Jan. 9th, 2017

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Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump's mockery of a disabled reporter, in her speech at the Golden Globes. Trump in return has claimed he didn't mock the guy - well, he did: it's on video - and called Streep an overrated actress. This is mere abuse: even in the unlikely event that this much-honored performer is overrated in her craft, that is completely unrelated to the truth of what she's saying.

Here's an article on the background, what Trump was mocking the reporter for, which actually I hadn't known. It all goes back to Trump's claim that he saw TV news reports of thousands of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City after 9/11. This reporter's article at the time, saying merely that police questioned some people who were allegedly seen celebrating, was the only thing Trump could find that even remotely backed this up, and it didn't go very far: no thousands, no TV or other evidence. The reporter pointed out this difference, and Trump was mocking him for allegedly backtracking on the story, which he didn't do.

But this gives me an opportunity to raise a point: what made Trump think he had seen TV reports of crowds of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City? And I immediately think of the Mandela Effect, people being sure they remember things that just aren't so. What satisfies here is when there's an explanation for what they thought they saw. I'm not sure there exists one for the most famous case, the old movie about the genie. Claims that the people who remember this are thinking of a different movie about a genie starring a different black actor have been met with heated denials. They insist it's a different movie in which different things happen, and they remember both movies being on the video shelf at the same time. But it seems generally accepted that people who remember Nelson Mandela dying when he was still in prison in the 1970s are probably thinking of Steve Biko.

I've had a few cases like that, when I insufficiently distinguished people. I was quite surprised when I saw James Taylor perform at Obama's second inaugural. It was the first time I'd seen him in decades, and I'd thought he had died long ago in a plane crash. It took some looking up to find that the person I was thinking of was Jim Croce, and this moment was the first time I had ever realized that "Fire and Rain" and "Time in a Bottle" were by different guys.

So if it's not Mandela but Biko, and not Taylor but Croce, what could Trump have seen that made him think crowds of Muslims were celebrating in Jersey? I didn't watch anything of 9/11 on television, but I did read the news, and my recollection - which I haven't checked - is of reports of large crowds of Muslims celebrating in the West Bank. I remember that because they and the Taliban seemed the only people happy on the occasion; even Qaddafi and Saddam maintained, as I recall, a dignified silence.

So maybe Trump saw a news clip from the West Bank, and somehow misread a label or misheard a correspondent, and thought it was in Jersey City? For a guy who seems not to pay much attention to anything he sees or hears that doesn't have his name in it, wouldn't that explain it?

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