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Print view: Outlook tried to do a real issue. This led to a basic mistake
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WHO CARES ABOUT COMPETENCE! Outlook tried to discuss a real issue. This led to a basic mistake: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2011

Beer Hall Ed throws himself down the stairs: For unknown reasons, Big Ed Schultz has been aggressively playing the fool in the past several months.

Unlike others, we’ve told you about it. In the past few days, his months of peculiar, offensive goose-stepping gave way to an ugly slur.

(To read all about it, click here.)

Last night, Schultz appeared on TV just long enough to announce that he’d be away for a while. This profoundly unattractive incident raises a set of concerns.

First question: Schultz has been playing storm trooper for months, stomping around and repeating memes from the dumbest back rooms of the Bush White House. Why did so few progressive “intellectual leaders” speak up about this strange conduct?

Second question: Why do so many “progressive” men seem to have so many misogynist slurs sloshing around in their heads?

Having asked those questions, let’s make a few observations:

Ed Schultz isn’t the first. Keith Olbermann engaged in open misogyny for years—and liberals kept their pretty traps shut. For years, we wondered if we were the only ones who were struck by this incessant behavior. (It wasn’t fun complaining about his conduct in the face of massive silence.)

Eventually, we got our answer: A bunch of liberal “intellectual leaders” had found his conduct repellent too—but they had refused to say so in public! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/28/11. Hint: Careerist “liberal leaders” may not be tremendous good people.

Ed Schultz isn’t the first. Chris Matthews engaged in ugly misogyny for the better part of a decade. In January 2008, a miracle occurred: The liberal world began to notice; incredibly, many liberals even began to complain! (After all those years, we have no idea why that suddenly happened.) In response, Rachel Maddow ran out and vouched for Matthews, big-time. One week later, she signed her first contract at The One True Liberal Channel.

(See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/21/08; scroll down to “STARR REPORT.” Also, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/15/08.)

Today, Maddow is paid $2 million per year, if Newsweek knows its stuff. To us, this event raised the first warning flag about this self-impressed child. We do hope her money spends good.

Even now, careful careerists have little to say about this problem—and the liberal masses seem stunningly clueless. In this twelve-topic post, Steve Benen managed to slip in a tiny statement about what Schultz did. (Be sure to read all the way to the end!) That said, we strongly recommend the comments from Benen’s readers, most of which deal with Schultz. As we’ve long said—there seems to be virtually no sexual politics within the progressive world.

We liberals like to prance about, informing the world of our vast moral greatness. It’s one of our dumbest political stances.

That said, our greatness isn’t vast. In the case of our leaders, less so.

Final strange inescapable point: The culture at MSNBC has been weirdly misogynistic ever since the time of its founding as a vehicle to hunt down the Clintons, then Gore. Fox is a garden of gender sanity compared to The One True Channel. (So is CNN.)

Special report: Any given Sunday!

PART 3—WHO CARES ABOUT COMPETENCE (permalink): Maureen Dowd is one of the founders of “stupidism”—the post-journalistic culture in which bogus facts about consummate trivia are used to drive pre-conceived tales about character.

Yesterday, this dimmest bulb was at it again, this time from dearest Dublin. In Ireland, “Barry O’ kissed and hugged with abandon, totally out of character for him.” So the lady thoughtfully wrote. (Dowd was referring to President Obama.)

Dublin doings brought past events to mind; she even reprised her own past language. Life was good for this dumbest post-journo! As she watched a former “diffident debutante,” seeming was believing once again:

DOWD (5/25/11): The Irish thought they had their dream man when Obama drained a pint of the black stuff in Moneygall. For Barry, who drinks little and watches his calories a lot, that was the equivalent of a keg stand.


Funnily enough, Obama had to take a foreign trip to seem less foreign to Americans. Even though he did a best-selling memoir about his roots, he has had a persistent and puzzling problem coming across as rooted.

A surprising number of Americans still find the president exotic and existentially detached, falsely believing he's either a Muslim or foreign born. Just before his trip, he gave in to the demands of Donald Trump and other birthers to release his long-form birth certificate.

But with American reporters swarming Moneygall to examine and show off the long-form birth records of Obama's ancestor Fulmouth Kearney, a shoemaker who immigrated to Ohio in 1850, the president suddenly seems more rooted in an ethnic working-class persona that even his critics can recognize.

This dimmest of all journalistic bulbs alluded to an earlier day, when Obama was criticized for drinking too much orange juice. Now, she saw him drink a glass of beer—and she told the world how that made him “seem.”

It made him “seem less foreign,” she said. It made him “suddenly seem more rooted in an ethnic working-class persona.”

It made him “seem” that way to whom? People! Don’t even ask! Seeming was believing again for this dimmest of all our bulbs.

Dowd is a monster of stupid. She largely invented the stupidist culture which rules our millionaire press corps today. Within this brain-dead world, they cluck about politicians’ wives; they finger politicians’ jewels. But then, upper-class culture will always turn dumb. They discuss these topics for an obvious reason: because they’re truly that empty.

Their culture is in thrall to the stupid. For that reason, the Washington Post’s Outlook section featured this silly-bill groaner this Sunday—a massive, sprawling assembly of nonsense in which a former sitcom producer compared a long string of White House contenders to a long string of sitcoms. This was Outlook’s featured, front-page report; it appeared beneath a gigantic, full-color cartoon. If you can fight your way to the end of this pile, you deserve a “Rob Long march” award.

Outlook tends to feature the silly. But when a culture gives way to such dumbness, something else of course occurs. Inevitably, that culture will come to disregard real journalistic competence. In this morning’s New York Times, the Lady Collins goes on and on about the Medicare discussion. As usual, this lady starts by shaking her head about the trials we bear:

COLLINS (5/26/11): Hey, did anybody notice that the Democrat won a special Congressional race in a Republican district in upstate New York? Apparently, she campaigned a lot on protecting Medicare.

OMG! The Democrats are levitating with joy. Never have you seen so many smiling liberals.

''I'm feeling great. I'm ecstatic,'' said Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Israel is also a member of Congress from New York—a state where, in case you hadn't heard, a Democrat won a special Congressional race Tuesday night.

There is no escaping our fate. We are going to spend the next 17 months hearing about how the Republicans want to kill off Medicare. By 2012, the current video on the Web showing a guy who resembles Representative Paul Ryan pushing an old woman off a cliff will look like a Teletubbies skit. By the fall, there will be ads showing the Republicans hacking their way through rows of bedridden seniors with scimitars.

As usual, Collins complains about all the discussions we are fated to endure. She suggests these discussions will be done in bad faith—but go ahead! Review her column! Try to find a single word about the actual merits of any Medicare plan!

Do we face an actual Medicare problem? If so, how might it be addressed? Lady Collins doesn’t care—and she never will.

Any given Sunday, you can see this culture on display in the Washington Post’s Outlook section. This past Sunday, you saw its silly-bill tendencies in at least three different pieces (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/11). But uh-oh! You saw this culture’s rejection of competence in a fourth report.

Full disclosure: We chatted with the Post’s Paul Farhi one evening a few years ago. In that discussion and in his work, he seems like a thoroughly competent person. Rather plainly, Farhi isn’t one of the Post’s buffoons. But he also isn’t an education writer or specialist.

Why then did Outlook have Paul Farhi write this piece about “fixing America’s schools?” Was Outlook wrong to do so? For the record, his piece appeared on page 2 of the section—but it was teased on page one.

Farhi’s piece is called, “5 Myths about fixing America’s schools.” Most of what he wrote is perfectly sensible; it is every bit as sharp as the work that is typically done by full-fledged education reporters. His outlook is a bit contrarian and therefore refreshing. That said, we were struck by Farhi’s treatment of his very first myth:

FARHI (5/22/11): Myth 1: Our schools are failing.

It's true that schools with large numbers of low-income and English-as-a-second-language students don't perform as well as those with lots of middle- and upper-middle-class students who speak only English. But the demonization of some schools as "dropout factories" masks an important achievement: The percentage of Americans earning a high school diploma has been rising for 30 years. According to the Department of Education, the percentage of 16-to-24-year-olds who were not enrolled in school and hadn't earned a diploma or its equivalent fell to 8 percent in 2008.

Average SAT and ACT scores are also up, even with many more—and more diverse—test-takers. On international exams such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. elementary and middle school students have improved since 1995 and rank near the top among developed countries. Americans do lag behind students in Asian nations such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan on these tests, but so do Europeans. The gap in math and science scores may be an East-West divide.

Hmmm. Like Farhi, we have long suggested that American schools seem to be doing much better than standard cries of alarm would suggest. But doggone it! Farhi uses some shaky measures to bolster this claim, while skipping the strongest data we know about—the ballyhooed National Assessment of Educational Progress, whose data everyone recommends but no one ever describes. NAEP data seem to show massive gains by minority students over the past forty years—and everyone describes this program as “the gold standard” of educational testing. But so what? Even though everyone praises the program, no one describes its findings!

Farhi continues this puzzling practice in this high-profile report.

Farhi isn’t one of the press corps’ gaggle of buffoons. In skipping past the NAEP data, he simply does what everyone does, including “educational experts.” But that is very much the point about our post-journalistic culture. Within this culture, top players really want to discuss the way it “seems” when Obama drinks beer. They really want to talk about the size of Gingrich’s jewels. They really want to discuss Mitch Daniels’ wife, the one who has an “interesting past.” They want to complain that we’ll be forced to watch too many debates, hear too many speeches.

They simply don’t give a flying rat’s ass about the merits of any discussion. In that way, even a bright, well-intentioned fellow ends up using SAT scores (a shaky measure for Farhi’s use) instead of those seminal NAEPs.

This Sunday, Outlook wallowed in The Silly, starting with its featured piece. Farhi’s piece was a rare attempt to talk about a real issue. For our money, Farhi fumbled the first part of this task—in just the way the “experts” do. But then, a culture devoted to The Silly tends to bungle this way.

Let’s recall Outlook’s lineup:

A silly-bill, front-page featured piece by a sitcom producer. A silly-bill piece about following Oprah. A silly piece about Newt’s bad week, written by a guy who just finishing pimping his non-existent brilliance. A suggestion we need to get rid of lawn-blowers—and then, along with all that, a frustrating attempt to discuss an actual issue.

Any given Sunday, this is the stuff of Outlook. But this Sunday, Outlook did something special. It turned to a major name from the academy, producing one of the most intriguing messes we’ve ever seen in its pages.

To whom will a silly culture turn for a dose of High Expertise? On this particular given Sunday, Outlook turned to Sissela Bok.

We think the results were comically bad. But who the heck is she?

Tomorrow: What is truth? Beyond that, who is Bok?