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…does it make a sound?
Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.
The most common and convincing contrast between sound and noise is that noise is unwanted. If it were phrased the other way, that sound is “wanted noise,” then maybe we could squeak out a lexical case that sound made when there’s no one there to want to hear it isn’t sound at all. But, given the way the distinction is generally made, it seems more profitable to reform the original question: “If a tree falls, etc., etc., does it make a noise?” That might be an easier question to answer in the negative.
Which brings us to the administration of President Obama, and the question that recent events bring to mind:
If a crime occurs in an administration and there’s no one there to report it, does it make a scandal?
Because it looks increasingly likely that crimes, serious crimes involving abuse of police and intelligence powers at the highest levels, occurred. If true — and the evidence is already compelling even though the serious investigation is just beginning — then there will be scandal, as there should be. At the least, it should darken an administration that basked in the glow of a fawning press. At the worst (and I think we’ll get there), some high-ranking officials of that administration should stand trial for betraying their offices in the service of their party.
Serious stuff, from what we are often told is a “scandal-free” administration.
The press likes to claim to be the noble guardian of democracy and reports daily that “democracy is under attack.” The only evidence to support that claim is the misconduct of the press itself, first in looking the other way while one administration tried to handpick its successor, and then spinning like a dervish in its eager complicity to undo the unfortunate “mistake” of 2016, when the crimes of a scandal-free administration proved insufficient to achieve the expected outcome.