Category: Benjamin Baird

Fire and Fury: Wolff's Gossip Tome No More than Smoke and Mirrors


The Fire and Fury tell-all tabloid currently flying off bookshelves is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, an illusion that relies upon the confirmation biases of President Donald Trump’s most enduring critics.  Muckraker Michael Wolff stands to become fabulously wealthy by simply rehashing the most salacious and unconfirmed rumors to dog the Republican outsider since he unexpectedly ascended to the White House one year ago.

Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes synonymous with the truth.  “The 322 pages don’t provide a lot of ‘new’ news,” notes Los Angeles Times columnist Jackie Calmes, before arguing that “the picture of mayhem is mostly familiar to readers who have followed the daily reporting of White House correspondents.”

In the case of the president’s mental fitness, gossip gradually turned to gospel as Democrats recycled duplicitous allegations that should have died soon after Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein first advanced this narrative on the campaign trail.

“You know, I don’t pretend to be able to do TV diagnosis,” offered Stein, a Harvard-educated internist, before doing exactly that.  “But I think the guy has a problem.”

After the election, a third-party candidate’s desperate plea for attention became a partisan plot embraced by the left as a precursor to a DNC Plan B: a psychiatric coup based on the 25th Amendment.  MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough was soon comparing the president’s “confused mental state” to his own mother’s chronic dementia before warning later that “we are headed towards [sic] a nuclear showdown.”

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the New York Daily News all agreed: Trump is a “madman” who will kill us all.  Ultimately, it did not matter that the House voted overwhelmingly to table a resolution to impeach the president last month in the same way that the veracity of Wolff’s reporting is inconsequential – the damage from their Democrat spitballing is done.

With the authority of an Oval Office insider, Wolff gave credence to not just these charges of insanity, but the entire collection of recurring Beltway scuttlebutt on the president.  From White House sleeping arrangements to the president’s gluttonous obsession with McDonald’s, the Hollywood Reporter columnist succeeded in convincing readers that information acquired from Trojan Horse reporting came straight from the horse’s mouth.

Calmes calls this rumor restoration “the power that comes from tying together in one place the dizzying events of Trump’s initial year plus [Wolff’s] ability to write – as his subtitle proclaims – that his account comes from ‘Inside the Trump White House.'”  By virtue of having parked his rear end on a West Wing sofa for many months, Wolff validated every progressive conspiracy theory from 2017 and adapted these fantasies into a single pretentious potboiler that is as fallible as it is unoriginal.

These documented distortions are precisely what Trump’s detractors want to hear: regurgitated politics-porn supported by journalism practices that were previously acceptable only when writing about sensitive national security secrets.  The use of multiple anonymous sources to substantiate particularly licentious gossip started with the Russian collusion delusion and was sloppily adopted to provide a veneer of legitimacy to Wolff’s own sell-all.

By virtue of his propensity to embellish the truth, the liberal media establishment argues that Trump invited his own character assassination.  A Washington Post piece by senior reporter Aaron Blake exposes the factual inconsistencies of Fire and Fury before concluding that “this is the tell-all that Trump’s post-truth presidency deserves.”

In other words, Trump had it coming.  Ten pages into Wolff’s revisionist saga, the professional gossip-monger admits that his chronicle is built upon lies.  “Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue.”

Similarly, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted that “even if some things are inaccurate/flat-out false, there’s enough notionally accurate that people have difficulty knocking it down.”  The use of terminology like “notionally accurate” is anti-Trump-speak for confirming the left’s inherent suspicions without actually presenting any proof to support them.

The mainstream press is determined to treat Fire and Fury like the infamous Christopher Steele dossier.  Progressives contend that the merits of this Clinton-funded hit piece should not be challenged just because of one unsubstantiated story about prostitutes, a hotel bedroom, and a “golden shower.”

Nearly one year from the first leak of this document, a Newsweek headline asks, “Is the Trump ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier True?,” demonstrating how even the boldest mistruths are slow to die.  Wolff’s rumor-mongering is cut from the same cloth as Russiagate

Wolff’s fiction has already produced dividends for the left, turning mainstream news cycles into a never-ending psychoanalysis of the POTUS.  In Western Europe, where an apology tour-averse President Trump has never been popular, Europeans woke up to front-page headlines questioning the sanity of the leader of the free world the day following Wolff’s pre-emptive publication.  Even a media outlet from the tiny archipelago of Tonga is trending in the U.S. by asking, “Can Trump prove his sanity,” as if the onus is on the president to disprove a psychiatric diagnosis rendered from social media posts and press conferences.

The good news for out-of-work tabloid-writers and underachieving White House correspondents is that there is plenty of demand for more Trump family fiction into 2018 and beyond.  A new, fresh-faced presidential embed can settle on his own version of the truth to prove that Trump is not a billionaire, the first lady is a prostitute, and poor little Barron has autism.

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer with the Conservative Institute, a widely published political and Middle East analyst, and a U.S. Army infantry leader who battled insurgents for over 1,000 days in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Fire and Fury tell-all tabloid currently flying off bookshelves is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, an illusion that relies upon the confirmation biases of President Donald Trump’s most enduring critics.  Muckraker Michael Wolff stands to become fabulously wealthy by simply rehashing the most salacious and unconfirmed rumors to dog the Republican outsider since he unexpectedly ascended to the White House one year ago.

Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes synonymous with the truth.  “The 322 pages don’t provide a lot of ‘new’ news,” notes Los Angeles Times columnist Jackie Calmes, before arguing that “the picture of mayhem is mostly familiar to readers who have followed the daily reporting of White House correspondents.”

In the case of the president’s mental fitness, gossip gradually turned to gospel as Democrats recycled duplicitous allegations that should have died soon after Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein first advanced this narrative on the campaign trail.

“You know, I don’t pretend to be able to do TV diagnosis,” offered Stein, a Harvard-educated internist, before doing exactly that.  “But I think the guy has a problem.”

After the election, a third-party candidate’s desperate plea for attention became a partisan plot embraced by the left as a precursor to a DNC Plan B: a psychiatric coup based on the 25th Amendment.  MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough was soon comparing the president’s “confused mental state” to his own mother’s chronic dementia before warning later that “we are headed towards [sic] a nuclear showdown.”

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the New York Daily News all agreed: Trump is a “madman” who will kill us all.  Ultimately, it did not matter that the House voted overwhelmingly to table a resolution to impeach the president last month in the same way that the veracity of Wolff’s reporting is inconsequential – the damage from their Democrat spitballing is done.

With the authority of an Oval Office insider, Wolff gave credence to not just these charges of insanity, but the entire collection of recurring Beltway scuttlebutt on the president.  From White House sleeping arrangements to the president’s gluttonous obsession with McDonald’s, the Hollywood Reporter columnist succeeded in convincing readers that information acquired from Trojan Horse reporting came straight from the horse’s mouth.

Calmes calls this rumor restoration “the power that comes from tying together in one place the dizzying events of Trump’s initial year plus [Wolff’s] ability to write – as his subtitle proclaims – that his account comes from ‘Inside the Trump White House.'”  By virtue of having parked his rear end on a West Wing sofa for many months, Wolff validated every progressive conspiracy theory from 2017 and adapted these fantasies into a single pretentious potboiler that is as fallible as it is unoriginal.

These documented distortions are precisely what Trump’s detractors want to hear: regurgitated politics-porn supported by journalism practices that were previously acceptable only when writing about sensitive national security secrets.  The use of multiple anonymous sources to substantiate particularly licentious gossip started with the Russian collusion delusion and was sloppily adopted to provide a veneer of legitimacy to Wolff’s own sell-all.

By virtue of his propensity to embellish the truth, the liberal media establishment argues that Trump invited his own character assassination.  A Washington Post piece by senior reporter Aaron Blake exposes the factual inconsistencies of Fire and Fury before concluding that “this is the tell-all that Trump’s post-truth presidency deserves.”

In other words, Trump had it coming.  Ten pages into Wolff’s revisionist saga, the professional gossip-monger admits that his chronicle is built upon lies.  “Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue.”

Similarly, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted that “even if some things are inaccurate/flat-out false, there’s enough notionally accurate that people have difficulty knocking it down.”  The use of terminology like “notionally accurate” is anti-Trump-speak for confirming the left’s inherent suspicions without actually presenting any proof to support them.

The mainstream press is determined to treat Fire and Fury like the infamous Christopher Steele dossier.  Progressives contend that the merits of this Clinton-funded hit piece should not be challenged just because of one unsubstantiated story about prostitutes, a hotel bedroom, and a “golden shower.”

Nearly one year from the first leak of this document, a Newsweek headline asks, “Is the Trump ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier True?,” demonstrating how even the boldest mistruths are slow to die.  Wolff’s rumor-mongering is cut from the same cloth as Russiagate

Wolff’s fiction has already produced dividends for the left, turning mainstream news cycles into a never-ending psychoanalysis of the POTUS.  In Western Europe, where an apology tour-averse President Trump has never been popular, Europeans woke up to front-page headlines questioning the sanity of the leader of the free world the day following Wolff’s pre-emptive publication.  Even a media outlet from the tiny archipelago of Tonga is trending in the U.S. by asking, “Can Trump prove his sanity,” as if the onus is on the president to disprove a psychiatric diagnosis rendered from social media posts and press conferences.

The good news for out-of-work tabloid-writers and underachieving White House correspondents is that there is plenty of demand for more Trump family fiction into 2018 and beyond.  A new, fresh-faced presidential embed can settle on his own version of the truth to prove that Trump is not a billionaire, the first lady is a prostitute, and poor little Barron has autism.

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer with the Conservative Institute, a widely published political and Middle East analyst, and a U.S. Army infantry leader who battled insurgents for over 1,000 days in Iraq and Afghanistan.



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Vegas Gunman's Use of Bump Stock Reduced Casualties


In the hypercharged partisan atmosphere that disgracefully follows any mass shooting tragedy, journalists, politicians, and anyone with an opinion spontaneously become firearms experts. Yet, as this U.S. Army combat infantry grunt can attest, these desk jockeys are no straight shooters.

The Interstate 91 country music massacre is no exception. From talks of machine guns, bump stocks, “silencers” and the semantics of weapons transportation, these would-be sharpshooters are negligently off-target when it comes to the laws of modern warfare. Although reporters posing as weekend warriors insist that crazed gunman Stephen Paddock’s decision to use a bump stock made his shooting ambush the deadliest in modern history, the truth is that his erratic gunfire inadvertently reduced casualties.

With over 1000 days of continuous combat operations during three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as over a decade of training and leadership as a U.S. Army infantryman, my experience can provide some insights lacking from the deadly shooting rampage in Las Vegas. I have qualified as an expert marksman with the military-issued variant of every confirmed weapon system utilized by Paddock to carry out his heinous assault, and I have instructed hundreds of American, Iraqi, and Afghan soldiers in the finer nuances of advanced rifle marksmanship.

In a rare bipartisan effort to do something — anything — in response to the violence, lawmakers are currently considering a ban against the bump stocks, or the weapons accessory that modifies semiautomatic rifles to fire at an automatic rate of fire. Instead of pulling the trigger once to fire a single round, an automatic weapon fires multiple rounds when the trigger mechanism is depressed. A bump stock mimics this effect on standard semi-automatic rifles available for purchase in civilian stores.

Reporters have almost universally attributed the high casualty count in Las Vegas — 58 killed and well over 400 wounded — to the rapid rate of fire that gunman Stephen Paddock achieved with the use of a bump stock modification. A Reuters report called this device a “major factor” in producing the unprecedented casualty rate, while CNN says that the bump stock allows shooter to “convert a killing machine, an AR-15 rifle, into a weapon of mass destruction …”

Contrary to popular media opinion, Paddock’s cyclic rate of fire may have saved lives that horrible Sunday evening. The disturbing reality is that if the shooter decided to eschew the bump stock in favor of firing at a sustained and controlled pace, the death toll would have risen dramatically.

I have been in dozens of firefights with an M4 carbine — a weapons platform from the same family of rifles that Paddock used to fire from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. When engaging enemy targets in theater, I never moved my rifle’s selector switch from semi-automatic to a faster rate of fire because this would have completely compromised my accuracy.

Don’t take my word for it, though. The U.S. Army field manual for rifle marksmanship states:

“Automatic or burst fire is inherently less accurate than semiautomatic fire. Trainers must consider the impact of recoil and the high cyclic rate of fire on the Soldier’s ability to properly apply the fundamentals of marksmanship and other combat firing skills…”

The light weight and short length of the common assault rifle causes the muzzle to climb uncontrollably when fired on automatic. Therefore, more modern military rifles employ a less erratic three-round burst option in lieu of the automatic mode.

The same field manual says that three-round burst is preferable to fully auto and advises that soldiers firing older M16 rifles should pull the trigger, “but quickly release pressure to prevent an excessive number of rounds from being fired in one burst.”

Audio captured of the Las Vegas shooting shows that Paddock certainly did not preserve his accuracy, letting loose long, continuous clips of uninterrupted fire. As a rule, infantry fighting units deplore the use of automatic fire from a standard-issue rifle, and even when a situation calls for rapid suppressive fire (like shooting at tightly grouped targets), controlled semi-automatic shots are preferred.

Mandalay Bay is estimated to be about 400 yards away from the nearest victims at the concert grounds. From his vantage on the 32nd floor, Paddock was approximately 420 meters away, putting his nearest unfortunate targets just within the maximum effective range of a point target for an AR-15.

This distance to target means that as Paddock’s muzzle inevitably climbed from the wild shooting, a rise of a few inches from his barrel was equivalent to dozens of yards on the ground. Many of his bullets, intended for helpless concertgoers, very likely flew above the adjacent airport.

Admittedly, this theory is counterintuitive to anyone outside the profession of arms. Fox News host Tucker Carlson became the subject of outraged mockery for rejecting the narrative established by unqualified journalists.

Responding to a guest of his prime-time program who asserted that Paddock’s bump stock was responsible for the scores of killed and wounded, Carlson said, “Many more would’ve died actually because if you talk to people who know a lot about guns they say pros don’t even fire on fully automatic because they can’t hit anything.”

Carlson received a critical response for his educated observation, with sources like Salon calling his assessment “a bizarre claim.” Of course, none of these outlets provided any expert analysis to dispute his nonconformist assertion.

Incidentally, before the House considers banning bump stocks altogether, lawmakers should know that this modification is actually redundant. The same rate of fire can be achieved without a bump stock on most rifles by utilizing a method called “bump firing.”

Instructive videos may be found on the internet outlining this simple technique. The shooter applies forward tension with the non-firing hand while keeping the trigger finger stiff and immobile, biomechanically accomplishing an automatic rate of fire.

Before the inexperienced and unstudied offer misguided conjectures about modern warfare, they would be wise to consult an expert. Their friendly neighborhood Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost would be an excellent starting point.

Benjamin Baird is a Middle East analyst who writes for the Conservative Institute and the Middle East Forum. He is a graduate of Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University, and a retired staff sergeant with the U.S. Army infantry. 

In the hypercharged partisan atmosphere that disgracefully follows any mass shooting tragedy, journalists, politicians, and anyone with an opinion spontaneously become firearms experts. Yet, as this U.S. Army combat infantry grunt can attest, these desk jockeys are no straight shooters.

The Interstate 91 country music massacre is no exception. From talks of machine guns, bump stocks, “silencers” and the semantics of weapons transportation, these would-be sharpshooters are negligently off-target when it comes to the laws of modern warfare. Although reporters posing as weekend warriors insist that crazed gunman Stephen Paddock’s decision to use a bump stock made his shooting ambush the deadliest in modern history, the truth is that his erratic gunfire inadvertently reduced casualties.

With over 1000 days of continuous combat operations during three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as over a decade of training and leadership as a U.S. Army infantryman, my experience can provide some insights lacking from the deadly shooting rampage in Las Vegas. I have qualified as an expert marksman with the military-issued variant of every confirmed weapon system utilized by Paddock to carry out his heinous assault, and I have instructed hundreds of American, Iraqi, and Afghan soldiers in the finer nuances of advanced rifle marksmanship.

In a rare bipartisan effort to do something — anything — in response to the violence, lawmakers are currently considering a ban against the bump stocks, or the weapons accessory that modifies semiautomatic rifles to fire at an automatic rate of fire. Instead of pulling the trigger once to fire a single round, an automatic weapon fires multiple rounds when the trigger mechanism is depressed. A bump stock mimics this effect on standard semi-automatic rifles available for purchase in civilian stores.

Reporters have almost universally attributed the high casualty count in Las Vegas — 58 killed and well over 400 wounded — to the rapid rate of fire that gunman Stephen Paddock achieved with the use of a bump stock modification. A Reuters report called this device a “major factor” in producing the unprecedented casualty rate, while CNN says that the bump stock allows shooter to “convert a killing machine, an AR-15 rifle, into a weapon of mass destruction …”

Contrary to popular media opinion, Paddock’s cyclic rate of fire may have saved lives that horrible Sunday evening. The disturbing reality is that if the shooter decided to eschew the bump stock in favor of firing at a sustained and controlled pace, the death toll would have risen dramatically.

I have been in dozens of firefights with an M4 carbine — a weapons platform from the same family of rifles that Paddock used to fire from 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. When engaging enemy targets in theater, I never moved my rifle’s selector switch from semi-automatic to a faster rate of fire because this would have completely compromised my accuracy.

Don’t take my word for it, though. The U.S. Army field manual for rifle marksmanship states:

“Automatic or burst fire is inherently less accurate than semiautomatic fire. Trainers must consider the impact of recoil and the high cyclic rate of fire on the Soldier’s ability to properly apply the fundamentals of marksmanship and other combat firing skills…”

The light weight and short length of the common assault rifle causes the muzzle to climb uncontrollably when fired on automatic. Therefore, more modern military rifles employ a less erratic three-round burst option in lieu of the automatic mode.

The same field manual says that three-round burst is preferable to fully auto and advises that soldiers firing older M16 rifles should pull the trigger, “but quickly release pressure to prevent an excessive number of rounds from being fired in one burst.”

Audio captured of the Las Vegas shooting shows that Paddock certainly did not preserve his accuracy, letting loose long, continuous clips of uninterrupted fire. As a rule, infantry fighting units deplore the use of automatic fire from a standard-issue rifle, and even when a situation calls for rapid suppressive fire (like shooting at tightly grouped targets), controlled semi-automatic shots are preferred.

Mandalay Bay is estimated to be about 400 yards away from the nearest victims at the concert grounds. From his vantage on the 32nd floor, Paddock was approximately 420 meters away, putting his nearest unfortunate targets just within the maximum effective range of a point target for an AR-15.

This distance to target means that as Paddock’s muzzle inevitably climbed from the wild shooting, a rise of a few inches from his barrel was equivalent to dozens of yards on the ground. Many of his bullets, intended for helpless concertgoers, very likely flew above the adjacent airport.

Admittedly, this theory is counterintuitive to anyone outside the profession of arms. Fox News host Tucker Carlson became the subject of outraged mockery for rejecting the narrative established by unqualified journalists.

Responding to a guest of his prime-time program who asserted that Paddock’s bump stock was responsible for the scores of killed and wounded, Carlson said, “Many more would’ve died actually because if you talk to people who know a lot about guns they say pros don’t even fire on fully automatic because they can’t hit anything.”

Carlson received a critical response for his educated observation, with sources like Salon calling his assessment “a bizarre claim.” Of course, none of these outlets provided any expert analysis to dispute his nonconformist assertion.

Incidentally, before the House considers banning bump stocks altogether, lawmakers should know that this modification is actually redundant. The same rate of fire can be achieved without a bump stock on most rifles by utilizing a method called “bump firing.”

Instructive videos may be found on the internet outlining this simple technique. The shooter applies forward tension with the non-firing hand while keeping the trigger finger stiff and immobile, biomechanically accomplishing an automatic rate of fire.

Before the inexperienced and unstudied offer misguided conjectures about modern warfare, they would be wise to consult an expert. Their friendly neighborhood Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost would be an excellent starting point.

Benjamin Baird is a Middle East analyst who writes for the Conservative Institute and the Middle East Forum. He is a graduate of Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University, and a retired staff sergeant with the U.S. Army infantry. 



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