How Not To Question a White House Spokesperson

Below is a short 2 min video from RT. It shows RT's White House correspondent, Gayane Chichakyan, and Associated Press' Matt Lee questioning the current spokeswoman for the White House, Elizabeth Trudeau. What you will see is two reasonable people appealing to the reason of a third person who is incapable of being reasonable. Even if she is not a psychopath, she represents the White House Administration which is demonstrably psychopathic. So appealing to reason is a lost cause.

If you are playing a game of tennis and your opponent hits the ball out of court, the point is not up for discussion; it is either 'in' or 'out' by virtue of the facts. It is not an occasion for determining the facts via consensus agreement. The spokeswoman hit the ball out of the court and Chichakyan and Lee questioned the spokeswoman in an attempt to get her to agree with them on the facts. Mistake!

They should not have been asking questions at all but rather declaring the proposed assertion that Russia had bombed a Syrian hospital as unsubstantiated and therefore invalid; of no credibility and declared that the end of the discussion.

How could they have done that?

It is a universally accepted maxim in debate, logic or rhetoric that if someone makes an assertion, then the 'onus of proof' is upon them. If there is no proof provided, or evidence at least, then the assertion has no substance or credibility and therefore can and should be dismissed.

One of the reasons this is so is because your opponent can make up imaginary scenarios all day long and they gain some credibility in the eyes of the audience provided they can make it look like there is some truth on both sides. This is achieved by continuing the dispute which necessarily needs the co-operation of the other side. The trick is to get your audience to defend the opposite view so the person making the assertion is relieved of defending their case. In this way, the deceivers reverse the onus of proof.

Credibility is gained by the deceivers because the vast majority of people believe (falsely) that, in a dispute, the 'truth' lies somewhere in between the two arguments. This is very often not the case and when one of the disputing parties is a psychopath, it is almost always not the case; the truth is entirely on one side.

So by asking questions and even providing evidence of the contrary, as Chichakyan did, she and Lee unwittingly gave the White House some credibility. They provided the other side of the argument so now we have a contest. Matt Lee did hit on the essential flaw in the spokeswoman's assertion (no evidence provided) but phrased it as a question instead of as a statement. This allowed the 'contest' to continue when it should have been declared, "No contest!" Or, "Game over. Thank you linesmen. Thank you ball boys"!

He asked, "Isn't it incumbent upon you to come up with some . . . even a location . . . ?"
He should have declared instead, "You are making a very serious assertion. The burden of proof is incumbent upon you. Without any evidence from you, your assertion must be dismissed because it has no substance". End of discussion.

Of course, in practise, when dealing with psychopaths or their mouthpieces, you can expect them to keep repeating their baseless assertion. In that case, the correct strategy is to keep repeating that their claim is without supporting evidence and therefore is without substance and unworthy of further consideration because the onus of proof is upon them.

Matt Lee made another tactical mistake in that he asked two questions at once. The mouthpiece answered the easier one and gave him a victory but in doing so dodged the more dangerous bullet; the question regarding the onus of proof. Again, it should have been in the form of a self-evident statement rather than a question. The question allows the 'contest' to continue, whereas a statement declares, "no contest".

When talking to or corresponding with a hostile opponent, always only ask one question at a time and repeat it till it is answered. This is called 'playing broken record'. That way, if the question is repeatedly not answered, it is far more obvious and far more damning.

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good points!

Hi James. You make several good points here. Sorry I've been so slow getting back to you.

As for the reporters: It's a tough line to tread, because reporters who say, "You've made no case, and nobody believes you," are not likely to get invited back very often. The US government in particular controls "access" to the media by using it as a "reward" ... and the Pavlovian media puppies go for the reward almost every time. So they usually play by the rules. Personally, I don't believe access to serial liars is of much value, so I don't buy into the "reward" thing. But then I'm not running a "news" organization or "competing" for "market share." So I don't need the access in the same way that they do.

In my view, the really weird thing is that people have no trouble saying of a politician, especially a foreigner or somebody from a party they don't support: "He (or she) would say anything to get elected." But once that person becomes a government official, by virtue of holding a "respectable" office, he (or she) always gets the benefit of the doubt, even when there is very little doubt that he or she would still say anything if there was an outside chance that somebody might believe it.

It's an eerie sign that the whole "civilization" has lost its "sanity." Anyone who believes a candidate is "gullible," but anyone who thinks an elected official might be lying is "a conspiracy theorist."

Of course they're lying! That's their job!

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I think it always makes good sense to assume that they're lying -- not because I'm a conspiracy theorist, but because they have a long track record of lying, both as individuals and as an organization. Nobody could possibly reach a high office in, or become a spokesman for, the US government, without being a very experienced liar. And this one -- Elizabeth Trudeau -- is not even very good at it, apparently.

But still ... to think that they might be telling the truth, or that they might be interested in telling the truth, or that they're not prepared to answer your question, or that you might gain something by allowing them to waffle in response to your question, seems to me very naive.

And it was painful to watch. It's "almost" as though the reporters were trying to help the White House build its case against Russia, saying, "This is what you should do in order to get us to believe you..." Maybe they don't mean it that way. Maybe this is as far as they can go without losing their precious access. I don't know.

Of course you're right: The obvious thing would be to say, "Look. Nobody believes you!" And, as you say, that would be the end of the discussion. But then again political correspondents don't usually get their jobs by being insightful and cutting -- or by ending the discussions.

But on the other hand, isn't it obvious that she's lying? Again!?? Rather than "RT Grills State Department ..." the piece could have been titled, "This is what it looks like when they're lying!"

On the other hand, it is surely chilling to see the gulf between the accusation and the supporting "evidence." The US has gone to war on less evidence many times.

The Emperor is appointed by God.

Thanks for your insightful comment, WP. It is interesting how a politician 'on the make' is seen as a lying opportunist, yet if he gains office he is suddenly respectable. I think it goes back to the conditioning we all receive regarding respecting (and obeying) 'authorities'. It is a dysfunctional parent/child relationship spread into adulthood and across society-wide.

The incumbent authority is to be respected by virtue of their position as parent. So, a challenger is disrespecting not only the incumbent but also the social milieu, the culture we all swim in. Some see that we are all being disrespected.

Now, if the challenger manages to unseat the previous 'parent', then the challenger is now the parent and must be respected. The previous incumbent must have been a bad parent and therefore deserves to be rejected.

The Chinese Emperors were appointed by God (or so the Chinese were told) so it was an offence against God to challenge the Emperor. However, if the challenger was successful, then it was obvious that the previous Emperor had fallen out of favour with God - and all is well again! When I first read about this as a teenager, I thought how stupid it was but we are no different at all.

The video is, indeed, painful to watch. It is interesting to watch without the sound. We see that Trudeau is clearly stressed which indicates that she is not psychopathic herself. But she is acting against her nature (the source of the stress) and you can only keep that up for so long.

The faces of the other reporters show that they are mostly young and disengaged. So it would seem that the news organisations, as a whole, do not place much importance on these 'briefings' either. Matt Lee seems to have resigned himself to the reality of the sham of it all but can't resist saying something to preserve his sanity.

Gayane Chichakyan seems to be genuinely puzzled by the unreality of it all. Naivety is appealing to see especially in an attractive woman because it speaks to an inherent trustworthiness but naivety can be dangerous for that person's survival and perhaps for others as well.

I agree with you, WP, about assuming politicians are lying. My mantra is to assume the opposite of what they are saying as the 'default setting' and you'll be right 9 times out of 10. That's a winning strategy in anyone's language!

Speaking of bullshit

George Carlin on lying politicians and many others. It's a bullshit culture - all day, everyday (including free delivery)!

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Thanks, James

this is a brilliant clip!

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