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Print view: My remark was ''thoughtless,'' the NPR chief said. But that was Murray's point
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WHAT SCHILLER SAID! My remark was “thoughtless,” the NPR chief said. But that was Murray’s point: // link // print // previous // next //

Ed Schultz (also) brings on the hate: On Sunday, a Kentuckian named Tim Profitt did a dumb, unfortunate thing, stepping or stomping on Lauren Valle’s shoulder or head, thus interrupting her satire. (Profitt may face assault charges.) In this post, Digby quickly did one of the things she now does best—she extended guilt for Profitt’s behavior and thinking to millions of other people.

In all honesty, we’ve never seen anyone go from “some” to “all” quite as quickly as Digby now does. Her commenters were soon snarking hard and predicting all manner of mayhem. But Big Ed Schultz really took the cake as his hot buttons started firing last night. Schultz, who has become an open hate merchant, started his program like this:

SCHULTZ (10/26/10): Good evening, Americans, and welcome to the Ed Show tonight from New York. These stories are hitting my hot buttons at this hour:

I can hardly believe the story I’m about to tell you here on the Ed Show tonight. Unbelievable.

A Rand Paul supporter last night stomped on the head of a liberal protester in Kentucky. The tape is infuriating.

Batten down the hatches, folks. Commentary is on the way with reaction.


This is the story that has me fired up tonight, and it should get the attention of every American.

Now, just before the senatorial debate last night in Kentucky, a campaign worker for Rand Paul assaulted a woman by kicking her in the head after she was taken down to the ground by another man, kind of like a gang fight. Welcome to the season of 2010, the election season.

Here is the shocking videotape. You won’t believe it.

In all honesty, the tape wasn’t all that “shocking,” thought it was of course unfortunate. Nor was it all that hard to believe, given the way people are. But Schultz is now all about firing up the rubes—making them angry, filling them with hate for The Other. He proceeded with a 15-minute report which was long on the outrage and fury—and long on the outright dissembling.

Schultz’s report was especially dumb—and designed to make folks very angry. We won’t bother running through all the ways this big loud man played the loud dumb fool, as he now routinely does. But he pretended that he didn’t know why the Paul campaign issued two different statements about the incident. He pretended that Paul was somehow supposed to have seen this unfortunate incident. He kept pretending that Paul himself hadn’t made a statement, although the tape and transcript of his statement, made Tuesday morning on Fox, had been all over the web. (For Steve Benen’s account, just click here.) He scolded Ron Paul for his son’s behavior—behavior he himself had grossly misrepresented. He even pretended that this incident was an echo of the deeply troubling disrespect to women displayed in the “Aqua Buddha” matter. And, as he now so often does, Big Ed played the Nazi Mayhem Card, one of his favorite toys.

Ed Schultz has become a bad person:

SCHULTZ: Rand Paul, you’re hiding behind your campaign tonight, you’re nothing but a damn coward. I don’t think you have the guts to personally come out and say to the American people that you personally condemn it. You hide behind your spokespeople is what you do.

And Ron Paul, congressman from Texas, that’s your kid. Please don’t tell me the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

Congressman Paul, I think you ought to call your kid tonight and tell him he’s running a rotten campaign. And it sure looks like this problem with women that he had years ago is resurfacing again in the form of his supporters.

Congressman Paul, do you have the guts to call your kid and then tell the media that you did call Rand and told him to back off, or maybe tell him to have a press conference?

You see, if I don’t speak up now with a tremendous amount of fervor, if the media doesn’t speak up with a tremendous amount of passion like this, hell, it’s going to happen again and again and again.

Now, what I wanted to do tonight, but, you know, we have our limitations, and maybe you can go to my Web site at and tell me what you think of this. But we really could have taken some video from the 1930s in Germany and we could have matched it up with that video that we just played a few minutes ago, and then we could have let you comment on it, but you can use your imagination about what that would look like.

Big Ed was faking hard at this point, pretending that he’d struggled hard about the morality of running that old Nazi tape.

The Nazis murdered six million people. On Sunday, one stupid person stepped or stomped on one person’s shoulder or head. As soon as he did this, another person told him to stop. And he did.

Profitt may get prosecuted. In a rational world, Schultz would get fired. His presentation last night was very dumb, on top of being very dishonest. And people, let’s get our own hot buttons firing! Just as the Nazis did in the 1930s in Germany, Big Ed spent his entire hour building a vast sense of grievance:

SCHULTZ: No Tea Party candidate has the character to put a stop to this crap. Tea Partiers think that, you see, they are the real Americans, and they treat members of the media and, of course,, like road kill. We’re kind of second-class citizens, I guess.

Schultz now moves from “some” to “all” just as quickly as Digby does. That said, can anyone believe that Schultz is sincere when he peddles this crap? If he is sincere, of course, that would be the largest problem.

During the years of the Long Liberal Silence, we liberals at least got to pretend that we are smarter and more nuanced than the other tribe. That fantasy has long since flown. Ed Schultz has become a loud rodeo clown. He seems determined to show the world that members of our tribe can make the big money enflaming dumb-asses too.

After that, the experts appeared: Before long, Democratic strategist Todd Webster came on. He offered a nuanced assessment:

WEBSTER: Well, look, the video is shocking. You know, it looks like a curb stomping, this guy is getting ready to do a curb stomping. It was like that scene out of American History X, where Edward Norton jumps out of bed, runs outside, shoots the guy for trying to steal his father’s car, and then puts the head on the curb and stomp on the guy’s head. It is unbelievable.

How many dumb liberals exist in the land? Ed Schultz wants to find out.

Special report: From the annals of elite epistemic closure!

PART 2—WHAT SCHILLER SAID (permalink): Yesterday, liberals continued snarking about Charles Murray’s new piece, which headlined the Washington Post’s Outlook section this Sunday. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/26/10. To read Murray’s piece, click here.)

Is there such a thing as a “New Elite”—a group of societal movers and shakers who are largely out of touch with the values and culture of regular folk? “This could be a defensible thesis,” James Downie wrote at the New Republic, “but Murray decides instead to prove it in as many wrongheaded ways as possible.” Downie listed various alleged bungles by Murray, not failing to mention such facts as these: “MMA means mixed-martial arts, and its audience is actually more well-off than the average American.”

The snark has been general about Murray’s piece—but we would suggest a different approach. We’d suggest that progressives skip the snark and the snide and instead pay a bit of attention to Murray’s “defensible thesis.” In our view, he is talking about a cultural phenomenon which routinely works in ways which savage progressive interests.

Just consider the unfortunate thing Vivian Schiller said.

As the world has recently learned, Schiller is president and CEO of NPR, a post she has held since January 2009. Schiller got famous in the last week when she fired pundit Juan Williams for comments he made on the O’Reilly Factor. Most attention focused on Williams’ remark about getting nervous on planes when he sees folk “in Muslim garb.”

We’ll assume that Schiller is a bright, decent person. In our view, her network should probably have severed its ties with Williams long ago (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/25/10). But Schiller put her foot in her mouth in the course of dumping Williams, reinvigorating a long propaganda war against NPR and “the liberal media”—and giving Fox a big propaganda win. And make no mistake! Her biographical profile clearly stamps Schiller as part of Murray’s “New Elite.” Wikipedia tells the story this way, taking its basic information from a wedding announcement in the New York Times:

WIKIPEDIA: Vivian Schiller is the daughter of Ronald Schiller, a former editor at Reader's Digest, and Lillian Schiller of Larchmont, New York. She graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor's degree in Russian studies and Soviet studies, and a Master's degree in Russian from Middlebury College.

Prior to leading NPR, Schiller was a senior vice president of She was the first general manager of Discovery Times Channel (now Investigation Discovery), from 2002-2006.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it! Indeed, our own niece and nephew grew up in Larchmont, perhaps fifteen years after Schiller; some of our very favorite people grew up in Larchmont, New York! That said, Schiller’s bio is perfectly drawn from the outline of Murray’s “New Elite.” For all we know, she may have shared an occasional nosh with Olbermann while at Cornell!

(For Schiller’s professional bio at NPR, you know what to do—just click here.)

There’s absolutely “wrong” with any part of Schiller’s bio. Indeed, she has even served as a senior vice president at CNN! But Murray doesn’t claim in his piece that members of his “New Elite” are bad people. He claims that they tend to be out of touch with the values and views of regular folk—“out of touch” in ways which might lead to a dumb remark like this, as reported by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post:

FARHI (10/22/10): The flap over Williams produced its own subsidiary flap on Thursday when NPR's chief executive, Vivian Schiller, told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club that Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist.”

D’oh! Readers of the New York Times have been spared from reading about Schiller’s jibe about William’s psychiatric state, for which she later apologized. (“I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark.”) But her remark has been bruited far and wide by various conservative pundits, offered as the latest example of the way an elite called “the liberal media” tends to regard the statements and views of regular people.

Schiller made a dumb remark, as we all do on occasion. She herself described her own remark as “thoughtless”—a diagnosis which largely fits Murray’s thesis about the New Elite. This remark was just part of a larger story, the story of the firing itself; the world won’t long remember what Schiller said about Williams. But her “thoughtless” remark helped revive a decade-long narrative—a narrative which is bad for NPR, and bad for progressive interests.

Schiller’s remark is easily portrayed as the fruit of a sneering elite. A wide range of pundits were soon asserting that regular people do entertain thoughts of the type Williams described; some pundits recalled the time (in 1993) when Jesse Jackson described the fear he sometimes feels when approached by young black men on a dark street at night. In the Washington Post, another member of the press elite offered her assessment of Williams’ remark, offering the general view that Williams’ remarks don’t make him crazy. After scolding Bill O’Reilly for the things he had said, Kathleen Parker said the following about Williams. In the process, she displayed how out of touch she herself may be with the lives of regular people:

PARKER (10/24/10): And guess what? Lots of Americans suffer an involuntary free-associative moment when boarding an airplane alongside someone whose attire says, "Oh, by the way, I'm a serious enough Muslim to dress in the way Allah commands," but no worries.

Perhaps we shouldn't entertain those thoughts, but we do. Is it better that we air our fears and address them, or should we repress them and keep our prayers to ourselves? Wait. Let me rephrase that. Let's do keep our prayers to ourselves, but let's also speak openly about our fears.

I'd happily wager that Williams said nothing that 99 percent of Americans haven't thought to themselves. What might have followed that statement—far more useful than a sanctimonious public flogging—was the conversation we're now having.

Is Parker part of the “New Elite?” Note the assumption lodged in her analysis—the assumption that we all fly around the country so often that “99 percent of Americans” have had the experience of flying with people decked out “in Muslim garb.”

We’ll only say this about Schiller’s remark: It helped revive a very familiar, decades-long war against NPR and “the liberal media.” In that sense, her remark, which she quickly renounced, was bad for progressive interests. We’ll assume that Schiller is a good, decent person, but we’ll also ask a basic question:

At this late date in that long war, who is still clueless enough to jump right up and make that remark? Murray’s piece suggests a possible answer. We think progressives would be well advised to ponder what he has said.

Tomorrow—part 3: An elite editor speaks