ZOMG!!1! I saw this meme, or was it a tweet? Or a meme of a tweet? on the internet today, and it looked really urgent and seemed legit and everything, because it had quotes. And it told me to share, so here!! !
I don’t think Kendzior meant for me to share it like this, however. Don’t get me wrong. I looked at her Twitter blurb profile thingum, and she appears to be a writer of some cred. I don’t know about intellectual credibility as I’ve not read their work. But being published at The Guardian isn’t a bad sign, so I’ll warrant that Kendzior certainly has authorial credibility.
Vetting stage of the fact-check? Thumbs-up.
Now, what about that first quote, the one from Trump? Well, that also passes muster. See the video of a Fox News interview at the link, at about the 2:00 mark. We could worry about context and probably conclude that the quote isn’t misleading, but that’s an additional step that would only be necessary if the Bannon quote at least also checks out. If it does, then we can look at the context there, and here with Trump on Fox News, and then decide whether or not these two comments, about two years apart, form some kind of meaningful synergy, or whether it’s just another cheap, taudry play on our collective motivated reasoning. It plays to our biases, ergo it’s true. Enough.
Except I don’t play that. At least, I try like hell not to.
What, then, about that Bannon quote? Oh, it’s a quote, alright. Of sorts.
On the 16th of November, The Daily Beast published an article by one Ronald Radosh, whose credibility I have not yet ascertained. For the moment, I’m just trying to see what the provenance of that quote is. And here is that quote, in Radosh’s article, Steve Bannon, Trump’s Top Guy, Told Me He Was ‘A Leninist’ Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State.’
It seems that the author met Mr. Bannon at what he calls a book party, but, plebe that I am, I prefer soirée in as poncy a dialect as I can muster, just as a reminder that these people are really, truly out of touch with anyone in the reality I know. At this soirée [waggles hands in the air all whoop-de-doo] Radosh learns of Bannon’s absolutely inarguably completely badass daughter, then talk turns to politics, and Bannon quips according to the tweet.
Radosh, later attempting to do his authorial due diligence, contacts Bannon to make sure everything is on the up-and-up:
I emailed Bannon last week recalling our conversation, telling him that I planned to write about it and asking him if he wanted to comment on or correct my account of it. He responded:
“I don’t remember meeting you and don’t remember the conversation. And as u can tell from the past few days I am not doing media.”
It’s not merely that the quote is unconfirmed. It’s that confirmation of this quote is denied, outright. Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that Bannon is some sort of angel, or that the underlying meaning of the alleged quote isn’t something he might hold near and dear to his heart. But good luck finding any other source of Bannon claiming to be a Leninist. If that was a trial balloon he threw out like a verbal tic at a soirée, well, it doesn’t seem to be one he wants to own. In that case, if we want to hang that meaning around his neck, we’ll need a better smoking gun than this confirmation-denied “quote,” quote-unquote.
I know if this were a piece written by someone to whom I was antagonistic, or at least to whose argument I might be antagonistic, I wouldn’t let this quote attribution slide for even a moment. Since I dislike double-standards, I’m kinda stuck kicking this quote to the curb even though it fits a narrative with which we’re supposed to be comfortable.
I’d reject that quote. But what do I know? I mean, I truly am a hot-headed, opinionated basement dweller in the hinterlands. What do I know that these *ahem* estimable sources don’t?
Daily Kos: Avowed Leninist Steve Bannon Is Using Trump to Overthrow the Government and Destroy the Press. DK just runs with it.
Salon: Steve Bannon, Bolshevik: Maybe Donald Trump’s alt-right Svengali really is a “Leninist”. Salon actually not only makes an allowance for confirmation-denied by saying the comment wasn’t denied, then goes on to suggest we take, not Radosh, but Bannon at his word, even though it’s Radosh’s unsubstantiated quote.
The New Yorker: STEVE BANNON WILL LEAD TRUMP’S WHITE HOUSE. The author just runs with it.
The Wall Street Journal: Who Is Steve Bannon? Op/ed just runs with it.
The New York Times: Stephen Bannon and Breitbart News, in Their Words. At least the unconfirmed nature of the quote is included, but why include it except to color a narrative without actual substantiation. Sure, we don’t know that it’s true, but we can work with that is hardly a standard of which I’d be proud.
Mashable: Donald Trump’s new chief strategist actually said these terrifying things. Offered without caveat, just cites the Beast, which is a right sloppy way to do things if you’re going to use the word actually right in your hed. Semantically, actually, to me, demands some burden of proof better than kick-the-can.
ABC: Why Trump’s Appointment of Steve Bannon Has Raised So Many Alarms. So far, ABC has done the best job of waffling their rationale for using the quote. Bannon reportedly said, you see. And they include the bit about Bannon declining to confirm the quote. So they’re still basically okay with running with the unsubstantiated quote because, why, exactly? It does fit the narrative all too conveniently, doesn’t it?
Quartz: Breitbart headlines show how Donald Trump’s new chief strategist, Steve Bannon, sees the world. Links to DB, no caveats. Who is this Quartz, anyway? I’ve been seeing a fair amount of them on my FB feed of late.
Quartz (qz.com) is a digital global business news publication. It is owned by Atlantic Media Co., the publisher of The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive. Its team of 175 staff members  was pulled together from prominent brands in business journalism: Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The New York Times.” The four initial sponsors of Quartz were Boeing, Chevron, Cadillac, and Credit Suisse.
Oh. Why does Wall Street rubber stamp come to mind? Maybe they’re a fine source, but I’m thinkin’…stinkeye. Their failure in using the Bannon “quote” doesn’t improve my estimation.
BusinessInsider: Steve Bannon’s worldview of Marx, religion, and capitalism is much more complicated than you think. Woo! At least BI pulled a novel trick. They linked to The New Yorker. Instant credibility!. Except NY just linked DB and ran with it, no caveats. Hrm.
Sorry, Kendzior and company, and “estimable” company it is, too. Before I can make a rational connection between those two quotes, first I need to confirm those two quotes. .500 might be a fine batting average in baseball, but in something you put your name on? That is to be taken as fact by a credulous audience? An audience hungry for red meat to sate its appetite for confirmation bias? That’s not so hot. In this case, it borders on dishonest.