KRUGMAN SNAPS! Our analysts wailed when their favorite professor novelized Bushs vile conduct: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2006
KRUGMAN SNAPS: The analysts came to us, tears in their eyes. Now theyve even got Krugman, they said. We thought they were kidding, but no—it was true. The perspicacious professor had snapped into line, typing the liberal worlds latest novel! It concerns the way the bully-in-chief came down on poor Jim Webb at a recent White House reception:
KRUGMAN (11/4/06): ''How's your boy?'' asked Mr. Bush.Good for him, Krugman continues. We need people in Washington who are willing to stand up to the bully in chief.We instructed the analysts to dry their eyes. But we were saddened to see the professor typing this new preferred novel.
Why were we saddened? Readers, get smart! There is no videotape of this incident; like the rest of us, the professor has no way of knowing if these specific words were said. The transcript comes from the Washington Posts Michael Shear, who didnt make the slightest attempt to say how he got a word-for-word treatment of what these two great men had said. Earlier, The Hills Heil had offered a briefer account of the conversation, including the word-for-word statement by Bush which had most inflamed good liberals. I didnt ask you that, I asked how hes doing, Heil quoted the president retorting—attributing her troubling account to a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.
What did Bush say to Webb? The truth is, we dont really know. And what was his tone of voice—did he snap? Sorry, we dont know that either.
No, we dont really know what Bush said to Webb. And we dont know his tone of voice when he said it. But so what! As we first noted years ago, novelization of news has long been the specialty of the cohort we still call a press corps. Its the way they prefer to transform the real news. Heres how the practice works:
First, they form a Standard Group Judgment about some politicians character. Then, they come up with a pleasing Group Story—a story which helps persuade the world that their judgment is wonderfully accurate. In 1999 and 2000, this was endlessly done to Candidate Gore—and it sent Candidate Bush to the White House. But the press corps has finally come to see that Bush has been a cosmic failure. So theyve started peddling pleasing novels which display his failed character too.
Today, theyve even got the professor! No wonder our analysts cried!
Lets offer a slightly larger perspective. The press corps is now writing novels which cut against Bush because theyve finally agreed to disown him. For years, though, their silly tales have cut against Dems—and because theyre largely an upper-class institution, thats the way their tales will tend to cut in the future. In our view, liberals and progressives would do better to reject this silly version of news altogether. The press corps does this sort of thing to Republicans when they manage to ruin the world. But in the long run, they will do this to Dems for no earthly reason. In our view, liberals and progressives would be much wiser to reject this whole practice. Flat, cold.
We know, we know; you love the story, and you love telling it! But yes, we were a bit disappointed to see brilliant Krugman reciting this tale. Despite that, though, we bravely soldiered, just like poor, abused Jim Webb. We instructed our analysts to dry their eyes, offering them a valiant speech about The Krugs (undeniable) greatness.
Wed like to give you our exact words. But we delivered the speech several hours ago, and now, we cant quite recall.
WHEN COULTER SNAPPED: As everyone knows, replacements for the simple word said help reporters novelize stories. When we read Krugs column this morning, we incomparably thought back four years, to the time when Ann Coulter snapped.
COULTER (page 40): [According to the mainstream media], Phyllis Schlafly never comes up with a witty or tart reply. She fumes (Newsweek) or opens her mouth (New York Times) or snaps (Newsweek).We were shocked, as you probably are (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02). Had Gothams Times really dared to say that Phyllis Schlafy opens her mouth? Its no wonder they have such a vile reputation! But Coulter was noting an obvious point; the words a writer subs for said help her novelize her tale. When we say that someone fumes, for example, were most often putting them down.
Meanwhile, how badly had Newsweek mistreated poor Schlafly? Coulter had journeyed 23 years to find the offending use of snaps. Decades later, it haunted her dreams. Heres what the vile mag had said:
NEWSWEEK (4/30/79): The changes [in state divorce codes] can exacerbate the plight of older women. We now have a whole new class of impoverished women not equipped to go into the work force, snaps Schlafly. Chicago lawyer Joseph DuCanto, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, agrees. Its an illusion, DuCanto contends. A court says, Get out there, lady, and hustle. You go to Marshall Fields and talk to women clerks. One of two is divorced, middle class and has to get and work, and thats the only work they can do.In its rush to ridicule Schlafly, Newsweek instantly quoted a major lawyer who agreed with Schlaflys judgment. But Coulter had an ear for insults—and traveled two decades to find one.
Special report: Lets talk Tough!
ENJOY EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: Paul Toughs report gets down to brass tacks. Enjoy each thrilling installment:
PART 1: Paul Toughs soft piece in Sundays Times is extremely important. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/28/06.Today, before we reach Part 4, we offer a Tough-minded interlude:
INTERLUDE—DOESNT HAVE TO MAKE SENSE: When journalists type their favorite stories, the contents dont really have to make sense. Example: Todays front-page report in the Washington Post about the Gates Foundations work with low-income schools. Overhauling schools is all the rage among the entrepreneurial nouveau mega-rich, says Jacqueline Salmon, naming a list of big-bucks do-gooders. But the Gates Foundation is lavishing unprecedented sums of money on the effort.
Soon, Salmon is discussing D.C.s Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, to whom the Gates group has made a large grant. But uh-oh! In the following passage, Salmon paints a discouraging picture of the schools—or at least, youd think that she does:
SALMON (12/4/06): With her life experience and vision, Salcido has proven adept at attracting students. Her flagship campus moved three times in eight years to accommodate growth, settling on Capitol Hill; a second campus with a combined middle school and high school opened east of the Anacostia River last fall. Enrollment is now more than 1,100.Yes, thats an extremely fleeting attempt to discuss the Chavez schools test scores. But lets be clear; the DC schools dont have mediocre test scores—their scores are among the worst in the nation. Youd think it would be a worrisome sign if the Chavez schools—in operation eight years—are only slightly better.
You might think that. But then youd read this upbeat account of a Gates honchos visit to these schools. Salmon doesnt seem to see the (apparent) contradiction:
SALMON: After prowling around the Capitol Hill campus, [Gates honcho Andrew] Smiles liked much of what he saw. Girls in bracelet-size hoop earrings and boys in baggy jeans walked past hand-lettered posters listing the grade-point averages of top students. Like the tail of a kite, sheets of paper lined a hall with the names of graduating seniors and the colleges to which they had been accepted. Bates, Penn State, Howard, the University of Maryland—every Chavez graduate has been accepted to college, according to the school.Do you understand that? Frankly, we dont. Test scores at the schools are weak—but everyones headed off to college! Youd think the Post would want to clarify that. But theres no sign that Salmon even saw the apparent contradiction.
But then, its been true for forty years; such reports rarely make a serious effort to analyze the work of low-income schools. To our ear, the purpose often seems quite different; to our ear, these reports often seem an attempt to show that upper-class types at the Post really care about low-income schooling. The reports dont make a whole lot of sense—but they have cheerful photos, and theyre on the front page. Everyone can see what that means about where the papers heart is.
The mega-rich are giving the money—and the Post is there to give them publicity. To see how silly the results can get, just click here to recall what Dean Broder said about the work of the Gates Foundation. Meanwhile, to see the Post heap praise on a school with the second lowest reading score in Virginia, you know what to do—just click here. On this hopeful Monday morning, it might be a worthwhile reminder.
THE RICH, COMING INTO OUR LIVES: Does the Gates Foundation have the first clue? On general principles, well sign up as doubters. And at one point, Salmon writes this. Yuck! This sounds bad too:
SALMON: The foundation, through research it has commissioned, has found that Gates-funded schools have strong attendance and more rigorous English and reading assignments. But the research also showed that test scores have improved only slightly, and math performance has been stagnant or lower compared with other schools.Yuck! By the way, if math performance has been stagnant or lower than other schools, in what way have test scores improved, if only slightly? We arent entirely clear on that, but never mind! When the Gates folk show up in our lives, it doesnt have to make perfect sense! Alas! We thought of immortal Hemingway, breaking hearts in A Moveable Feast:
HEMINGWAY (page 207): During our last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to the next winter, a nightmare winter disguised as the greatest fun of all, and the murderous summer that was to follow. It was that year that the rich showed up.Sure, Hemingway is blaming the rich for things that he himself later did. But well have to admit it—we though of this passage when Salmon discussed the way the nouveau mega-rich have shown up in our lives. Do these do-gooders have the first clue? Well sign as major doubters.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: No, we insist, you have to recall the silly thing Dean Broder said; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/27/06. For forty years, nonsense like this has been typed when Big Scribes visit low-income schools.