Through The Crooking Glass

Or, I'm starting with the man in the funhouse mirror.

So, Trump today said that he agrees with whistleblower protections but only for real whistleblowers, not people who make up bad things about him. That shouldn't be allowed, and he should be allowed to find them and punish them.

This might sound eerily similar to his responses to questions about a free press: he agrees that a free press is important and he doesn't even mind when people say negative things about him, so long as they are fair and true. When asked for an example of a negative story he supports, though, he can't give one, because to him "true" is anything that is good for him in the moment and "fake" is anything that's not.

By this definition, the only good whistleblower is someone like Rudy Giuliani who is saying things that are helpful to his cause. Anyone who is blowing the whistle on him is a fake whistleblower, and deserves no protection.

This is Trump's first and last principle of governance: the whole government, the whole country, exists to serve him. Anyone actively aligned with his will is good and true; anyone who opposes or resists him is bad and false.

But to people who have not fully grasped Trump's rubric for good vs. bad, real vs. fake, his basic declaration that whistleblower protections are only for real whistleblowers who are telling the truth may pass muster. I mean, it sounds good, right? Someone using the whistleblower rules to spread lies is abusing the system in a way that devalues the work of good whistleblowers. We don't want to protect people who go around crying wolf, do we?

As far as principles go, this one is simple, obvious, and wrong.

The idea of determining guilt and innocence at the outset of any kind of legal process is old hat to Trump, who called for the Central Park 5 to be executed not because they had been found guilty but because they were, in his worldview, guilty. Inherently. Intrinsically. Obviously. Anyone could see!

Just as he himself is innocent, so innocent that he could shoot a man in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and not be arrested. So innocent that it should be illegal to investigate him for crimes. He's posed this question in so many words: how do you investigate a man who has done nothing?

As with all of Trump's operating principles, in this regard he is the funhouse mirror image of American Conservativism: grossly distorted, oddly magnified, but ultimately a reflection of a real three-dimensional face. This kind of Calvanist predestination, this looking-glass logic where you determine guilt or innocence before you investigate or hold a trial, is at the heart of virtually every reactionary legal defense or offense.

Rick Perry allowed grieving father Cameron Todd Willingham to be executed for the murder of his children, knowing Willingham was inncoent of the crime for which he'd been sentenced but justifying it as he had to be guilty of something. Young Black men and children gunned down by police? They were no angels. George Zimmerman stalked an unarmed boy first from the safety of his truck and then on foot, and when his prey turned to confront him, our legal system decided the armed Zimmerman was somehow standing his ground. When Amber Guyger broke into Botham Jean's apartment and shot him dead, the jury was instructed to consider the Castle Doctrine, as in "a man's home is his..." 

It was his home, his castle, his ground, but his murderer could not be convicted until they at least dealt with the question of... well, maybe he was sort of inherently the intruder, if you think about it?

For some supporters of creepy, handsy anime dub actor Vic Mignogna, it seemed obvious that the burden of proof in his defamation lawsuit against his accusers would be on the defendants. Sure, innocent until proven guilty means the plaintiff has to prove his case, but they're already guilty, aren't they? They've already been caught lying, insofar as they're bad people who are saying things that differ from what the good man Vic Mignogna says, and so it would be ridiculous to expect that their lies would have the same standing in court as his truth, right?

That it would be pointless to even have a trial if we're assuming that one side is so obviously wrong that it doesn't need to be proven anymore is either beside the point, or perhaps it's the entire point. The idea here is that the trial is a mere formality, an attempt to ratify what everyone already knows (even if only some people are too wicked to admit it), and if the trial has any other outcome... why, that's a sure sign that wickedness is afoot.

That's certainly how Mignogna's supporters took it when the defamation case didn't go as planned.

And it’s how Trump and his supporters take it, when the legal process goes against them.

How dare this wicked world stoop to punish a good and innocent man, just because he does many terrible, illegal things? Really, the nerve of it all!

Thank You For Reading This!

You can receive future newsletters like this straight to your inbox as they go out for free. If you especially enjoy them and you wish to help me continue writing them, you can choose to purchase a paid subscription for $5 a month or $50 per year. Now through October 7th, when you purchase a paid subscription you will receive 20% off the cost of the subscription for as long as you keep it. That’s $4 a month or $40 per year!