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Re: Guest Post - Jordan Peterson

1

when actual smart people write things, the words are a vehicle for actual ideas, and readers are expected to make sense of concepts and ideas conveyed by the author

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 7:39 AM
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I read about him a few years ago when some Canadians I know posted stuff about him, but I didn't realize he'd become a border-crossing celeb until recently.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 7:41 AM
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I've been puzzled by the Peterson thing as well. From what little I've read of him, he seems to be about on a level with Dr. Phil, except with the platitudes and folk wisdom dressed up with a dab of something that's supposed to resemble erudition.

The first article touches on what I think is the main reason for his current popularity: he's been fortunate in his enemies. That interview with whatshername, for instance, really was genuinely bad. If you watched that and knew nothing else about the guy, you might think he had something to say that the Gatekeepers of What's Proper and Acceptable were desperate to prevent people from hearing.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 7:43 AM
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Assumes facts not in evidence.

That there are actual smart people?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 7:48 AM
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"I can't believe that this hugely popular public intellectual is supposed to be producing a serious critique of society but is actually just emitting great chunks of jargon-rich, content-free blather!"

"Yes, I know, it is truly an unexpected and shocking development!"

I am also doubtful that he's actually got any claim to being the world's most influential public intellectual, given that neither heebie nor I had heard of him until now.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 7:59 AM
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FFS, it's David Brooks who says Peterson might world's most influential public intellectual. You don't need to actually put any thought into rejecting the notion when you see where it comes from.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:08 AM
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I read a few quotes and it sounds like Peterson maybe read Dune at an age when he was too impressionable.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:17 AM
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The article makes a bold go of it, but I still don't see his appeal, even to idiots. It all seems such transparently banal or wrong nonsense (the article itself acknowledges it), that I can't imagine anyone being misguidedly flattered by it, let alone persuaded. Then again, I feel the same about Deepak Chopra and somehow people find him convincing/compelling too.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:19 AM
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I am pretty sure that, in terms of how much he has actually changed people's lives, the pre-eminent public intellectual of our time remains Ayman al-Zawahiri.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:26 AM
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It's certainly been a shitty few decades for the life of the mind.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:31 AM
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"...the readers who adore Peterson enjoy the sensation of smartstuff washing over them, probably because they like the veneer of smartology that they themselves can then don."

Substitute "Unfogged" for "Peterson" and I am so busted. Also Veneer of Smartology is my new band.


Posted by: chill | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:23 AM
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He's been amply rewarded for his bullshit. Right now his Patreon is the eighth most successful according to number of subscribers. He made actual dollar amounts private a few months ago, but as of October, when he only had 5700 followers, he was pulling in $61k per month. After Patreon fees, that's probably closer to $50-55k, somewhat moderated by having a high average per user earnings of over $10.

Most of the Peterson quotes are painful to read, but these three adjacent Petersonisms do strike me as reasonably clear true-but-not-new non-tautologies:

"People do not care whether or not they succeed; they care about whether or not they fail." Which is apparently different.
"People aren't after happiness, they're after not hurting." I'm actually after happiness, thanks.
"Life is suffering. That's clear. There is no more basic, irrefutable truth." Anything is "irrefutable" if it's not clear what we mean by it.

The first two establish a trichotomy: there exists a life of a safety and sufficiency, between having a great, happy one and an awful one. Many of us settle for that. The last one is one of the tenants of Buddhism that Peterson is just aping. The author's responses lead me to believe he's led a very charmed life.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:30 AM
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I got all my impenetrable archetypal symbolism and Dune jokes out of the way from Mille Plateaux already, I don't need another 600 page doorstop about the monomyth and social apex predators


Posted by: Typhoon Jim | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:30 AM
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tenants of Buddhism

My new band.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:34 AM
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14: Oh, bother. Guess I'll need to be put through the gauntlet, or perhaps into a straightjacket, for my word choices.

Having read more of the article, I can sympathize with the author--the mixture of trite sayings, ponderous verbiage, and bad-faith sliminess would put anyone on edge after a while.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:39 AM
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6: Yes, David Brooks is just displaying his false modestly, as David Brooks himself is obviously the world's most influential public intellectual


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:08 AM
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Your theory explains so much. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter Patreon-whatever-they-have.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:12 AM
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OP: Peterson is relentlessly promoted on I\n\s\t\a\p\u\n\d\i\t, which is one reason he's widely known in the greater Right and probably why he's unknown to heebie. Also, his interview with Cathy Newman (where she scored own-goal after own-goal) got enormous circulation and meme-ified to the hilt.

12. Those are pretty well backed by research. People are more sensitive to losses than gains.

Most of Peterson's writing is pretty horrible, but is it worse than (e.g.) Chomsky? Graves' "White Goddess"? Lévi-Strauss? (Poor Frank Herbert: it is objectively worse than the writing in Dune.) As the author of the first piece says, we have been poorly served by our public intellectuals. (Ta-Nehisi Coates writes rings around all of them, but I've heard he doesn't want to be called a "public intellectual.")

It was also a somewhat dirty trick by Robinson to present the video transcript without paragraph breaks. The part I managed to get through (


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:15 AM
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is it worse than (e.g.) Chomsky? Graves' "White Goddess"? Lévi-Strauss?
Yes, yes, yes.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:18 AM
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18 continued: (I foolishly typed a less-than sign and so it dropped the rest of my screed. So sad.)

The part I managed to get through (less than 50%) was off-topic and discursive, but might have been more reasonable if heard. Perhaps someone would like to try that. (Not me, thanks.)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:19 AM
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19. I will admit that Peterson's diagrams are cruder (and hence funnier!) but equally content-free.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:27 AM
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I like Stephen Bush of the New Statesman's review of Paterson's book as a popular self-help title, based on his past as a bookseller.

Bush thinks it's at least less harmful than The Game and therefore probably a good thing seeing as the two are direct competitors.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:33 AM
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In all respects, Peterson's ancient wisdom is unmistakably modern. The "tradition" he promotes stretches no further back than the late nineteenth century, when there first emerged a sinister correlation between intellectual exhortations to toughen up and strongmen politics. This was a period during which intellectual quacks flourished by hawking creeds of redemption and purification while political and economic crises deepened and faith in democracy and capitalism faltered.... A range of intellectual entrepreneurs, from Theosophists and vendors of Asian spirituality like Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki to scholars of Asia like Arthur Waley and fascist ideologues like Julius Evola (Steve Bannon's guru) set up stalls in the new marketplace of ideas. W.B. Yeats, adjusting Indian philosophy to the needs of the Celtic Revival, pontificated on the "Ancient Self"; Jung spun his own variations on this evidently ancestral unconscious. Such conceptually foggy categories as "spirit" and "intuition" acquired broad currency; Peterson's favorite words, being and chaos, started to appear in capital letters. Peterson's own lineage among these healers of modern man's soul can be traced through his repeatedly invoked influences: not only Carl Jung, but also Mircea Eliade, the Romanian scholar of religion, and Joseph Campbell, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who, like Peterson, combined a conventional academic career with mass-market musings on heroic individuals.


Posted by: OPINIONATED PANKAJ MISHRA | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 10:59 AM
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Peterson's diagrams are livelier than Seb Gorka's so maybe he'll be the replacement for McMaster.


Posted by: No Longer Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 8:10 PM
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Update: Peterson is ragetweeting at the article linked in 23 and citing a First Nations friend in vicarious outrage at Mishra using the term "noble savage".


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-19-18 9:11 PM
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Campbell and Eliade are much more readable than Peterson! Besides, "Star Wars" was influenced by Campbell, so he gets a pass. (Also, Graves gets a pass due to "I, Claudius".)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:19 AM
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As others have mentioned elsewhere, it's ironic how much umbrage Peterson takes at not having his First Nations identity respected--he was supposedly (I'm leaning towards believing it) inducted into the Kwakwaka'wakw nation--while his claim to popularity was based on disparaging trans students' preferred pronouns.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:21 AM
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Peterson's meltdown over that Mishra review is probably the most amusing one I've seen this year. Labeling him (correctly) as twisting the most vapid and sort of postermodernist thinking to serve fascist aims got under his skin like nothing I've seen before.


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:28 AM
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Those tweets have impressed me. What a tough guy he is!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:30 AM
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On the internet, no-one knows you're a Kwakwaka'wakw.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:39 AM
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The only way to truly comprehend the rhythm that defines the universe is hey you fucking punk say that to my face I'd kick your ass.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:46 AM
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It's kind of amazing how effortlessly JP's fans hurdle the gap between "JP stands alone in the light of the one and only truth, contra mundum" and "You're all just envious of JP because he's more popular than you are."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:47 AM
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30: Best read in the voice of Michael Scott from the US The Office.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:48 AM
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The cultural analysis from which his popular work springs from is not much better:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC6w427QIOo

[and there's no need to read him in any voice other than that of Jordan Peterson].


Posted by: Chris S | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:32 AM
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There's a theory going around that Peterson took so much offense from Mishra's article because he misinterpreted it as saying he was having a sexual relationship with his male First Nations friend.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:30 PM
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35: That would explain a few things.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:34 PM
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I read those tweets, and contemptible dimwit though Peterson is, I'm really not seeing any respectable evidence that he misinterpreted the article along those lines.

Honestly, that theory looks kind of like someone saying "Look at the dummy who's so sex-obsessed that he looked at something ambiguous and thought it was about fucking!" coming from someone who's doing exactly the same thing looking at Peterson's tweets.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 1:43 PM
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Are we in agreement that he doesn't understand what "the noble savage" means and believes it refers to Charles Joseph? I thought that was a pretty clear interpretation on first read.

This is the one that raises eyebrows further:

This happened in part because of the work I have been doing alongside Charles: https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/news/unveiling-of-a-spectacular-totem-pole-created-by-charles-joseph-of-the-kwakiutl-nation/ ... Is that a "claim," too, and something brought about by the romance of a fascist with a noble savage? Fuck you.

Peterson is using "fascist" to refer to himself, even though he doesn't consider himself one, as Mishra called him that. Note that he changed "the noble savage" to "a noble savage", reinforcing that he believes that phrase refers to Charles Joseph. So "the romance of a fascist with a noble savage" refers to a relationship between two particular people. That relationship might be Platonic, but then that would be a weird thing to bring up since no one disputes that he and Joseph are friends. If he's just complaining about Mishra using the nasty words "noble savage" and "fascist", why would he bring up their great collaboration? But if he believes Mishra is implying something sordid, that their collaboration would just be fallout from a tryst would be genuinely more insulting.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 2:05 PM
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Are we in agreement that he doesn't understand what "the noble savage" means and believes it refers to Charles Joseph? I

Nope.

What I think Jordan is doing is taking offense in bad faith, but not in a way that has anything to do with an imputation of a sexual relationship. Mishra refers to Peterson's claims of affiliation with a First Nations tribe as "romancing the noble savage". If Mishra had been directing the 'noble savage' language at a First Nations individual, it really would be offensive. So Peterson, in bad faith, makes a rhetorical leap as follows: "I claim to be affiliated with this First Nations tribe as an outgrowth of my friendship and professional collaboration with Charles Joseph. When you call my reference to that affiliation 'romancing the noble savage', he's the 'noble savage' you're talking about -- you're insulting an individual First Nations person. Liberals are the real racists."

It's bad faith bullshitting, but it makes perfect sense to me as ordinary right-wing bad faith. Speculating that Peterson thinks there was a sexual implication doesn't seem to be based on anything concrete.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 2:37 PM
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I could go either way. Bad-faith offense-taking was how I originally interpreted the tweets, but the alternative explanation accounts better for his use of the term "innuendo".

It could certainly be that Peterson doesn't need any strong cue to go up to eleven. And that he doesn't use words very carefully with a mind to their implication.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 2:59 PM
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I could go either way to 35.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:04 PM
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I thought that specific sort of bad faith--a stupidly obviously misreading--would be bad for his brand. But he is playing to a certain crowd. On the other hand, his overreaction makes him look like a whiny little shit, so why do that in bad faith in front of his wannabe-macho-men followers? But I suppose that their convincing-machismo detection abilities must be dull.

He consistently used "romancing", and to my ear the more particular "romance", to refer to interpersonal relations. It's a weird think to keep on bringing up if "savage" and "fascist" are the only actually (potentially) offensive parts. I also was wondering about the "innuendo", but I think that has to refer to him being a member of the tribe as a false claim. But again, weird thing to throw in.

I accept I'm over-interpreting the words of someone who is not concerned about how they pair with meanings.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:07 PM
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40: There's a little bit of ambiguity, sure. But the explanation that he took offense because he thought there was an accusation about his being in a sexual relationship with Joseph requires him to be really wildly dumb -- ordinary offense-taking is the parsimonious explanation, and I think is a much more plausible reading of what he literally said.

If you're going to attribute unbelievable stupidity to someone, what they said has to be pretty unambiguously unbelievably stupid, and this wasn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:12 PM
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I hadn't heard of Jordan Peterson before his moment of liberal-internet fame in the past few weeks and am looking forward to forgetting I ever knew who he was. The interesting thing, maybe the only interesting thing, about the phenomenon, though, is the extent to which it's become increasingly clear that active misogyny is constituitive of the contemporary right wing. I mean in a generalized sense this was always true, but it feels like "I am insecure about and desperately fond of traditional gender roles" is now to right-wing politics roughly what "I dislike labor unions" was in the 1930s. It just is conservatism full stop.

I think that's ultimately a reason for optimism about the future, so long as women and young people have the vote.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:18 PM
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44: If it helps, I've been confusing him with the guy who killed his pregnant wife back about fifteen years ago.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:21 PM
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"I am insecure about and desperately fond of traditional gender roles" is now to right-wing politics roughly what "I dislike labor unions" was in the 1930s.

That's why in the 40s, being sexually attracted to Rosie the Riveter was doubly transgressive for conservative males.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:26 PM
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McDougal! 100% of presidents involved in scandals where a person named "McDougal" was also involved have been impeached.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:32 PM
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My least favorite SNL sketch is The Ambiguously Fascist Duo.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:37 PM
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Possibly two McDougals are required. We don't have enough data to tell.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:38 PM
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44 is good.

Somebody reminded me today that JP's rise to fame (in our circle anyway) when Brooks cited Tyler Cowan calling JP the foremost public intellectual of our time, or whatever the line was.

Just another reminder that TC is a pile of shit who never, at any point, deserved the respect of liberals, and it continues to infuriate me that his Insta-grade punditry is accorded respect, mostly (AFAICT) because he doesn't slobber on his keyboard and because he likes ethnic restaurants.

It was, I suppose, possible to view him as some vague form of Honest Interlocutor before 2007; after the economic crisis proved everything he ever said or believed wrong, but caused him to shift his positions not one inch, he needed to be treated like Jim Hoff or whoever.

Fuck him, fuck George Mason.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:42 PM
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"Slutty George Mason" was my Halloween costume.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 3:56 PM
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43: It could be unbelievably stupid, or it could be a conniving plot to make himself look like an unbelievably stupid crybaby. But I suppose that's what sells.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 4:41 PM
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I'm going with the theory that he did think he was being accused of teh gay, because the overall tone of language used in his tweets suggests maybe he'd had a few drinks?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 5:14 PM
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Not everybody who drinks and spouts shit on the internet is homophobic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 5:22 PM
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#NotAllDrunkTrolls


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 5:54 PM
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There's a guy who always parks by my office with one of those "Not all who wander are lost" bumper stickers. Which is true. It's also true that not all who are lost wander. I don't know why Tolkien though one would be a good proxy for the other.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 5:59 PM
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56: I assume he was just getting pissed off at how many people kept asking if he needed help finding something. I can relate.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:15 PM
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54: hear hear!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 6:17 PM
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OT: He mean "pee tape", right?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 7:00 PM
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Trump had been forced to go along with Theresa May on blaming Russia for those poisonings; he knew he was owing Putin a make-up call.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 03-20-18 8:07 PM
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