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Daily Howler: Keeping it classy, KeithO and Flanders helped show that little has changed
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ABOUT THAT LOW STANDARD! Keeping it classy, KeithO and Flanders helped show that little has changed: // link // print // previous // next //

Disappearing Specter: Many people wrote to say that the Specter audio works for them (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/18/09). Some say the solon’s remarks can be heard loud and clear on the Huffington tape; others say there’s “a lot of background noise” and such. One reader suggested the audio link may have been fixed since we tried to play it. Not for us! We play audio and video all the time, but it not only doesn’t work for us, it disables our system in such a way that we have to restart. (As we noted, we asked two other people, more tech-savvy than us, if they could make the audio work. They had no luck either.)

At any rate, that leaves the second mystery in place. If Specter can be heard making those statements, why have they been cited so little? One e-mailer made a suggestion with which we’ll largely disagree:

E-MAIL (2/18/09): I'd like to report that yes, I can open the audio file.

I downloaded the file to my machine then I used WinAmp. Windows Media Player works too.

Maybe they fixed the link? Anyway, interesting audio, and interesting question. But it doesn't further the narrative, I guess, so it doesn't get reported.

Disagree. As we noted, these highly newsworthy statements by Specter didn’t even get much play on the liberal web. Beyond that, many major players on cable are deeply involved in pushing narratives about the GOP as “the party of no;” Specter’s comments are right in their wheelhouse. More specifically, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews haven’t mentioned these comments at all—even though they fit right into narratives the three have been driving. And of course, Olbermann has his nightly stable of hacks, his successor to Joe Louis’ “bum-of-the-month” club); none of them have mentioned these comments either! Specter’s remarks are perfect for Countdown’s reliable sources—but they’ve gone unmentioned there too.

For ourselves, we’d prefer less focus on mind-reading motive. But by any rational standard, Specter’s comments were highly newsworthy. We’d offer a slightly mordant thought about MSNBC’s failure to cite them: When you basically get to make up the sh*t with which you drive your narratives (see below), you’re no longer forced to waste your time developing real information. Since at least the early 1990s, Washington’s major mainstream pundits have largely invented the facts and the logic which drive the narratives they prefer. This groaning process is now entrenched on “progressive” cable as well. Why bother repeating what Specter actually said? You can simply make up sh*t which keeps the rubes quite happy.

(In our view, Maddow is by far the best of the three hosts we’ve cited. That said, the other two set a standard which is groaningly low.)

By any standard, Specter’s comments were news. But even in GOP-trashing preserves, his comments disappeared from the earth. It’s comical—and of course it’s quite sad—to see how this process works.

ABOUT THAT LOW STANDARD: We think it’s sad. But progressive viewers get treated like fools each weeknight evening on cable. Last night, for example, Chris Matthews continued his long self-reinvention with ludicrous comments about Hillary Clinton (more tomorrow). But for an even better example, consider the groaning segment Keith Olbermann staged with Laura Flanders this past Tuesday night.

Sad. The segment concerned Sarah Palin—and therefore, in accordance with Pseudo-Prog Law, it had to turn on two key notions: Sarah Palin is blindingly stupid, and she’s the world’s biggest hypocrite. Ironically, there was nothing so stupid that Keith wouldn’t say it, so long as it furthered these judgments. Consider how the nonsense began:

The nonsense began right at the start of the show, as Olbermann teased the upcoming segment. Treating his viewers like absolute fools, the man called “Big Stupid” said this:

OLBERMANN (2/17/09): Two out of two Palin mothers agree—abstinence-only programs don’t work.

BRISTOL PALIN (videotape): Everyone should be abstinent, but it’s not realistic at all.

SARAH PALIN (videotape): Yes, abstinence, you know. Hey, don’t get pregnant.

Just like that, Olbermann told the rubes that Governor Palin had somehow “agreed” that “abstinence-only programs don’t work.” He presented a truncated quote from Greta Von Susteren’s Monday night program on Fox—a quote which supposedly drove home his point.

In fact, Sarah Palin had never addressed the question of whether abstinence-only programs “work;” in fact, she never discussed such programs at all. (For that reason, the quote he presented was highly truncated.) But soon, he was teasing the segment again—and he had some new snark to deliver:

OLBERMANN: To Algiers in Algeria, where a guy is eating nails. Watch the self-proclaimed man who eats anything. With steady diet of newspaper, candle and nails, the human disposal act is sure to impress the record- keeping folks over at the Guinness Book department of human achievement. Just one minor caveat—Guinness stopped keeping eating records in 1991 over concerns that people would hurt themselves, save by eating nails—or peanuts.

Governor Palin suddenly has a different outlook on abstinence-only sex-ed—kind of taught the reality of the world by her own daughter. And the Alex Rodriguez kiss-and-cry...

Keith hits all the Big Topics. But in what way had Governor Palin been “kind of taught the reality of the world by her own daughter?” It what way did she “suddenly have a different outlook on abstinence-only sex-ed?” It wasn’t real clear, but the claim sounded snarky, so he teased it out—loud, dumb and clear.

Of course, by the time Olbermann’s segment began, it was time to go straight to the insults—insults which needed no explanation. Here’s the way “Big Stupid” began his segment on the two Palin moms:

OLBERMANN: There is a whistle blower in the house of hypocrisy that is Governor Sarah Palin—her daughter, Bristol. In our third story on the Countdown, she`s now speaking out about being a teenage mother and she says that abstinence is not realistic, and that having her baby was her own “choice,” and that her mother’s view on that, quote, “doesn’t matter.” In fact, Bristol Palin said she would love to be an advocate. Quoting her, "I hope that people learn from my story and just like prevent teen pregnancy, I guess.”

By now, the governor was a “house of hypocrisy”—though Olbermann still hadn’t made the slightest attempt to explain the unflattering claim. In the world of Big Stupid Cable, it’s all about handing the rubes preferred narratives, the ones they turn on your program to hear—and Olbermann seems to love nothing more than beating up on Palin. He no longer gets to mock the young blondes, something he used to do every night, but Palin seems suitable as a replacement. And he doesn’t waste much time explaining what’s actually wrong with Palin’s views—or even what they are. It’s all about calling the lady stupid—and it’s all about calling her a hypocrite, without quite explaining why. And of course, the tasteless insults fly. This is the way the chat began when he introduced the evening’s tough moll, Flanders. Note: In his question, he’s still pretending that Sarah Palin has somehow changed her stance on education, now that her own daughter’s pregnant:

OLBERMANN: Is this not the mirror image of the conservative`s joke about reality, that “a liberal is just a conservative who hasn’t been mugged yet?”

FLANDERS: I think there is a name for people who only teach their kids about abstinence and that’s “grandparents.” And Sarah Palin is finding that out. The scariest thing in that conversation with Greta Van Susteren was—well, I thought the scariest thing was the part where Bristol Palin said that talking with her mother was worse than labor. I mean, I guess Katie Couric found that out. Can any of us imagine what a Palin presidency would be like? Like a Nadya Suleman labor?

A Palin presidency would be “like a Nadya Suleman labor.” Laura Flanders was keeping it classy—and respectful feminist that she of course is, she was crawling up Suleman’s snatch in pursuit of prime insults for Palin.

No, Palin is never going to be president—but Olbermann will keep presenting guests who serve his viewers tacky, gender-based insults. He can’t mock Lohan or Kirsten Dunst any more—the network was getting in too much trouble for the way its various male hosts were behaving—but he’s still allowed to speak this way about Palin! But let’s continue! Having sneered about Suleman’s labor, Flanders found the next destination—the claim that Palin is very stupid, unlike us in our much brighter clan:

OLBERMANN (continuing directly): So, what happens though? Despite the governor’s signal that some of this seemed to be getting through to her, what happens to the issue of the abstinence-only program, when next it comes up in Sarah Palin’s next campaign?

FLANDERS: Well, I don’t think that not getting it has ever been a real obstacle for Sarah Palin.

In fact, the governor had given no “signal” that she had changed her mind about sex education at all. And by the way: Does Governor Palin actually favor abstinence-only education? We don’t know, and we don’t hugely care (see comment about presidential prospects above). But when Palin’s last campaign began (last September), the Anchorage Daily News noted that her spokeswoman said that Palin didn’t support abstinence-only education (click here). And Palin had said the same thing in her prior campaign, in a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the New York Times soon reported (click here). No matter! She’ll always support abstinence-only when you watch Countdown, where she’ll also be a hypocrite—and deeply stupid, of course. In fact, the highlighted comment by Olbermann was utterly stupid. But it led Flanders back to her script:

OLBERMANN: With Bristol Palin using the one word “choice,” such—in that word such a profound repudiation of the social engineers on the right. Do we think her mother gets the dichotomy between her public positions on all these issues and the people she is pandering to and the real life that she is experiencing with her own daughter and her grandchild?

FLANDERS: Well, again, you have got that “getting it” question.

Sorry, but Bristol Palin’s use of the word “choice” didn’t mean squat in the way Keith implied. His repeated statement to this effect was dumb beyond all dumbness. But so what? To people like Flanders and Olbermann, social questions present the chance for “progressives” to express their superiority to those who hold different views. And of course, there’s nothing so stupid that they themselves won’t say it, if it helps a gang of pitiful rubes believe that they’re much smarter and better than those with whom they disagree.

Here at THE HOWLER, we’re pro-choice; we have no particular views about sex education. (Like you—like Olbermann—we’ve never studied it.) But Olbermann’s presentation was utterly stupid throughout, in a wide array of ways. (If the gentleman has even average intelligence, it was presumably deeply dishonest as well.) But on pseudo-progressive cable “news,” you’re now handed large cans of pure crap, just as you were handed pure crap all through the disastrous 1990s. (Many current liberal heroes were deeply involved in that process.) The targets have changed—but the methods remain. Flanders and Olbermann were keeping it classy, sticking their noses up Suleman’s snatch to serve the demand for fresh insult. And there was nothing so stupid that they wouldn’t say it, to help the rubes know they’re way smart.

How stupid was Olbermann on this topic? Deeply, profoundly, defiantly stupid. But his effort was all about praising the clan. It’s the oldest preferred tale in the book.

One of the worst segments ever: Snide, snarky, stupid, insulting—it was one of the dumbest segments ever. To watch a pair of hacks run them some rubes, you know what to do—just click here.