NARRATIVE AND CONDESCENSION! Why does Pam Stout reject sound ideas? Our highest Lord Packer explains: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2010
Glenn Beck over Maddow: Are you happy? We just dumped the first part of this post, the part concerning Rachel Maddows fact-check of Orrin Hatchs op-ed piece! Many liberals thrilled to Maddows report on Tuesday night. (Click here, read the comments.) Our mileage massively differed.
On his own program, one day before, Glenn Beck had played the fool in a way which was startling even for him. He went on and onand on and onabout all the Communists surrounding Obama. As usual, Van Jones served as the hook. Most people have never heard of Jones, because, whatever his merits may be, hes a minor player:
If its mordant humor you like, we do recommend the passage about the Marxist church and Obamas aside to The Plumber. That was a gong-show squared.
It went on from there-and on and on. In his next segment, Beck studied tape of someone he said hed never heard of (for obvious reasons), someone who wants a Communist overthrow. These segments ate up more than half his programand 2.8 million people were watching, just at his 5 PM broadcast alone. (At 9 PM the following night, 850,000 people watched Maddow fact-check poor Orrin.)
Becks lunacy raises serious questions because of the size of his audience. Mainstream news organizations dont want to go there; in fairness, the weirdness of his analyses can be a bit hard to treat, especially in a news report. Wed planned to spend more time on Beck todaybut we spent a lot of time on Maddows subsequent fact-check.
We have dropped our post about Maddows fact-check. Are you happy? Aint tribal life grand?
NARRATIVE AND CONDESCENSION (permalink): Well admit itour analysts eye-rolled a bit at Steve Benens language this week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/10). We agreed with much of what Steve said (about the need for health reform.) But Steverino! We recalled the time, long ago, when liberals joshed other liberals for their love of correctness:
The resistance to sound ideas is fairly intense, Steve said. Say you want a revolution, the Beatles eye-rolled, four decades ago.
That said, there actually is big opposition to health reform plans, and before that to the stimulus package. Where does that opposition come from? In the case of Keli Carender, opposition to the stimulus came from a generally sensible notionfrom the idea that it didnt make any sense to be spending all this money when we dont have it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/10).
With regard to the stimulus, we dont agree with that thinking ourselves. But you surely can see where it comes from.
Reviewing such widespread public opposition, Steve marveled at the efficacy of the right-wing noise machine. We stand with Steve on that. But we would add an additional question: Over the years, how good a job has our side done, telling people why it makes sense to spend big bucks in a recession?
Today, wed like to suggest two ways our side fails to help people like Carender (or Pam Stout) develop those good sound ideas.
First, we often get whacked in the war of the narratives. Over the weekend, we were led to this interview with Noam Chomsky by a link from Digby. (For Digbys post, click here.) Hungrily, we fact-checked Chomskys claim about a news report in the New York Times the day after the final Bush-Kerry debate.
We found no report like the one Chomsky described (for Chomsky transcript, see below). But we did emit low mordant chuckles at this passage from Adam Nagourneys report on that final debate:
Nagourney challenged Bush this day. But please note: Though Kerrys proposals were different from Obamas, the counter-narrative was the same: Kerry was promoting government-run health care, which would lead to rationing. This is a time-honored narrative, one which resonates strongly with millions of voters. For the record, it doesnt resonate strongly with us; but it does with others.
Why does that narrative work? What do voters think when they hear it? Why do they lack our own sound ideas? Down through the decades, how good a job has our side done at exploring these basic questions? And how good a job has our side done at constructing alternative narratives? In that passage, you see Kerry advancing our sides standard narrative: 45 million lack health coverage. (Obama scaled that number back last year, due to immigration awkwardness.)
Our side tends to lead with that narrative. How well do you think that narrative works? If were actually trying to pass health reform, is that the best way to communicate, to persuade, to spread our sound ideas?
Were just asking.
Government-run health care! The sound of those words scares people away. Do you think our side has asked people why? Do you think our side has busted its keister trying to articulate sounder ideas?
In our view, our side rarely asks people about what theyre thinking. This brings us back to recent profiles in the New York Times about those Tea Party adherents. These people lack our sound ideasbut why is that? In a more rational world, it seems that our side might ask.
In his lengthy profile in the Times, David Barstow, for whatever reason, chose to feature Pam Stout, a 66-year-old Idaho woman. It sounded like she has been influenced by Glenn Beck, though Barstows profile was sketchy.
How does Pam Stout see the world? What do others around her think? Wed be curious to see her interviewed. But within the aeries of High Manhattan, a high noble lord had a different reaction to Barstows report in the Times. At the New Yorker, his highness, the noblest Lord of Packer, condescended to ponder the mind of the hapless commoner Stout. In this passage, our highest lord shows how his noble kind has undermined progressive movements for lo, these many years:
Youre rightPackers vapidity is striking. (I watched so you dont have to. Snore.) More astounding was his high condescension. Some liberals just cant see this trait. Well assure you that others can.
Packer goes on to consider the inanity of Becks presentation at CPAC. But not before he worked to make sure that people like Stout wouldnt be listening.
If you cant see the astounding condescension marbled through that text from our noblest lord, we will only make this suggestion: Spend your time on something other than national politics. You will always defeat progressive causes. Millions of voters will smell your toneand flee your sound ideas.
In our view, theyll be wrong when they take flight. But thats the way the world tends to work outside Manhattans aeries.
What Chomsky said: This was the exchange (with Amy Goodman) which set our Nexis whirring. The interview in question occurred last April. Click here.
For the record, the final Bush-Kerry debate took place on October 13, 2004. We couldnt find a report like the one Chomsky described, though some such report may be there:
Does the population want single-payer? Were not sure. What would the population want after the population was told that single-payer was government-run health care, which would lead to rationing?
As Steve said, the right-wing machine is quite effective. Question: Who on our side has addressed these matters down through these many long years?
The other sides narrative seems rather strong. What is our sides story?