Day 15: Engage

A Twitter interlocutor today asked me about my views on the Trump travel ban. Until I get an OK from him, I wouldn’t want to include the text of his question, but it was essentially about whether it wasn’t hypocritical of protesters to be so concerned now with the Trump travel ban when they were not concerned with the Obama ban on immigrants in 2011. Here is my response:

“It’s so seldom that people take the time to read and write thoughtful questions/responses to people they might disagree with, I really appreciate your taking the time (and trust) to lay these questions out. I would really like to write out my response on my blog, but I wouldn’t want you to think that I was grandstanding or dismissing your question for my small audience. Do you mind if I quote you and answer on the blog in detail?

Anyway, I’ll just make a first blush response as I see it, and we can proceed here or there depending on what you want. Let’s look at the similarities. Yes the Obama move was apparently a halt to processing visa applications from Iraq for 6 months. I seriously can’t think of other similarities.

Now let’s look at some of the differences. The Obama restriction was specific to 1 country that had a specific threat that had shown up with the (ironically, considering the recent news) Bowling Green terror plot.

The Trump plan, on the other hand is non-specific (7 countries), and based on no specific (imminent) threat. Perhaps you could say that the general threat from these seven counties is so great as to warrant a radical response, but the comparison to the Obama policy doesn’t hold on this count.

Another difference: the Trump order is distinctly antithetical to American law and values in that it targets specific religious beliefs for discrimination. As you remember, Trump deliberately called it a Muslim ban during the campaign and we have Rudy Guiliani saying that he responded to Trump’s request to help him come up with legal rationale for the Muslim ban. So he spends months calling it a Muslim ban, his adviser says it was a Muslim ban (and includes a consideration for religious minorities), so I think we can be pretty certain that any attempt to connect it to nationality and not religion is bullshit.

Now, speaking to some of the other questions you bring up. Is the reaction to this ban hypocritical in comparison to the lack of response to the Obama restriction? I guess it depends on whether you think the comparison is reasonable. I don’t really think it is but others may have a different view. The other more general hypocrisy you bring up is whether or not the death of thousands of Yemeni civilians is worth so little attention when the inconvenient travel of some Muslims is worth so much?
In some ways, of course it isn’t. Yes, we liberals who are filling the streets now might have spent more time protesting the loss of life in Iraq or Afghanistan (some of us did), but that isn’t really the pertinent question now. The key questions are: is the travel ban warranted by a reasonable assessment of risk (I say no); is the travel ban an egregious violation of American values (I say yes); is the travel ban likely to actually make us less safe by providing a propaganda opportunity for actual terrorists (I say yes); was the travel ban incompetently drafted and executed without proper consultation with State and Intelligence community experts? (I say yes)
Now to the question of media bias. I think I have to defer that to another time. I believe there are ample reasons to worry about the Trump order that are not confirmation bias, but of course that is exactly what I would say if I was blinded by confirmation bias.”
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4 thoughts on “Day 15: Engage

  1. I find some ray of hope today from two articles I read. 1) The ban on Muslim majority countries is temporarily lifted by a judge in Washington. 2) Ivanka’s brand is being dropped from Macy’s and Neiman Marcus. I realize that she isn’t the person making bad policy decisions and I think President Trump specifically should be the target of any boycotting in order to bring financial grief. She did put herself in the fray by attending the meeting with the Japanese diplomats for who knows what reason.

    I think protests are a viable resistance. It is so important though that NO violence occurs. Those fools at Berkeley were played. It is so easy for any large crowd to get worked up into a frenzy so all protests going forward MUST do a (not better, but) perfect job of self policing. The protests need to be better organized and have people interspersed in the crowds whose sole job is calming people getting out of hand.

    It has been stated plenty of times before. It is near impossible to change a smart person’s mind on an idea. And, impossible to change a dumb person’s mind. With this in mind, the only two ways I see to go forward is either a long term “education” of the populace. The other way is spin. Rebrand liberal ideas in ways or with names that conservatives would find appealing. As you know, I have been unsuccessfully engaging family and friends who supported Trump. My aim is to learn what positive things that they hoped Trump would bring with his presidency. Either everyone is satisfied to have a president who just doesn’t follow the rules (ie no particular hopes) or they are just too leery to reply to my questioning. One thing I am guessing is that liberals have dismissed conservatives with a higher moral authority attitude (climate change and socialistic ideas which benefit society and particular the lower classes). Dismissal isn’t a good way to bring about change. We need more dialog and that is my hope and aim.

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  2. I don’t know that there are too many resistance strategies I would categorically rule out, except to agree with you that violence does give the opposition talking points in trying to delegitimize our protests. That said, I don’t really think the protests are so well organized that you can prevent more militant folks from acting out (who knows, there may even be agent provocateurs in the mix). The ones that I’ve been at have been pretty organic/spontaneous.

    I’m still thinking about the best boycott tactics. Clearly the Uber thing got some people’s attention, so sure, have at it. As opposed to arguing about the best strategies, perhaps if we just have millions of people doing everything they can think of (even the minimally effective things), we might be able to move the needle a little: shore up judicial opposition; encourage a swing district representative to break ranks; etc.

    I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had much success in engaging your Trump-supporting family, as I would love to hear about their thinking as well. I think it is quite true that many T-ers have felt that ‘coastal elites’ have been condescending toward them, and there is also an element of urban-against-rural prejudice (not to say there aren’t many prejudices going the other way as well). In any case, we are unlikely to get through to people by calling them racist idiots, but when their leader says things like:

    “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”

    it’s very difficult to maintain a sense of respect for the opposition. With this level of malevolent ignorance of even grade-school civics. it’s difficult to maintain an openness to dialog, especially when it just makes us feel like dupes getting exquisitely trolled.

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  3. Hi Dr. Carroll. Hope you are doing well. My response/rebuttle is below. I hope it reads ok, and is not too long. In the beginning, I include a logic sequence in the form of a top-down deduction to illustrate my primary point, which is the cornerstone of the answer frame for all questions.

    Logical build-up/elevator
    1. The selection and reporting of news (i.e. social problems) is primarily dependent on two sources: news agencies and government. Social media may be considered a source, yet the content is heavily influenced by purposeful framing accomplished by the news agencies and/or government.
    2. In recent years, the news industry has become increasingly homogenous in regard to the diversity of thought pertaining to a subject, likely due to the intrinsic dynamics of corporate subjugation and profitability (Elrich, 1995 pg. 205).
    3. Transient point-of-focus(es) of individual news outlets, also seen as ‘story selection’, is manifestated on the basis of a collective “herd mentality” within the news industry (Maguire, Weatherby, and Mathers; 2002).
    4. An overwhelming majority of mainstream media companies, consisting of broadcast, print, and internet, reside on the liberal side of the political spectrum. (Groseclose and Milyo, 2005; Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2010 pg.47).
    5. An overwhelming majority of journalists within each news agency identify as liberal, a 4:1 ratio (Willnat and Weaver, 2015), although in regards to total composition, >50% of journalists identify as independent. While this element of majority ‘independent’ identification seems to be a good buffer against the skewed rep/dem dynamic, it actually seems to be an unreliable indicator bipartisanship – as evidenced by journalist campaign contributions (https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/10/17/20328/money-journalists-have-given-trump-and-clinton). Relative importance of this finding can be seen as the 97/3 donation ratio discrepancy towards the 52/48 popular vote ratio.
    6. As the public interpretation of and reliance on campaign-originating professional political PR is at an all time high, media has recently established itself as inextricably linked to the success of a political group by acting as the mediator of outreach for the campaign to the public. In doing so, each campaign’s “message of the day” which has already been manufactured/spun to favor that particular campaign, is passed onto the media. The pre-processing/spinning of the message is met with resentment by the journalist organizations as it creates the sensation of a loss of journalistic autonomy; and coincidentally in fact, perceived journalistic autonomy is at an all-time low (Willnat and Weaver, 2015). This journalistic resentment results in the creation of a journalistic form of meta-communication, in which the journalist/news agency ties the initial message to either campaign behavior (dynamics of public image, and attempts at influencing media coverage via candidate supporters in the news ect.), candidate motivations, and/or historical candidate-press relations. This meta-communication, as expected, can be beneficial or detrimental to each campaign. Dangerously, an important paradoxical element occurs when media collectively assumes autonomy and pursues its own agenda (as highlighted in points 2-5); when this occurs, the journalistic resentment/meta-communication can be selectively employed to discredit politicians and parties that are not aligned to the benefit of the autonomous agenda (Esser, Reinemann, and Fan, 2001 – great paper worth a read). This would result in a meta-communication dynamic that is largely reflective of and in favor of the majority political composition within mainstream media and journalists.
    7. With this previous point in mind, media manipulation techniques are employed. Which is exactly the issue I’ve brought up regarding the lack of coverage in 2011/2016 vs. the excess repetitive coverage that is now. The often-used techniques include suppression by omission, attack and destroy the target, labeling, preemptive assumption, face-value transmission (in regards to democratic-only news transmission), slighting of content, false balancing, appeal-to-emotion, follow-up avoidance, and framing of a story (Parenti, 2001; http://www.michaelparenti.org/MonopolyMedia.html). Further, repetition is known to facilitate an illusion of truth, as was seen in a study examining the media-juror dynamic (Robbennolt and Studebaker, 2003).

    Summed up:
    News agencies/government -> lack of approach diversity and corporate driven homogenization -> herd mentality regarding story selection -> disproportional majority of mainstream media companies identify as liberal -> disproportional majority of mainstream journalists identify as liberal -> media’s compositional ideology profile creates an agenda-driven autonomy capable of shaping the political landscape and candidate success through meta-communication (i.e. biased reporting), often diverging from neccessity -> story manipulation techniques/repetition as a tool for tailoring meta-communication to fulfill an autonomous agenda set by the ideological preferences of the company/journalist majority, whom act collectively as a herd mentality to homogenize story-selection and the ‘take’ on the reported narrative.

    The reality of this cannot be underestimated. I bring this up, because the public’s path of logic which resulted in the manifestation of mass protests against the ‘Muslim ban’, among many other issues, was due in part to thought/fear of a sinister racist-fascist take over. This premise used as a means to action (protest) was due in part to two primary examples:
    1. Trump believes all Mexicans/immigrants are rapists, therefore he is a white-supremacist and soon-to-be fascist.
    2. Trump believes Muslims/middle-east immigrants are majority terrorists/is inhumane.

    In short, the liberal public obviously understands these claims aren’t true reflections of society, and thus fights against these claims, by reminding us of their diverse human contribution to the American ideal in some shape or form (science, literary, cultural, equality, ect.).

    But I ask, why do these dogmatic examples (1 & 2) exist in the first place? This is very important as these pre-conceived ‘subjective dogmas’ facilitate the ease of labeling such an immigration reform as tyrannical fascism.

    June 16, 2015: “They’re bringing their drugs. They’re bringing crime. Their rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”.

    Considering the points mentioned before, it is easy to predict how the press would portray this quote about illegal immigration. Using a method of contextual/qualifying omission and misrepresentational paraphrasing, a foundation for the current anti-trump dogma was established in the form of a sure conclusions that the candidate was blatantly racist. Further manipulation tailored this quote to induce a conclusion that it was also purposefully intended to appeal to ‘white nationals’, as it wasn’t only racist, but also discriminatory to a specific country’s population. This latter aspect was accomplished using blurred generalizations to transform the qualified topic of illegal-immigration, into a reference about all Mexican immigrants, and then ultimately to all Mexicans. The quote was successfully detached from all qualifying context. This step-wise process is seen in the two articles below (In the title, and first line respectively).

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/election-2016-donald-trump-defends-calling-mexican-immigrants-rapists/

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/its-not-chaos-its-trumps-campaign-strategy/2015/12/09/9005a5be-9d68-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html?utm_term=.104753735d67

    An exceptional portrayal of this phenomenon, as well as the entirety of the quote in question, and food for thought, can be read here:
    http://www.salon.com/2015/12/21/the_media_needs_to_stop_telling_this_lie_about_donald_trump_im_a_sanders_supporter_and_value_honesty/ .

    The interesting/worrying/relevant aspect of this though, is the resilience of repetition, an effect that has been proven to create an illusion of truth. Despite the non-accuracy and omission-laden paraphrasing of the supposed quote, this statement has been repeated countless times in the majority mainstream media.
    The most recent being from Feb. 4, 2017, a full year and a half of repetition to-date of the pseudo-quote:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fear-and-politics-is-trumps-formula-it-wont-stop_us_5895fcb8e4b0985224db55b7
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/ct-tom-brady-donald-trump-patriots-fan-20170203-story.html
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/donald-mexicans-are-rapists-trump-goes-to-mexico-w437379er
    http://www.businessinsider.de/trump-boycott-companies-will-it-work-2017-1?r=US&IR=T

    In my opinion, the basis of the ‘he called Mexicans rapists’ claim is super faulty when investigated in unbiased detail. Yet, people in such sensational anti-trump protests will use this reported ‘fact’ as a supporting premise to accuse Trump of racist-xenophobic-fascism and for the responsibility of degrading America’s ‘moral code’. It’s more or less, a faulty premise that relies on a faulty premise. I cannot wrap my head around how this has been allowed; but then again I see the media composition, and who will stop them.

    Regarding the proposed Muslim xenophobia from example two. False equivalence fallacies have been continuously repeated by main stream media, comparing Trump to Hitler. There are many examples present of this. The effect of these repeated false equivalencies is the implantation of root metaphors which work to shift an individual’s functional contextualism and relational frame towards a subconscious association of Hitler/Trump despite the glaring differences. For example, if I and many others started repeating “pitbulls eat humans”, this would create a stigmatized truth criterion in you, and would be your relational benchmark (something like PC1 in a PCA) in how to discuss all things pitbull related in the future. I find this concept creates a problem in regards to all things Trump. Especially the ‘Muslim ban’ and all things associated with it. It automatically causes a tendency to deny any logical validity that may come from a Trump plan.

    For example, there are studies that have analyzed 30+ years of refugee data, and have displayed significant correlations (p < 0.001) between the number of refugees in a country, and the likelihood of that country to experience domestic/international terrorism (Choi and Salehyan, 2013). Another study shows international refugee flow significantly influences the spread of terrorism (Milton, Spencer, and Findley; 2013). Another study reaffirmed the migration inflow hypothesis, in that immigrants are an important vehicle for the diffusion of terrorism from one country to another. This study also emphasizes, as do the others, that this effect is only relevant when the refugees' country of origin is associated with terrorism (Bove and Bohmelt, 2016). And a report from the RAND corporation (2016) confirms the heightened risk of accepting Syrian refugees as this location has the highest density of foreign fighters as compared to any other jihadist states, and in particular, groups like Da'ish have made known plans to put operatives in the West by seeking political refugee status.

    All this leads to a pretty convincing case; or at least one that should be discussed in accuracy and without stigmatized presumptions. So my question is, in respect given to consequence: Trump equally could have or could have not implemented the temporary stoppage of the refugee/immigrant inflow, and the value of the devil's advocate-type arguments against each position would be of similar value; as on one hand there is data, threats to infiltrate through refugee status, recent terror attacks (Nice, Berlin, London) and public fear; and on the other hand there are concepts of empathy, humanitarianism, right to quality of life, and many others. It is interesting though, not only do the hands oppose each other, but they also can be applied to each other; such as concerns for empathy and safety of the American public, or humanitarianism outweighing the effect size of rare-event data and vocal threats.

    So, why is this "Muslim ban" getting an unprecedented amount of negative media coverage, bad publicity, resistance, sensations of catastrophic consequences to liberty, celebrity and social network outrage? I argue that the reason is due to the consistent repetitive exposure of orientated negativity (media coverage, publicity, ect.) towards a particular candidate or group; and this is implemented starting from 1)ideology over-representation in media, 2) repetition/bias/intentional manipulation of story reporting from the mainstream media, and their dendritic-like extensions (journalists, partisan activists, selective attention, ect.) residing within the more dynamic forms of media reporting, such as through social media (Facebook, Twitter, ect.). The strong presence of those dendritic-like extensions of mainstream media within social media, and considering: the ideology composition of the media and the lack of even antagonism, the inherent nature of sensationalism within social media (Kilgo, Salaverria, et al., 2016) and the elevated capacity for opinion-driven activism and collective outrage in social media (Valenzuela, 2013) – mainstream media is a causal, if not the most-influentially causal element to situational outrage and protest regardless of the validity or magnitude of the story (Mai'a K., Cross, Ma; 2015).

    So, is the temporary ban by Obama similar to Donald Trump's? Absolutely, they both have sufficient reason, in which a fair presidential decision must occur. While I understand that you note they are different, my opinion is that they are both conceptually the same. Developing and establishing a vetting procedure capable of defending against the reality of data-driven refugee-terrorism correlations and in the face of threats that specify refugee status as a vehicle for terrorism, I believe that the temporary visa/refugee restriction and the warranty of it, should be discussed in a light that isn't automatically demonizing and discrediting; and I myself may side with not protesting, and instead trusting the competency of the electorate college presidential pick, and not letting an agenda-driven media selectively sensationalize at opportune times (i.e. As wit was not done in 2011 or 2016). I understand that 'now is now', but I feel I would do a larger disservice to America by conflating the repeated partisan political interpretations presented as 'fact' as actually fact.

    Is it an actual Muslim ban?
    No, there is the obvious concept that only a small fraction of 'Muslim' countries were temporarily banned. Similar to the logic of the previously mentioned refugee reports and studies, countries that were most associated with terrorism were banned. Why was Pakistan was not banned? Perhaps diplomatic strategy, as travel to Afghanistan is practically possible only through India to Pakistan to Afghanistan, but honestly I don't know, many militants originate from that country..

    Did Trump defy the constitution by signaling priority for Christian refugees?
    10% of all Syrians are Christian. Yet, only 1% of the refugees admitted to the US in 2016 were Christian. This is a very big still-unexplained proportional discrepancy. Also, regarding the perceived religious preference of accepting refugees that identify as Christians, that has been accused towards Trump – accepting persecuted religious minorities (such as Christians and Yazidi's in this case) with expediency is common practice regarding refugee policy. And, if in your opinion you idealize it to be secular-based: religious considerations are by law part of the refugee policy, and always have been; and considering the decremental representation of Christian Syrians in the US-housed refugees population, and the elevated level of persecution that they experience in that region, I believe this approach is highly understandable.

    Is the consistent negative reporting, outrage, and the resulting insinuation-to-action against Trump's temporary ban, reflective of the unbalanced media ideology composition that predominates traditional modes of news media as well as social media?
    Absolutely, every media manipulation technique can be exemplified in these cases, every bias traced back to corporate or journalist ideology, and in every article a pre-determined conflict frame readily employed. In the case of Obama, similar potential-outrage was avoided by omission, framing, or a media network ad populum fallacy to overshadow dissenting media. This is why everyone is outraged now, but wasn't outraged with Obama, which is why everyone attributes this as a new sensation. Media.

    This is my argument against the sensationalist approach to drastic calls to action that have been incubated and catalyzed with reporting purposefully designed media story-telling to invoke anger, disgust, moral superiority, or intellectual superiority, despite the actual legitimacy. A (politically-driven) media insistence on mass victimhood within the domestic population, gives rise to tribal-like identification and power, an effective ace-in-the-pocket, completely synthesized and directed by ideology using the tools of truth ad populum reporting.

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