Saturday, July 22, 2017

Kettle Logic

President Trump this week told The New York Times he made no money from business dealings with Russians, but would fire special counsel Robert Mueller were he to try to confirm that.

"I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something," Trump said. "So, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make—from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years."

Translation: I never make money from Russians, except when I do.

"Look, this [investigation] is about Russia," Trump continued. "So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, 'Man!' People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this, because one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow."

Translation: Were he to examine my finances, Mueller would discover I make tons of money from Russians, despite what I say. But I never think about the money, so the whole matter is actually unimportant.

A masterful display of kettle logic.

Kettle logic is a form of rhetoric through which you use several arguments to defend yourself with no concern for inconsistencies. Using kettle logic, you string together contradictory statements to make your case, presenting them as if the contradictions don't exist.

French philosopher Jacques Derrida named the form of argument after a story told by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams:

A man is accused by his neighbor of damaging a borrowed kettle. The man defends himself by claiming that he returned the kettle undamaged; that it was already damaged when he borrowed it; and that he never borrowed it in the first place.

The inconsistencies between and among the different arguments, Freud said, aren't apparent to the dreamer, because the logic of dreams allows contradictory things to be admitted simultaneously.

Wake up, Mr. President.
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