Jan 24

(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought-Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2016: Trump, Brexit and Bears, Oh My!", please click here.)

I have a quick thought experiment for you. Imagine it is a few months before the 2018 midterm elections. Donald Trump’s already poor approval ratings have deteriorated further. (Maybe he couldn’t fulfill his promises. Or a trade war tanked the economy. Or maybe we’ve deployed ground troops to another Middle Eastern nation.) Even in a gerrymandered and segregated electorate, the Democrats look poised to sweep the House and the Senate. (This isn’t that unusual; the out of power party often wins seats in a midterm election.)

Donald Trump, though, warns America of voter fraud and corruption, the same themes he had warned of in his Presidential run. This time, though, he now has both the solution and the power to do something: he is ordering a halt to the elections across America until he can determine they will not be corrupted. To buttress his argument and show this isn’t simply an action of the executive branch, he proposes that Congress pass an emergency measure to postpone the election.

My thought experiment is this: How many Republicans would vote for that measure? (I suspect Mitch McConnell would. It seems he’ll break any political norm to keep power in perpetuity.) But how many other Republican members of the House and Senate would vote for the measure that would end our Republic?

And for those even half-heartedly preparing their justifications for the above vote, stop. You can never justify stopping an election in a functioning democracy. Or even a non-functioning democracy. If you give a President the ability to postpone one election for any reason, well, they will find find a reason to postpone all elections. Look to dictatorships in Africa (like the Congo right now) or South America (in the past) to see this in practice.

I bring up this hypothetical because one of the “hot takes” following the Donald Trump election was that we had witnessed the end of the “end of history”, The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama being one of the most influential articles turned books of the 1990s. (The other? The Clash of Civilizations, which was read as gospel post-9/11.) I’ve counted at least four major articles and the author himself speculating on this topic. Many more mentioned Fukuyama in relation to Trump and/or Brexit.

The reasoning goes something like this: The End of History and the Last Man was about the triumph of democracy, free markets and classical liberalism more broadly. Brexit voters opposed free trade. They are also leaving one of the most important international institutions. So does Donald Trump. He also has autocratic tendencies. Combined with his flagrant disregard for Constitutional norms, Trump could seize power, ending our Republic. Matt O’Brien in Wonkblog has a good description:

“[Donald Trump's] gone back and forth and back again on almost every issue. But if he's serious about jailing his political rivals, about cracking down on the free press, about potentially abandoning our allies, about encouraging them to get nuclear weapons of their own, and about ripping up free trade agreements, then the liberal international order that has bequeathed us a relative Pax Americana the past 70 years will be no more. It'll be the end of the end of history.”

O’Brien combines two different key elements of “The End of HIstory” and today I want to focus on the parts about democracy, what Kenneth Waltz would have called “the second image” or the internal structure of states. (We’ll talk about the liberal world order, the international system, in my post tomorrow.)

My opening thought experiment actually proves that we aren’t in the end of the end of history--though it is terrifying to wonder how many Republicans would even consider voting for such a measure. Even in the outlandish scenario above, Trump could never justify his hypothetical takeover of American politics without denying he’s become an autocrat. Even as future Trump postpones the election--daring people to fight him and, from the playbook of most dictators, justifying his takeover of politics--he’ll sing the praises of democracy. Donald Trump’s most fervent supports drape themselves in the flag, patriotism, democracy, freedom and the Constitution. Donald Trump would have to echo those themes.

We see this “draping myself in the Constitution even as I spit on it” in Republican efforts to decrease voter turnout. Republicans justify voter suppression in the language of strengthening our democracy. They claim they want the democratic vote to be pure and untainted. In actuality, their policies disenfranchise potentially millions of eligible voters, a direct violation of the Constitution and the spirit of democracy.

And while Francis Fukuyama’s original argument was that the liberal world order was here to stay, the most important part to me has always been that liberal democracy triumphed as an idea. We forget this, because it seems so remote to us today, but in the 1930s, it wasn’t just that Hitler took power from his democracy, but that many pundits and politicians doubted democracy as a system. Many German citizens voted for the National Socialists to end the Weimar Republic, which they considered a failed experiment. In the 19th century, many people feared a capitalist system and wanted the return of monarchy and mercantilism (or agrarianism). Communism proposed an alternative system of politico-economics, but it failed as a theory, and hence Fukuyama wrote his book.

We see this in dictatorships of modern times. Vladimir Putin still holds rigged elections to justify his rule. So did Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. So does Bashar al-Assad, during a civil war no less. So will Recep Erdogan in Turkey. The only countries that have been immune have been Saudi Arabia (which just crushes all dissent with outlandish wealth) and China (who, of course, flirts with democracy every 20 years or so). In fact, the China example is the best counter: it’s people see the value of democracy and it’s leaders fear the ideology’s power.

Democracy has bested the alternatives. So has market capitalism, really, with some bumps. Yes the fringe of the fringe (the racist alt-right) has proposed a return to monarchy, but no one takes that seriously. Democracy has triumphed as an idea, even in dictatorships.

So yes, we have seen the end of history.

Jan 23

(To read the rest of our posts in"On Violence’s Most Thought-Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2015: Trump, Brexit and Bears, Oh My!", check out the articles below...

- This is NOT the End of the End of History

- Yes, Liberalism (as an International System) Is in Decline

- Trade Works. People Like Trade. Goodbye Trade: The Real Problem with Abandoning the TPP

- Five Quick Takes on Brexit, Trump and the Rise of Populism

- Living in an Invisible Golden Age

- How Politics Created Our Invisible Golden Age)

 

So, you may have noticed that in the last year or so, we haven’t been blogging as much. The main reason is time. Michael C and I both work full time, and getting the extra energy to write can be difficult. We also work on other outside writing projects (including something new; coming soon!) and, well, until we’re writing full time, blogging consistently wasn’t a priority.

In light of the election on November 8th, 2016, this feels like a mistake.

There’s another factor to this blogging reticence, a feeling we’ve had for some time now: that we’re shouting into an empty room. Actually, the room isn’t empty; it’s packed with people and voices. But ours has been drowned out or ignored. Not by everyone, but by a fair number.

With the hindsight of this monumental election, this failure to get noticed takes on a higher importance. Our core theses on the blog haven’t been repudiated; they’ve been confirmed. We do believe we have an important message that directly repudiates Donald Trump’s world view. We believe that unless more people understand this message, our politicians will keep making poor decisions that will make the lives of us all worse.

What’s the main point we’ve been making that has gotten almost no traction in the wider world at large?

Thanks to the (classically) liberal world order--which includes the spread of democracy, the rise of free trade and the growth of international institutions--the world is as safe as it has ever been, but the media and politicians largely reject this view, choosing to portray the world as dangerous, and this leads voters to vote in ways that will make the world more dangerous.

This week and next, as we ponder the three major events of 2016--first, the Brexit vote, second, Donald Trump’s rise and win, and third, Russian influence to stop the spread of democracy--we will put these events in context of that bolded message above.

And we have other thoughts that run counter to the traditional narratives and explanations offered by most pundits. We’ll write about how democracy has still won the battle of ideas, how truly, truly safe and great a time it is to be alive, how classical liberalism (both international) is under threat, some counter-intuitive thoughts on trade deals, and how the media plays a role in all of this (maybe the most important role).

Like we said, our failure to be writing regularly about foreign policy over the last year was a mistake. And it’s not one we wish to repeat. After we finish “The Most Thought-Provoking Event of 2016”, we’re moving right onto how we plan to cover, analyze and oppose the Donald Trump administration.

We’ve got a busy next four years. Let’s get going.

Nov 08

The other day, I was thinking about a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton had been sliding in the FiveThirtyEight forecast for a days, and it seemed more possible than ever that the unthinkable (electing a President Trump) was possible.

As I pondered a Trump presidency, for a moment I felt genuine fear. It seemed totally real that, under Donald Trump, a nuclear war is possible. For the first time in my lifetime, I wouldn’t trust the President with nuclear weapons.

That’s genuinely terrifying.

As we were thinking about what we should write for the election, I contemplated a post along the lines of “why veterans shouldn’t support Trump” or “the veteran viewpoint against Trump” but I decided not to. I mean, he has Representative Tom Cotton backing him, and he’s a veteran. Should we really tally up all the veterans to see who they support and choose our president that way?

Of course not. It’s like how Trump counts 88 flag officers (admirals and generals) backing him and Hillary counts at least 95. Or how Trump trots out General Michael Flynn and Hillary trots out General John Allen. It’s a wash.

Really what matters to veterans and soldiers is the same thing that matters to Americans: who will start unnecessary wars that put the lives of soldier and Americans at risk? We’ve written a lot about why you shouldn’t vote for Donald Trump. We’ve mentioned all the facts he gets wrong, all the moral codes he breaks and all the democratic norms he ignored, but we mostly ignored the larger philosophy of the two camp’s foreign policies. When you dig into the philosophies, you understand why you should vote for Hillary and why you shouldn’t vote for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton is a foreign policy liberal. Liberalism in international relations (distinct from being a “liberal” or “progressive” in politics) is the deeply held belief of On Violence, the operating philosophy of this blog. This liberalism is about supporting democracies, human rights, free trade, and international institutions to decrease the frequency of war and increase the prosperity of everyone. Clinton largely supports liberalism (it’s why she advocated going into Libya and Syria). Her stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership notwithstanding, if On V had a gripe with her, it is that she (like most of establishment foreign policy types) worries too much about the short term and not the long term.

Donald Trump has rejected every pillar of liberalism: supporting democracies (he loves strong men or dictators), human rights (he supports torture and mass murder), free trade (he will erect trade barriers) and international institutions (his attacks on NATO and the UN). But it goes further than his rejection of liberalism: Trump rejects nearly every other major foreign policy philosophy as well.

Take realism. While it seems like Trump fits in as a realist with his focus on US interests and avoiding foreign entanglements, he can’t seem to find a realist who supports his beliefs. One of the biggest names in realist thinking--Stephen Walt--refuses to endorse Trump. (My gut is that John Mearsheimer does as well.) There are also plenty of realist thinkers on this list of 122 international relations Republicans who refuse to endorse Trump, and it was hosted on a realist website. Realists usually understand that Trump is close to realism, but know that in practice Trump’s brand of diplomacy, his economically disastrous trade ideas, and Trump’s ability to overestimate and underestimate US power (at the same time) violate realism in practice.

Any other philosophies are out too. Isolationism? Donald Trump has said he would intervene to stop ISIS in Syria and would do so with the help of Vladimir Putin. Neo-conservatism? Again, Trump doesn’t believe in remaking the Middle East with democracies, so probably not. Constructivism nee idealism? Donald Trump doesn’t have time to understand what this viewpoint even means.

So what is Donald Trumps foreign policy ideology? Selfishness bordering on narcissism. He’s unconstrained by any morals or ethics (advocating torture) while he only cares about winning, for himself. He admires other rich or powerful individuals, but only because he envies them. He’s not rational enough to be a realist so he’s just an unconstrained egotist.

And that’s where the danger from the beginning of this article comes from. Donald Trump is a complete liability if he were to take over the office of the President. Since he has no guiding principles in foreign policy, he could do anything, which makes him a complete liability with nuclear weapons and our military.

Nov 07

When we decided to write up our posts on this election, Michael C asked who these articles were for. Who did we want to convince? Which was a good question, since Eric C initially wrote up a series of “devastating” posts endlessly mocking Trump. But what good does that do, except further reinforce what Hillary partisans already believe?

Yesterday, we made the case for Clinton because Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to President. But the worst thing he has done is subvert democratic norms in America. He has challenged the legitimacy of the Constitution, and if he were elected, has a chance to permanently harm America.

If you’re a moderate or liberal who is still considering voting for a third party candidate, we’d politely ask you to first consider the damage that could be done to our democracy by helping elect Trump.

First, Donald Trump spent the primary campaign encouraging his supporters to use violence against their political enemies. I know, this feels like it happened ages ago, but it is easy to forget that, in his early speeches, Donald Trump would pine for the days when people could get beat up at rallies. And then his supporters would punch people at rallies. Since his official nomination, Trump has continued with calls for violence. Zack Beauchamp details the possibility of violence, especially among armed militiamen, on election day. Perhaps this doesn’t need to be said, but advocating armed revolution to stop a legitimate election should terrify everyone in America.

Second, Donald Trump has challenged American’s right to vote. Going hand in hand with Donald Trump’s threats for violence are his calls for his supporters to “monitor” polling places, using racist dog whistles to refer to minority communities. The Republican party, as a whole, has limited voter’s access to the polls in nearly a dozen states. The threat is two-fold. It erodes faith in our electoral system while challenging one of the most basic tenets of the constitution: the right to vote.

Third, Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns. True, there’s nothing unconstitutional about this. But every major party candidate has released their tax returns since the 1970s. His refusal to do so limits the public’s knowledge about him and threatens to destroy this practice entirely, limiting the knowledge future voters will have about Presidential candidates.

Fourth, Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to jail his political rival. While the entire country, rightfully, excoriated Trump over the leaked Access Hollywood tape, more concerning to On Violence was Donald Trump’s promise to put Clinton in jail during the second Democratic debate. This is what happens in third world countries. This is not how democracies work.

Fifth, Donald Trump refuses to concede the election if he loses and claims the election is rigged. Or to put it another way, he’s undermining faith in America’s electoral process. The foundation of our democracy is the right to fair and just elections to establish the will of the people. Donald Trump, by refusing to say he’ll accept the results, subverts the entire system by which this country exists.

Why should voters support Clinton? Because Donald Trump represents a threat to our democracy. One could argue that he isn’t that big of a threat, since he probably won’t win, though poll numbers appear to be tightening.  

But if even a small chance of victory risks ending the country, then it is one we have to avoid.

Because make no mistake: Donald Trump is a threat to the future of the country.

Nov 02

So it’s become fairly common for people to opine that the 2016 election is a choice between “the lesser of two evils”. If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, I’ve seen people make this complaint daily. I’ve had five people say it to me in person. And South Park has mocked the current election as a choice between a “turd sandwich” and a “douche”.

This is absurd. People complain about choosing between the “lesser of two evils” every election. (Here’s a Christopher Hitchens example in 2000, another example in 2004 and an example from 2008. It took maybe three minutes to find these; I’m sure I can find more.) Clearly, the problem isn’t the candidates; it’s unrealistic expectations. I’m sure Jesus could run against Hitler and disaffected Green Party voters would complain about his tax policies. Though many people like to point out that these are “the two most disliked candidates in American history”, both Hillary and Trump’s supporters actually like them.

But that’s not really the counter-argument that matter. This is not a choice between the “lesser of two evils”; it’s a choice between a normal candidate versus one of the worst, most dangerous candidates in American history.

Actually, it’s barely a choice since the choice is obvious.

If you don’t believe us, check out the work by various media outlets systematically cataloguing Donald Trump’s failures as a candidate for America’s highest office. Slate currently has a running tally of the “230 Things Trump Has Said and Done that Make Him Unfit for Office”. The Atlantic has a running time capsule of his daily embarrassments. The New York Times has an ongoing tally and a tracker of when Republicans pulled their endorsements. Major conservative newspapers have not endorsed him, many for the first time in their publishing history.

Or you can compare our writings in 2012 to today. We wrote a grand total of 4 posts for the entire 2012 election. Check out our introduction:

“Confronted with the first presidential election in On Violence’s short history, we want to write something about both men campaigning for the country’s highest office. We’ll discuss Barack obama first, then Mitt Romney.

This isn’t an endorsement, even though it is probably pretty obvious which candidate we support...But we can say that neither candidate comes out glowing.

We’ll focus on the this blog’s main topics: foreign policy, defense spending, veterans affairs and civil rights...We will criticize both candidates for their failings on foreign policy, and compliment them where they get it right. For Obama, we’ll analyze his time in office, good, bad and inbetween. For Romney, we’ll discuss his stances on the issues. Both candidates get an equal word count.”

Wow. We really ripped in Romney there. Some conservatives have blamed liberals’ rhetoric for Trump’s rise, saying they’ve overhyped threats by conservative candidates in the past. That’s both wrong (Trump rose for other reasons which we don’t have time to get into), one-sided (just ask 50% of Republicans what country Obama was born in) and doesn’t apply to us (see above quote).

By contrast, we’ve written over a dozen posts on Donald Trump and the Republican party’s dangerous foreign policy positions this year. (Check out yesterday’s post ] or this entire series on the 2016 primary.)

Like we said above, Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States of America. You could point to his disastrous foreign policy positions, including endorsing torture or civilian air strikes. Or his terrifying obsession with using nuclear weapons. Or the hate speech and vilifying of Muslims. Or his racist and sexist behavior. Or his stances against free trade. Or his desire to build a wall on our borders. Or his shoddy business record. Or his poorly run campaign for President. Or his ignorance on far too many policy positions. Or his irrational temper. Or his constant lies. Or his disdain for the American political system and its norms, which we’ll cover tomorrow.

Of all these faults, the second most-concerning is Trump’s ignorance on basic policy issues, both foreign and domestic, which can be hard to pin down, given his penchant for lying. Despite Trump’s assertions, crime is down, ISIS is crumbling, and illegal immigration rates are falling. Trump claims NAFTA destroyed America’s economy, but it barely had an impact.

Here’s a clearer example. In the second debate, Donald Trump repeatedly referred to Hillary Clinton “acid-washing” her emails. What does that even mean? Nothing, since Trump is confusing the software program “BleachBit” with bleaching clothing. Trump literally doesn’t know what he’s talking about. On one of his primary campaign talking points.

The job of President, despite the high profile optics, is mainly bureaucratic. The President has to run the most important organization in the world. They have to hire a bunch of people, go to a bunch of meetings, and dive deep into complex policy issues. In short, Trump has shown no capability to do this job. Clinton has spent her whole life training for it.

We realize that a significant portion of Republicans will vote for Donald Trump no matter what he says or does, and we get that we can’t reach them. But there are a lot of moderates and liberals who may feel uneasy about voting for Hillary.

But know this: Donald Trump is unfit to be President.

Even worse, he could threaten the future of America, which we’ll cover tomorrow.

Nov 01

Somewhere, a long time ago, we decided we weren’t ever going to do a “Sorry we haven’t posted in awhile” post, because, well, it’s trite. (Someone even made an entire blog aggregating blog posts where people did that.) But the good news is we’re working on a huge new project, dropping later this year. (Keep your fingers crossed pre-Christmas for the holiday drive and travelling.)

That said, did you really think On V would let an election that challenges democratic norms and features one of the least informed politicians that’s ever ran for President without commenting on it? (We commented on the primaries here.) But before we get to the top of the ticket race, let’s look at where the two major American parties stand internationally.

Everytime we write about elections, we have to make the point that foreign policy--unlike domestic policy--is usually non-partisan. As we wrote before the 2012 election, both sides tend to use foreign policy as an easy way to score cheap political points:

“Foreign policy, unlike domestic issues, is a mostly non-partisan affair. More than that, the parties can’t agree on what they disagree on. Do liberals or libertarians oppose Guantanamo? Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan and Dennis Kucinich all support American isolationism. Democrats are supposed to be anti-war, but their presidents started World War II, the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs disaster and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, Kosovo and intervened militarily in Libya.

Politically, both sides of the aisle use foreign policy victories or mistakes to score cheap political points. Conservatives opposed Clinton heading into Kosovo, supported the war in Iraq, and then half-opposed intervening in Libya, depending on what the President did. Liberals protested the invasion of Iraq, then changed the subject when anyone asked them about Libya; they also hated Bush’s drone strikes in Afghanistan, and have ignored them under Obama’s watch.”

Taken at face value, 21st century foreign policy seemed pretty clear: Bush, embracing a neo-conservative foreign policy, started a series of disastrous foreign military engagements designed to reshape the Middle East. Liberals mostly opposed what Bush did, but Obama continued some of the same policy mistakes, like drone strikes. (Enough to get Conor Friedersdorf, a thinker we really respect, to pull his endorsement in 2012.)

Alas, this is no longer the case. As we’ve been writing about all year, Republicans--frightened by ISIS’s terror attacks, then catalyzed by Donald Trump’s popularity--advocate a foreign policy that is dangerously illiberal, factually wrong and morally bankrupt.

Here are some examples, culled from our posts on the Republican primaries, starting with the factually dubious claims:

America is safer than it has ever been. Republicans, throughout the entire primary, have made an effort to make Americans scared. Terrified. (Mostly of people from other countries or minorities). As the Trump campaign fumbles its way through early October, their only talking point is that the murder rate went up last year. (It did. It’s also lower than it was forty years ago.)

- Don’t Worry about EMPs, WMDs or ISIS: Sorry, Republicans The World is Getting Safer

ISIS isn’t nearly the threat Republicans want you to think it is. Not just that, but all of the available evidence points to a decline in ISIS’s membership, territory, revenue and military capability. Sure, ISIS will launch future terror attacks, but they won’t “take over” America. Ever.

- ISIS, You Ain’t No Existential Threat, Bruv

The U.S. military isn’t crumbling. Despite exaggerations to the contrary, the American military remains the largest fighting force in the world. Actually, we’d argue--and have been arguing--that the American military is too big. The money America spends on defense could be better spent elsewhere, especially if that were coupled with smart improvements to our wasteful military contracting system and ]focused less on building weapons that have no relevance to the wars we’re actually fighting abroad. Just a few weeks back, the U.S. Army admitted it had a 6 trillion dollar accounting error.

- Actually, the American Military is Y-uuuuge

Torture. And now we move from factually wrong assertions to morally reprehensible statements. In short, the Republican party endorses torture, which violates everything our nation stands for.

- Torture. Still Wrong.

Killing Civilians and Loosening the Rules of Engagement. Look, the Rules of Engagement (ROE) are a complicated issue. No one is denying that. But it is one thing to debate the merits of our current ROE and another to actively encourage killing civilians. The latter isn’t just wrong practically, it is wrong morally. (And Republicans routinely exaggerate and misrepresent the military’s ROE.)

- Let's Kill Women and Children: The Republicans on War Crimes

- What We Talk About When We Talk About Loosening ROE

Supporting Dictators. Few things irk Michael C more than this. And to be fair, Democrats are far too cozy with far too many dictators. (Looking at you, Saudi Arabia!) That said, Republicans have taken it to another level with campaign, praising dictators no one should support.

- I Hate Dictators and Some Republicans Don't

Using hate speech. For Eric C, in light of every other ugly thing that has been said this election cycle, the tearing down of civility is the worst. The Republican use of hate speech against Islamic people represents this. The only upside is that Kzahir Khan made an eloquent defense of America’s multi-cultural identity and, more importantly, Democrats have embraced it.

- Hate Speech: We're Still Against It  

When we started writing this post, Michael C asked Eric C who it was meant for. The point is this: on down ballot races, on foreign policy grounds, we don’t recommend voting for Republicans. This may (and hopefully will) change in the future. But there is an ugly, anti-democratic, illiberal bent to Republican foreign policy right now (illustrated by the numerous conservative foreign policy experts who have come out against Donald Trump). Don’t let this continue to expand.

Aug 15

(Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here)

 And spoiler warning: This post contains massive, “The Wall”-sized spoilers for Game of Thrones. This is a show that deserves not to be spoiled, so proceed at your own peril.)


Game of Thrones is incredibly violent. Amazingly violent. It’s more unusual for episode to not contain some act of violence. But connecting this show, philosophically, to our site isn’t easy. Outside of a pat “violence sucks” message, there usually isn’t anything else to say. (This happens with a lot of favorite pieces of art. They’re violent, but we can’t shoehorn them onto the blog.)

But a few years ago, after reading about the audience’s reactions to Jaime Lannister raping his sister Cersei in the fifth episode of the fourth season, I found my angle: Game of Thrones proves the world is getting safer, which we posted about two weeks ago. We had so much material, including our responses to potential rebuttals to our argument, that we had to have a second post to hit it all.

Rebuttal 1: Who says this? Who really believes this?

Basically, I can imagine some people, in response to our piece, saying, “Of course the world today is safer than 600 years ago.” I mean, you couldn’t tell by the rhetoric of politicians--which we’ve quoted multiple times--who scream about how unsafe the world is today. Hell, the Republicans just made it the central talking point of their convention.

If you need quantitative proof, Slate published a piece trying to find the worst year in human history. The poll results at the bottom show 9% of people--on a liberal website--voted for 2016. Another 5% voted 2003, which is insane.

Rebuttal 2: No seriously, who is actually saying this?

Racists.

A number of neo-racist groups--like the new white supremacy movement, the “alt-right” or the “neo-reactionaries” that have spread online--base their very existence on claiming that democracy has fundamentally made the world a more dangerous place. The solution--for this very fringe movement--is a return to monarchy with heaping doses of racism. I (Eric C) accidentally stumbled onto all this (in a post on TechCrunch) a day before Vox wrote a big piece on it.

Basically, the idea that the world is falling apart undergirds a new, burgeoning anti-democratic, racist ideology. Again, proving that the world is safer matters.

Rebuttal 3: Some outlets are (finally) reporting that the world is getting safer.

In a way. Sometimes. Kind of.

Fact-checking Trump’s acceptance speech, many news outlets reported that America is actually statistically safer than it was 8 years ago (when Obama took office) or 38 years ago (when the country apparently fell apart in 1968). Perhaps this is becoming the new norm for critics and reporters on the left? Or is it just a temporary response to a candidate most on the left abhor?

I‘d guess the latter. Take this headline from Slate two weeks ago: “More of the same: Gun Violence/Terrorism Edition”. On the Fivethirtyeight podcast, one of the reporters said, “Yes, the world is a dangerous place”. On Vox’s The Weeds, Ezra Klein described the world in similar terms. (We still love both of these shows.) So no, this idea hasn’t taken hold yet.

Rebuttal 4: Game of Thrones shouldn’t have depicted rape period.

We first wrote yesterday’s post two years ago after the Jaime/Cersei rape debacle. Since then, there was the Sansa rape by Ramsay Bolton that caused a sitting U.S. Senator to stop watching the series.

But as distasteful and opposed to rape as we are, if you want to depict the past realistically, you have to include rape. (But you don’t have to show it, and Game of Thrones had the rapes occur off camera.) As our post lays out, rape was a part of life in the past, especially during war. Game of Thrones made this clear in the first episode, when Daenerys was raped by Khal Drogo.

It wasn’t just the rape that was bad in the Middle Ages. Back then, women were property. A huge cultural shift occurred over the 20th century when the idea that women were independent agents, not marital property or birthing vehicles, came into being. In Game of Thrones’ world, women don’t decide who they can marry or who they can divorce. (Though, in fairness, Game of Thrones depicts powerful women leading behind the scenes.)

In other words, Sansa’s rape wasn’t a crime. It was daily life for women. More people should know this.  

Rebuttal 5: What about modern instances of slavery, torture, homicide, and so on?

I can already hear readers pushing back against each example in our post, asking, “What about modern day slavery? Or sexual assault on college campuses? Or the Charlie Hebdo shooting? Or Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding? Don’t those show society hasn’t improved at all?”

Pinker debunks that criticism on his website:

“There is an enormous difference between a clandestine, illegal, and universally decried practice in a few parts of the world and an open, institutionalized, and universally approved practice everywhere in the world.”

Torture, rape, slavery and other modern horrors were accepted and even celebrated in the past. Today, only criminals engage in them. Take slavery. Some people will point out that there are more slaves today than in the 1800s. But the highest estimates--which are almost surely over-estimates by interest groups--estimate that the modern world has 29 million slaves. Divided by the global population, that’s .003% of the population. So yeah, huge improvement.

We actually left off numerous improvements in the modern world, including religious fanaticism, entrenched racism and sexism, or the general improvements in healthcare or technology.

The world is so much better today.

Rebuttal 6: But this is a fantasy show...

This complaint comes from my dad who didn’t understand the point of our guest post. In short, Game of Thrones has dragons. Why look at it realistically?

Because George R. R. Martin based his series on the past. He made it realistic...then added dragons and zombies. If you can’t get past the fantasy elements of Game of Thrones, I’d recommend watching Rome, HBO’s less-fictional, historical predecessor to Game of Thrones. All of the same instances of violence occur. Slavery? Check. Torture? Check. Rape? Check.

Aug 08

So...Marcus Luttrell’s speech wasn’t all that exciting from an On V perspective. (Hence why it took so long to post this.) He didn’t recap his own personal story (which is the main thing we wanted to fact check) or say anything noteworthy. Instead, he delivered a standard convention speech, albeit one filled with conservative talking points. (Though he did endorse Donald Trump, and what can be more disappointing than that?) Nor did the media cover it all that much, with much bigger news--like Melania Trump’s plagiarism charges--taking the spotlight on the first night.

We plan to analyze the whole Republican foreign policy night (“Make America Safe Again”) in greater detail before the election. And we’ll fact check as many claims as we can (repeating “Americans are actually quite safe”, ad nauseum).

Still, Luttrell’s speech wasn’t entirely honest. Most of the coverage centered on the fact that Luttrell went off teleprompter in the middle of his talk. AOL ran the headline, “Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell goes off-script at RNC in stunning tear-jerker speech”. Breitbart had something similar.

Here is Jody Avirgan from FiveThirtyEight describing that moment:

“Halfway through his speech, Marcus Luttrell said that he wasn’t used to teleprompters, and that he was just going to speak from the heart. The crowd here in Quicken Loans Arena ate it up. It was a great moment of showmanship. The catch? Given our vantage point behind the stage, we could see that every subsequent word of his speech was also in the teleprompter. Great theater takes practice, folks.”   

What else to say about that?

Next up, Jake Tapper sent a tweet and mentioned on air that Marcus Luttrell was a part of “Operation Red Wing”, and linked to Luttrell’s website. We took a screenshot the day of the speech. To be clear, this is still the wrong name as the mission was Operation Red Wings, named after the hockey team.

As Neil O’Hanlon said on Twitter, “7 out of 8 letters isn’t bad.”