Late Night Pavlov’s Dogs Open Thread: They’ll Believe What They WANNA Believe

Epistemic closure down at the blunt, encrusted end of the stick…

I actually posted an earlier version of this late last night, but quickly pulled it back, deciding the topic needed more thought. Today, Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post published a piece well worth reading. Sullivan is a professional ombudsman (IIRC, the one who got fired when the NYTimes decided it no longer needed the pretense of objectivity). The sliming of Parkland students shows the spreading stain of media polarization”:

“David Hogg Is A High School Bully,” was the headline of a blog post Erickson wrote soon after the shooting, referring to one of the student survivors who has become a leader in pushing for gun-control legislation. He didn’t mean Hogg was looting the lockers of his schoolmates, but, as the sub-headline claimed, “He is using his status as victim to inappropriately and ridiculously attack people while going unchallenged.”

This week, Erickson made it worse: He tweeted to his mass following what turned out to be an utter falsehood, based on an article on the RedState website speculating that Hogg may not have even been at school the day of the shooting.

He urged his audience to believe it, writing this “isn’t a fake news Gateway Pundit story.”

When that report was thoroughly debunked and RedState recanted, Erickson deleted his original tweet and posted an “update.” He did not apologize.

“I spread misinformation from someone that was credible,” Erickson told me by phone, praising the reporting of RedState writer Sarah Rumpf.

“But I didn’t double down on it, and that’s the difference between someone responsible and someone who’s not responsible.”..

Erickson’s actions matter because, despite his often extreme views, he’s seen as relatively moderate — someone who gets to offer platitudes about “healing” in the New York Times and whose comments get picked up — not as if they were the ravings of an Alex Jones, but as if he were a legitimate conservative opinion maker.

What we’re seeing here is a spreading stain, in which conspiracy mongering from the likes of Infowars and, yes, Gateway Pundit is adopted by some elements of the formerly mainstream right and peddled to a receptive audience softened up for decades by Fox News.

That kind of thing can happen on the extreme left, too, but not as regularly and not as virulently. (And it’s a truism that corrections and “updates” everywhere fail to get the visibility of the original misinformation.)

There seems to be no floor of indecency that we agree to stay above.

As Charlie Warzel, who covers “information wars” for BuzzFeed News, put it recently: Extreme partisanship — pro-Trump media as well as parts of the far left — “is not about intellectual courage. It’s about winning.”…

For the record, the original Redstate poster did apologize, in a long tweet thread…

… And Erickson really *is* the problem here; she’s a poster on a notoriously RWNJ blog; he’s now a Semi-Very-Serious Media Figure, who’s made his name out of clambering over the bones of left-wing “victims”…

On the other hand…

Maybe I’m just a cynical American, but I don’t think the RWNJ Parkland smears required much sophisticated coordination. Too many of us, particularly on the “conservative” parts of the political spectrum, have gleefully bought into the narrative that everything we don’t like is A CONSPIRACY spread by THEM to keep the SHEEPLE in the dark. No need for the Mercers or the Kochs to waste their precious dollars ginning up theories, when so many volunteers will pick through the debris after every catastrophe looking for ‘crisis actors’ or granite countertops!

And now the “but those Parkland kids are not worthy enough victims” has embedded itself…

69 replies
  1. 1
    oatler. says:

    “Nazis are socialists therefore leftists! It’s in Revelations, people!”

  2. 2
    Death Panel Truck says:

    Funny how those in the “Party of Personal Responsibility” never take any.

  3. 3
    Corner Stone says:

    is adopted by some elements of the formerly mainstream right and peddled to a receptive audience softened up for decades by Fox News.

    No such thing.

  4. 4
    jl says:

    For some reason I spent some time to read the original report and Rumpf’s retraction and explanation. I don’t find her explanation credible. It was very sloppy reporting in the first place. She grabbed on out-of-context quote from Hogg on what he did later, hours after the shooting, and without any further investigation went with a conspiratorial interpretation that was pleasing to a certain type of reactionary mindset. From what I read, Hogg never said anything that implied he wasn’t at the school during the shooting.

    At least Rumpf did the right thing in the end. Erickson is beneath contempt.

  5. 5
    Peale says:

    I like how Erik is portrayed as being mainstream and somehow moderately right wing like he’s closer to David Brooks and not ten steps to the right, beyond Cal Tomas.

  6. 6
    Mary G says:

    Re-upping from the last thread, with a few edits for cleanup, about Charli Kirk blocking me on Twitter:

    He said Planned Parenthood donated in 2016 $7.8 million to candidates and murdered babies, while the NRA spent $3.2 million, killed no one & other twaddle. I said had his numbers wrong and sent him a link to Fortune Magazine showing they spent approx. $30 million, ~$20 million for Twitler and ~$11 million against HRC. He sent me a gif of a baby slapping its head & a link to Open Secrets for 2018 showing they’ve spent about $1 million this year. I said he had the year wrong and tweeted him the page from his own site same where they spent $54 million total on the 2016 election on “outside spending” plus more to candidates. Then he blocked me and all the tweets disappeared.

  7. 7
    piratedan says:

    and when you call them on it, you don’t get anything genuine… Kathy Griffin, a D-list celeb if there ever was one, got nailed for doing something tactless (even though that is one of her primary schticks as a performer) and actually gave what appeared to be a sincere and genuine apology.

    Someone like Erickson… sorry if you were offended that I went ahead and promoted someone who mistakenly smeared a teenager who just went through a traumatic life event.

    when we get it wrong, they call for scalps, when they get it wrong… well its just the cost of doing business, suck it up and move on….

    I guess I still find it unfathomable when I sit here and think that someone is fucking bankrolling oppo research on a bunch of fucking high schoolers who’s claim to fame is that they survived a mass shooting and are protesting so it doesn’t fucking happen again… that these kids, are now considered legitimate targets, enemies of someone with money who wants to silence their voices and shut down their activism…

    people like that? speaking as a person who tries to handle conflict in a compassionate, calm manner .. this stuff just makes me want to see those folks hurt, financially, ethically, socially, see them cast out as being not worthy of being in the society that we all want to aspire to.

  8. 8
    RobertDSC-Mac Mini says:

    @Mary G:

    Coward. Damn fool. Good job owning his dumb ass.

  9. 9
    Mnemosyne says:


    Rumpf is pissy that these disrespectful high school students are tweeting mean things to Marco Rubio just because he took millions of dollars in donations from the NRA. She was searching for a way to discredit them, and she thought she’d found it.

    The right wing is running scared because they know these kids are credible and sympathetic. The Parkland kids are demolishing all of the propaganda that conservatives had so carefully constructed during the Obama years.

  10. 10
    Geeno says:

    @Mary G: I’m not sure I see what about any of this is surprising. It seems to follow a perfectly expected pattern.

  11. 11
    Jay says:

    Rationalwiki, the go to place for wingnuttery of every flavour, starts off Erick Erickson’s page with:

    “Were you looking for the significantly more reasonable developmental psychologist, Erik EriksonWikipedia’s W.svg?”

  12. 12
    BillCinSD says:

    I still find it amazing that someone who called a Supreme Court Justice a goat fucking child molester has any pretense to respectability

  13. 13
    jl says:

    @BillCinSD: I didn’t know Erickson commented here at Balloon-Juice.

  14. 14
    Jay says:


    It’s because when Al Gore created the intertubes, he didn’t embed the intertube rules in the TOS,

    #147 of which, is for every lie about a victim you publish on line, every one you meet in the Real World get’s one free punch in your throat, or nards if short or a child, with out consequences.

  15. 15
    jl says:

    @Mary G:

    Will be interesting to see if this leads anyplace. NRA does modified limited hangout on getting foreign donations, but, see, they moved the money around different accounts, so nothing for the election (honest!!). Claim no connection with Russia. I doubt FEC will do anything about it. Maybe someone else will look.

    NRA Acknowledges Receiving Foreign Funds, Moving Money Between Accounts
    By Allegra Kirkland | March 27, 2018

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: @Mnemosyne: You need to keep in mind that the “rumpfshaker” isn’t a journalist. She’s a campaign communications professional that works on behalf of Republican candidates and conservative causes. She’s also very religiously conservative to round things out. That she took credit for the error is a good thing, but you need to keep in mind what she is primarily trained and educated to do and what she actually does do professionally.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: The FBI is investigating, which means Mueller’s team is looking. What the NRA tried to obscure is that money is fungible. So if they took donations from someone in Canada and put it in account A. It freed up other funds donated by Americans to be moved from account A into account B, which could then be legally spent as campaign donations. It’s sort of an internal laundering of funds. And since a number of their accounts are legally dark money, there is no way, barring a criminal investigation based forensic accounting, to know who has actually donated what or what they did with the money.

  18. 18
    Adam L Silverman says:

    And with that, I’m to bed. Catch everyone on the flip!

  19. 19

    @jl: He did say pretense to respectability, so that would exclude anyone that comments on this here blog.

  20. 20
    John Revolta says:

    I love “using his status as a victim”.
    Here’s hoping that Erik Erikovitch gets to enjoy plenty of status, real soon.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I was primarily trained to write critical essays about movies, but when I was in journalism, I managed to figure out a few basics, like checking your sources and knowing the context of the quote before you use it.

    She was sloppy, and she could well have endangered this kid’s life. She’s only sorry she got caught.

  22. 22
    cokane says:

    Erick Erickson might literally be a worse human being than Trump. I’m not joking.

  23. 23
    cosima says:

    @Corner Stone: Agree. There hasn’t been a ‘mainstream’ or ‘reasonable’ right since W. 9/11 gave everyone the opportunity to fly their RWNJ freak flags, and they haven’t stopped since.

    We left the US not long after 9/11, and when a friend asked me what I would be most happy to leave (thinking I’d say my horrible ex), I said the irrational people. Alaska had just voted for some magical oil economic b.s. (that has ended up costing them $500 million? $1 billion? thanks to f*cking Palin’s pipeline to nowhere), and on the same ballot shyt all over the schools & parks that needed funding. All over the US that sort of thing was happening. The local/municipal seats were filling up with crazy RWNJs while Dems ‘forgot’ to vote. And here we are.

    I hope EE feels some heat for this one. Perhaps someone will call him a child-molesting goat f*cker.

  24. 24
    cosima says:

    @Mary G: Excellent! Carry on! Any others whose twitter stupidity you can refute out of existence? Must confess to not knowing who that person is, but any refutation of that sort of thing, that some idiot somewhere will cite as *fact* is important.

  25. 25

    @cosima: OT: Here’s some pics of the old Richfield building in Los Angeles, I’d seen exterior shoots but the interior(2nd page) are pretty amazing. The elevator doors ended up as art work outside the ARCO Tower(and they’re still there) and the statues ended up at UC Santa Barbara.

  26. 26
    smike says:

    @cosima: EE is a child-molesting goat f*cker. Projection is what they do.

  27. 27
    Joyce H says:

    Don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but the White House press office has a new hire – a former Disney channel alum named Caroline Sunshine. (Really.) She’s 22, and looks a lot like Ivanka. Just sayin’…

  28. 28
    opiejeanne says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Is that building gone now? I remember it as a landmark when I was a little kid, like the pointy building back when it was one of the tallest buildings in town and our first glimpse of it was from the westbound 10 freeway not long before you got to the Brew 101 building.

  29. 29
    cosima says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Wow! Those are amazing. How could they have demolished that beautiful building? Little C wants to be an architect — I’ll show her those photos tonight. She’s very logical, but also very creative (where as Mr and I are completely missing the creative thing), so that sort of building will fascinate her. I’m going to have to look for more information about the building and its architect, the style, detail and, in particular, what is the significance of the statuary? Thank you very much.

    Now I have to do the lunch-making & off-to-school duties.

  30. 30
    opiejeanne says:

    @Joyce H: She’s prettier than Ivanka. I doubt she’ll last long in that job. Poor child has no idea what she’s gotten herself into.

  31. 31
    Arclite says:

    It would be wrong to wish Erick Erickson was beaten and raped in his ass, but if he were, would it also be wrong for us to tell him it didn’t really happen?

  32. 32
    Mike J says:

    Secular saints? Beyond scrutiny? What kind of dirt could they dig up on a 17 year old that would have anything to do with the argument at hand?

    It’s driving Republicans fucking crazy that there’s not really anything bad to say about the Parkland kids. When I was 17 I would have been a horrible spokesperson for any platform other than Donutso should really be open at 3am when the bars close.

  33. 33

    @opiejeanne: It’s been gone almost 50 years. They started tearing it down in late 1968 and finished in the spring of 1969.

    @cosima: It was really sad they had to tear it down, however it’s demise was the start of the LA Conservancy organization that’s preserved many a building.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    @Joyce H:
    Cripes, I had to look her up. Hope she gets to wear track shoes to the office.

  35. 35
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mike J:
    Theyll try to use being 17 against David Hogg, just like they tried to use being 19 against Malia Obama — and, one hopes, with as much success.

  36. 36

    @opiejeanne: Brew 102 and the gasometers. The Brew 102 company goes way back, they were built beside El Aliso, I think we talked about El Aliso at the last meetup and it being cut down.

  37. 37
    NotMax says:


    Brew 102 and the gasometers.

    Their first album showed promise. Then came the break-up.


  38. 38
    WereBear says:

    @NotMax: Their first album showed promise. Then came the break-up.

    Always the way. Most first albums are years in the making, with the band honing their songs in live performances. Then the second album is hammered out of them while touring and takes six months.

  39. 39
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Mary G: They can not tell the truth and if you tell them the truth, they vehemently reject it. Good on you for pushing back and getting blocked. You tried.

    No wonder they love Trump. He’s allergic to the truth.

  40. 40
  41. 41
    hervevillechaizelounge says:

    @Mike J:

    It’s driving Republicans fucking crazy that there’s not really anything bad to say about the Parkland kids.

    If they can’t find anything bad to say they’ll lie and the mouth-breathers will believe them. And when the media discusses the issue they’ll both-sides it (like the dig about leftist fake news in the quoted article).

    The real issue with right wing media is the lack of symmetry; mainstream media’s occasional gaffes are dwarfed by the rightwing tsunami of bullshit. Fox news—the most-watched news channel in America, IIRC—will straight-up lie and obfuscate and misinform. And they tell their viewers they’re the only trustworthy news ’cause the mainstream media is lying so fact-checking becomes meaningless.

    Fox anchors are constantly saying CNN et al. are fraudulent networks; why doesn’t the mainstream media ever call out Fox news for spewing lies?

  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    @hervevillechaizelounge: Because they want the same sweet sweet credulous demographic to sell their ads to, that’s why.

  43. 43
    Mike J says:


    Fox news—the most-watched news channel in America, IIRC—will straight-up lie and obfuscate and misinform.

    Bump from WaPo kept track. Monday was the first day in two weeks that mentions of Stormy Daniels approached (still didn’t match) mentions of Hillary Clinton.

    But don’t forget our friends who claim to be on the left who want to burn Hogg in effigy because he dared to quote Ronald Reagan.

  44. 44
    Baud says:

    Why can’t you libs be more civil?

  45. 45
    WereBear says:

    I know that a lot of what has been going on since 2000 has been people unaware of how the right wing is a vast conspiracy, after all. They trust what they see on the “news” and read in their local paper, and it built up without them having a clue.

    I was the nutty one, talking about lies on the news. They aren’t allowed to do that, I was told, over and over.

    Too young for Vietnam-era shenanigans, too old to change their media consumption habits.

  46. 46
    mai naem mobile says:

    I get the feeling this Parkland HS is a public high school in an affluent area with involved parents,nice parks and rec stuff paid for by higher property tax collections, parents with resources to pay for extracurriculars for their kids and the cherry on top are some really good civics and drama teachers. A lot of good sized cities have one or two of these. The Republicans don’t know how to deal with those kind of kids…the ones from public schools they haven’t managed to destroy. I hope Hogg sues Erick Erickson. Honestly, I don’t think these fuckers learn unless it costs them bigly financially.

  47. 47

    @Baud: No, now kindly go fuck yourself; with all due respect.

  48. 48
    satby says:

    Good morning, or evening for you night owls.

  49. 49
    lowtechcyclist says:

    @Peale: Yeah, I don’t get the whole ‘Erick Erickson is someone who can get on teevee and in the papers’ bit. Your comparison with Cal Thomas is spot-on; he’s a somewhat younger version of Thomas. I’d love the opportunity to demolish either one of them in a debate. If Erick gets to be a media figure, why not me?

  50. 50
    But her emails!!! says:


    I’d love the opportunity to demolish either one of them in a debate. If Erick gets to be a media figure, why not me?

    It’s difficult to beat a conservative like erickson in a debate, because he would never engage honestly. You’d just be treated to a firehose of bullshit. You could pick out a few choice kernels and expose him as a complete moron, but his supporters would still “think” he owned that lib.

  51. 51
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @mai naem mobile: The thing I like the most about these kids is that they’ll come right out and say “the media are paying attention to us because we’re mostly-white and affluent victims; that’s not fair but we’ll use it.”

  52. 52
    glory b says:

    @mai naem mobile: Yep, gated neighborhoods, lots of AP courses, etc.

    There area few of them around Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park, North Allegheny.
    They were the ones who helped organize the local march here.

    They have friends who go to the private schools too. I think some of the feelings rub off on them too.

  53. 53
  54. 54
    woodrowfan says:

    @lowtechcyclist: I don’t get it either. Whenever I see him I think of a manager at Wendys with a too-short tie over an enormous gut bitching about some poor (non-white) employee.

  55. 55
    sherparick1 says:

    @Peale: The problem is he really is not much different from David Brooks. Both like to pose as “thoughtful” conservatives, both are BS artists, and both have an allergy to the truth. Also, both have never been at the receiving end of M-4/M-16/AR-15 and 5.56 mm copper jacketed led traveling at 2200 feet per second, or trained in what these weapons can do and their inherent danger (the Army keeps them in arms room for a reason, and his strict rules when practicing on a firing range. These are not hunting weapons, unless you are hunting people. They also like to make everything ad hominem and raise non sequiters, because their basic argument is insane – that everyday people without training or evaluation should own these killing machines as some sort of “Constitutional Right.”

  56. 56
    chopper says:

    the crazy “crisis actor” bullshit theories were allowed to take root after sandy hook and now every time there’s a shooting they become more and more prevalent as a response on the right.

    eventually, after a few more tragic mass shootings, we’ll be at the point where trump himself is tweeting them out.

  57. 57
    Lalophobia says:

    @Matt McIrvin: That’s one of my favorite things to. This movement could fold together a lot of little things that haven’t had as much luck in getting off the ground (OWS [with an actual plan or policy goal this time] BLM, the Standing Rock folks) and get pretty damn big and liberal if it doesn’t collapse under it’s own weight.

  58. 58
    different-church-lady says:

    What you and Jeet are both missing is that it is neither entirely spontaneous nor entirely directed: it’s a feedback loop. The deplorables aren’t sitting their waiting for their marching orders; they seize upon little details on their own so they can get their crazy on. The oppo shops monitor what they see in the fermentation tanks and pour yeast in. The deplorables then seize upon that stuff en mass. The oppo shops learn what works from what they see.

    The moment the oppo shop chums the water you’re going to see that idea repeated over and over. But that isn’t because they’re passively looking for instruction, it’s because they’re getting scientifically engineered turbo shots to do what they were going to do anyway.

  59. 59
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    I clicked through to the Post item, and am sad-though-not-surprised to find that Sullivan was evidently unable to suppress the urge to bothsides this. “That kind of thing can happen on the extreme left, too,” and “There seems to be no floor of indecency that we agree to stay above” and “Extreme partisanship — pro-Trump media as well as parts of the far left.”

  60. 60
  61. 61
  62. 62
    Tim C. says:

    Ya know, if liberal/progressive folks were constantly retreating Louise Mench and the like, then yes, both sides. Wait… that’s not happening?

  63. 63
    rp says:

    @Aardvark Cheeselog: Actually, I was kind of glad she said the “extreme left” and “far left.” I took that to mean Sanders, Greenwald, et al, and in some respects they’re just as bad as the right (and not coincidentally use many of the same tactics).

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tim C.:

    Who’s retweeted Mensch lately? She used to be quite popular for about a year, and then most people realized that she’s a frickin’ loon who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, so they stopped.

    Erick Erickson has been a media figure since the Bush II years. He’s an elder statesman of right-wing insanity at this point.

  65. 65
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: Retweeting itself is a huge part of how we got in this mess.

  66. 66
    opiejeanne says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: 102! How’d I forget? The 10 used to curve around that building until they finally had to widen it for traffic and the building had to go. Someone gave my dad a case of the stuff. He said it wasn’t very good. I sneaked a taste and agreed with him. I think I was 10.

  67. 67
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:


    Cite please. One thing, any thing, from Sanders or even Greenwald, that even approaches the spittle-flecked venom of Dana Loesch or our topical Erick, son of Erick. I’ll even spot you Greenwald as a leftist (which he isn’t, AFAICT) who has anybody with any power paying the slightest heed to anything he says (which none of them do).

  68. 68
    BroD says:

    “But I didn’t double down on it, and that’s the difference between someone responsible and someone who’s not responsible.”


  69. 69
    Raoul says:

    Margaret Sullivan is pretty smart. And I get that she is saying that Erickson is “seen as moderate” and not that she thinks he is moderate. But, good g-d, he is not moderate. It revolts me that he gets bylines in major media. Gaaahh!

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