ITS THE STUPIDITY, STUPID! If we could wave a magic wand, wed take the dumbness away: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007
HUSKER HIATUS: Were off to that great big U in Lincoln, where well speak to some lucky duckies. And, responding to our non-negotiable demands, some botanists are going to take us out here. Well return to these precincts on Thursday.
DRUM GETS IT RIGHT: Three cheers for Kevin Drum, who gets it substantially right when he explains why he thinks Chris Matthews is our most loathsome [male] media star. Other male pundits may be worse, Drum suggests. But its Matthews who does the most damage:
DRUM (4/14/07): I figure that although the general phenomenon of right-wing spewing has done serious damage over the past couple of decades, individual wingnut frothers like O'Reilly and Limbaugh, for all their loathsomeness, have limited influence these days. They draw most of their viewers from the ranks of true believers, so their tirades probably change very few minds. Their audience already agrees with them.For what its worth, OReilly isnt an ideological right-wing wing-nut in the way some others are, although large parts of his work are astoundingly bad. (Other parts arent.) In a brief initial post on this subject, Drum said he doesnt watch a huge amount of TV. His description of OReilly may reflect that embarrassing cultural deficit.
But readers should consider Kevins assessment of the role played by Matthews. Indeed, Drums post helps us see why its unwise for liberals to accept the notion that Fox (or other conservative orgs) have been the main problem confronting Dems in the past fifteen years. Yes, Fox does tons of horrible work; for one small example, the all-star discussion on Fridays Special Report was truly a work for the ages. But Fox and other conservative orgs largely speak to the 30 percent; by themselves, they cant tip the balance in American elections. The balance was tipped in the 1990s when the big mainstream organs—the Post and the Times—staged bizarre wars against Clinton and Gore. This history is abundantly clear, but the mainstream press corps keeps pretending this didnt happen (as we saw again last week). Theyre very happy to aim us at Fox, thereby deftly disappearing their own central, crucial misconduct.
For ourselves, were less concerned with Matthews effect on his audience than with his effect on his fellow insider scribes. On Hardball, we see the modern mainstream press corps constructing its endlessly silly group narratives. For those of us who dont get invited to their cocktail soirees, this is as close as well ever get to seeing this groups script-writers in action. In the past fifteen years, this is where battles have been decided. These are the people who invented Whitewater—and these are the people who scripted that war against Gore, the one which sent Bush to the White House.
No one worked harder than Matthews to tell us what a fake Gore was. Today, he aims gender-based insults at Hillary Clinton—and transfers old hero tales to Fred Thompson. You just believe Thompson, this talker now says. Eight years ago, he was quite certain too; it was Bush who youd want to drink beer with.
ITS THE STUPIDITY, STUPID: While were at it, three cheers for Atrios for this comment concerning one part of the Imus matter:
ATRIOS (4/14/07): [F]orget racism, what strikes me about our media elite are how profoundly stupid they are.Was the Imus show racist? That isnt as simple a question as it may seem to those who have only read the shows transcripts. For example, when Imus would aim insults at (with apologies) his money-grubbing Jewish bosses, you werent supposed to think that he actually meant it. (Although some listeners may not have realized.) He was engaging in old-world insult humor; indeed, on his final program, he said he did this type of humor because its the easiest, dumbest type out there. (No real doubt about that.) Yes, Imus and his players (especially Bernie) sometimes made their insults a bit too convincing. But no, it isnt especially easy to assess the I-hosts inner life.
On the other hand, its easy to say this; Imuss program was endlessly dumb. Indeed, if we could wave a magic wand and steal one arrow from the medias quiver, wed rob them of their relentless stupidity—the trait which Atrios highlights. (Case study: This brainless report from Sundays Style section about why Al Gore is so god-d*mn fat. They never stop this sort of thing—and yes, theyre very selective.) Most of the race- and gender-based insults would disappear under this regime. But so much else would disappear too! Lets face it; if TV pundits werent allowed to be stupid, theyd pretty much have to go off the air. Wed start to return to an earlier age, in which voters were told what the candidates said and left to form their own judgments.
In our view, liberals, centrists and intelligent conservatives would be wise to focus on the stupidity. In truth, there isnt a whole lot of blatant racism in our political discourse (though theres some). But the stupidity is constant—and its widely accepted. (Listen up, people! Mars is warming!) In yesterdays long Meet the Press session on Imus, this problem was never mentioned. Nor did anyone wonder if its OK to call major public figures Satan (never any real sign of joking there), or if it was OK to say that Gore is the worlds most evil person. Imus said that for years (no sign of joking). Then hed wonder if the sunspots were driving global warming.
Stupidity has driven our discourse for years, making a joke of our national interests. It was all over Imus air. Only Frank Rich didnt know this.