Table of Contents
In this post, I’m going to try doing something a bit different. I’m going to try analyzing a concrete, real-world case of a dispute about honesty, using some of the ideas that Peikoff has laid out. The relevance of what Peikoff was talking about struck me as I was watching a discussion between Senator Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson. I don’t know that there is a good, reliable, permanent video link to this discussion, so you will have to accept my best-efforts transcript (computer generated but somewhat manually corrected) as the object of analysis. If you want to try to find a working video yourself on YouTube, my suggestion is to search for something like “Tucker Carlson Tonight 1/6/22” and see what comes up. This post isn’t primarily about political issues but about analyzing a discussion in light of Peikoff’s ideas about honesty (though I’ll make some political side remarks, but seriously, that’s not the point of it — it was just too good an example of an honesty-related discussion for me to not try analyzing it).
So we played this tape for you last time. We were surprised by it. We prefaced it by saying every conservative appreciates Ted Cruz because he's one of the smartest and most articulate people in the Congress and he's conservative, but he referred publicly to what happened on January 6 as "a violent terror attack". Here it is.
We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this capitol.
Senator Cruz was game enough to come on tonight. We appreciate that. He joins us now. Senator, thanks so much for coming on. So I guess what... there are a lot of dumb people in the Congress, you're not one of them, I think you're smarter than I am. And you never use words carelessly. And yet you call this a terror attack, when by no definition, was it a terror attack. That's a lie. You told that lie on purpose. And I'm wondering why you did.
Well, Tucker, thank you for having me on. When you aired your episode last night, I sent you a text shortly thereafter and said, listen, I'd like to go on because the way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy, and it was frankly dumb. And
I don't buy that, whoa, whoa, I don't buy that, look, I've known you a long time, since before you went to the Senate, you're a Supreme Court contender, you take words as seriously as any man who's ever served in the Senate. And every word, you repeated that phrase, I do not believe that you use that accidentally. I just don’t.
So Tucker, as a result of my sloppy phrasing, it's caused a lot of people to misunderstand what I meant. Let me tell you what I meant to say. What I was referring to are the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers. And I think you and I both agree that if you assault a police officer, you should go to jail. That's who I was talking about. And the reason the phrasing was sloppy, is I have talked dozens, if not hundreds of times, I've drawn a distinction. I wasn't saying that the thousands of peaceful protesters supporting Donald Trump are somehow terrorist. I wasn't saying the millions of patriots across the country supporting President Trump are terrorists. And that's what a lot of people have misunderstood that comment…
Wait a second, even, but hold on what you just said doesn't make sense. So if somebody assaults a cop, he should be charged and go to jail. I couldn't agree more. We have said that for years. But that person is still not a terrorist. How many people have been charged with terrorism on January 6, like why do you use that word, you're playing into the other side's characterization that is Joe Kent just explained allows them to define an entire population as foreign combatants and you know that. So why'd you do it?
Tucker, let me answer you directly. That the reason I use that word for a decade, I have referred to people who violently assault police officers as terrorists. I've done so over and over and over again. If you look at all the assaults we've seen across the country, I've called that terrorism over and over again. That being said, Tucker, I agree with you. It was a mistake to say that yesterday. And the reason is what you just said, which is we've now had a year of Democrats in the media twisting words, and trying to say that all of us are terrorists, trying to say you're a terrorist, I'm a terrorist. And so look, I don't like people who assault cops, and I stand up and defend cops. And the reason I use that word is that's the word I've always used for people that violently attacked cops. But in this context, I get why people were angry, because we've had a year of the corrupt corporate media and Democrats claiming anyone who objected to the election fraud, and by the way, remember what was happening...
Can I just ask, hold on... I just, I guess I just don't believe you. And I mean that with respect because I have such respect for your acuity and your precision, and I've seen it on display. I've covered you as a reporter. I know how you speak. And you have sat there for a year and watched people use language to distort the events of that day, intentionally. "insurrection, coup, terrorism”…
Saying it's an insurrection is a political term, it's a lie. I've repeatedly denounced it. And and when it comes to, look, I was focusing on, what I normally say that, what you aired was a little 15 second snippet, what I normally say is violence is wrong, peaceful protest is right. If you engage in violence, you should be prosecuted. If you're speaking you have a right to speak. I say that all the time.
So who is Ray Epps by the way, since you are a senator. He and this other guy are clearly encouraging our crowd to commit crimes. Neither one has been arrested or charged. What is that, do you think?
So? I think that is a very good question. I don't know who Ray Epps is. I've seen that video multiple times. It's disturbing. He's clearly urging the crowd to violate the law. When you see the crowd start chanting "fed, fed, fed," for him to appear on the FBI most wanted list and come off, it certainly suggests he was working for the FBI. That's not conclusive, but that's the obvious implication. And the attorney general in the Department of Justice won't answer the question. Tucker, I can tell you I joined with a number of other senators trying to get the Biden DOJ to answer the question, why so many January six prisoners are in solitary confinement, why they're being treated so much worse than the Antifa rioters and the people who committed fire bombing and a year of riots across the country and this Biden DOJ won't go after them. But let me also make a quick point Tucker remember, while while thousands of people were standing up to defend this country on January 6, at that exact moment, I was standing on the Senate floor objecting to the election results, demanding that we impanel Election Commission to consider evidence of voter fraud. And I brought together 11 senators to join me in supporting getting to the bottom of that. So of course, it would be ridiculous for me to be saying that the people standing up and protesting to follow the law, were somehow terrorists. I was talking about people who commit violence against cops, and you and I both agree, if you commit violence against cops, you should go to jail.
Yeah, but you're not a terrorist. You know, you're not. You're a guy who assaulted a cop. Okay, so that there's, there's a legal difference, as you well know better than I do since you were actually in the running for the Supreme Court. And there's a moral difference between a guy who’s…
Tucker the reason to use that word is for a decade, I've used that word for people that violently assault cops. I use that word all in 2020 for the Antifa and BLM terrorists that assaulted cops and firebomb police cars. But I agree it was a mistake to use the word yesterday, because the Democrats and the corporate media have so politicized it. They're trying to paint everyone as a terrorist. And it's a lie. And by the way, I've spoken out vocally against, your exchange you just had, they want to paint us as Nazis. Yes. That is what they're trying to do. And I just, look, I'm the one leading the fight in the Senate against this garbage. And it's what I had been doing. It's what I'll continue doing.
Well, I appreciate your coming on tonight. Thank you very much Senator Ted Cuz of Texas. Thanks.
Carlson/Cruz Linear Discussion Tree
What follows is a rendering of the Carlson/Cruz discussion according to Peikoff’s ideas on honesty as I’ve understood them so far, and focusing on the things related to honesty. I’m framing things in Objectivist terms, or at least in terms I’m guessing Peikoff might agree with. So what follows is a somewhat Objectivist-ified paraphrase or rendering of some statements of Cruz and Carlson. I also made disagreements between Carlson and Cruz clearer by adding statements about disagreement, whereas Cruz in particular actually framed some of his points as agreement. So this is sort of a better/improved/simplified version of the actual discussion. I don’t think this is how these gentlemen would express these points, but the purpose of this exercise for me is to map Peikoff’s ideas about honesty to this real world example, so translating Carlson and Cruz’s statements into things that map to Peikoff’s ideas is a necessary step in my doing that. In any case, you have the transcript above to refer to for their exact words.
Peikoff’s Approach to Honesty & Describing the Disagreement Between Carlson & Cruz
So I think it’s pretty easy to fit this discussion within the framework of Peikoff’s analysis. Here’s a tree summarizing Peikoff’s approach to honesty as I understand it so far (I’ve added some more points, indicated in red, to a tree I made early in this series).
So now let’s go through the disagreement in detail.
Carlson thinks Cruz’s statement about January 6th being a violent terrorist attack was dishonest. Carlson brings up factors for considering whether Ted Cruz was being honest that fit within Peikoff’s criteria of valid factors to consider. Carlson brings up Cruz’s background as an attorney (including being a contender for SCOTUS), general high intelligence, and general precision with words. These are all relevant issues for judging what knowledge Cruz has or should have access to, and thus relevant for judging his honesty. Carlson regards it as obvious that January 6th did not involve a violent terrorist attack. Carlson may regard the view that January 6th did involve a violent terrorist attack as inherently dishonest (a view that I think Peikoff would disagree with, and that I disagree with). In light of all this, Carlson thinks that Cruz making an error in the use of a term like “violent terrorist attack” is unlikely.
Cruz says that, in his mind, “violent terrorist attack” signifies a concept which includes an attack on police officers. So this goes to Peikoff’s honesty factor of the meaning of a term in someone’s mind. Cruz is making strong claims about both what the concept of a “violent terrorist attack” means and of his past practice in talking about terrorism in regard to cops. Cruz makes the factual claim that he’s described violent attacks on police officers as terrorism repeatedly for some time. So his defense against a charge of dishonesty is essentially that he acted consistent with his past practice in terms of using the concept of terrorism, and that his only error was essentially to have dropped the context of how the Democrats have been using/politicizing the idea of January 6th involving violent terrorism. He concedes to Tucker that, given that context regarding the politicization of the concept of terrorism, him conforming to his alleged past practice regarding his calling an attack on cops a terrorist attack was inappropriate. But, critically, he thinks that this was not an error of dishonesty but more of an error of sloppiness/carelessness on his part.
Carlson essentially reiterates his disagreement with Cruz regarding the point about whether a violent attack on cops constitutes a terrorist attack. Carlson also raises his best point, but doesn’t really follow up on it or even fully articulate it — the point being that Cruz has been seeing the politicization of the terminology regarding January 6th for over a year. There’s a solid argument implied here that Tucker doesn’t actually spell out, because he is, IMHO, focused on the less clear-cut and decisive issue of disagreeing with Cruz’s allegedly idiosyncratic ideas about what constitutes terrorism. The implied argument: it’s not credible that Cruz didn’t previously consider how using the language of terrorism in describing January 6th might be playing into a false Democrat narrative. This is not plausibly an issue that Cruz should have just been considering for the first time just now. Therefore, Cruz must have thought about the issue previously. Cruz is an intelligent and media savvy US Senator and not some random idiot, after all. Thus, when Cruz made his statement about January 6th involving a violent terrorist attack, he made that statement against the backdrop of having previously considered how that language might play into certain political narratives he claims to disagree with. So there might be some dishonesty there. Even if Cruz honestly believes in an expansive definition of terrorism that includes violence against cops, why would he have not considered the broader political context of his use of the term in the past year?
One thing I thought was interesting about the disagreement was the part where Cruz brought up how he couldn’t have meant to imply that the peaceful Trump supporters were terrorists because he did various things in terms of looking into election fraud. I don’t think Carlson was claiming that Cruz said everyone who was at the January 6th rallies, even the peaceful people, were terrorists. I think Carlson was saying that nobody at the January 6th rallies was a terrorist, and that this was so obviously and self-evidently true that claims to the contrary, especially for someone in Cruz’s context, are dishonest. So they were talking past each other somewhat at this point in the discussion. If the dispute was just about whether Cruz was referring to violent people as the terrorists or meant to include non-violent people, that would actually be pretty easy to straighten out. But the disagreement runs deeper than that.
I find it kind of weird that they don’t actually try at all to sort out what should count as terrorism in the context of being violent against police. Carlson just treats Cruz’s understanding as obvious dishonest crap, and Cruz just claims that that’s what he believes and how he’s used the term, but they don’t really discuss what would be sensible. FWIW, it seems obvious to me that some attacks on cops would count as terrorism, and some wouldn’t. Terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”. So, going with that definition, if somebody blows up a police precinct with a bunch of cops inside because they think you need to destroy the existing police system in order to have a communist revolution, then that is obviously terrorism. And if a drunk guy punches a cop because he’s mad that the cops came to his house due to a domestic dispute, then that obviously isn’t terrorism. And there are of course trickier cases that lie between those two extremes. I’d be somewhat surprised if either Carlson or Cruz disagreed with me on this issue as I’ve laid it out (e.g. I don’t think Cruz would say the drunk guy is a violent terrorist because he assaulted a cop).
I don’t think Carlson definitively established that Cruz was dishonest on Carlson’s main line of argument, which was that the January 6th events obviously did not involve violent terrorism and anyone in Ted Cruz’s context could see that. A part of the issue there was Carlson’s failure to lay out his own understanding of what would constitute terrorism, figure out what Cruz’s perspective was, and try to figure out how to bridge the gap. Carlson just took his own perspective for granted and essentially asserted, on the basis of Carlson’s own view, that Cruz must be dishonest.
I think that Carlson raised a serious question about Ted Cruz’s honesty regarding Cruz’s supposed failure to previously consider the context of using the term terrorism to describe January 6th. It does not strike me as plausible that Ted Cruz thought about that issue for the first time a couple of days ago.
I don’t actually expect careful, reasoned debates in which terms are carefully defined and ideas are carefully explored to happen in the context of a few minutes of what is essentially entertainment political programming. Nonetheless, I think analyzing such programs and the deficiencies in discussion that occur in them is worthwhile. They’re interesting examples of the level of public debate and of the sort of errors and problems that occur in public debates that many millions of people watch. In conclusion, I should note that my own first, initial impression was that Carlson had “won” the exchange with Cruz (on a social level, at least), but then, upon giving the matter more careful attention as I wrote this post, I wound up with a much more ambiguous judgment on an intellectual level.