HOW WE FOOLS GET MANUFACTURED! Chomsky described this scam long ago. He didnt blame average people: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2011
Norquist v. Chance the gardener: Frank Bruni appeared with Piers Morgan last night, chatting away with the ex-Murdoch hack. But first, lets examine Grovers Norquists appearance in todays New York Times.
Grover appears on the Times op-ed page, right beneath a pointless piece in which the Times own Judith Warner muses about Bachmanns headaches. As Warner piddles your life away, Grovers column helps explain how your country got to its current place:
Thoreau began Walden in a similar way, explaining why he was saying the things which followed. (I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like.) Similarly, Grover is only speaking today because there is some confusion these days about what the pledge does and doesnt mean, and numerous people have tried to reconfigure its intent. At any rate, what Grover says as he starts is quite true: He created the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 1986. And he has been pushing it very hard, with great effect, for the past twenty-five years. In todays piece, he goes on to describe the semantics of tax increase, a topic he could discuss in his sleep, even when the things he says dont quite exactly parse.
In his column, Grover says (net) taxes must never be raised. That too he can limn while asleep.
Grover has worked extremely hard down through all these years. His dogged efforts help explain why American political and journalistic cultures tilt quite hard toward spending cuts rather than toward tax increases. Along with other skillful, well-funded players, Grover has worked to defeat the ol debbil, higher taxesas is his perfect right.
We liberals get mad at Grover for this. We think the problem lies elsewhere.
Ask yourself this: Can you think of a comparable liberal figure? For example, can you think of a liberal figure who has worked in a similar way regarding Social Security? Can you think of a liberal figure who wrote a pledge in 1986 to this effect: Social Security benefits, present and promised, must never be lowered for any reason? Can you think of a liberal figure who spent the last twenty-five years exploring every possible aspect of that basic position? Who doggedly fought the endless deceptions churned against that program?
Of course you cant think of such a figure! For various reasons, no such liberal figure exists, which helps explain why your side is getting its ass royally kicked once again. Why everyone talks about cutting SS, while it seems to be against the law to even discuss tax increases.
This morning, Grover takes us into the weeds of no new taxes semantics. Above him, a major mainstream journalist piddles around about the meaning of Bachmanns headaches. Then too, there was Bruni, chatting with Morgan last night.
Are the leading tribunes of the mainstream press corps any match for players like Grover? Please! Bruni may be the worlds nicest guy; he may have been a great restaurant writer. But he has absolutely nothing to say about the worlds major problems. Despite this rather obvious fact, he was recently named a Times op-ed columnist, with Andrew Rosenthal boasting about all the big events the guy would surely explore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/5/11).
Simple story: The mainstream press corps is vastly outmatched by well-funded, dogged players like Grover. Just consider the things Bruni said to Morgan, the ex-Murdoch hack.
Morgan started in an oafish way, as you can note in the transcript. But after discussing Brunis status as one of the first openly gay op-ed columnists that we've seen, Morgan began to explore Brunis views on various big major issues. Bruni may be the worlds nicest guy and a top food writer to boot. But when it came to such basic political topics, he sounded more like Chance the gardener.
Morgans first question was almost comically broad. So was Brunis answer:
Huh! According to Bruni, we need to become more mature and more reasonable. And China is on the move! Morgan moved on to a paint-by-the-numbers Bruni piece concerning the end of the space shuttle:
Interesting! American confidence is on the waneand what's happening now doesnt help!
By now, it was time to seek the answer. Blather in, blather back out:
If we were able to follow his chain of reasoning, Bruni thinks our polarized politics and bickering would have to be part of the answer. And dont even get this columnist started on the wild ways we spend:
According to Bruni, we Americans need to be grown up and informed and intelligent about something when we voteperhaps about excessive spending.
At this point, Morgan asked about Presideent Obamas leadership, producing one more fuzzy reply. And then, Morgan told Bruni what theyd discuss when they Came back from a break:
Having disposed of the worlds major problems, the pair would move on to dessert.
Bruni may be the worlds nicest guy. But he has nothing whatever to say about the nations various problems. Question: If the New York Times was a real newspaper, would they ever have hired this guy as a twice-weekly op-ed writer? Next question: If CNN was a real news channel, would an empty suit like Morgan have been hired there?
In your country, you have an aggressive, well-funded plutocrat movementand you have Potemkin news orgs. Grover Norquist is very determined.
Your nations press corps is not.
Coming Monday/speaking of Murdoch hacks: To see a photo of Murdoch testifying, click here. Question: Do you know who that fellow is right next to Murdochs wife?
PART 4HOW WE FOOLS GET MANUFACTURED (permalink): Last night, Piers Morgan interrupted his interview with Frank Bruni to promote CNNs upcoming 10 PM program, AC 360. He spoke with John King, who would be sitting in for the vacationing Anderson Cooper.
Alas! CNNs transcripts dont include such exchanges, which instead get dismissed as news breaks. But King told Morgan that he would be exploring a claimthe claim that nothing really bad will occur if the debt limit stays where it is.
Amazing! Weeks and months after major Republicans began to pimp this nonsense around, CNN was finally going to get off its ass and examine this foolish assertion!
But so it has gone as our major news orgs have pretended to discuss the news in the past few months. Indeed, another major cable show was rushing to catch up with this basic question on yesterdays program. On Hardball, the hapless regular host, Chris Matthews, was vacationing on Nantucket (were guessing). This allowed guest host Michael Smerconish to say that he would examine that long-standing GOP claim.
Right at the start of last nights Hardball, Smerconish, who is much more serious than Matthews, said he would examine that claima claim which should have been examined in detail several months ago:
In fact, the Tea Partiers have been making that claim for months, deceiving tens of millions of voters and putting the nations future in peril. As they have done so, the hapless Matthews has sat on his Welch-fed ass, clowning away as his darling, Joan Walsh, tells us how brilliant he is as he defrocks right-wing guests. But then, as Upton Sinclair once said, It is difficult to get a Salon editor to understand something when her career standing depends on her not understanding it.
Upton Sinclair was so right!
What happens if the country does default? More specifically, have Obama and others been crying wolf about this matter? Republicans have been making this claim for months; last night, two major cable programs finally decided to check out their sh*t! In our view, King did a horrible job with the topic when he addressed it on AC 360. But at least, with its regular host en vacance, this news program gave it a try.
Question: What kind of news org would have waited until last night to evaluate what the GOP has been saying? Answer: A news org that isnt a real news orga Potemkin news org which clowns its way through life, giving Americans the impression that journalism still does exist. Several months later, Hardball and AC 360 decided they should check out the facts! Months later, they decided to examine the truth of what the public has been hearing from high-ranking folk.
What happens if the country does default? For the sake of clarity, wed frame the question a different way: What happens if the debt limit stays where it is? For months, average Joes have been told, by a long list of players, that nothing especially bad would occur. But did that claim ever make any sense? Just consider this Kevin Drum post.
On Wednesday, Drum ran a post under this mocking headline: 40 Percent Less Government Will Be Fun! If the debt limit stays where it is, federal spending would have to drop by a fairly immediate 40-45 percent. On the surface, it takes a very foolish person to think that nothing much would happen if that kind of overnight change did occur. But big news programs like AC 360 have been too busy diddling themselves about Casey Anthony to try to help their viewers learn what would actually occur.
What would 40 percent less government look like? Drum linked to Megan McArdle, a conservative blogger at the Atlantic. At the start of her own post, McArdle described the things her conservative soul-mates have been sayingand she found a courteous way to say theyre totally nuts.
Lots of folks have been saying that people are just scaremongering about the consequences of refusal to raise the ceiling, McArdle said as she started. I don't think people are really thinking this through. McArdle accepted the basic idea that there would be plenty of money for debt service, military payrolls, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid even if the debt limit stays where it is. But uh-oh! She then listed other federal functions which would have to screech to a halt. Among them, she listed the following functions, and many more besides. Weve picked just a few from her long laundry list and shifted her order around:
Shorter McArdle: U.S. air travel will screech to a halt. Border control will cease to exist. Federal prisoners will all be released. U.S. nukes will be there for the taking.
By the way: How accurate are McArdles claims, including her more sanguine assertions? Is it true that the federal government would still have plenty of money for debt service, military payrolls, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if the debt limit stays where it is?
Here at THE HOWLER, we simply dont know. You see, your major news organs have made virtually no attempt to examine such piddling questions. They have been too busy stroking themselves about Casey Anthonys bounteous bosomabout the long flowing hair Bruni caught her petting. We know of no major news org which has made a serious attempt to report on these piddling concerns. Even at our greatest newspapers, these topics have gone unexplored.
Lets give credit where modest credit is due. Last Thursday, the Washington Post finally rose off its big fat ass and printed that front-page report by Zachary Goldfarba piece in which Goldfarb began to review the choices Obama would face if the debt limit stays where it is (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/21/11). In the next two days, the Post ran two more pieces by Goldfarb, making a very modest attempt to explore related questions. That said, the Post should have been exploring these questions long before and in greater detailand when Goldfarb wrote his front-page piece, he made no mention of the high-ranking Republicans whose claims he seemed to be contradicting.
At long last, Post readers finally began to learn about the bad choices Obama would face. But as a courtesy, they werent required to hear about the famous players who have been saying or implying, for weeks and months, that there would be no bad choicesthat there was no real need to raise that federal debt limit. And by the way: Goldfarb didnt sound quite as sanguine as McArdle, although, in classic Post/Times fashion, his meaning was somewhat unclear. Heres part of Goldfarbs account of what will happen if the debt limit stays where it is:
According to Goldfarb, pay for the troops would have to cease if Obama kept paying for the other functions. But when would military pay have to stopafter August, or during that month? As usual, our biggest newspapers imprecise language left us rather unsure.
To its very modest credit, the Washington Post did some explaining about this topicvery late in the game. As best we can tell, the New York Times has still made no attempt to explore that basic question: What will happen on August 3 if the debt limit stays where it is? You can explain that failure however you like: Perhaps the darlings are too wrapped up in the annual Hamptons migration! But your biggest newspaper has behaved in a truly astonishing wayunless we agree that your biggest newspaper isnt a newspaper at all.
Many other obvious questions have gone unexplored as we slide toward disaster. Can you explain what Moodys is? How about S & P? By the way: If Obama does keep paying our debt service, would we then be in default? These names and concepts have floated around in a conversation few folk understandbut your news orgs have made no attempt to explain them. Nor have they tried to explain how we got here, or how we might attempt to get out. For example: Have you seen any major news org explain what would happen to deficit projections if we returned to the Clinton tax rates? Actually no, you havent! And by the tenets of Hard Pundit Law, you and your kind never will.
As this silence has occurred, a matching silence has been observed across the liberal world. The liberal world barely seems to notice the fact that the mainstream press corps has refused to discuss these various topics. Failing to notice, the liberal world then fails to complain. Can we talk for just one moment? The liberal world as it now exists is almost spectacularly unintelligent. We are no match for the skilled, well-funded plutocrat players who manufacture the utter nonsense which passes for public discussion.
Twice a week, Krugman gets 800 words. Otherwise, silence descends.
In fairness, there is one thing we liberals know how to dowe know how to name-call The Others. Long ago, Noam Chomsky described the process weve been describing as manufactured consent. When he did so, he didnt blame the average people on various continents who get fooled by this massive deception. Instead, he blamed the powerful interests who author this scam. By doing so, he got himself banned for our ersatz public discourse, of course.
Last week, Digby found a different approach. She called eighty million average people fools, letting us see who the biggest fool is and showing the way to our final defeat. Question: When our biggest news orgs wont tell average people that theyre being scammed, how are they supposed to know this?
How are they supposed to know that major player are handing them total crap?
Youll have to ask Digby, the reigning queen, who seems to hate the proles more than the miscreants. You cant ask the latter group this weekthe people who agreed not to report. They are lounging on Nantucketand in the Hamptons, of course.