Mueller Report

Being several thousand years old (I forget my exact birthday) I can sometimes have difficulty telling the difference between true reporting and satire. Therefore, without deciding which this is, I share it with you.

New Attorney General William Barr is at risk of losing three stars and being demoted to Attorney Brigadier General after a flurry of lawsuits have been filed in response to his handling of the Mueller Report. While there were protests over Barr’s four page synopsis to a document that is reported to contain over 400 pages, no one foresaw recent developments.

Readers’ Digest filed suit against Barr for copying, without permission, their popular Condensed Books style that was first published in the early 1950s. Many people used Readers’ Digest Condensed Books to experience popular literature without the need to spend inordinate amounts of time actually reading. No sooner had the Justice Department been served with a cease and desist order (and President Trump had tweeted, “Totally exonerated! No confefe! WHICH HAUNT!”) than the second of three shoes dropped.

Cliff’s Notes, a popular study guide, that has been published in the United States since the late 1950s argued that the truncation and radical editing performed by Barr was more like their system than Readers’ Digest’s. “Every student,” they protested at a frantically scheduled press conference, “knows that they can turn to Cliff’s Notes as a concise, terse, minimalist synopsis of traditionally assigned readings.” When asked if Donald Trump ever used their product, the press conference was abruptly halted.

An industry insider anonymously provided additional information . “With Readers’ Digest Condensed Books, it is still necessary for the customer to read dozens—if not hundreds–of actual printed pages. Cliff’s Notes, on the other hand presents lengthy classics in a format that can be read–cover to  during a single visit to the bathroom!”

In the meantime, the same industry source tells us that Classics Illustrated is in negotiations with the US Government Printing Office to reproduce the Barr version of the Mueller Report in four-color comic book format. Classics Illustrated hasn’t published in years, but is prepared to print this special edition because it appeals to those who prefer to never read real books.

Neither Cliff’s Notes nor Classics Illustrated would provide specifics as to the length of their proposed publications, except to say that they would be “more than four pages, but less than 400.”

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Mob Mentality

There is a phenomenon in which people who normally know and adhere to their values change when in the company of an emotionally charged group. Over the past millennia, I’ve seen it far too often. Call it “peer pressure”, “groupthink”, or “mob mentality”, it doesn’t matter.

Since most people in your time are not scholars of history, I won’t use an obscure example, but one with which most of you are familiar. Nevertheless, the same interaction has recurred time after time–the living do not learn, so it is up to those of us who are gone to explain.

In an ancient land with no BBC, no cable, no wi-fi, a man approaches a village. A murmur passes through the crowd. “This is the ONE that we’ve been waiting for! He is the one!”

The people run together and a crowd forms and welcomes him. “Hail to our hope! Hail to our future! Hail to military victory!”

But it is not Alexander, or Caesar, Hitler, or Stalin. It is an itinerant teacher who has asked for nothing; who has accepted only a place to sleep and a shared meal.

As he approaches, the people line the streets.

“You are what we’ve prayed for! You are the best–Holy, Holy, Holy (holiest, the third order of holy). We wave palms over your head! We lay our cloaks for you to walk over. You are THE one.”

A few days later, in the middle of the night, a kangaroo court is held to condemn the same man to death. The mob, this time, cries “Crucify him.”

Was it the same people?

Think.

 

 

Fact and Fiction

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams

If something is a reasonably accurate representation of reality, it is a fact. As humans, we’re incapable of observing, remembering, and then stating any event with 100 percent accuracy, even though most people try.

However, if you tell a lie, that’s what it is.

If you repeatedly tell a lie, it remains a lie.

If you get a million people to repeat your lie, it still remains a lie. It does not become a fact.

You may be able to kiss a frog and have it become a prince, but a lie is a lie is a lie.

It’s not a difficult concept, so why do so many people find it impossible to understand?

Politics Explained

I swear, I never get any peace and quiet. It had been a long day, walking through town with my lamp lit, telling anyone foolish enough to ask why that, “I’m searching for an honest man.” What a load of rubbish–but they continue to buy it.

Eventually, I made my way home to my sewer, crawled in, tuned out the cockroaches and rats, and closed my eyes. Immediately, some ignoramus (assuming that he was in fact, ignorant, rather than stupid) shook me and demanded an answer to his question.

“What is politics?” he asked.

I stared at him with the best malevolent look I could muster. He was undeterred. When I realized that my scowl would not get rid of him, I figured that the next best way was to give him some cryptic answer. Perhaps then he’d leave.

“Do you believe politics is more like chess or poker?” I asked him. He stammered and admitted that he did not know.

“It’s like both,” I told him. “It’s a long range game, but a long range game in which bluffing and cheating are not only allowed, but encouraged.”

He looked more puzzled as he walked away than he had when he had approached.

He’ll never understand politics.

I understand politics, so I went back to sleep.

Corruption

Over the millennia, I’ve seen kingdoms and nations rise and fall. Some nations are created by Divine edict, by military conquest, by discovery, or even the will of the people. However, most tend to die by the same method.

They rot from within.

The wars you’ve seen recently–Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam–were all failed or failing states. They either were already corrupt, or ripe for corruption. That’s not only how nations fall, it’s why nations fall.

Through corrupt means, the elites enrich themselves at the expense of the general populace. As the gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, the people become divided. The division may be political, religious, or philosophical, but most often it’s economic. The wider the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the population, the more likely it will devolve into destruction.

Hitler came to power because the German people were economically desperate due to reparations from the First World War. Hitler was an outsider–a non-elite–who was viewed as a possible savior. Lenin was also an outsider viewed as the solution to Russia’s problems. The Nazis and the Communists each set conditions for a division within their country.

Who will be next? There are a number of likely candidates. What’s your guess?

 

Us, Them, and Me

“I” am powerful. “We” are dangerous.

If someone has an agenda, such as a politician or an actor, the worst way to build a following would be to sit  down, one-on-one with another individual and lay out the idea in a logical format. Why? The listener would examine the proposal, critically evaluate its merits and reach a logical conclusion as to its intellectual merit.

On the other hand, if the proponent presents the idea to a group–the larger the better–inevitably there will be some who agree with it. When these people express their support through cheers or chants, more will pick up the emotion and join in. Eventually, few will be silent.

Unfortunately, one of the easiest emotions to stir up in people is irrational hate.

The same people who had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, turned up at his illegal overnight kangaroo court with cries of “Crucify Him!”

In America, there has often been the idea, spoken loudly, that, “The only good [Insert group here] is a dead [and here].”

My advice to you is “Never let go of yourself. The individual is better equipped to make decisions than any group.”

In George Orwell’s novel 1984 he spoke of “groupthink,” in which all, or at least most, of the members of a group accept an idea because the group does, not because they have made a conscious and deliberate decision that it is what they believe. There is another term for this–mob mentality.

Perhaps the idea is best expressed in the movie Men in Black: 

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they’ve ever “known” has been proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody knew as a fact, that the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.