Tag Archives: Pelosi

Speaking Of Deplorables…

I’ve been enjoying the obvious struggles of Elon Musk, who looks more and more like the dog who caught the car as he tries to change Twitter into whatever it is he thinks it should be. (Some of you will remember “The Peter principle”…)

America is awash in misinformation, and Twitter–both before and after its overpriced acquisition–is a significant contributor. But it’s only fair to note that the pollution of the information environment isn’t simply a consequence of social media. A regular reader sent me a recent, unfortunately representative example of Republican contributions to  the cesspool that has replaced so much of our public discourse.

A November 5th article from the New York Times was titled “How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop About the Pelosi Attack,” and I am reproducing much of it below.

Within hours of the brutal attack last month on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the House, activists and media outlets on the right began circulating groundless claims — nearly all of them sinister, and many homophobic — casting doubt on what had happened.

Some Republican officials quickly joined in, rushing to suggest that the bludgeoning of an octogenarian by a suspect obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories was something else altogether, dismissing it as an inside job, a lover’s quarrel or worse.
The misinformation came from all levels of Republican politics. A U.S. senator circulated the view that “none of us will ever know” what really happened at the Pelosis’ San Francisco home. A senior Republican congressman referred to the attacker as a “nudist hippie male prostitute,” baselessly asserting that the suspect had a personal relationship with Mr. Pelosi. Former President Donald J. Trump questioned whether the attack might have been staged.

The article provided a list of elected officials and pundits (“prominent figures”) who spread fabrications and really vile speculations about the attacks.

The flood of falsehoods showed how ingrained misinformation has become inside the G.O.P., where the reflexive response of the rank and file — and even a few prominent figures — to anything that might cast a negative light on the right is to deflect with more fictional claims, creating a vicious cycle that muddies facts, shifts blame and minimizes violence.

It happened after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which was inspired by Mr. Trump’s lie of a stolen election, and in turn gave rise to more falsehoods, as Republicans and their right-wing allies tried to play down, deny or invent a different story for what happened, including groundlessly blaming the F.B.I. and antifa. Mr. Pelosi’s attacker is said to have believed some of those tales.

“This is the dynamic as it plays out,” said Brian Hughes, a professor at American University who studies radicalism and extremism. “The conspiracy theory prompts an act of violence; that act of violence needs to be disavowed, and it can only be disavowed by more conspiracy theories, which prompts more violence.”

The article reported on the parade of Republicans and right-wing media personalities (including, of course, Tucker Carlson and Elon Musk) who abetted the viral spread of lies about the attack, “distorting the account of what happened before facts could get in the way.”

The article proceeded to document the “dark web” source of scurrilous speculation, and the movement of that speculation from those sources to the mainstream.

Many Republican leaders did denounce the violence and a couple expressed sympathy for the Pelosis, but “none of them publicly condemned the falsehoods their colleagues were elevating or did anything to push back on the false narrative. That left others to fill the void.”

“Just produce the police body cam, — why is that so hard?” Mr. Carlson demanded on his show on Wednesday night. Addressing those criticizing the conspiracy theorizing, he added: “We’re not the crazy people; you’re the liars. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, period.”

The disinformation surrounding the attack on Mr. Pelosi presented many of the standard elements of alt-right conspiracy theories, which relish a culture of “do your own research,” casting skepticism on official accounts, and tend to focus on lurid sexual activities or issues related to children, often driven by a fear of society becoming immoral.

The truly depressing bottom line:

Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert, said no amount of evidence — be it police body camera footage or anything else — could get in the way of such falsehoods in the eyes of those who do not want to believe facts.

“It doesn’t matter when there are documents or sworn testimony claiming something is, in fact, not the case,” Ms. Jankowicz said. “There will be an elaborate reframing effort. If the footage was released, people would claim it was fabricated. There’s no bottom.”

Welcome to life in the cesspool.

Speaking Of Fragile Masculinity..

When she emerged from the meeting at which our embarrassing President threw a tantrum and demanded tax dollars for his wall, Nancy Pelosi issued a devastating analysis: 

 “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” the California Democrat told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in a closed-door meeting after returning to the Capitol.

Whether she was aware of it or not, Pelosi’s observation is consistent with recent academic research. Scholars looking into characteristics of male Trump supporters found a strong correlation between what they dubbed “fragile” masculinity and a vote for Trump.

Writing in The Washington Post, the duo concludes that “Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the ‘fragile masculinity hypothesis.’”

The research team identified internet search topics commonly used by men insecure about their manhood: “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”

We found that support for Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as “erectile dysfunction.” Moreover, this relationship persisted after accounting for demographic attributes in media markets, such as education levels and racial composition, as well as searches for topics unrelated to fragile masculinity, such as “breast augmentation” and “menopause.”

In contrast, fragile masculinity was not associated with support for Mitt Romney in 2012 or support for John McCain in 2008 — suggesting that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016.

We live in an era when men who are less than secure in their masculinity–especially men who associate “manliness” with dominance and shows of strength–are feeling beleaguered. Women have poured into a workforce in which most jobs no longer require physical strength, diminishing the advantage such strength once gave them. Women are also, finally, entering American politics–and winning elections.

Even more terrifying, women are no longer “sucking it up” when their male colleagues sexually harass them, and a recent article in the New Yorker–triggered by the Kavanaugh hearings–considered the effects on men of women’s emerging defiance of the patriarchy.

Listening to Kavanaugh speak, I could tell within a few minutes that he had never been asked to account for himself—that despite a prestigious education he could not string together two coherent sentences of self-reflection. Confronted with Ford’s testimony, he had no story to tell; he couldn’t utter the phrase “This is how I’ve changed” or “This is what I’ve learned.” Instead he stripped the rhetoric of self-defense down to its most basic layer: I’m right, you’re wrong; she’s lying, I’m not; she remembers nothing, I remember everything. For his supporters, this apoplectic behavior under oath was not only persuasive; it opened up that vein of reflexive empathy that conservatives often reserve for white men in positions of power. The hearing, Trump said afterward, was something “nobody should have to go through,” a phrase repeated over and overin the conservative media, along with much outrage over the violation of Kavanaugh’s privacy and the sanctity of his family and marriage. Opinion polls taken after the hearings showed that many Republican voters saw him as a hero for fighting back—defending his honor against accusations that were devastating, whether or not they were true.

The problem for Trump, Kavanaugh and the legions of unhappy men prowling the Internet looking for a magic potion is that while they weren’t looking, society’s definition of manliness changed.

Men can no longer console themselves that they are “manly” by yelling more loudly, bullying the weak, or assaulting subordinate women. These days, in order to be considered manly, you need to be a mensch.

And let’s face it: Trump is the anti-mensch.