WATCHING FOX NATION 2 GROW! The commenters were irate, but wrong. Are we all ditto-heads now? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011
Due to his emotional blockage, David Brooks cant tell the truth: We have a fantasy about David Brooksa fantasy which is rapidly turning into a social necessity.
In our fantasy, Brooks sits in an ivory tower, ingesting some vapid research. (From todays column: Roni Caryn Rabin of The Times recently reported on some research that found that college students would rather receive a compliment than eat their favorite food or have sex.)
A federal SWAT team enters the room, armaments bristling.
Stand up, Mr. Books, a marshal says. Back slowly away from that research!
David Brooks is thus saved from himself. He is forced to stop limning this nonsense.
This morning, Brooks is at it again, obsessively citing various studies and wondering what they might mean. As before, so again today: Something keeps him from considering obvious explanations for the effects he has seen. One example: Why are people reluctant to bite the bullet concerning deficit reduction? Having pondered some tedious research, Brooks finds himself wondering this:
Its always possible! Or could the publics reluctance stems from a relentlessly well-documented fact: Most people have no earthly idea how the federal budget works! In part due to decades of agitprop, most people have no idea what the governments money is spent on.
They think it goes to foreign aidand perhaps to welfare. Meanwhile, please note something Brooks doesnt wonder. Brooks doesnt wonder this:
Brooks doesnt find himself wondering that! But todays column is fairly harmless, as compared to his recent efforts in the public arena.
Will someone please give Brooks a good hug? Monday evening, the analysts caught him on Charlie Rose, where he did the full hour. Brooks was discussing his overwrought new book, The Social Animal.
Before long, Brooks was discussing his own inability to express his feelings. Im a middle-aged white guy, not that comfortable talking about emotion, he said, two minutes in. Eventually, though, it came to this. Brooks seemed a bit pained as he said it:
Instantly, Brooks fled the topic, talking instead about a study. Subjects were required to sniff gauze pads people had held under their armpits while they watched a movie. The subjects had to guess what kind of movie the gauze-pad holders had seen.
Will someone give this guy a good hug? Is that guy who bangs drums still around?
To his credit, Charlie didnt tell David to go buy a bright red convertible. But in Tuesdays column in the Times, Brooks was boo-booing in similar ways, describing his longing for more metis and for more extensive limerence.
David Brooks wants more metis and limerence! We decided to check, and theyre both real words, although wed say just barely. According to Brooks, limerence isnt a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God.
Will someone give this man a hug? Then tell him to stop his incessant blubbering and just tell the public the truth?
Our major concern about Brooks and the truth stems from the start of Tuesdays column. We dont trust our feelings enough, David said, failing to say who we are. As he started the piece, he tried to explain where this feeling drain takes us. Uh-oh! Because we dont trust our emotions enough, we create policy failures:
We are bad at discussing emotion? The analysts offered a quick response: David Brooks is really bad at talking about the truth.
Is David Brooks bad at telling the truth? Just note the way he explained those policy failures:
When the Soviet Union fell, we sent in teams of economists, oblivious to the lack of social trust that marred that society? Maybe. But Naomi Klein says we failed because the oligarchs took control of the process and looted the Russian people.
While invading Iraq, the nations leaders were unprepared for the cultural complexities of the place and the psychological aftershocks of Saddams terror? Maybe. But various people have said that Bush let his cronies loot the system, while insisting on narrow practices driven by crabbed ideology.
We had a financial regime based on the notion that bankers are rational creatures who wouldnt do anything stupid en masse? Maybe. Or was our financial regime based on the idea that Wall Streets Masters of the Universe should be free to loot everyone else?
For the past 30 years weve tried many different ways to restructure our educational system that, for years, skirted the core issue: the relationship between a teacher and a student? Concerning that, well only say thisBrooks has no real idea what hes talking about. Hes simply reciting the latest script from the usual (billionaire-funded) suspects. (When it comes to public schools, almost all columnists do.)
Does David Brooks ever tell you the truth? Or is he too bottled up? Here goes an obvious part of the truth: The public is currently being looted, as has been true for the past thirty years. Instead of saying such a thing, Brooks pores over tedious research, as his unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away. When we read that silly piffle this week, we had an immediate thought of our own: Our mind hungers for op-ed columns which tell us the actual truth! We hunger for pundits who have more metis. As defined by the overwrought Brooks, metis is the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.
Heres an obvious bit of gist: The powerful are looting everyone else! But Brooks will never see that pattern. Or at least, his tortured soul will never quite let him express it.
As we read Brooks Tuesday column, a question popped into our mind. How well does Brooks speak truth to power? How well does he capture the gist of the way power works?
We cant recall why we saw a connection, but we decided to research a question. Has this high-minded fellow ever pushed back against the people who are undermining our discourse? Todays he wonders about the rise in partisanship. Where the heck is that coming from? Brooks is very puzzled, of course. Why wont he just start with the truth?
We ran a Nexis check, and this is what we found:
As best we can tell, Brooks has never written a column whacking those people who say Obama was born in Kenya. This is going on all around us, but its left to ginormous hacks like Chris Matthews to push back against these claims.
David Brooks is very concerned about the way our debates go wrong. But he has never spoken out against this. Maybe he simply cant get in touch with his feelings on the subject. We would offer this advice:
Go aheadjust tell the truth for one damn time! You may feel the log jam crack.
Brooks boo-hooed to Charlie Rose, then spoke of the need for heightened limerence. We asked the analysts to work up a brief. But we stopped them cold when they started:
There once was a New York Times columnist
Incomparably, we cut them off. Although well admit itwe wondered what their final rhyme might have been.
He told Charlie Rose
David Brooks is thinking hard, poring over reams of research. People think theyre reading deep thoughts.
Could it be that theyre just getting conned? Why wont this overwrought thought machine stand up and tell us the truth?
Digbys post was perfectly sensible; it was a profile of a man who is losing out as the economy keeps getting looted. It was when the commenters swung into action that we saw Fox Nation 2 grow.
For years, we liberals laughed at Fox and Rushat all the other sides ditto-heads. But are we becoming a Fox Nation 2? Just consider the comment thread to Digbys perfectly sensible post.
Its one of the most remarkable documents weve seen in thirteen years. Heres what happened:
Early on, a semi-troll named Jose Chung made a fairly innocuous comment. Heres the part of his comment which set off a general fury:
The math in Wisconsin does not add up! Can we at least agree on that?
Well no, we couldnt agree on that! Quickly, the hounds of hell appeared. Commenters insisted that Wisconsins budget shortfall was caused by Governor Walker's tax cuts; rather hotly, they told Chung to get his effing facts together before coming to such an intelligent site. At one point, Chung linked to Politifacts fact-check of Rachel Maddows report on this topic. This was greeted with scorn, though no one tried to explain what was wrong with the things Politifact said.
Inevitably, one of the commenters had seen Maddows correction segmentthe 12-minute segment in which Maddow pretended to respond to the things Politifact said. Inevitably, this commenter still seemed to believe that Maddow said the tax cuts caused the shortfall.
Heres a brief review of the relevant facts before we look at the comments:
Walker passed some tax cuts when he took office this year. But these tax cuts dont take effect till the new fiscal year, which starts in July. Theyve had no effect on Wisconsins current budget shortfall; they represent about three percent of the $3.6 billion shortfall projected for the next two years. In two e-mails to Politifact, Maddows boss (Bill Wolff) insisted that Maddow never said or meant to imply that Walkers tax cuts caused the shortfalls. Maddow has never believed that, Wolff rather huffily said.
Jose Chungs statements were basically accurate. But the other commenters were flatly wrong when they insisted that Walkers tax cuts had caused the budget problem. Its very instructive to see the way these commenters ridiculed Chung for his manifest dumbness. These commenters behaved exactly like the other sides famous old ditto-heads.
Are liberals forming a Fox Nation 2? Lets look at what happened when someone said, The math doesnt add up in Wisconsin.
Commenter 1 popped up within minutes. This is what he or she said:
Oops! Commenter 1 was flatly wrong when he said that Walker created the hole in the budget. Chung offered an incredulous reply, asking if the commenter really believes that. Commenter 2 said this:
Commenter 2 was flatly wrong too. But for him or her, it was as easy as one plus one!
Once again, Chung rolled his eyes at this comment. Commenter 3 then jumped on Chung for his do you really believe that riposte to Commenter 1:
Commenter 3 was wrong, but irate. (In a later comment, this commenter said, Drop the incredulous act you fucking whore and go suck Koch someplace else.) But before long, Commenter 4 arrived. He too had advice for Chung:
Sorry. That was wrong.
Before long, Commenter 2 returned, having fact-checked the Wisconsin budget shortfall. She gave a capsule account of the messbut her facts were totally wrong:
Sorry. Thats totally wrong.
By now, Chung had linked to a report about Politifacts fact-check of Maddow. Commenter 5 now appeared, assuring Chung that Maddow would beat him blue in any battle about the facts. You are out of your league here, he wrote. You should go back to Yahoo comments.
Soon, this commenter returned, with the days most revealing post. As he too misstated the facts, note the way he repeated Maddows favorite talking-point:
Please note what has happened here:
It seems that this person may have watched Maddows alleged self-correctionthe program in which she actually avoided correcting her mistakes. Perhaps for that reason, this person still thinks that corporate tax breaks are what capsized the budget in Wisconsin. That is flatly untrue, and Maddows boss renounced the idea two weeks ago. But this apparent Maddow-watcher still thinks its irrefutableand he seems to think thats what Maddow herself has said.
Completing the hat trick, he recites Maddows favorite talking-point: Rachel always corrects her mistakes!
He thinks thats irrefutable too. Commenter 5 has been conned.
These comments were posted on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, Commenter 6 jumped in:
In truth, everyone else had been wrong on the facts. But Commenter 6 didnt know this. Like all the others, he was sure that Chung had had his ass kicked on the facts.
Lets repeat what we said at the start: None of this was created by Digby, whose post was perfectly sensible. Nor do we recall seeing Digby misstate the facts about Walkers tax cuts. But those tax cuts didnt cause the current shortfall. Beyond that, they represent only three percent of the shortfall which is projected over the next two years. But everyone in this long thread was convinced of the opposite. They were extremely abusive of the person who wasnt wrong.
This is exactly the way Fox News has worked down through these long gruesome years. This is the way Rush Limbaugh has worked. This is the conduct of those we call ditto-heads.
And now, that conduct is ours.
Below, well recommend another thread, from Salon, where you can see this same pattern. Before that, lets note one person who is at fault in this matter:
Quite a few liberals bungled these facts in the first week of the Wisconsin fight. Some of these liberals self-corrected. Others did not.
Maddow took the worst approach. She pretended to self-correct.
On February 24, Maddow went on the air for more than twelve minutes, pretending to address the things she had said on this topic. She could have reviewed the facts for her viewers, helping them understand this part of the whole situation.
Instead, she chose to deceive her viewerseven as she burned up time telling them that she always corrects her mistakes, even though other folk dont.
Because of episodes like this, Maddow has often struck us as unusually, weirdly dishonest. Last night, to some extent, she was spreading confusion again. In what follows, she pretends to address Walker:
In fact, Walker hasnt turned those concessions down. But note the way Maddow tickles the string of those tax cuts again. Watching that presentation, many viewers will think she said that Walkers tax cuts caused the shortfall. In part, thats because there are several basic things Maddow has never said:
As best we can tell, Maddow has ever explained that Walkers tax cuts didnt cause the current shortfall.
As best we can tell, Maddow has never explained that they represent just three percent of the forthcoming, two-year shortfall.
As best we can tell, Maddow has never told viewers the size of that future shortfall, which is projected at $3.6 billion over two years.
She does toss that $140 million figure aroundand it sounds like a whole lot of dough when its offered out of any context.
If you read comment threads, youve seen the truth: Many Maddow fans still think the tax cuts caused the shortfall. They still think thats what Maddow has said. They dont know that she has renounced that claim. Some of them watched her twelve-minute self-correction and they still dont understand!
Its always been done this way on Foxbut Maddows approach has been very much like that. Due to dishonesty or imbalance, she is plainly helping to build an addled new Fox Nation 2.
How well can our democracy work in the future? Are we all ditto-heads now?
You can see the pattern here too: On February 26, Salons Peter Finocchairo posted some footage from the previous nights OReilly Factor. Mr. O had made a claim which was gaining traction on Fox. He said Obama was having a hard time supporting the Wisconsin workers because federal workers dont enjoy collective bargaining rights either.
Last night, the claim finally made it to MSNBC. Lawrence ODonnell cited the claim, attributing it to Walker:
Tate is Wisconsins Democratic Party chairman. In his reply, he didnt challenge the factual accuracy of the claim ODonnell cited.
What kinds of collective bargaining rights do federal workers enjoy? Frankly, were not sure. If you watch Fox, you hear that they dont have many such rights; you hear that said all the time. If you watch MSNBC, you pretty much never hear this claim mentioned at all. Based on what we have seen and heard, we would guess that the OReilly/Walker claim is more right than wrong. But given the way our tribalized discourse works, its hard to learn the truth.
That said, read the comment thread to that post on Salon. A stream of liberals responded by calling OReilly every name in the book. Few of these people showed any sign of knowing if his claim was correct. But it doesnt work that way any more. Were all ditto-heads now.
That post at Salon is two weeks old. We thought its comments were very revealing. Fox Nation 2 is growing quite fast.
Fox Nation 2 is growing fast. And we still dont know the truth about the rights of federal workers.