Talk for Article "Fact check: Jon Meacham’s attributed quote to Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan"

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  1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    The section of this article that says that the claim is “partly true” is really missing the point. The similarity between what Trump is trying to do and what Walker was trying to do is uncanny. It’s easy to imagine that Walker’s speech inspired Trump’s actions.

    The fact that Walker was more focused on southern european immigrants isn’t even necessarily true—is it a coincidence that the southern border with Mexico was much more controlled after Walkers time than before? I doubt it. Walker can be seen as an early instigator of the very same policy that Trump is now championing.

    So to say that this comparison is misleading is actually misleading. The comparison is apt, and the detail about the physical nature of Trump’s wall is a trivial difference. It’s generally understood that Trump’s wall isn’t likely to actually make any difference. So while his “wall” would have a physical embodiment and Walkers might not have, what is important in the comparison between Walker’s quote and Trump’s policy is what they have in common, not what is trivially different about them.

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      I definitely didn’t say “that this comparison is misleading”. Fact checking has not to judge the claim. Your arguments are about the question whether the comparison is apt. They are opinion, the question that they are the answer to is a kind of question a fact check cannot deal with.

      What I say is: the meaning transfered by the tweet is other than the meaning of the original by Walker. This is a factual statement.

      “Misleading” (John) resp. “false”/”distorting” (me) is the answer to the following question:
      Is it true that Walker said “America should ‘build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven’ against the flow of immigrants.–Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan”

      The rationale is on the linguistic level, it’s esp. a matter of pragmatics. Decisive for the question whether what Meacham tweeted is the same as what Walker said is finally the sameness of meaning. Thus, we compared the meaning of the tweet with that of Walker’s statement as part of his speech.
      Meaning arises not only by the knowledge of grammar and lexicon, but also by the context of an utterance. Again in other words, what I wrote in my comment of Jan. 17:
      – Meacham’s quote excluded the context by which the different meanings of “wall” would have become obvious,
      – about the time of the tweet, the media were full of Trump’s wall, which formed the public pre-understanding,
      – moreover, Trumps “Address to the Nation” had been issued just shortly before the tweet.
      Meacham must have been aware of the above.
      Whether the difference between the meanings is a trivial one is a matter of opinion.

  2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    I made a few changes to the text.

    I don’t really accept the hypothesis that we wouldn’t know from Walker’s quote that his wall was a metaphorical one. I don’t think anyone would take him literally when he said he’d build it “as high as Heaven.”

    What I believe he was talking about, if I may make a guess, was an influx of Italian and Greek immigrants to America at the time, who should be noted are neither Protestant Christians nor as light-skinned as their Northern European counterparts. So in this respect, it is literally about color, or ethnic group, if you prefer.

    See, for example, the demography section on the wikipedia page for the history of immigration in to the US from 1850—1930.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_immigration_to_the_United_States#1850_to_1930

    Thus, I don’t really believe the meaning of the quote is misrepresented in Meacham’s usage of it. I disagree that it should be marked as “mostly false” based on the premise that people are going to think he wanted to literally build a steel wall as high as heaven, when in fact Walker’s real “meaning” was that he wanted to keep out darker-skinned non-Protestant Christian (“Southern European”) people which is very much consistent with the current US president’s words and actions toward South American immigrants to the US.

    But I don’t want to start a fight.

    Edited: 2019-01-16 23:30:30 By John Clayton (talk | contribs) + 99 Characters .. + 8% change.‎‎ (Note | Diff)

    Edited: 2019-01-16 23:46:38 By John Clayton (talk | contribs) + 125 Characters .. + 9% change.‎‎ (Note | Diff)

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Hi John,
      tnx for your deliberations. Nevertheless, my thoughts still go into another direction. And this is no fight, IMO, but a common effort to come to a correct fact checking 🙂

      You are basing your presumption, that no one will take “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” literally, on use of the passus “high as Heaven” (which were nonsense if taken literally).

      In my view, “high as Heaven” is a figure of speech using exaggeration to express that the wall will be insurmountable und impressive.

      It is absolutely possible to use this figure of speech in respect of a wall, taking “wall” literally.

      As to the other respects, I understand your arguments, but I think that you weight the fact too low

      – that Meacham excluded the context and therewith the fact that the immigrants Walker meant came from the European continent which can hardly be seperated from America by a wall 😉 and

      – that, when the tweet went online “the wall” was on everybody’s lips in connection with Trumps (material) wall, this forms the pre-understanding of the tweet and Meacham must have been aware of this,

      – and that six hours before Meacham sent the tweet President Donald Trump had issued his Address to the Nation, and Meacham must have been aware of this timing.

      Based on the assumption that these factors contribute to the formation of meaning, “Wall” will be understood as a physical one.
      Let me dare to put it like this (a working assumption): “The above circumstances are an immanent part of the meaning of the tweet”.

      Judged by the above deliberation, “Part of the claim is somewhat misleading” is not strictly correct.

      What about:
      – “Fact Check: Probably mostly false.”
      (I would prefere this against “half true” because only minor parts are true, the core statement is probably false.)
      – “Part of the claim is probably distorting”?

      From the beginning I felt that this fact check is a complicated one because it is not about e.g. a statistical figure but about speech. When determining the claim we have to get clear about the meaning of words which in this case is not easy.

      Further discussion is needed – please.

      Tnx, too, for the text changes of your first edit.

  3. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    I have just included my yesterday findings for further discussion.
    Is “mostly false” adequate?
    And please check my English.

  4. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    The full text of ” Proceedings of the Second Imperial Klonvocation of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, held in Kansas City, MO in September 1924” included Clifford Walker’s speech, this part corroborates Meacham’s claim:

    ” I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven, against
    uission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never
    hi ihe thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their
    I uMiild go further”

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      I think, only part of the claim is true. Indeed, Walker said “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven”. The claim as a whole is obviously not true, at least interpretation is needed.
      Walker did not adress a “flow of immigrants”, but only “those Southern Europeans who never [thought?] the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their lives”. He continued: “I would go further. I would place not only every one of those [that?] shall come here in the future, but every one of those of recent about whom there is any doubt as to their loyalty, on probation. I would let them … go to school in the academy of democracy … and if at the end of that reasonable time he did not speak our language and did not qualify as a one hundred per cent American, then I would, if necessary, send them back across the ocean” (see p. 17 of the “Proceedings…”).
      After that it is clear that “the wall” is not to be taken literally but symbolically and that Walker does not reject foreigners as such but those foreigners who don’t become Americans. Walker also said: “I remind you that our forefathers, every one of them, were foreigners. If you can, make proper provision for the labor conditions of this Union, …” (p. 16).

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