behavior

A Note Aside: Something About Perspective

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is called a digression, and it is not hard to guess its provenance. The other name for this exercise is, writing yourself into a hole. Still, the brazen stupidity of the Trump administration is mystifying unless we reconcile ourselves to some aspect of the irrelevance of norms insofar as we are dealing with a phenomenon akin to the nexus of gaslight and sincerely held belief and overlooking some aspect of perspective that would otherwise explain why the grace of subtlety, or even the tired comfort of basic competence come to seem anathema in #DimensionTrump.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Note aside: It is hard to figure what to do with an inchoate question having to do with the idea of new and old guards, or, such as it is, institutional traditionalism and institutional insurgency. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has already spent time with the Mueller investigation; while his reputation as a low-skill bullshit artist was well-established during his time as RNC flak, he still bore some connection to an older way of doing things in the Republican Party. That is, with the jig up, it appears he told the Special Counsel’s Office what they wanted to know, and might well end up with no greater culpability than his reputation already earns him. It is hard to imagine how Sarah Huckabee Sanders would answer the Mueller investigation, but appearances, as such, are what drive the amorphous question about generational differences among conservatives. Where the old guard parses carefully and others might seethe at the appearance of will, there is a newer phenomenon by which people simply give voice to their violations as if it has never occurred to them that such behavior is problematic.

White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway speaks to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, 22 January 2017. (Detail of frame from NBC News)Remember the proposition of alternative facts; it is one thing to wonder if we are laughing at absurdity or genuine malady. This is #DimensionTrump; the President will hang his comms shop to boast of obstructing justice; Donald Jr. hands over emails that appear to convict him. With Hope Hicks on the record, apparently, that part of her job was to lie for the White House, and one former Press Secretary having already spoken with and given documents to the Mueller investigation, it starts to feel impossible that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would avoid the Special Counsel’s Office, and we might wonder what happens if she works to evade under question. One need not be Sam Nunberg to suggest the White House Press Secretary “does Trump’s dirty business”, or that, Huckabee Sanders is “terrible”, at her job.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)Perhaps it is a difference of cognizance. Some will rail against criticism or even criminal charges because they must, despite their culpability. There are those, however, who will never understand why their culpability is culpability. If we recall a time not so long ago during which conservatives fixated on the proposition of “sincerely held beliefs” entitling exemption to obligations under law—e.g., discrimination in bakeries, hospitals, &c.—then we might propose, in the moment, to witness what we might otherwise hope is the crest of that wave: Can we imagine Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempting to hold out under scrutiny from the Mueller investigation, according to sincerely held beliefs in alternative facts?

At some point, someone in the #trumpswindle is going to throw down explicitly that, certainly, they said this and did this other thing but it’s not illegal because they say so.

At what point does it occur to these people that, yes, they really can get in trouble for what they are doing? How many will recognize the danger before Mueller calls them in? How many will never understand why this is happening to them?

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Image note: Top — Composite of President Donald Trump (Photo: Reuters) and Puti-Toots (Credit: Unknown).  Right — Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters); White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway (Image: NBC News); White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Sam Nunberg on Mueller, His Media Spree, and His Message for Trump”. New York. 6 March 2018.

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The Donald Trump Show (Ironic Return)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“Kellyanne Conway continues to stress the importance of ‘disclosure’ and ‘transparency’ in the election, unaware of the irony.”

Steve Benen

Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)If we started counting up the various assertions by which customs, rules, and even laws just aren’t supposed to apply to Republicans, would it be fair to call the mountain we’ve watched pile up the whole time “shocking”?

Probably not. Then again, I do wonder if, like “locker room talk”, we will try to reckon with such behavior while pretending it isn’t or wasn’t widespread. After this is over, watch and listen as Republicans and journalists alike try to minimize just how deeply they dove down the Trump hole.

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Image note: Top ― Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube) Right ― Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Benen, Steve. “Team Trump admits, public won’t see candidate’s tax returns”. msnbc. 31 October 2016.

Something About Beer (Under the Influence)

So … er … ah …

HopsYou know that thing where you’re out to drinks with friends, and you’d very much like an IPA―but then the first person to order chooses an IPA, and you feel like you can’t order the same thing, because that would be weird? So you order an amber ale instead. The drinks arrive, and you unhappily sip the second-choice beer you already regret ordering.

(Dahl)

… really?

No, seriously. I … I … I mean … really?

This actually happens?

Science of UsYou know, that thing. Or maybe you don’t. It’s a semi-regular scene from my own life, anyway, and it’s also a scene from Wharton professor Jonah Berger’s new book, Invisible Influence, which is about the unseen ways the people around you shape your behavior. The beer anecdote is a brief rundown of a study conducted at a brewery by the consumer psychologists Dan Ariely and Jonathan Levav, who argue in their paper that people are highly motivated to signal their uniqueness, even when it comes to something as small and dumb as ordering a beer.

Alright, then. I just learned something.

No, really, I had no idea.

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Dahl, Melissa. “The Annoying Psychology of How Your Friends Influence the Beer You Order”. Science of Us. 9 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Dehumanization)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“In this election, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who believes in humanity and who is subhuman.”

Jonathan Allen

So … yeah. Jonathan Allen has something to say:

It can be hard to tell how Donald Trump thinks. The man switches directions with all the forethought of a cat chasing a flashlight spot.

For days, Trump’s top campaign aides seemed to be making pronouncements based on what they hoped he’d say about immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, not out of any real knowledge of his plans. He then proceeded to make anyone who had said anything about what he’d do―including himself―look foolish.

In talking about immigrants, he offered everyone a Windexed view of his blackened soul and the morally bankrupt way he thinks about people.

Ouch. Damn.

(more…)

Your Weekly Dose of Coolness

Maggie Koerth-Baker brings us “good news” about whales and dolphins that is at once sugary-cute and enlightening.

Mammals at play.It’s hard to talk about animal behavior without getting too anthropomorphizing, but think about it this way: In both instances, the whale and dolphins did not appear to be competing with other, they did not appear to be fighting, nor were they cooperating in a goal-oriented way. When scientists say “animals are playing” they don’t necessarily mean “play” the way human children play, but they do mean behaviors that go beyond simple eat/sleep/defend/breed necessities. Play might be learning. Play might be about forming social bonds that help an individual later on. And however you interpret it, spotting examples of spontaneous, inter-species play in the wild is kind of a big deal.

Take that, LOLcats!