Bienvenida a nothingburger: The Trump-Cuba flap
By Daniel M. Ryan
If there's any folk wisdom to come from the mainstream media's persistent bias, it's this: "If you run a kangaroo court, it's only a matter of time before your decisions are nullified." That's exactly what's happening, as more and more folks catch on and become 'paranoid'. In fact, they're sizing up the usual suspects as untrustworthy.
Knowledge of liberal bias is widespread nowadays, so much so that it's not wrong to label this perception as counter-mainstream. We're a very long way from the days when this knowledge was confined to Reed Irvine seemingly shouting into the wilderness and folks talking back to the television when they saw an egregious example of it. There were floods of pieces on the Internet exposing Lester Holt's playfield-tilting within a day of the debate. We're a long, long way past the day when you'd have to wait on a magazine, newsletter or low-selling book to pick through what Holt did. So much so, I anticipate a future when "Uncle John" ranting about MSM bias irritates the youngsters on the grounds that he's belabouring the obvious! "Awright, awright, awright, I know! I know! In other shocking news, home invasions! Jeeez…."
In the latest issue of Newsweek, the cover story was yet another example of this bias. The magazine made a yuge, yuge, hand-waving deal about Donald Trump looking into business opportunities in Cuba – and ins so doing, possibly skirting around U.S. embargo laws. As has been so often the case with respect to Trump, this 'shocking exposé' is a nothingburger. For an on-again-off-again Trump watcher like yours truly, the hit-piece component was as stale as a loaf of bread cooked in 1998. Other than the details therein, it was a complete nothing.
Why? Because long ago, Trump himself suggested that he did do something like that. From his The America We Deserve:
We like to believe that investment abroad can raise the living standards of third-world people. In Cuba, foreign investors are not allowed to hire or pay Cuban workers. They must pay the government directly for the workers. Castro then pays the workers token salaries in worthless Cuban money and keeps the rest. Under these circumstances, my investment could not help average Cubans – it could only replace the Soviet subsidy Castro no longer receives.
The entire section on Cuba, pp. 136-140, shows an in-depth knowledge of the ugly underbelly of Castro's faux-perestroika. So much so that after I first read it months ago, I concluded that Trump had tried to do business there but recoiled from the terms. Realistically, there was no other way he or his research assistants could have gotten that knowledge. Would he have gotten it from one of his business friends? No, for the very simple reason that all of them knew how outspoken Trump is. In 1998, the embargo laws were relaxed and it looked like normalization was becoming a thing. Businesspeople and talented entrepreneurs quickly realized that normalization could offer the chance to get in the ground floor of the new post-Soviet Russia or economic zones of communist China. Why wouldn't they? In 1998, that loosening – and the fact that the embargo laws were laxly enforced anyway – said that there was a real shot at getting in on a new fortune by anticipating normalization. It really did seem like the Next Big Thing.
Every entrepreneur knows that fortunes are made by spotting an opportunity that's going to become hot and gearing up for it before it becomes a Thing. Donald Trump himself made his first fortune by correctly anticipating that New York would turn around. When he started with the Commodore, few well-informed people agreed with him.
Why did he have to get the knowledge himself? Simple: if there's an opportunity that requires playing nice with a dictator, a normal businessman who finds out those dark secrets is going to shut up about 'em. How many prudent businesspeople would blow their chances on a better deal down the road by sounding the alarm and getting blacklisted by the Castro government as a result? The same number of professional sinologists who blew the whistle on Mao's Cultural Revolution when it was taking place. None, and for substantially the same reason: " I don't want to be blacklisted and cut off."
You certainly wouldn't tell someone as outspoken as Donald Trump about it, given that it would be not that hard for the Castro Communists or their sympathizers to trace his exposé back to you. Not unless he swore to keep the story confidential, in which case we would not have read about it – certainly not until long after 1998-2000.
So, common sense says that Trump found out for himself in the only way that someone could. That's why Newsweek's "exposé" is a nothingburger. Particularly, to anyone who knows how businesspeople tick when they smell opportunity – and that anticipating trends these days includes anticipating changes in geopolitics and the laws.
Newsweek's playing the double-standard game is also a non-news nothingburger. From the standpoint of journalism, Trump's excerpt above was an eye-opening scoop. He, as citizen-journalist, provided an exposé which showed that the real Cuba was very different from "Cuba" as depicted by the usual suspects. We know very well that an opportunistic left-liberal who smelled opportunity in the notorious "I'm A Pedophile, But Not A Monster" article in Salon, would be lionized as a hero if he hit the deep web, socialized with pedophiles and won their confidence, and then published a "shocking exposé" in the same vein as that Salon piece. Only "Uncle John" would raise pointed questions about what that journo did while he was "researching," and of course he'd get the usual "Uncle John" treatment thrown at his chest. Even though arguably breaking laws related to child molestation is far, far more serious than arguably breaking (or bending) the embargo laws.
No, the double standard is not news – but it is eye-opening because it shows the tilt of our times. More broadly than journalist guildishness, liberal proneness to exempt their ideological likesake, or half-a-job shallowness, it shows how the political field is tilted against doers.
You'd have to be old, or something of a cultural historian, to remember the old vibrant days of America when critics were put in their place. A single if sadly fustian example from Robert A Heinlein writing as Lazarus Long: "A 'critic' is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is a logic in this; he is unbiased - he hates all creative people equally." (Time Enough For Love, p. 247; I got it from here.) Replace "creates" with "does", "creative men" and "creative people" with "doers", and you've got a slice of sense from an America at its height. ""A 'critic' is a man who [does] nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of [doers]…."
True, a naïve person would regard those times as harsh on critics and unfair to them. But critics didn't have it that badly; they had weapons of their own. One basic weapon is one you know aggravatingly well if you bumped into an aggressive atheist: pouncing on inconsistencies. In this case, picking through the entire set of Lazarus-Long sayings and tub-thumping about any apparent hypocrisy therein. "Looky here: he says 'Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters' on p. 241 but says 'The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning, while those other subjects merely require scholarship' on p. 349! Smell the hypocrisy!"
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the word "hypocrite" is a critic's best lance.
Moreover, and more pertinently, it is easier to criticize than it is to create or do something. True, becoming a critic does require some upfront work. (Getting the facts straight, for one, is an acquired skill that is not easy to learn.) But once the critic has got it down, criticizing is as straightforward as doing high-school math homework is for a kid with a 150 I.Q. Apply the methods, use the tools, rinse and repeat.
In contrast, creating – or doing something at a level above rinse-and-repeat - requires not only prior learnings but also tacit knowledge that can only be picked up by trial and error. A real doer, or a real creative, has a whole junkyard of errors on the way to success.
When you realize this, you see that the old-style disdain for critics amongst creatives and doers was a necessary shield. People that are hemmed in by critics do not have the free-wheeling confidence needed to try, to fail (perhaps fail badly), and try again.
It's as if critics were a pack of wolves and the doers/creatives were a herd of caribou. Like real wolves, critics regnant cull the herd and make the surviving caribou more resilient (and more protective of their young) than they otherwise would be. But they also make the caribou more cautious, more risk-averse, and more inclined to stay with the herd.
In democratic politics, critics serve a vital function by taking down candidates that are not ready for prime time - or who are unfit for office. But because of the natural tilt towards critics vis-à-vis movers and shakers, they also take down doers – not to mention politicians willing to stick their necks out. When you see a professional politician, mostso the kind of professional politician that makes you grind your molars, you're seeing a "robust" caribou. The other kinds, including the kinds that possess needed skills associated with doers or creatives, get taken down. They lose their chances, and we citizens lose their skills.
As I said above, political critics do provide a service by culling the herd of politicians that could be a mess or a possible danger. Part of the reason that mainstream-media bias is so aggravating is the fact that their finely-honed critics' skills are glaringly not turned upon liberal politicians - except in carefully circumscribed ways. In one sense, the MSM has failed us because they're lackaday critics.
In one way, it would be a real blessing if the MSM were as hard on Dems as they are on Pubbies. But in another way, it would be a curse. If they were to drop their double-standard exemption policy, you'd see a political landscape where every electable politician resembles a professional-pol type of Republican. Every one of them would be like Mitt Romney. True, this would restrain the Dems; it would drive out the moonbats and the libs flying feel-good blind. But do we really want a landscape in which all politicians have the same smoothness, glibness and pliability as the stereotypical RINO? Would we be better off being governed by a consensus of Mike Huckabees?
If you answer "no," then you have a good strategic reason to back Trump even if you're a Trump skeptic. A victory for Donald Trump, with all his flaws, means that the critics now regnant will be effectively dethroned. Even if a President Trump might resemble what you fear he'll be, the Trump Train is the only force strong enough to blaze the trail for the kind of Conservative who can do something about the problems we all know are festering. If you're waiting for a Conservative with the steel to tackle those problems, Trump is the only heavy equipment capable of blazing a trail for you. Like the Trump enthusiasts until this election, you'll have to wait your turn – but you'll find the going a lot less difficult when your turn does come. Until then, you can await the happy day when you need only say "media bias" and the folks around you nod and agree.
Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.