Saturday, December 30, 2017

Apply Palm to Face

Wouter Zwart: Speaking of threat, at one point you mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands and that cars and politicians are being set on fire.

Ambassador Hoekstra: I didn't say that. That is actually an incorrect statement. Yeah, we would call it fake news.

Zwart: Is that fake news? Because that's what you really said.

Ambassador Hoekstra: No, it's not what I said.

Mr Hoekstra (on archive video): The Islamic movement has now got to the point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned. And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.

Zwart: You called it fake news, obviously... (is interrupted)

Ambassador Hoekstra: I didn't call that fake news, I didn't use the words today.

Zwart: No?

Ambassador Hoekstra: No. I don't think I did.
Trump's ambassador to Netherlands in 'fake news' blunder
This, I think, gets to the heart of a lot of issues between the citizens of the United States and their government: the idea that politicians (especially politicians that a given individual didn't vote for) are reflexive liars, with an aversion to the truth that rivals the fear of anaphylaxis.

I'm not sure if I'm impressed or appalled that Ambassador Hoekstra went into this interview so clearly unprepared to be called out on something that he'd said, and that no-one at the State Department warned him about this. Of course, 2015 was a long time ago, and politicians have famously poor memories when put on the spot. But this speaks to an inability to realize that he'd said something that might come back to bite him, especially given that he'd said it in a televised and recorded forum. Not to mention a certain carelessness about what he was saying in the moment.

And this issue with this, as far as partisanship goes, is then the reflexive reaction to this, which is to defend the politician as being a target of unscrupulous media types, rather than to say, "You know what? Ambassador, you're a great guy, but you're in over your head. Come home before you do some real damage."

There's also a critique of the American media establishment in this. Mr. Zwart had his ducks in a row before he walked into that interview and was prepared to back up what he was saying, where as outlets like NPR tend to allow the statement to pass, and then "fact check" it afterwards. This may be part of the reason that the Ambassador was tripped up - he simply wasn't expecting Mr. Zwart to be as ready for him as he turned out to be.

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