THOSE PEOPLE ALL LOOK ALIKE! Colbert King’s column made us think of the last century’s bigots: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MARCH 30, 2010
A world in which no one ever knows squat: If you didnt think you knew better, you almost might think the New York Times is being paid by corporate groups to introduce doubt about climate science. The papers latest front-page puzzler appears today, written by Leslie Kaufman.
Shorter Kaufman: When it comes to climate science, actual experts think one thingand less-informed losers dont.
We know, we knowits hard to write a report which says that a bunch of know-nothing weatherman dopes tend to dispute global warming. But this is the latest in a string of front-page reports in which the Times seems to fudge some basic lines about climate science, politely giving props to deniers. If you didnt think you knew better, you might think the Times had been sold.
According to Kaufman, regular people are getting influenced by know-nothing TV weather forecastersthough no, she didnt express this idea in such an indelicate way. But then, we regular people rarely know squat about much of anything. Consider something Ezra Klein wrote in Sundays Washington Post. Compare what he wrote to some results from the Posts new national survey.
In Sundays Post, Klein wrote a piece about health reform, which has of course passed into law. How will this affect most people? These were his first three paragraphs:
Yikes! Even by 2019, Klein says, only 10 percent of Americans will have a different insurance arrangement than they would have had without the bill. (Presumably, the different arrangement for many such people will be that they will actually have insurance, where previously they lacked it.) Assuming that claim is reasonably accurate, lets review what the Post found in its recent national survey.
In that very same Sunday Post, the number-one story on the front page concerned the papers new survey about health reform. Jon Cohen wrote the piece. Heres part of what the public had said:
Thumbing through that Sunday paper, we read what Klein had writtenand we read what the public had said. In large part, the twain didnt seem to be meeting. By the way: In another recent survey, a large percentage of respondents didnt know what the CBO has said about deficits.
Were not telling you Klein was perfectly right in his ten percent construction. And from there, he goes on to suggest that things could change for larger numbers of people after 2019. But as weve mentioned many times, a common problem tends to get ignored by the mainstream press corps. Almost always, we the people know diddly-squat about even the most fundamental news topics. But big newspapers like to tiptoe around this fact, avoiding wider discussion of such an embarrassing matter.
Have you ever seen liberals address this endemic problem? Please, people! That would take thought.
Back to this mornings Times. According to Kaufman, a lot of average people are hearing crap from their weather forecasters. But go aheadjust read her piece. Just drink in the delicate way she and her editors tip-toe around this. The Times is very polite again today. You could almost think theyve been bought.
THOSE PEOPLE ALL LOOK ALIKE (permalink): For our money, Colbert King is quite an enigma.
In his weekly column at the Washington Post, he often does superlative, carefully-researched work on local crime and political topics. On the other hand, he gulped down his cohorts red Kool-Aid during the last decade, serving as a vintage Clinton/Gore-hater. (King, a former banker, is a long-time upper-end Washingtonian.) His Clinton hatred bubbled back to the fore during the 2008 primary race.
A few months ago, he even weirdly suggested that Hillary Clinton might challenge Obama in 2012. But thats how a haters mind tend to work. Can you hum the Twilight Zone song?
And then too, theres the remarkable column he wrote in Saturdays Post. His prose made us think of many things. Ironically, it made us think, more than anything else, of bigots of the last century.
Kings column was headlined, Faces weve seen before. If we had to summarize Kings message, wed do it like this:
Those people all look alike.
Below, we show you the start of Kings piece. It followed the previous weekends Tea Party demonstrations against the Obama health plan. Please understand as you read this chunk: At no point does King ever claim that he was present during those events:
Those people all look alike, King says. They never go away.
(Just a thought, as we try to help: Could we send them all back to Europe?)
Should this column have been published? RememberKing never claims that he attended the Capitol Hill events around which his column is framed. This column is based on one cognitive structure: He saw some faces from that event, and he thought those faces looked like faces he had seen at some other events, long ago. This is very strange basis for such a sweeping, denunciatory column. As King continued, we found ourselves thinking of ugly old days:
It was hard not to think of mid-century bigots as we read this passage. You see, when King considers Those People, he seems to divide them into two camps. Some of them actively shouted epithetsand the rest of them were rabble. He mentions no one else.
This is the way mid-century bigots looked on the lives of black people. Soon, of course, The Doctor was IN, as he frequently is at such times. In this passage, Dr. King explains the reasons for this lesser peoples behavior:
At least The Doctor didnt claim that their limbic brains dont work! But as the ersatz behavioral scientists typically do in such cases, Dr. King was able to explain why Those People behave as they doevery single one of them. For our money, the last part of that paragraph reads a bit like an unintentional joke. Is King perhaps projecting here? Does he perhaps feel entitled to rant about those who dont think or look like him?
For ourselves, we arent inclined to agree with the Tea Party crowd. We dont share their views about health reform. In a new poll, only 15 percent of Tea Party folk self-identify as Democrats; we vote for the Dems every time. We wouldnt want to rally alongside a sign which semi-recommended the use of a Browning. On the other hand, anti-war rallies of this past decade featured dumb signs too.
King is a man of the DC elite, and he sometimes acts it. He could have taken his big fat keister down to Capitol Hill that day; as a journalist, he could have asked members of this crowd to explain their thoughts on various topics. What did they think of that Browning sign? What are their views on raceon gay issues? But bigots always think they can know the souls of Those People without having to dirty themselves by entering into their presence. And in every generation, fine members of high elites try to keep themselves free of the rabble.
This was a deeply unintelligent column, written by a man of the DC elitesomeone who compliantly swallowed his cohorts Kool-Aid in the Clinton/Gore years. (Call it the price of membership.) Heres our question: How many members of that Tea Party crowd would say or write something as unfair, nasty and dumb as this? We dont know the answer, of course:
Youre righta chunk of that screed doesnt even quite parse. According to King, [The angry 50s and 60s crowds] insulted, abused, lied and vandalized. Still, President Obama fulfilled his promise to sign historic health-care reform into law. Without a bit of an effort, does that passage even make sense?
But note how far King is willing go to trash the people whose faces offend him. He even finds a way to semi-slime them with the past centurys murders! Work like this churns hate in return, and it slows the wheel of progress. And theres another problem with work of this type:
It makes liberals lazy and dumb.
Dr. King never behaved this way. Its amazing how people can follow the work of a moral giant without absorbing a single drop of that leaders revolutionary wisdom.
Those people all look alike, Colbert King said. At their best, theyre rabble. And not only thatthey wont go away! Where have we heard this before?
Kings column made us think of the previous centurys bigots, though not in the manner intended.
Postscript: Frank Rich wrote a variant of this column on Sundaybut then, he always does. Work like his makes liberals dumb. Well guess that this slows the worlds progress.