Extolling Trolling

A real world illustration.

A minor blog post over at Redstate caught my eye via Memeorandum. It is a post praising the timing of the Trump administration’s rollback of Michele Obama’s initiative to make school lunches healthier: Pro Level Trolling: Trump Admin Rolls Back Michelle Obama Lunch Rules On Her Birthday.

It resonates with some of our recent discussions here on the site. In general, the post struck me as both a great illustration of our current political moment in time as well as an a real world media example of how far too many supporters of the president see politics: as just a chance to tweak the opposition.

The Trump administration announced today that they were ending the Obama era rules on school lunches that forced districts that received federal money to make sure to have more veggies and fruits. The federal fiats were somewhat controversial at the time being people wondered aloud why did Washington really need to tell us what to do with everything.

The super-duper ironic things is the Trump Agriculture Dept announced this on Michelle Obamas 56th birthday who just happened to be the really big advocate of getting these rules in place.

Happy Birthday Mrs. Obama.


I’m thinking this was done on purpose and it is a PRO LEVEL troll move


Well played. Very well played.

There may be a cogent policy argument for the changes to the rules (although the likely outcome is less nutritious food being served). The post does note “why in the hell do we have to put strings to every damn thing that taxpayer money that is SENT to Washington D.C. to get any back? Let the damn districts do what is in their communities’ best interest and get out of the way.” which is kind of a pro-federalism argument, but ultimately the post isn’t about policy choices, but about how great it is to troll the Obamas/liberals.

A telling side note is that the author of the piece is a talk radio host as this kind of reasoning (to use the word loosely) popularized by Rush Limbaugh and that has largely taken over the the Republican Party in office (and, really, is nowhere better illustrated than by Trump himself).

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. James Knauer says:

    Today’s GOP is yesteryear’s high school.

    The troll the GOP should be very worried about is Lev Parnas.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Krugman sees it all coming. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/16/opinion/children-america.html

    Paul asks a very good question and the Dems really need to make this a centerpiece of every campaign at every level.

  3. mattbernius says:

    I’m not sure what’s left to say. What we are experiencing at the moment is a type of Muscular Popular Conservatism that values lulz over everything else.

    Beyond being so petty and mean, it’s also exceptionally thin skinned. Which leads to things like the National Archives editing historical records to avoid hurting the President’s feel feelz:


    Everything is now always sharpie-gate.

  4. Mikey says:

    Giving kids type 2 diabetes to own the libs.

    To echo @mattbernius, I’m not sure what’s left to say.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    The conservative argument is lost. Trickle down is a failure. Neocon interventionism is a failure. Attempts to weaponize social issues have seen some localized success but are overall a failure. Climate change denial: failure. Race-baiting: failure. Male supremacy – dead by suicide.

    Gay women are landing jets on aircraft carriers. Every part of that horrifies conservatives. It mocks their underlying world view.

    Above all, the thing that hurts them the most deeply and permanently: religion is dying. There’s a great, slow but inexorable tsunami of indifference to religion with atheists as the first wave but more as shock troops than occupiers. The younger generations have no use for religion – they are so completely indifferent they’re even indifferent to religion’s critics, atheists. There’s no reason to believe that will change.

    Secularism has conquered Jesus among the rising generations, and the Jesus-lovers are losing their minds. ~2000 years they’ve been holding onto a fantasy that a dead Jewish carpenter would come flying down out of the sky and smite all the smart-ass liberals and trans folk and black people and brown people and and and and. . . and for the 2000th year in a row: nope. And it isn’t even atheists like me that are the real threat, it’s the complete indifference. God? Who cares?

    Hey, boomer, believe whatever, you know? Like just chill, you have your crazy, I got mine, and no I don’t want a pamphlet, thanks.

    Everything so-called conservatives used to believe in has crashed and burned. Reality itself has conspired against them, so they’ve had nowhere to go but into fantasy. Lacking a vengeful Jesus they’ve turned instead to a clownish thug as their new messiah. It’s desperation arising out of the absolute failure of what used to be thought of as conservative ideals. The cathedral burned to the ground and in the dystopian wasteland left behind, a rat climbed atop the altar and declared himself the new Jesus and the believers danced and shouted hosannah. Orange Jesus would give them revenge on. . . reality.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I remember when “Let’s Move” took effect because the 3 0r 4 high school teachers and several high school students that I was acquainted with at the time* complained about it. Since CCHS is a closed campus the students no longer had the choices available to them that they had when local restaurants made their menus available during the lunch break along side the normal school cafeteria fare.
    I am sure that President Puke and his cronies know that many high school seniors will be of voting age by November 2020 and this is just another cheap stunt to pander for their votes.

    *Disclaimer. This is an anecdote and is not presented in any way as a legitimate survey.

  7. CSK says:

    Every time Trump says or does something stupid/vulgar/buffoonish, Cult45 extols it as a demonstration of his expertise at trolling. He makes an infantile attempt at a joke and it’s “hilarious,” the most side-splitting comedy since Monty Python. He calls military people with decades of experience “dopes and babies” and that makes him a great leader.

    What the hell is wrong with these people?

  8. DrDaveT says:

    people wondered aloud why did Washington really need to tell us what to do with everything.

    Because you are demonstrably incompetent when left to your own choices?

    Because the people in New Jersey and California who are subsidizing your schools should have a say in how their money is spent?

    How many of these same people see no problem whatsoever in telling people what they can spend food stamps on? The cognitive dissonance can only be measured on the Richter scale.

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Secularism has conquered Jesus among the rising generations

    While I agree with most of what you say, I think you need to be careful about this one. It has been said before, at the turn of the 20th century, and during the late 18th century, and so on back to the Byzantine Empire. Christian devotion is cyclical; it goes through periods of secularization and revival. The long-term money may be on secularism, but the contest is far from over.

  10. CSK says:

    There have always been non-believers, agnostics, and people who are religiously indifferent. More people now are willing to admit it, that’s all. There will always be those who adhere to a certain creed not out of faith but simply because they want to belong to a community, or for whatever business, political, or social advantages may accrue from it.

    Belonging to a religion is something I don’t viscerally understand, since I wasn’t raised in one. I have no personal understanding of the power it can wield over one’s life. I have acquaintances who refer to themselves as “recovering Catholics,” and I sort of get that, intellectually, but then again, I don’t get it on a fundamental level. How can you be held captive by a myth?

    As a Lutheran pastor I once met told me: “Don’t ask me what happens after you die. I have no idea.”

  11. Gustopher says:

    GamerGate — the deep exploration into ethics in video game journalism and why are there women on the playground don’t you know they are filthy diseased whores who betray everyone why are they playing our games when they should be bringing us nachos— had ties to the Steve Bannon wing of the alt-right, the same wing that brought us Donald Trump. It was troll culture loosely organized and weaponized against SJW feminist political ideas.

    It worked there to drive a lot of people out of the industry and threaten others into silence, and so it was then used as a template for a lot of the behavior on the right. Harness anger and resentment by connecting those people and blurring the lines between humor and their actual feelings.

    If you make a joke about something awful, and you make it often enough, it normalizes that awful thing and begins to sink in. But if challenged, it shifts right back to “can’t you take a joke, snowflake?”

    All while creating an environment where the source of truth is degraded and destroyed.

    Innuendo Studios has a nice series of videos about it:

    It’s the same thing that leads to cadets at West Point (or that right wing lady sitting behind Kavanaugh during his hearings) posing making hand gestures that have been incorporated into the white power movement — vague deniability on meaning, and snickering that libs can’t take a joke. Meanwhile, they marinate in hate and spite.

    Where do we go from here? We see this behavior cropping up online, and in the news, and on the job — look at the problems Google has had with their far right faction of employees. And it’s part of why companies now want access to your social media profile information when they are doing background checks for employment.

  12. Jax says:

    It’s unfortunate, really. My youngest child loved the availability of fresh fruits and veggies at lunch, because in her own words “Nobody can ruin a pizza or spaghetti or even chicken nuggets better than a school cafeteria lady”. At least with the availability of fresh stuff, she had a healthy choice, and took advantage of it often.

    *Side note, I tried to make sure she knew the school cafeteria ladies could only work with the supplies they were provided, and shitty pizza is shitty pizza regardless of which frozen food truck it came off of. 😉

  13. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher: Once again, I must quote the Salon article by Amanda Marcotte last year, commenting on the New Zealand shooter:

    The fact that Brenton Tarrant is likely a mass murderer doesn’t mean he’s not a troll, however. He is both. He livestreamed his killing spree and posted an online manifesto that is stuffed full of alt-right memes and inside jokes, making it quite clear that one of his main goals in murdering all those people was, in internet parlance, “the lulz.” Messing with the libs is what trolls like Tarrant live for, and it turns out that nothing messes with people’s heads quite like mass murder.

    The fascist strategy works this way: You “shroud your sincere ideas in cartoon characters and memes and then, when called out, you mock your accuser for being a clueless normie who isn’t in on the joke,” as vlogger Natalie Wynn explained in her indispensable video “Decrypting the Alt-Right,” released after the Charlottesville riot in 2017.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: I think a lot of the behaviour is due to the fact that we really haven’t policed the internets the way we could have with regards to libel and other torts. We’re not considering stuff written on websites to be “publishing” the way an article in a newspaper is. As it is, a sizeable percentage of people posting on line act as if nothing they put on the internet has any real legal consequences.

    Heck, I don’t see why internet mobs shouldn’t be liable for IIED. Start dragging the really abusive trolls into court for IIED and I suspect they’ll change their behaviour patterns tout suite. (And no, “The First Amendment” does not save your ass.)

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    I considered that, the various awakenings and revivals. But with each to-and-fro religion loses ground net. It’s gone from a power equal to and sometimes greater than the state, to become in many cases more of a handmaiden to the state. From there to separation from the state.

    Religion (RC mostly) was once a repository of education, but it’s moved down the educational ladder, left across the IQ bell curve and down the economic strata.

    Religion doesn’t do well absent coercion by the state or other institutional powers. If you spin the globe you see relatively few countries that became Christian or Muslim without someone pointing a sword or a gun at someone else. The persuasive power is weak, and weaker still as we understand the natural world and human psychology. No doubt we’ll see some revival, but they’ll be re-ascending a step they lost, only to then lose three more steps a few years later. A real recovery by religion would, IMO, require a societal decline of dystopian severity.

  16. Jax says:

    @grumpy realist: The current Congress can’t even flush a rat out of the White House, so any kind of bipartisan effort required to get something like that passed is a pipe dream without a large amount of Senate turnover and a Dem in the White House. Too many pansy Republican politicians declaring censorship in the “Trump era”. (many eyerolls)

  17. Teve says:

    Across the world, Western nations have gotten more and more secular. The US was a weird outlier. But the fastest growing demographic in the US is people with no religious affiliation. The US is finally catching up. 40 years of christian right-wing assholes saying you have to reject science and hate gay people is having consequences.

  18. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m not sure taking legal action against trolls would be effective on a broad scale. Properly or not, neo-fascists over the years have won a lot of PR points presenting themselves as the champions of free expression, and that’s not going to go away just because we keep trying to explain all the fine distinctions about libel, slander, incitement, and so on.

    Moreover, US law makes it very hard to win libel and slander cases, even for non-public figures. The UK has it the opposite way–if somebody sues you for defamation, the burden of proof is on you to show you didn’t defame the other party, otherwise you’re liable for damages. That’s what happened during the Deborah Lipstadt case in the ’90s: the Holocaust denier David Irving sued her for libel over statements that he had deliberately distorted facts to fit an agenda. She won, but it took years, and it required her to prove in court that her statements about Irving had been accurate, which wasn’t easy (she had to demonstrate that he had an intent to deceive, simply showing that he had spread false information wasn’t enough). That’s the danger of making defamation suits easier for the plaintiffs.

  19. Tyrell says:

    @Jax: Years ago the local school system put in salad/potato bars and a weekly taco bar. They were very popular. Then they ran into budget problems and cut them out. Most of the food now is canned or frozen. Some salad is offered a couple of days a week. No actual cooking is done, the food is just warmed up.

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:


    . No actual cooking is done, the food is just warmed up.

    No surprise, really, as that has become the acceptable standard in America.

    When my wife and I moved to Brazil, we went to a grocery store and were stunned… we didn’t know what to buy as the store had food in the raw-material, unprepared manner. We actually needed to learn how to cook!

    When you consider your next weeks meals, ponder how many components are already heat-and-serve.

    If you say “very little” but your trash is filled with packaging, you may be in denial.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Can’t speak for other situations, but in the district that I worked in during the 90s, the *budget problem* it ran into was that it decided to decline the subsidy for school lunches provided by the USDA so that it could hire fast food purveyors to provide lunches.

    And subsequently complained that “we can’t make the lunches better because they aren’t subsidized anymore.” (The right-wing version of “win-win.”)

  22. Tyrell says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: We usually cook our own meals: chicken, salmon, salad, and occasional hamburgers (from ground steak). We seldom have frozen and canned foods.
    We do have a lot of plastic and paper because the water bill here is very high.
    I would say that most schools got rid of their kitchen equipment years ago. They wouldn’t be able to cook an egg.

  23. Paul L. says:

    I was taken to task for quoting Progressive Feminist thought leader Amanda Marcotte to the sensible general audience here.

    For instance, look at the bafflement caused by your reference to Amanda Marcotte. In common parlance she’s a random minor blogger most people haven’t heard of, while in Wingnuttese she is apparently the embodiment of all left-wing thought.

    Sensible general audience who screech #Cult45 when you debunk their talking points.

  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Paul L.: As it turns out, I’m not especially fond of Marcotte myself, and I generally lean left. But the thing is, Kylopod quoted two paragraphs, which it is possible to consider on their own, separate from any opinion one might have of Marcotte in general.

    In fact, you appear to be acting in exactly the way Steven described in the OP. What matters is that you score a point, not tell us what you actually think, or how you feel about things. There are some people here who are pretty conservative, but they will show up, and tell us what they think, and I can respect that, and even like them a bit.

    Spite is a terrible way to run your life, and an even worse way to run the government. If you like the policy better this way, let’s hear about it.

    Or, in reference to Marcotte’s comments, let’s hear what you think about those two paragraphs. The content, please. Not “Amanda has boogers!”

    And yeah, BSDI. I want something else, though. And so does Steven.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I’m a big believer in the idea of accepting the truth from wherever it comes. I’ve even favorably quoted right-wingers on occasion when I’ve felt they made a decent point.

  26. Kurtz says:

    @Paul L.:

    I’m pretty well versed in various schools of feminism, and I have no idea who that person is. You are using a single blogger to stand in for a movement that has various disagreements and in some cases outright hostility within it.

    More than that, you are using a single blogger as a cut out for a vague political affiliation that, likewise, has all sorts of incompatible factions.

    It’s poor argumentation. It’s poor conversation. It’s poor engagement. Most importantly, it is in bad faith.

    I know for a fact there are intelligent Republicans. You do not appear to be one of them if your posts here are a true indication of your thinking and writing skills.

    I don’t go to Breitbart or Free Republic and make reference to minor events that are only of interest to a writer at The Baffler. Or taunt them with something I heard on Chapo Trap House or The Majority Report. I don’t need to taunt other people to feel smart or clever. Why do you?

    And yes, most of us are sensible.

    Speaking for myself, I even defended you in another thread when someone made the plural/singular mistake in their interpretation of the 2A. I agree with them more than I agree with you on that particular topic, but I prefer if people, no matter what side, are accurate in their arguments.

    Of course, I also made disparaging comments about you in that post. But that’s because the criticism of your behavior here is valid, and you ignore it. You even ignored that I defended you, because you don’t want disabuse yourself of your pre-existing view of the authors and commenters here.

    Grow up. Take some responsibility for how you think and behave.

  27. Kurtz says:


    One of the Google executives was in front of Congress, one of the GOP members claimed that Google was manually pushing Conservatives off top search results. When the executive replied that it doesn’t work that wasy, the Congressman said, “I don’t believe that.”

    I’ve said it before, all the years of claiming that conservative views are suppressed has resulted in people who think it no matter what. Given that my suggested articles feed in Chrome has ratio of conservative sites to liberal sites at around 3/1, it seems like a delusion.

    I sometimes think that they are intentionally lying to get special treatment, because they know that their views are out of sync with most Americans. In other words, they know they cannot win without gerrymandering, passing legislation to neuter incoming Dem registrations, and purging voter rolls in lean-blue districts. If you can’t win in a fair contest, cheat.

  28. Jax says:

    @Kurtz: I would hazard a guess that most members of Congress have no idea how a search algorithm or the internet in general even works.

    I’ve long been in favor of certain….”educational requirements” for members of Congress. How can they make Constitutionally-sound laws if they have no idea about the subject matter at hand? I mean, I know that’s what aides and committees are for, but it seems like a lot of it is being passed off to lobbyists because it’s easier. They know what they’re talking about, and the Congress-critter doesn’t. Also….money.

    And while we’re at it, let’s make it so people with criminal records can’t run for Congress or President. There are a lot of jobs you can’t get in the private sector with a criminal record, why should the highest offices in the land be any different?!

  29. Kurtz says:


    I don’t know. Based on personal experience and looking at the educational attainment of prominent people, I’m not sure that’s an answer.

    Matt Gaetz, frat boy Rep., went to William and Mary Law.

    Desantis went to Yale, then Harvard Law.

    Trump went to Wharton. B school, but still.

    Two prolific Fivethirtyeight commenters, better writing skills aside, are not much different from the trolls here:

    Aaron Moynahan has a Masters in Economics. If you forget, don’t worry, he will tell you.

    Harold “Bart” DePalma went to FSU Law, which, probably didn’t mean much at the time, but he did pass the bar.

    They both will occasionally make a full argument, but they typically just engage in recycling talking points, ad homs and straws.

    The former is a special irritation of mine, because he has contradicted himself on many occasions. I have also seen him respond during an economics back and forth with, “I have a Masters in Economics, so unless you’re a PhD” I’m right.

    (full disclosure: I went down a commenting rabbit hole on 538 and tangled with both of those people. It just wasn’t worth the effort.)

    Plus I deleted Facebook, because I was starting to be a real dick to people I like. Hurting their feelings was not something I wanted to keep doing.

    For the criminal record thing, I would be more okay with it if the criminal justice system was fair.

    I could maybe be persuaded if it was limited to financial crimes, corruption convictions, or violent felonies. Or if it was only disqualifying for a certain amount of time.

    But really, I see redemption as an important human trajectory, and limiting people based on a criminal history works against that.

    There is one reform I think is appropriate. Rather than term limits, I think we should have an upper age limit for starting a term. It puts an informal term limit in place without arbitrarily dismissing skilled legislators.

    I mean, in the present circumstances, I would have no problem voting for any of the Dem candidates. I am a fan of Bernie, but I am a Warren supporter because of the age difference. Of course, I am one of the few who was comfortable with Obama or Clinton in 2008. Same with Bernie or Clinton in 2016.

    I just think, at some point, as one ages, the world just moves past you. There are exceptions, Chomsky is one, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping dementia out of powerful public positions.

  30. Jax says:

    @Kurtz: So, say….70 as an upper limit? I could get on board with that for Presidential candidates. I would almost prefer 60, maybe, but that would limit a lot of good people with good years left in them.

    Chris Collins shouldn’t have been allowed to run again. I realize it was a legislative snafu, and he is now facing justice, but….what a farce. If I want to be fair, Menendez, either. I’m tired of this crap, man, if they’ve been legitimately convicted or taken a plea deal from much worse charges, I don’t want them anywhere near my government. ANY kind of bribery, corruption, misuse of public office or funds, sexual assault or harrassment, etc., these should disqualifying for anyone seeking public office, anywhere, from dog catcher to President.

  31. Jax says:

    @Kurtz: Now, with all of that said, I’m also a realist and like I said previously, I know we’re not going to have the opportunity to “raise the bar” on public office with this Congress, or probably anytime in the near future.

    Dream with me. 😉

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: I’m curious about one thing. You said, “We do have a lot of plastic and paper because the water bill here is very high.” What is the relationship between having high water bills and a lot of plastic and paper? I’m not seeing a cause/effect thing there.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I just want to note in passing that we don’t need to have the moderators ban people. We are perfectly capable of deciding which comments to read and which not to read by our own agency. We can also choose who to reply to and under what circumstances. The right to speak does not guarantee the right to be heard or given heed. The trolling issue is another one where Walt Kelly’s adage (which I repeat too much in too many variations, so I won’t this time) applies.

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @Kurtz: I commented elsewhere about engineers getting a lot of education, but very narrow, and added doctors to the comment. I think the same can be said of law, and certainly business. I would add that Pareto’s rule applies, 80% of engineers aren’t really very good at it. I expect the same applies elsewhere. So I doubt any educational requirement would help much. As you point out, most of them already have the piece of paper. And on top of that, most people, if faced with a conflict between intellectual integrity and their careers, will jettison integrity in a heartbeat.

    I would add that most legislators have law degrees. I believe prelaw drags them through some minimal history and liberal arts. But they are immersed in the idea that chance assigns them a side and their role is to support that side. Truth and justice are the responsibility of the judge, or the system, or God, or something.

  35. Jax says:

    @gVOR08: I was quite a little bit shocked this year to learn that our school district has made “Civics” and “Government” electives for high school kids. Right alongside cooking and welding. Both worthy classes, mind you, but they are no longer required to take any classes that teach government like I was.

    This might blend into that bill somebody posted about a couple days ago.

    “How your government works” should be required, not an elective.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I assume he uses paper plates and plastic cutlery because water bills are so amazingly high, plus he is too lazy to wash dishes.

  37. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That sounds good, but communities need a bit more maintenance than that.

    Given 30-50 feral pigs or commenters, someone is always going to respond to the troll. And then it becomes a cascade.

    I’m not a fan of the ban hammer, and I would use it slightly more sparingly than it is being used here*, but it’s needed. Half my career has been in community content software and maintaining it and the communities… sometimes you need to excise the cancer.

    *: This is not to say that I disagree with any ban decisions made by our hosts, I just would have given some of the people who had been banned (people who had once been good members of the community) the opportunity to come back after 30 days. And then probably banned their asses forever. Maybe our hosts do this and no one takes them up on it, I have no idea.

  38. inhumans99 says:


    ??? Why take a cheap shot at Tyrell? Does no one this thread live in an apartment where they make you pay for all your utilities? That might be one of many reasons he prefers plastic utensils and paper plates.

    I have a dishwasher in my apt and tend to rewash plastic (I still toss paper plates) along with other dishes that are ceramic, plastic cups, etc., but I have been at my place long enough that my not having to pay utilities like water and sanitation was grandfathered into my lease renewal, but otherwise I suspect I would just toss the plastic if I had to pay for the water to wash the utensils because it probably would be cheaper.

    If Tyrell was proving to be an example of a troll (like Paul L) that would be one thing, but commenting on how schools feed our kids lots of processed junk (even during the time when the fruits and veggies initiative was in place) is not trolling, it is just a plain jane comment on this thread.

  39. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “What is the relationship between having high water bills and a lot of plastic and paper? I’m not seeing a cause/effect thing there.”

    I believe he meant paper plates and plastic cups because it was more expensive to use water to wash dishes. Which is almost certainly not the fact, but that doesn’t mean people in his fictional hometown don’t believe it…

  40. @Guarneri: I will give it a look.

  41. DrDaveT says:


    You claim you want rational discourse. Whether one agrees with each of the points made in this article, or not, this is what it looks like.

    Rational discourse? The entire editorial can be summarized as “Tut tut.”

    This would have been a lot more convincing before one side of the ‘debate’ adopted a campaign of flat out disinformation, science denial, and The Big Lie in pursuit of their goals. While it might be true that both sides are uncivil, only one of them is indifferent to truth.

    How does one politely point out that a particular individual or organization is deliberately lying in order to mislead large numbers of people into voting against their (and their descendants’) own interest, trashing our institutions, and lining the pockets of the liar’s financial backers? Yes, I get it that it should not include the word ‘deplorables’, but after that…?

  42. @Guarneri: I very much appreciate the lengthy response that goes beyond the normal drive-by approach you have engaged in recent years.

    You ran a commenter question essay awhile ago. Where have the people gone?

    I think you are referring to a post by James, not me (and it was about specific people who simply dropped off). And based on some private conversation I had with him this week, the actual traffic for the site has not changed that much in recent years.

    Pardon me, but you and Mataconis were the chief architects. Its OK to disagree, but blind partisanship with a bunch of clapping seals as commenters is not a good look.

    We clearly do not find Trump to be an especially good president (indeed, I think him to be a threat to out system). I find your assessment problematic, insofar as a good bit of what I write, as I noted elsewhere, is really very much along the lines of what I have written for years (one institutional design, electoral rules, etc.). I know I have criticized Trump, but I would like an example of what you consider to be TDS.

    Part of my problem with your critique is that you seem unable to separate commenters from main authors, not to mention focusing on very specific issues (like something someone said about Avenatti) rather than to a broader sample.

    I am sincere in asking for examples of the types of things that you find problematic.

  43. BTW: I agree that both James and I have moved leftward over the last twenty years (within the context of American politics). The notion that the site changed in Nov 2016 is not correct, however (that is simply too clean of a delineation and I know that it simply isn’t the case–if anything, all the main authors were clearly anti-Trump well before then).

  44. DrDaveT says:


    The real point is (and I looked awhile to find an example) that its a balanced article.

    Exactly. Finding balance between venal ineptitude and flagrant evil is simply wrong. It could be wrong out of ignorance, or out of deliberate obfuscation, or out of pollyanna wishful thinking, but it is nevertheless wrong.

    I rest my case.

    If only.

  45. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree that both James and I have moved leftward over the last twenty years (within the context of American politics).

    While I agree, its important to note that said movement is only partially due to the evolution of your views. To a not insignificant degree the boundaries of right/left in American politics have significantly shifted in the last two decades as well.

    The notion that the site changed in Nov 2016 is not correct, however (that is simply too clean of a delineation and I know that it simply isn’t the case–if anything, all the main authors were clearly anti-Trump well before then).

    In terms of authorship, this has been the trajectory for quite some time. And, honestly, in terms of liberal/progressive commentators, there hasn’t been a significant shift either. Where the biggest change has been that the vast majority of right leaning commentators no longer participate (for any of a number or reasons). And that decline had started during the second Obama administration (if not before).

  46. @mattbernius:

    To a not insignificant degree the boundaries of right/left in American politics have significantly shifted in the last two decades as well.


    Where the biggest change has been that the vast majority of right leaning commentators no longer participate (for any of a number or reasons). And that decline had started during the second Obama administration (if not before).

    I think this is accurate.