CSotD: When in doubt, spin it out

Prickly City (AMS) continues the thread cited here yesterday, on the negative perceptions people attach to politicians.

Historical perspective matters: Washington is consistently ranked by historians as one of our best presidents, but he had his opponents at the time and newspaper writers in that period could be vicious.

Congress tried to tame opposition voices through the Alien and Sedition Acts which, as Wikipedia explains, “criminalized false and malicious statements about the federal government.”

Wikipedia lists several examples of people tried, fined and occasionally jailed under the Sedition Act, including one fellow who, hearing a gunshot at a presidential parade, shouted “I hope it hit Adams in the arse.”

You think our prisons are full now, imagine if the Sedition Act were still in force.

The First Amendment remains a focus of debate, the latest example being the GOP finding a judge to forbid the Biden administration from contacting social media, on the purported grounds that conservative voices are being squelched by the gummint.

But, as Nick Anderson suggests, they are concerned about the misuse of social media that they disapprove of, not the misuse they deny or ignore.

We’ll see if this injunction holds up under appeal, but appeals take time.

The point is to control the conversation as much, and for as long, as you can.

Phil Hands (Tribune) riffs on the “Biden is old” perception that has been widely promoted.

Biden is indeed old, and his speech impediment has helped opponents promote the notion that he is too old, despite his being obviously more physically fit than his predecessor and despite the difference between folksy language and bizarre malapropisms like “hamberder” and “covfefe.”

Hands points out that Harrison Ford, who is four months older than Biden, is about to star in an action film despite his age. Others have noted that Mick Jagger is less than a year younger than Biden but still tours with the Rolling Stones.

However, it doesn’t matter that Biden can walk down a ramp easily and drink a glass of water one-handed. Voters make decisions based on perceptions, and it’s rare for the mass of people to subject politicians — or any public figures — to an actual, detailed examination.

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Lisa Benson — Counterpoint)

(Dana Summers — Tribune)

Benson and Summers are hardly the only conservative voices decrying Biden’s handling of the economy, and the relentless drumbeat has an undeniable impact on voters’ perceptions.

Barbie may have caught flak for telling young girls that “Math class is hard!” but, then again, Barbie is starring in a new movie, so she wasn’t rejected for saying what a lot of people believe. They’d rather rely on trusted sources to tell them how the economy is doing than to examine those hard numbers for themselves.

It doesn’t matter that inflation is coming under control, and, while it’s not where the Fed would like it to be, that the United States is doing better than a lot of other countries.

And despite that boost at the height of the pandemic, unemployment is currently at a low point which should be obvious even to casual observers: Help Wanted signs are on every corner and many businesses that were formerly open 24 hours have cut back because they don’t have the personnel necessary to maintain those hours.

But even that obvious evidence is secondary to the drumbeat that Biden has tanked the economy.

Granted, most voters don’t follow the Dow closely, but, again, that fluctuation during the pandemic is the prevailing narrative, not what has happened since.

But, hey, math class was tough.

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Clay Jones)

(Gary Varvel — Creators)

Clay Jones didn’t need a crystal ball to know that the discovery of a bag of cocaine in a West Wing lobby would be spun into a scandal, and the challenge he faced was how to make the reporting in his cartoon more hysterical than what would emerge in reality.

Gary Varvel answered the challenge by moving the bag into the Oval Office, making it large enough to have cost the GNP of a mid-sized nation and blaming its existence on Joe Biden.

And Varvel is moderate in his accusation: Trump posted a “truth” in which he linked the cocaine not just — predictably — to Hunter Biden, but to both his father and to Jack Smith.

It may sound ridiculous to a neutral observer, but you have to remember that Trump’s most devoted followers believe JFK Jr is in a pizzeria basement.

MAGAts are also willing to believe in Trump’s innocence despite, as John Deering (Creators) points out, his inability to avoid convicting himself.

You don’t have to believe Stephanie Grisham’s report that she saw Trump showing classified documents to guests at Mar A Lago. There are audio tapes of Trump showing documents to people at his golf club in Bedminster.

But so what? The faithful will accept that, while he didn’t know what was in the boxes in Florida, he somehow ended up with documents in New Jersey, and — according to his version — that they were only plans for a new golf course, despite his plainly saying on the tape that they were classified military assessments furnished to him by the Defense Department.

Even Chip Bok (Creators), as loyal and dependable a conservative commentator as you’re likely to find, had trouble spinning Trump’s latest misadventures into anything but an accusation.

Man Overboard offers the fantasy that Trump’s lawyers must surely be feeling, contrasted with the proper defense they will be mounting once this mess gets to a courtroom.

Meanwhile, there is rampant speculation about why Trump’s valet — also indicted in the documents case — has been unable to find a lawyer. Perhaps he’s being cautious: Cassidy Hutchinson has testified that the attorney she was initially provided with — paid by the Save America Leadership PAC — had encouraged her not to testify about everything she knew.

The potential for conviction opens the question we started with: If a tree falls in the middle of Fifth Avenue, will anybody hear it?

We seem determined to teach people not to.

Andy Marlette (Creators) suggests that it doesn’t matter who gets into college, because the Moms For Liberty, identified as an anti-government group and quoting Hitler in their literature, will help our children learn what to know and what to believe, long before college becomes an issue.

4 thoughts on “CSotD: When in doubt, spin it out

  1. My father’s reaction to the cocaine discovery:
    Oh, those entitled presidents’ sons. They finally found George Bush’s stash from when his father was president.

  2. I was four panels into the MAN OVERBOARD strip when it occurred to me that it was tickling me specifically because I HAVE actually dreamed of being in some public venue face to face with the orange turd and told him, at length at the top of my lungs not only what a blankity-blank-blanker I think he is, but when he started to speak I grabbed him by the face, slapped him hard and told him to shut the hell up while I’m yelling at him. And he did, because he was so taken aback by someone finally standing up to him and telling him exactly what he is, which I still suspect no one ever has. And I topped it off by pushing that rat’s nest of combover off his head so it hung off the back of his skull like a wet, hairy rodent. I recall smiling in my sleep, just like I was smiling by panel five of Man Martin’s strip, before we both woke up

  3. Dear Mr. Peterson, thanks for the whole column. But, especially for the Tom Paxton. Over many decades, he has created so many wonderful biting satirical songs about the dangers lurking in our government and society. Also, he created some of the most poignant ballads you can imagine.
    Our organization read justice Brown Jackson’s dissent to the Affirmative Action debacle. We think she is one of the brightest, most decent legal minds extant. We contrast her with the ‘Scrotum 6’ in a slide show we are updating. I wonder if they will come after us using the Alien and Sedition Acts?

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