“How Do Democracies Fall Apart (And Could it Happen Here)?” Session 3

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ultimate question and one of the maybe
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before answering and I’ll be brief I
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invite people and this is may be
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responsible y’all should just say to ask
yourself what are you trying to
accomplish here if what you’re trying to
accomplish is how do we strengthen the
left that’s one answer and you’re saying
how do we try to strengthen democratic
norms that’s quite a different answer

and there’s been a tendency to blur them
the way I’m not on the person with the
left at all so I’ll just give you four
Myositis me you wanna strengthen life
the way you do it is by ramping up is by
building a coalition of minorities
that’s that’s the best democratic
mobilization build-up racial antagonism
black lives matter those because of the
the big the reason that Hillary which
the reason the 2016 election was
abnormal was by the normal political
science indicators Hillary Clinton
should have won fifty three percent of
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the vote the fact that she got forty
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eight is abnormal she lost five points
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in a very common friendly
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environment why failure de mobilized
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black voters partly because of voter
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suppression partly because she wasn’t
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offering them much of anything Medicare
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for all that that’s how you build the
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left but what you will discover when you
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do that is the candidates who leave that
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will be Trump’s of the left not as gross
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for example like Bernie Sanders who was
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good at his job
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yeah they won’t they they will be norm
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travelers they will do things like
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Obama’s executive actions to in his
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second term that’s what you’ll get that
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is a way to a more social democratic
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United States it’ll be an ethnically
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driven way if what you want to do if
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it’s it but if your question is how do
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we build democratic norms that’s a
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different question and then and and then
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you have to say this is not about party
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advantage and that means that some of
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the people you have to address the
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things that are driving the corrosion of
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democratic norms what do you think was
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you would you be a butter he said why
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did you why did you vote for trouble and
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by the voter said well you know I’m just
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really disappointed and what is happened
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to my personal living standard I’ve been
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at a way wage increase in twenty years
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saying you are so greedy and
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materialistic don’t you understand that
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money is the root of all evil hi Colin I
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caught you like order you delay aside
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these crass okay but that is the sermon
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that they get if they say I’m happy that
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my sis my neighborhood which used to be
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a hundred sailors percent
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english-speaking now has 30 percent
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English second language learners in my
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children’s school and that will happen I
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went to a school in North Carolina what
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does research in Oakland 20 in 2007
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where family reported the change from no
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foreign language speakers to 30 percent
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over the course of their through
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children’s time in that one school
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district if what finally what is
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bothering and do something about and
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take them and take the grievances
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seriously I’m the trumpeter Jose
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trumpeter is deeply at a stop but I had
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a big impact on me the job that seems to
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me that Democratic systems get into
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trouble in two ways
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one is when you put populist muses the
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people identify the problems and the
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people offer the solutions
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bad lead ISM is the the people identify
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problems the elites tell them they’re
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wrong about them and offer other
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problems and other stages also bad
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listen to the problems then then use
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partisan competition to compete to offer
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responsible solutions but do not read
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the problems on court any anyone else
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want to pick up any of that well there’s
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several questions that are basically
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about the connections between populism
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and presidential ism to what extent are
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they some kind of you know symbiotic to
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mutually encouraging or one one
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producing the other or yeah I’m going to
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be very brief this time but I’m gonna
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make myself even more unpopular um if
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there’s one thing but all of political
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scientists seem to agree on over the
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last thirty years so that it’s all about
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institutions right and and it’s not
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clear to me in the case of populism but
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it is now obviously the particular way
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in which populism plays out in different
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countries is shaped by institutions but
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when you look around these different
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contexts what is striking is that
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populism has found a way of expressing
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itself here for a presidential election
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there threw a party was very strong in
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Parliament there through you know a
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popular referendum across all it is very
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very different institutional context so
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while I think was obviously things to be
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said about hyper partisanship about
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anger about the fact that the political
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system is blocked because of all the
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veto powers and all of those things the
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United States what’s striking to me when
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you look at international perspective is
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how little of the experience and the
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variation of populism can be explained
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by institutions
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just add you know Viktor Orban era Diwan
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came to power as Prime Minister you know
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you go down the list and so to me what
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this suggests is that old debate juan
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linz his question actually in some ways
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it was answered I think by Adams
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students a chaemoo I don’t know if you
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stood but he answered it about a decade
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ago you know that it’s not presidential
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ism or parliamentarism per se there’s
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selection issues which create the
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outcomes we see and to me that suggests
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a much more micro focus in terms of our
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research agenda can I pop in I wrote a
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book about mandates and presidential
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mandate claiming and my argument in the
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u.s. context is that populism is a
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rhetorical strategy for presidents to
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deal with the legitimacy challenges to
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an incredibly powerful and problematic
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institution and the conditions of
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partisanship so I think this there’s
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something separate there about populism
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as as a rhetorical strategy
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well so here’s one that this says it has
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david firm’s name at the top but that
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may be a rhetorical sleight making
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America great again would require
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strengthening the welfare state which
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many voters interpret us giving handouts
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to blacks and Latinos these voters are
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also the most vulnerable to
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anti-immigrant and xenophobic appeals
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would your concessions work question
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mark did at one point endorse the
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lowering of the age would qualification
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for Medicare I think to 55 I forget that
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was one of her 972 policy proposals and
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one of the things I has always been a
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theory of mind about campaigns as if you
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have 1972 policy proposals you don’t
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have any if you have four you don’t have
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any if you have two you’re testing
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people’s memory so if you yeah I think I
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think generally I think you see
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throughout the that the United States
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needs a thicker Social Insurance network
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Europe needs a thinner one we need ways
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of financing it that are not too
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provocative and you need you need an
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offer but the offer the offer works
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because it’s an offer to the politic if
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if the offer is to the planet then the
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offer is going to break down to the tone
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of its own way so I think actually the
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two thing when you talk about it is not
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that this there in this it is not a
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contradiction that you have a policy of
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thicker social insurance and higher
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borders those two go hand-in-hand and
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that’s one of things by the way that
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people want to break the welfare state
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they understand that very well that’s
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that’s why you find libertarians are
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very committed to open borders because
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they know with
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orders your welfare system your social
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service system cannot work and that’s
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why they’re favored so a question for
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for Emily and perhaps also Yasha there’s
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a deals party with social media
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how can journalists deal with the
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particular challenges of covering the
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Trump presidency a that so much is
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happening such that many important
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stories get neglected and be that Trump
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manages so often to dominate the news
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cycle with tweets that derail attention
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from substantive and timely issues
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sometimes this seems to me like Trump’s
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main talent is that he has taken his
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reality television show and turned it
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into the news that we consume all the
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time that is an inescapable and there’s
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a kind of fire hose and in fact there
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are all kinds of teasers you know you’ll
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we’ll see soon he’s sort of using all
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those strategies that served him in this
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different role to great effect and it is
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a huge challenge for the media you know
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we cover everything it’s just that
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people can’t really keep up and it
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becomes harder and harder to know what’s
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important the 972 points
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kind of hold in that era as well you
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know one part of the media that I
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probably should have mentioned and
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didn’t it’s obvious is that um you know
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the right-wing media has become has
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taken on such a role in fueling social
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media in covering the president in a
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different way and I think that again
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that puts pressure on the mainstream
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media to become kind of a different
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animal and responds in a way that were
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not particularly well suited for um I do
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think one thing the mainstream media has
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doing been doing better at is covering
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fake news as fake news as opposed to
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ignoring it even last year you see a
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fake news story you just sort of like
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act as if that’s you’re not gonna touch
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that as opposed to trying is realizing
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that it’s out there being consumed and
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needs to be debunked and it’s always
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tricky debunking also you know spreads
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misinformation too but I think we’re at
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the point
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given how people are consuming news how
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difficult it is to tell on Facebook
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whether the source you’re looking at is
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credible or not that the mainstream
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media has a responsibility to be
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engaging in these stories that we used
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to see as beneath us yeah so I mean
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i-i’ve been thinking through sort of the
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different notions of truth and lies we
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have right so those this pair of
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concepts that were very popular a few
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years ago so Stephen Colbert’s
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truthiness and when Harry Frankfurt on
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which is basically saying the
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problem isn’t isn’t any more of a sort
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of straightforward lies for problem now
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that people are sort of indifferent to
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the truth and we don’t quite know how to
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deal with that and that’s different from
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the straightforward lie because at least
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there’s a how Frankfurt ones at least
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Valaya pays it kind of tribute to the
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truth right I actually think that that
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in retrospect is really naive that
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compared to what we have now
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that sort of child’s play but what you
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see and I think the first place where I
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observed it actually was Italy and a
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silhou Bella’s kony but I think Donald
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Trump is completely following that part
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of Paris Coney’s example it’s it’s it’s
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over frating the public of so many false
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claims and with just so much spectacle
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and with so many things going on that it
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becomes impossible for people to
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ascertain what’s true or not because if
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you have a normal sort of attention span
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to politics which is to say a fraction
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of that of what most people in this room
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whose life it is to study politics half
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you just cannot no longer it’s the
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opposite of what David was saying what a
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policy promise it’s not one lie that is
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defining of your presidency you do 10
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lies a day and so nobody in the you know
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in 98 percent of population don’t have a
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patience to try and figure out with
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details on each of those claims and so
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all you can do is to trust the people
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whom you trust and if you’re on the
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right that’ll mean you know Fox News or
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to the right lad and if it’s on the left
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it means you know the kinds of things we
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must be probably consumed right and I
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think there’s a difference between those
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two I’m not saying but we’re the same
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but but but I at this point don’t have
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the time and the patience to go through
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every claim and
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make my own assessment as to whether
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Donald Trump is actually true in bout
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racist things he claims a happening I
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simply assume that they’re false because
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he has managed to over freight the
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system so much but there’s no other way
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of dealing with that I’m a diving is a
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fundamental attack on the very
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possibility of having a truth based
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discourse or a political discourse in
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which truth sort of negotiates how we
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should act though we haven’t quite faced
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up to conceptually much less in terms of
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our response to it can I say something
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very brief about this very brief yeah
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it’s a question actually you know Trump
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has a big Twitter following but you know
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when you tweet something it might get
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retweeted I don’t know ten twenty thirty
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thousand times it’s nothing like Kim
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Kardashian right so my question is why
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is it that every tweet is news why is
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the mega the megaphone is actually the
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New York Times printing you know
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treating his tweet as news and I wonder
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how you guys think about that so it does
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seem that the subject no I’m sorry
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oh you want an answer to that well
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you’re gonna get the penultimate worries
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well and also this is just like
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everything turns into my trying to
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answer for the New York Times right I
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don’t even work on the news desk but
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look the president is making statements
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right I mean I don’t know if you all
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notice the Twitter account that turns
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every tweet into an official statement
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but ridiculous as it is that is what
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they are and so then you have to make
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judgments as the news desk every day
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that covers the president well which of
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these really matter and that is hard to
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do there is no question that there’s all
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kinds of chaff with the weed but that is
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a tough decision for a journalist to
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make something the president says
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something provocative isn’t newsworthy
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the problem with the refusal to stay
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away is we have things like you know the
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four days during Puerto Rico where
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Puerto Rico is a nun television because
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there’s no electricity there and it’s
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very hard to get images and instead
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we’re having some made-up fight about
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you know Colin Kaepernick and Steph
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Curry and the and black athletes which
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is simply divisive it’s that is tough
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for journalists to push back on
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and one sentence I know this is will be
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to your question the fact that the
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statements don’t matter is why they
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matter so when the President of the
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United States the commander-in-chief of
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the Armed Forces says with an eight and
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a half minute gap in between to give the
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Russians lots of time to get off a
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nuclear missile response I am about to
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announce a total and complete ban on dot
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transgender soldiers in the military and
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then the military says thank you for
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your helpful comment we certainly will
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take it into consideration
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and give it to and the military’s
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actually no we thought it over we’re
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sticking to our original policy because
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it’s tweetIn that’s astonishing that’s
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an amazing thing and the fact we have
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this decision of government where the
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president proposes ideas from time to
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time and the Secretary of Defense
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determines whether they’ll become
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government policy we we are out of time
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I would just say that I think it’s
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fitting since we are a university that
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the subject of truth is where we’ve
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we’ve ended up we are after all our
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basic mission is the creation and
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dissemination of knowledge and you know
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some might might go so far as to say
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that the the movements within
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universities to question whether it’s
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possible to actually generate nevermind
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disseminate knowledge have have created
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part of the intellectual and ideological
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terrain that makes what we’ve been
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talking about for the last five minutes
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possible and perhaps in addition to
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being public intellectuals are coming
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out of our our ivory towers and speaking
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in the public sphere we might want to
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pay some attention to the the recreation
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of norms of truth-telling and truth
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seeking within our own institutions but
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I want to thank everybody for
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participating and particularly the
122:59
people have done all a tremendous amount
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of work to come here
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thank you all very much indeed
123:06
[Applause]
123:11
[Music]

The Anti-Christian Alt-Right

The Perverse Thought of Right-Wing Identity Politics

.. “The Church has become the number one enemy of Western Civilization. Soon the only people left in Christianity will be third-world immigrants and a handful of self-hating whites.”

..Hillary Clinton devoted a speech in Nevada to deploring its influence on the election. “These are race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman—all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘alt-right,’” she charged.

.. Clinton could not name a single member of a movement that, she warned, imperiled American democracy

.. The movement exists almost entirely among anonymous users of the Internet. It has no institutions, no money, no political representation, and no traditional media.

.. It enjoys the close attention of the liberal establishment it seeks to discredit and the conservative movement it intends to displace.

.. “Everything we have seen over the past year suggests that the alt-right will be around for the foreseeable future.”

.. The alt-right purports to defend the identity and interests of white people, who it believes are the compliant victims of a century-long swindle by liberal morality. Its goals are not conventionally conservative.

It does not so much question as mock standard conservative positions on free trade, abortion, and foreign policy, regarding them as principles that currently abet white dispossession.

.. Its creed, in the words of Richard Spencer, is “Race is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.”

.. the alt-right represents something more nefarious, and frankly more interesting, than white identity politics.

.. The alt-right is anti-Christian.

.. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it.

.. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.”

.. it argues that Christian teachings have become socially and morally poisonous to the West.

.. Its intellectual birth is marked by the 1918 publication of the first volume of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

.. While the movement is often accused of advocating racial supremacy, its appeal is more often to cultural difference. A generation tired of multicultural pieties

.. A cultural relativist, Spengler rejects as a “ridiculous distortion” any view that privileges European thought or history.

.. “Each culture possesses its own standards, the validity of which begins and ends with it.

.. Spengler therefore sees the world as divided into fundamentally different cultures, whose identities he interprets in morphological terms. Cultures are like plants

.. They live through a determined cycle of birth, growth, maturity, and death. During its lifespan, a culture gives expression to the animating “form”

.. Spengler had no scholarly expertise in non-Western cultures (his advanced studies were in mathematics), and Decline of the West is frequently nonsense as both history and sociology. But its interpretations of cultural artifacts and their hidden symbolic meanings are often brilliant and have enchanted readers for a century.

.. All cultures are unique, but some are more unique than others. “We men of the Western culture are an exception,” Spengler claims. At the heart of his book is an interpretation of the culture he namedFaustian,” a term widely used in the intellectual circles of the alt-right.

.. a single idea permeates the arts and sciences of the West. Its distinctive mark is an intense striving for “infinity.”

.. our culture has uniquely sought to see all things in relation to the highest or most distant horizons, which, in turn, it seeks to surpass and extend.

  • The vaults of medieval cathedrals, the
  • discovery of perspective in painting, the
  • exploration of the New World, the
  • development of orchestral music, the
  • invention of the telescope and
  • calculus

—in Spengler’s story, all express the Faustian drive toward transcendence.

.. He argues that there is no Christianity without Western civilization. He arrives at this conclusion by claiming the West begins not with ancient Greece or Rome, but with the high Middle Ages and the birth of scholasticism, Gothic architecture, and polyphony.

.. Its cultural achievements are not testimonies to faith in God. They are the monuments of Faustian man’s attempt—in speculation, stone, glass, and sound—to propel himself into infinity. Of this aspiration, Spengler maintains, “the Gospels know nothing.”

..  In the minds and hands of Europeans, Christianity became a religion that affirmed the unceasing expansion of human freedom, power, and knowledge.

.. There is no biblical god for Faustian man, but there is high Christian culture, which is a tribute to his identity.

.. To a young man lacking a strong identity he says, “This heroic culture is your inheritance, and yours alone. You stand in a line of men who have attained the highest excellences and freely endured the hardest challenges.

.. Albert the Great, Cortés, Newton, Goethe, the Wright brothers all carry this daring spirit, and so do you.”

.. in his 1933 book Hour of Decision, he foresaw the rise of democratic “Caesars” and growing racial animosity. Who will give birth to the next great culture? Not Europeans

.. Spengler predicted the future would belong to the race that had preserved its “strength” in face of the rising “colored menace.”

  • If Spengler is the alt-right’s cultural critic,
  • Julius Evola is its political mystic.
    • Umberto Eco mockingly called him “the magician,” and the
    • future Pope Paul VI condemned his writings in a Vatican newspaper
    • Evola is the most right-wing thinker possible in the modern world. There is nobody to his right, nor can there be. His influence on the alt-right is detectable in one of its most controversial features: its rejection of human equality.
    • “We don’t belong to the liberal family,” writes popular blogger Hunter Wallace. “Nothing is less self-evident to us than the notion that all men are created equal.” Here is the movement’s clearest dispute with conventional conservatism
    • The alt-right denies that constitutional democracy is worthy of principled veneration. For Evola, its popular acceptance is a sign we are living in a spiritual dark age.

The basic problem with modernity is “desacralization,” the collapse of spiritual meaning in daily life. Work, family, and citizenship are no longer saturated with spiritual importance, but are understood in functionally secular terms.

.. materialism “kills every possibility

.. Spengler’s fundamental flaw was that he “lacked any understanding of metaphysics and transcendence,” which led him to conclude that human cultures are irreducibly different.

.. Evola believed more or less the exact opposite, arguing that there are timeless and universal principles that have provided the foundation for every true civilization. He referred to these perennial truths as “Tradition,” and he traced the disorders of modernity to our loss of contact with it.

.. No, the world had been slouching into spiritual poverty ever since the eighth century b.c., when the world of Tradition began to disappear.

.. Revolt Against the Modern Worldclaimed that these primordial societies—whose existence can be accessed only by way of myth and legend, not critical scholarship—all operated on the same principles.

.. In a traditional culture, every aspect of human life, every social activity, role, and caste, was dedicated to the service of an otherworldly order; indeed, they were ritual pathways into it. “According to Tradition,” Evola imagines, “every authority is fraudulent, every law unjust and barbarous, every institution is vain and ephemeral unless . . . they are derived from above.”

.. His key claim is that traditional societies were hierarchically ordered under an absolute ruler, who embodied the sacral order itself.

..  Men Among the Ruins, he argued that political conservatism is intrinsically impossible in a democratic age. True political order can never come from below; it must always be imposed from above.

.. only a transformative leader could elevate humanity out of its degraded state. Such a leader could not appeal to the masses—this was the mistake of the vulgar fascisms of Mussolini and Hitler—but must inspire submission through lofty contempt for democratic norms and popular tastes.

“The presence of superior individuals bestows on a multitude . . . a meaning and a justification they previously lacked,” Evola wrote. “It is the inferior who needs the superior, and not the other way around.”

Evola was less clear about what this sacred authority looked like than what stood in the way of its realization.

.. The problem is that Catholicism forbids the sacred state. And a state without absolute spiritual unity is no state at all.

.. Benoist is the leading theorist of the European New Right, an intellectual movement that began in France in the late 1960s

.. however, no return is necessary if we simply move beyond Christianity altogether. Evola did not believe in a personal deity, but his criticisms of Christianity were political rather than theological. With Benoist, the alt-right becomes explicitly and confessionally anti-Christian.

.. took its inspiration from the failed “conservative revolution” of Weimar Germany.

Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Spengler were its chief figures

.. Most of its members, including Spengler, took sides against the Nazi regime, but they also sought a path for the West beyond the twin evils of American democracy and Soviet communism. Benoist comes from this anti-liberal tradition

.. Benoist is the leading theorist of the European New Right, an intellectual movement that began in France in the late 1960s

.. attempt to envision a post-Christian future for people of European descent.

.. his 1981 work On Being a Pagan

.. Paganism’s central claim is simple: that the world is holy and eternal. “Far from desacralizing the world,” Benoist tells us, paganism “sacralizes it in the literal sense of the word, since it regards the world as sacred.”

Paganism is also a humanism. It recognizes man, the highest expression of nature, as the sole measure of the divine.

.. God does not therefore create men; men make gods, which “exist” as ideal models that their creators strive to equal.

.. Benoist’s case against Christianity is that it forbids the expression of this “Faustian” vitality.

.. It does so by placing the ultimate source of truth outside of humanity, in an otherworldly realm to which we must be subservient.

.. He accuses Christianity of crippling our most noble impulses. Christianity makes us strangers in our own skin, conning us into distrusting our strongest intuitions. We naturally respect beauty, health, and power, Benoist observes, but Christianity teaches us to revere the deformed, sick, and weak instead.

.. Benoist’s theology is in the service of a political warning, and it is this, more than his Nietzschean posturing, that attracts the alt-right.

.. Christianity is unable to protect European peoples and their cultures.

.. Christianity is not our religion.

..  Benoist means that Christianity renders Western culture morally lethargic and culturally defenseless.

.. its universalism poisons our attachments to particular loyalties and ties.

.. “If all men are brothers,” Benoist claims, “then no one can truly be a brother.”

.. Politics depends on the recognition of both outsiders and enemies, yet the Christian Church sees all people as potential members, indeed potential saints.

.. Christianity imparted to our culture an ethics that has mutated into what the alt-right calls “pathological altruism.”

.. Its self-distrust, concern for victims, and fear of excluding outsiders—such values swindle Western peoples out of a preferential love for their own.

.. Christianity today is the enemy of the West and the race that created it

.. we ought to see ourselves through the eyes of our pagan critics

.. They distort many truths, through both malice and ignorance, and lead young men into espousing views and defending authors they scarcely understand.

.. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains.

.. invoking race as an emergency replacement for our fraying civic bonds.

.. identity politics on the left is a response to the same erosion of belonging.

.. we lack a compelling civic theology for the twenty-first century—a theology of the nation

.. In its absence the alt-right will continue to grow.

.. A nation will become an idol, however, if its cultural inheritance is not oriented toward, and inwardly transformed by, a divine inheritance.

.. “The inheritance we receive from Christ,” the late pope argued, “orients the patrimony of human native lands and cultures toward an eternal home land.”

.. It speaks of tradition, while transmitting no traditions. It guards a false patrimony, while destroying real ones

..  Race offers no inheritance, and its mere preservation reflects no human achievement.

.. Our stories, art, music, institutions, and religious traditions—unlike race—are transmitted only through special efforts of human intelligence and love. They are a bequest of the spirit, not blood.

.. The alt-right speaks a seductive language. Where liberalism offers security and comfort, the alt-right promises sacrifice and conflict.

.. . For Christians, the problem with Faustian man is not the vaunting heroism of his aims. It is the pitiable smallness of his goals.

We are not meant to merely aspire to the infinite. We are called to participate in it—to be, in a word, deified.

Faust could not overcome death. Through Christ, Christians already have.

Another Republican Call to Arms, but Who Will Answer?

In a stunning one-two assault, Mr. Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr. Flake took on the president in terms rarely, if ever, heard from members of a sitting president’s party.

Mr. Corker, who has been feuding with the man he once contemplated serving as vice president, accused Mr. Trump of serial lying and debasing the office.

“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals, we must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country,” Mr. Flake said.

.. But Mr. Corker, Mr. Flake and Mr. McCain remain the outliers.

.. Mr. McConnell left his lunch with Mr. Trump and members of the caucus to emphasize the issues that bind congressional Republicans to Mr. Trump and play down the divisions underscored by Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker.

.. They have been willing to look past some actions and pronouncements by Mr. Trump that they consider beneath a president in hopes of pushing into law some of their long-sought goals, the most important of which are tax cuts. And with no substantial legislative achievements so far, the party is all in on a tax overhaul, recognizing that failure to deliver one will be a political disaster. That necessity ties them tightly to Mr. Trump, at least for now.

Is Nothing Funny, Mr. President?

By stepping up to the line without crossing it, a commander in chief tacitly acknowledges that a line exists.

.. President Trump does not possess the sense of nuance a well-told joke requires. He does not seem to know when he is pushing the envelope.

.. This refusal to recognize the unwritten rules that govern us, so evident during Mr. Trump’s failed attempts at humor, is a central feature of his presidential tenure thus far. If a leader does not understand the idea of benign violations, blatant violations inevitably occur.

.. Presidents can either laugh at the strangeness of their circumstances or be consumed by them.

.. Without the qualities that laughter both demonstrates and fosters —

  • a willingness to find common ground,
  • the respect for agreed-upon norms and
  • the awareness that we are all only human —

Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the presidency is defined by the one characteristic that remains: a lust for power.

.. Thanks to the power of the internet, there is proof that our president has indeed laughed at least once. This was during a campaign rally in January, when Mr. Trump’s speech was interrupted by a barking dog.

“It’s Hillary!” an audience member shouted. And the candidate tilted his head back, opened his mouth wide and laughed without reservation, quite possibly for the first time in his political life.

This documented incidence of Trump laughter is as illuminating as all the grim smiles that preceded it. For they reveal a president who is constantly, endlessly preoccupied with status.

POLLAK: Donald Trump, Twitter, and the ‘Presidential’ Standard

President Donald Trump addressed criticisms Saturday that his use of Twitter to attack his critics is not presidential. “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL,” he tweeted, and added: “Make America Great Again!”

In another tweet, he pointed out that his use of social media had been crucial to his success in the 2016 presidential election — despite urging by the media, and even by his fellow Republicans, that he stop it.

One thing is clear: Trump has always used this method of fighting his critics. In 2012, he tweeted: “Everybody tells me not to hit back at the lowlifes that go after me for PR–sorry, but I must. It’s my nature.”

And long before Twitter existed, he was doing the same thing through more conventional methods. In one of the most memorable passages of his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump describes writing a nasty letter to Paul Goldberger, who was then an architecture critic for the New York Times. Goldberger had written a positive review of one of Trump’s projects — a “setup,” Trump says, for a negative review of another. He concludes by observing: “My people keep telling me I shouldn’t write letters like this to critics. The way I see it, critics get to say what they want about my work, so why shouldn’t I be able to say what I want to about theirs?”
Nothing has changed in thirty years, except for the medium.

.. One difference is immediately apparent: Trump generally confines his attacks to members of the media and political elite, while Obama attacked ordinary people, or Americans as a whole.

.. Moreover, he is usually punching back: his targets almost always start the fight.

.. One would like a president to do so at all times. Yet recent history is littered with Republicans who played nice and lost elections, or backed down from a fight once in office. Controversial tweets may be a political hazard of a winning mentality.

Regardless, many Americans prefer a president who breaks the social norms of politics to one who breaks the rules of the Constitution, however politely.

A ’25th Amendment Solution’ Is the Wrong Thing to Do

The main reason not to use it is that the real chief complaint against Donald Trump is that he threatens U.S. democracy not (chiefly) by breaking laws, but by undermining the norms which are just as important to democratic governance as the laws and constitutional provisions. And therefore efforts to remove him should be especially careful to abide by those norms [bold mine-DL]. The 25th amendment is for use in Wilson-like cases where the president is really, truly incapacitated. While mental illness could qualify, the many armchair diagnoses we’ve seen of Trump simply do not clear the constitutional bar.

.. he is not so physically or mentally disabled that he can’t discharge the duties of his office. He may discharge those duties badly, but that is an entirely different question and one that the amendment was never intended to address. Going that route would also require more support in the House than an impeachment vote would, so it would be even less likely to “work” in removing Trump.