The only winning move is not to play

The only winning move is not to play August 16, 2017


What does that quote from Wargames have to do with Trump, and his loony press conference, and its aftermath?  Is there any point to it besides revealing my age?

In the movie, a supercomputer controls the American nuclear missile system, and a teen boy hacks into its system, thinking he’s playing a computer game but unknowningly triggering that computer believing that a real attack from the Soviet Union is occurring (or maybe that a political scenario has occurred which its wargaming programming tells it requires a nuclear attack, I forget which).  In the climax, the computer, “Joshua,” “learns” that a nuclear war is unwinnable, and says, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?” — at which point, with seconds to spare, it releases its control over the missiles rather than launch them.

No, I’m not suggesting that we’re headed into nuclear war.  But I’ve very uncomfortable with how the Charlottesville aftermath is playing out, as we’re headed toward a confrontation between Trump and, well, a long list of opponents, and further battles between the ragtag groups of rightwing extremists vs. the antifa, who seem to be growing in their confidence.  Each side is emboldened, and it worries me.  And, yes, what follows is somewhat rambling but here goes:

To back up:  if you haven’t heard, Trump gave a press conference yesterday.  It was not his finest moment.  Among other things, as the Tribune reports, of the protesters, he said,

“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?” Trump said. “And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

which he’s getting (rightly) criticized for.   To whatever degree there may be supporters of the “keep the monuments” movement who truly believe that they are defending historical preservation, they weren’t the ones at that march, and any well-meaning but misinformed “good people” should have been scared off with the news reports of the prior night’s “Jews will not replace us” rally, so this is wishful thinking on Trump’s part, and demonstrates his willingness to give these people a desperate “benefit of the doubt” but did not hesitate to characterize Mexicans as primarily criminals.

So I don’t really know what’s going on in his head.  Perhaps it’s simply a matter of saving face, having said, or strongly implied, that both sides bore the blame in equal measure on Saturday.  Perhaps he is as evil as the worst-case interpretation of his actions says, that he thinks that having white nationalists supporting him is to his benefit.  Perhaps he just doesn’t want to believe that “nice white kids” would be this bad.

But look at the headlines.

The Chicago Tribune:  “Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for Charlottesville violence.”

CNN:  “Trump is who we feared he was.”

Trump CNN snip

This is a screen capture from last night, as shared by @EsotericCD, who captions it, “We feared he was ratings gold,” and reminds his readers that CNN’s actions did a great deal to elevate Trump in the primary campaign.

Now look at the right hand side.  See that headline, “Far right planning 9 rallies this weekend”?  Here’s the link.

And the report:

Major cities across the country are bracing for an unusual wave of far-right rallies in the coming days.

The largest scheduled rally is the “March on Google,” which will take place in nine major US cities Saturday. The aim is to protest the firing of Google employee James Damore over a controversial memo he wrote about the company’s diversity policies. Damore has said he doesn’t support the “alt-right,” and will “likely not” participate.

But what is the “March on Google”?  On the organizers’ site, they say (as of August 14th)

  • The March on Google condemns and disavows violence, hatred, and bigotry and all groups that espouse it such as White Nationalists, KKK, Antifa, and NeoNazis.
  • We will not use messages that are designed to incite anger, hate, or violence.
  • We will respect the law and the police and cooperate in all matters.
  • Any violation of these tenets will not be tolerated.
    Is this an “Alt-Right” event? The answer is no. This is an event for First Amendment supporters from across the country, from all backgrounds, ethnicity, and walks of life. We will not tolerate any incendiary actions, messages, remarks, or gestures that go against the respectful, “open basket” spirit of the event.

And, following on the CNN report, they posted the following this morning:

The Peaceful March on Google has been postponed due to credible Alt Left terrorist threats for the safety of our citizen participants.

Despite our clear and straightfoward statements denouncing bigotry and hatred, CNN and other mainstream media made malicious and false statements that our peaceful march was being organized by Nazi sympathizers.

Following the articles, credible threats from known Alt Left terrorist groups have been reported to and relevant authorities have been notified.

In one instance, an Alt Left threat was made to use an automobile to drive into our peaceful march.

We hope to hold our peaceful march in a few weeks’ time.

We look forward to the day when the human right of peaceful Free Speech is once again able to be practiced in America.

Now, as it turns out, one of the organizers, Jack Posobiec, is possibly part of the “Alt Right,” though I can’t quite sort out the claims as to where he falls on the spectrum.  (I’d add a link but I couldn’t figure out which of the available links was a reasonably credible source.)

(After drafting, I came across Ann Althouse, today, reporting that Posobiec is reportedly a part of the “Alt-Lite”, linking to the New York Times, which differentiates between the groups because the “lite” group is not racist.)

But CNN’s article provided no evidence of any extremism in the march itself.  They didn’t mention Posobiec’s involvement, or anyone else’s, or any specifics at all.  They simply labeled this a “far-right” and “alt-right” event and strongly implied that it was no different than the Charlottesville rally.

What does it matter?

It probably bothers me more than it should because back in the day, CNN was very much my first source for breaking news.  Ask me about 9/11 and I’ll tell you about dropping my then-toddler off at daycare, after the planes had crashed, then checking the site impatiently while trying to get work done.  Due to slow connections and overwhelming traffic, updates were slow.

But it also feels like this is just going to make a bad situation worse.  CNN is not going to, by the moral force of its reporting, cause Trump to resign, nor cause him to be expelled from office without having actually committed a crime.  They are not going to “win” this battle.  But just as they proclaim that Trump has emboldened the white nationalists (and are creating this fact themselves as well), CNN may be emboldening the leftists, convincing them that they are the “good guys” and their violence is justified.

And, at the same time, will the white nationalists draw any other lesson from this than, eh, maybe next time let’s cover our faces like the antifa?  Every time pundits and politicians say, “Trump’s failure to denounce white nationalists forcefully enough is a hidden gesture of support,” do they not hear that, too?

I mean, really, how many more street fights do we need?


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