Taking A Pen To A Sword-fight

There was a curious incident that I watched at the Trump press conference a couple days ago. An Orthodox Jewish reporter tried to ask a question about an increase in anti-Semitic graffiti, threats, and other actions since the election. The President cut the reporter’s question off and spoke about how he was the least anti-Semitic person in the known universe, or maybe it was the least anti-Semitic person in the local galaxy, some such thing.

I was sorry to see that, because it was a missed opportunity for the President to take a stand against anti-Semitism. But having read the interchange, I can see that the President thought the reporter was accusing the President’s supporters of being anti-Semitic. The President (and the rest of the world) has heard that accusation over, and over, and over again. So the President assumed that’s what the man meant, and that it was thus a partisan attack.

In fact, I don’t think the reporter was assigning the attacks to either political party. He was just concerned about anti-Semitism and wanted the President to speak out against it.

But he made two huge errors. First, like far too many wordsmiths, he got enamored of complexity. For example, if it were my intention to give the President the opportunity to speak out against the anti-Semitic threats and attacks, I would have said

“Mr. President, will you condemn anti-Semitic attacks from either side of the aisle?”

Instead, the reporter said:

“However, what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——””

BZZZT! At that point the President came to the wrong conclusion, cut the reporter off, and defended himself.

The second mistake the reporter made wastrump-jewish-question, he’s approaching this press conference like it’s some neutral encounter. It seems like he thinks it is an Oxford debate, or a dispassionate inquiry into the truth. Or at least a collegial interchange, rough at times but overall friendly or at least respectful.

It is nothing of the sort. It was a sword-fight between the President and his opponents in the press. Most reporters represent papers and TV stations that attacked the President relentlessly before, during, and after his election. And since then it has only gotten worse.

As a result of the fact that far too many reporters these days are merely Democratic operatives with bylines, a large majority of the questions being asked were specifically designed to hurt the Administration, demean the President, question his judgement, and generally attack him in one of a hundred ways. The majority of the reporters are not looking for the truth, and many wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it. They don’t care about truth. They are looking to wound and weaken the President and the Administration.

So if a neutral and innocent reporter wants a question to the President to NOT be interpreted as just another attack, that must be made clear in the question itself. If you want someone to recognize that you are innocent, you must differentiate yourself from the surrounding jackals and hyenas by being very, very clear that you are not attacking, not looking like you are attacking, not sounding like you are attacking, staying as far as you can from attacking. Clarity is your friend when someone wonders if you are their friend …

Now, the reporter had the right idea. He tried to show it wasn’t an attack, but he went about it in the wrong way. He tried to show it was an innocent question by preceding it with a compliment to Trump on his overall support of the Jewish people, viz:

““Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,” which is Yiddish for “grandfather” and often a word of great affection.”

And I’m sure he was quite sincere and honest in that statement. However, Trump the businessman, and Trump the Hollywood star, has seen many, many people compliment him as a prelude to attacking him. So the gesture was totally wasted. Any good negotiator would recognize that statement for what it is and discount it entirely, it’s just feel-good filler designed to soften you up … and as a result, when the reporter got to the actual question itself, and his words were unclear and difficult to parse, guess what?

The President took it as an attack and responded accordingly.

Color me unsurprised. Saddened, because of the wasted opportunity to take a stand against anti-Semitism and prejudice. And saddened because some poor reporter pulled out his pen without realizing he was in the middle of a sword-fight, and as a result he was unjustly and undeservedly berated by the President … but unsurprised nonetheless.


Raining again, the Oroville lake level is going up but looks like it will hold, life is a wonderful thing.


As Always: If you comment please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE REFERRING TO, so we can all understand your subject.


34 thoughts on “Taking A Pen To A Sword-fight

  1. Willis I am going to have to watch that exchange again. I thought Trump initially stopped the question because he wanted to return to the previous journalist and asked the Jewish reporter to sit down to do that, Trump talked to the CNN (?) reporter and then he went back to the Jewish reporter. I am confused and like I said 30 hrs+ plus later I am going to have to look at this again.


  2. The press have not been interested in “an Oxford debate, or a dispassionate inquiry into the truth” for a long time, if ever. Each paper has always had a political viewpoint which it espouses.

    There has been a change, however, over the last 10-20 years. Journalists used, I think, to believe that they were journalists first and foremost – so they held certain standards to be important – accurate reporting of fact, for instance, and the concept of ‘speaking truth to power’. I’m not saying that they all did this all the time, but that ethos was there. They felt that their job was to look for a story that needed telling.

    Many modern journalists have been replaced by activists. Activists hold a very specific set of beliefs, and spend their time trying to convince others to hold them as well. Whether a story is true, false, needs telling or doesn’t, is completely irrelevant. If necessary, stories can be twisted, of simply made up to suit the activist point of view.

    It is, as Mr Holmes would have put it, a capital error to see the press (and, unfortunately, parts of the scientific establishment) as anything more than rather poor marketing executives…


    • “Each paper has always had a political viewpoint which it espouses.”
      As an example, the Huffington Post, Scott Adams may have the answer:
      “You might recall that the Huffington Post made a big deal of refusing to cover Trump on their political pages when he first announced his candidacy. They only carried him on their entertainment pages because they were so smart they knew he could not win.

      Then he won.

      When reality violates your ego that rudely, you either have to rewrite the movie in your head to recast yourself as an idiot, or you rewrite the movie to make yourself the hero who could see what others missed. Apparently the Huffington Post chose to rewrite their movie so Trump is a deranged monster, just like they warned us. That’s what they see. This isn’t an example of so-called “fake” news as we generally understand it. This is literally imaginary news. I believe the Huffington Post’s description of the press conference is literally what they saw. If you gave them lie detector tests, they would swear they saw a meltdown, and the lie detector would say they were telling the truth.”
      “Trump’s unexpected win forced the Huffington Post to rewrite their mental movies from one in which they were extra-clever writers to one in which they were the dumbest political observers in the entire solar system.”


  3. I endorse your condemnation of large swathes of the print and broadcast media. They are, in reality, nothing more than professional gossips, meddlers and busybodies who contribute little of any value to society. They have gotten so bad that I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in their veracity.

    They have become circus entertainers and carnival barkers whose sole mission in life is to attract eyeballs by any means necessary.


    • Yes, I saw that too. The man had trouble articulating his thoughts without a lengthy, wordy ramble. It was almost as if he was trying to show his intellect but in reality he just couldn’t get to the point fast enough .


  4. I need to make another point. Trump needs to watch his use of terms. Semites include Jews and Moslems. I realize his position on Moslems is not to be anti-Moslem, but to be against the sub group that supports beliefs that result in terrorism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leonard, I fear that you mistake English for a logical language.

      For example the word “Semitic” means any of the people from the Middle East, regardless of religion. It is not a religious term.

      On the other hand, “anti-Semite” means anti-Jewish, period. I have never in my life heard it used to mean “anti-Mulsim”. Instead I see headlines like this in the WaPo:

      Palestinian president uses anti-Semitic trope against Israel

      The Palestinian president is assuredly not saying he’s anti-Muslim.

      Totally illogical, I know … welcome to English.


      Liked by 1 person

      • About 35 years ago, my lodger was an absolutely beautiful Saudi young woman who was also very well educated and reasonable. She invited me to dinner with her father, who was a senior pharmacist in Saudi. At one point, during a very enjoyable dinner, I asked him why Arabs are ant-Semitic. He replied that they are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, as they are Semitic themselves. Since then I have been trying to find a definition of Semitic, especially as half my family are, despite being unaware of the situation.


  5. The reporter Jake Turx also recognized the reason for Trump’s response and came to Trump’s defense. He understands why Trump is so defensive when anti-Semitism is brought up. I saw him interviewed along with Mara Liason by Tucker Carlson where he made this point. There are a number of articles wrtten in the Jewish press regarding his reaction. Mediate.com has a clip of his interview with Tucker Carlson.

    Hopefully the Trump communication folks will see this and work to respond to the intent of his question…

    Send some of your moisture this way.. we need a bit more snow..


  6. I saw this exchange and it bothered me more than just a little bit. Thank you for adding perspective to it.

    It’s unfortunate that it went this way. Mr. Turx and President Trump both missed an opportunity on an important topic.


  7. “At that point the President came to the wrong conclusion,”

    No he came to the right conclusion, it was a speech not a question; and it was a rather generalised, unsubstantiated claim which if not an attack on the President was an attack on US society.

    There is far too much of this sort of thing, that those reporters banging their cause-drum, use general statements like ‘increase in reports of attacks’, or a few incidents to imply there is a pattern and growing threat which is widespread.

    They usually get away with it but not with Trump. Good.


    • John B February 18, 2017 at 6:05 am

      “At that point the President came to the wrong conclusion,”

      No he came to the right conclusion, it was a speech not a question; and it was a rather generalised, unsubstantiated claim which if not an attack on the President was an attack on US society.

      Say what? There has indeed been an increase in bomb threats against synagogues since Trump’s election. Nobody knows who is making those threats. And understandably, the Jewish people who go to those synagogues are scared and concerned.

      Asking about that is NOT “an attack on US society”, nor is it a “generalized undifferentiated claim”.

      If these were bomb threats against say your church, or your kids’ school, I suspect you’d think that was a very specific and legitimate subject of discussion.

      So how about cutting the Jews the same slack?

      Best regards,



  8. Agreed, the journalist could have asked his question better. But was this the right place for this question?
    The president is the lightning rod; if only he had the power to fix all these problems! A proclamation, or even a law, is not going to make these problems go away. The question may be simple, but the answer is not, so what’s the point of asking the question in a place where there is only time for empathy and not for a solution?

    Muslim women wants the government to ban Islamophobia. Orthodox Jewish man wants the government to abolish anti-semitism. Feminist wants to know what the government is going to do about the Ikea catalog for Ultra-orthodox Jews which contains no images of women. Trans guy/girl wants bathrooms to be top priority on the agenda. Green guy wants the government to ban cars. There are many causes and there are many opportunities to make statements about them. Elsewhere.

    The usual politician would respond to a question like this with a boiler-plate statement. “Our government is against anti-Semitism and prejudice. Next Question.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Certainly most reporters around the world are left wing and many of them are activists first and reporters second. In OZ this certainly is the case and their ABC is totally taxpayer funded to the tune of over one billion $ per year. It’s charter says that it is supposed to be unbiased but it always supports the Labor and Green agenda with vigour and will do anything to help bring down a Coalition govt at every opportunity.
    Every issue day in, day out always sees this taxpayer funded monolith encouraging and supporting the Labor and Greens parties and their barking mad agenda.
    You name the cause and their ABC always supports their mad left political fellow travellers. Unbelievable but true and the Labor and Greens enjoy this taxpayer funded promotion every day of every year.


  10. somewhat off center, I’d like people to consider that journalism has been tabloid based from the start. I don’t think there ever was a time when people writing for the papers paid much attention to giving an unbiased story. It may seem that way but that is because at one time journalist wrote with the same bias as you have.

    more on center, it’s too bad Trump has to spend time caring what the press says. It’s a distraction meant to impede him. His efforts have no influence on the press, I happened to be watching ABC after the “show” and their reaction was as brutal an attach as I have ever seen.


  11. Hey Willis, impressive site. This is off topic, but if you are ever in need of additional content, please feel free to repost any of the content on CO2isLife.

    I’d love to see you critique the smoking guns. I’m trying to establish a one-stop shop for the best arguments against AGW.


    • Thanks, co2islife. I appreciate the offer, but I don’t go looking for content. Instead, I only write when I can’t stand not writing about some subject, when the ideas bouncing around in my head need to be put down before they’re lost.

      All the best,



      • Keep up the good work, very educational and entertaining material. I do the same. I have to write about something I’m thinking about, or I’ll keep thinking about it.


  12. Any chance Trump has been playing crowds for much longer than you, and knows exactly what he’s doing ??
    One can Hope.

    What do you do when a cannon breaks its restraints and starts to roll all over the decks of a pitching ship.
    You try to slow your thoughts, and consider your options.


  13. u.k.(us) February 18, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Any chance Trump has been playing crowds for much longer than you, and knows exactly what he’s doing ??

    Not being mind readers, none of us knows who the “you” that you refer to might be. Is it me? Is it the person who wrote the post right above yours? The post two above yours?

    This is why I ask folks to QUOTE WHAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO. Otherwise, you end up talking to some unknown mystery person about some unknown mystery subject as you are doing, which leaves all of us to wonder …

    Whaaa? …

    Best regards,



  14. By my clock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGqhhx8cxMg&t=64m10s he was permitted to drone on for 40 fast-talking seconds… I would have shut him down at 10 and said “Could you rephrase that, I’ll get back to you?” and call on another reporter to give him time to think.

    I’ve become concerned that in many ways, “we” are are de-volving as a technological society, primarily because inexperienced (dare I say, often young?) people are being placed in positions of responsibility. Simple know-how that was once well-known is being forgotten. Trump’s press conference is a prime example. As soon as he started taking questions my response as a sound engineer was, “Oh no not again!” Clearly a mic was being handed around… but not to everyone. Shotgun microphones have been around for decades and a person standing in the front of house, pointing one directly at individual reporters asking questions would have placed those questions clearly and directly into the mix — the one captured in video and distributed to the press, not the one projected into the room. You would have been able to understand every word. What happened instead? Clearly someone was riding the master fader in a vain and unprofessional attempt to make the questions audible, then slamming it down when Trump began to boom his response. Awful. And it happens again and again! If they had me in charge and told me they couldn’t afford to hire even one extra person, I’d set up a gated compressor so Trump’s mic would cleanly override all other audio and confidently walk away from my post at the mixer to hold the shotgun microphone. This would also prevent reporters from being able to shout over the President, which this SHODDY handed-around mic tactic permits.


  15. Pingback: Taking A Pen To A Sword-fight | Skating Under The Ice | Cranky Old Crow

You are invited to add your comments. Please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING so we can all be clear on your subject.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s