If you have frequented my blog since its launch you know one thing about me. I am not a Trump fan. I won’t go into the myriad personality defects that I have observed among his sycophantic followers. In fact I have ceased arguing with Trump supporters. Feel free to read my reasoning here. The only time I engage that group of people is on Fridays on The Buchanan and Seaton Show on which I am a co-host. You can find more information in the paragraph that precedes this one.
I have often listened to the things that Trump or his supporters say and I try to imagine those exact same people reacting if Obama had said the exact same thing. The main offender I can remember is Jeffrey Lord. He used to be a regular Trump surrogate on CNN. He was fired for using a Nazi slogan on Twitter, but don’t let that be the thing that causes you to discredit his views.
Before I proceed, we need to establish a word. Whataboutism is a reversal of accusation, arguing that an opponent is guilty of an offense just as egregious or worse than what the original party was accused of doing. This is why I’m specifically using Jeffrey Lord as an example. He is the personification of whataboutism.
Jeffrey’s ascension in political circles was due in large part to his career in the Reagan Administration. When Trump got elected, Jeffrey became a regular defender of all things Trump. When Jeffrey would appear on a panel, the question would inevitably arise about Trump’s lie of the day. By the way don’t take my word for it about Trump’s prevarications. The Washington Post reported as recently as April of this year that Trump has made over 18,000 false or misleading statements (us regular people call those things lies).
Back to Jeffrey. Whenever the subject was broached about Trump’s lie of the day, Jeffrey would respond the same way each and every time. “What about when Obama lied?” The group would always have the same look of confusion. “When did Obama lie?” Now remember Jeffrey Lord appeared on CNN on various shows through August 2017 before his ignominious departure. During that time Trump was accused of lying almost daily. I mean Trump lied almost everyday. Dozens and dozens of lies, half truths, misstatements, whatever you want to call them.
Jeffrey had one lie that he couldn’t let go of whenever he invoked Obama’s name. And what is the one unforgivable lie that Obama told? “If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” That’s it. That’s all. I won’t even bore you with why that accusation is false in its face. And if you want proof for yourself, search Jeffrey Lord on YouTube and you will see scores of examples of this technique.
Which brings us back to whataboutism. Jeffrey never responded to what Trump said. He tried to change the subject and deflect by bringing up something that has nothing to do with the original subject by trying to equate Obama’s lie with Trump’s. Lord’s objective was to have the side who was examining Trump’s lie to capitulate when he mentioned that Obama lied. That way he didn’t have to defend whatever Trump said. His deflection was seldom successful. The other members of the panel would often chide him for using whataboutism. Then came August, and he was gone.
Whataboutism seldom gives us the opportunity to examine two group’s opinions of the same event in real time, because by its nature the events have to occur sequentially. Obama was president before Trump. In addition if you fall for this technique, you have to waste time talking about something that happened in the past, the recollection of specific events won’t line up, and you waste a finite amount of time on television never discussing the original issue. It’s a brilliant technique when it works.
But I have an example in real time that shows how two groups of people, looking at the exact same facts, have conclusions that are 180 degrees opposite each other. I could barely believe that it happened, but I witnessed this on social media. My Facebook wall captured two people, both of whom I know, posting their opinions of the extension of the shelter-in-place order in Illinois announced by J.B. Pritzker.
To protect and respect their privacy and the privacy of the people in the thread, I have redacted all of the names in the conversations. This is what populated on my Facebook wall.
What’s interesting about both of these posts is that both of these men are very similar. Both black men, married, three or more children, grew up in middle class suburbs, employed, and healthy. Their demographic similarity is greater than 75%. Let’s take a closer examination of their posts.
The post on the top expresses disappointment that the shelter-in-place order is being extended, but still provides optimism regarding the decrease in positive Covid-19 cases. It is followed up with a question that demonstrates curiosity about other people’s opinions. This question conveys general empathy and concern for others.
The second post presents the same opening statement, but shelter-in-place is surrounded with quotation marks. This immediately conveys cynicism. The statement is followed with the mandate for wearing face masks in public starting May 1. Again the second post is surreptitiously provocative and is sardonic from the beginning.
The responses in each thread follow the theme of the original posts. The thread in response to the first post is as follows.
The first few responses in the thread are crestfallen yet optimistic. You read responses like, “I just want to hoop”, “Don’t give up”, and “I’m praying…”. All of the individuals are hopeful that things will get better and are looking forward to this entire chapter ending. The final post goes as far as to acknowledge the governor’s sagacity. This person is grateful that science is driving the governor’s decision and not the emotions of the masses.
Now let’s read the thread in response to the second post.
Quite different isn’t it. It is immediately combative. “If I don’t” and “F him”. I had to break the responses in the second thread in two. These responses are even more confrontational.
Whenever you start reading a post in modern day America that is right leaning, you always see words like tyranny and read mentions of the Constitution. “They cannot force you to wear anything”. I suppose that is right. The government can’t force you to stop at a stop sign, but they can give you a ticket. You have to go to court. Right? “This is what tyranny is” is one of my favorites. He is absolutely correct. The government has a lot of nerve trying to make decisions for the citizens of Illinois to “protect, defend, and promote the general welfare“. Where did they get that crazy idea from?
Finally this wouldn’t be Seaton Speaks if I didn’t address this response specifically. “Not ok – first amendment. Right to assemble. Tyranny and unconstitutional! Trying to scare people!” I don’t even know what this person is talking about. How does wearing a mask infringe upon your first amendment constitutional right to assemble? I’ve seen plenty of right wingers who have been protesting shelter-in-place orders in blue states and half of them are wearing masks.
I think that we need to make a clear distinction between Republicans and Trump supporters. I know many conservative Republicans with whom I disagree on one issue or the other. Many I can converse with and we often agree on many issues. Trump supporters are irrational. If Trump said it, it’s true. No matter how crazy, ignorant or inciting a statement that Trump makes, his followers are in lock step. This is why they’re dangerous. That’s why the rest of us need to vote this November no matter what! I wrote about the danger of Trump and his supporters, where I concluded that his followers are more dangerous. Trump is one man. His supporters are a movement. We must be equally motivated. Trump’s dangerous presidency will continue for another four years, but only if we don’t vote.