THE TRUMAN SHOW! Have you seen The Truman Show? Do you live in a country like that? // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2008
Quayle Gore Palin Barcelona: Alessandra Stanley is one of Maureen Dowds gal pals; this may explain the silly way she begins todays TV Watch. Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow! The corps inane culture is running strong as she expresses her sense of shock over Sarah Palins vile interviews:
Darlings, Palin showed up on election night planning to introduce McCain! Stanley never quite explains why this newsthis former leakshould be so disconcerting. But this is the culture of killing the pig. This is the culture which has driven the press corps for yearsmainly at your expense.
As she continues, Stanley blathers on in typical fashion. Her cohort has found its latest pig; theyre acting as the inane always do when they try to convince themselves that they have finally located someone whos actually dumber than they are. Hiss! Hiss-spit! Meee-ow:
Was Palin supposed to skip the Republican Governors conference? People! Shes a Republican governor! Meanwhile, the notion that Palins interviews are upending some sort of protocol could only come from a mind so vacant as to be pleased by the presence of Dowds. But Stanleys key idea is found at the start of that passage; Sarah Palin isnt humbled, the horrified Antoinette says. This reveals the secret rule which drives this dim-witted game: Nitwits like Stanley spread bull-roar aroundand their targets are expected to bow low before them. Hence the judgment Stanley renders in her very next graf:
Youll have to guess where the staggering presumption comes in, since Stanley never quite explains. But you really have to admire the clowning exhibited in the claim that her cohort has moved on from Palins campaign woesin the claim that Palin is frozen in the bubble of campaign past, a claim Stanley types a bit later. In fact, Palin is being pounded on cable each night, especially by Dowd pal Chris Matthews; Dowd herself is still obsessing on Palin in todays vacant column. But so what? In the world of those who kill pigs, the pig is supposed to crawl away humbled; its a sign of staggering presumption when the pig replies to the pig-killers charges. And yes, this is the way these Antoinettes think. This is modern press culture.
For ourselves, we thought Palin may have been the worst candidate everbaldly dishonest, nasty, often inane. (Though well guess that her worst presentations were scripted by Saint McCains aides.) But its completely appropriate that she react to the press corps latest (anonymous) chargescharges the press was too fat-and-happy to fact-check before they were printed. No, the press corps hasnt moved onand no, they havent been fair or intelligent about the past weeks anonymous claims. But so what! For them, its more fun this way! Here was Chris Matthews, on Monday night, explaining to his pal, Margaret Carlson, how the killing of pigs is done. Former Alaska journalist Larry Persily started this conversation:
Wow! In Alaska, you have to put your name on your criticisms! What an odd way to play games!
At any rate, Matthews explained the big-city game: People take comments out of context because its a lot more fun to do so! It was Carlson, of course, who explained, in October 2000, why the press was trashing Gore and giving Bush a giant pass. It was more fun to go after Gore, she said, speaking to the imbecile Imus. Today, the fun is at Palins expense, as Matthews explained in Monday nights comment. But make no mistake: In the long run, the cost of this culture of killing the pig has been paid by you and yours.
In the last twenty years, the corps has mainly killed three pigs by subjecting them to endless ridiculeDan Quayle, Al Gore, now perhaps Palin. (This does not include Bill Clinton, who was killed by pseudo-scandals.) Lets make sure we understand the balance of the carnage:
Republicans took bruises from the mocking of Quaylebut he was never going to rise any higher than vice president. They are currently paying a bit of a price in the mocking of Palinbut she isnt likely to become a national leader either. And oh yes! George W. Bush spent eight years in the White House because of the way the Stanleys, the Dowds, the Carlsons, the Matthewses ridiculed Candidate Gore for two years. (As entertainment and sport, it was great fun to do so, Carlson entertainingly said.) And so, we remind you once again of who has paid the actual price for this inane press corps culture.
In fact, Dems and libs have paid the real price for this cohorts inanity. In the long run, it would be smart for Dems and libs to take these tools away. For that reason, were disappointed when we see triumphant liberals run to the culture of snark and smirk. Your leaders are having a good time today. But this culture will turn back against them.
Just this week, we finally saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But as you watch the simpering Stanley rolling her eyes at the unhumbled Palin, youre watching part of a much longer movie: Dan Al Sarah Washington. Its the Democratsand the people of the worldwho have paid the real price for this simpering culture. The only big pigs they have killed were yours. And yes: Once their 401Ks are secure, they will start killing big pigs again.
Reporting a prisoner swap: The swap they made was never a secret. In May 1999, Alison Mitchell explained what was happening, in the New York Times:
The GOP made no bones about it; they were gambling that they could Quayle-ize Gore. (They were quoted using that word in other news reports.) Mitchell only forgot to mention one thing; she forgot to say that her own press corps was already committed to this fun game. (As always, she pretended that the GOP war was aimed at late-night comedians.) And yes! They even mocked Gore for Earth in the Balancethe best-selling book which would later turn into An Inconvenient Truth. That December, Gore was openly mocked for the book on the front page of the New York Timesby the appalling Michiko Kakutani, another top gal pal of Dowds. Darlings, Kakutani couldnt believe that Gore had written a book with so many loony asides! (She cited Naomi Wolf three different times, though Wolf had nothing to do with the book.) How we got here: She became one of three Times reporters to explain that Earth in the Balance was Gores midlife crisis book.
For now, their culture of ridicule is aimed at Palin. But which side has actually lost in the past? Which side will lose in the future?
PART 3THE TRUMAN SHOW: Frankly, were puzzled by Frank Richs fury about the way this campaign was covered. He started Sundays piece with a typical gripe, complaining again about the way the press corp went looking for racial problems. Throughout the campaign, Rich has sounded a bit like George Wallace, complaining that the mainstream press corps was behaving like a band of outside agitators. But lets not put words in the savants mouth. On Sunday, heres what he said:
All year, Rich complained about the way the press corps beat the bushes of rural America, trying to scare up racist white voters. But in fact, it was always possible that this election could be tipped by a decisive number of white Americans who wouldnt vote for a black presidential candidate. (It was also possible that something resembling a Bradley effect was present in the national pollingthough journalists had tended to over-pimp the famous effect through the years.) Despite this, Rich bellowed and complained all year long when journalists explored the possibility of anti-Obama racial voting.
On Sunday, Rich chortled at his own great triumphat the way a higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included. And he defined the state of American bigotry in this roll call of six key states:
Are Americas bigots in unambiguous retreat? In a seven-point race, they may be. But Richs analysis is typically weak. Why exactly are fellows like Rich found at the top of your discourse?
Could this election have been decided by anti-Obama white racial voting? Of course it could have been, and its utterly silly to pretend otherwise. Yes, Obama won Virginia and North Carolinathe latter by a very thin margin. But voting patterns in North Carolina were quite different from those in other states; in a closer race (think: no financial collapse) the attitudes suggested by these patterns might well have been decisive. For example: In the North Carolina exit polls, 22 percent of all voters described themselves as white independents; 71 percent of this group voted for McCain. (This helps explain why Obama lost the overall white vote in North Carolina by a large margin64 percent to 35.) But numbers change as the voting heads north. In Virginia, white independents again comprised 22 percent of the votebut only 52 percent of the group voted for McCain. One state further north, in Maryland, only 46 percent of white independents supported the sanctified solon. Here are the percentages found in the other states mentioned by Rich:
Thats a long way from North Carolinas 71 percentor from the 82 percent recorded in Mississippi. Beyond that, did white racial voting help explain the pattern observed in this now-famous New York Times map? Well leave such questions to analysts with stronger backgrounds in these matters than ours. But its hard to understand Richs dismissive claim that reporters were bowing to some obsession in exploring the racial views of white votersto the extent that the press corps actually did so.While there are still bigots in America, they are in unambiguous retreat, Rich pleasingly thunders. But well state our words of caution again, choosing to drop Richs thrilling language (well let God and Rich sort out the bigots, noting that Rich will be able to do so faster): White racial voters may have been in retreat last Tuesdaybut they might have tipped states in a closer election. Imaginably, their attitudes could prove more decisive in some future campaign. Its hard to know why Rich seems determined to keep us from asking about this.
Of course, Rich rarely seems interested in getting facts; more typically, his work is devoted to driving his narratives. (As it was in Campaign 2000, when he kept finding ways to insist that Bush and Gore were exactly the same.) How big a hack will this gentleman be when to comes to interpreting exit poll data? Lets return to the triumphant claim from above: A higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included. In that statement, you see the soul of a know-nothing press corpsthe corps which spent most of the 1990s making sure that George Bush reached the White House.
First, lets acknowledge this basic point: Richs claim may be technically accurate. On-line, Rich links to this National Journal post; the chart shows Obama getting 41 percent of white male voters, a higher percentage than any Democrat, going back through 1988. (By way of contrast, Kerry got 37 percent of this group in 2004, according to this chart.) But how careless is Rich when hes proving a point? Sometimes, careless to the point of contempt. For one thing, the exit poll numbers here are approximate, as numbers from exit polls always are; like many others, Rich bases unambiguous claims on narrow differences found in approximate numbers. But more importantly, Rich is engaged in a classic gong-show in this particular claim. In stressing the fact that Obama got a higher percentage than any Democrat, Bill Clinton included, he tosses away an obvious fact; in 1992 and 1996, Clinton ran against a Republicanand against Ross Perot, a high-profile, well-financed third-party candidate who took part in all three presidential debates. Everyone knows how silly it is, in most cases, to compare data from a two-candidate race with data from a race with three major candidates. But thats what Rich has done in this case. In his column, he makes a string of pleasing observations which turn on similar sleights of hand.
That said, lets see what Richs formulation is hiding: In 1992, Clinton lost the white male vote by three points (40-37); last week, Obama lost the same group by 16 points (57-41). You can say that Obama did better with white males than Clintonif you want to roll from a Volkswagen bug and then dance about like a clown. People who want to understand the real world will present data with more care. Meanwhile, why did Rich cite white men, and skip white women? Duh. Because Obama did worse among white women than both Clinton and Gore before him, if you accept those Journal numbers. In this way, novelists pick and choose their data as they drive their narratives forward. This isnt a real attempt to inform. Its an attempt to (seem to) win arguments.
What can we learn from Obamas winfrom the voting patterns of various groups? People who care about the truthabout future electionswill draw conclusions with some care. People like Rich will play silly gamesand theyll make phantasmagoric claims about the pundit corps vast love for Palin. That said, does anyone know why scriveners like Rich still sit at the top of your countrys discourse? Indeed: Does your country even exist when its discourse is shaped by such fabulists? When so much of our collective memory has simply been made up?
Have you seen The Truman Show? Do you live in a country like that?