Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Atlantic Fiasco 

The headline for the story in the Atlantic reads: "Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’." Controversy has arisen about this statement, and whether Trump actually said it. But my concern in this essay is not so much with the statement itself, but with a disturbing trend in modern journalism: We are now supposed to accept as truth a report based on "anonymous sources." We are assured (of course) that these sources have been "confirmed," presumably by other anonymous sources, or by the journalist who claims to have actually spoken with the sources, and not merely made up the story (and the "sources").

But how are we to know? During the Russia Collusion fiasco, I remember Reince Priebus talking about a story in the New York Times—again, based on "anonymous sources"—saying that members of the Trump team were in daily conversation with the Russians. This was nonsense, of course. Since I do not read the Times, I don't know the details of that story, but during that time I did watch CBS News quite a bit, because they have a 24/7 news site accessible from anywhere in the world. I was dismayed by how much American news agencies had turned into propaganda networks. They were clearly assuming something to be true and desperately trying to prove it. To my knowledge, neither the New York Times nor CBS News has ever been called to account for their chicanery.

Before I go further, let me get right to the principle that I have tried to hold to and that I feel is being compromised by modern "journalists." It is based on a passage in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible:

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Here's how the ESV (English Standard Version) puts it:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
So let me state the principle this way:
No man shall be considered guilty based on testimony which is not subject to cross-examination. Period.
By the way, this is one of the strengths of the American legal system. I remember many years ago having a discussion in Beijing with a lawyer friend of mine. He said that the weakness of the Chinese legal system was the lack of independence of the judiciary. What he meant by that is that in China, judicial decisions can be dictated by the Party. In America, a political leader cannot tell a judge how to decide a case.

I said that what was needed was the right of the accused to be represented by counsel of his choice. A very notable example is the blind lawyer from Shandong, whose personal lawyers were not allowed in the courtroom. The government provided other lawyers for him. Sometimes those other lawyers are really little more than prosecutor's assistants.

After having lived in China for years now, I see that my friend's issue (independence of the judiciary) is important. But I also feel that the right to a lawyer of your choice is one of the strengths of the American system. If you are accused, you have a right to face your accuser and question him. Or you can have a professional lawyer question him for you. This is because sometimes accusations are brought forward by people with ulterior motives. A classic example is the Kavenaugh case brought forward by Christine Blasey Ford

Many people thought she sounded very credible. So why didn't she succeed? The answer, of course, is cross-examination. Her story fell apart. The people she named contradicted her and the friend she said was at the party said she did not know Kavanaugh, did not see anything, and later said that the former FBI agent working with Blasey Ford had put undue pressure on her. It was clear that she did not believe her friend's story.

There is some talk that the FBI did not do a thorough enough job in that case. One guy complained that they should have interviewed him because he was a "corroborating witness." He said he had met Blasey Ford in a coffee bar or something in 2016, and she had told him the same story. That's not a corroborating witness. Listen to me. Here is your free civics lesson for the day: A corroborating witness is someone who was physically present at the alleged event, who saw it happen with his own eyes, and can thus corroborate the testimony of the accuser, by virtue of having been there and having witnessed the crime. But this genius civically challenged product of the American public school system thought he should be regarded as a corroborating witness just because he had heard the same story about an event that took place in 1982, and which he had no knowledge of before 2016, more than 30 years after it happened!

This is the problem, you see. American students are woefully ignorant of basic principles of civics. When I was in middle school in Minnesota, we had to take a civics class. I don't think they even teach it anymore. Over and over I hear Americans saying things that betray their embarrassing ignorance of the most basic principles of justice. I actually heard and saw Senator Coons say that Kavenaugh should have to prove he did not do it. In other words, he should be presumed guilty unless and until he is proven innocent. Anyway, it's all moot now, because we now know that the whole case was a fraud.

Her lawyer has now admitted that they brought the case forward because of Kavenaugh's politics. That's disgusting. In fairness to Blasey Ford, I have never heard her say that. But you can listen to her lawyer Debra Katz say it here.

You don't accuse someone of that kind of crime because you don't like his politics or because you are mad at him for some reason. You accuse him because and only because he has committed a crime and he needs to be brought to justice. But she openly admits that the prosecution was politically motivated. So the whole thing was a fraud.

The Bible teaches (Deuteronomy 19:16-19) that if a person brings forward a false accusation, they should get the same punishment as would have been due to the person they accused if he had been guilty. As a matter of principle, I think Blasey Ford should be given one chance to disavow the statement of her lawyer, since she did deny it in the hearing. But if she supported her lawyer, then they should both go to prison.

And I'm not letting the Republicans off the hook, either. In an earlier case, the Republican Party dropped its support of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama because of accusations of this nature. Leader McConnell said that their claims "sounded credible." What's that supposed to mean? Let me see if I can phrase the new belief that this kind of statement is based on:

If people sound credible, they must be telling the truth, because if they weren't telling the truth, they wouldn't sound credible.
As ridiculous as that sounds, that is literally what modern Americans believe. But if that statement were true, slander would be harmless, because we would always know when someone was lying. The reason slander is so harmful, and why it is illegal, is precisely because slander often sounds credible. Not always, but very often. That's why we can't assume someone is telling the truth just because they sound credible, because that has nothing to do with whether or not they are telling the truth.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, infamous champion of the slaughter of the innocent unborn, has now passed from the scene. The attacks on Amy Coney Barrett (her probable replacement) are going to be mean and vicious. People who have no conscience about killing innocent little unborn children will will be ugly and hateful in their attacks on someone who dares to believe that all children's lives matter. And no one should be surprised if these attacks are based on "unnamed sources." This is the new standard in American journalism. Vicious attacks from unnamed sources who cannot be cross-examined are considered truth. This is immoral, and journalists who expect you to accept this standard are truly enemies of the people.

As a classic example of how short the news cycle is in America, the Trump haters have moved on now to the latest "bombshell." I am speaking of Trump's statements to Woodward about downplaying the corona virus. I think it's much ado about nothing, and it wouldn't really be honest for me to criticize him because I'm a dad. That is exactly the kind of thing I would try to do with my kids. That's what dads are for. We take the worry off our children's shoulders and put it on our own shoulders, and we don't let them see that we're even thinking about it. So I can't really criticize him. But if you want to criticize him, I will listen. But if you're a Democrat, I am going to call you a hypocrite, because it was, in fact, the Democrats who were downplaying it at that point in the history of this virus. After all, it was Trump who closed the border to China and the Democrats who blasted him for it.

But there is something about that news item that does cause me some concern about Trump. Woodward's report presents one more example of Trump's lack of judgment when it comes to dealing with the media. He criticizes them, but he can't resist talking to them. Now, press conferences are one thing--I give him high marks for that. But what in the world was he doing talking to Bob Woodward for hour after hour--eighteen interviews in all? I wouldn't have given Woodward 15 minutes. He built his career on "unnamed sources."

For those of you unfamiliar with Bob Woodward, he has a long-standing reputation for dishonesty. He wrote a book about William Casey, published, conveniently, right after Casey's death, where he claims to have had a deathbed interview with Casey, which the security detail around Casey said could not have happened because Woodword was thrown out when he tried to get to Casey.

The comparison between these two news stories and the two impeachment inquiries is interesting. In both cases, the first was completely bogus—based on unnamed sources, and the second was a matter of interpretation over a conversation, the details of which are not in dispute.

But let's get back to the Atlantic story. What has happened since it was written, is that so many people who were on that trip (where Trump supposedly made disparaging comments about American troops) have come forward to say that they did not hear him say anything of the kind, that there aren't enough people left to be the "unnamed sources." According to Brieitbart, the Ambassador to France has also come out against it. Now, I know many consider Brietbart to be a propaganda paper, but in this instance, Breitbart was the one news entity doing actual journalism. Why? Because they named the source. You can go to him and ask him and verify the report.

Everybody else just seems to think that we are obligated to take their word for it. This includes Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, who claims to have "confirmed" the story. She got a lot of flak for that. Trump demanded that she be fired. Then some of her colleagues at Fox came to her defense. OK, I am willing to accept, based on their character reference, that she did not just make up a story and call it unnamed sources. But I would also have to say that she is unprincipled. Why? Because she also expects us to believe a story based on "unnamed sources." That's just not something a man or woman of integrity would do. Of course she says they are "confirmed." But what does that mean? I'll tell you what it is supposed to mean. It is supposed to mean that the information provided by unnamed sources has now been confirmed by other courses that can be verified. But for these modern "journalists" it means...who knows what it means? Again, here is the principle:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Apparently according to Jennifer Griffin (and other "journalists" who are as unprincipled as she), the word "confirmed" means that unnamed sources have been confirmed by other unnamed sources, so that "proves" that he said it. What nonsense.

So what is the solution to this? It is very simple. Build your life on the time honored principles in the Bible, and DO NOT WAVER FROM THEM no matter how much unscrupulous "journalists" try to convince you that God won' t mind if you throw his principles to the wind just this once. Friends, slander is one of the purest forms of evil. If you pass on slander and someone believes it, you are responsible for that. And if they pass it on, and other people believe it, you are also responsible for that. God is not mocked. You will reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7)

So what will come of this? Well, if the "unnamed sources" come forward, I will eager to hear what they have to say, but I would expect that some of them would have to be the same people who denied that Trump said those things, because, as the Breitbart article points out, there aren't enough people left who haven't already denied that Trump said anything like that. On a trip like that, every contact a president has is a matter of record. He can't just break away from the group and walk down to the store or something. We know exactly who he encountered, and one after another they have come forward to dispute the story.

My prediction: I don't believe they will ever come forward. Jeffrey Goldberg, the journalist propagandist who wrote the original piece for the Atlantic, says they are afraid to come forward because they might be teased on Twitter. Really? So it's perfectly fine to trash Trump on Twitter about statements he has denied and which are based on "unnamed sources," but it is not appropriate for those “unnamed sources” to face criticism (examination) for their statements? Have you ever known Trump to hold back from speaking the truth because he was afraid of being bullied on Twitter? Trump says what he thinks even if he knows he is going to be ciriticized for it. Some people hate him for that. Are you one of them? So you would rather put your faith in those pathetic souls who hide behind unscrupulous "journalists" like Jennifer Griffin and Jeffrey Goldberg so they can pour out their vile without having to answer for it because they haven't got the manhood to be held to their convictions? I pity you.

Again, I cannot say this with enough emphasis. Expecting a man to be regarded as guilty without allowing him to face his accusers is unspeakably dishonorable. One more time, here is the principle:

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Journalists who throw this principle to the wind and expect you to regard gossip as truth are not nice people. But this is the new normal now, you guys. We are supposed to accept unnamed sources as truth. It's partly the fault of the gullible America public, who swallows this stuff far too easily. And it's also partly the fault of unprincipled "journalists" like Jennifer Griffin and Jeffrey Goldberg, who ask us to believe vicious accusations without a shred of evidence. And no, unnamed sources are not evidence. The legal term is "hearsay." Hearsay is not admissible as evidence in a court of law. I think this is going to backfire on the Atlantic. I am old enough to remember when the Atlantic was a respectable periodical. Now it has been shown to be a rich person's propaganda rag, trading on the light of its former reputation, which is fading fast.


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