Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry....

Over the weekend, on the news, someone argued that information could be "leaked" that was 90% accurate, and about 10% fake, and such a leak could do a lot of damage.  They were talking, of course, about social media and Russia and "hacking," and I thought it interesting the false information part of that assertion didn't raise a few more eyebrows, or merit further notice.  John Podesta, if memory serves, said that some percentage of his e-mails that were leaked were fake.  Wikileaks claims information wants to be free, but Wikileaks is not an intelligence service, nor a scholarly service, sifting fact from fiction.  There is a great deal of common knowledge out there that is simply false, including the idea that Galileo was severely punished by the Pope for being a heretic.  That hoary chestnut popped up again as "fact" in an article about the Papal Observatory on The Daily Beast.  It's one of those zombie lies that will never die, because everyone knows it is "true."  It's no surprise, then, not even something new under the sun, that leaked documents contain outright fabrications designed to do damage beyond revealing what someone wants to keep concealed, is not allowed to blunt the fact the documents say so.

It's a danger that never seems to have occurred to Julian Assange or any of his defenders.

I point this out because apparently this is not just a problem in the news cycle when a new trove of documents is dumped on the internet:

Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.

McFarland had an agenda in mind:  defeat discussion/concern about climate change.  What better way to do that than to slip the boss false information.  The TIME magazine cover is a zombie lie; it's been circulating on the Internet for years.  But hey, if it's useful!

A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.

That is what happened in late February when someone mischievously gave the president a printed copy of an article from, the website of Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson, which accused deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh of being “the source behind a bunch of leaks” in the White House.

Oh, those mischief makers!  Because the upshot was:  Walsh no longer works there.  Long knives?  Or Dennis the Menace and one of his pranks!  That Dennis!

If you can't draw a straight line now between Trump and any number of international actors who want to manipulate the U.S. President, you haven't been paying attention.  Comey's firing is a serious problem (and being taken more seriously every day, if today's news is any indication); but this is absolutely frightening.  In fact, NATO has already noticed:

“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

Still, despite these changes, experts are wary of how Trump will react to NATO meetings and their long-winded, diplomatic back-and-forth among dozens of heads of state, which can quickly balloon into hours of meandering discussions. One former senior NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described these meetings as “important but painfully dull.”

Rank-and-file diplomats always try to push for shorter, more efficient meetings at NATO. “It’s not so unusual that they strain to try to keep it interesting and short and not dragged down into details,” said Jim Townsend, who served as the Pentagon’s top NATO envoy until January. But what is unusual is the president.

“Even a brief NATO summit is way too stiff, too formal, and too policy heavy for Trump. Trump is not going to like that,” said Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
Howard Fineman insists we should not underestimate Trump, that he's proven more powerful than he is acknowledged to be.  Actually, Trump just proves how tenuous our systems are, and how much we've come to rely on them to save us from our own indifference and self-interests.  We expect an "invisible hand" to solve all our problems with something we call "capitalism."  We expect "checks and balances" to magically control our government.  We elect a man who "tells you what's on his mind," and he has to employ a staff of flacks to explain whatever the President says is not what he meant.

Saturday Night Live got in right in the Lester Holt interview cold open:  "nothing matters anymore."  Until we make it matter, the man-child will continue to be in control simply through temper tantrums.

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