THE SHAPE OF THE AGE! It was depressing. But C-SPAN's session showed us the shape of the age: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
KNOW AND TELL: Luckily, our pundits know all—and are willing to tell. No, Ruth Marcus is not a press corps Antoinette. But this morning, even Marcus is willing to know-and-tell all about the Edwards decision:
MARCUS (3/28/07): There can be no questioning Edwards's fierce love for her children. When her son Wade died at 16 in an auto accident, she visited his grave every day for two years, often reading aloud the books he would have been assigned in school. Afterward, she underwent fertility treatments to have Emma Claire, now 8, and Jack, 6.I cant help but wonder about the Edwards situation, Marcus writes a bit later. And lets face it—thats precisely the problem.
Here at THE HOWLER, we have been able to avoid wondering about that decision. In part, thats because we understand a simple fact; the Edwardses know a hundred times more about their situation than we do. How do they plan to raise their children? We dont have the slightest idea. What role might grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, their young-adult daughter play in the future which they have envisioned? We dont have the slightest idea. Neither does the nosy Ruth Marcus. Despite that, shes willing to tell.
FISH (3/28/07): The only thing left—and this is sure-fire—is to read the first sentence. The really bad ones leap out at you....Huh! According to Fish, some first sentences help you see that the writing will be all about the writers deep genius. Again, we thought of a famous first sentence—the first sentence Maureen Dowd typed up long ago, in a front-page Times news report:
DOWD (6/9/94): President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the university where he didn't inhale, didn't get drafted and didn't get a degree.Hey, look her over! What a shame the Times didnt look at that sentence and just say, No, thanks. And what a shame they didnt throw Dowd away after reading this first sentence, five days earlier, in another alleged news report:
DOWD (6/4/94): The salute gave it away, of course. Where there should have been snap, there was only chagrin.Good God—thats pure political porn. That crap is how Bush reached the White House.
But then, Dowd has always known-and-told all. And darlings, as press corps culture became more upper-class, this began to seem like some sort of genius. The press corps inbred poodles and fops began to see her as a role model. What a shame they lacked the sense to read those attention-grabbing sentences and say this: No. No thanks.
Special report: Mars is warming!
PART 2—THE SHAPE OF THE AGE: Were rarely depressed by our work at THE HOWLER; weve learned to see the humor in the press corps clowning, and were still fascinated by the meta-stories involved in their bad faith and incompetence. But on Monday, it was truly depressing to watch the 26-minute C-SPAN segment titled Al Gore and Campaign 2008. A string of callers to the program were deeply deluded—and then, there was the National Journals James Barnes. Try to believe the answer he gave to poor misled Caller 7:
CALLER 7, WISCONSIN, REPUBLICAN LINE: As far as the global warming, I just have a hard time believing it, considering three-fourths of the world is water, so we dont have any control over that particular. I mean, thats a large chunk of the earth that we dont have any control over. And then theres the land, and how much, what percentage of that do humans ever occupy? I dont think its even 20 percent. And then, of the land that we do occupy, how many countries arent even developed? So I think its a real stretch to say that humans are causing the earth to warm. Theres just too much to question about that...He had given a similar answer to Caller 5—a man who was sure that Gore was wrong, although he plainly didnt know what Gore had said. And Barnes fell for the third time with Caller 9—the caller who assured him that Mars is warming. For the depressing text of these Q-and-As, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/27/07.
Yes, we found it depressing to watch such perfect nonsense ignored by a major mainstream journalist—by a journalist who kept insisting that these callers howling ignorance shows that there are two sides to this story. It was depressing to see these citizens make the good-faith effort of calling C-SPAN, only to be blown off in this manner. (How are they supposed to know that what theyre being told elsewhere is wrong?) It was depressing to think of all the other C-SPAN viewers, who werent being told that these callers statements were delusions, built on well-crafted lies.
But later, we found our spirits restored as we realized what a gem this session had been. This session showed us the shape of the age. We saw the soul of a millionaire mainstream press corps—a millionaire group in in-action.
What is the ongoing shape of the age? Heres what happened in Mondays session—in that small, perfect gem:
Three voters heads had been filled with nonsense by the work of the talk-show right. And when they called a major mainstream journalist, he refused to challenge or correct their misstatements. He refused to tell these voters that their heads had been filled full of mush. He refused to perform the basic function viewers thought he was there to perform.
But then, this has been the shape of the age at least since the early 90s. The right-wing bullsh*t machine churns out silly, wild tales—and mainstream scribes pretend not to notice. Or they recite the nonsense themselves, in the manner described by Paul Waldman in that brilliant statement last Wednesday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/23/07). Yes, this has been the shape of our age—and now, the press corps refusal to function even extends to basic matters of science. This practice has rarely been put on more brilliant display than Barnes did on C-SPAN this week.
Indeed, how inept are our journalists willing to be as they defer to the kooky-con right? At one point, Barnes actually attempted to tell C-SPAN viewers about the current state of the science. He had already taken a pass on the nonsense of Callers 5 and 7. Now, he responded to Caller 8—and this was the best he could manage:
CALLER 8, ILLINOIS, DEMOCRATIC OR INDEPENDENT LINE: I wonder if Mr. Barnes could explain how we get these different—its very confusing. We go, you know, death tax, climate change versus global warming. Which is it?You could hardly offer a weaker account of the current science. And sure enough! When the next caller said that Mars is warming, Barnes went in the tank once again.
Go ahead! Review that answer to Caller 8, and marvel at the shape of the age. Most science says theres a global warming problem, Barnes thinks. But what is the actual state of the science? It isnt very hard to summarize. Indeed, Thomas Friedman offers a summary of that UN report in this mornings New York Times. Hes discussing the clownish attempts of Bush aide Philip Cooney to doctor the Admins science statements:
FRIEDMAN (3/28/07): I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is ''unequivocal,'' that human activity is the main driver, and that ''changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.''For the record, Friedman is working from this February 2, front-page Times news story about the UN report. Summaries of the state of the science are not real hard to find.
''The evidence is on the table, a UN scientific official was quoted saying that day. But six weeks later, at C-SPANs table, Barnes was hemming and hawing. He said he thinks that most science says global warming is a problem—vastly understating the scientific consensus. And when three callers offered the goony thoughts theyd picked up from the likes of Rush and Sean, Barnes refused to challenge their statements. There are strong feelings on both sides, he weakly and uselessly said.
By the way: At the Gore hearings, did Lamar Alexander really say that there was a global warming problem? Yes—but so did many Republican members of the House and Senate committees. Lets quote David Leonhardt in todays Times: Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican (lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union: 90 out of 100 ), told Mr. Gore, I think everyone recognizes—as you have said and the scientific community agrees—that there is global warming caused by human activity. Thanks not true, of course—a point Leonhardt skips. But Representative Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, went even farther during the hearing, saying this in response to some clownish GOP colleagues: "It's possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot." Meanwhile, to see Senator John Warner voice solidarity with Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/23/07. In fact, many Republicans voiced their agreement with the scientific consensus on warming. But weak-minded Barnes, re-enacting an age, whittled their number to one.