The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


In an excellent discussion (read the whole thing) of the lengths to which the four anti-Trump constituencies have gone in their effort to destroy Donald Trump, Roger Kimball cites Niccolo Machiavelli:
In his Discourses on the first 10 books of Livy’s history of Rome, Machiavelli distinguishes between public “accusation” (la accuse), which he thinks is a healthy thing for a free republic, and “calumny” (la calunnie), which he castigates in the harshest terms.

The difference between the two turns on the above-board and public nature of the former, in contrast to the rumored-filled innuendo and envy that fuel the latter. “Accusation,” that is to to say, is based on witnesses and publicly available evidence, “calumny” on lies, half truths, and gossip. “[C]alumnies,” Machiavelli wrote, “have need neither of witnesses nor of any other specific corroboration to prove them, so that everyone can be calumniated by everyone.”

“Accusation” in Machiavelli’s sense is healthy because it acts as a check against corruption in a republic. It helps keep public officials honest. “Smith pilfered money from the public fisc. Jones and Sterling saw him do it.”

Calumny is destructive partly because it operates behind the backs of those it attacks, partly because it has in mind not the good of the republic but the advancement of those fomenting the attacks. Hence calumniators should be “punished harshly.” “How detestable calumnies are in free cities,” Machiavelli wrote: “to repress them one should not spare any order that may suit the purpose.”

The IRS scandal that occurred during the Obama administration is an example of justifiable accusation. Clear evidence indicated that the IRS was weaponized against Obama opponents. Specific groups were named, specific metrics were offered, and specific actions were documented. But the Obama administration and the IRS lied. They began by claiming that it didn't happen, then that a small group in Cincinnati was to blame, then when it did come back to Washington, the whole sordid affarir was an honest mistake. When an IRS executive involved (the infamous Lois Lerner) took the 5th in Congressional testimony, accusations, as Machiavelli notes "act[ed] as a check against corruption in a republic." Sadly, the Democrats circled the wagons, the media decided to look the other way, the IRS stonewalled requests for information, and the "check against corruption" died with a whimper—no indictments, no reforms, no nothing.

Kimball does an excellent job of discussing calumny:
As is becoming increasingly, almost embarrassingly clear, a large portion of the anti-Trump brigade is engaged in what Machiavelli called “calumny,” essentially baseless attacks against his character and behavior whose end is not the good of the republic but the destruction of Donald Trump, on the one hand, and the advancement of his attackers, on the other. The good of the republic, though sometimes appealed to as a pretext, is actually nowhere in sight.

One frequent sign that the attacks against Trump are not public “accusations” in Machiavelli’s sense but rather “calumny” is the locution “Sources say . . .” Sometimes this is emended to “Sources in the White House” [or State Department, Department of Justice, etc.], but the source is never named.

The entire “Trump-has-ties-to-Russia” meme was a fabrication of this sort. As has been endlessly rehearsed by critics of the anti-Trump phalanx, the whole story was built around anonymously sourced leaks that have been shown to be nothing but a tissue of desperate fantasy. Just one example: back on March 3, Democratic Senator Chris Coons excitedly announced that there were “transcripts” suggesting that “Russian intelligence and Senior Russian leaders, including Vladimir Putin . . . were colluding with the Trump campaign at the highest levels to influence our election.” “Collusion at the highest levels,” Kemo Sabe! Two days later, Coons was walking that back: “I have no hard evidence of collusion,” he admitted. “No hard evidence”: that is wretched weenie speak for “I have no evidence at all, I just repeated a salacious rumor because it was damaging to someone I loathe and because it might help me in my grubby effort to clamber up the political ladder.”

You saw the same pattern everywhere on the Left. Screaming mendacity followed by half-hearted, mumbling semi-correction.
The calumny that Kimball describes has occurred for so so many months and and with such blatant and unapologetic intensity that it has become the new normal. It is very difficult to combat and extremely destructive of public trust in governance and the media.

In the end, I hope that the truth, not innuendo, half-truths and outright lies, will win out. As Machiavelli noted (per Kimball): "However Deceived in Generalities, Men Are Not Deceived in Particulars."