Tag Archives: drama

Dogs And Wolves: In Defense Of Some Past Posts

Now that Trump has started enacting his terrible policies, a bunch of people on Twitter are saying that my past posts on Trump “haven’t aged well” or that I must be feeling really bad about them right now.

I’ve never been the slightest bit of a Trump supporter. Since he came onto the national stage, I have called Trump “a bad president”, “randomly and bizarrely terrible”, “an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host”, and “an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue”. I’ve accused him of “bizarre, divisive, ill-advised, and revolting” rhetoric, worried that his election might “lead directly to the apocalypse [or] the fall of American democracy”, and called his administration “a disaster”. I’ve urged blog readers to vote for literally anyone except him and to donate money to the ACLU to stop him. If you want to accuse me of being pro-Trump, or even lukewarm on disliking Trump, I don’t know what else to tell you.

But I still seem to be getting flak on two points.

First, in Against Dog-Whistleism, I condemned the practice of overinterpreting candidates’ statements to secretly reveal evil beliefs and policies that they support more strongly than their stated platform:

Although dog whistles do exist…politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past, or by anything other than treating their words as a secret code and trying to use them to infer that their real beliefs and plans are diametrically opposite the beliefs and plans they keep insisting that they hold and have practiced for their entire lives.

Believers in dog whistles are saying I have egg on my face because Trump just passed a law banning immigrants from some Muslim countries. Clearly, (they say) this means we should have listened to his dog whistles all along.

But this is dead wrong. Trump openly said throughout his campaign that he planned to ban immigrants from some Muslim countries. See for example Bloomberg, June 25: Trump Says Muslim Ban Plan To Focus On ‘Terrorist’ Countries. Trump has been saying this openly for seven months. If you didn’t know Trump wanted this, it’s not because he was being cryptic about it. It was because you were too busy chasing down his “dog whistles” about how he secretly hated Jews to listen to him.

Second, people are saying that my post You Are Still Crying Wolf has been debunked, since Trump has banned immigrants from some Muslim countries, and so is obviously the KKK-loving white supremacist that I argued he wasn’t.

Look, guys. I specifically said in that post that I knew he was going to ban people from some Muslim countries, and that when he did, that would be consistent with my model:

13. Doesn’t Trump want to ban (or “extreme vet”, or whatever) Muslims entering the country?

Yes, and this is awful.

But why do he (and his supporters) want to ban/vet Muslims, and not Hindus or Kenyans, even though most Muslims are white(ish) and most Hindus and Kenyans aren’t? Trump and his supporters are concerned about terrorism, probably since the San Bernardino shooting and Pulse nightclub massacre dominated headlines this election season.

You can argue that he and his supporters are biased for caring more about terrorism than about furniture-related injuries, which kill several times more Americans than terrorists do each year. But do you see how there’s a difference between “cognitive bias that makes you unreasonably afraid” versus “white supremacy”?

I agree that this is getting into murky territory and that a better answer here would be to deconstruct the word “racism” into a lot of very heterogenous parts, one of which means exactly this sort of thing. But as I pointed out in Part 4, a lot of these accusations shy away from the word “racism” precisely because it’s an ambiguous thing with many heterogenous parts, some of which are understandable and resemble the sort of thing normal-but-flawed human beings might think. Now they say “KKK white nationalism” or “overt white supremacy”. These terms are powerful exactly because they do not permit the gradations of meaning which this subject demands.

Let me say this for the millionth time. I’m not saying Trump doesn’t have some racist attitudes and policies. I am saying that talk of “entire campaign built around white supremacy” and “the white power candidate” is deliberate and dangerous exaggeration. Lots of people (and not just whites!) are hasty to generalize from “ISIS is scary” to “I am scared of all Muslims”. This needs to be called out and fought, but it needs to be done in an understanding way, not with cries of “KKK WHITE SUPREMACY!”

Apparently saying it a million times is not enough for some people. I’m afraid there’s a mood affiliation effect going on here – that if I say Trump didn’t cause 9-11, then people can only hear “SCOTT SAYS TRUMP ISN’T THAT BAD!”. Arguments aren’t soldiers, and Trump can both not cause 9-11 and be bad for lots of other reasons.

So I stick to what I’ve said before. Trump is a bad person, a bad president, and probably a disaster for America and the world. If you want to know what Trump is going to do, you should listen to what he specifically says he is going to do, and then expect things vaguely in that direction except worse. Trump’s policies are often motivated by racism of the everyday bias-towards-being-more-scared-of-terrorists-than-the-situation-warrants sort, but he does not have an ideological belief in white supremacy or take marching orders from the KKK. If you want to fight him, I recommend you fight him, not subtweet bloggers who warned you this was going to happen and then told you not to exaggerate it because reality was going to be scary enough.

I made predictions about how the Trump administration would go, which you can find on the Predictions tab above. If you disagree with me about any of this, use your beliefs to make different predictions, record them, and see if you do better than I do. Do enough better and I’ll admit I was wrong and you were right.

But if you tell me on Twitter I’m wrong because my model of Trump could never predict the things I specifically predicted when laying out the model, I’m not going to pay very much attention to you.