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Print view: At Salon, a string of dogs weren't eating the tribal dog food
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REJECTING THE JOY OF SECT! At Salon, a string of dogs weren’t eating the tribal dog food: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2011

This just in, some thirty years later: We strongly recommend this post, in which Jonathan Chait methodically debunks a very basic political claim. Here is that very basic claim, as stated by the gruesome Tim Pawlenty in a recent interview:

"When Ronald Reagan cut taxes in a significant way, revenues actually increased by almost 100 percent during his eight years as president. So this idea that significant, big tax cuts necessarily result in lower revenues—history does not [bear] that out."

That’s what Pawlenty told Dave Weigel in a recent interview (click here). But then, you can see Pawlenty reciting this crap all over your TV dial.

Quite methodically, Chait walks you through the various problems with Pawlenty’s “reasoning.” We wouldn’t say Chait does a perfect job, but then again, nobody does. He does explore a set of basic points about this very familiar claim. Any liberal or progressive should understand these points, given the fact that this ludicrous claim has played a key role in American politics for most of the past thirty years.

Chait does a good job in this post—but why was his post required? Why can’t every liberal and every progressive recite his points in their sleep?

The answer to that question is simple. The career liberal world has peacefully dozed as Pawlenty’s claim, and so many others, seized control of our political discourse during the past thirty years. In a more rational world, liberal and progressive entities would have spent the past several decades constructing careful, understandable rebuttals to this consummate garbage. By now, such rebuttals would exist in digest form at well-known, highly competent web sites. Every liberal would know where to go to find such basic points explained—to find such basic points explained in understandable ways.

Liberals would know where to send their centrist or non-political friends to find these points explained. There would be no need for someone like Chait to spend his time on that post.

By the way: In that more rational world, liberal and progressive entities would have spent the past several decades yelling at major mainstream news orgs, insisting that they treat these familiar bogus claims as major news hooks. When someone like Pawlenty makes such a claim, it should be viewed as a major news story. Millions of voters are being misled. The New York Times should report that fact in a front-page analysis piece.

That will happen when cows jump the moon—in large part, thanks to a generation of pseudo-liberals, a generation which slept.

If you are a liberal or a progressive, you should be very angry when you read Chait’s excellent post. A generation of sleeping “liberals” is indicted by its very existence. By the way: Why did this generation doze as these bogus talking-points were driven deep into voters’ heads?

Dumbness is surely part of the answer—but those liberals were also store-bought. They hold good posts within the establishment, posts which bring them wealth and fame. In such an arrangement, few rocked the boat! Politely, they just looked away.

Do you really think a whole generation of liberals didn’t see what was happening? We’ve been screaming about these points for a decade. Why didn’t career liberals react?

Chait presents a very good post—a post which appears some thirty years later. Our question: Why aren’t you angry at the generation of “liberals” which enjoyed such a good solid rest? Why don’t you join us in naming their names? Are you in thrall to your tribe’s authority figures?

Are you a ditto-head too?

Special report: Deep in the tribal belt!

PART 2—REJECTING THE JOY OF SECT (permalink): A confession:

Yesterday, we omitted one of the “revelations” the SALON STAFF managed to cull from Sarah Palin’s e-mails, which were made public last Friday. Below, we post that additional “highlight.” This revelation came to light at 3:50 PM:

SALON STAFF (6/10/11): Revelations from the Sarah Palin emails

Highlights from this afternoon's coverage of today's 24,199-page release

At 9 a.m. Juneau time—that's 1 p.m. ET—a small cadre of journalists camped out in Juneau, Alaska, started to open boxes full of previously unpublished emails sent by Sarah Palin while she was governor of Alaska. Here are the highlights of what they've discovered so far.

[…]

3:50: Newest trivial but amusing revelation: Sarah Palin asked her staff for advice on finding a black leader "trapper style" fur hat—and rejected suggestions that weren't "feminine" enough.

In this case, the staff admitted that the “revelation” was trivial. But the revelation—this “highlight”—was also amusing, they said.

Sadly, that’s a key point.

Salon’s silly, sad report was written from deep in the tribal belt—from a place where liberals gather together to sample the joy of sect. We tribal believers convince ourselves that we in our tribe are the good decent people, and that the others are bad dumb indecent. And when you live in the tribal belt, every item will prove these facts—no exceptions permitted! Deep inside the tribal belt, almost everything counts as a “highlight,” no matter how stupid, inane or trivial the item in question might be.

We gather together to give the lord’s blessing to ourselves and our glorious tribe! In the process, we flatter and amuse ourselves—and we fail to advance our agenda. Those who aren’t already in our tribe think we’re fools when they see us clowning. Our “revelations” do nothing at all to move them toward our side.

We’re also wasting time which could be spent in productive ways.

But then, we liberals are extremely good at this kind of self-defeating behavior. We have been practicing pointless, undisciplined conduct for the past thirty years. (This includes the long chunks of time when we went off and slept in the woods.) If you doubt that we have relentlessly failed, look around at the shape of our national discourse—at the unchallenged suppositions which rule political debate in so many basic areas.

At Salon, the children were clowning again, enjoying their “revelations” about Palin’s taste in hats. But here’s the good news:

A surprising number of Salon readers seemed prepared to push back.

Some commenters were Palin fans, pushing back against all implied criticism. But other commenters sounded like frustrated liberals and progressives, frustrated by the foolishness being purveyed at this site. That’s how this, the twelfth commenter, sounded to us, although this reader’s political views weren’t made clear:

COMMENTER 12: Slit my wrists

If I were a Salon employee that had to "live blog" these emails, I would slit my wrists, ensuring that mass pools of blood covered the documents as they carried my lifeless body away.

I know I am not the editor of Salon, but here's a nice suggestion—how about reporting if/when something of interest is found in the emails. Until then, get a fucking life.

As someone noted yesterday, Salon has jumped the shark. It may be time to return to Slate (which I stopped reading several years back because it had become so vapid).

Three cheers for any reader who rails against the “vapid” work at our major sites! And good lord! Six comments later, another reader rolled his eyes at Salon’s vapid report:

COMMENTER 18: Anything on shoes?

Sarah Palin asked her staff for advice on finding a black leader "trapper style" fur hat—and rejected suggestions that weren't "feminine" enough.

Gee I really needed to know that.

Anything on shoes?

Best way to make a BLT sandwich?

I guess the good stuff is yet to come.

Who knows? That reader could be a Palin fan. But that reader might be a serious liberal, a person who’s tired of all the crap that sites like Salon sell us rubes. And uh-oh! Barring impersonation, the very next comment came from a flat-out angry progressive:

COMMENTER 19: And so it begins

I suppose we can expect to see a minimum of 5 articles a day on Sister Sarah for the foreseeable future from Joan Walsh and the snarky teens who edit the War Room.

Meanwhile, the President continues his war against the Middle East, whistle blowers, and civil liberties. The military has taken over the CIA. Predator drones are coming to a police department near you...but look over there, folks! Sarah Palin wrote an email in which she used the term "unflippinbelievable!”

This commenter wasn’t impressed by the “revelation” about Palin’s use of "unflippinbelievable!” But then, before long, two other complaints rolled in:

COMMENTER 20: Pistol Pete

Don't look now, but in another email she uses the word: "Sheeesh!"

COMMENTER 24: Ugh

That's five minutes I'll never get back.

The political views of these readers weren’t clear. But all these comments, and some others which followed, seemed to reject the focus on utterly pointless trivia. Hurrah! Some of the dogs weren’t eating the dog food their tribal lords had set out.

That evening, Rachel Maddow extended the tribal nonsense, starting a segment on the e-mails with one more inane revelation. With Rachel, of course, we had to sit through the song and dance where she pretends to be embarrassed by a naughty word. (For transcript, see below.)

Like those commenters, we were annoyed by the clowning at Salon. We were further annoyed by Maddow’s silly-girl exhibition. Our view? We live in a very dangerous time; liberals and progressives should be pushing hard to save a sinking ship of state. But all around, you see clowning hacks from the play-for-pay media world, selling us rubes the silly shit that puts extra dough in their pants.

Within this corporate culture, paid “liberal” media sells silly shit tailored for gullible liberals.

In part, this nonsense is good for business. In part, it builds the liberal world’s sense of its own tribal greatness. But when we live inside the tribal belt, we can lose our sense of the way out of our nation’s current mess. We liberals love to roll our eyes at true belief in the Bible belt. Are we really so very different when we praise our glorious tribe in such fatuous ways?

There has been a lot of tribal pimping at our “liberal” sites in the past few weeks. Their fools are hypocrites—but our fools aren’t! Sarah and Newt are just laughably silly! Ensign and Vitter were much worse than Weiner! Thrills go up legs in the tribal belt when such pleasing pap gets sold. But does this childish, “trivial” conduct advance progressive interests?

Correction: Salon’s report appeared on Friday, not Saturday. We’ve corrected yesterday’s post.

Tomorrow: Was Weiner a hypocrite?

Her standard love-me-I’m-innocent hook: On Friday night, Maddow featured a different revelation from the Palin e-mails. As usual, we had to sit through the song and dance where she pretends to be embarrassed by a naughty word—a naughty word she has specifically chosen to air.

To watch the full segment, just click this. As it opens, Maddow is perched beneath a quotation from an e-mail which includes a very naughty word—“condoms.” She is plainly quite embarrassed by this naughty word:

MADDOW (6/10/11): OK, I can explain—um—that.

Mom, if you’re watching right now, first of all, Hi. And second, there’s a reason that this phrase is in quotation marks.

It is in quotation marks because, while I have not personally read every single Sarah Palin email released today in the state of Alaska, I’m willing to bet almost a whole dollar that this is the most interesting phrase in any one of those emails.

A publicist emailed Governor Palin, inviting her to see a band play at a house party. This was the pitch, quote: "The Strange Boys are playing at 7:30 sharp. So tip the kids and bring beef, tequila and condoms."

That was in September 2008 after Sarah Palin had become John McCain’s running mate. Governor Palin did not reply to the email, but she did forward it on to a staffer, which means absolutely nothing in the greater scheme of national politics or state politics. But it does give us a handy new phrase to unsettle the mothers of everyone who works on this show…

The naughty phrase “means absolutely nothing,” this darling child explained. In that sense, it’s like a great deal of the silly shit we now get sold on her program.