A TALE OF TWO STORIES! News reports help us ponder bullroars supplyand demand: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2009
Digbys catch: Digby made an excellent catch last weekend (just click here). On CNN, Jack Cafferty asked viewers to e-mail their reactions to a deeply troubling story. His presentation was very familiar. It started out like this:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! But is there really something wrong with federal money for swine odor and manure management? Is it obvious that such spending is pork? That it should be derided as a pet project? It didnt occur to Cafferty to askany more than it occurs to Dana Milbank, who presents the Same Tired Script in this mornings Post (click here, then groan). But uh-oh! When Cafferty read his e-mails, some viewers had given impressive reactions. This is just one of the viewer reactions the gentleman read on the air:
Will that money turn into a smart investment? Like Cafferty, we have no idea. But Ed in Iowa knocked Cactus Jack off his perch. And Cafferty read other responses in which viewers took him well beyond his tired old Insider Mockery.
Good God! What a different world it would be if liberals knew how to respond to Standard Brain-Dead Frameworks. Through the bulk of the past twenty years, conservatives or mainstream journalists could rattle off an array of such scripts, confident that liberals and Dems (famous and otherwise) would never give an intelligent rejoinder. Digby made a superlative catch as viewers gave intelligent answers to Caffertys tired old script. And to Caffertys credit, he read several right on the air:
Nice work! Just because some piece of spending might seem silly at first glance, that doesnt mean that it is. That answers suggest an important point: Hacks will often try to make spending sound silly when it actually isnt.
One of the response Cafferty read touched on Bobby Jindals speech. For our money, this e-mailers answer didnt quite hit the mark:
Alas! Theres a bit too much of Pilate there, asking What is truth? To us, a stronger answer would have proceeded like this:
You could spend years in the 1990s without hear an intelligent rejoinder to the bull-roar of the day. (No one is cutting Medicare; were just slowing the rate at which the program will grow.) Digby noticed Caffertys viewers giving a better type of response. But uh-oh! Jindals speech had presented some typical cant about wasteful spending, including his comments about volcano management about high-speed rail. It would be a very good thing if people like S in Michigan knew the best ways to respond. By the way: In the current climate, most viewers will be on the liberal side, if they hear the coherent response.
Jindals speech provided a teaching moment about a standard type of cant. So what did some liberal leaders do? Some liberal leaders changed the subject; they spent oodles to time trying to prove that Jindals a big fat liar. Its hard to prove that from what Jindal saidand in the process, some liberal leaders embellished a good deal themselves.
Alas! Theres a famous old saying among lawyers: If the facts are against you, you argue the law. If the law is against you, you argue the facts. Last week, the issues were with usso we talked about character! In our view, changing the subject that way was just dumb. Unless you deeply want to believe that youre part of The One Honest Tribe.
At present, people agree with Dems and libs on most basic issues. Our reaction? We change the subject to talk about character! We think that impulse is very foolishunless we have a deep psychic need to tell ourselves that we alone are good.
A TALE OF TWO STORIES: We were struck by two reports in this mornings papersone in the New York Times, one in the Washington Post. We think these reports help us see the way the nations runners of rubes have driven the nations discourse over the past twenty years.
One report sheds light on the supply side; it helps us recall who sold us the frameworks which helped elect George W. Bush. The other report concerns the demand side; the way we make ourselves available for this type of comprehension abuse.
How did liberals (and others) get conned in the 1990s? How do we keep getting played today? First, lets consider the people who sell you the blather. Then, lets ask why were willing buyers of same:
How we got conned in the 1990s: That first report in todays New York Times appears on page one of the sports section. Uh-oh! Errors Cast Doubt on a Baseball Memoir, the page-topping headline says.
Long story short: A former minor league baseball player has written a high-profile memoirand the memoir appears to be full of fake facts. Here we go again, dear readers! Benjamin Hill fact-checked a whole bunch of claims:
You can judge Hills piece for yourselves. In it, he details a blizzard of claims from McCarthys bookclaims about various incidents which couldnt have happened. he says. And he quotes the low-profile people who are the subjects of McCarthys unflattering stories. They explain how badly they could be harmed by the authors claims.
Whats the truth about Hills accusation? Thats hard for us to say. But we couldnt help thinking of the most significant bungled memoir of the 1990sa bungled memoir with a high-profile victim. We refer, of course, to Gennifer Flowers 1992 articles in The Stararticles which claimed a torrid, twelve-year love affair with then-candidate Clinton.
As with McCarthy, so with Flowers: Instantly, evidence suggested that many of her most thrilling claims simply couldnt be accurate. Within a few weeks, Jonathan Alter did the honors in Newsweek. Note the embarrassing claim by Flowers about that fancy hoteland her embarrassing claim about Miss Teen Age America:
Six years later, as impeachment loomed, Gene Lyons recalled this episode for Salon: In Little Rock, she was widely disbelieved...Among other things, Flowers resumé claimed degrees from colleges shed barely attended, membership in a sorority shed never joined and jobs shed never held. Her claim to have won the Miss Teenage America crown proved false. Much was made locally of her claim to The Star that she and Clinton had many torrid assignations during 1979 and 1980 at the Excelsior, Little Rocks fanciest hotel. The Excelsior didnt exist until November 1982. In their subsequent book, The Hunting of the President, Lyons and Joe Conason sifted the carnage again, not forgetting to include the case of the imagined twin sister:
In part due to Alters report, the press corps didnt push Flowers claims real hard during the 1992 campaign. The reasons for doubting her claimsthe reasons for doubting her credibilitywere abundant and obvious.
But by 1998, things had changed. By now, the press corps had reached an Official Group Judgment about the deeply vile President Clinton, a judgment they would extend to Candidate Gore one year later. And they were eager to help you share their Official Inane Group Appraisal. Result? Gennifer Flowers was rehabilitated! For the next several years, she was dragged onto various cable shows, asked to share her insightful views about both deeply vile Clintons. For the record, this ladys lack of taste and judgment were quite clear by this time. Example: In this passage from her clownish book, Passion and Betrayal, Flowers describes the very first time she set eyes on Hillary Clinton:
But then, the book was festooned with garbage. And uh-oh! Despite her claim of a twelve-year affair, Flowers absent-mindedly forgot to name a single time and place when she and Bill Clinton were alone together. But so what? In 1998, Flowers was being pimped by the press, far and wide, as a highly reliable witness. We now know she was telling the truth, a string of consummate rube-runners said. Frankly, the most comical effort was turned in by a New York Times columnist:
Truly, that paragraph is a landmark. As Rich wrote those clownish words, Clinton had confessed to one romantic interaction with Flowersnot including intercourse, he later said, through an aide. By way of contrast, Flowers was still insisting shed had a torrid twelve-year affair, with a whole lot of weeping and rutting. To humans, that would seem like a conflictbut Rich was part of the press corps brigade intent on selling its Group Appraisal. Result? In a deeply clownish effort, Rich told readers that Clinton and Flowers now agreed on the claim about an affair. Indeed, Clinton was disputing only its duration, the worlds biggest harlequin said. (That was true, of course. Clinton had pegged the duration at about fifteen minutesFlowers at twelve years.) And since you asked, the answer is nono, you cant get dumber than that. But so it went as the mainstream press corps rehabilitated Flowers, pretending they now understood shed been telling the truth all along.
How moronichow evilwould this misconduct get? In August 1999, Flowers would be invited onto two cable news shows to discuss the Clintons string of murders. Chris Matthews gave her half the show to rattle off her ludicrous claimstelling her what a knock-out she was. (You're a very beautiful woman, the primal idiot said. It's an objective statement, Gennifer. I'm not flirting. Hes now paid $5 million per year.) Never ones to be outdone, Hannity and Colmes responded by awarding her their full hour, with the show rerun on the weekend. She rewarded them by explaining what a big giant lesbo the first lady was. But then, she had made the same point in her book.
By August 1999, of course, the people who sold you Gennifer Flowers were selling you endless tall tales about Gore. These are the people who sell you your world. But why do we liberals keep buying?
Why (some) liberals keep buying: Why do liberals keep getting conned, in a wide array of ways? Well recommend a short, striking news report from this mornings Post. (As written, the report cant be found on-line. For the Posts blog report, just click here.) Do you believe that Barnes & Noble created that insulting display about Obama? It seems that many liberals dothough the NAACP does not. But then, The Huffington Post bought that sh*t about John Gibson last week.
As she closes, Krissah Thompson is kind to these Obama supporters. She says theyre waryand on high alert, and we think thats all quite fair. But she neglects to say something elsethat they may be a tiny bit gullible. By the way: Hacks like Rich will run such rubes for all the days of their lives.
Today, The Kewl Kidz arent selling you tales about Dems. Today, theyre selling you tales about Repsbut they continue to type preferred narratives. Our story continues tomorrow. But tell us: Do you believe this pleasing tale? On Sunday, Rich explained why the GOP has put vile Jindal forward:
Perennially tan! Nice snark! Unless you remember the stupid snark this big nut sold you through 2006, when he was still insisting that Gore was just no goddam good. Even when Gores high school movie came out, this big dope just kept snarkingagainst it!
But how about it? Do you believe the thrust of that tale about Jindals ascension to prominence? Rich will always tell you the story which stresses bad GOP faith about race. Our question: Since he conned you so bad about Clinton and Gore, should you really believe him now? By the way: Are you sure he wont turn against you again, if his herd turns on big-spending Obama?
Jindal made a very weak speecha speech which offered some teachable moments. But Rich is constantly selling you cant from his store of Preferred Press Corps Narratives. Tomorrow, well recall how Jindal attained prominence, at age 24. And well ask a troubling question: Might this story say something good about a few southern Republicans?