Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the lies,-damned-lies-and-government-denials dept

It's a sad fact that a lot of big, important questions today are coming down to the government's word versus the word of whistleblowers and anonymous sources. And as silverscarcat points out in our most insightful comment of the week, it's obvious who deserves the benefit of the doubt:

At this point...

Snowden has more credibility than the entire U.S. government put together.

Save for a few individuals, but they're few and far between.

Meanwhile, when it comes to interpreting copyright law, the MPAA seems to think that its word trumps all others, even those found in statute and caselaw. An anonymous commenter won second place this week by reinforcing the point that, whatever you think of Megaupload, you can't just declare war on the whole internet:

If you think Megaupload is bad and evil and infringing and criminals and should fry, try replacing all instances of Megaupload with your favorite cloud service of choice and see if the complaint is still valid.

Of course, in the world of DMCA takedowns, the sad situation is that the rightsholder's word is law, at least as far as taking something offline until it's contested. That's how Sony was able to take a creative commons movie down, and as an anonymous commenter reminds us in our first editor's choice for insightful, the takedowns we hear about are almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg:

When I see stories like this I always wonder how many videos with tiny audiences are taken down by mistake and never put back up because the author does not know how to contest the decision, or are simply scared that they may have infringed someones copyright by accident. Also how many people do not know their fair use rights, and so do not contest take-downs when they have a fair use claim, or cannot risk the cost of it going to court?

For our second editor's choice, we have a thorough comment from Rich Kulawiec about the fact that even beyond the obvious moral issue, not torturing people is in everyone's best interest no matter how you slice it:

Not only is it horrific to contemplate that Americans in positions of authority authorized and/or committed crimes against humanity and tortured helpless human beings to death, but this has serious negative repercussions for American troops in the field.

First, American troops are sporadically engaged in combat with soldiers from other countries -- whether in a declared or undeclared war, or a so-called "police action", or something else. One of the things that has often brought those combat situations to a peaceful end is the surrender of those fighting against the Americans. And one of the reasons those surrenders occured is that Americans could and would promise those surrendering that they would not be killed or otherwise harmed: that they would be treated humanely. That was a promise that American commanders very often worked hard to keep, even over the objections of their own soldiers and their emotions, running high in the heat of battle.

But no American soldier can promise that any more. And no opposing soldier can believe it. There is every possibility that a peacefully-surrendering individual will be "disappeared" into one of the CIA's gulags and repeatedly tortured, perhaps to death.

So why should they surrender? Even if they're surrounded, outnumbered, and in a militarily hopless situation, why should they give up? Why not fight it out and try to take a few more Americans with them?

The CIA's torture program has removed one of the primary reasons for considering surrender as a viable option and thus ensures that more American soldiers will die, fighting protracted battles that need not have been fought by anyone.

Second, American soldiers are occasionally captured by adversaries. And while some of them have been treated brutally, many have been accorded the rights guaranteed to them under international law by countries who observed the Geneva Conventions because the United States did the same. In other words, those countries treated American prisoners of-war humanely because they wished the same for their own, and they had good reason to believe the United States would obey the law.

But the CIA has broken that tenuous trust. They've tortured people to death. And as a result, there is now far less reason for adversaries to treat American prisoners properly: why should they? Which means that captured American soldiers in the field now face substantially higher personal risk than they did previously.

This may not be fixable. I don't know. But if there is any possibility of fixing it, surely it lies along a path that includes the full disclosure of the entire report and every accompanying document. It will be ugly. It will be painful. It will be horrifying. But I think it's the only possible way and I think we, as a nation, owe it to the soldiers we put in harm's way.

Over on the funny side, first place goes to a comment from ChurchHatesTucker, responding to the news that the EU Court of Justice ruled blanket data retention to be a violation of privacy:

So that's where the Fourth Amendment wandered off to.

In second place, we've got a callback comment. After Michael Hayden claimed that various cables and documents were just as good a source of information as the torture tapes that had been destroyed, an anonymous commenter took things a step further with help from a recent, but unrelated, ridiculous ruling:

According to Indiana, Hayden's testimony is better than the tapes.

As noted back at the beginning of this post, there are a lot of battles of "who's lying?" going on right now, and one of the biggest is between Snowden and Rep. Mike Rogers. Our first editor's choice goes to an anonymous commenter for anticipating the latter's response to the former's recent interview:

In before Mike Rogers says that his talking to Vanity Fair is a cover for working with the Russians.

Finally, we've got another anonymous comment that I think deserves to be elevated to Ironic Adage, because it perfectly sums up the mentality of every indiscriminate, overzealous incident of copyright enforcement:

Hey, You can't make an omelet without breaking everybody's eggs

That's all for this week, folks!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Loki, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Of course, in the world of DMCA takedowns, the sad situation is that the rightsholder's word is law, at least as far as taking something offline until it's contested.

    My issue with this is that in a lot of cases these claims aren't from actual rightsholder's and that these people can potentially violate MY rights whenever they feel like it without facing any of the penalties they insist I should face for doing the same.

    On top of that, even when they are the legal rightsholders, they like to ignore or pretend other rights I have, like fair use, simply don't exist (when they aren't trying to pay or cajole governments into actually voiding those rights) and then get upset when other people do the same to their rights.

    All from an industry that moved thousands of miles away so as to avoid what they felt was a totally unfair and restrictive patent system, so they could turn around and impose an equally unfair and restrictive copyright system.

    That sort of hubris, hyprocrisy, and arrogance is not even close to deserving of respect, but merely both of my middle fingers raised high in salute.

     

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  2.  
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    Loki, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    But if there is any possibility of fixing it, surely it lies along a path that includes the full disclosure of the entire report and every accompanying document.

    It'd take far more than that. I remember sitting in a restaurant with my best friend the day befroe we went into Iraq discussing the impending invasion. I said among my many issue (among them the fact that Iraq had rarely known real freedom since WWI, and the fact that the US seemed to have no real plan other than just removing Saddam from power) was that after the first Gulf War, Bush Sr called for the people to rise up and said he'd support them, but when they did rise up he essentially left the out to dry. As a result, all those little boys who'd watched the mothers, aunts, and sister raped and tortured, and their fathers, uncles and brothers murdered and buthcered, and had over a decade for that hatred and resentment to build were never going to trust Bush Jr, and that he had no chance to bring peace to that country no matter how long he was president.

    The same applies here. No matter what truths they disclose, what "checks and balances" they claim they will implement, I would never trust this government as long as people like Feinstein, Rogers, Alexander, Hayden, Clapper, or Obama (just to name a few) are still in any position of authority. Hell I doubt I'd trust the government even if these people resigned or were removed from authority without facing some manner of incarceration for their crimes/misconduct. And I'm an American.

    If I'm not willing to trust these people, the odds of getting non-Americans to trust them is somewhere between none and none.

     

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  3.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 3:39pm

    Re: I would never trust this government

    Why don’t you vote in a better one? The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re: I would never trust this government

     

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  5.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 8:49pm

    Re: The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    Is that a yes or a no?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

    Re: Re: The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    I assume it's a "You think you are voting in a better one, only they turn out to be just as bad as the previous one."

    There's kind of a limit on what you can predict a politician will be like once in office. No matter how much it might seem like you're putting in an improvement at the start, they can either turn out to have been bad all along, or end up corrupted by the position and it's circumstances.

     

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  7.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 11:09pm

    Re: Re: I would never trust this government

    Sure, if you consider being able to choose whether you want to be shot in your right foot or left foot a 'democratic'-style choice.

     

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  8.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 11:17pm

    Re: The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    But politicians are people, just like the voters, no better and no worse.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 1:19am

    Re: Re: I would never trust this government

    The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    Wrong. The nation is a republic.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 1:32am

    Re: Re: The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    Yea, all people are just the same as others. There can never, ever be someone different so it would be best if instead of a vote - people would be selected for office via a random number.

     

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  11.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 4:02am

    Re: Yea, all people are just the same as others

    But in the US you only believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of ability, am I right?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 4:42am

    Re: Re: Re: I would never trust this government

    Yup - the best republic money can buy.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    Industries try to get patents to prevent competitors from competing in the U.S. yet they go manufacturer elsewhere to avoid being sued by patent trolls and other competitors that have patents over here. The result is that the U.S. loses manufacturing jobs because everyone is fighting over wanting the government to give them exclusivity.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:53am

    Re: Re: Yea, all people are just the same as others

    There are over six billion people. So even if you are one in a million there are still over 6,000 people out there like you.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:07am

    Re: Re: The US is supposed to be a democracy, right?

    The problem is that it's difficult to predict what a politician will do once in office. Every politician promises the world. What politician is going to run for office promising to expand copyright length retroactively (public domain theft), impose stricter patent laws, engage in backdoor dealings with industry interests while leaving the public out (ie: ACTA among others), etc... They know very well that such reforms are not representative of their constituency. So they will all run for office claiming that they will bring about more transparency and telling everyone what they want to hear. Once elected they do a 180 and then what? They only worry about themselves and advancing their own personal agenda with their backdoor dealings and revolving door favors and the public is left out in the cold.

    Also see

    The problems with first pass the post
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo

    The alternate vote explained
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE

    by CGP Grey

    Poor Obama and the current congress. He/they worked hard to get to where he is by getting his education and running for office and going through the exhaustive process of campaigning against others so that he can get elected and scam the public in return for revolving door favors. Yet he/they couldn't get SOPA passed and his other attempts at back door dealings in return for something have been faced with a lot of public resistance. He's now desperate to do something in the private interests of someone, against the public interest, so that he can get something in return like a revolving door favor. He worked hard for this and it's not paying off the way he had planned.

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re: Re: I would never trust this government

    It's a democratic representative democracy. It's just as right or wrong to call it a "republic" as a "democracy".

     

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  17.  
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    GrayArea (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I would never trust this government

    The term you are looking for to properly describe the U.S.A. is democratic republic, which is what the founders intended (not trusting in the mob rule of a full democracy). Unfortunately, it has become an oligarchy.

     

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  18.  
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    The Joker, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 7:51am

    So that's where the Fourth Amendment wandered off to.


    I'm glad to see this comment win funniest comment of the week. So much for it being "valueless."

     

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  19.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:42pm

    Re: So even if you are one in a million there are still over 6,000 people out there like you.

    So where are the ones worthy to lead you?

     

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  20.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:44pm

    Re: The problem is that it's difficult to predict what a politician will do once in office

    That’s why you have checks and balances: a free press, transparency, accountability, public opinion polls, all the rest of it. When those politicians come up for re-election, they have to stand or fall on their record of actual actions rather than words. Or if they do something really egregious, public opinion has been known to force them out without waiting for the next scheduled election.

    Is this not enough? If not, what more is needed?

     

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  21.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Wrong.

    So was George Bush wrong in wanting to promote the “Spread of Democracy”? Or was it really Republicanism he was talking about?

     

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  22.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Sure, if you consider being able to choose whether you want to be shot in your right foot or left foot a 'democratic'-style choice.

    Why can none of you offer a third choice? Will you as voters not go for it?

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Re: The problem is that it's difficult to predict what a politician will do once in office

    "When those politicians come up for re-election, they have to stand or fall on their record of actual actions rather than words."

    If only that were actually true.

    "Is this not enough? If not, what more is needed?"

    You're making the assumption that we actually have a functioning system of checks and balances, a functional free press, real accountability, actual public opinion polls, and the rest.

    The truth is, we have very little of any of that in practice. So my answer to your question is -- that probably would be enough. We need to get it.

     

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  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:29pm

    Re: Re: Sure, if you consider being able to choose whether you want to be shot in your right foot or left foot a 'democratic'-style choice.

    The election system is intentionally geared to severely disadvantage all third parties. Just getting a third part on the ballot is an enormous task. Once there, the advantages of the two primary parties are so huge that it's incredibly difficult to even get the word out in an effective way. You're excluded from major debates, you have a disadvantage in terms of getting air time, etc.

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Re: Wrong.

    George Bush, like most modern Presidents, had no interest in spreading Democracy. That's just the rhetoric intended for the masses.

     

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  26.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 12:29am

    Re: a functional free press

    If you don’t think the existing press is “functional” and “free” enough, you are free to set another one up, are you not?

     

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  27.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 12:31am

    Re:The election system is intentionally geared to severely disadvantage all third parties

    Maybe you need a new election system, based on proportional representation, so any party which gets sufficient votes can get into the legislature, in proportion to the votes it got.

    For examples of this in action today, see Germany or New Zealand.

     

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  28.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 12:32am

    Re: That's just the rhetoric intended for the masses.

    “Masses” = “voters”.

    Are most voters gullible? Are you yourself a voter? Are you gullible?

     

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  29.  
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    Pragmatic, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 2:56am

    Re: Re: a functional free press

    Ask Ed Snowden.

     

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  30.  
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    Pragmatic, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 3:03am

    Re: Re:The election system is intentionally geared to severely disadvantage all third parties

    The trouble is, this makes governing problematic. They attain the quorum required by caucusing, i.e. settling into associated blocs and coalitions. This fractured way of doing business works but isn't that much better than what we have now.

    What we need is to start talking about and actively promoting third party candidates NOW so people know their names and what they stand for when the elections come around. It'll have to be a grassroots door-to-door campaign in which we are consistently working to get the word out. It's a numbers game; when we get enough people on board we'll get the momentum we need to make it work.

    If it does work and we get some third party candidates elected, they will almost certainly caucus with groups they pretty much agree with in order to get support for their own bills. That's how business is done. However, they'll have the added burden of knowing we're watching them so we should get better representation.

     

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  31.  
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    Pragmatic, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 3:10am

    Re: Re: That's just the rhetoric intended for the masses.

    Well, he gets a lot of Insightful votes. Do you?

     

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  32.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 3:02pm

    Re: The trouble is, this makes governing problematic

    Germany and New Zealand are not exactly what you would describe as “problematic” in being able to govern themselves, are they?

    Did you know that, here in New Zealand, Kim Dotcom has formed a political party called the Internet Party, and it is already being taken seriously by other politicians?

     

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  33.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Ask Ed Snowden.

    Or maybe I should ask the actual journalists who just won a Pulitzer prize for their reporting on Snowden and the NSA?

    So you think a free press doesn’t work?

     

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  34.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 15th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Well, he gets a lot of Insightful votes. Do you?

    I didn’t know there was a box marked “insightful” on your Presidential election form...

    Or are you trying to turn this into an ad-hominem attack?

     

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  35.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 15th, 2014 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Re: a functional free press

    "You are free to set another one up, are you not?"

    Absolutely. And it's being done. Things like that take a while, though. Consider it a work in progress.

     

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  36.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 15th, 2014 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re:The election system is intentionally geared to severely disadvantage all third parties

    I agree!

     

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  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 15th, 2014 @ 5:44pm

    Re: Re: That's just the rhetoric intended for the masses.

    Do you have a point there? Gullibility doesn't really enter into it.

     

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  38.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 2:25am

    Re: Gullibility doesn't really enter into it.

    What else am I supposed to understand by “rhetoric intended for the masses”, if by “democracy” he did not in fact mean “democracy”? Is there not a suggestion that he was not only being deceptive, but got away with it?

     

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  39.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 16th, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Gullibility doesn't really enter into it.

    First, who's "he"? I was talking about a group of people, not an individual.

    Second, by "the masses," I did not mean "voters". I meant "the entire population of the Earth." And yes, for a long time, the government did get away with this particular deception.

    The use of the word "gullibility" is highly misleading, and that's why I take exception to it. Unless you equate "trust" with "gullibility," in which case we'll just have to disagree on this point. That the trust is rapidly evaporating, both among US citizens and the rest of the world, indicates to me that people aren't as gullible as some would suppose.

     

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  40.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Unless you equate "trust" with "gullibility,"

    Fine. So if in fact George Bush was trustworthy, then he can’t have been lying when he talked about “democracy”, could he? So the claim that the US is not supposed to be a democracy is nonsense.

     

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