Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wishful Thinking

From The New York Post:
Trump-is-doomed stories are one of the media’s favorite fairy tales. Remember when you saw “Peter Pan” when you were 4 and you actually thought that clapping for Tinkerbell would bring her back to life? Pundits think that if they cheer loudly enough for Trump to get eighty-sixed, it’ll happen. His (first?) term in office is more than a third over, and the Very Serious Commentators have been ushering him out the door the entire time. Or at least they’ve been trying to. It turns out that Trump doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the usher-pundits.

Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency,” ran a headline in The New Yorker. That was back on April 14. Writer Adam Davidson gravely averred, “This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth.” Can something really be a “certainty” if its odds are still “increasing?” Death is a certainty. The likelihood of it occurring is, however, quite stable. But, hey, Davidson could be right. Remember when Karl Marx said it was an inevitable historical fact that capitalism would die? It’s only been 150 years — give the man time! By contrast, recall that, a year before Davidson turned The New Yorker into his personal prophecy-delivery system, The Independent promised (May 18, 2017), “This is how Donald Trump’s presidency will crumble in the next year.” Amateurish. Never supply an expiration date that could falsify your claim. Be thunderously certain, pundits — but be vague in your certainty.

Another favorite pundit trick is the “closing wall” metaphor. Stand clear of your closing walls, Mr. President! New York City Congressman Jerry Nadler said on May 21 that Trump “is very upset that the walls are closing in, and that the investigators are closing in on him.” Nadler was echoing Stephen Colbert, from April 11 (“The walls have been closing in on the president, and he’s not happy,”) and The Daily Beast of March 12 (“The Walls Are Closing in on Trump”). (Read more.)

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