CSotD: Ignorance, Incompetence and Lies


Rick McKee posted this yesterday, but, upon closer examination, it appears to be from two years ago. That would normally disqualify it, but, given how long we’ve been chasing the Hunter Biden will-o-the-wisp, the commentary is as fresh as the controversy, while the gist of the piece fits in with today’s topic, which is to ask how we differentiate between an honest mistake, blundering incompetence, and a deliberate lie.

And to what extent it matters?

Start with birtherism, which is what Trump started his 2016 campaign with: I guess you might believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, given that his father was Kenyan, though you’d have to question why he didn’t simply say so, since it’s so easy to discover the facts.

Which then leads not simply to the birth certificate, which could be forged, though you’d then have to believe that a forged certificate was spirited into Hawaii’s official files. But you’d also have to believe that the plot began so far in advance that phony birth announcements were placed in local newspapers when the child was (allegedly) born in Hawaii.

That’s like believing that JFK Jr is alive and drinking blood in the basement of a pizzeria that was built on a slab. You reach a point where stupidity and gullibility don’t begin to cover it.

But here we are, and I suppose the first judgmental statement should be that, while there are plenty of astonishingly stupid and gullible people in the world, we shouldn’t let them be placed in positions where their incompetence becomes a societal threat, as politicians or as pundits.

Did Donald Trump believe the Obama was born in Kenya? Or that Ted Cruz’s father had a hand in the JFK assassination? Or any of the 30,000 or so false statements that rolled out of his mouth in his four years as president?

It doesn’t matter if he believed them. What mattered was that plenty of people trusted him, and so believed him, and that people in power were apparently pleased enough with the outcome that they didn’t object to the absurdities he spouted.

One thing you learn in a small town is that some people are gossips, but that most folks know who the gossips are and don’t believe a word they say. But others assume some of it is true and so the poison spreads, even if you never can quite trace it back to the sociopath who invented the original lie. And may simply have been mentally ill rather that deliberately dishonest.

Christ advised his disciples that they were going out like sheep among wolves, but should be “as wise as serpents, as guileless as doves.” It was an ancient way of telling them to keep their heads on a swivel but not to become cynical, which, like a lot of what he said, was easier said than done but is good advice anyway.


For instance, Nick Anderson (Tribune) notes that Sam Bankman-Fried made substantial political donations, and suggests that his recipients must surely hope it wasn’t in the pretend money upon which he built his empire.

Anderson’s cautiously neutral, but not everyone has been, because initial reports were that the donations went to Democrats, upon which partial information Ted Cruz asked ““Will Joe Biden and Democrats who cashed Bankman-Fried’s checks give that money to the people SBF screwed?”

A good question, but then it developed that, in fact, SBF gave equally to both parties,

At which point everyone fell silent.

I suspect Anderson’s fictional comment is probably closer to the mark.


Meanwhile, one of those “super liberal” reporters, Matt Taibbi, has cozied up to Elon Musk for a BIG EXPOSE of what Eric Allie (Counterpoint) insists was a scandal and not the “nothingburger” the Democrats and the Media-Except-for-Him have declared it to be.

The Musk/Taibbi blockbuster, for those who have no access to news reporting, revealed two things:

One was that the Biden campaign asked Twitter to take down photos of Hunter Biden’s penis and, since it was a violation of Twitter’s TOS anyway, it happened. (No, I don’t know why people so adamantly against “groomers” seem obsessed with wanting to see dick pics. Ask these guys.)

The other is that, like those left-wing commies at Fox and the Wall Street Journal, Twitter was initially reluctant to pass along Rudy Giuliani’s laptop story because it hadn’t been verified and seemed sketchy. (The NY Post published it, but the reporter refused to let his name be on the report.)

Within a few days, Twitter apologized, and permitted coverage, though nothing criminal has yet turned up.

Unless it is against the law to bullshit about Cunning Plans you can’t pull off, in which case I can think of a former president who might also be in trouble.


But Lisa Benson (Counterpoint) blames the government for somethingsomethingsomething, and praises Musk for having freed Twitter to publish whatever it wants, as it had been doing since it was founded in 2006.


Henry Payne at least doesn’t blame it on the gummint, though he seems to share in conservative confusion about what constitutes “Free Speech.”

It reminds me of a conversation with a Soviet journalist who was genuinely flummoxed by my explanation that we didn’t run every word of a presidential speech simply because we were limited by the number of pages our advertising would support.

In his country, the government gave you as much paper and ink as you needed.

As long as you used it wisely.


The Republicans plan to use their slim majority in the House to read the entire Constitution aloud — which will certainly curb inflation and bring down the price of gasoline — but they’d better hurry, because, as Bill Bramhall suggests, Dear Ex-Leader is shredding the document in the middle of Fifth Avenue and, so far, not losing a single vote by doing so.

Perhaps because, while most of the media has been all over his anti-American suggestion, Fox News has barely mentioned his proposal to reject the Constitution and seize office, and most Republicans have also maintained a dignified silence on the topic.

Perhaps they’re either ignorant or incompetent.

Certainly, it’s not because they’re purposefully dishonest.


Can’t We Talk About Something Completely Silly?

I liked the preview of this post on Post better than the expanded version.