I’m preoccupied with setting up my new laptop — which has no CD/DVD drive for installing old software ! — but will post two or three more pieces about Vivek. Promise to move on to something else tomorrow.
- Robert Reich on Vivek Ramaswamy: “mindless political entertainment”;
- Conservative never-Trumper David French on civic ignorance and the abandonment of truth;
- NY Times detailing Vivek’s changing positions on many issues.
AlterNet, Robert Reich, 30 Aug 2023: Who the hell is Vivek Ramaswamy and why is he surging in the polls?
One way to become a brand name in contemporary America is to run for president with so much bravado, bombast, and baloney that you gain lots of attention, which drives press coverage, which gets you more name recognition, which boosts your polls, which then — even if you don’t get elected — lets you do whatever brand names do in contemporary America (host a TV show? license your name? run for president again?).
Think of Vivek Ramaswamy or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Since their campaign launches, both have been hyped across the media landscape. And much of the reporting about them is <em>about </em>the hype they’ve generated, which generates more hype.
It’s a perfect loop of nothingness. No critical assessment of what they stand for. No analysis of what they seek to do. No in-depth reporting of their qualifications. Just contentless sensationalism.
NYT, David French, 31 Aug 2023: The Articulate Ignorance of Vivek Ramaswamy
French — a never-Trumper conservative — begins by considering civic ignorance in America. It goes back decades. “[A]s far back as 1943, 77 percent of Americans knew essentially nothing about the Bill of Rights, and in 1952 only 19 percent could name the three branches of government.”
Now let’s fast-forward to the present moment. Instead of offering a plausible explanation for their mistakes — much less apologizing — all too many politicians deny that they’ve made any mistakes at all. They double down. They triple down. They claim that the fact-checking process itself is biased, the press is against them and they are the real truth tellers.<br ?–> I bring this up not just because of the obvious example of Donald Trump and many of his most devoted followers in Congress but also because of the surprising success of his cunning imitator Vivek Ramaswamy. If you watched the first Republican debate last week or if you’ve listened to more than five minutes of Ramaswamy’s commentary, you’ll immediately note that he is exceptionally articulate but also woefully ignorant, or feigning ignorance, about public affairs. Despite his confident delivery, a great deal of what he says makes no sense whatsoever.
But when key members of the political class abandon any pretense of knowledge or truth, a poorly informed public is simply unequipped to hold them to account.
A democracy needs an informed public and a basically honest political class. It can muddle through without one or the other, but when it loses both, the democratic experiment is in peril. A public that knows little except that it despises its opponents will be vulnerable to even the most bizarre conspiracy theories, as we saw after the 2020 election. And when leaders ruthlessly exploit that ignorance and animosity, the Republic can fracture. How long can we endure the consequences of millions of Americans believing the most fantastical lies?
In his essay French links to this piece in today’s paper. A news article, not an opinion piece.
NYT, 30 Aug 2023: Emulating Trump, Ramaswamy Shows a Penchant for Dispensing With the Facts, subtitled “In clashes with the news media and his rivals, the Republican upstart has retreated from past comments and lied about on-the-record statements.”
In his breakout performance in the Republican primary race, Vivek Ramaswamy has harnessed his populist bravado while frequently and unapologetically contorting the truth for political gain, much in the same way that former President Donald J. Trump has mastered.
Mr. Ramaswamy’s pattern of falsehoods has been the subject of intensifying scrutiny by the news media and, more recently, his G.O.P. opponents, who clashed with him often during the party’s first debate last Wednesday.
There are layers to Mr. Ramaswamy’s distortions: He has spread lies and exaggerations on subjects including the 2020 election results, the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol and climate change. When challenged on those statements, Mr. Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur who is the first millennial Republican to run for president, has in several instances claimed that he had never made them or that he had been taken out of context.
But his denials have repeatedly been refuted by recordings and transcripts from Mr. Ramaswamy’s interviews — or, in some cases, excerpts from his own book.
Followed by examples of a misleading anecdote, Trump criticism, conspiracy theories about Sept. 11, pardoning Hunter Biden, aid to Israel, wearing masks, and an analogy between Rosa Parks and Edward J. Snowden. All involving conflicting things he’s said at one time and place, and then another.
It seems to me that conservatives/Republicans are not very much concerned with facts, and this story is entirely consistent with that.