairly confident in assuming that Dr. Birx *did* ponder that question, and concluded that in the particular case a public resignation would do nothing to change the course of the demonstrably-shameless crew in the White House, whereas there was some possibility of mitigating the damage by working inside. And when she was shut out of the WH deliberations I strongly suspect her subsequent work out in the individual states wouldn’t have been possible without the official status she retained.

    But I could be wrong. Each case is different, and looks different inside than it does from the outside.

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