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Daily Howler: Does climate change really threaten the world? But first, a governor's hair
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THE SCIENCE AND JOY OF DIVERSION/DISTRACTION! Does climate change really threaten the world? But first, a governor’s hair: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2008

Thus disinformed Brzezinski: On last night’s Countdown, the Nation’s Chris Hayes praised that front-page report by the New York Times’ David Leonhardt—the report in which Leonhardt semi-discussed the conservative world’s latest disinformation campaign (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/10/08).

We understand why some progressives saw the glass half-full when they read Leonhardt’s report—although, on balance, we still see it quite empty. What was missing from Leonhardt’s report? Well, Mika Brzezinski, for one.

As we said yesterday, that bogus claim about Big 3 pay is just the latest in a long list of highly successful pseudo-conservative disinformation campaigns. It’s news when the public is thus disinformed—and we think Leonhardt shied away from giving this news the full treatment. He cited only one example of the disinformation—a bungled report by Wolf Blitzer. But this latest bogus claim has been pimped all through the mainstream press; in our view, Leonhardt shied away from fully presenting this hugely important fact. Good God! Here was Brzezinski, three weeks ago, in a pitiful Daily Beast post:

BRZEZINSKI (11/21/08): CNSNews.com's Pete Winn reports that the average Big Three automaker union worker's compensation is $73/hour—two and a half times the average for the taxpayer being asked to bail them out. Compare that to the union autoworker for a foreign transplant building cars here is $44/hour [sic—on her claim and her sentence structure]. The numbers are a snapshot of the current contract with the UAW. They are EXACTLY why they are in the current crisis.

No, you can’t get dumber than that. (For Brzezinski’s full post, just click here.) As part of the Daily Beast’s “Buzz Board” feature, the Morning Joe host had been given the chance to cite any one thing in the whole wide world. This disinformation was the one single thing she most wanted the public to “know.”

It’s news when the public is thus disinformed by major mainstream journalists. Indeed, it’s highly important news—the kind of news which deserves full, focused, stand-alone treatment. We understand why Hayes and others thought Leonhardt’s piece was worthy of praise; it’s extremely rare to see the Times deal with such disinformation at all. But we thought Leonhardt cut and ran from this awkward topic. We thought he made a weak, half-hearted attempt to report what his colleagues have done.

Indeed, the mainstream press has been full of this disinformation in the past month. Media Matters has cited a ton of examples—examples Leonhardt could have drawn on. Instead, he cited one example—then jumped to a string of scattershot topics. He discussed the reasons why his grandfather stopped buying Oldsmobiles in the 1970s, for example. That might have been a good story some other day—after he had told the full story about the disinformation campaign.

That story remains untold in the Times. In our view, progressives should complain about that (rather familiar) fact.

The science and joy of diversion/distraction: The tragedy of the Blagojevich matter involves the placement of this news report in today’s New York Times. But first, here’s the start of Gail Collins’ column, in which the lady continues to praise the joys of diversion/distraction:

COLLINS (12/1/08): These are troubled times when people yearn for diversion. We like stories about a simple crisis in which somebody does something incredibly stupid that will not cost 100,000 people their jobs. Yet Hollywood starlets and pop singers have been unhelpfully quiet. Then, suddenly, there was Rod Blagojevich seeking bids for Barack Obama’s Senate seat with all the subtlety of a tobacco auctioneer.

Yaaaayy! A story with which lets us give “people” what they “yearn for”—yet another “diversion!” Collins seems oblivious to the vast harm this new story may cause; it may not “cost 100,000 people their jobs,” but it did affect the placement of that important news story today. But in standard diversionist fashion, Collins goes on to discuss Blagojevich’s hair (two times); smirkingly, the lady explains what’s wrong or imperfect with the senate replacement process in all three states involved in the task (Illinois, New York and Delaware). As usual, everything has to be wrong—or imperfect. And as usual, diversion is praised.

Our elite culture turns on the need for diversion. Palace cultures always have.

In fairness, the clowning was scaled back on cable last night as pundits discussed the Blagojevich matter. Keith Olbermann correctly said that the word “alleged” should be used more often. Chris Matthews correctly noted that Blagojevich may be a bit daft—that some of the matters he allegedly discussed may imaginably have taken place in his head, though not in the actual world. Rachel Maddow correctly raised a direct question: Is it possible that Blagojevich has mental problems? Mental illness does play a large role in the world; it’s always possible that Blagojevich has some such problem. To our ear, Maddow seemed oddly immature as she discussed this perfectly sensible topic, which she kept describing as “craziness.” (On MSNBC, joking is all.) But in contrast to the previous night, it seemed to have crossed the minds of some players that a lot of innocent people might get dragged through a whole lot of mud—if cable players continue their clowning and joking about the Blagojevich matter.

Collins’ silliness to the side, this story could do our country great harm. Monica Davey offers a short, intelligent warning in this morning’s Times:

DAVEY (12/11/08): Since Mr. Blagojevich’s arrest on Tuesday, prosecutors have cautioned against presuming any wrongdoing on the part of the long list of characters named in the federal affidavit as “Advisor,” “Individual,” “Senate Candidate,” “President-Elect advisor” or “Contributor.” Unclear from the affidavit is whether the alleged efforts Mr. Blagojevich discussed to secure money or a high-paying job for himself or his wife in exchange for the Senate job were entirely in his own imagination, firm agreements with others, or something in between.

In truth, we know very little about the real facts behind the matters now under review. Responsible pundits will try, very hard, to remind the public of this fact. But magpies were eager to laugh and cavort Tuesday night—and to speculate, very hard. To our ear, the conversation between Maddow and Michael Isikoff was especially egregious. But people are getting their names dragged through mud. And uh-oh! At a time when we’re facing massive problems, some of them are among the most important folk in the world.

It’s fun to divert, and to talk about hair. (In the 1990s, Maureen Dowd helped fashion a brainless career from Gore’s bald spot and Rudy’s comb-over.) But careless conduct by the commentariat can do massive harm at this juncture—as it did in the past, when the diversions they joyfully churned involved earth tones, and inventing the Internet. And the Cubs and the Yankees, of course. And the fact that John Kerry wind-surfed. And got the wrong cheese on his steak.

Two problems:

First, people’s reputations can get badly, unfairly damaged if pundits are careless, silly or devious. This is already happening, of course, as some pundits—people like Isikoff—offer extremely frivolous speeches about the vast “interconnections” they’ve managed to spot between Obama’s aides and Blagojevich. We’ll only say this: We liberals can’t engage in fatuous trashing of Republican targets, then expect others to be more careful when it comes to Big Dems. Last night, to cite one sad example, Olbermann was still promoting the moronic bullsh*t about Palin and the turkey farm. Progressives can’t play the fool in that manner, then complain when utter foolishness rules the rest of the discourse.

(As we’ve noted in the past: Dems have sacrificed major players to this brainless culture in the past sixteen years. Yes, it’s fun to play the fool about Palin. But now this brainless culture may be redirecting itself—against Obama and his major aides. Does that seem like a good deal?)

Second problem: As Collins said, the Blagojevich matter serves as a “diversion”—at a time when our actual problems are vast. This brings us back to that news report, the one we cited in paragraph one. “Obama Team Set on Environment,” the headline says. And yet, this important story got second billing on the Times’ front page today, pushed down the page by that latest diversion. Does climate change really threaten the world? Collins, simpering inside Versailles, is more involved in talk today about her diversion’s hair.

Does climate change really threaten the world? On Tuesday, Obama met with Gore, one of the major players we Dems allowed to be eaten alive by the culture of clowning. Absent Blagojevich and his hair, this might have produced a few discussions of the actual state of the planet. But because of Collins’ latest “diversion,” the Q-and-A that emerged from that meeting involved Blagojevich, if not his hair.

Inside Versailles, they long for diversion. This “won’t cost 100,000 people their jobs,” one pundit divertedly says.