Comey: A Dialogue

Mainsteam Media: Donald Trump fired James Comey! That’s very bad!

Trump Voter: Why is that bad? Weren’t you saying he is terrible at his job just last week? Trump fired him. That’s what Trump does. He fires bad people. Haven’t you seen his TV show?

MSM: Trump can’t just fire the head of the FBI.

TV: Sure he can. Nothing against it in the Constitution.

MSM: Well, perhaps he had the Constitutional right to do it, but the optics of it…

TV: What do you mean, “the optics?”

MSM: It looks bad!

TV: It looks bad to you maybe. Looks fine to me.

MSM: I don’t know why you’re not more worried. Firing the head of the FBI is the kind of thing they do in autocracies, not democracies! Trump is violating an inviolable norm.

TV: Hold on. Didn’t Clinton fire the head of the FBI? I think I read that.

MSM: Well, yes, Clinton did fire an FBI head. But that was different. That was for cause. There were ethics violations.

TV: What’s an “ethics violation?” It seems that, if Comey is as bad as you’ve been saying, he’s committed a few ethics violations over the course of the campaign. That’s a cause to fire him, right? Colbert’s audience cheered when he said Comey got fired.

MSM: Comey may have made mistakes, but they weren’t the right kind of mistakes to count as “ethics violations” –

TV: Says who?

MSM: – and anyway this is all beside the point, because Trump didn’t actually fire Comey because of what happened during the election. Trump fired Comey because he didn’t like Comey looking into the Russia connection.

TV: Come on! Don’t bullshit me. We know that there’s no secret Russia connection. God, you make fun of the right for that Pizzagate thing that happened on some internet message boards, and yet the New York Times trades in the idea that Donald Trump is a Manchurian Candidate for Putin? Every story I’ve read – both in the MSM and on right-wing media – says that Trump was mad at Comey precisely because he knew the investigation was bullshit. Trump was pissed that his name kept on getting dragged through the mud on this Russia thing when Hilary Clinton STILL HASN’T BEEN PROSECUTED FOR REMOVING HIGHLY CLASSIFIED INFORMATION FROM SECURE GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS. Trump has done nothing, and Hilary did something. Of course you’ve got your rationalizations for why Trump should be hounded to the ends of the earth and Hilary Clinton should spend out the rest of her years living comfortably with her millions in Chappaqua. But I’ve never been convinced by that, and I don’t know why you would expect me to be convinced now.

MSM: WOAH, hold on. Let’s forget Hilary Clinton for now –

TV: *smirks*

MSM: – and get back to what’s at issue here, which is Trump firing Comey.

TV: Comey worked for Trump and Comey was bad and Trump fired him. It’s really that simple.

MSM: But Trump didn’t fire him because he was bad. He was bad earlier and Trump praised him! Trump fired him because he was stupid and childish and imperialistic and he wanted nothing more than to –

TV: Fuck you. You say that about every Republican president. You said Bush was a stupid imperialistic child. You said Reagan was a stupid imperialistic child.

MSM: But Donald Trump REALLY IS a –

TV: We’re done here.


I think the MSM is right in this conversation, and the Trump voter is wrong. But until we start making arguments that will convince a Trump voter and not just stoke liberal anger, Trump’s approval rating won’t dip below 40%. Impeachment (richly deserved several times over just on the basis of the first four months in office!) remains entirely out of reach because we (the Trump-opposed) are not trying to convince Trump voters that he’s bad. We’re trying to convince ourselves that he’s bad. But we don’t need more convincing!

The MSM is too in love with its moral posturing (“Democracy Dies in Darkness!”) to play the role that it wants to play and that it needs to play. A thing isn’t a scandal because the media regards it as a scandal. It’s a scandal if the American people regard it as a scandal. The Comey firing should be a scandal, but it isn’t because Trump voters have not been given a compelling reason to regard it as one. Every piece written on the Comey firing that does not begin and end with a discussion of the nuances of the notion of the rule of law is doing the country a disservice. Pieces that don’t discuss what is really at issue just further feed the perception that this whole affair is nothing more than liberal partisan insanity. Nathan J. Robinson gets it right.

The rule of thumb: If your arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny from the other side’s criticisms, they’re not good arguments.

This is why intellectual diversity is important: Without intellectual diversity, you lose the ability to make good arguments because you lose the ability to subject your own arguments to appropriate scrutiny. As a result, you won’t be able to convince the other side when they are wrong, and you won’t be in a position to know when you yourself are wrong. Without intellectual diversity, the ability to reason well atrophies. Then partisanship takes over. Then the wolves come.


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