Kellyanne Conway, Ezra Klein and Vox

Ezra Klein reposted this Vox video decomposing Kellyanne Conway’s “interview tricks”. Which gives us a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate the leftist media’s tricks.  

First, are his points valid? 

Yes. Everything he or the other guy in here says are true… or are at least half truths. They’re the truth, but not the whole truth, and certainly nothing but the truth. If that’s where you want to stop thinking, that’s fine. But I like diving a lot deeper than that. 

What is the author’s skew/agenda? 

I don’t buy that “once a fraud, always a fraud”. Or that just because a guy is a crook in one area, that they’re liars in all the others. Broken clocks are right twice a day, and even the worst folks sometimes speak truth. But I also don’t believe in ignoring history as well, to try to understand biases and agendas. Ezra Klein was a “journalist” that created the JournoList — this was a cabal (email list) of left leaning journalists, so they could all collude to spin the news far left, and share ideas and stories du jour. Not just report the news, but invent/skew the news hard left. It was found out, an embarrassment and dropped, and of course secret other lists (like Cabalist, also called JournoList 2.0) sprung up. You can’t be a good group-thinker, unless you can get the opinion of the rest of the group. 

Vox is Ezra’s front: he’s the editor in Chief. So if you get something from Vox, you know it’s by a slimy leftist slant, that wants to spin things for their agenda. That doesn’t mean it’s completely wrong, but having Ezra and Vox on your side, is kinda like having your story picked up by Goebbels — it might not be completely wrong, but there’s definitely an anterior motive, and you likely aren’t speaking the whole truth. 

But let’s decompose what’s really going on. 

What, how and why? 

So the video is actually pretty reasonable at showing what Kellyanne does (and how she does it). But we’re not shallow-thinking leftists, we are critical thinkers that ask “why” is she doing it (and why is the other side asking the question). 

But everybody else is doing it…

The first thing taught in Communications, Public Relations or Politics is answer the question they should have asked (or you wish they had asked). 

Wait, so you mean this isn’t unique to Kellyanne? Nope. Watch any Politicians or talking head gets asked a gotcha question or something they don’t like, and they’ll do the exact same things (though not usually as smoothly). Hillary or Obama use those same techniques in all their interviews too… and another one: the filibuster — burn the clock talking about things you want to and dodge the interview entirely.

So to know if Republicans or Democrats are worse, or if Kellyanne is any worse than far left talking heads like George Stephanopolis, when he was in a similar role, we’d need to get quantitative and qualitative measures.
How often do they not answer direct question? Did they cover the underlying topic in their redefinition, and so on. 

Not contrasting Kellyanne to all the others is called a lie of omission. People walk away thinking this is unique, when this is the norm. And we have no idea if she’s better or worse than others, and now have a lot more questions as to what her motives where, and theirs, and the video producers. 

But why not offer objective measures and contrasts? 

So if you watched this interview you’re left with thinking Kellyanne is some special demon of the right, that is using this technique because her boss is such a liar. In fact, that’s likely exactly the impression that the JournoList creator wants you to think. To the point, I expect the editorial meeting before the interview went like this, “I’m going to spin a narrative to make the Republicans / Kellyanne look evasive/bad, because that’s what our far left readers would like for their daily dose of confirmation bias”. (Said slightly less bluntly, of course). 

I’d entertain other thoughts on why else they would have done this story on her, and not offered any counter balance or quantitative/qualitative measures. This “How to frame a story” (and quantify) is something you’re taught in Journalism 101 — it appears Vox is using the wrong definition of “framing”, and my why’s lead to either it was too expensive (too much effort) to contrast or quantify (they were lazy bad journalists), or more likely, it didn’t fit the narrative/audience/goals (they were dishonest bad journalists, but good polemics). 

But if she does it more/better, then why?  

Even if you assume she does it more or better than everyone else, what does that prove? Not much. Is it because we have a hostile Press that asks harder questions of those with an (R) than a (D) after their name? And thus she just gets more practice and more loaded questions?

Let’s look at the examples provided (remember they are cherry picked to be the worst examples they could find of her being evasive.

(1)  “Why does Trump falsely claim that voter fraud likely cost him the popular vote? That claim is groundless. Isn’t it irresponsible for a President-elect to make false statements like that?"

This is a typical gotcha, "does trump beat his wife often?” question. It was loaded bullshit question, “That claim is groundless claim that voter fraud threw the election"… only it’s not groundless. There was a bad report he latched onto that there were more than 3 million illegals registered, and a few reports that implied it could have been enough votes to be the difference in popular vote: though 2 million illegal votes is more likely. 

You can’t answer George’s question without pretending that we know how many illegals voted when there’s no good audit on that, and answering his questions is saying that your boss knows and intentionally made a false statement. If George was a good or honest journalist, he would have asked a simpler and more direct question, instead of such a loaded and complex one, that it injects ambiguity and impossibility into an answer. 

The answer to George’s question is, "Trump just interpreted the unknown in his favor, like Obama and Hillary did ever day of the week" (and got no pressure from the likes of Stephanopoulos). But that’s not how a PR person will answer the question.

So imagine this, a hostile and partisan Democrat operative like George Stephanopoulos is asking you an overly complex and biased loaded question, you aren’t going to climb into the weeds and debate numbers with a simpleton DNC plant like him. You’re going to respond to the bigger question that he should have asked, which is "was the election legitimate”. We all know that’s what the "popular voter” arguers were really saying. She was more on topic than he was. 

He was trying to trap her into admitting a lie in the micro, and ignoring the bigger lie of the macro point that George’s side was saying. She didn’t take the bait…. and Vox told the lie of half truths on what happened by not looking at how bad George did on exposing his biases and incompetence in asking that question in that way. 

George tries to get her to stop answering the bigger question of whether the election was valid, and get her back into her trap — but he asks poorly again, “no one is questioning the victory”. Bullshit. That was the whole reason the question was asked, and she knows it. She caught him on his lie, and made him look bad by pointing out his bad wording, “Many people are questioning the victory”. She’s telling the truth, and he’s lying by saying that “no one is”. If he’d been a good interviewer he would have said, “I’m not questioning”… but he’s a leftist that wanted to bring in the entire collective against her, and that broad brushing made him wrong and gave her an out. Instead of questioning Kellyanne’s competence, we should be looking at George’s incompetence. 

You can see it through the rest of the questions too. She was smarter off the cuff than the talking heads who planned to spring a trap on her.

(2) Appeal to authority

Bring in a fake expert that will tell your side what they want to hear. In this case, Seth Gannon, a master debater, or something like that. To be a good debater, you normally need to be able to argue both sides of a topic. Does Seth do that? No, he’s not called in for his expertise on what’s really going on — how BOTH sides are handling the debate, and the strengths/weaknesses of both. He’s used as confirmation bias, that he’s an expert and what she’s doing is tricking the audience and interviewers — again in a way that’s completely common practice, especially when dealing with a hostile and dishonest moderator. But those topics never come up. And he’s obviously a Never-Trumper and Kellyanne hater (or is pretending to be), based on completely unnecessary barbs and jabs he’s taking, which ironically destroy his credibility as an objective observer. A quick search of Seth Gannon, and I found a few barbs against Trump on Twitter, imply that he not a neutral observer. 

(3) Chuck Todd, size of inauguration crowd

Chuck Todd, another far left operative, tries another gotcha loaded question. “Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods”. Calling her a liar isn’t a question, it’s a partisan attack (especially without the context presented on what he was calling a lie / falsehood). 

We know the following: 

  1. The media had intentionally distorted the narrative about Trump’s crowd size, to get his goat — they did tricks to make him seem less legitimate, which was part of the DNC narrative repeated by many sources
  2. That many of the times Trump talked about inauguration crowd size they said things like “total attendance, including online and on-TV was larger”… which certainly seems plausible (though not provable). But a few others he did say just crowd size. He’s sloppy. The latter is likely wrong, the former is likely true. More than that, the bigger truth about him being illegitimate (which is their real point) is false. He did have the largest Republican attendance ever. And likely the highest viewership. 

So of course in a long attack by a partisan hack like Chuck Todd, there’s going to be a case where she just changes the topic to something she want to point out, like the lies (or alternative facts) that the media told, that they’re not owning, instead of just the lies (alternative facts) in the form of sloppy overstatements that her side told. That doesn’t make her right, but she’s no more wrong than Chuck Todd is. Why didn’t Vox point out that context? Oh, wait, because it didn’t fit their narrative. 

(4) Anderson Cooper, "you don’t know what his finances are because you haven’t seen his tax returns either. How do you know the government of Qatar hasn’t given [Trump] a million dollars?"

At least Anderson Cooper isn’t as overtly biased as many others at CNN or that Vox is using as an example. He does let his bias slip, and he skews left, but he’s not an obvious partisan hack. But without the bigger context of the interview, we don’t know what this is about. 

In general, I noticed the media (including Cooper) never, ever asked a question of the Obama administration that was, “you haven’t seen his School Transcripts, how do you know he wasn’t an affirmative action student, or illegally registered as a foreign student?” Or for Hillary, "you haven’t seen her Medical Transcripts, how do you know she isn’t bipolar?” That kind of loaded question shows a bias in even asking it, and they only seem to get asked of candidates that have an (R) after their name. 

It’s absurd to entertain a speculative question or answer. In fact, good interviewers are taught NOT to ask them. “How do you know your wife isn’t cheating on you?”. There’s no good way to answer that other than “Fuck off, this Interview is over you asshat”. But that’s not how politicians deal with asshats. Instead they answer the best question they can.

(5) Damned either way… 

“I don’t know”, is never the wrong answer if you don’t know. But they’re trying to attack her for doing it. So them going after her for it, again begs the question, how often do Press secretaries or spokespeople for other administrations do the same? Is it more or less than her. And when they didn’t, how often did they get caught up being wrong? This is a non-issue, without any support. Then they flip and go after her when she does try to answer on something, and might make a mistake in trying to answer their question. Basically, they’re damning her for answering or not answering something she isn’t sure on. In other words, if you’re Kellyanne and you’re not attacking your boss in the ways that the Interviewers or Vox readers like, then you’re wrong. 

(6) Re-invention

Trump is a bombast that overstates things. We all know that. So Trump says once (in the context of talking about Illegal Aliens) that they aren’t Mexico’s best and brightest but include felons and rapists. In clarification that day and others, he explains, “I wasn’t talking about all Mexicans, I was talking about illegal aliens”. The Press ignores the clarification and pretends he hates all Mexicans, meanwhile Hillary calling a wider swatch of Americans deplorables was just an accidental slip — they not only don’t require a clarification, they make it for her. “She obviously meant X”, which is a benefit of the doubt, never extended to Republicans — even after they have offered clarification, it is just ignored. (They went with “Mexicans” instead of “Illegals” knowing that he had clarified the next morning, or they aren’t good at their jobs. 

 Obama and Hillary did it too, the Press just doesn’t focus on it, or pound on them as much. Can you imagine if for months every liberal reporter beat on Obama with, “you said if we liked our plan, we could keep it — will you now admit you knowingly lied to the public?” You probably can’t imagine it, because it never happened. Oh well, a politician overstated something, next. Unless they have an (R) after their name. 

So Conway didn’t make anything up on “millions who voted illegally” — she went with a clarification that the administration had done of what Trump had meant (and had been repeated before, the Press just refused to pick up on). That they registered illegally. The same as the other clarifications that the media ignored. Criticizing Trump for being sloppy and saying “all people think X” instead of “most”…. Or saying “I won the popular vote” instead of “I might have even won the popular vote”, is just semantic warfare on Trump’s style. Something he’s worse at than other career politicians for sure, but something even seasoned professionals fall into, clarify, and the Press gets over. If they have a (D) after their name. 

Conclusion

So again, the video does cover some of the basics that all politicians use. It’s just completely deceptive in implying this is unique to Kellyanne and thus Trump, and that when she does it, it’s out of the blue and without good reason.  

The real question is should the media be laying traps, or be better at getting the real views of the administration?Because she was answering the latter, in her own way. 

Why did the president lie (exaggerate) on one side? Like on he won the popular vote? Usually because the media and left was lying about the legitimacy of his victory first. Tit for tat. Is that right? I don’t like the technique, but I understand it. She was evading, but the examples shown were because the questioners were starting by lying about their motives, omitting context in the questions, and trying to trap her first. So once you declare total partisan war on a interviewee, they’re going to do it back. 

Or the better question. Is Vox too biased to notice that, or were they trying to flimflam you on purpose?