WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE! When con men peddle flat-earth tales, someone should tell the people: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2010
KO and BillO and Potok and toys: What are tea party people like? We were intrigued by David Barstows lengthy piece in the New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/16/10). Last night, cable viewers got two more chances to wonder.
On the one hand, Keith Olbermann mused on the topic again. He has one toy, and he plays with it constantly. Those people are racists, he pretty much said. But that is this big childs sole toy.
Over on Fox, Bill OReilly spoke with Mark Potok, a key honcho at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Wikipedia quotes the Huffington Post: Potok leads one of the most highly regarded operations monitoring the extreme right in the world today. In Wikipedias formulation, the SPLC is a nonprofit organization that arose from the anti-segregation movement and fights extremism and hate crimes. Click here.
For our money, Olbermann clowned, as he constantly does. By way of contrast, we were interested in what Potok had to sayalthough, unless youre a hater yourself, there is of course no simple way to explain the people in a fairly large movement.
What did Potok say about tea party folk? For those whose limbic brains have been fried by Olbermanns antics, we thought wed offer a bit of remedial reading. This was the first Q-and-A between BillO and Potok:
At that point, some back and forth occurred. This would pretty much be the bulk of the second exchange. Potok continued to overarch about the tea party movement:
I'm fascinated by what you say is happening, OReilly said. Is there one group in America right now that you guys believe is dangerous, is growing fast, and that the folks should know about? Potok expressed concern about the Oath Keepers. OReilly said he would try to interview a representative on his program tonight.
Potok wasnt asked about race, and he didnt bring race up. We have no way of knowing how accurate his various perceptions may be.
On MSNBC, Keith has one toy. If you want to hear that those people are racists, you can play with that pleasing toy too. For our money, its one of the ways pseudo-liberals tend to lose. Then too, its inane on the merits.
What are tea party members like? What do they think and believe? Wed like to see members interviewed on cable. Or if you prefer, you can tune in each night and watch Keith play with his toy.
Tomorrow: Matthews does Mack.
PART 4WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE (permalink): When public figures say things which are blatantly false, someone should tell the people. However:
In the wake of the Washington snow, Sean Hannity spent a good solid week making blatant misstatements each night, thus disinforming millions of people. At least three Republican senators played along, implying that the snow in D.C. provided evidence that climate change theory is wrong. All serious people know this is pure nonsense. Three out of three Fox all-stars even said so on Special Report!
But on the front page on the New York Times, John Broder couldnt seem to find a way to tell the people. As Paul Krugman said when he told a now-famous joke, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying [such] knowledge to readers. Very significant public figures were blatantly disinforming the public. But so what? On its front page, the New York Times failedor refusedto let its readers know.
Given conventions of news reporting, how can a journalist tell the people when a claim is blatantly false? Sheryl Gay Stolberg displays one technique in todays New York Times. Has the stimulus bill created or saved any jobs? Stolberg offers this:
In the case of Hannitys clowning, Broder could have written something like that, except his statement could have been stronger. Does any actual climate scientist support the statements and insinuations of Hannity, of those three Republican senators? Presumably, youd have to search far and wide to find such an climate expert. But Broder simply didnt go there in his weak and timid reportand his editors didnt push him.
A whole phalanx of pseudo-conservative con men had been deceiving the public. Millions of people were being misled. And on its front page, the New York Times seemed too frightened to tell them.
Of course, flat earth statements have become rather common in our discourse over the past several decades. (If we lower the tax rates, we get extra revenue! European health care has failed everywhere its been tried!) But many of our biggest journalists seem to have no earthly idea how skewed our discourse has become in the face of this flat-earth onslaught. Good God! In yesterdays Times, the blissful Thomas Friedman finally began to wonder if we can have a serious discussion about climate change! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/17/10.) How clueless is this big galoot? After referring to all the errors and wild exaggerations made by the climate skeptics, Friedman began to offer his advice. The analysts simply threw up their hands at the cluelessness of this first suggestion:
That is just unbelievably foolish. Friedman is right about one thing, of course; according to climate change theory, local weather will get somewhat weirdwill diverge from traditional normsas global temperatures rise. But Friedman doesnt bother explaining why we should avoid the term global warmingalthough. to state what is merely obvious, global warming is also what actually happens as global temperatures rise.
Presumably, Friedman thinks the term global warming has become distorted in the public mind due to all the errors and wild exaggerations made by the climate skeptics. (See Milbank, below.) But what do you think these hustlers would do with a silly phrase like global weirding? The climate change movement would be left for dead if it adopted global weirding as its chief descriptive term. But why expect Friedman to know such a thing? Eleven years after he sat and stared as con men started to lie about Gore and warming, he has just now started to wonder if we can have a serious discussion about this critical topic.
He has just begun to wonder! Its hard to be more out of touch.
Friedman refuses to stand and fight. Like many others, hes prepared to dump a descriptive phrase because the lethargy of losers like him has permitted a phalanx of con men to disinform and confuse the people. Cluelessly, he thinks his newly word-smithed phrase will, by some miracle, be immune from flat-earth attacks. But go aheadsearch through Friedmans column! See if you can find the place where he names the names of the disinformers. He names Jim DeMint at the start of his piece, and then he quickly moves on.
Shouldnt someone tell the people the actual names of the actual con men by whom theyre actively being misled? Alas! By the conventions of a failed and feckless press corps, such things are rarely done. And when such things are briefly done, they are then quickly bartered away. Consider the hapless piece by Dana Milbank in Sundays Washington Post.
Good God! As he started, Milbank actually did name the names of the con men. (He omitted the con man Hannity, but he included Glenn Beck.) And he knows these con men are hustlers and frauds; he understands, with perfect clarity, that theyre engaging in flat-earth ways. This is the way Milbanks piece beganbefore he turned tail and ran:
DeMint, Inhofe, McConnell, Beckthese are important, influential public figures. And rather plainly, Milbank knows that these people have been conning the public. As a scientific proposition, he knows the things these people have stated and implied are about as valid as claiming that the existence of John Edwards debunks the theory of evolution.
He knows these very important people have been selling flat earth to the people.
Youd almost think a situation like that could fill an entire column! But in the world of our timorous press corps, baby slope snow bunnies like Milbank must cut and run after advancing such thoughts. And sure enough! Just like that, Milbank collapsed on the side of the slope. By the rules of such timorous men, the current confusion about global warming has to be Gores fault too:
Youll note the conspicuous lack of quotes as this mewling bunny plays the on the one hand/on the other hand card.Please note: In Milbanks tiny world, its not that Gore has been wrong in what he has said; presumably, this means that Gore has been right. (Gore ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes? Does anyone know what that actually mean? Did he say something that was inaccurate?) But so what? Somehow, Gores stories have conditioned people to expect an endless worldwide heat wave. Milbank makes no attempt to explain how this happenedor even to demonstrate that it has happened. But from this point on, its moral equivalence all the way to the rope lift as Milbank blames various environmentalists for our current state of confusion. How dumbly so these snow bunnies reason? No, we really arent making this up. Eventually, Milbank typed this:
The science is overwhelmingbut not definitive. So a moral idiot writes. By the way: Do you have the slightest idea what Masters was talking about in the statement Milbank has quoted? Of course you dont! Neither does anyone else who read Milbanks weak-minded piece. But Milbank was chasing moral equivalenceand he had to find a way to achieve it. And sure enough! By the time he wrote this passage, Milbank had achieved a true miracle. He had created moral equivalence between the following groups:
Group 1, whose position is about as valid as claiming that the existence of John Edwards debunks the theory of evolution. And Group 2, whose science is overwhelming.
By the laws of this boys cult, those two groups must be equivalent. The current confusion must be Gores fault too. And Masters must undercut Romm!
(Please note the way children like Milbank function: Romms statements cant be said to be wrong, because his statements are of course right. But Milbank wants to say something which at least sounds negative. So he calls Romms statements well-worn.)
Broder, Friedman, the hapless child Milbank: Which of these losers will tell the people? Who will devote an entire column to a truly remarkable fact: A gang of very important people have been grossly deceiving the peoplehave been handing them flat-earth claims about the state of warming science. No one believes what Hannity saidbut he kept saying it, all week long. Millions of people heard him, each night.
No one has yet called his name.
The mainstream press corps has its cowardice. It has its inanity and its conventions. It has its Washington cocktail parties, to which it seeks continued admission. For all these reasons, the mainstream press corps never quite gets around to telling the people. Something always gets in the way. For the most part, names dont get named. If the names of the guilty get named, the innocents names get slimed too.
But then, we liberals dont much tell the people either! All next week, well ask a question: Could it be because we hold the people in so much contempt?
Why dont we progressives tell the people? Is it because we feel contempt for the people? We wonder about that more and more frequently. As our text, well take a very poorly reasoned piecea piece about something thats real.
TOMORROW: Debating the stim.