An Instructive Conversation on Facebook

I had a back and forth with some Facebook friends, and it was, I thought, instructive.

It was two other dudes — dudes who hate Trump — and me. This thread consisted of their posts and my replies to their posts. See what you think.

I’ve changed the names of all the participants, including my own.

As you’re probably assuming, for the purposes of this particular post, I’ll be “xPraetorius.”

Opening post:

“James” posted this:

“Don’t listen to what he says. Look at what he does.”

Underneath the text was a picture of President Trump with Russian President Putin, and the headline indicated that Trump had been briefed about Putin’s “bounties” on American soldiers in Afghanistan. These “bounties” were monies allegedly paid to the Taliban to kill American soldiers.

The story, initially reported by the New York Times, turned out to be false.While there might have been such “bounties,”‘ no one briefed President Trump on them. It never happened, and I pointed that out to “James.” Here’s my reply:

xPraetorius’ Reply to James’ Original Post:

James: I take no position on Trump, but you do know that this story turned out to be untrue, don’t you?

In my very humble opinion, there’s plenty for which to criticize Trump, and I do, but it’s important to do the research necessary to find out whether the very foundation of your criticism actually happened. It turns out that the whole “Trump knew about bounties on American troops and did nothing” thing… never happened.

I have no problem with legitimate criticisms of anyone, but it’s kind of important to base your critiques on things that aren’t fabrications. 🙂

“Bob” Jumps in:

xPraetorius Sorry x, taking no position on Trump is taking a position for him. Not a fabrication. More evidence that he knew last year….

xPraetorius’ Reply to Bob:

No, Bob. Taking no position is taking no position. No one gets to tell anyone else how he or she believes. Sorry.

As I mentioned, I have plenty of criticisms of Trump, but the New York Times “reported” something that never happened.

I think that the opponents of Trump would do a lot better, if they’d stay with non-fiction.

By the way, the reason I take no position on Trumps is simple: The Russia silliness (Russia always preferred Hillary, and that’s obvious), the Flynn travesty, the IRS horror, the Obama Administration ACTUALLY having done — wholesale — was the country was ready to impeach Nixon for what he only hinted at.

The fabrications of the media have made it impossible to take anything they say seriously.

It’s important to realize that if a bunch of people — in this case the media — mislead and lie and fabricate and invent stuff over and over and over and over and over again, it becomes impossible to believe — at least at FIRST glance — anything they say.

I learned that a long time ago, and literally every time I wait for a story to develop, I find out that the media have lied, or distorted, or left out vital information… from the outset!

So, for this particular story, I waited again, and researched, and as usual, it turns out that the REAL story is vastly different from the initial reports. And, as it turns out, there was no briefing of Trump — which is, by the way, its own story.

So, no, not taking a position is not taking a position.

Now, to concede a point of yours, my speculation is that the President ALWAYS knows a lot more than we think he knows. ANY President. Why? Easy: multiple sources of information about anything in the world. And those sources are often very siloed. However, everyone — even the Trump haters — is pretty much in agreement: the original story is false.

That’s why I always say that you need to base your critiques on non-fiction, and to take your time to hear the rest of the story, when ALL sources of news do all their digging.

I have no affection for Trump, but objective analysis shows that the Trump haters almost NEVER do anything but engage in echo chamber-style confirmation bias. It allows them to say sillinesses like: “Not taking a position on Trump is taking a position for Trump.” 🙂 (Sorry, but you deserved the tweak!)

These are the people who always say to people like me — “Oh, you only watch FOX News!” (I haven’t watched FOX News in years). But in saying that, they prove that THEY watch only the sources that agree with THEIR biases.

I consume news sources from across the entire political spectrum. You have to in order to get the clearest, most comprehensive picture of very complex situations.

None of us holds absolute truth; no media source holds absolute truth; no media source is perfectly honest. In fact, ALL media sources are generally dishonest. But, if you consume them all, you can tell what has the greatest likelihood of being true which, really, is the best you can do in ANY circumstances.

(“Bob” dropped out)

“George” Jumped In:

It’s untrue, really? (Editor’s note: “James'” original post)

Trump has never listened to his non family advisors or his Generals for that matter.

His ignorance or not paying attention is no defense.

His cult staff members are equally to blame for not making this atrocity clear to the Ego Maniac with a Low Self Esteem problem who took a oath.

xPraetorius’ Reply to George:

George: You’ll always be a friend of mine, but you and I will have to disagree just a bit here.

Your first sentence is only speculation. I happen to agree with your speculation, but I don’t think that changes the fact that the rest of American news sources, as well as the principals in question, are all saying that the story is false now.

Now, as mentioned, I happen to agree with your speculation that, “Trump has never listened to his non family advisors or his Generals for that matter.” — Like every President before him. Or, more to the point: Every President has always exhibited some mix of “listening to his advisers” and “NOT listening to his advisers.” The point: the extent to which a President does of doesn’t listen to advisers — absent any context — says nothing meaningful.

Reagan, for example, historians seem to agree, had quite a mix of going on his gut, and going on the advice of his advisers. Most historians seem to think that worked out pretty well. Many disagree… I suspect you would.

Jimmy Carter, though, leaned extremely heavily on the advice of his cabinet and close advisers, and that was a rough time for America. Carter’s fault? Not entirely, but certainly somewhat.

The point: probably Reagan and Carter were the LAST Presidents who DIDN’T think they were the smartest people in the room. Obama even SAID he was always the smartest person in the room.

You said: “His ignorance or not paying attention is no defense.” — This is also speculation. Meaning, his level of ignorance. There is a simple truth: NO President knows enough to do the job of President. We can only hope that a President is able to surround himself or herself with good advisers.

THAT particular is something that is very much open for debate. Many people have criticized his (Editor’s Note: Trump’s) circle of advisers and friends, but it’s hard to say that he’s hidebound in terms of his advisers, or shows overly much loyalty to advisers who aren’t on board with him. Like anything else, too much loyalty to inner circle people and too LITTLE loyalty to them are BOTH double-edged swords.

THIS particular of the Trump Admin will be the subject of debate for decades. The jury will be out on that topic for years.

You said: “His cult staff members are equally to blame for not making this atrocity clear to the Ego Maniac with a Low Self Esteem problem who took a oath.” — As I mentioned, I’ll always count you as a friend of mine, so I’m saying this very carefully: I’ve always believed that the one who starts the name-calling is the one who first admits his argument lacks seriousness or substance.

As I mentioned, there IS stuff to criticize in the Trump Administration, in the Trump circle, in the Trump Presidency. There’s no reason to turn to fictions, to name-calling, to the irrational. In fact, that all contributes to a LACK of clarity, and a LACK of ability to communicate what it will take to improve America. 🙂

“George” Replied:

Way to not take a side!

Let me know when Trump and the GOP come for you and your family. Maybe then you’ll be more vocal.


Thanks Reagan

Your experiences are obviously different and indifferent. Michelle Obama said when they go low we go high.

That doesn’t work anymore. Defending Trump in anyway is at the very least foolish.

xPraetorius’ Reply to George:

Lol! I didn’t say I don’t take sides, I’m just on the fence about Trump, but it’s not because of fabrications.

“Silence=Death” is glib, and faciile… but never true. “Silence=Death” is either meaningless, or can be thrown accusingly at every person on the planet, rendering it… meaningless. C’mon, George… everyone needs to stay away from the substanceless and the glib.

“Thanks, Reagan” has the same meaninglessness. I’d have to read behind the lines, so I’m guessing that you’re referring to Reagan’s response to the then-new phenomenon of AIDS?

The very worst you could say about Reagan in his response to that is: everyone is at a different spot in their understanding of ANY issue at all times. You’ll never find the perfect Presidency. What I said of Reagan was that he might have been the last President to recognize that he wasn’t always the smartest guy in the room. Do you disagree with that?

George, serious question: Why would you say something so presumptuous and so apparently intentionally hurtful as: “Your experiences are obviously different and indifferent”? #1: You have no knowledge whatsoever what my experiences are, or how they affected me. #2: Why would you presume that you could draw such an obviously nonsensical conclusion about anyone on earth? No one knows what anyone else has gone through, or exactly how it affected him or her.

Michelle Obama said, “when they go low we go high.” — Okay. Where in what I said, did I “go low?” Serious question. And, did Michelle’s husband “go high” when he squelched the voices of tens of millions of Americans, using the IRS in a way that Nixon only hinted at… and for which hint he was about to be impeached?

Did Barack Obama “go high” when, as has been revealed now, he used the most powerful institutions of the United States to spy on other Americans who were engaged in a political campaign? These are serious questions. And, I absolutely AM open to the notion that you have some evidence that there was some national security imperative for what — done by anyone else — would have been a ghastly crime.

If you re-read what I wrote, you’ll see that I steered completely clear of defending Trump. It is not “defending Trump” to suggest that if you’re going to attack him, you should avoid fabrications and lies.

Implied in what I said was: “If you’re willing to work for it, there’s plenty of SUBSTANTIVE stuff with which to launch critiques of Trump.” I’ve done that, and I encourage you to do so as well.

My advice: avoid the name-calling, avoid the fabrications, avoid the irrational.

The name-calling is juvenile, and hardens the target to your arguments. The fabrications are easy to knock aside — like the silly New York Times article. And the irrational — like pretending that you know anyone else’s experience, and how it affected them — makes it valid to suggest that the rest of your arguments are just as unserious.

Lastly: avoid the hasty conclusion that suggests that you think there’s only your way or the idiot’s way.

Others who believe differently are NOT, by definition, idiots. Others who think differently are NOT, by definition, bigots or racists. Others who perceive things differently are NOT, by definition, fascists or Nazis. And, most importantly, others who would suggest that you avoid fabrications and substancelessness in your critiques of Trump are NOT, by definition, SUPPORTERS of Trump! This is so basic, so fundamental, that I really shouldn’t have to point it out.


“James” — or Facebook — deleted the entire thread.

Never let it be said that the Left is lacking in cowardice!.

— xPraetorius

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