It's Not the Dishonesty That Gets Me, It's the Stupidity

I wasn't planning on following up my post from last week, but I saw another tweet by the author I criticized in it today, and I couldn't resist clicking the link to a new story he wrote:

The author in question, José Duarte, is really starting to weird me out. It's not that he keeps saying things which are untrue. I'm used to people doing that. It's not even that he says things which are obviously untrue. I'm used to people doing that too. What weirds me out is he keeps saying things anyone who looks at what he refers to would immediately see are false.

I can come up with explanations for dissembling. I can come up with explanations for lying. What I can't figure out is how to explain lying in a way everyone can easily recognize as lying. If you're going to say untrue things, shouldn't you at least try to hide it?

I don't feel like writing a lot today so I'll try to keep this brief. Here is Duarte:

CNN has a fact-checking effort called Reality Check. In January of 2017, they evaluated Donald Trump’s claim “I have no deals in Russia.”

According to Duarte, the claim being fact checked is, "I have no deals in Russia." His entire article is predicated upon the idea the fact check was merely about whether or not Trump has deals in Russia. Notably, he says:

Thinking about or wanting a deal in Russia is obviously not the same as having such a deal, and Trump was truthful in saying he has no deals.

While it is true thinking about or wanting a deal is not the same as having a deal, this misses the point. It misses the point because Duarte lied about what was being fact checked. Here is what the CNN article he criticizes says it is fact checking:

Trump claimed he has no business ties with Russia, and punctuated his point by declaring that if he wanted to build in Russia, he could effortlessly find partners for a venture.

"I have no deals in Russia," Trump said. "I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away. ... We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to. I just don't want to because I think that would be a conflict."

Duarte took six words from this paragraph and deleted the rest. He then wrote an entire article about those six words, as though the rest of the paragraph didn't exist. Because of that, Duarte was able to do things like say wanting a deal with Russia wouldn't contradict Trump's claim. Trump explicitly said he doesn't want a deal with Russia, but Duarte hid this fact by pretending only six words were being fact checked, not ~50.

There's much more which could be said, but I'm not going to bother. Instead, as an aside, I want to discuss an aside Duarte included in his post. It's notable because it shows how lazy Duarte is in his thinking/writing:

When I did some web searching for this story, I discovered that two weeks before this story CNN falsely reported that the Russian government was closing the Anglo-American School in Moscow in retaliation for the Obama administration’s expulsion of numerous Russian diplomats/spies from the US. The school immediately refuted the story, and was back in session on January 9th. Yet CNN is still reporting that the Russian government closed the school — they’ve issued no correction, even two years later. ABC’s Matt Gutman even tweeted the fake story — he’s also issued no correction. This is madness. Why aren’t these people correcting their false reports when they’re discovered to be false? The media can’t go around lying to people — if you make a mistake, you have to correct it. I don’t understand this behavior.

The main reason I wanted to highlight this is the absurdity of Duarte's rhetoric given his constant false claims. However, there's also an interesting problem with what he says. Namely, Duarte provides no proof what CNN said about the school was false. What CNN reported was:

Russia's first visible action came later Thursday, when Russian authorities ordered the closure of the Anglo-American School of Moscow, a US official briefed on the matter said. The order from the Russian government closes the school, which serves children of US, British and Canadian embassy personnel, to US and foreign nationals.

The Facebook post from the school Duarte links to as supposedly refuting this says:

Message from the Director regarding media reports of the closure of the Anglo American School Moscow campus.

You may have heard and seen reports coming through the media stating that the Russian authorities have closed the Anglo American School, Moscow campus. Senior Russian officials have refuted this story.
The school is planning to open as scheduled following the New Year break.
We will keep you updated through e-mails, postings on our website and if it is urgent through SMS.

Duarte had no basis for claiming this statement refuted what CNN said. He did so only out of laziness. What CNN said is Russia ordered this school to be closed. What the school said is Russian officials denied that, and the school would open after the holiday season as planned. There is no contradiction here.

First, it's important to stress this Facebook post does not consist of the school refuting anything. The school does not take a position on what did or did not happen. The school merely states Russian officials denied a claim. Russian officials denying something happened obviously does not prove it never happened. This is a classic "he said, she said" moment, with the school merely saying what each side has said. Duarte was objectively wrong to claim the school refuted anything.

Second, the fact the school did not remain closed after the holiday in no way proves an order to close the school was never issued. An alternative explanation is an order was issued to close the school, and then later, perhaps due to the negative publicity caused by CNN's reporting, the order was rescinded. There's no way to know that happened, but there's also no way to know it didn't happen. Duarte says:

The media can’t go around lying to people — if you make a mistake, you have to correct it. I don’t understand this behavior.

But the reality is there is no way to know what CNN said about that school was untrue, much less that it was a lie. On the other hand, Duarte's gross misrepresentation of what CNN covered in its fact check is trivially easy to prove. I don't understand that. No matter how biased or close-minded someone might be, I don't get how anyone could be this incompetent.

8 comments

  1. MikeN, are you sure? This seems to show otherwise:

    Russia's first visible action came later Thursday, when Russian authorities ordered the closure of the Anglo-American School of Moscow,

  2. MikeN, you mean the one which starts with:

    The order from the Russian government closes the school,

    I struggle to see how that says the school was ordered closed to certain people, not in its entirety.

  3. MikeN, given both the sentence you pointed to and the sentence preceding it explicitly say the order was to close the school, not to close the school to a certain subset of students, I have no idea how you conclude the opposite. Perhaps if you used more than one or two words in your comments, perhaps even complete sentences which expressed your thoughts in a coherent manner, it'd be easier to understand what you're thinking.

  4. "The order from the Russian government closes the school, which serves children of US, British and Canadian embassy personnel, to US and foreign nationals."

    closes the school...to US and foreign nationals

  5. MikeN, if you can't be bothered to write actual sentences to express your thoughts, I don't think we'll get anywhere. The way I see it, if you don't care enough to take such a basic step in communication, there's no reason anyone should care to put effort into understanding you.

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