Sunday, July 2, 2017

Implausible Deniability

If Donald Trump doesn't accomplish anything from his political agenda, if he fails to build the wall, to renegotiate trade deals, etc., he has at least claimed one major success, and he didn't need to leverage the vast power of the US government at his disposal to achieve it. Using just his Twitter account, Trump has denied the mainstream liberal media of plausible deniability, which is absolutely critical to their ability to operate.

Plausible deniability seems to be a topic I discuss routinely on this blog, in many different contexts. It is the state of having some possible -- but unlikely -- alternate narrative for one's nefarious action. It is the difference between highly suspecting someone of guilt and knowing for sure they are guilty. It also gives 3rd parties partial to the guilty subject the excuse they need to pardon the behavior. Mommy asks Billy if he broke the cookie jar. He's always trying to get the cookie jar. Billy says the cat did it. It's surely a fib, but then the cat does always get on the counter. She was going to punish Billy for the incident, but since he might possibly be telling the truth, she decides not to.

The world rotates on plausible deniability. Businesses advertise with plausible deniability. Girls go home with guys after they've secured plausible deniability. Politicians live and die by plausible deniability. George W Bush invaded Iraq and blamed it on CIA intelligence. Bill Clinton escaped impeachment hearings for directly lying to the American public by claiming he didn't realize vaginal penetrations and oral sex with the intern constituted "sexual relations." It's completely absurd, and yet Bush and Clinton have both escaped any formal punishment for their actions.

The mainstream media operates under the assumption that they are a professional, fair, and objective enterprise. Even when we observe something that seems wildly biased, we can't prove that they are deliberately biased, and since the consensus assumption is that they are not, the consensus opinion remains unchanged, no matter the frequency of media bias that is observed. That is their plausible deniability.

What is needed to penetrate the media's plausible deniability bubble are examples of bias so strong that no plausible deniability can possibly exist. When Trump tweeted on Thursday morning that when Mika Brzezinski came to schmooze him at Mar-a-Largo her face was bleeding from a facelift, the media went haywire. It wasn't just the biggest news story of the day, it was practically the only news story of the day. CNN ran 12 hours almost nonstop on the subject. We heard that Trump's words were undignified, were misogynistic, and basically made him unqualified to hold his elected position.

The very next morning Project Veritas released video footage of a CNN producer saying Kellyanne Conway is ugly and looks like she was hit in the face with a shovel. It was a much harsher comment than Trump's, as it referred to her normal appearance and not some self-inflicted temporary state of appearance. Because CNN insists that people outside their organization insulting women's appearances is grossly unacceptable conduct, it must be true that people within their organization must be held to the same standard. And yet their producer has not been fired, and I don't believe they've even acknowledged the incident, let alone apologized for it.

This is what's known as an a fortiori argument, and it is the strongest rhetorical argument one can make.* An a fortiori argument is a logical device that states, roughly, "if the premise holds in the weak case, it certainly must hold in the strong case." Despite the Latin name, the a fortiori principle is quite straightforward and falls within the normal human intuition that we use each day. For instance, in all 50 states it is illegal to murder a person. In no state is it legal to murder two people. The notion strikes us as absurd, and it is because it would violate the a fortiori principle. If murdering one person is bad, then murdering two people certainly is bad. There are countless other such arguments to be found in our legal codes. If accidentally killing someone is punishable, then killing intentionally is certainly punishable.

If the ethics principle holds for non-CNN people, then surely it must hold for CNN's own employees. There really is no plausible deniability for the double standard. They may try to say the president is held to a higher standard, but that isn't even plausible. Are they saying there are ethical standards that CNN holds the president accountable to but ignores itself? Surely they wouldn't make that claim.

Trump did it again recently with a tweet that depicted him WWF-style body-slamming a CNN cartoon. After months of assassination threats and numerous "artistic" representations of the death of Trump and his staff (including the New York Times depicting Stephen Miller's severed head on a pike), the media united under the chorus that Trump's ridiculous tweet was a dangerous appeal to violence. Again the a fortiori argument applies. If appeals to fake, cartoonish violence are unacceptable, then appeals to real, lethal violence are certainly unacceptable as well.

The media no longer have plausible deniability of its prog agenda, and increasingly people are realizing this. A scary number still buy the old consensus, but once you remove the plausibility from plausible deniability, your are left with implausible deniability, which is just denial. Denial is the rejection of objective reality and has become the hallmark of the left. It would be easy to become confounded by all this, and I sometimes do myself. What is the point of trying to win people over through logical debate if they just reject reality as it suits them? Remember, those people are ultimately on the other side in the culture war. There is nothing wrong with having the enemy as delusional as possible. By ripping the illusion of plausible deniability out from the media propaganda channels, Trump is forcing liberals to either admit it is all rubbish or to sink deeply into delusion. Never doubt that we elected the right man to office, whatever his shortcomings. Trump is the champion of the people and is destroying the forces of evil stacked against us.

* Being the strongest rhetorical argument one can make does not imply it is the strongest logical argument one can make. However, we rarely speak in formal logic in normal discourse.

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