One of my personal agendas in blogging here is to help people defeat the assumption that someone whose interests appear to be aligned with theirs on one thing, is aligned with theirs on most things.
This is what I call the “ally theory” – once we decide someone’s OK, then we stop looking at them critically and begin shoring up our model of them as “on our side.” It’s a form of confirmation bias that I believe results from the way we understand other people: our brains build a sort of speculative/predictive model of how we think they’ll behave, and – once that model is built – we evaluate that person’s past and present actions in accordance with that model. I believe that accounts for why we’re particularly confused (and aroused) by professional actors, and are attracted to media figures that know how to manipulate our tendency to mistake the message for the medium, as it were. If we see someone doing a few things we consider “good” we leap to the conclusion that they are an “ally” and then are more likely to assess their future actions as “good” until they show us otherwise.
In the press, especially among younger journalists who maybe weren’t journalisting in 2008, I’ve seen a sort of “Robert Mueller is Trump’s Worst Nightmare” reporting – which may or may not be true, but which utterly ignores the fact that historically Robert Mueller has been a professional suck-up to authority.
In 2008, Mueller was questioned by congressman Robert Wexler regarding the US Government’s torture program: (text below the video)
RW: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved” end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy” end quote.
RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?
RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.
RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?
RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.
RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?
RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.
RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?
RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.
RW: And what was the result?
RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.
RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?
RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.
RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?
RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.
RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?
RM: I am the Director of the FBI.
RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?
RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.
RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?
RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.
RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?
RM: I’m not certain what you mean.
RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.
RM: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice….
(talking over each other)
RW: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that’s it.
RM: I’ve told you what our protocol was, and I’ve indicated that we’ve adhered to our protocol throughout.
RW: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director. [quoted in source]
This is not a person that will dig to find what happened. This is an ideologue and a liar who will do whatever serves hi interest.
Robert Mueller is not a friend of justice. Just watch what happens.
My bit about “ally theory” (related to the “Franklin Effect” [wikipedia]) and mental modelling is based on nothing at all. So, do not take it as a claim that I have some broad theory of psychology – it’s how I think about things but it’s probably not “valid” (as in testable, repeatable) at all. What I did there, however, is what the entire field of psychology (minus neuropsychology) did and does since its inception: I made up a plausible-sounding thing and stated it assertively. My “theory” above ought to carry as much weight as Freud, Maslow, and Jung’s because it’s based on the same amount of research and observation as theirs. It’s also exactly as testable as theirs. I could come up with bogus experiments, pay undergrads $20 to take them, and wind up with publishable results. Or, I could have until a few years ago, when rational people began to finally burn psychology down to the waterline by trying to replicate its results and discovering that a tremendous amount of it is BS.
I also use my “ally theory” (as a tool for my own mind) to understand personality marketing: if we observe the actions of, say, a favorite musician, we eventually come to associate them with good music and begin to observe good personality traits in them. Then, when they start telling us they wear a particular brand of sneakers, we are more likely to assume that their taste in music being good, their taste in sneakers is good. Marketers manipulate this ruthlessly in order to fool us.
Mueller’s claim about the FBI finding Al Queda ‘affiliates’ is also (as far as we know) a lie. The FBI has done a good job of luring people into compromising themselves, through confidential informants, and then arresting them. The other possible arrest is, of course, Jose Padilla. Who remains in prison on a 21-year sentence, and whose claims that he was tortured have been dismissed out of hand. [wikipedia]