Kellyanne Conway, Anderson Cooper and journalism’s dearth of critical thinking

During a recent interview, to defend President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, Kellyanne Conway demonstrated the death of critical thinking. What is surprising, though, is how the journalist, Anderson Cooper, failed to discuss it. Before we consider that point, let’s understand the flaw in Conway’s argument.

“Let me repeat that the president has been told by the FBI director that he is not under FBI investigation, that is right in the president’s letter,” Conway said.

Anderson Cooper, incredulous, replied with, “This White House is under investigation, the people around the president are around investigation — you would agree with that, yes?

“No I don’t, I know that some are obsessed with the word Russia — the president is not under investigation, I’m around the president, I’m not under investigation,” Conway said. “I can name many people in that same situation.”[1]

Conway argues that because she is not under investigation she disproves Anderson’s conclusion that people around the president are under investigation. All that she has demonstrated is that she is not under investigation. For her argument to be true, she would have to be the only person around the president who could be under investigation. Moreover, that she knows she is not under investigation does not prove that others are not under investigation. She only knows about herself yet she has transferred the knowledge about herself, as a person around the president, to be the case for all people around the president.

Conway’s argument is called denying the antecedent. What this means is that she inferred the inverse from the original statement.

    If P, then Q.

    Therefore, if not P, then not Q.

We can see why Conway’s argument is nonsensical with the following example.

    If you are a ski instructor, then you have a job.

    You are not a ski instructor

    Therefore, you have no job [1][2]

What Conway has done is try to deny the premise so as to refute the argument. However, this is different from denying the antecedent. Denying or ignoring the premise is when you refuse to accept the premise of a question and thereby avoid it.

She may want to review the West Wing episode where it is demonstrated. She might pick up some tips.


Press is here for the Q&A. Now remember, you control the conversation. You

don’t like what the ask, don’t accept the premise of the question.


That’s my line, you know. You’re quoting me.


I thought it was Toby.


Where do you think he got it? I’ve been rejecting the premises of questions

since the Hoover Administration.

They have reached the place where the press is waiting.


Mr. McGarry, are you still in AA?


Good to see you, Christine.


When was the last time you went to a meeting?


I’ve made statements about that before. You should take a look at them.[3]


What is also disappointing, but not surprising, is that Anderson Cooper did not pick up on this fallacy. In part, this shows why Conway is able to get away with such fallacies. It also shows that journalist fail to grasp the logical argument, which means they have to rely on eye-rolls instead of the more rigorous approach to show the speaker is logically flawed and thus contradicted.

More to the point, Cooper failed to note that Conway did not prove that Trump or his associates were not under investigation only that she did not know.

Perhaps this exchange shows the paucity of critical thinking which has allowed Trump administration to thrive.




[3]This is taken from season 7 episode 1.

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Did Mike Cernovich lie to 60 Minutes?

60 Minutes

60 Minutes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, Mike Cernovich has had a lot of media exposure. A couple of weeks ago, he was featured on a 60 Minutes segment about Fake News.[1] Earlier this week, he claimed he published a scoop about Susan Rice, who was Obama’s last National Security Advisor (NSA). In his post on Medium[2], he claimed he had revealed a story that neither journalists from New York Times or other outlets would publish.

In the midst of the publicity a story emerged about Mike Cernovich’s approach to journalism.[3] In that story, the author made reference to his YouTube video where he states that PizzaGate is real[4] The relevant section is at 44:54.

There he says quite clearly that PizzaGate is real. He follows by telling his viewers to keep investigating and keep putting the pieces together. (See 45:07 to 46:00.) The language is reminiscent of that which inspired Edgar Maddison Welch to go to Comet Pizza armed with a rifle to “self-investigate”.[5]

During the 60 Minutes interview, in a part not broadcast but published by Mr Cernovich[6], he was asked about PizzaGate. He denied that he had mentioned the pizzeria’s name. He says the following.

Mike Cernovich: Well, first of all, we have to draw lines between what I wrote, which is an expert analysis on Hillary Clinton’s health[7], versus a completely different story, where I never named the pizzeria. And I never thought that the pizzeria was at the center of this. And then people, I would say that it was fake news that people would try to connect me to that pizzeria thing when I never said there was never anything going on in there. And moreover, the lawyer, it would strike me a utterly bizarre if a pizzeria were running any kind of weird operation out of it. 100%. I never, I never wrote that story. So if you guys want to say this is bad, we don’t agree with it, that’s bad and unappreciated. This is fair criticism. But let’s talk about what I wrote and why I wrote it, versus what other people wrote and the conclusions other people reached. [emphasis added]

When we read this paragraph, two logical impossibilities emerge. A logical impossibility is when statements contradict each other. They both cannot be true. If you say something is not X, then it cannot be X. This is an immutable law of logic. Something cannot be both X and not X at the same time. Mike Cernovich spoke two logical impossibilities.

The first set of logically contradictory claims are:

“Pizzagate is True”


“I never thought that the pizzeria was at the center of this.”

You cannot say that PizzaGate is real without a pizza shop being at the heart of it. There is no PizzaGate without the pizza shop. As there is only one pizza shop in the conspiracy theory, he has to believe that the pizzeria is at the center of it. Perhaps he can explain how there can be a PizzaGate without a pizza shop.

The second set of logically contradictory claims are:

“PizzaGate is true”


“I never said there was never anything going on in there.”

If PizzaGate is true, then by definition “something” has to be “going on in there”. You cannot have PizzaGate without “something going in there.”

Mike Cernovich has a problem. Either he was lying to 60 Minutes or he was lying in the video, or both. He will have to explain to 60 Minutes or his followers, or both, what he really meant because it appears he was lying to one of them or both of them. Either way, it appears that he does, promote Fake News as evidenced by his claim that “PizzaGate is true”.







[7] For the reader: This claim is not true. Mr Cernovich is not an expert in Hillary Clinton’s health. He is not medically trained. His analysis was a logically flawed blog post relying on a physician who has no expertise in the alleged medical condition Parkinson’s Disease, never examined Hillary Clinton nor has access to her medical records. Mr Cernovich wrote his blog post based on the physician’s analysis which was, in turn, based on YouTube videos he had studied. Neither Mr Cernovich’s analysis nor that of his source can be considered expert analysis. An expert is someone who has specific knowledge and training beyond the layman and the training and knowledge is recognized by other experts. A self-professed expert is neither.

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Who leaked Susan Rice to Mike Cernovich and why?

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fashion Show, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mike Cernovich (hereafter MC) thinks he broke a big story. The reality is that he was used. He was used for a political purpose and rewarded for it. Kellyanne Conway did not tweet her endorsement because he did such a great job on 60 Minutes.[1] Instead, he has become a political tool. [2] He has no political base or political power except that which is given to him. When he is no longer useful, he will be discarded. He might make some money on it, but that is not a life of integrity or virtue.

We know that MC was given this story because he has no serious political connections within DC. He is not a DC insider. He does not have a DC background. He is neither a political operative nor a policy wonk. He is not affiliated with any politician. He may wish to claim that he is “connected” because he organised the DeploraBall, but that is a social event for third-rate fringe players to the campaign.

MC wants to go mainstream. He wants to be more than a paranoid tweeting about child trafficking codes in Wikileaks emails. He wants to be respectable. He wants to be a journalist. If you want to know his approach to working with partial evidence under time constraints, read the transcript. He relies on a radical scepticism, and a demand for complete proof,  for political arguments which he would never tolerate in his own life.[3] He has begun to brand himself as a journalist. He now describes his platform as Cernovich Media. Did he start doing this to provide legal standing when he faces charges for unauthorised access to classified material?

He is not the future of the media. He is not an investigative journalist. He scrapes the internet for stories. He did not break this story. He was given the story. The question is by whom and why?

Was he given the story because the Trump White House is running out of reliable sources to plant stories? A real journalist would start to ask why they were being given this story and who was given it to them before deciding to publish it. Trump did not tweet on 4 March 2017 because of Susan Rice. If she was, then why did Andrew Napolitano make a fool of Rupert Murdoch by claiming it was the GCHQ?[4] His claim reignited Murdoch’s links to the UK phone hacking scandal and the growing US legal problems. The US legal problems include allegations of unlawful surveillance of those who are suing his company.[5]

One thing is clear. The Trump White House has selected and rewarded MC. If he was a journalist, he would want to know why he was chosen and whose agenda he serves because this is not his story and not his agenda.


[2] Similar political tools are Milo Yiannopolous and Richard Spencer. For more on them see

[3] He claimed that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease. When Clinton’s personal physician said she was suffering from pneumonia, he insisted that Clinton should undergo an independent medical examination. He justified this level of scrutiny because at some future point Donald Trump will not be given the benefit of the doubt. Yes, that is correct. Because Donald Trump in the future will be denied the benefit of the doubt, MC was justified in claiming Hillary Clinton had Parkinson’s disease and dismissing the medical diagnosis from Hillary Clinton’s personal physician. Whenever evidence was provided to justify the pneumonia diagnosis and dispel the Parkinson’s Disease claim, he demanded more evidence to disprove the negative. (Disproving the negative ie prove that you are not insane, is not the basis for sound or good journalism. It is not even journalism. It is something else.)

When MC flies on an airplane, does he demand to see the pilot’s licence? Does he demand that the pilot, after showing his licence, undergo an independent exam to demonstrate his flying credentials? No. When he eats at a restaurant does he demand that the cook prove that he is not going to poison him? No. Normal life is one where we work with trust and limited information no one has complete information because life is based on scarcity, of time, information, and focus.



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The injustice of Donald Trump revealed

Donald Trump is going to demonstrate how he negotiates, how he gets the big deals, how he gets his kicks. He is not clever. He is not smooth. He is not a great negotiator. Instead, he will brutalize the American public to get his way. This is how he works. This is how he has always worked.

He knows the people will suffer if ACA implodes and he does not care. He wants them to suffer so that he can win. This is why he was not bothered about negotiating. The “deal” of “my way or the highway” is not negotiating. It is an ultimatum. As with all of his marks, they have no choice.[1] If you are unfamiliar with this approach, you have not been paying attention to how he works or whom he works with in New York. His approach is what gangsters use. He has now turned the government into a protection racket.

The common definition of justice is rendering to a person what is their due. The challenge is to understand what a person is due. In most cases, it is easy to see. If you work, you are due to be paid. Donald Trump does not work that way. He decides what he wants to pay not what is owed or due. As a developer in New York, he has often withheld payment even though it was due. The other party had given him the work and he withheld the payment. He always claimed some reason such as it was for poor quality work, it was not what he agreed, or it was costing more than agreed. The reality, though, was that he was exploiting the other party. How did he do this?


Trump knows that under the law that if you take someone to court you cannot recover your legal fees. You can only recover what you are owed. Therefore, if you are owed twenty-thousand dollars but your legal fees are thirty-thousand you can only recover the twenty-thousand. Trump knows this law very well. It is called selling out your goodwill.[2] When he uses it, he does it on the small guy. The guy without a big legal team. A guy who is just getting by and needs the money. A guy that will settle for a lot less because he has to keep his business going. What Trump does is pick on the vulnerable and the weak. However, he is not alone in this. It is the preferred approach of Jared Kushner’s father.

A disciplined man who avoided the press, Kushner was no Trump. But he had Trumpian qualities, such as a tendency to withhold payment from venders like contractors, cleaners, and architects, forcing them to accept a fraction of their fee. The former Kushner Companies executive told me, “Every week we’d have meetings at Charlie’s house, and we’d go through the bills—the larger bills and corporate bills. And he’d sign them, or he’d say, ‘Offer them forty per cent.’ Or ‘Offer them fifty per cent.’ ” This was a cost-saving measure, not unheard of among developers. “It was, Why pay someone a hundred per cent when you could pay a lot less?” [3]

What America is going to experience is Donald Trump’s injustice. For the first time in American history, we have a president who will brutalize the American public. We have a president who does not care about the common good. A president who would see the public suffer to help his friends and help himself.

We have elected a tyrant.


[2] What is done is not illegal. It is only immoral. For Trump to do this to the poorest Americans, people who will die without their health coverage, this seems unconscionable. This is Donald Trump and he told us this is who he was and how he operates. It sounds like he is a good businessman until you are the one without health coverage or you can no longer afford health coverage because the new plan costs more.


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Cernovich’s 60 Minutes interview train wreck

60 Minutes

60 Minutes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr Cernovich (hereafter MC) believes his 60 Minutes interview[1] was a success. His supporters[2] and some commentators support that view.[3] Mainstream Media is scared. A different view emerges when we look at in three stages: Before, During, and After.


If he had a media advisor, MC would not have been on the show because there is no upside for the client’s brand.

When the invite appeals to your ego, but is bad for your brand, it is a sure sign to say no. There is no upside since your ego should be second to your brand. To counter this risk, MC claims he used his Gorilla Mindset to succeed.[4]

The Gorilla Mindset did not keep him from accepting the show’s premise. The premise is that he is fake news.[5] To break even he has to show that he was not fake news.

With 60 Minutes, most people will only remember the headline and whether they liked the mark or saw him as the intended villain. Few people remember nuance or details so the frame is important. MC appeared to know this risk and he tried to deal with it by publicising the event on his terms before[6] and after it. The problem is that that only works for his followers. CBS has an audience of millions and a reputation for serious journalism over decades. MC is unknown and, according to an episode where he was the mark, he is a purveyor of fake news.


The episode followed a standard pattern. (Spot the problem.)

Scene one: Opening to set the context, talk about the problem.

Scene Two: Talk to the mark who denies the problem or is the problem. (Bad guy)

Scene Three: Talk to the guy who tells you how the mark or others are doing it (Good guy)

Scene Four: Talk to a reformed or repentant guy. “I’m sorry for the hurt I caused” (Good Guy)

Scene Five: Back to the mark who does not see the problem even though the other guy said he was sorry. The mark continues to defend an untenable position.

Scene Six: Close segment with an overview and get the last word.


First, MC claimed he won. If you have to claim you won, then you’ve probably lost. Champions don’t have to convince the world they are winners. The outcome defines them, not their words. He thinks the goal was to defeat the interviewer.[7] What he failed to do was disprove the premise. MC is still the fake news guy. MC accepted he was part of the problem and this is bad for his brand.

Second, he called the interview fair and good journalism[8] because he was able to respond. This is bad. Why? His stories do not show balance, which he admitted in the segment. He said he would not believe anything Hillary Clinton said.[9] If he understands good journalism as balanced or fair[10] then by his own admission, he is not a good journalist.




[2] See also Mr Cernovich’s Twitter Feed for other supporters congratulating him on his success.

[3] See also






[9] “I don’t take anything Hillary Clinton is going to say at all as true. I’m not going to take her on her word. The media says we’re not going to take Donald Trump on his word. And that’s why we are in these different universes.”

[10] “It was fair. They took their shots at me while giving me a chance to respond,” he said in a statement to Mediaite. “I have no issues with it at all. It was good journalism.”

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Did Napolitano mean that GCHQ works like Southern Investigations?

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive O...

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation, USA and Co-Chair, Annual Meeting 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Andrew Napolitano spoke on Fox News, he tried to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Donald Trump[1] even though no one could find evidence for it.[2] He said that his sources told him no one would find evidence because the GCHQ, the UK signals intelligence agency, did it for Obama. Napolitano’s comments hit a nerve in the US as Sean Spicer the White House spokesman read them from the White House Press room podium.[3] In the UK, it was a direct slap in Theresa May’s face and a deep insult to the GCHQ[4] and the UK political establishment. However, he may not have realized what it meant since he was unaware of Southern Investigations and its relationship to Murdoch, UK journalism, and UK politicians.

For GCHQ to wiretap Trump, it would need the knowledge if not the approval of the Prime Minister Theresa May. If that happened, it would mean she had authorised acts that are illegal under UK law.[5] On the surface, this is offensive enough for most people to censure him. However, in the UK it has a deeper insult especially when we consider that it was a Murdoch employee making this comment. When we place this in the UK context, the insult is catastrophic.

In 2011, the UK phone hacking scandal exploded with a Rupert Murdoch newspaper at its heart.[6] The scandal was about illegal surveillance, phone hacking, and other illegal acts such as suborning police officers. These were called the dark arts.[7] As a result, Murdoch had to close the News of the World, withdraw the BSkyB bid and was said by a Parliamentary committee concluded to be “unfit to run a major company”. The company that the News of the World used for many of these dark arts was Southern Investigations.[8] They[9], in turn, were caught up in a number of police corruption scandals, in particular the Daniel Morgan Murder.[10] His unsolved murder is another scandal that haunts the UK political establishment. To try to get to the bottom of that scandal, Theresa May convened an Independent Panel.[11] The panel, which still has to report, looks at the role played by News International, the Metropolitan Police, and many Home Secretaries, including Theresa May.

What that claim means is that the GCHQ broke UK laws. It would also suggest that Teresa May uses GCHQ just as News of the World used Southern Investigation. What Napolitano’s claim means is Teresa May and GCHQ are accused of what Rupert Murdoch had been accused of doing with his newspapers and Southern Investigations. One would expect that Theresa May would demand a public apology. For a Murdoch employee to make this claim is an insult to the phone hacking victims, GCHQ’s honour, and Parliament’s integrity.

It will speak volumes about Theresa May’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch if she does not request one. The claim, by a Murdoch employee, holds the phone hacking victims, GCHQ, and Parliament in contempt. Perhaps She can explain to them why it does not require an apology.


[2] In addition to saying it on-air, he repeated the claim in his Fox News blog. The blog post remains available as of 27 March 2016.

[3] After the UK government complained, the White House did not apologize, but they did promise not to repeat the comments.

[4] In an unusual move, they publicly dismissed the comments with a direct reference to Andrew Napolitano.


[6] Although other papers hacked phones, News of the World was the most aggressive in doing this work going so far as to obtain the voices mails of David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary, a Ministerial post responsible for national security including policing, which would be overseeing any investigations into News of the World. The information obtained was used to pressure him about an affair.

[7] The “dark arts” refer to illegal activities such as placing listening devices inside someone’s house, wiretapping, impersonating someone to obtain their personal information, breaking into a property to find information. To avoid criminal sanctions, the press would always rely on the public interest test to claim what they did was in the public interest.

[8] For background on the company see and and

[9] Two employees of Southern Investigation were named as suspects in Daniel Morgan’s murder.

[10] For the best introduction to and overview of the Daniel Morgan murder scandal, listen to this podcast by his brother Alastair Morgan and Peter Jukes. See also the many articles about it including


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How the Alt-Right is using the Pepe Symbol to undermine the media

English: A-OK Hand Gesture

English: A-OK Hand Gesture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have been watching social media during the presidential campaign, you will have seen the Pepe meme. Pepe is a cartoon green frog was initially created to signal a desire to relax or chill.[1] During the election, it was hijacked by the Alt Right to show membership in or sympathy to their movement. It also served as a weapon to attack those the movement and those sympathetic to it saw as enemies. As its use proliferated among racists, Pepe the Frog was declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.[2]

The symbol, though, only works well in the digital domain as it is difficult to translate it into the physical domain. To reach the physical domain where nonverbal communication is as important as verbal communication, a physical symbol or gesture was needed. A gesture or a symbol can reach a wider audience and provide a subtext to any situation where it is used. For some symbols or gestures, only one meaning is intended. One such example is the Quenelle gesture in France. It cannot be mistaken telling someone you love them.[3] In that sense, it is limited what you see is what is intended. A more sophisticated symbol or gesture is one that can have a variety of meanings depending on context, intent, and the person using it. The surface meaning would mask or reassure the audience of its conventional meaning, whereas the deeper, or intended, meaning would speak to a different audience.

Such a symbol is the “Ok” hand gesture that is now used by the Alt-Right as the physical symbol for Pepe. Normally, the “Ok” gesture is a way to communicate approval nonverbally. When it is used, it appears harmless to the uninitiated as if the person is simply showing a sign of approval. However, like any symbol or gesture, the context and user matters shapes the gesture’s intent and meaning. To understand the way the gesture is being used by the Alt-Right consider these two examples.

When Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich attended their first White House Press Conference, they tweeted a photograph that showed them making this gesture.[4] The pepe symbol had reached the highest pinnacle of political journalism the White House Press Centre.


Another Alt-Right figure who has used it is Mike Cernovich. He made the gesture in a photograph announcing he would be interviewed on 60-Minutes.

Perhaps it is way to show his continued disdain for mainstream media despite appearing on it. “Pepe has arrived on 60-Minutes and they don’t even know it.”

The next time you see someone make the “ok” gesture you may wish to consider the context, intent, and the person making it.[5] What is on the surface is not always what is intended.

[1] The cartoon was created in 2005 to represent someone chillaxing or taking a laid-back or relexed approach to the world.





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Some thoughts on the Gorilla Mindset

English: Thomas Hobbes Македонски: Томас Хобс

English: Thomas Hobbes Македонски: Томас Хобс (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the surface this is another self-help book. You can find a summary posted at this link.[1] It contains the standard advice such as “get more sleep”, “eat better”, “exercise” “practice mindfulness” “stay away from negative people and thoughts” “eat more meat”[2]. The book indicates that by following this advice the reader will unleash their inner animal spirit.

The book encourages human beings, the readers, to enter the mindset of a gorilla. As a modern approach, it inverts what was before the goal of political philosophy to encourage human beings to transcend their animal nature on the journey to become a Man or even a Citizen. An individual was not fully human unless they participated rationally in the public domain. When there is reference to man as a social animal or a political animal, it is understood that the animal nature was lower than the human nature. The community’s goal was to develop a man’s character by inculcating virtue for it was his character not his nature that defined him. In turn this man or citizen would contribute to the common good.

With the Enlightenment, we see a change as social contract theorists like Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau suggest that the modern state or society emerges from a pre-political state, a state of nature, where man lives an incomplete life. Hobbes argued famously that life in the state of nature was “nasty, brutish, short, poor, and solitary.” To escape this man creates a commonwealth for a safe, prosperous, and social life. What matters less is character and what matters more is the institutions that contain or shape man. Institutions do not require virtuous member to thrive and the common good becomes an institutional good.

What does all of this have to do with a self-help book?

What we find with this book is that the focus is less on the reader as a citizen or even a man for the focus is on the animal nature of human beings. To improve our lives, the author suggests that we celebrate our instincts so there is little talk of virtue, reason, or the common good. Our minds or our soul become secondary to our instincts. We see no idea that our spiritual life is as important, if not more important, than our physical life. Yet, the gorilla can be appealing for it provides a rudimentary structure to think about life instinctually and not communally.

In gorilla troops, the strong rule the weak. Such a view is antithetical to cultured human society where the idea of justice, a form of political or legal equality, guides public life. Without political equality, or justice, human society starts to decay into brutality (Nazi society, Khmer Rouge society, Maoist society) where one group permanently rules all others. The American experiment was a way to avoid that fate by the focus on reason and what is highest in man. In an America that has lost faith in that experiment, where virtue and character matter less than instinct, the book appears to sell well.




[2] What is curious is that Gorillas are considered herbivorous not carnivores.

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What is treason of the deep state?

English: After Robert E. Lee surrendered his t...

English: After Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops in April 1865, he promoted reconciliation. This statement reaffirmed his loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bannon and indirectly Trump believe that they are being betrayed by the “deep state” which appears to be defined as the bureaucrats and the bureaucracy that they inherited. In particular, those individuals who served the Obama administration and appear loyal to him in their disclosure of information to journalists. They argue that these people are protecting the “establishment” which exists beyond what Trump and his aides can control.

The argument is that these holdovers are disloyal to Trump and by extension disloyal to the public and ultimately the country for what they do. In a more extreme view, they could be called traitors. But what is treason? Is it betrayal of the country? If so, what is the country, are they betraying the soil, or the people? If they are betraying the people who are they betraying them to? Another faction within the country or another state? As Leo Strauss suggested, treason is about selling out the established order because political crimes are committed against an order.[1] What represents the order within a country? It is the constitution. The loyalty demanded of all citizens and public servants is to the constitution which embodies the laws of the land.

At the heart of the claim against those who are the “deep state” is an argument over the constitution and loyalty to the constitution. Must bureaucrats demonstrate loyalty to the president as a defender of the constitution and the constitutional order above their loyalty to the constitution? In all of this, we must remember that the president is not the constitution. He only exists by virtue of the constitution. He is a creature of the constitution as is any other bureaucrat or public official. None of whom would exist without the constitution.

When Trump and Bannon question the loyalty of bureaucrats or the “deep state”, they are implicitly, or in some cases explicitly, arguing that they have been disloyal to the president and they owe their loyalty first to the president and then secondly, if at all, to the constitution. While such an approach may have worked at the Trump Organisation, where employees were expected to serve Trump first and the law second, the approach does not work within the government. In the government, all bureaucrats have a higher loyalty to the constitution. To be sure, they are not necessarily constitutional scholars or constitutional lawyers, however, as any citizen can be, they can understand the law. The loyalty to the law and more broadly to the constitution comes before loyalty to the president.

When you heard commentators and politicians, especially within the Trump administration, claim that the deep state is trying to destabilize Trump, consider that they may be trying to defend the constitution. What we are seeing with the leaks is the constitutional system working, to some extent, so long as the goal is to defend the constitution. If that isn’t the goal, then we have to ask what Trump and the leakers think they are doing.




[1] Leo Strauss On Plato’s Symposium ed. Seth Benardete (University of Chicago Press, 2001) p. 59

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If Trump is a media whore, is Rupert Murdoch his media pimp?

English: Donald Trump at a press conference an...

English: Donald Trump at a press conference announcing David Blaine’s latest feat in New York City at the Trump Tower. The photographer dedicates this portrait of Donald Trump to Tony Santiago, Wikipedia editor Marine 69-71, perhaps the most officially recognized and accomplished content contributor to Wikipedia, for his outstanding contributions to improving articles related to his Puerto Rican heritage. He is also a close friend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump has been described as a “media whore”.[1] He seeks publicity, good or bad, to retain his status as a public celebrity. He wants publicity to be a celebrity. He knows the public defer to celebrity status more than moral gravitas. He knows the public want to be celebrities more than they want to have moral gravitas. In this, Trump’s insatiable hunger for publicity makes him the perfect match for Rupert Murdoch. Like Ahab after Moby Dick, Murdoch finally has a celebrity to match his ambitions. No matter how many tricks he turns, Trump’s audience wants more. No matter how many times he is slapped by his media pimps, Trump wants more.

Rupert Murdoch harvests people who want publicity. What they all lacked was Trump’s stamina and his ability to retain the public’s attention. Invariably, Murdoch’s other media whores would falter. Either the public grew bored with them or the slaps no longer created enough publicity. In time, the media whore was discarded. Occasionally, one would be rehabilitated to harvest their publicity, but none has thrived like Trump.

Invariably when Murdoch, his editor or his journalist media pimped someone they lacked Trump’s nihilistic joy of publicity. Paul McMullan, perhaps the only honest man to work for News of the World, exemplifies this ethos. He media pimped Jennifer Elliott who needed help with her addiction. He befriended her to gain her trust. With her trust, he sold more stories and photos of her. When no longer of use, he left her and sold that story. He explained this process at the Leveson Inquiry. He was honest about what he had done and why he had done it.[2] In that moment, he ceased to be an effective media pimp.

By contrast, Andy Coulson almost succeeded in emulating Rupert Murdoch. His attempt to pimp a story failed spectacularly and he was forced to resign. Despite that failure, he was rehabilitated as David Cameron’s Director of Communications. When Cameron became Prime Minister, Coulson was with him as a media pimp. On the brink of success, he was undone by the phone hacking that had made him a powerful media pimp. Coulson’s demise destroyed Murdoch’s influences from within the government.

Rupert Murdoch, though, knows how to be a media pimp to Trump’s media whore. He knows that the path between too much support and too much criticism. He has to slap Trump around occasionally to keep him in line even as he touts Trump’s charms. On Fox News, we see opinion pieces that fluff Trump’s ego. The rare critical statement emerges to give the appearance of balance. When Shephard Smith criticized Trump’s surveillance claims, he was only walking back a story that another Fox commentator, Judge Andrew Napolitano, had created. The incident shows how Murdoch slaps Trump to please his audience even after he promoted Trump’s views to please him. The media pimp is fair and balanced to his media whore and his clients. We end up with a president who wants the authority that comes with his celebrity but not the responsibility. 





“Donald Trump was, in a time of some of the greatest competition for this title, the world’s ultimate media whore. Hands down. Indeed, on many occasions the media wrote him off as being too much of a media whore (when I worked for New York magazine in the late Nineties, Trump stories were invariably rejected as too lamely obvious and self-promoting). But he was so much of a media whore that he supplicated himself to such a further extent that he triumphed over his own triteness and obviousness.”

[2] The story shows perhaps most clearly the tabloid ethos of News of the World from McMullan to Coulson and Brooks to Murdoch. There is no human misery so deep or so devastating that they refrained from profiting from it. They harvested human misery for profit and justified it as being in the public interest.

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