More politics-via-fb I’m afraid. I wouldn’t trouble you with this except people I know not only post it, but defend it. My headline could instead have been “a plea for toleration”. Some… oh dear, I’m pleading for toleration, aren’t I? So I’d better be nice and choose my words with care. Some website, “politicususa.com” wrote:
President-elect Trump delivered a bizarre New Year’s message where he claimed that the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies and losers.
Trump is indeed something of a loose cannon and I wouldn’t have been especially surprised to see that he had done this; but it’s always a good idea to check what was actually said; almost invariably paraphrases turn out to be inaccurate, especially when done by people who don’t like the paraphrasee. What Trump actually said was
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
Now I’d be happy to argue this is unpresidential and tasteless but does it claim that “the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies”? No, of course not. It is directed against “enemies” and “those who have fought me” – clearly something far more active in terms of opposition is meant; simply voting against him doesn’t make you his “enemy” nor is it sufficiently significant to count as fighting. Quite apart from that, the basic logic of the claim is also wrong: even if you were to accept the (in my view implausible) claim that “those who have fought me and lost” include those that voted against him, it still doesn’t call those people his enemies; the conjunctive “and” just doesn’t work like that; if it were a ” – ” instead that might be different1
As if to demonstrate a pattern of falsehood the article continues The reality is that the people who voted against Trump know exactly what to do… which is manifestly false. The opposition to Trump exists but it is scattered and confused and is (in my opinion) wildly running around like headless chickens trying to work out a coherent strategy2.
So what is this stuff for? It is there to polarise debate. To convince those that voted against Trump that he is actively their enemy. And therefore to rally them around <someone’s> banner. And these are just the same people who will complain bitterly about how polarised the political debate is (yes, I know. In terms of the GW debate I’m not exactly a shining example of non-polarisation. Perhaps I should think about that a bit).
1. There are, of course, two theories about Trump’s tweets. The first – probably correct, since simplest – is that they are exactly what they appear to be: rather hastily constructed, not always well thought
about, and certainly not checked by third parties before publication. The second is that it is all a cunning trick [updated: that is to say, the shonky subject matter and bad structure are all carefully constructed, thereby enabling him] to say carefully pre-meditated outrageous things in public and get away with it. But if the first theory is correct then a careful exact parsing of the tweet is inappropriate.
2. Even that exaggerates the degree of co-ordination of course. There is no one centre of strategy, even within the imited compass of the Democratic party, so the idea that “Trump’s opponents” even exist as a coherent group is wrong. Perhaps this is a good point to link to Partisanship is no substitute for values by Rich Puchalsky who some of the old-timers from sci.env may remember. FWIW, I find his posts interesting and thought-provoking but I often disagree significantly in detail.