Truth and the American Way

From Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. He leaves out a big issue:

You remember the old joke? Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and tells the children of Israel: “Children, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I bargained him down to 10. The bad news is that adultery is still in.”

Well, I’ve got bad news and worse news: We’re now down to nine.

Yes, this was a historic four years — even one of the Ten Commandments got erased. Lying has been normalized at a scale we’ve never seen before. . . .

I am not sure how we reverse it, but we’d better — and fast.

People who do not share truths can’t defeat a pandemic, can’t defend the Constitution and can’t turn the page after a bad leader. The war for truth is now the war to preserve our democracy.

It is impossible to maintain a free society when leaders and news purveyors feel at liberty to spread lies without sanction. Without truth there is no agreed-upon path forward, and without trust there is no way to go down that path together.

But our hole now is so deep, because the only commandment President Txxxx did believe in was the Eleventh: “Thou shalt not get caught.”

Lately, though, Txxxx and many around him stopped believing even in that — they don’t seem to care about being caught.

They know, as the saying goes, that their lies are already halfway around the world before the truth has laced up its shoes. That’s all they care about. Just pollute the world with falsehoods and then no one will know what is true. Then you’re home free.

The truth binds you, and Txxxx never wanted to be bound — not in what he could ask of the president of Ukraine or say about the coronavirus or about the integrity of our election.

And it nearly worked. Txxxx proved over five years that you could lie multiple times a day — multiple times a minute — and not just win election but almost win re-election.

We have to ensure that the likes of him never again appear in American politics.

Because Txxxx not only liberated himself from truth, he liberated others to tell their lies or spread his — and reap the benefits. His party’s elders did not care, as long as he kept the base energized and voting red. Fox News didn’t care, as long as he kept its viewers glued to the channel and its ratings high. Major social networks only barely cared, as long he kept their users online and their numbers growing. Many of his voters — even evangelicals — did not care, as long as he appointed anti-abortion judges. They are “pro-life,” but not always pro-truth. . . .

Israeli Bedouin expert Clinton Bailey tells the story about a Bedouin chief who discovered one day that his favorite turkey had been stolen. He called his sons together and told them: “Boys, we are in great danger now. My turkey’s been stolen. Find my turkey.” His boys just laughed and said, “Father, what do you need that turkey for?” and they ignored him.

Then a few weeks later his camel was stolen. And the chief told his sons, “Find my turkey.” A few weeks later the chief’s horse was stolen. His sons shrugged, and the chief repeated, “Find my turkey.”

Finally, a few weeks later his daughter was abducted, at which point he gathered his sons and declared: “It’s all because of the turkey! When they saw that they could take my turkey, we lost everything.”

And do you know what our turkey was? Birtherism.

When Txxxx was allowed to spread the “birther” lie for years — that Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and was therefore ineligible to be president — he realized he could get away with anything.

Sure, Txxxx eventually gave that one up, but once he saw how easily he could steal our turkey — the truth — he just kept doing it, until he stole the soul of the Republican Party.

And, had he been re-elected, he would have stolen the soul of this nation.

He and his collaborators are now making one last bid to use the Big Lie to destroy our democracy by delegitimizing one of its greatest moments ever — when a record number of citizens came out to vote, and their votes were legitimately counted, amid a deadly and growing pandemic.

It is so corrupt what Txxxx and his allies are doing, so dangerous to our constitutional system, but you weep even more for how many of their followers have bought into it.

“Lies don’t work unless they’re believed, and nearly half the American public has proved remarkably gullible,” my former . . . colleague David K. Shipler, who served in our Moscow bureau during the Cold War, said to me. “I think of each of us as having our own alarm — and it’s as if half of their batteries have died. Lots of Txxxx’s lies, and his retweets of conspiracy fabrications, are obviously absurd. Why have so many people believed them? I’m not sure it’s fully understood.”

That is why it’s vital that every reputable news organization — especially television, Facebook and Twitter — adopt what I call the Txxxx Rule. If any official utters an obvious falsehood or fact-free allegation, the interview should be immediately terminated, just as many networks did with Txxxx’s lie-infested, postelection, news conference last week. If critics scream “censorship,” just shout back “truth.”

This must become the new normal. Politicians need to be terrified every time they go on TV that the plug will be pulled on them if they lie.

At the same time, we need to require every K-12 school in America to include digital civics — how to determine and crosscheck if something you read on the internet is true — in their curriculum. You should not be able to graduate without it.

We need to restore the stigma to lying and liars before it is too late. We need to hunt for truth, fight for truth and mercilessly discredit the forces of disinformation. It is the freedom battle of our generation.

Unquote.

It’s not very surprising, but a crucial issue Mr. Friedman left out is the tendency of reality-based journalists, including those who work for the nation’s best newspapers, to strive for impartiality and balance even when dealing with liars, and to report lies as if they are simply controversial opinions. 

A Conservative Confesses

Matthew Sheffield is a conservative journalist who admits there’s something radically wrong with most “conservative” media. He wrote this on Twitter a few days ago:

As a former conservative activist and journalist, it has been so frustrating to see my former compatriots spreading wild and unchecked claims about “voter fraud.”

As the co-creator of NewsBusters, the most prominent anti-media website, I was part of a decades-long tradition of complaining about media elites being “unfair” to conservative views. There is still much to that argument, but eventually I saw that I was missing context.

What I did not realize until I began expanding my work into creating actual media and reporting institutions such as the Washington Examiner (I was the founding online editor) was that U.S. conservatives do not understand the purpose of journalism.

This became evident to me as I saw that conservative-dominated media outlets were MUCH more biased than outlets run by liberals. The latter had flaws that arose from a lack of diversities (note plural) but they operated mostly in good faith. That’s not how the former operated.

I eventually realized that most people who run right-dominated media outlets see it as their DUTY to be unfair and to favor Republicans because doing so would some how counteract perceived liberal bias.

While I was enmeshed in the conservative media tradition, I viewed lefty media thinkers like @jayrosen_nyu as arguing that journalism was supposed to be liberally biased. I was wrong. I realized later that I didn’t understand that journalism is supposed to portray reality.

This thought was phrased memorably by [Stephen Colbert] as “reality has a well-known liberal bias”, which is an oversimplification but is more accurate than the conservative journalist view which is that media should promote and serve conservative politicians.

I also discovered as I rose through the right-wing media ranks that most conservative media figures have no journalism training or desire to fact-check their own side. I also saw so many people think that reporting of information negative to [Republican] politicians was biased, even if it was true.

If you would like to get a great look at the tensions and origins of conservative journalism, there is a wonderful, fabulous book by my friend [Nicole Hemmer], Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, which I cannot commend enough. My career was an updated version of what she chronicled.

People ask sometimes if conservative media figures like Sean Hannity or anyone associated with the Federalist could actually be so credulous as to believe unfounded and non-specific allegations of “voter fraud.” But the reality is that they don’t actually even think that far.

Truth for conservative journalists is anything that harms “the left.” It doesn’t even have to be a fact. Trump’s numerous lies about any subject under the sun are thus justified because his deceptions point to a larger truth: that liberals are evil.

This assumption is behind all conservative media output. They never tell you what their actual motives are. Most center-left people don’t realize just how radical many conservative elites are, largely because they don’t wear it on their sleeves.

Just as a for-instance of this point, most people have no idea that the top two Trump White House figures, Mike Pence and Mark Meadows, think that biological evolution is a lie.

This is an extraordinarily dangerous viewpoint in light of the SARS2 coronavirus epidemic because the entirety of virology and epidemiology is based on evolution. If you think it’s “fake” then you’ll believe ludicrous nonsense like “herd immunity.”

The same thing is happening with right-wing media and specious claims of voter fraud. Conservatives are willing to believe them even if there is no evidence, simply because anything negative about liberals is true. This mentality extends to the very highest ranks.

Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, and a bevvy of GOP elected officials have no problem parroting unverified rumors as fact because conservative journalism is about supporting conservatives, not about finding facts.

I tried for over a decade to inculcate some standards of independence and professionalism among conservative writers but my efforts made me enemies, especially when I argued that the GOP should be neutral on religion, instead of biased toward Christians.

I began work on a manuscript in 2012 fearing that Mitt Romney would lose his election because conservatives had not learned how politics actually works and that we should adapt to serve public needs and make peace with secular people.

I showed my manuscript to several people who I thought were my friends because I wanted to get the perspective of religious conservatives. Instead of helping me, some of them began trying to expel me from the conservative movement.

I eventually realized that many conservative activists were committed to identity rather than ideas. One of my friends literally told me in 2016 that he would support Senator Ted Cruz because “that’s what the Christians are doing.”

We’re at a critical moment in U.S. politics right now because the Christian identity politics that is the edifice of Republican electioneering is teetering. Millions of Americans have for decades thought that their countrymen are evil.

You can watch this play out right now on a television stage when you tune into Fox News as they cover the election. Fact-based journalists have finally realized that the identity rage of the GOP is going into a raging crescendo.

On an hourly basis now outside of the rage-filled lie-fests of primetime, Fox reporters are gently trying to explain to guests that they need actual evidence before accusing people of crimes. The guests, such as Gingrich, have NEVER been challenged like this on Fox.

Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, Martha MacCallum, and others are trying to save conservatism from itself. It’s like watching a modern-day adaptation of Aeschylus or Sophocles. Sadly, the rest of us are not just spectators in this tragedy.

How American conservatism dies is the most important story, by far, of this moment. Conventional media will never tell this story because their business is built on the lie that Trump is an aberration rather than apotheosis. . . .

At the same time, the tens of millions of people who vote Republican are not deplorable. They are misled. And the mocking and tribalistic coverage that lefty media often engage in only makes things worse. Only love can defeat hate.

And just to clarify my point about people who are “misled.” It’s the people that Trump referred to when he said “I love the poorly educated.” They are the people who work hard, go to church, and feel they have no future in a secular America.

Not the leaders, but the led.

Unquote. 

Unfortunately, many of our fellow citizens choose to be misled because it makes them feel better. This is a comment I left after reading “Welcome the Txxxx Voters Back”, a piece by a philosophy professor calling on us to be nicer to the president’s supporters (in my comment, I quote the author of the article while making a few changes):

Speaking for the majority of American voters, I hereby welcome the minority to join us in “[cultivating] an information environment in which people [can] distinguish between truth and falsehood, in which expert claims are [not] treated with suspicion, and in which fringe figures and theories are [not] valued more highly than mainstream ones”.

Unless more of the “conservative” minority are willing to do that, it’s not going to make a damn bit of difference whether we in the majority “appreciate the bond of citizenship” [and welcome them back] more than we already do.

I Wish Everyone Would Read This

Everyone in the US anyway. Everyone who can read.

Jay Rosen teaches journalism at New York University. From NYR Daily:

“Journalism” is a name for the job of reporting on politics, questioning candidates and office-holders, and alerting Americans to what is actually happening in their public sphere. “The press” is the institution in which most journalism is done. The institution is what endures over time as people come into journalism and drift out of it. The coming confrontation can be summarized thus:

The Republican Party is increasingly a minority party, or counter-majoritarian, as some political scientists put it. The beliefs and priorities that hold it together are opposed by most Americans, who on a deeper level do not want to be what the GOP increasingly stands for. A counter-majoritarian party cannot present itself as such and win elections outside its dwindling strongholds. So it has to be counterfactual, too. It has to fight with fictions. Making it harder to vote, and harder to understand what the party is really about—these are two parts of the same project. The conflict with honest journalism is structural. To be its dwindling self, the GOP has to also be at war with the press, unless of course the press folds under pressure.

Let me explain what I mean by that. The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein sees the same thing I see. In his recent article on “why the 2020s could be as dangerous as the 1850s,” Brownstein quotes several Republicans who admit what is happening:

The Democrats’ coalition of transformation is now larger—even much larger—than the Republicans’ coalition of restoration. With Txxxx solidifying the GOP’s transformation into a “white-identity party…a nationalist party, not unlike parties you see in Europe…you see the Democratic Party becoming the party of literally everyone else,” as the longtime Republican political consultant Michael Madrid, a co-founder of the anti-Txxxx Lincoln Project, told me.

 

“Republican behavior in recent years suggests that they share the antebellum South’s determination to control the nation’s direction as a minority,” Brownstein writes. That’s why they went to such lengths to deny Obama a Supreme Court pick and sacrificed everything to get Amy Coney Barrett on the Court. “It’s evident in the flood of laws that Republican states have passed over the past decade making it more difficult to vote. And it’s evident in the fervent efforts from the party to restrict access to mail-in voting this year.” (Add to that list: interfering with the census; crippling the Post Office.)

These events suggest to Brownstein—a journalist who has reported on politics for thirty-seven years—that “Republicans believe they have a better chance of maintaining power by suppressing the diverse new generations entering the electorate than by courting them.” That’s what a counter-majoritarian party has to do: suppress voters, but also project fictions, like the proposition that voter fraud is rampant.

It’s an empirical question: is there a lot of voter fraud in the United States? Does it affect elections? And the question has been answered, not once but many times. So here is what I mean by “the conflict with honest journalism is structural.” The GOP has to rely on fictions like voter fraud to make its case, and if the press wants to be reality-based it has to reject that case.

But how badly does the press want to be reality-based? How far is it willing to go? Forced into it by Txxxx’s flood of falsehoods, journalists routinely fact-check statements like “there is substantial evidence of voter fraud,” and declare them false. And that’s good! But will they stop amplifying strategic falsehoods when powerful people continue to make them? Will they penalize politicians who come on TV to float fictions like that one? Will the Sunday shows quit having them on? And will the press revise the mental image on which its habitual practices rest?

Two roughly similar parties with different philosophies that compete for power by trying to capture through public argument “the American center”—meaning, the majority of voters—and thus win a mandate for the priorities they want to push through the system. On that buried picture of normal politics, the routines of political journalism are built.

There are no routines purpose-built for a situation in which, as Ron Brownstein put it, a minority party, the GOP, is “deepening its reliance on the most racially resentful white voters, as Democrats more thoroughly represent the nation’s accelerating diversity.” There is nothing in the playbook of the American press about how to cover a party that operates by trying to suppress votes, rather than compete for them.

Faced with these kinds of asymmetries, journalists will have to decide where they stand. But the choice for a program like Meet the Press, a network like NPR, a newsroom like The New York Times’s, or a news service like the AP is not which team to join, the Democrats or the Republicans. (Anyone who puts it that way is trying to snow you.) The choice, rather, is whether to continue with a system of bipartisan representation, in which the two parties get roughly equal voice in the news because they are roughly equal contenders for a majority of votes, or whether to redraw their practices amid the shifting reality of American politics, in which the GOP tries to control the system from a minority position—white nationalism for the base, plutocracy for the donor class—while the Democrats try to bring order to their unruly and slowly expanding majority.

Bipartisan fairy tale vs. adjustment to a shifted reality sounds like no choice at all. What self-respecting journalist would not side with depicting the world the way it is?

That seems an easy call, but it isn’t. An observation I have frequently made in my press criticism is that certain things that mainstream journalists do are not to serve the public, but to protect themselves against criticism. That’s what “he said, she said” reporting, the “both sides do it” reflex, and the “balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon” are all about.

Reporting the news, holding power to account, and fighting for the public’s right to know are first principles in journalism, bedrock for sound practice. But protecting against criticism is not like that at all. It has far less legitimacy, especially when the criticism itself comes from bad-faith actors. Which is how the phrase “working the refs” got started. Political actors try to influence judgment calls by screeching about bias, whether the charge is warranted or not.

My favorite description of “protecting against criticism” comes from a former reporter for The Washington Post, Paul Taylor, in his 1990 book about election coverage: See How They Run. A favorite quote of mine from that: 

Sometimes I worry that my squeamishness about making sharp judgments, pro or con, makes me unfit for the slam-bang world of daily journalism. Other times I conclude that it makes me ideally suited for newspapering– certainly for the rigors and conventions of modern “objective” journalism. For I can dispose of my dilemmas by writing stories straight down the middle. I can search for the halfway point between the best and the worst that might be said about someone (or some policy or idea) and write my story in that fair-minded place. By aiming for the golden mean, I probably land near the best approximation of truth more often than if I were guided by any other set of compasses– partisan, ideological, psychological, whatever…Yes, I am seeking truth. But I’m also seeking refuge. I’m taking a pass on the toughest calls I face.

 

I am seeking truth. But I’m also seeking refuge. To me, these are some of most important lines ever written about political reporting in the United States. Truth-seeking behavior is mixed with refuge-seeking behavior in the normal conduct of journalists who report on politics for the mainstream press. That’s how we get reports like this on October 28 from [National Public Radio’s] Morning Edition:

On the right, they’re concerned about the integrity of mail-in ballots. They’re hearing from President Txxxx, who is stoking those fears by claiming, without evidence, that the system is rife with fraud. And on the left, people are worried about another scenario. In their worst fears, Txxxx is ahead on election night and either his campaign or his Justice Department tries to end vote-counting prematurely. And disputes over vote-counting could go on for days or weeks. So activists on both sides are making plans to mobilize.

 

In this kind of journalism, the house style at NPR, the image of left and right with matching worries is the refuge-seeking part. That Txxxx is stoking fears by claiming without evidence that mail-in ballots are rife with fraud is certainly truth-telling. The point is not that refuge-seeking necessarily injects falsehoods; rather, it is designed to be protective. NPR, the fair-minded observer, stands between the two sides, endorsing the claims of neither. That’s how the report is framed: symmetrically.

But the underlying reality is asymmetric. Mail-in ballots are a safe and proven way to conduct an election. Fears on the right are manipulated emotion and whataboutism. Meanwhile, threatening statements from Txxxx like, “Must have final total on November 3rd” lend a frightening plausibility to the concerns of Democrats. The difference is elided in NPR’s report, which states: “Political activists and extremists on both the right and left are worried the other side will somehow steal the election.” It’s true: they are both worried. But one fear is reality-based and the other is not. Shouldn’t that count for something?

This is how the political scientist Norm Ornstein arrived at his maxim: “a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.” Again, what self-respecting journalist would not side with depicting the world the way it is? Well, take that NPR journalist conforming to house style, in which truth-seeking is mixed with refuge-seeking, and refuge-seeking often provides the frame due to institutional caution, misplaced priorities, and internalized criticism from an aggressive right. 

If we trace refuge-seeking behavior in the press back to its origins in the previous century, we find two main tributaries: a commercial motive to include as many people as possible and avoid pissing off portions of the audience, which rose up as newspapers consolidated, and the professionalization of what had once been a working-class trade, which put a premium on sounding detached and telling the story from a position “above” the struggling partisans. Closer to our own time came a third pressure: the right’s incredibly successful campaign to intimidate journalists by complaining endlessly about liberal bias.

But as Brian Beutler of Crooked Media wrote last week, some things have changed:

Decades of right-wing smears have driven the vast majority of conservative Americans away from mainstream news outlets into a cocoon of right-wing propaganda. Those mainstream outlets have responded [by] loading panels and contributor mastheads with Republican operatives or committed movement conservatives; chasing baseless stories to avoid accusations of bias; adhering stubbornly to indefensible assumptions of false balance; subverting the truth to lazy he-said/she-said dichotomies. None of it can or will appease their right-wing critics, who don’t mean to influence the media, but to delegitimize it. None of it has drawn Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers back into the market for real news.

The right has its own media ecosystem now. As the GOP becomes more devoted to white nationalism and voter suppression, it makes less sense for the public service press to chase that core audience or heed its complaints about bias. Beutler and I are making the same point to mainstream journalists: these are people on the right who want to destroy your institution; it’s time you started acting accordingly.

Making it harder to vote and harder to understand what the party is for are parts of the same project. “Inviting a Republican on to a reputable news show to claim Republicans support pre-existing conditions protections doesn’t offer viewers the Republican position,” says Beutler, “it offers them a lie.” The choice is between truth-seeking and refuge-seeking behavior. That confrontation is coming, whether journalists realize it or not. Even if Txxxx is gone, a minority party with unpopular positions has to attack the reality-based press and try to misrepresent itself through that press to voters. This has been true for a long time. But after Txxxx’s takeover, it is newly unignorable.

. . . There isn’t any refuge anyway, so you might as well shoot for truth.

Science, Schmience

From Paul Krugman’s newsletter:

Untitled

. . .  I’ve sometimes regretted having gone into economics, a field in which getting the story right all too often offends powerful players, who in turn intervene to prop up zombie ideas that should have died long ago.
 
But I also realized some time back that politics can and will intrude into any area of scholarly research where some people have strong motivations for getting the story wrong. This has obviously been the case for climate research, where an overwhelming scientific consensus has had to struggle against a whole industry of climate denial, which is almost entirely supported by fossil-fuel interests and has effectively taken over the Republican Party.
 
In fact, in some ways the climate scientists have had it worse than the economists; mainstream Keynesian economists (which is pretty much what I am) get a lot of abuse, but as far as I know none of us has had politicians trying to criminalize our work, the way Ken Cuccinelli, now a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, did to climatologist Michael E. Mann [ten years ago].
 
I used to think, however, that climate change was a subject uniquely vulnerable to anti-science propaganda and intimidation. After all, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are invisible and gradual, taking decades to unfold; it’s always possible to mock the science because it happens to be snowing today, while accusing the scientists of taking jobs away from salt-of-the-earth coal miners.
 
Surely, I thought, it wouldn’t be that easy to politicize a science, to claim that all the experts were part of a vast conspiracy, in an area in which experts’ predictions could be validated and the conspiracy theorists revealed as phonies in a matter of weeks.
 
But I was wrong.
 
Epidemiology, like climatology — or for that matter economics — involves trying to model complex systems, so that no prediction ends up being exactly right. And the chains of cause and effect are long enough that the consequences of bad policy take some time to become completely apparent: Florida began reopening in early May, but Covid-19 deaths didn’t spike until July.
 
But we’re talking about weeks, not decades, and the story of the coronavirus is as clear as such things ever get.
 
Experts warned that a rush to resume business as usual, without social distancing and widespread use of face masks, would lead to a surge in new cases. The usual suspects on the right dismissed these concerns, insisting either that Covid-19 was a hoax or that its dangers were being greatly exaggerated by scientists who wanted to bring down Dxxxx Txxxx. Sunbelt states decided to believe the skeptics, not the scientists — and the result was a huge, deadly viral surge.
 
So that put an end to the politicization, right? Wrong. Not only are Txxxx officials still pressuring health experts to minimize the dangers, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services accused his own agency’s scientists of “sedition.”
 
The moral here is that there’s no such thing as a safe subject when you’re dealing with people who have a totalitarian mind-set — and that is, in fact, what we’re dealing with. I suspect that in the early days of the Soviet Union plant geneticists imagined that they were working in a low-risk field; I mean, who would politicize that? In the end, however, thousands of them were sent to labor camps or executed for questioning the theories of Trofim Lysenko, a quack who somehow became one of Stalin’s favorites.
 
The fact of the matter is that we’re now struggling over where there’s even such a thing as objective truth. And staying out of politics is no longer an option for anyone.
 
Unquote.
 
I wouldn’t say we’re struggling over whether there’s objective truth. It’s real. What we’re struggling with are people who don’t respect it (like the chairman of the Republican Party who claimed that Biden’s record on the virus is worse than Txxxx’s). But Prof. Krugman is right about not staying out of politics. Voting — and supporting candidates in other ways — matters.
 
Which reminds me. Has anybody seen my Biden/Harris lawn sign? It still hasn’t been delivered. Maybe the crooked Postmaster General arranged for it to be confiscated?

Enough Is Enough, or A Sixty-Day Vacation

I have various reasons for doing this blog. I enjoy writing. I like to express my opinions. Writing helps clarify what I think. And there’s always a chance that my words may interest or benefit somebody who reads them (it can happen).

Saving the world is definitely a long shot, but the world needs all the help it can get. The post from earlier this month with the email addresses for the Postal Service’s Board of Governors was viewed more than 3,000 times (I hope they got some emails). That puts it in second place between Apple Core! Baltimore! (4,500 views) and The Fendertones Take Us Back To 1965 (1,700) (there’s a message here).

I mention all this because I’m wondering how to continue. Not whether to continue, but how.

We have an election in two months. It’s hard to believe it will be close. Millions of voters who gave the maniac the benefit of the doubt four years ago or couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman don’t have the same excuse this time. This is a president who has never had a positive approval rating. The reasons not to give him four more years are overwhelming. But Republicans don’t need a majority to win. They have the Electoral College on their side.

What this means is that some observers are warning Democrats not to be too optimistic. They’re writing articles with headlines like these:

Txxxx’s convention was repulsive and dishonest. I fear it was also effective.

To everyone who thinks Txxxx is a goner: He’s just getting started.

Liberals are quick to dismiss Txxxx. They do so at their peril.

Could It Be Bush v. Gore All Over Again?

Biden’s Loose Lips Could Sink His Chances.

In some cases, the people expressing these opinions want to come across as hard-headed realists. If, god forbid and against all reason, the maniac wins, they can say they got it right. Nobody will remember if they got it wrong.

Thus, Michael Moore, who warned us what would happen in 2016, is back:

Michael Moore warns that Dxxxx Txxxx is on course to repeat 2016 win. Film-maker says enthusiasm for president in swing states is ‘off the charts’.

Although the same publication has this as well:

Txxxx must win the Midwest. But out here his breezy reelection gambit falls flat.

I don’t think I can handle this for another two months: the “watch out, it’s gonna be bad” stories, even when they’re counter-balanced by a few “good times ahead”.

Something else I don’t want to take until November is all the lying.

Fortunately, I’m not one of those people whose job requires them to pay attention to the maniac’s pronouncements or those of other Republican politicians. Being exposed to one ridiculous lie after another is stressful. I imagine a White House reporter dreaming of grabbing Txxxx’s press secretary by the throat, screaming at her to just shut her damn lying mouth. Consider the poor (but highly-paid) reporters who had to keep the sound on during every minute of the Republican convention.

From Margaret Sullivan:

Daniel Dale met President Txxxx’s convention speech with a tirade of truth Thursday night — a tour de force of fact-checking that left CNN anchor Anderson Cooper looking slightly stunned.

The cable network’s resident fact-checker motored through at least 21 falsehoods and misstatements he had found in Txxxx’s 70-minute speech, breathlessly debunking them at such a pace that when he finished, Cooper, looking bemused, paused for a moment and then deadpanned, “Oh, that’s it?”

So, so much was simply wrong. Claims about the border wall, about drug prices, about unemployment, about his response to the pandemic, about rival Joe Biden’s supposed desire to defund the police (which Biden has said he opposes).

Believe it or not, Republicans lie more than Democrats. One big reason is that they have an unpopular agenda. They want to cut taxes as much as possible for the rich, so they have to say they’re doing it for the middle class. They want to stop Democrats from voting, so they say they’re doing it to fight voter fraud. They’re in court trying to kill the Affordable Care Act’s protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions, while claiming to be the ones who will protect us from the insurance companies. The president has no interest in providing health insurance to the uninsured, but keeps promising to announce a wonderful healthcare plan two weeks from now. It’s always two weeks from now. Republicans want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, but claim to be those programs’ biggest supporters. The list goes on.

In fact, way back in 2003, Al Franken published a book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The next edition will come as a five-volume set. (That’s a lie, but not a bad one.)

Being lied to is stressful. It’s even worse when you can’t confront the liar. I want to avoid some of that stress for the next two months.

These two considerations, the pessimistic warnings and the constant lies, have convinced me to take a news vacation. I want to back away from the daily news cycle. Since politics has been this blog’s biggest topic, that will probably mean fewer posts or less pressing subject matter. But breaking the internet news addiction until after the election is worth a try. I already know who to vote for. So should you. Besides, the world will still be here to save after November 3rd.