KEEP OUTRAGE ALIVE! Chris and Keith taught valuable lessons in keeping fake outrage alive: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2008
SIX ANGRY SCRIBES: Weve long said it: Tim Russerts session with Gore in July 2000 was the most disgraceful hour ever produced by a major broadcaster. In our view, the first half-hour of Sundays Meet the Press competed for that top honor.
Russert assembled a jury of six angry scribblers to conduct a wilding of Clinton. The Parson, Jon Meacham was on the scene; so were two of Russerts own tribe. (Maureen Dowd/Doris Kearns Goodwin.) Concerning the discussion of Clintons recent vile comment, lets just say this: Ruth Marcus was the only juror who took the pro-Clinton approach:
Clinton wasnt intentionally raising a specter, Marcus said; she was just suffering from a very heavy dose of self-pity. In the context of Tims angry scribes, this was a sympathetic remark. Gwen Ifill then raised an objection to kind-hearted Marcus, failing to spot a small problem:
It could only be self-pity! And of course, as is the norm with lynch mobs like this, no one asked Ifill why her crowd had said nothing at all about Clintons remark back in March. Her remark is the worlds greatest outragenow. Back then, no one said squat.
But questions like that do not get raised when lawmen like Russert select hangin juries. The absurdity of his selection came clear a bit later, when the gang discussed Clintons bewildering claim that shes been the victim of sexism and misogyny during the current campaign.
Please understand: This discussion was run by NBC News, a news org which has had a few problems. This year alone, three of the networks top broadcasters have been forced to apologize, on the air, for weird remarks directed at Clinton, comments which tended to involve gender-trashing; one of the three was suspended. The first of the three, Chris Matthews, had been aggressively gender-trashing Clinton since the campaign began in early 2007. A fourth major player, Tucker Carlson, had become famous for his clownish remarks about Clintons connection to castration fears. And of course, the network had dumped another huge star, just last year, for his race- and gender-trashing of a bunch of impressive college women.
In short, everyone knows that Clinton has encountered gender-trashing from some big players. And this jury was meeting at NBC NewsGround Zero for this obvious problem. Youd think it would have been fairly easy to comprehend Clintons recent complaint about this matter. But not inside your Celebrity Press Corps! Heres the way the hangin judge introduced this puzzling new topic:
Nothing too prejudicial about that introduction! Apparently, the ladys comments about sexism were part of her vast self-pty too! And then, the great man played tape of vile things Clinton has said. No wonder this jury was furious:
Thats right, ass-wipe! Nothing but misogynists! But clearly, Clinton had done violence to Hard Pundit Law. She had told the truth about some major journosand that sort of conduct is never permitted. And so, when the jury began its deliberations about the question of misogyny, no one seemed quite able to fathom what the Clintons have been talking about! After playing tape of a Bill Clinton statement, Timothy turned to Queen Maureen. Heres how the analysis started:
Actually, neither statement cited by Russert went beyond the simple claim that Clinton had encountered sexism/misogyny/gender bias from some people in the press. And whatever you may think of the various Dem hopefuls, its plain that these claims are accurate. (This isnt about Obama.) But so what? In full accordance with Hard Pundit Law, no one at Saint Timothys table seemed to know what the Clintons could mean. In particular, no one voiced the worlds most obvious fact: All by itself, NBC News has produced a great deal of this conduct. Instead, the jurors took turns criticizing Clinton. Adding insult to injury, viewers were forced to absorb the platitudes of the bowl of mush, Doris Kearns Goodwin:
Who knows? Maybe if hacks like Goodwin got off their keisters and told the truth, those resentments wouldnt fester so much! But a few years back, Goodwins career was saved by the Imus gangmore broadly, by NBCs Irish mafia. She always toes the company line. She reliably says what she should.
Russert assembled a jury of six angry scribesand not one juror spoke for Clinton! He didnt have Romano thereRomano, who had conducted the interview. He didnt have Marie Cocco thereCocco, who had written a biting piece about the misogyny for the Washington Post. Were Cocco or Romano invited? We dont know. (We e-mailed Cocco; she hasnt answered.) But surely, Russert could have located someone to assert the Clinton view. Instead, he had a jury of sixand they all trashed Clinton for everything.
No one seemed to have any idea what the two Clintons were talking about. Matthews, Shuster, Olbermann, Carlson? Such names slipped all jurors minds.
FOR LACK OF A SHERBURN: Could Russert find no Colonel Sherburn? Here he is, in Huckleberry Finn, addressing a very brave lynch mob:
Or as long as they dont have the right to decide who says what on TV.
Sherburn goes on like this at some length, describing the ways of a hundred masked cowards. We thought of Sherburnand of that mobwhen we watched Russerts work this past week.
Obama said Auschwitz when he should have said Buchenwald. Out of that error, Krauthammermind-reading skillfully, as is expectedtortures a principled outrage, and an insight into Obamas failed character. Somehow, he knows why Obama called this a family storynot because it is such a story, but so he could wriggle out of the truth if anybody checks. He also feels that a presidential candidate should know that Auschwitz was in Poland and the American army never entered Poland in the Second World War. (Could Candidate McCain have passed that test? Are we really certain?) And of course, he finds it terrible that Obama has used the word Auschwitz; this point turns Obamas error into a matter of principled outrage. Auschwitz is a terrible word, Krauthammer says. Apparently, Buchenwald isnt.
Presto! Obama becomes a political panderer, a young Bill Clinton. His soul lays exposed because of the terrible thing he has said. Its not a big deal, Krauthammer saysas he plainly acts like it is.
Most likely, Krauthammer has one thing right; most likely, Obamas error will not be flogged by the wider press corps. But Clinton is helped by no such preference, and that explains how her citation of Robert Kennedys assassination did become such a major issuean insight into her depraved character. Indeed, even after major pundits agreed that her statement had at first been misread, they continued to pound away at her offenses, finding new ways to be offendedinventing principles she had broken. As Krauthammer created a you cant say Auschwitz rule, Keith Olbermann came up with a rule about saying assassinationa rule he himself seems to observe in the breach (details below). But to see the way these life-forms will cling to their manufactured cases of outrage, consider the way Chris Matthews played it throughout the day on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning, Matthews appeared on the Today showand he said the original interpretation of Clintons remark was basically bat-sh*t inane. Meredith asked him to share his views. Chris explained what Clinton hadnt meant:
I don't think that Hillary Clinton intended to invoke the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a reason to continue the campaign, he said. But it was precisely that interpretation which fueled this attack at its start. That's the way it's been played by her critics, Matthews said. Those critics, of course, included Bill Burton of the Obama campaign; when the New York Post offered that bat-sh*t reading, Burton sent it around to the press, complaining about what Clinton had saidthus touching off the torrent of outrage within the mainstream press. I don't think that Hillary Clinton intended to invoke the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a reason to continue the campaign, Matthews said. But then, he crafted a meandering welter of concerns about the context in which Clintons commnet occurredand he went on to devote about half of that evenings Hardball to assaults on Clintons vile character.
By the time Hardball aired that evening, few pundits were willing to say that Clinton intended to invoke the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a reason to continue the campaign. But so what? As is often the case in these episodes, they were happy to find other sources of outrage in Clintons outrageous statement. Were they also outraged at Burton, who had pimped around the bogus reading? Sorry! Burtons name didnt come up! But how slippery, how slick, how Clintonesque were these pundits willing to be as they kept the outrage going? Note how slick and slippery Joe Madison was when Matthews asked him an obvious question. Also present was Salons Joan Walsh, who performed with great brilliance this evening:
Madison was asked what he thought Clinton had meant. And as these cretins so often do, he responded by explaining what people are sayingand, of course, he quoted people making the ugliest possible claims. At this point, Walsh broke in. You know that Christopher never would haveMadison is too connected:
What do you believe? Joan asked. And even then, Madison still wouldnt tell her! Whether I believe it or not, he said, this is what people are thinking.
Translation: No, Joe Madison doesnt believe that Clinton meant her statement in the way the New York Post said. But four days later, he was still brilliantly finding ways to repeat the ugliest claims being made. But then, variants of this conduct were observed all through Tuesday nights Hardball. As noted, Matthews doesnt think that Clinton meant what the New York Postand Bill Burtonsaid. But so what? Four days later, here;s the way he opened Tuesdays program:
Wow! For someone who thought Clintons statement had been mischaracterized, Matthews was simply full of questions about her troubling comments. But this is the way this game is played by slimy people like Matthews, who are banal to the core of their being. In his case, he has played this way for over a decade. The consequences of his conduct have been vasthelping us see the way banality can turn into something thats evil.
On Tuesday night, Matthews and Madison (and several other guests) taught lessons in bad-faith scandal-pimping. But then, Keith Olbermann, like Krauthammer, had taught us a lesson on Friday night in the skill of hard-core scandal-mongering.
Krauthammer came up with a principled objection: You mustnt say the word Auschwitz. Olbermann had voiced a similar principle: How dare she say assassination? Yesterday, we implied that Keith-O cant really believe this stuff; in doing so, we implied something we cant really know. But heres the way the outraged fellow started Friday nights program:
As you can see, Olbermann gave the New York Posts account of what Clinton had said. This, of course, is the very account Matthews dismissed on Tuesday. (Do you really believe she meant that? I dont. Nobody would say that.) For the record, we dont know why Olbermann said that Clinton had invoked the assassination for the first time; during the program, it became clear that he knew this claim was inaccurate. But never mindKeith-O was in vast agony over the vile thing Clinton had done. His deeply troubled soul burned in the hottest of hells:
Later, in an ugly and clownish Special Comment, Olbermann fleshed out his meaning. Well offer you a lengthy clip so you can see the truth for yourself. This great, great man was taking it hard. And he voiced a great principle:
As noted, Keith-O was taking it hard. And one main point seemed fairly clearyou must never say assassination in the middle of a campaign with a loud undertone of racial and gender hatred! In a time when there is a fear, unspoken but vivid and terrible, that our again-troubled land and fractured political landscape might target a black man running for presidentor a white woman! You cannot say this, the thespian said. And this: You actually used the word assassination, he thundered at Clinton, two separate times. You actually invoked the nightmare of political assassination? the great man said, dumbfounded.
Needless to say, this made us think that we might want to check Keith-Os past use of this term.
Did we find Keith-O doing something wrong in the past? No, not reallyunless you actually believe the high principles he poured out Friday night.
As noted, Keith-O didnt get upset last March when Clinton made her first reference to Kennedys death. As a matter of fact, Keith-O seemed to be kicking himself in his Special Comment for failing to speak up back then. (In retrospect, we failed her when we did not call her out, for that remark, dry and only disturbing, inside the pages of a magazine.) Why, the poor guy was writhing like the hero of one of Bergmans most tormented tales. But uh-oh! As it turned out, Keith-O had used a bad word himself, back in those days of early March! Yep! Keith-O had invoked the nightmare of political assassination too, while criticizing Bill OReilly.
No. Theres nothing especially wrong with what we show you hereunless you believe the high-minded principle Keith-O was pimping last Friday. Here is Olbermann, early in March, casually evoking Clintons assassination:
Was something wrong with that? Wed say no. But then, we didnt burst blood vessels last Friday night, mischaracterizing what Clinton had said and adumbrating a lofty, high principle about what was so wrong with her statement! Yes, OReillys attacks on the Huffington Post were over-the-top, crackpot, crazy. But whatever happened to all that fine talk about never invoking assassination? Keith-O casually did so on March 3casually mentioning an actual candidate, not someone who died in 1968. Four days later, he did it again!
Now he was invoking armed uprisings too! At least, that broke no rules.
Lets be clear: In our view, there was nothing especially wrong with that either. For that reason, no one said boo about what Keith-O had saidjust as no one said boo about Clintons comment in March to Rick Stengel, the comment which had appeared on Times web site one day before Keith-Os second invocation of Clintons assassination. No one said boo about what Keith-O said because there was nothing really wrong with it; but then, no one said boo about Clintons remark the day before for the exact same reason. But last Friday night, Keith-O was voicing a deeply felt principle, much as Krauthammer did five nights laterand he did this even as he grossly mischaracterized what Clinton had actually said. Do you really believe she meant that? Matthews would say. I dont. Nobody would say that. But somebody had raced onto NBCs air to claim that Hillary Clinton had said it, and the sheer banality of his reading shows us the way that banal minds can sometimes end up serving evil.
TOMORROWPART 4: Can your culture survive?