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TUESDAY, JULY 5, 2011
Learning to hate the other tribe/Fourth of July edition: In June, Marist conducted an information survey concerning the Fourth of July.
Respondents were asked two questions. Here they are:
These were open-ended questions. Respondents were required to volunteer answers. No possible answers were provided.
As is always the case in such matters, the publics knowledge was less than perfect. Only 76 percent of respondents named Great Britain as the country from which we won independence. Only 58 percent named 1776 as the year independence was declared.
(Presumably, Marist accepted England as a correct answer to that first question. But in typical expert fashion, Marist didnt clarify this point in its press release on the survey. For the full press release, with all Marist data, just click this.)
On July 3, Steve Benen discussed the Marist survey. After quoting the press release giving the surveys results, Benen offered his thoughts about the surveys internals. Skillfully, he helped liberal readers learn to deride The Other:
Steve said he hopes wisdom comes with age. Perhaps he was being ironic.
How did Steve interpret the data? After quoting Marists basic findings, he quickly cited a noticeable regional difference, with the South doing noticeably worse than everyone else in both questions. In this way, Steve helped liberal readers enjoy a favorite habitmocking the dumb-ass ways of the red-state South.
Sorry. Steve was basically playing you again, as he sometimes does. In fact, the differences are fairly small among the four regions identified in the data, although the South scored lowest on both questions.
Where does a much larger difference occur? Being a party-line man, Steve would never tell you. But a much larger difference occurs when Marist breaks the data down by race (white versus non-white), as you will quickly see if you review the internals. Example: 67 percent of whites got the year of independence right, versus 39 percent of non-whites. This 28-point difference dwarfs the difference between the score of the South and the scores of the other regions.
By the way: Are we aware that the South has a larger non-white population than higher-scoring regions?
Given the sweep of American history, it shouldnt come as a giant surprise that whites did better with these questions than non-whites did. Nor should it come as a giant surprise when Benen spins readers the way he does. How were readers supposed to react to his remarkably selective presentation of the internals? In comments, one of Benens misled readers barked out a preferred party-line:
Sad. In fact, there is no evidence in the Marist data that the right-wing (i.e., white or conservative or Republican) South proved any more ignorant than anyone else about this historical topic. But so what? This commenter greedily swallowed the bait his affable host had served.
Did Steve intend for readers to have this sort of reaction? We dont know. But heres how he ended his post:
In the past month, Bachman and Palin have made some historical misstatements. But there is no sign in the Marist data that Republicans did worse on these measures than we brilliant Democrats did. Wed guess that they probably did better, though Marist didnt keep track.
Lets repeat: Given the sweep of American history, it shouldnt come as a giant surprise that whites did better with these questions than non-whites did. (Presumably, this may also be a reflection of more recent immigration patterns.) But might we make a further note about Benens work? Like many assembly-line pseudo-liberals, he rarely stoops to discuss the public education issues which are suggested by data like these. In fact, Benen almost never discusses public school topics at all. In the pseudo-liberal coalition his type has assembled, black and brown children no longer count. They simply arent one of the groups we discuss. As far as we pseudo-libs seem to care, they can go hang in the yard.
Are southern Republicans dumber than northeastern Democrats on the measures surveyed by Marist? There is no indication of that in the data. But so what? We pseudos just want to have fun!
Remember: Divide and conquer is an oligarch strategy. In the long run, it stands in the way of progressive advance; it keeps average people in the two tribes from seeing their common situation. But it also provides a lot of good fun for those who enjoy tribal politics.
Rush and Sean have always played it this way. How quickly our tribe moved to ape them once we emerged from the woods!
PART 1BRUNI AGONISTES (permalink): Last Saturday, a letter to the Washington Post critiqued the papers editorial judgment. The Post is focusing on the wrong things, a distant reader said:
Did the Post err in offering front-page coverage of Bachmanns official kick-off event? Not necessarily, no. (To view the papers front-page lay-out that day, click this.) But the Washington Post, like the New York Times, has made little extended attempt to explain the complexities of our budget situation.
Sanders ideas have been ignored, but then again, so have everyone elses. To all intents and purposes, its impossible for citizens to be well-informed about our most basic policy issues.
In large part, this situation reflects the sad, silly culture of our mainstream press corps. How ridiculous is the well-entrenched culture of this pitiful D-plus elite? On Sunday, an opinion piece in the New York Times helped us take the groups measure.
People! At long last, Frank Bruni is back, offering his deathless insights on American politics! Late in May, Jeremy Peters broke the news in a New York Times news report. Frank Bruni, whose writing career at The New York Times has spanned two presidential campaigns, part of a papacy and more than five years as chief restaurant critic, has been named an Op-Ed columnist, Peters wrote. Eventually, Peters quoted the full memo from Andrew Rosenthal, the papers op-ed editor.
Rosenthal was very excited to report Brunis return:
Bruni needs no introduction, Rosenthal declared. We beg to differ, though only a tad. But first, lets review Brunis column from this Sundaythe second column he has written for his newspapers new Sunday section.
Change is everywhere at the Times! The old Sunday section was Week in Review. Now, the section is Sunday Review. That said, can we talk?
Your nation is sliding into the sea. Its economy is in extremely bad shape; its politics is even worse. Potentially disastrous decisions face us in just the next several weeks. But people! So what?
Given a highly visible platform in the Sunday New York Times, what topic did Bruni choose to discuss? The fact that our presidential candidates sometimes mention their children in public! Presumably, this was, in Rosenthals language, a small event that was really important but everyone seems to have missed. (Or maybe it was something entirely different.) But Bruni was deeply concerned by this problem. Heres the way he started:
As he continued, Bruni discussed the various acts which had him so upset. When Michelle Obama went to South Africa, she took her daughters with herand even let them be videotaped reading a book at one point! (Perhaps she should place them in purdah.) And not only that! When Jon Huntsman announced he was running for president, six of his children were present as well! Indeed, quite a few Republican candidates have offended Bruni this way:
Rick Santorum mentioned his seven children! To Bruni, this was part of the weeks most significant topic. And needless to say, it had to happen! Before he was done, Bruni was chiding Bristol Palin for hav[ing] surgery to reshape her jaw.
Bristol did this for medical reasons, she contends. So the thoughtful analyst wrote, letting us know hes not certain.
Columnist Bruni needs no introduction, Rosenthal said in his memo. Indeed: If you followed Brunis coverage of Campaign 2000, when he was the Times Bush correspondent, you werent surprised by the fatuous topic which had him worked up this week.
For the most part, Brunis reporting on Candidate Bush tended toward silly and facile. (He also displayed a strong instinct to fawn. And to withhold unflattering news until he wrote his campaign book, well after the election was over.) Who can forget the thoughtful way he opened a lengthy news report early in the New Hampshire primary?
Reporter Bruni drew plenty of meaning from Bushs shiny black loafers this day. Similar nonsense became his trademark as the campaign unfolded.
You cant really blame this on Bruni. By the time of Campaign 2000, the mainstream press corps was thoroughly steeped in an utterly fatuous culture. Bruni served this culture quite well. But the culture belonged to his D-plus elite. It wasnt Brunis invention.
In May, Rosenthal told the world how excited he was by Brunis return. In recent years, Bruni has been his newspapers chief restaurant critic. Now, he would return to more seminal topics.
Or would he?
On Sunday, Bruni gave us a look at the fatuous soul of a destructive D-plus elite. Please remember the context here. You yourself may have been annoyed at some point by the way politicians display their kids. But Bruni was given a chance to address the world on any possible topicand he chose to ponder this trivial topic above all the rest.
Greg Sargent did a good job last week describing the culture of the upper-class press corps. For the rest of the week, lets ask ourselves two basic questions:
How did press corps culture descend to this point? And why do so few liberals notice?
Tomorrow: Sargents portrait