“Conflation” and other words we never used to need

Conflateto combine two issues into one. The word may not be part of Donald Trump’s vocabulary, but he knows how to do it.

Yesterday Trump continued his ongoing attack on various media outlets (the objects of his wrath change daily) because some of them actually provided people with news.

For weeks now there have been stories floating within the highest levels of government that place Donald Trump in the throes of real scandal—rumors that he used Russian prostitutes while visiting Russia and worked secretly with Russian cyber-experts to tilt the election his way. The source of these allegations is a highly respected ex MI-6 agent from England, Christopher Steele. Mr. Steele has subsequently gone underground.

This endeavor all began well over a year ago when a wealthy Republican donor hoped to uncover enough dirt on Trump to keep him from gaining the nomination. When the dirt failed and Trump won the nomination anyway, the effort stopped—only to be restarted by  Clinton supporters.

Most news outlets, though aware of the rumblings, chose to back off until there was some proof; but Buzzfeed released the story and the accusations, many of which underscored activities that were salacious and/or treasonous, but all of which remain unsubstantiated. Trump referred to Buzzfeed as garbage and lumped them in the same basket of deplorables as CNN. This is where the conflation comes in.

CNN simply stated the news—that in fact rumors were out there. The network never stated specifically what they were. Nevertheless child Trump, ever the tantrum thrower, began a shouting match yesterday with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, whose only aim was to point out the difference. CNN had done what a news outlet should do—report the news. Trump doesn’t like that; in fact, he even drew analogies to Nazi Germany when he referred to CNN. But since Trump’s knowledge of Nazi Germany is limited to Hogan’s Heroes reruns, we shouldn’t attach to much significance to that unless, like the Nazis, he wants the state to control the news…which of course he does.

I am not a CNN apologist. I seldom watch that network. But their editorial decision was alarmingly close to James Comey’s when he said the FBI had discovered more Hillary Clinton emails but wasn’t certain of their relevance. In the end they had no relevance other than to set off a week of damaging stories that, more than anything, sealed the election for Trump. It’s cold comfort that the Justice Department—now that the horse has left the barn—will conduct an investigation to find out if Comey’s unprecedented actions were politically motivated.

Meanwhile Trump will continue to conflate ideas as a method of keeping us off guard and off topic. While we’re being vigilant, here’s one we can conflate:

  • Trump at the press conference: “You saw yesterday Fiat Chrysler; big, big factory going to be built in this country as opposed to another country.”
  • Headline today: E.P.A. Accuses Fiat Chrysler of Cheating on Emissions Tests.



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