Donald Trump’s proclamations of Fake News are often unfair, and are always meant to distract from his extraordinary failings as a president. But sometimes he’s got a point. This story, about the woman convicted for laughing at Jeff Sessions, is one example. The basic fact may be true. It was laughing, and the disorderly conduct that followed it, that got this woman convicted. But that’s not the way it is being used.
It’s being used as the sign of creeping authoritarianism, or the idea that Washington, DC is changing in an important way. What’s more authoritarian than a trial for laughter!?!? Well, I can tell you from personal experience that that is not the case. In fact, I was a juror, in a trial for exactly this sort of thing in the Obama administration. Needless to say, there were no mainstream media stories about the evils and authoritarianism stemming from that case. This video tells that story.
As any familiarity with my channel will tell you, I am deeply committed to opposing Donald Trump. What I am aware of, that few people at the Washington Post, or the Democratic National Committee seem to be aware of, is the fact that we need to persuade people who don’t agree with us to slay this dragon. When Trump gets up there and shouts “Fake News!” it shouldn’t be this easy for his followers to believe him. There’s this idea that his supporters are all anti-rational resentment bots who will support him no matter what. There’s certainly some of that. But I know plenty of smart people who find his approach interesting, if embarrassing, and are on the fence. A media that does exactly what Trump says it does, and produces “Fake News” like this, is not going to get the “Trump-curious” on our side of the fence.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey There! Have you heard about the woman who was convicted for laughing at Jeff Sessions!?!? Well, that story is Fake News at its worst. I think before I start talking about this, I should establish some of my biases. I am a convinced opponent of Donald Trump. I hate his presidency. I have real problems with him as a man, a politician, and i think he’s bad for the country. I’ve got like 30 videos on that topic. Jeff Sessions in particular, I think, is the worst of his many bad cabinet appointments. So I don’t like these guys, I am not a Trump supporter, but looking at this particular incident I can say with great confidence that this is fake news.
And it’s the sort of thing that we should avoid. Throughout the Trump presidency, and during his candidacy I made a lot of videos against Donald Trump. But I’ve also made a few videos pointing out what I believe to be a very large problem. I want to oppose Donald Trump, and a lot of people in our Media want to oppose Donald Trump, and when that involves surfacing facts, finding scandals, Reporting on the bad things he does, the crazy things he does, I’m obviously completely in support of that. I’m tremendously reliant on this reporting. But I also think that the Media should hold itself to a higher standard.
If they want to be believed when they put out stuff about the legitimate, very real problems, scandals and corruptions of the Trump administration they have to be honest about what they report. They can’t create a controversy where none really exists.
I have noticed this news story over the past couple days, and I was going to let it slide, but it’s already morphed into something that people are treating as important and significant, when it is really, really not. Today I read an article by Dan Drezner, someone I follow rigorously, he’s someone whose reporting, well perhaps not reporting, but his opinion journalism, I respect his opinion journalism deeply and I enjoy it and I find it very useful. He wrote an article today talking about whether or not the Trump Administration is transitioning into an authoritarian regime, or a different form of government.
I think that’s a very open question, and I think that’s a very interesting question, but one of the points that he used to support this was the fact that a woman had been convicted for laughing at Jeff Sessions. Now this claim, and I think this is the way that a lot of people are treating this…. Doesn’t really deal with the facts of the case. The facts are this… a woman, a Code Pink protester, during a confirmation session for Jeff Sessions, the acting Attorney General of the United States, caused a disturbance. She laughed, she protested she resisted being removed from the meeting, and she shouted on her way out, and she struggled with police officers.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. I absolutely support Code Pink, in some of their activities, I absolutely support their right to protest, to create disturbances. I think I’m probably in support of the rules, of the laws that this protester has been convicted of violating. I think that the country has an interest in our deliberative bodies being able to do their job. I think that congressional hearings should not be disrupted.
I think the public should be there, and I think that the public should be there to witness it, but not necessarily insert themselves into the proceedings. Civil Disobedience, the breaking of laws to make a point, is an honored tradition in our country, and while I believe it is appropriate, just and sometimes necessary for people to break laws like this, laws against disrupting Congress, laws against protesting in certain places, and I think that they are even heroic for doing so, sometimes, I also believe that the laws make sense. This person is noble for breaking this law and making her views heard, but she also should pay the consequences, if a jury of her peers decides that she should. So the central claim, about this, and how it relates to Jeff Sessions, or the Trump presidency is the idea that the fact that this woman was convicted shows some kind of progress down the path towards authoritarianism.
Free Speech is being threatened in a new and different way! Well, actually, I can say from personal experience that that is not true. A number of years back, during the Obama administration, I was a juror on exactly this sort of case.
Sadly, I can’t remember exactly what the issue was, but it was a code pink protester, it was a man this time, who was prosecuted for disrupting a Congressional hearing. I can’t remember exactly what the matter was, what the issue that he was protesting was, but I agreed with him, completely, I thought that he was right to be outraged by this particular piece of congressional business. And I think that his choice to disrupt that hearing was noble, I think it was a good thing, and he’s kind of heroic for doing it. I also believe that he should suffer the consequences for that. What I do remember form the trial is that he used exactly the same defense strategy that this woman from this news story did. And he won.
I, and I think one other juror didn’t really like the idea of declaring him not guilty, but it seemed like most people in the jury room wanted to go with him, and decide it politically, and agree with him that what he was protesting was a bad thing.
I wasn’t so much in support of that, but I eventually gave up, and we declared him not guilty. The man’s defense was that when he heard the particular passage of Congressional testimony, he was overcome by feelings of betrayal and anger, and he had no choice, he involuntarily made a disturbance and had to be taken out. So he couldn’t possibly be held responsible for this. This wasn’t what he intended. And most of the jurors bought that. Like I said, I was for finding him guilty, nobody else really was, and they were convinced that he really was just some guy who showed up and felt like he had to speak out.
So we decided to return a not guilty verdict. What was interesting is that when we got into the court room to deliver our verdict…
During the trial they had been very careful to portray this guy as a very normal guy in a business suit. But for the verdict, the court room was filled with his fellow Code Pink supporters. We didn’t realize until we got back into the court room that this guy had intended to make a disturbance when he got to the congress. I thought that was kind of a interesting little trick that the Defense pulled there, and it was well done… anyway! The guy was not guilty.
In this trial, the woman was guilty, but these are not new laws that she was prosecuted under, these are not decisions that Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump had anything to do with. I’m not sure exactly what the jurisdiction of the case was, but the chances are pretty high it was in a Washington, DC court, with jurors that are predisposed to dislike Trump. So I’m likely to think that if this jury was willing to convict this woman, then yeah, she probably deserved it, she probably broke the rules as written.
Now I understand the instinct to take something like this, something that makes a nice news hook, that makes a nice news story, and twist it, to use it as a weapon against DonaldTrump and Jeff Sessions. These are people I do not like, and would like them to be out of power, as soon as possible. But if we do it by lying, If we do it by bending the story out of all proportion to its actual facts, and actual things that had happened, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot.
This is a great news story for people like me and my friends, who really don’t like Donald Trump, but for my friends who do like Donald Trump this is essentially useless. It’s not going to convince them of anything. Media should not focus on useless hogwash like this. Media should focus on the many, real, documented and glaring scandals in the Trump administration. This story is just fake news.
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