Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ My author website is here: www.terikanefield.com/ Feb. 13, 2019 4 min read

(Thread) Sen. Burr and the undermining of Democracy

DiDi wants to know if our democracy is strong enough to withstand Trump’s lawbreaking.

It's the lying (which is directly related to lawbreaking) which is the real problem.

The answer is yes. I think Democracy will win.

1/ Yesterday Senator. Burr said the Senate Intelligence Committee found no “direct evidence” of a Trump Russia conspiracy.
 https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-has-uncovered-no-direct-evidence-conspiracy-between-trump-campaign-n970536 
People jumped in to explain that Burr was confusing “direct” with “circumstantial” evidence, and mischaracterizing the evidence.

2/ Maybe Bur wasn’t confused about the nature of evidence.
Maybe he was lying.

Maybe he wanted to put two versions out there, so people feel that the versions are equal: Conspiracy v. No Conspiracy.

The people get a menu. Take your pick.

3/ It’s the Putin method: crowd the truth with so many lies that people get confused and can’t sort it out.

This is also called the Firehose of Falsehood method.
 https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE198/RAND_PE198.pdf 
“A rapid, continuous and repetitive” stream of lies “confuses and overwhelms” the audience.

4/ Yes, the lawbreaking is a problem. But our criminal justice system can handle lawbreaking.

The question is whether our democracy can withstand the Firehose of Falsehood.

The problem is that the lies shatter factuality and what social scientists call the public sphere.

5/ In a democracy, we share a common factuality and have different ideas about solutions. The menu offers different solutions.

Shattering the public sphere means that the menu offers different realities.

Trump intends to "win" by shattering the public sphere.

6/ When the investigation closes in, Trump will fight it using the weapons that have always worked for him.

He will lie and hope to shatter the public sphere.
 http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756841/obo-9780199756841-0030.xml 
The Fox-Trump-GOP has been methodically shattering the public sphere for years.

7/ The agenda is to destroy liberal democracy and replace it with something else—where liberal democracy is characterized by diversity, and the ‘something else’ is a return to white male rule.

We're in what Haidt and Stenner call an authoritarian moment. . . .

8/ According to @JonHaidt and Stenner, Liberal democracy naturally expands because a liberal value is inclusiveness. As the liberal agenda is enacted, the electorate becomes more diverse.

This alarms a segment of the population.

(their essay appears in this volume⤵️)

9/ That alarm allows a person like Trump to stir up fears and anger.

His followers don’t think they are racist. They think they're victims.⤵️They respond with anger and a desire to hurt the people they think are victimizing them, which leads to cruelty.

10/ They accept Trump’s lies as truth because they recognize that the lies are destructive, and they want to destroy a government that they think no longer serves them. It serves “others.”

I’ve written about that here:
 https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/trump-lies-kavanaugh-khashoggi.html 

11/ That’s why Trump's supporters close their eyes to his lies and lawbreaking.
Both, if unchecked, will destroy our government.

They prefer a cult of leadership because they think Trump will serve THEIR interests (the "real" Americans) as opposed to "others."

12/  https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/429533-trump-boasts-of-bigger-el-paso-crowd-than-beto-rally-held-at-same 
When more people show up in El Paso to see Beto, Trump says his crowd is bigger.

When Trump realizes he won’t get his wall, he says the wall is being built.
 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/13/trumps-wall-lies-illusions-just-cracked-again/?utm_term=.c429d2c8477a 

As the criminal investigations close in, he shouts “NO COLLUSION.”

13/ His surrogates—like Sen. Burr— repeat the lies.


@anordinarygirl points out one of Trump’s favorite tactics, the “you’re the puppet” technique, which is also an "us v. them" lie.

Her Fox-viewing mother told her she's the one who is indoctrinated.

14/ Fox Viewers indoctrinate their viewers by telling them that everyone else is indoctrinated.

This is where cynicism comes in.

If you think everyone is indoctrinated, you're fine with watching one news station and tune out dissenting voices. Because everyone does that.

15/ It’s the ultimate in skepticism and relativism.

It’s like “all politicians are corrupt liars,” which leads to: “Trump is a liar, but he’s our liar. AOC (or whoever) is the enemy liar.”

When people assume the truth is unknowable, they dissolve into tribes.

16/ Secure in the belief that it’s all relative, they prefer their own tribal liar to the enemy tribal liar. They prefer their own indoctrination the other side's indoctrination.

All of this shatters the shared reality, and lets Trump escape accountability for his lawbreaking.

17/ He can say, “the jurors were Democrats (IOW, enemy liars) and “the prosecutors are part of a deep state plot”.

The “you’re the puppet” technique, by the way, isn’t projection. Projection is subconsciously seeing your own qualities in someone else.  https://www.healthline.com/health/projection-psychology 

18/ “You’re the puppet” is a deliberate lie.

The best description of “you’re the puppet” comes from Prof. Finchelstein:
“Fascists always deny what they are and ascribe their own features and their own totalitarian politics to their enemies.” (h/t @jasonintrator)

19/ Anyone who says “the entire system is corrupt,” or “all politicians are liars” or “you can’t believe anything anyone says,” has taken the first step toward the dissolution of liberal democracy.

This is why I say the solution is to hold on to truth and resist cynicism.

20/ Why do I think our democracy is strong enough to withstand Trump’s attacks?
Because of the midterms.

And because there are more of us.

And because more people showed up to see Beto than to see Trump.

21/ If more people show up for Trump, we’re in trouble.

If everyone opposed to authoritarianism shows up to support liberal democracy, we can send the conspiracy theorists back to the fringes, and save the public sphere.

The most important thing is that we just keep showing up.

All my threads are now blog posts. You can view this one here:
 https://terikanefield-blog.com/senator-burr-and-the-undermining-of-democracy/ 


You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.



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