If you’re new this week, you can find last week’s inaugural issue on the website here. I posted it as an example of what type of content you can expect moving forward. I may do this a few more times to encourage people to sign up. Eventually, I will only send this content to subscribers. I’m currently working on a column for the site that will go up over the weekend on the concept of searching for hope in this political climate. It’s a question I’ve received when talking to people about current events. I’m also working on a larger piece on how to expertly see through media bias. Thank you for welcoming me into your email inbox this week. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me direct: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week I’ll be covering the Iran Deal, the media fracas over Peter Thiel and Gawker, and finally, I’ll answer a question I’ve received several times: Is Trump the end of the GOP and conservatism? If you want this week’s must read links, they come after the analysis.
1. Obama Administration’s Iran Deal was built on lies, false narratives, and paid off reporters
The now infamous Ben Rhodes piece in The New York Times Magazine continues to reveal more details about the Obama administration’s Iran Deal. None of it is good.
First, the Associated Press broke the news that the group Ben Rhodes used to sell the Iran Deal, The Ploughshares Fund, was actively funding media outlets favorable to the administration and the Iran Deal. The AP found a large chunk of the money went to liberal media outlets to help form an echo chamber for Rhodes and Obama. Other “unbiased” sources, like NPR, were also included.
The second major revelation came from Ploughshares Fund emails leaked to Bloomberg View writer Eli Lake in his piece: “The Secret History of the Iran Deal Echo Chamber.” Lake’s analysis of the emails found that the early stages of the Iran Deal echo chamber began back in 2011 when those involved with Ploughshares determined that the US and Israel must be prevented from going to war with Iran. Ploughshares did not want first strike war to be an option for the US or Israel in preventing Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities. They decided the media would use a false dichotomy to discredit opposition:
“Among the authors’ recommendations was that the Iran Strategy Group attack conservatives who advocated military strikes. “On a messaging note, it would be best to describe them as ‘pro-war,’ and leave it to them to back off that characterization of their position,” they wrote.“
This position ended up being adopted by the administration as they characterized any criticism as war-mongering. This was a major piece of the media echo chamber: silence dissent by drowning it out. If the public only believed the options were war or deal, opposition could be drowned out. Thus the accusation from the left of the right being war-mongers when pointing out deficiencies in the deal. The group then decided on a set of talking points to drive through the media narrative:
“…[T]he talking points also included “An Iranian nuclear program is not imminent”; “An Iranian nuclear weapon is not inevitable”; and most controversial “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, the United States and the West could live with it, without important compromise to U.S. interests.” Obama himself has contradicted that last line for years, arguing that he would be prepared to use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear program if diplomacy did not work.” (emphasis mine)
The last point is key: prevent the US or Israel from first strike at all costs. First strikes were removed as options, whereas the US and Israel could simply live with a nuclear Iran. At this point, it should make sense why the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was livid at the Obama administration over the Iran Deal: the administration and echo chamber forcibly handcuffed Israel into accepting a Nuclear Iran. What the President said in public was being contradicted by his staff and media echo chamber.
Lake ends his article with the following observation:
“After a critical story from the AP last week on Ploughshares grants to National Public Radio, [Ploughshares] went on the attack. In a column for Huffington Post suggesting the AP story was part of a campaign from opponents of the Iran deal to discredit him and his organization, he wrote, “Neoconservatives are furious that their efforts to trick the country into another unnecessary war in the Middle East failed.”
Don’t be surprised if you hear Ploughshares grantees repeating that. It sounds like a talking point.”
As to AP bias, remember, this the same Obama administration that uses anti-leak laws to attack journalists. Including the AP. The spin and bias is from the administration, not journalists. Ploughshares doesn’t even deny the points in Lake’s piece. The State Department admitted they cut and deleted a Q&A with FoxNews over whether the administration lied about secret talks with Iran in 2013. In the interview, the administration denied rumors of negotiations. Then a “mysterious order” came down for that footage to be deleted. There is very little evidence the problem here is media bias. There is a mountain of evidence saying the Iran Deal was sold using lies.
One last shot: Joshua Foust wrote an interesting think piece examining the books Ben Rhodes brags about reading in the NYT Magazine profile. It’s a different take you won’t find anywhere else and worth the 10-15 minutes to read.
2. Media support for Gawker and attacking Peter Thiel is hypocritical and nonsensical
After Hulk Hogan successfully won his invasion of privacy case against Gawker for $140 million, I didn’t think much of the case. I thought Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage made some good points at the time.I thought it might have a minor role in placing restraints on sites like Gawker who revel in public shaming, but I didn’t think much of the case. Gawker Media is one of the most biased and liberal network of sites on the internet, universally reviled. Gawker’s business model is profiting off the culture of shame, something I wrote about in “The Modern Scarlet Letter.” It’s not a major speech case, though.
Enter the surprising news that Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker was being privately funded by Peter Thiel. Thiel, for those who don’t know, was a founder of Paypal with Elon Musk and has made billions from other startups and investments. He’s considered one of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. He’s also gay. He kept that point private for a long time until Gawker decided to run a story outing and publicly shaming him. At the time, Thiel told Gawker he would have revenge on them in the end.
For Gawker, the end has come. Thiel, knowing he wasn’t the only person to deal with Gawker’s public shaming, sent his lawyers to find other victims of Gawker’s “reporting.” The goal was to sue Gawker out of business. His strategy is working. Along with the Hulk Hogan verdict, Gawker faces 5 more defamation lawsuits. Thiel said he is funding “other lawsuits” against Gawker, but will not disclose which ones. Gawker is in the process of seeking a buyer because the court costs and verdicts threaten to sink them financially.
For people like myself, who have long considered Gawker media to be among the most repulsive sites on the internet, watching Thiel destroy Gawker has been a blast. Thiel called funding suits against Gawker one of the greatest philanthropic endeavors he’s undertaken. I’d agree. Like the Executive Editor of the Free Beacon @SonnyBunch said, I just want to know where to send the flowers. Liberals have reacted differently, claiming Thiel’s lawsuit is a breach of the first amendment. They claim Thiel’s funding amounts to an assault on the First Amendment that could signify the end of First Amendment protections for the press.
I say what I’m about to say as a person with a very broad definition of First Amendment protections: The left is wrong.
First, let’s get clear what Gawker did in the Hogan case: they were found liable by a jury for an invasion of privacy in publishing a hidden camera sex tape of Hogan. The judge and jury found Gawker’s conduct so reprehensible, they gave Hogan MORE than he requested at trial. Gawker openly sought to destroy Hogan via a sex tape. They claim the first amendment allowed them to do whatever they want. They are wrong. The First Amendment has never allowed gross violations of privacy or defamation.
Second, the third party funding by Thiel is nothing new to the legal system. It’s a feature at this point. Rich donors contribute to legal causes all the time. The ACLU, ACLJ, Legal Aid, and the new legal loan industry are all 3rd party funding. It gives people access to legal resources they could not otherwise obtain. This funding also allows test cases to go to the Supreme Court on novel issues, that couldn’t be brought otherwise. Litigation is expensive. Thiel spent $10 million on the Hogan case alone. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the massive amounts of money liberals and conservatives drop on Supreme Court litigation. Which is why, as the Federalist pointed out, complaining about Thiel’s funding is hypocritical. The left funds cases all the time. In fact, one of the largest fundraiser lines liberals use is to ask for money to fund legislation and lawsuit efforts to… get money out of politics.
Third, what this really reveals is that journalists no longer know the difference between reporting and Gawker cyber bullying. A post on Medium.com by Kristi Culpepper hits this well, and I recommend reading it. Because the “journalism” these liberals are “protecting” for Gawker looks like this: “Blah, blah, blah – That was the response of a Gawker editor to a woman wanting them to pull a video from their site of her being raped.” That’s not journalism. It’s not even tabloid journalism. NYTimes v. Sullivan is the landmark case by the Supreme Court protecting journalists. Gawker does not stand in the legacy of NYTimes v. Sullivan. For those reasons, I’m ok with the libertarian Thiel funding lawsuits for actionable cases against Gawker.
3. Conservatism and the GOP will survive Donald Trump, but they will face a harsher landscape for some time.
One question I’ve received several times over the last few months is whether or not Donald Trump is the end of the GOP and conservatism. The choices for President this year from the Republican and Democratic parties are both liberals. The Libertarian choice is a left-leaning moderate. The Green Party is a left wing nut. There isn’t a conservative choice to be found, so far* (caveats on merits of a 3rd party run here).
I believe the GOP and conservatism can survive Trump. The main evidence I’d use to prove this point is an article by Senior Elections Analyst for Real Clear Politics Sean Trende: The Real Reason Trump Can’t Break the GOP. The short version of his piece: The GOP has survived far worse than Trump. Predictions of the GOP’s demise have been written steadily, at least once a decade, since 1893. Contrary to those predictions, the GOP currently stands in its strongest position since 1928. The GOP share of state legislatures and control of the US House and Senate give it commanding strength. Trende’s entire piece is great, I recommend it.
(To underscore this point: The GOP’s dominance at the state and congressional level has been so thorough, Thomas Frank, liberal author of What’s a Matter with Kansas, wrote a new book for the left: “Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People.” Frank writes in part to show how the Democratic Party has lost its way and no longer represents the working class. He is bewildered they are not concerned.)
Outside Trump, the anti-incumbent attitude we’ve seen in previous elections is not present. For the most part, incumbents are easily retaining their seats. In other words, Trump-challengers, to the extent they exist, in congressional primaries have failed. Sarah Palin promised to vote Paul Ryan out of his office after Ryan declined to immediately endorse Trump. Palin’s challenger is currently losing to Ryan… by 73 points (80% – 7%).
Can conservatism survive Trump? I think it can survive, although the ideas within it are going to have to work harder than ever to win. Democrats will attempt to attach Trump to conservatism for years to come. The difficulty is that there are 3 distinct problems:
1) US Politics are becoming more Europeanized. Anti-immigrant politicians are gaining more and more favor in Europe. Nationalist type politicians are playing to fears of immigration, loss in manufacturing jobs, and globalization. America has rejected old world style populism in the past. Right now, it seems old world thinking is beginning to win. Reversing this will take effort.
2) Trump has reshaped how to run an election. He’s relied almost exclusively on free media and social media to drive his campaign. He’s received over $2 billion in free media coverage by networks. TV and Radio Talk show hosts like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have seen their ratings jump by enabling Trump. So they cover him uncritically. Nearly all major networks let Trump phone in at any time to comment on a story and they cover his events live and for free. Trump used this and other tactics to effectively hack the media. This campaign will be studied for years to come, but one point remains: there is a statistical correlation between the amount of media coverage a person gets and their share of the vote. Trump hacked the media to get more media cover to win the primary.
3) It’s difficult to tell right now whether we’re watching a one-hit-wonder election by Trump, a realignment of the Republican Party, or a splintering of the Republican Party. I have my doubts the party or conservatism is splintering. I point again to the number of incumbents winning across the country to prove the point against splintering. I also don’t think we’re seeing a one-hit-wonder by Trump. I believe Trump has revealed a method for which other billionaires can jump into Presidential politics and avoid the lower levels of government (see Mark Cuban now flirting with a Clinton or Trump VP spot). What is worrying is if we’re seeing the realignment Nate Silver describes. A realignment shifts the policies and voters in a party into a different direction. If the GOP realigns to become a party resembling the policies of Trump, then conservatism has been evicted from the Republican Party.
Realignment or not, a Trump win or loss shifts the landscape for conservatives. In 2014 and 2015, conservatism had optimism it could retake the White House and hold supermajorities in all branches of government. Now, the future is far less clear. A Trump candidacy and the “burn it down” mentality of voters leaves conservatism in an odd place. As it is, if things remain the same, conservatism lacks a conservative voice on Presidential level for the first time since 1980 (Ford and Nixon would not be considered conservatives in a philosophical sense; see George H. Nash’s book “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945” for why that is the case). That, by itself, is a sad fact 2 years after a wave election in 2014.
So yes, both the GOP and conservatism can and will survive, but there is a tough road ahead.
Quick slants and must reads:
“Donald Trump’s money is a myth – Will he bankrupt the RNC too?” by Rick Wilson | Heat Street
“Clinton raises over $40 million in May. Campaign has $42 million in cash on hand” by Rebecca Savransky | The Hill
“Shady accounting underpins Trump’s wealth” by Ben White | Politico
“How Clinton’s home-brew server endangered national security” by John R. Schindler | Observer
“Clinton’s claim that her email practices were allowed is ‘False.'” by Lauren Carroll | PolitiFact
“The State of the Polls: The Best and Worst Polling Firms of 2016” by Nate Silver | FiveThirtyEight
“The 224 People, Places, and Things Donald Trump has Insulted on Twitter” by Lee & Quealy | The Upshot
“The killing of Mullah Mansour: Major milestone or Fart in the wind?” by Ioannis Koskinas | War on the Rocks
“The released deposition of Clinton Aide Cheryl Mills as part of ongoing Email investigation” | Judicial Watch
“Red Feed Blue Feed – How your choices create a social media echo chamber” | The Wall Street Journal
“Donald Trump and Chris Christie: The twin villains of Atlantic City” by Amy Rosenberg | Politico Magazine
“After 70k missed flights this year, some airports are firing the TSA” by Justin Bachman | Bloomberg
“The Big Uneasy: The New Activism on Liberal Campuses” by Nathan Heller | The New Yorker
“The Ghosts of Soviet Past: Crawling through the decayed nuclear missile bases of the USSR” by Maisel & Duval | War on the Rocks
“How the epidemic of drug overdose deaths ripples across America” by Park & Bloch | The New York Times
“US Death Rate up for the first time in a decade” by Sydney Lupkin | Vice News
“What the movie ‘Me Before You’ gets wrong: People with disabilities do ‘live boldly’ – And they’re not better off dead” by Cassy Fiano | LiveActionNews.org
“Tyranny within the Administrative State: How the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a one-man arbitrary rule board threatening our administrative state” by Richard Epstein | The Hoover Institution
What I’m listening to:
Podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show: “The Importance of Being Dirty: Lessons from Mike Rowe.”
This is a fun podcast/interview between Timothy Ferriss (The Four Hour Workweek; The Four Hour Body; The Four Hour Chef) and Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame on the Discovery Channel. They discuss Mike Rowe’s career, how he decided to enter Hollywood, how he got his first job at QVC, and the story of Dirty Jobs. Mike tells the story of how he had to stand in front of a camera and sell a pencil for 8 minutes to get the job. They also discuss the role of storytelling and how to be authentic in that storytelling. They discuss Mike Rowe’s new podcast: “That’s the way I heard it.” Which is a modern take on Paul Harvey’s old radio program. Very enjoyable listen and fun to hear Rowe’s life story. Worth the download and also worth subscribing to Rowe’s podcast.
What I’m reading:
“Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool
You may be familiar with the 10,000 hour rule promulgated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book: “Outliers.” The rule was that in order to become an expert in something, a person had to have at least 10,000 hours of practice in a given field to obtain expertise. Gladwell’s book was based, in part, on Anders Ericsson’s work on how people develop expertise in a given area and how talent works.
In Peak, Ericsson sets the record straight by explaining how the science of expertise works. 10,000 hours is not a magic number a person needs to achieve, like Gladwell says. Instead, mental representations and consistent deliberate practice are what are needed. Peak lays out what is needed to become an expert performer in certain fields. For instance, for the longest time, psychologists thought short-term memory was limited to be able to remember only a small amount of information. In terms of a string of numbers, the max of numbers a human was capable of remembering in a string was 7-9 numbers. Ericsson proved this was not a set skill, the brain could adapt and store over 100 numbers in short term memory.
That is one of several instances where Ericsson reveals how the science of talent works. It’s a highly insightful book that will drive conversations for years to come.
What I’m watching:
Reed Timmer, storm chaser, posted a 4k definition video of a massive tornado he tracked in Kansas. It puts anything you’ve seen in movies or TV to shame.
Social Media Post of the Week:
Thanks for reading!