There’ve been plenty of hot takes about Garland and the DoJ’s investigation of the 6 January Insurrection flying around the social media and pundit spheres lately. Too many. Most of them have proven themselves thoroughly wrong and are as damaging as any disinformation or misinformation coming out of the conservative side or Russian troll farms.
There are a number of very popular blogs, podcasts, and substack-style newsletters being produced nowadays. Three of my favorites are The Sisters-in-Law podcast, Teri Kanefield’s blog, and Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletter. All three are professional with the first two providing what seems to me to be first rate legal interpretations and takes on the days news. I’d love to discuss your favorites in the comments — hint, hint.
I rarely refer to them because I figure most all y’all already know about them and follow them. There’s no use in me telling you about what you’ve already read. That said, I don’t keep up with every post and issue; maybe, you don’t either. If you missed any of these, you might could consider giving them a listen or read.
I’ll be relying on them for factual information and interpretation, then I’ll add the gaslighting bit. So put on your hazmat suits, y’all, we’re diving in and it’s going to get ugly. We might could even piss some people off.
Garland Isn’t Doing His Job
Kanefield does a good job of capturing several representative tweets from the Garland is too timid, too much of an institutionalist, too much of a traditionalist, too afraid of politics to investigate and indict Trump crowd. Go visit her blog if you want to see her screen grabs, otherwise I’ll summarize them here:
- ELIE HONIG with Richard Signorelli agreeing “100%” claims that you don’t need to work your way up from the insurrectionalists in the Capitol, you can start with the upper echelon because 6 January Committee hearings, but this, of course, ignores the difference between a criminal investigation and a Congressional committee trying to write laws.
- UBIQUITOUS CITIZEN HOT TAKE of predicting the end of democracy because Garland is “too timid” and it’s “mind-boggling” because it is all so obvious.
- ROB REINER declaring that the ONLY reason not to indict is fear of a civil war with Lawrence Tribe giving a “whoa, if true” response.
- UBIQUITOUS CITIZEN HOT TAKE of Garland being “too timid* to do the dirty deed.
The problem with social media and for-profit news coverage is that it all gets driven by the need for viewers, clicks, likes, and shares. Our public discourse is the equivalent of a drunk driver.
No matter who you are, you’ve got to post frequently on social media to grow your following and get that sweet sweet dopamine hit from all those likes and shares. It doesn’t matter if you’re some big shot celebrity, a news reporter, pundit, influencer, or just some guy pumping his blog. The more controversial, dire, predictive (accuracy is never checked by the way), or dissing your post, the more responses it gets. But, you also gotta resonate with your ingroup.
It became conventional wisdom to believe that (a) Garland and the DoJ weren’t investigating Trump and the upper echelons of the insurrection, (b) the investigation only started recently, and (c) the investigation only started because of the pressure from the televised hearings and the mean tweets.
The DoJ Investigation
Between the three of them, we get a good summary of the revelations of the investigation. They all rely on the contemporaneous legal reporting about DoJ investigative activity that came to light during the week, so let’s rehash some of that and their understandings of it.
DoJ WITNESSES. Several big name and high ranking witnesses have been called before the grand jury. Here’s a fairly exhaustive list, but feel free to add more in the comments.
- Mark Short and Dave Jacob: Close sides to Mike Pence and were privy to a 4 January meeting in which Trump was pressuring him to refuse to certify the election 6January.
- Ken Klukowski: December 2020 hire at DoJ who drafted Clark’s letter to Georgia falsely claiming evidence of election fraud.
- Cassidy Hutchinson: We all know what she said.
- Ali Alexander: Notorious planner of the 6 January rally
- Pat Cipollone and Pat Philben: Cipollone lone was White House council and Phiben worked for him in the White House.
There has been lots of crowing and strutting on social media, especially, by all the armchair lawyers and a few of the chattering pundits about how all of the “pressure” has worked and Garland finally caved to the mean tweeter brigade.
All they’ve really done is expose their ignorance, arrogance, and hubris. Consider:
- The DoJ investigates crimes, which mostly consist of behavior. They don’t investigate individuals. They don’t open an investigation into Trump. They open an investigation into the fraudulent electors scheme or the 6 January Insurrection.
- DoJ investigations have to use evidence that is acceptable in courts of law. It is a high standard. As damning as Cassidy Hutchinson is testimony before the Committee was, some of it was considered here say and not admissible.
- Calling a grand jury is the LAST step before indictment. Any witness called before the grand jury has already been interviewed extensively by lawyers and agents. It is a process that takes months. MONTHS. Long before the public hearings, the DoJ was investigating and following evidence.
There was a lot of public angst, hand-wringing, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and scraping of boils concerning whether or not Trump would get away with it. Garland shoulda said something before now, goes social media and pundits.
(A) Garland has said things before now. He just can’t be too specific because he can’t talk about ongoing investigations, Comey and her emails be damned.
(B) It is against the law for anyone at DoJ to divulge the goings on of a grand jury proceeding. Whatever we’re getting in the media comes from reporters staking out the grand jury room to see who is coming and going and the witnesses or the defense side talking to reporters.
And (c) it is a sign that indictments could be coming sooner rather than later. Just remember, it goes indictment, trial, appeal. We’ve still a long way to go.
There’s been lots breaking in the news about the son’s investigation that I haven’t included here. Let’s discuss it in the comments, okay?
What’s Wrong with Hot Takes
Here’s the long candy short of it: the more often you hear something, the more you are likely to believe it is true. #ScienceFact: It don’t even matter that you know it is a gottamned to lie told by some lying dirty lying dog what lies like a common Trump. Simply hearing or reading something a second time gives it a veneer of truthiness. This is called the Illusion of Truthiness with apologies to Steven Colbert.
It has been demonstrated numerous times in numerous ways and they have been reviewed here on He Older Blogge before. It has been demonstrated yet again by a study out of Stanford in which participants were given a news article on views on smoking to read. Even when the participants were told the information was false, it still influenced their reaction to the article two weeks later.
Just telling people that the news is fake, doesn’t work.
When something happens in your environment that gets your attention, you search your memory for similar things. So, when one politician causes their opponent of something outlandish like being a cat murderer, and you then read on your social media that they’re a cat murderer, you have this nagging feeling that it just might be true.
You’ve located the line in your memory, whether you know it or not. Because it is there already, it feels true. We evolved to believe our senses and our memory. When you think about the life of a hunter-gatherer, it makes sense. The environment doesn’t lie to you. If you think you see a leopard charging at you, it is better to believe it than doubt it, right?
Also, our memory is influenced by emotion. Emotional events are encoded more strongly and are easier to access. The very upsetting accusation of being a cat murderer is more strongly encoded than the boring old apology for being mistaken, so the acknowledgment that it was a lie doesn’t come back as quickly, easily, or reliably.
When you’re out to net your self a whole heaping helping of cool points and likes and shares by producing speculation that Merrick Garland is more interested in protecting the office of the presidency and doesn’t want the DoJ to seem political or is fretting about civil war, you contribute to the veneer of truthiness that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is going to get away with it AGAIN, and the concomitant feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that it engenders or to the perception of the Biden administration being impotent or to the politicization of the DoJ or to the decline in trust of our institutions or all of them, Katie.
As more and more social media influencers and pundits piled on, it took on an even stringer sense of being true. It passed from an amazing!y insightful hot take to conventional wisdom.
Worse, when you falsely claim that your social media “pressure” campaign “worked” and Garland caved to it, you make it (a) more likely that the cycle will be repeated and (b) less likely that anyone will actually learn about how the DoJ conducts its investigations or who does what in our government.
Instead of voicing your fears, anxiety, and baseless speculation, you could’ve amplified Garland’s statements about what they were doing and reassured folks that we should trust Garland to do his job.
Also, by claiming that Garland caved to pressure, you realize that you are undermining confidence that DoJ is an independent apolitical entity, the exact opposite of what we want it to be. By urging Garland to investigate Trump, you are urging him to persecute a political opponent, again, the opposite of what we want. By urging Garland to “arrest somebody” as a popular meme does, you are urging him to operate outside of the rule of law.
The Ol’ Pussy Grabber has succeeded in so undermining our confidence in our institutions in general and the DoJ in particular that we are becoming our enemy. We are becoming the authoritarian conservative.
And that’s what is wrong with all of those hot takes that seem so harmless.
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Categories: Cognitive Psychology