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Print view: At TPM, a very young man discovers a very old story
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WE THE UNKNOWING! At TPM, a very young man discovers a very old story: // link // print // previous // next //

Keep dumb alive: From start to finish, Lawrence O’Donnell played the corporate fool last night, suggesting that he’s really ready to fill that 8 PM time slot. The second half of his program was nothing but nonsense; the first half was nothing to brag about.

In this way, the liberal world gets dumbed all the way to the ground.

On Fox, they constantly play their viewers for fools. But does this occur on MSNBC too? Just consider the story O’Donnell has pushed all week—the claim that Bill O’Reilly interrupted President Obama an outrageous 43 times in last Sunday’s 15-minute interview.

This was O’Donnell’s first topic on Monday evening’s Last Word, although the tape of this segment has been disappeared. He continued to push the claim on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, building outrage among liberal viewers—and of course dumbing them down.

That said, let’s see how O’Donnell is willing con you. For our money, there was nothing especially inappropriate about the way O’Reilly conducted himself in the interview with Obama. But O’Donnell wanted to keep you angry. And so, he brought the “editors” in.

On Monday night, as he started his show, he played tape of the outrageous interview, counting O’Reilly’s interruptions. But in the process, he played his viewers for fools. Just consider just the way the actual interview started.

When O’Reilly interviewed Obama, he started by thanking the president for interceding on behalf of several Fox journalists who had been under duress in Egypt. This burned about 45 seconds. (O’Reilly: “Those guys could have died, and I just want everybody to know that the State Department saved them.”) After that, O’Reilly posed his first question. Using the Nexis transcript, this is what transpired before the first “interruption:”

Actual interview:
O'REILLY (2/6/11): All right. Mubarak, is he going to leave soon?

OBAMA: Well, he's—only he knows what he's going to do. But here's what we know, is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. The Egyptian people want freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want a representative government. They want a responsive government.

And so, what we've said is: you have to start a transition now. Mubarak has already decided he's not running for re-election again. His term is up this year. And what we've said is, Let's make sure that you get all the groups together in Egypt, let Egyptian people make a determination on what's the process for an orderly transition, but one that is a meaningful transition and that leads to a government that's—

O'REILLY: So you don't know when he's going to leave?

In the actual interview, that full exchange occurred before that first “interruption.” But to help us be furious at O’Reilly, O’Donnell edited the exchange for Monday night’s program. Once again according to Nexis, this is the exchange you saw if you watched the Last Word Monday night:

Interview as shown on Last Word:
O’REILLY: All right. Mubarak, is he going to leave soon?

OBAMA: You get all the groups together in Egypt.

O’REILLY: So you don’t know when he’s going to leave.

How dare he jump in like that! This silly “editing” continued apace as O’Donnell counted the interruptions, helping viewers achieve a pleasing rage about the vile conduct on Fox.

Again, we’d like to refer you to the tape of O’Donnell’s Monday night segment. But how odd! Tape of every other Monday segment is available at the MSNBC web site. But tape of this segment—the program’s opening segment—is mysteriously MIA.

Did O’Reilly interrupt too much? For ourselves, we would say no—but we’d have to say it’s a massively trivial matter. You can judge for yourself, of course, by watching the full tape, available here at the Last Word blog. Please note: In this post from early Monday night, O’Donell’s staff reported this: “O’Reilly interrupted the President more than 70 times (we counted).” Twenty minutes later, O’Donnell himself went on the air. He put the count at 43, then clowned with Howard Fineman.

But then, this whole three-nighter has been a clown show, designed to keep liberals mad and distracted. If you’re truly tribally angry, you’ll like Lawrence even more, thus letting him stuff more dough in his pants. This man is emerging as a nonpareil fool—just the man to keep tribal dumbness alive, thus dooming progressive prospects.

O’Donnell’s show was endlessly foolish last night. Tonight, you can tune in for more. On Fox, they play their viewers for fools.

Is it really so different on the One True Liberal Channel?

Special report: Who are the people!

PART 3—WE THE UNKNOWING (permalink): Once again, we’ll offer three cheers for Conor Friedersdorf, who understands the moral dimension of Glenn Beck’s perpetual clowning.

Early last week, Friedersdorf joined Digby in noting an obvious fact; when Beck spreads his disinformation around, he’s deceiving actual people, who ought to be viewed as his victims (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/9/11). On behalf of the people who get conned by Beck, Friedersdorf voiced open moral offense. Once again, we’ll recommend his full post. But here’s part of what he said:

FRIEDERSDORF (2/1/11): I appreciate that this is my hobbyhorse, and that others think that the faults of cable news networks are an unimportant matter. But the fact that Roger Ailes and his associates air this kind of nonsense—couched in these kinds of assurances!—is indefensible. It is hard to think of anyone who disrespects and takes advantage of conservatives more than they do. And although they make mounds of money, they ought to be objects of disgrace, akin to any other manipulative huckster who preys on the elderly.

Did these people never have grandparents?

In the pseudo-liberal world, we tend to hate those grandparents—hate them so much that we rarely see the moral dimension in the way they get conned by Beck and his ilk. Since we disrespect those people just as much as Roger Ailes does, we rarely see the moral offense in the way they get played by his con men. A few weeks ago, Digby noted the fact that it just isn’t right when these people get conned (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/8/11). Since that time, several conservative writers, Friedersdorf included, have voiced a similar judgment.

That said, this country is simply crawling with people who have been conned, misled, disinformed about a wide range of seminal topics. And no, it isn’t just the grandparents—and no, it isn’t just Fox viewers. Our citizenry is so disinformed about so many things that our nation is truly a joke of the gods. Just consider the report which appeared at TPM this Tuesday.

For the record, the report was a wee bit clueless itself—but let’s start at the beginning.

The report was written by Jon Terbush, who was reinventing the wheel about a major problem. To his credit, Terbush was trying to insert a real report about a real problem into the array of nonsense which tends to define the TPM mission. But alas! The headline on his piece didn’t quite make sense; neither did Josh Marshall’s front-page link to his report (see below). Terbush seems a bit new to his topic—but at least, in his opening paragraph, he touched upon a massive societal problem. We the people are massively clueless, Terbush was reporting:

TERBUSH (2/8/11): Americans Want To Cut Spending, But Polls Show They Don't Agree How

When Congress looks for ways to trim the federal budget, they might want to be careful of how closely they listen to their constituents. That's because several polls have shown that Americans are typically terrible estimators of how much money the U.S. spends on particular areas of the budget—suggesting that public opinion about potential cuts is often influenced by gross misconceptions.

Let’s be precise. Terbush wasn’t exactly discussing “polls;” more precisely, he was writing about information surveys. (It doesn’t hurt to maintain the distinction between opinion and facts/information.) Meanwhile, the person who wrote that headline didn’t quite seem to understand the full thrust of the Terbush report, which cut to the heart of a giant societal problem. Terbush’s report concerned a ginormous problem—the “gross misconceptions” held by the public about an array of major issues. In short, we the people rarely know squat about even the most basic policy matters. This has been true for a very long time, of course—though Terbush seemed to think he may have uncovered some startling new information.

Good grief! Did those recent information surveys really “suggest” that public opinion “is often influenced by gross misconceptions?” That’s like saying a recent scan of the heavens suggests that the sun can be seen in the sky! On balance, the American public has no earthly idea how the federal budget works, and this fact has been known for a very long time; this situation has been demonstrated by information surveys since time immemorial. Big newspapers tend to avoid such matters and players like Marshall tend to burn their pixels on the latest moronic sex scandal. (Presumably, this draws eyeballs and increases clicks, building a site’s sale price.) As Terbush continued, he never really seemed to get clear about the situation he was reporting. But soon, he reported familiar, gruesome facts from those recent surveys:

TERBUSH: In a recent Gallup poll, foreign aid was the only piece of the budget where a clear majority of Americans supported budget cuts. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they favored cuts to foreign aid, versus 37 percent who opposed such cuts. At the same time, over half of respondents opposed trimming any of the eight other budget items presented in the survey—including Social Security, education, and defense.

A January CNN poll found the same result, with 81 percent of Americans supporting cuts to foreign aid, while opposing, by around the same margin, cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which alone comprise roughly one third of the overall budget).

So how much money do Americans think could be slashed from international aid?

In a World Public Opinion poll conducted last November, respondents guessed, on average, that foreign aid spending represented 27 percent of the federal budget. To trim spending, the same respondents suggested that, on average, foreign should make up a slimmer 13 percent of the total budget, surely delivering massive savings.

The problem? Foreign aid is actually a minuscule 1 percent of the total budget. Even eliminating it altogether would do little to balance the budget or reduce the deficit.

This same sticking point—Americans' misconceptions of actual spending levels—seems to work the other way around when it comes to the military. When it comes to defense spending, Americans generally oppose cuts and wildly underestimating how much is already being spent.

We’ll suggest that you read the full report to see how clueless the public is about the size of military spending. We’re glad Terbush is exploring this topic—but as he finished, he returned to the language which suggests that he may be slightly clueless himself:

TERBUSH: In effect, that meant that the poll's participants contradicted themselves in the span of a few questions, both opposing cuts to defense spending, while also—unknowingly—saying the U.S. already spends too much on its military.

This all suggests that though Americans are eager to have the government roll back spending, they don't have a plan for doing it—and when they do offer cuts, they overestimate the impact that those cuts will have. If Congress really does attempt to pare down spending, they'll be walking a politically perilous tightrope, forced to balance calls for a slimmer budget with opposition to all but the teeniest of cuts.

According to Terbush, these survey answers suggest that Americans “don't have a plan for rolling back spending;” this is like saying that research “suggests” that one plus one equals two. But wait—there’s more! According to Terbush, when Americans do propose spending cuts, they overestimate the impact those spending cuts will have! That is perfectly true, of course. But this cluelessness about foreign aid has been a joke for decades now. Terbush writes as if the world has never heard this before.

This may well be true, of course, in the world of Terbush. To his credit, Terbush (a very young man) is writing about a gigantic problem—a problem which makes an utter joke of this failing nation. And Terbush is a very young man—a young man who has suffered the gross misfortune of growing up in a culture with little serious journalism. What follows is part of his official bio, as presented at TPM. For bright young men of such tender years, the clownish culture in which they have lived may well have left them unaware of this giant societal problem. This would include the clownish culture of the “liberal” world, of course:

TPM BIOGRAPHY: Jon graduated from Emerson College in 2009 with a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and a minor in journalism. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Emerson's humor publication, Hyena Magazine, where he, in successive years, received college funding to ridicule the college and write immature jokes about Paul Revere.

Before joining TPM, Jon wrote for newspapers in Connecticut and his beloved former home, Boston. He lives in Brooklyn and puts cayenne pepper on everything he cooks.

Two years ago, Terbush was writing immature jokes at Hyena. Today, he is writing for TPM—a site which is one of the pillars of our clownish new “liberal” world.

Why are citizens so uninformed? Why doesn’t the public know squat from squadoosh, even concerning the most basic topics? In part, it’s because of sites like TPM—and because of the pseudo-liberal culture from which such sites have arisen. Alas! In his front-page link to the Terbush report, Josh Marshall clowns, as he now typically does. Terbush seems bright and concerned, but he’s a young man. What is Marshall’s excuse?

MARSHALL (2/8/11): Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

New polls show Americans are completely clueless about where the federal budget goes.

We don’t quite understand that headline either, but note the meat of Josh’s post. New surveys show the public is clueless? Shouldn’t someone tell TPM readers that surveys have been showing this for many, many years?

Terbush seems like a bright, concerned person. But alas! He has come of age in a clownish time. His country is full of disinformed, uninformed, misinformed souls. And in the decades of his life, people like Marshall—and so many others—have typically failed to address this matter. Terbush doesn’t seem to know how old this story is.

How can it be that so many citizens are clueless about such basic matters? We’ll discuss that matter tomorrow, and we’ll try to imagine how progressives might respond to this nightmare—a nightmare which extends beyond Beck, well beyond the average people he mistreats at Fox.