GLOBAL DUMBING (PART 1)! Four news programs ginned a fake tale, making a joke out of warming: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2007
DEBUNKING THE DIMWITS: Three cheers to Josh Marshall, who has steadily pursued the nonsense about Nancy Pelosis plane. (Poor form be damned!) And three cheers to Kevin Drum for last evenings post, called DIMWITTERY. In his post, Kevin is trying to remember all of the dimwit stories about Democratic politicians that have somehow made the jump to mainstream media stardom in the past few weeks. Earlier, Kevin offered his own Pelosi post, saying the continuing flap...is so knuckle-draggingly stupid that I can hardly stand to open the newspaper these days for fear of reading about it.
As weve said, for years and years—its precisely these sorts of dimwit stories which have driven our recent electoral politics. It has taken Dems and liberals a very long time to recognize this reality-based fact. By instinct, bright people will often prefer to work on matters which arent quite so dumb and dim-witted. But: In ignoring this part of our modern politics, weve been allowing the dimwits to win.
How poorly do we still play this game? How poorly do we understand the terrain on which our electoral politics works? Many of Kevins (intelligent) readers still dont seem to get it. Heres a comment appended to Kevins first post—a comment from a well-intentioned, well-meaning person who has a truly disastrous sense of how we ought to do politics:
COMMENT TO DRUM (2/8/07): Kevin wrote: The continuing flap over Nancy Pelosi's military jet accommodations is so knuckle-draggingly stupid that I can hardly stand to open the newspaper these days for fear of reading about it.The reader wants Kevin to focus on warming. But the public debate about global warming has also been shaped, in the past dozen years, by the types of dim-witted stories this readers wants Kevin to ignore. Starting today, well offer two days of posts on this topic (see Global dumbing, below). But in general, it does little good to offer high-minded policy posts while ignoring the dim-witted ways public opinion gets shaped on such issues. Nor can liberals afford to ignore the ways in which public opinion is turned against the pols who actually care about such issues. Al Gore is a giant on global warming. But guess what? His most recent poll numbers are 32 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable (click here, scroll down)—precisely because of ten years worth of the dim-witted tales which this reader says Kevin should ignore. Sadly, these tales are the heart of our modern politics. We liberals and progressives have ignored them for years—and this reader wants Kevin to continue.
Today, many liberals and progressives hope Gore will run for the White House. Their comments are frequent at liberal sites (at the Huffington Post, for example). But it would be very hard for Gore to run because of the profusion of dim-witted stories we liberals agreed to ignore in the past. Those stories were repeated endlessly, year after year, with very little challenge or criticism; inevitably, such stories get in the heads of the voters, leading to 32-46 polling outcomes. On the merits, we ourselves would probably prefer Gore to the three current leading Dem hopefuls. But long ago, we liberals helped create a world in which Gore simply cant be judged on the merits. We did that by ignoring years of dim-witted stories. Its the strategy advised by Kevins commenter—who cares about global warming instead!
In last evenings DIMWITTERY post, Kevin asked readers for other dimwit stories about Democratic politicians that have somehow made the jump to mainstream media stardom in the past few weeks. And he asks if there are any such stories about Republican pols. But some of his commenters still dont seem to understand what types of stories he means. (See this early comment, for example. This is not the sort of story to which we think Kevin refers.) Our question: If some of Kevins (intelligent) readers still dont grasp the concept involved here, do we think that average voters will? Weve failed to warn voters about these tales. As a result, many voters dont have a skeptical bone in their bodies when the latest such dim tales appear.
MATTHEWS (2/8/07): Is your friend Bill going to be in this campaign? Going to be busy with the campaign, not get any distractions going with other things?As always, Chris was factually clueless—this time, about recent Iowa polling. But he certainly knew one thing—he didnt want to finds himself getting distracted again. And so, he sent his famous message: Stop him before I get distracted more!
Chris wasted time with one more round of questions about Hillarys very troubling joke. He said this: I think her problem is that she yells and she talks in a scolding fashion rather than in a way that`s winning and charming. And omigod! Speaking of script, here was the first Iraq reference:
MCAULIFFE: What the American public wants, Chris—forget all of this—theyre sick of whats going on in Iraq today.I wish she would come out against it? Hillary Clinton in DC last week: If Bush doesnt stop the war, I will. But so what? Like others, Chris read the featured script—the one weve discussed here all week.
Chris himself had been a good boy during most of this past week. Last night, though, he went back on his meds. Or perhaps he was once again off them.
Special report: Global dumbing!
PART 1—NONE DUMBER: You cant get dumber than Tucker Carlson. On Wednesday night, he started his nightly news program with his heart in his throat and his brain in a lock. He was concerned about global warming—or rather, with a troubling offshoot of same. For the sake of the historical record, we offer his full commentary:
CARLSON (2/7/07): First, global warming.According to Carlson, George Taylor believes that global warming is mainly caused by non-human factors. For this—says Carlson—Oregons governor wants to strip him of his title as state climatologist.
Before we go further, did we mention the fact that Carlson may be the worlds dumbest human?
Of course, if youre a denizen of national kooky-con media, you may have heard this story elsewhere. For example, Bill OReilly built a segment out of Taylors plight on the Wednesday night Factor. On that same evenings Hannity & Colmes, the boys began their segment on warming with Taylors sad plight too. And the story was covered briefly on Special Report. Except, when Brian Wilson handled the story, a few small cracks began to emerge. Uh-oh! Wilson attributed a sensible motive to Oregons perfectly sensible governor. And uh-oh! He almost mentioned the dodgy provenance of Taylors supposed state title:
WILSON (2/7/07): The Oregon state climatologist may lose his title because he does not accept the theory that humans are the main cause of global climate change. A Portland TV station is reporting that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski wants the title taken away from George Taylor, who insists natural cycles explain most of the planet's climate changes. Taylor is a climatologist with Oregon State University, which gave him the title of state climatologist.Wilson didnt quite have his facts right. But he attributed a rational motive to Governor Kulongoski, who wants a state climatologist who shares his goals. And uh-oh! Wilson said an odd thing! Somewhat strangely, he said that Taylor had been given his title by someone at Oregon State!
Yes, this story ran on four news programs this past Wednesday night. But guess what? The fuss may have surprised the people of Oregon, where this is such a total non-story that it has barely been mentioned in any news outlet. What are the actual facts of this case? On January 29, the Oregonians Michael Milstein previewed a public debate about warming between a pair of local climatologists. And deep down—starting in paragraph 20!—he offered an account of Taylors alleged state position. In the past several weeks, this has been the sole in-state news report on this utterly meaningless subject. This is the utterly pointless squib which led to Carlsons presentation:
MILSTEIN (1/29/07): Taylor is not among the leading Oregon scientists, including [Mark] Abbott, whom Gov. Ted Kulongoski asked to help develop a state strategy on climate change. The governor last week questioned whether Taylor can legitimately call himself state climatologist since the position is not officially authorized in state law.On January 31, the AP ran a story about the debate on its state-and-local Oregon wire. Although Taylor is often referred to as the state climatologist for Oregon, that job was dissolved by the 1989 Legislature, the buzz-killing news service said.
In short, Taylor really isnt the state climatologist. Nor does anyone much seem to care, including Governor Kulongoski. As noted, the initial report appeared in the 1/29 Oregonian; the only follow-up was a short report on 1/31 describing the debate. This is simply not a story—except in the kooky, crackpot preserves where half-wits like Carlson blather on and shape our degraded public discourse.
So no, there isnt an ongoing story concerning the Oregon state climatologist. It isnt even especially clear that any such person exists. But so what? On Wednesday, four big news shows pretended otherwise, ginning up their latest fake tale. As weve discussed above, this is exactly the way our discourse has worked over the past fifteen years.
Why did Carlson et al gin this story? Duh! To generate the latest complaints about that ol debbil, global warming! Carlson got to pretend that the theory of warming is being advanced by hypocrites—the kind of people who would strip George Taylor of his title for daring to question the causes of warming. Of course, Carlson has frequently clowned on this subject, as weve told you in the past. In December, for example, he and his fatuous frat boy, Willie Geist, laughed about the Oscar nomination extended to An Inconvenient Truth. They hadnt seen the movie, they said—but they laughed about how pedantic it was (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/06). But then, as we noted that day, Carlson had often showcased his larger ignorance about warming itself. For one sad example from Media Matters, punish yourself—just click here.
GEIST (2/2/07): Well, Tucker, Rush Limbaugh may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of the Nobel Peace Prize. But to the people at the conservative public interest law firm, Landmark Legal Foundation, Rush is a regular Nelson Mandela. Landmark has nominated Limbaugh for the 2007 Nobel Prize...In fact, Limbaugh wasnt nominated, Carlsons claim notwithstanding. The Landmark Foundation isnt eligible to make Nobel nominations—except in the land of dimwit stories, where so much of our discourse now exists. But when have elementary facts ever mattered to frat boys like these? What matters, of course, is the frat boy taunt. Gore is too pompous—and hes too fat! Carlson engaged in more jests about Gores behemoth size on Monday evenings program.
So lets see: No, Rush Limbaugh didnt get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And no, the governor of Oregon isnt trying to strip George Taylor of some title. But these dimwit stories exist for a reason; they encourage voters to think less well of Gore, and of the theory of warming itself. How blatant does the messaging get? Heres the way Alan Colmes introduced his programs segment on Wednesday:
COLMES (2/7/07): But first, in spite of the recent cold weather across the nation, hysteria over global warming is not letting up. Al Gore continuing to push the environmental agenda. And this time in Madrid, Spain.Before he pushed his version of the Oregon tale, Colmes read his owners favorite messages. The hysteria over warming continues, he said. Indeed, Demon Gore was still at work, pushing his agenda.
Lets be clear: This weeks bogus tale about Taylor came from deep on the bottom end of our current journalistic pig-pile. Predictable dimwits pimped the fake tale, and complained that Gore was too fat. But over the course of the past dozen years, Gores remarkable work on warming has also been mocked at the absolute top of our news chain. Why are Gores numbers 32-46? Why does a dimwit sit in the White House? On Monday, well revisit a 1999, front-page report which came from the very top of our press corps. For ourselves, as weve worked again with this disgraceful report, weve come to a fairly sour conclusion: Some of our most exalted scribes should perhaps take their warming in hell.
MONDAY—NONE MORE DISHONEST: The message of the report was clear. Al Gore is loony—unwell.