Galaxy Quest

“Never give up! Never surrender!” Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith, who had played Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, the commander of the starship Protector on a fictional defunct cult television series, Galaxy Quest – pretty much Star Trek – would say that at the climax of every episode – and that’s the joke in the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest – because the cheesy original series was cancelled and now Jason Nesmith is pretty much a drunk who is supposed to show up at rather pathetic fan conventions and seldom does. Alan Rickman plays the exasperated Spock figure. He shows up. But everyone else has given up. Everyone has surrendered. Only the die-hard young fans in their odd series costumes show up.

But then some actual aliens, who think that cheesy television series was an accurate documentary, show up. They caught the broadcasts from the other side of the universe. They took that never-give-up bullshit seriously. They built an actual working Protector. They ask Commander Peter Quincy Taggart to come help them. He thinks it’s a joke. But it’s off to outer space with the whole crew of third-rate Hollywood actors to fight the bad guys, and to figure out what’s bullshit and what’s not. The whole movie is a hoot. Lots of people shout those words. “Never give up! Never surrender!”

They’re mostly jerks. Sometime you do give up, as you should, when you’re being a jerk. Yes, this is about Donald Trump:

A Florida federal judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump’s status as a former president does not exclude him from following Twitter’s terms of service, the latest setback in his quest to get back on the social media platform after being banned this year.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. granted Twitter’s motion to transfer the case from the Southern District of Florida to the Northern District of California, which is required by a clause in the company’s user agreement that all Twitter users sign. The case stems from Twitter permanently suspending Trump shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that led to five deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.

While Trump’s attorneys have argued that his status as former president exempts him from Twitter’s clause, and that it was in the public interest for the case to stay in Florida, Scola was unconvinced. In his 13-page ruling, the Miami judge noted that Trump, who lives in Florida, “has not advanced any legal authority to support his contention.”

In short, this was bullshit:

“The Court finds that Trump’s status as President of the United States does not exclude him from the requirements of the forum selection clause in Twitter’s Terms of Service,” wrote Scola, an appointee of President Barack Obama. “The Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their heavy burden to show that this case should not be transferred.”

The move followed a ruling from another Florida federal judge earlier this month who granted a similar request to move Trump’s lawsuit against Google-owned YouTube to a California court.

Trump, who has asked a court to mandate that Twitter restore his account, has also filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, arguing, with little substantiation, that social media giants are “silencing” him and other conservatives. Trump has also argued, without evidence, that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey “succumbed to the coercion efforts of Democratic lawmakers.”

He will never give up. He will never surrender. But maybe he should:

The ruling comes as Trump is fighting social media companies in the courts over alleged censorship issues, while simultaneously attempting to launch his own social media platform to, as he wrote, “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

The former president announced last week that he would be starting a new platform called Truth Social, even as pranksters were able to post a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account on an unreleased test version of the site.

This is not going well, and he wants this nonsense to stop:

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced,” Trump said. “This is unacceptable.”

His argument here is that he is the most popular and most beloved president in United States history, by far, so this is obviously intolerable. Everyone obviously agrees on that. Of course they don’t agree, but that’s hardly the point here:

Twitter banned Trump after the Jan. 6 uprising, saying it had made the decision “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” The company noted two tweets in which the then-president said that he would not be going to the inauguration and that his supporters would have “a GIANT VOICE long into the future.”

Months after Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, he filed class-action lawsuits against the companies in July. The lawsuits, which legal experts and business associations say have little chance of succeeding in court, allege the companies violated Trump’s First Amendment rights by suspending his accounts.

The First Amendment protects against censorship by the government, not by private companies.

Trump attorneys have been arguing that Twitter and YouTube and Facebook have been acting, in regard to Trump, as agents of or actually part of the federal government, somehow. They’re still trying to figure out how that could be, but Trump believes that:

“We’re demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well,” Trump said in July.

“Never give up! Never surrender!” But there’s nothing he can do about Twitter and YouTube and Facebook. His words are the usual bullshit, the same words that always ended another cheesy low-budget episode of the now-cancelled Galaxy Quest. His presidency had been cancelled long ago too.

But he will never surrender:

Twitter may be maintaining its ban on Donald Trump, but the former president is finding other ways to get his message out.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday published a lengthy letter to the editor from Trump charging, inaccurately, that the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden was “rigged.”

The nearly 600-word letter is replete with loosely sourced and largely debunked claims of fraud in Pennsylvania, a state that President Biden won by 81,660 votes, handing him 20 electoral college votes that helped secure his victory.

He was robbed! He was robbed in Pennsylvania! He was blithering:

Trump took issue with an Oct. 24 piece from the Journal’s reliably conservative editorial board, which argued that the statewide margin between Trump and Biden was too vast for a debate over the status of approximately 10,000 mail-in ballots that arrived after the Election Day deadline to be germane to the outcome. “The country is lucky the election wasn’t closer,” the board wrote. “If the election had hung on a few thousand Pennsylvanians, the outcome might have been picked by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out,” Trump retorted baselessly in his letter, before listing “a few examples of how determinative the voter fraud in Pennsylvania was.”

Trump cited talking points from “Audit the Vote PA,” a little-known organization that has promoted unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, which he described as “highly respected.”

This was its own form of cheesy science-fiction, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal took a hit over this:

The Trump missive seemed to test the blurry boundaries that have long surrounded letters-to-the-editor columns, where newspapers have attempted to balance a commitment to showcasing a wide array of opinions with a reluctance to traffic in falsehoods.

The Journal’s decision to publish the letter drew a backlash on Wednesday from some journalists and political commentators, who accused the publication of amplifying election misinformation.

Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal had now become a joke:

“Most newspapers don’t allow op-ed writers to just make up nonsense lies. Apparently the Wall Street Journal is not among them,” HuffPost White House correspondent S. V. Dáte wrote on Twitter. Jonathan Tamari, a national political reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, said Trump’s letter “is full of absolute lies – from the first bullet point down.” Amanda Carpenter, a conservative political commentator who previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), called it a “a garbage op-ed” and said the newspaper should take responsibility for the piece’s claims.

Steve Severinghaus, a spokesman for the Journal, declined to comment about the decision to publish the letter. When asked specifically about the newspaper’s standards for publishing a letter, he did not respond.

Oops. But the damage was done:

Bill Grueskin, a Columbia University journalism school professor who had served as deputy managing editor of the Journal, said that letters to the editor are an opportunity for aggrieved readers to voice their concerns with the paper’s coverage.

“That’s generally fine, but if someone is going to spout a bunch of falsehoods, the editor usually feels an obligation to trim those out, or to publish a contemporaneous response,” he told the Washington Post. “The Wall Street Journal editorial page chose not to do that in this case.”

But there are norms:

Some publications state clearly that letter submissions will be fact-checked, while others do not directly address the veracity of any claims made in letters.

The Washington Post, in an online guide, informs potential submitters that “letters are edited for clarity, fact checked and sometimes trimmed to fit the space available in the newspaper.”

In a 2004 guidance that a New York Times spokesperson said is representative of the newspaper’s policies, letters editor Thomas Feyer said that submissions are checked for factual accuracy. “Letter writers, to use a well-worn phrase, are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts,” he wrote. “There is, of course, a broad gray area in which hard fact and heartfelt opinion commingle. But we do try to verify the facts, either checking them ourselves or asking writers for sources of information.”

But things are different in Murdoch’s shop:

The Journal’s right-leaning opinion page has often been at odds with the newspaper’s newsroom. In July 2020, after the opinion page published an essay by Vice President Mike Pence headlined “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” nearly 300 Journal staffers sent a letter to the paper’s publisher that asked for more delineation between news reporting and commentary and called out the opinion section’s “lack of fact-checking and transparency.”

The editorial board responded with a column decrying the letter as an effort at “cancel-culture pressure.”

That’s an unhappy workplace, and then there’s this:

The Trump letter arrives after some Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania have pushed for a “forensic investigation” of the vote, which has already been audited, calling for voters to “come forward if they have witnessed voter irregularities or other election improprieties firsthand.”

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, has called such efforts a “partisan fishing expedition.” On Wednesday, he derided Trump’s claims as “baseless.”

“We had a free, fair election,” he wrote on Twitter. “Case closed.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump also adds this:

The Journal would have been better served had it explained why it chose to run the letter without contextualizing it, since that might have at least offered some clarity on the otherwise inexplicable decision, but it didn’t.

They didn’t contextualize anything. They just dropped this on the world. But that’s not the biggest problem here:

Even if those who decided to publish the letter lacked the resources to fact-check each of the claims, they might have pushed back on obviously false claims, as when Trump falsely claims that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spent millions of dollars to “interfere in the Pennsylvania election.”

They might also have noted that the organization that Trump repeatedly cites as an authority for his claims, the “highly respected” group Audit the Vote PA, has no actual experience in evaluating elections.

Or, perhaps, that the organization’s website includes allegations of fraud that are themselves obviously false. This includes a reference to former Trump administration official Peter Navarro’s collection of fraud claims and a presentation by Douglas Frank, a close ally of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

But wait, there’s more:

They could have pointed out that the first claim in Trump’s letter, about late-arriving mail ballots, had already been adjudicated by the courts and wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the race. That’s even if the numbers he cited (which came from Audit the Vote) were credible, which they aren’t.

They could have contextualized Trump’s argument that changes made by the state legislature should have nullified votes by pointing out that a court had already considered this question and determined that the votes should stand.

They could have noted that Trump’s lead on election night was meaningless given the number of absentee ballots that remained to be counted. It was obvious by the morning of Nov. 4 that there were enough absentee votes outstanding to probably hand Joe Biden a victory in the state. Yet, nearly a year later, the Journal allows Trump’s claim that something suspicious happened to stand without comment.

But that’s not all:

They might have done more to elevate the fact that Trump’s loyal-until-the-election attorney general, William P. Barr, dismissed Trump’s claims of fraud, instead of letting him malign Barr’s refusal to chase Trump’s imaginary rabbits.

If they really wanted to spread their wings, they could have pointed out that a canvass of one county that claims to have identified 78,000 “phantom voters” is simply not credible. If you think contacting hundreds of people at home is trivial, you are encouraged to speak with someone who has spent even one day running a door-to-door political or marketing campaign.

The Journal could also have come back to Trump before publishing his letter, setting a higher bar for publication…The paper could, for example, have asked that Trump offer some baseline number of examples of proven, demonstrated fraud, not simply various numbers dependent on amateur analyses of voter data. It could have insisted that the former president of the United States, a billionaire, present whatever concrete evidence of fraud he should have ascertained nearly a year after the election and with all of the power of his political party and his pocketbook at his disposal.

And there’s this:

The paper could have come back to Trump and asked him why he didn’t include various other claims of fraud in the state that he has in the past embraced. He once claimed that the state had 205,000 more votes than voters, a claim debunked in December, given that it was based on flawed analysis of voter data (including from the same system on which many of his Audit the Vote claims are based). Why was that debunked claim excluded when others weren’t?

But none of that matters:

The main thing you need to know about the letter, of course, is that Donald Trump is still railing against his election loss 358 days after it occurred. And that prominent institutions are still enabling his dangerous misinformation more than 358 days after they should have known better.

They did know better. The chose not to know better this time.

Still, Trump should know better. Never give up? Never surrender? He’s about to make a mess of things:

Former president Donald Trump on Wednesday teased the idea of making an appearance in Arlington on behalf of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, stirring all sides of Virginia politics during the final days of the race…

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted shortly after that the “MAGA movement will be delivering a major victory to Trump-endorsed businessman” Youngkin, and Trump looked forward to visiting Virginia, with further details to be released “when appropriate.”

Oh shit. Glenn Youngkin has been saying he’s not really Trump. He has nothing to say about Trump’s claims that he is still the president, or ought to be. He’s running on that critical race theory thing – lists of books to be banned and historical matters never to be mentioned at all – because they make White kids feel bad. But he’s a moderate – no public book burnings – no big bonfires of books in public squares. And he won’t state his position on abortion. He’ll reveal that after he wins. But he doesn’t need this:

Asked if Trump was coming to Virginia to campaign for or with Youngkin, the candidate’s spokesman, Devin O’Malley, declined to comment.

Youngkin, who’s been asked repeatedly on the campaign trail if he would like Trump to campaign with him, has refused to say. O’Malley did not respond Wednesday when asked if the campaign wants Trump to appear.

But this may be a false alarm:

Trump is not expected to travel to Virginia before Election Day, according to two people familiar with his plans. The statement came after Biden made his second Terry McAuliffe campaign appearance of the year, where he and McAuliffe aimed to tie Youngkin to Trump, who lost Virginia by 10 points in the 2020 election.

Trump was only mocking Biden. But the damage was done:

Moments after Trump’s message went out, conservative radio host John Fredericks, chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign in 2016 and 2020, teased at Trump’s potential visit on his show, which he was broadcasting from the bus tour he launched this week to promote the entire GOP ticket.

Two weeks ago, Fredericks arranged to have Trump phone in at a rally for the ticket headlined by former Trump White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who is considered a key witness for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Youngkin, who has walked a tightrope trying to attract pro-Trump Republicans in the commonwealth without alienating suburban moderates, publicly thanked Fredericks for arranging the event but distanced himself from it after participants kicked the event off by pledging allegiance to a U.S. flag flown at Trump’s rally ahead of the insurrection.

Youngkin wants no part of that, but he has no choice here. Trump will never give up. Trump will never surrender. He’s on his own Galaxy Quest. And this one is just as absurd as that wildly comic movie. But this quest isn’t funny. It’s just sad. Or dangerous.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to Galaxy Quest

  1. Dude, I love that movie. Great analogy.

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