Facebook Employees need a reverse Voight-Kampff Test.

In the film Blade Runner, a test, the Voight-Kampff, is administered to potential replicants. It measures their blush response to questions that will elicit a strong emotional response.[1]

This brings us to the Facebook. Given the number of ethical lapses they have shown, in particular with the way they deal with children, we have to begin to wonder if they are human and not replicants. To be human is to have a soul and to think not calculate. As Hannah Arendt noted, when discussing the banality of evil, when we think, we become moral beings. Without that moral element, we cease to be human. When we stop thinking then we stop being human. It would appear that the Facebook prides itself on calculating rather than thinking.

We are told that the Facebook makes “mistakes”. Yet, each decision was done with intent. Those who designed the projects, approved them, put them into practice and monitored them, *intended* that they would:

  • Exploit young people’s emotional state to market products to them.[2][3]
  • Confirm that adults grooming children was *still* wrong.
  • Manipulate users’ emotional state to find out if it was effective so they could learn to do it better.[4]

When caught they say; “It was a mistake”[5]; “We will learn from this”[6]; “We will take on board ethical practices[7]”. These practices occur with regularity in a company that is supposed to pride itself on taking care of its users. The Facebook appears to exploit its users and harvests their privacy like a farmer harvests wheat.

When pressed, the Facebook will claim: “All our actions are legal.” They seem to forget the old truth that no matter how morally depraved or vicious an act, you can always find a lawyer who will ensure you do it legally.

What these “mistakes” show is a company, a culture, and a community that appears to have stopped thinking ethically. The Facebook employees have stopped thinking since they no longer question the moral or ethical content of what they do. As long as the Legal Department says, “It is ok”, they stop thinking and never ask, “Is this ethical?”

What we appear to have at the Facebook is ethical groupthink. The individual is no longer encourage to challenge such morally obtuse decisions. Instead, they are carried along by the organisational goals, the desire to succeed, and the need to belong. They exercise great influence over their users; do they see an ethical duty in what they do?[8] They make; organisational decisions, financial decisions, but do they make ethical decisions?

The Facebook employs America’s elite who are trained at America’s best universities. The university educates them as a good employee not as a good person. They leave with an ethical void that awaits its corporate content or soul.[9] By contrast, a true liberal arts education trains the soul. Yet, Zuckerberg famously never finished university. Therefore, if the Facebook wants to hire ethical employees, human employees, it needs the reverse Voight-Kampff test starting at the top.







[1] Tyrell:             Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil? Involuntary dilation of the iris?

Deckard:           We call it Voight-Kampff for short


[2] https://myaccount.news.com.au/sites/theaustralian/subscribe.html?sourceCode=TAWEB_WRE170_a&mode=premium&dest=https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/digital/facebook-targets-insecure-young-people-to-sell-ads/news-story/a89949ad016eee7d7a61c3c30c909fa6?nk=6cd219ad92e061624df4dae6145bbd57-1520283499&memtype=anonymous

[3] http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788

[4] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/30/facebook-ethics-labratsemotionalcontagion.html see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2677729/Facebook-investigation-News-Feed-Experiment-Watchdog-assess-firm-breached-data-regulations.html

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-users-survey-children-paedophiles-message-sexual-pictures-apology-a8240631.html

[6] https://newsroom.fb.com/news/h/comments-on-research-and-ad-targeting/

[7] https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/10/research-at-facebook/

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/opinion/21bazerman.html

[9] See for example Deresiewicz, W. (2014). Excellent sheep: The miseducation of the American elite and the way to a meaningful life.

The last time we had such hollow men in history was the Weimar Republic. They were formed by the educational practices that Nietzsche warned of 50 years before Weimar

Nietzsche, F. (2015) Anti-Education: On the future of our educational institutions. trans. Damion Searls ed. Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon,n Date: December 15, 2015

Posted in demagogic, democracy, ethics, politics | Tagged , , , , , ,

Trump or America: crisis management as reputation management

As the White House reels from another Trump Twitter Tantrum™, we see how it might handle a crisis. The tantrums and related scandals are the practice runs for when a true crisis emerges. What we find, though, from these events is that Trump does reputation management not crisis management.

Trump knows how to handle a scandal since his career reflects his ability to manage his appearance. When we understand his intrinsic desire to manage his appearances we can see why those who have worked for the White House find it difficult to adjust. They are unprepared for evaluating everything through its effect on his reputation. Trump must “punch back” against any perceived slight to his reputation to shift attention away from the claim to his response.

In a crisis, the goal is not to protect the leader’s reputation. Instead, a crisis requires a leader to respond and it is that response which defines the leader’s reputation. However, a crisis is a shock to the body politic so a better public relations strategy is not enough.[1] Only the President can respond so they must act. Even though government agencies provide the response infrastructure, the President provides the leadership. When a natural disaster hits, FEMA[2] exists to deal with it. When America suffers combat casualties, the NSC[3] responds. Despite these institutions, only the President can express the nation’s mood.[4]

A President cannot substitute himself for the nation. If he responds to a crisis to protect himself, he will fail.[5] We can see this in how a reputation management strategy undermines the seven basic steps of crisis management.

Have a plan.

Trump’s latest tweet just blew it up.[6]

Be able to communicate the plan.

Sorry, Trump said something that contradicts it.[7]

Implement the plan.

Which plan? The one for the Monday scandal or the Thursday one which fell apart because of what Trump said on Saturday?[8]

Be able to answer questions about the plan working.

Ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she finishes finding out how to give a consistent answer about Rob Porter that will not have to be revised in a couple of hours.[9]

Update the plan as needed.

The White House Communications Director of the day does this hourly to deal with the latest Trump Twitter Tirade™.

Be ready to adjust the plan.

Trump changes his mind on major policies depending on the person who spoke to him last.[10]

Have someone publicly available to make decisions.

No one seems in charge because no one knows what Trump wants. The more unpopular the decision, the less Trump wants to be seen.[11]

To manage a crisis, a leader needs the best solution without regard for reputation. They rely on a structured method to discover and test different options about the reality of the situation through frank debate. If a leader focuses on reputation, they encourage groupthink[12] where advisors evaluate options, and each other, by what defends the leader best.

Can Trump put America before his reputation? The answer will define him and America.

[1] See for example Richard Nixon’s 1968 preface to his book Six Crises: “Lessons of Crisis”. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=123931

[2] https://www.fema.gov/

[3] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/eop/nsc/

[4] https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/15/trump-florida-shooting-response-415654

[5] When they are confused, the results are disastrous. Nixon confused reputation management and crisis management when he dealt with Watergate.

[6] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/18/trump-again-blows-up-white-house-statement-with-a-tweet.html

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/16/donald-trump-press-staff-white-house-conflict-sean-spicer

[8] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-week/confluence-of-crises-crashes-trumps-infrastructure-week-idUSKCN1G02M6

[9] https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2018/02/15/dana-milbank-sarah-huckabee-sanders-is-at-a-loss-for-words-on-rob-porter-i-am-here-for-her/

[10] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/04/14/want-to-change-trumps-mind-on-policy-be-the-last-one-who-talks-to-him/?utm_term=.0e9f9491e3fb

[11] https://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/05/politics/trump-daca-politics/index.html

[12] “Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9).  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.” http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

Posted in accountability, democracy, management, politics, reputation management | Tagged , , ,

Jessica Chastain and the gap between appearance and reality of Hollywood power.

Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them… Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XVIII

Just before Christmas the LA Times’ the Envelope interviewed six leading actresses. The interview was unexceptional in its questions or their responses. What was unexpected was the criticism that Jessica Chastain received when she tweeted a link to the story.

Chastain who often raises the issue of inequality within the film industry[1] was criticized for the all-white line-up.[2] She explained the industry had to become more inclusive. Women of colour were not represented across the industry which limits their chances to be a leading actress.

Aside from the mild criticism and Chastain’s adroit handling, the issue barely made a ripple on social media. What is noteworthy, though, is the public misunderstands power in Hollywood. They don’t see the gap between the appearance and reality of power.[3]

The public believe what appears to be power, a star’s popularity or status, is power. Actors, even the highest paid, are relatively weak as they lack power. Power in Hollywood is understood as the ability to “greenlight” projects. The person or persons who say a film can be made because they have the money or can arrange the talent and money to deliver the project are powerful. Such power can also stop or thwart projects or keep actors from working. From the days when studios blacklisted actors to Harvey Weinstein[4], power in Hollywood is as much saying yes as it is saying no.

Hollywood is a buyer’s market in that actors and even directors are in large supply and the money to fund their projects is limited. Contrary to what most people think the actor or actress have a low level of relative power. The real power is further up the hierarchy. The people, mostly men, who are in charge of studios or companies that can either green light a film or make an actor/actress available. The powerful are those who can connect the money, the talent, and the product. Actors or actresses have limited ability to challenge the system let alone change it.

If you want to change Hollywood there is little point in criticising or attacking those who have to survive in a buyer’s market. Instead, you should focus on the top executives and those who can greenlight films.[5] Lobby them and criticise their choices if you want to change the way Hollywood works since they have the power. Most importantly, if the paying customer wants a change, Hollywood will respond. Perhaps this is the deeper lesson, the paying public do not appear to want this change. The critics face a tough battle in that the executives have the market, the wider public, implicitly on their side.

If the public critics of Hollywood’s systemic inequality keep focusing on the appearance of power, they will not succeed. They need to learn about the reality of Hollywood power so they can challenge it and change it, which might make them realize that a focus on new platforms, like Netflix and Amazon Prime that challenge Hollywood’s power might be where change occurs.[6]

[1] See for example http://www.etonline.com/jessica-chastain-speaks-out-harassment-hollywood-more-just-gender-issue-exclusive-90553 and http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/jessica-chastain-hollywood-harvey-weinstein-women-in-entertainment-a8006291.html and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jessica-chastain-on-the-gender-pay-gap-i-have-lost-movies-because-i-ve-said-this-is-not-a-fair-deal-a6978626.html

[2] http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/jessica-chastain-diversity-mollys-game-1201910774/

[3] The same gap exists in Washington DC where the width of the gap and the ability to exploit it often indicates a political actor’s status if not survival.

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/terry-zwigoff-weinstein-blacklist-mira-sorvino_us_5a364460e4b0ff955ad39568 However, the actresses whose careers he appeared to thwart are making a comeback in Hollywood. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/01/blacklisted-actresses-comeback-weinstein

[5] The problem though is that these people are rarely in the public spotlight or amenable to public lobbying. They are insulated through their institutions and the Hollywood system from such lobbying. Thus it is easier for the public to criticize what they see and not what they don’t see or requires greater effort and insight to challenge constructively. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/thr-100-hollywood-reporters-powerful-people-entertainment-1013405/item/thr-100-2017-megan-ellison-1013577

[6] This appears to be the case http://www.techradar.com/news/in-2017-netflix-and-amazon-changed-movies-in-2018-hollywood-will-fight-back however, Hollywood has survived and thrived by its ability to adapt to both the market and the technology. https://www.ft.com/content/26510a1c-dff3-11e7-8f9f-de1c2175f5ce

Posted in democracy, new media model, public opinion | Tagged , , , ,

A legitimate president knows “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

Over the past year, we have been treated to, or rather forced to endure, the unsavoury aspects of a president’s personality. Over the past year, we have tweets and public statements that show us something that is usually hidden. We see a president’s feuds rather than his compromises, his grudges rather than his forgiveness, and his boasts rather than his humility. For his supporters he is telling it like it is. Yet, far from removing hypocrisy he wants to impose his own by replacing the presidential persona with his own.

The President’s behaviour is similar to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon who were often crude, vulgar, and cruel in private. In public, they presented a different persona to fulfil their presidential responsibilities. They had to adopted a persona that respects common decency since the president is the highest public figure. They respected the office and its public role. They accepted its constraints. What the President has done is blur the two realms through social media and his own personality to avoid these constraints. In particular, he has done this to define himself against the media. The media upholds an expected presidential persona by holding him to account, which in turn filters his public persona to the public. However, the issue is not his struggle with the media nor is it the President’s unwillingness to accept hypocrisy.

To justify his behaviour, his supporters and defenders argue that presidents hide their private vices and that lie to the public with their public virtues. Robert Mercer, for example, claimed he funded Milo Yiannopoulos to attack what he saw as the hypocrisy of those who would shut down free speech in the name of political correctness. In this, though, he refused to accept a view that a society rest upon a shared or common opinion that has to be defended and is not open to “debate.” We can see this respect for the common opinion when previous presidents were genuinely embarrassed to have their private indecency revealed or known. They respected the office and the presidential persona. By contrast, the President broadcasts it, he is *proud* of it, and most importantly, he is celebrated for it by his supporters. They think this reflects the world as it is so they want the world to know he is crude, he is boorish, and he is vicious. Except it doesn’t. Instead, he manipulates the public with his behaviour. He does this for effect and to reshape the presidential persona to his ends, not the public’s.

The President’s behaviour means that his persona supplants the presidential persona. To do this, though he has to undermine any institutions, such as the press, that reminds the public of the presidential persona and the public good. The President and Mercer attack the press or common decency as “fake news” or political correctness so that they can redefine common decency to enhance, not resist, the President’s persona. If they succeed, a private good will supplant the public good.


Posted in accountability, demagogic, democracy, politics, public opinion | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Floyd Mayweather is the Lance Armstrong of Boxing.

Both cheated their sports. Armstrong knows he did not win seven Tour de France Yellow Jerseys. He knows he cheated the sport and himself. He is not the best cyclist. Without the drugs and the team, he was a good rider, nothing more.

Mayweather cheated boxing because he never fought the best at their best. He avoided fights or chose opponents knowing they were past their prime or simply vulnerable to his strengths. He never had a Hagler vs Hearns fight. He never faced a Ray Mancini vs Duk Koo Kim moment of fight or die. He never competed against the best at their best like Ali, Foreman and Frazier did. At least Larry Holmes had the warrior’s ethos to face Mike Tyson.

Mayweather chose his fights, he chose his opponents to ensure he always had the advantage. He beat an overmatched Hatton and beat a past his prime Pacquiao in much the same way that Oscar de la Hoya only fought Julio Cesar Chavez past his prime. When he fought McGregor, who had never boxed professionally, it was more bullfighting than boxing. Sure, the bull occasionally wins to keep it interesting, but the outcome is rarely in doubt.

With McGregor, he found a willing boxing prostitute. The guy who shows up to get fxxxed and get paid for it. In this the UFC and MMA were pimped out by Dana White. Why else release a deceptively short video clip that shows McGregor dominating  Malignaggi during sparring?  If you are a MMA fighter, this is your likely fate. Is this a warrior’s fate?

Mayweather carried McGregor to the 10th round so that the public would not feel ripped off by the fight. He knew that McGregor had never fought beyond the equivalent of the seventh round. (MMA fights are a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round with one minute rest in-between rounds.)  McGregor played his part and punched himself out. A experienced fighter, knowing he was up on the rounds, would have coasted and won the fight or at least forced Mayweather to attack in desperation. McGregor who was rookie  lacked the basic skill set to accomplish this feat.

After this fight, I don’t know which is worse—Mayweather thinking he is a 50-0 fighter or McGregor for letting himself be prostituted. How either man lives with themselves after this is beyond me. I am certain that Lance Armstrong will be able to tell them.



Posted in democracy, politics, public opinion, reputation management

Journalists Wrestling Trump for the truth (a new post)

English: Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodm...

English: Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodman and Donald Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Readers,

If you are interested, I have published Journalists wrestling Trump for the truth: Fake News and a Post-Truth society? on another of my blogs. You can find it at Philosophical Politics (here).

In that essay, I look at how Trump, like all politicians and sophists, tries to create his preferred reality through what he says. In response, journalists, and the public indirectly, try to wrestle him to the truth. They do this by either asserting their own preferred reality or they do this by wrestling Trump to the truth based on the shared reality that sustains the political community. Like any political community, the United States of America is founded upon a common opinion about certain political things. These political things are rooted in the fabric of reality from which facts are derived.

What is at stake is that the journalists and Trump are wrestling for the truth, which the public have to judge against their lived reality. In this struggle, appearances, if they are believed, can become a reality. However, appearances and opinions are unstainable if they are not connected to or rooted in the facts that are derived from the shared reality. We can disagree over why or how World War One started but we cannot argue over the claim that Belgium invaded Germany. Germany invaded Belgium and there is nothing anyone can say that will alter that fact. However, the political realm, the public domain, is often beset with competing opinions about the shared reality, often unmoored from facts derived from a shared reality, where people try to assert Belgium invaded Germany. Because we all live and work with incomplete information, we are often persuaded by opinions that flatter us or confirm what we want to believe is the truth. Therein, we see the current problem with Trump and journalism especially for a public struggling to differentiate opinion from fact and appearance from reality.

To the extent that Trump and journalists rely on rhetoric that flatters or insults the public, they remain in the realm of appearances and opinions. For either to succeed they need to root their rhetoric in the shared reality. For the public who want to hold power to account, usually through information provided by the media, it is important to have journalists root their stories and facts and reality. However, Trump’s rhetoric makes it difficult for journalists and the public to escape appearances and opinions. The journalists and the public face a double bind as Trump undermines the media as Fake News, which makes it difficult for the public to accept their facts as anything other than false opinions, and he sees himself as the only one telling the truth that will connect the public to the shared reality or at least their lived reality.

Once the facts are unmoored from our shared reality, then truth becomes what the powerful say it is. When that occurs, democracy descends into tyranny as see in Russia under Putin. Is that our fate?





Posted in Uncategorized

Michael Cohen and how lawyers protect their clients from the press with faulty logic

For some reason the press ask Trump’s personal lawyer questions about Trump’s behaviour. It is as if they expect him to admit to what they are asking. Mr Cohen has been successful for the reason he can deny and has plausible deniability on any of the issues that have been asked. In particular, he uses faulty or fallacious arguments to confuse the reporters.

Like the exchange between Kellyannne Conway and Anderson Cooper, the following statement relies on a fallacious argument.[1] Like Mr Cooper, the Wall Street Journal journalist (Alexandra Berzon) does not comment on the fallacy. They accept it at face value without probing it or clarify it.

When asked about allegations that Trump recorded telephone conversations, Mr Cohen responded as follows.

Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, said, “In the decade that I worked for Mr. Trump, I have never seen a recording device attached to his phone, nor am I aware of any occasion where he taped a conversation.”[2]

Like Mrs Conway, Mr Cohen relies on a fallacious argument. It is called the vacuous truth.[3] That Mr Cohen has not seen it nor is aware of it proves nothing about Trump’s behaviour except that Mr Cohen has not seen it. It sounds like a great lawyer-like answer, but it is empty of any meaning.

The following counter examples show vacuity of Mr Cohen’s statement.

  1. Trump may have done it before Mr Cohen was employed.
  2. Trump may do it when Mr Cohen is not around (to give Mr Cohen plausible deniability.)
  3. Mr Cohen may not know what the devices look like. (He believes it must be attached to record).
  4. Mr Trump may make recordings without a device attached to his phone.
  5. Mr Cohen may not know what technological means exist to tape a conversation.
  6. Mr Trump might not tell Mr Cohen everything he does.
  7. Mr Cohen is not with Mr Trump at all times so there is much he will not see.

The reporter does not pick up on the quality of his response. If they are not going to pick up on this issue, then why are they asking Mr Cohen what he knows or does not know about Mr Trump?

If journalists are to hold politicians to account, then they need to challenge fallacious statements. Otherwise the public will infer from the statement that President Trump has never recorded anyone because his lawyer said so. Moreover, as it is a lawyer that adds further influence to the public. If the point of the interview is to find out about President Trump, then it failed. More to the point, the journalist should have known this before they asked the question or at least be prepared to ask follow up questions that reveal something about President Trump.

[1] https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/kellyanne-conway-anderson-cooper-and-journalisms-dearth-of-critical-thinking/

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-employees-of-donald-trump-say-they-saw-him-tape-conversations-1494715712?tesla=y&mod=e2tw

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuous_truth

Posted in accountability, journalism

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.


[1] https://thinkprogress.org/james-clapper-destroys-trump-talking-point-on-russia-c399dc0f8e15

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denying_the_antecedent

[3]This is taken from season 7 episode 1. http://www.westwingtranscripts.com/search.php?flag=getTranscript&id=135

Posted in democracy, journalism, politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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”.

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-fake-news-60-minutes-producers-investigate/

[2] https://medium.com/@Cernovich/susan-rice-requested-unmasking-of-incoming-trump-administration-officials-30085b5cff16

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/04/donald-trump-jr-mike-cernovich

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZmljpEf4q4

[5] http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/edgar-maddison-welch-pizzagate-charges-232570

[6] https://medium.com/@Cernovich/here-is-the-full-60-minutes-interview-transcript-with-mike-cernovich-a0cb58a80ba0

[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.

Posted in demagogic, democracy, ethics, journalism, public interest, public opinion, reputation management | Tagged , , , , ,

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.

[1] https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/cernovichs-60-minutes-interview-train-wreck/

[2] Similar political tools are Milo Yiannopolous and Richard Spencer. For more on them see https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/milo-nihilism-and-conservatisms-decayed-soul-revised/

[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.

[4] https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/did-napolitano-mean-that-gchq-works-like-southern-investigations/

[5] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/16/515509093/lawyer-alleges-fox-news-is-under-federal-investigation-related-to-sexual-harassm

Posted in journalism, management, new media model, public opinion, reputation management, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,