ANTHROPOLOGY 2.0: Some years ago, we opened an anthropological wing here on our sprawling campus. Reading newspapers was no longer a study in journalism. It had become a study in abnormal psychologyin basic forms of life.
An obvious question had come to mind. Given their fatuous topic selection; given their hapless attempts at reasoning; given their startling lack of honesty; was it possible that our mainstream journalists might be an alien life-form?
Can human beings be this dumb? Can humans really be this childish? Again and again, youre forced to ask if you follow the work of this press corps. Lets walk through some current examplesexamples from todays papers.
How can our journalists be so dumb? Well say again what we said on Tuesdayliberals will never develop a serious press critique until we swallow hard and directly address this question.
Loud cries from the childrens bedrooms (permalink): How inane is your press corps willing to be? On the front page of todays Style section, the Washington Posts Ellen McCarthy is emitting loud cries about the Gores separation. Well include the fatuous headline some editor threw on her piece:
MCCARTHY (6/3/10): Al and Tipper Gore's sad love story: Where do we begin . . . to express our sadness?
Please, Al and Tipper, don't do this. For our sakesdon't.
Yes, famous couples divorce all the time. But we thought the Gores were different. We believed in them. Even if we didn't agree with their politics, we admired their marriagethe way, after all these years, they still genuinely seemed into each other.
Is Ellen McCarthy flesh of this earth? Could the human race have survived if humans were really this childish? McCarthy blubbers on from here, but a stunning degree of inanity is captured here, in her opening.
First, some editor knew the basic rule: By law, journalists cant discuss this topic without first saying love story. (Like dogs peeing on old stumps, this is the way they mark the Gores lives as their own personal property.) But McCarthys inanity quickly prevails in her actual copy. Using the royal we, she moves directly from emotional blubbering into world-class dumbness. We thought the Gores were different? We believed in them? McCarthy writes at the Washington Post, a paper which chased the Gores like hounds from hell, right up to the very day when Gore won his Nobel Prize (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/12/07).
At the Post, the war never stopped. Meanwhile: Even if we didn't agree with their politics, we admired their marriage? Has McCarthy had a chance to review the pitiful, brain-dead comments which adorn reports on this matter? What we is she talking about?
Can McCarthy possibly be this dumb? If so, can she be flesh of the earth? Were not sure, but this type of inanity has been found all over the dial in the wake of the Gores separation. At Salon, Rebecca Traister played the fool in the childish manner adopted by McCarthy (click here). Meanwhile, back at the Post, on-line posters quickly displayed well-scripted schadenfreude, and their almost cosmic inability to reason. (Another example of Hard Pundit Law: The Kiss must be cited in paragraph 1; its the one thing these dimwits remember.) But can such journalists really be human? And can a modern nation survive if life-forms of this low inane type are shaping its national discourse?
The sex-obsession of the whale (permalink): For the past several decades, the Posts Style section has been the place major journalists go to display their inanity. In fulfilling that role, it matches the New York Times op-ed page, which features Gail Collins this morning. As our highest lady begins, she puts her cohorts scripted inanity on full display, as she so often does in her column. As often happens, the Times has substantially toned the inanity down in the on-line edition. But this is how this high ladys column begins in our hard-copy Times:
COLLINS (6/3/10): You have to like a political season in which a candidate for governor gets asked whether allegations that she committed adultery might be harmful to state economic development.
Really? You have to like that season? In this opening, Collins adopts a long-standing trope of these life-forms: Our politics is only fun when its built around sex allegations!
In South Carolina, gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has been accused of adultery. Collins reaction? Yes!
The culture which produces such thoughts was already appalling in 1992, when its rampant peeping-tommery was lovingly aimed at Bill Clinton. By now, weve suffered through our eight years of Bush; Collins cohort gave us this prize when they spent twenty months inventing tall tales about Bill Clintons vice president. (The one they all believed in!) By now, youd think such journalists might have seen the downside to this sort of clowning. But no! Life-forms like Collins want one thingthe chance to entertain themselves with speculations about peoples sex lives. Inside this wallowing, floundering whale, the brain is roughly the size of a pea. The whale will never abandon this conduct until your nation is done.
By the way: Life-forms like Collin will, on occasion, talk about things which arent sex-related. When they do, they tend to reason like this:
COLLINS: During the [South Carolina gubernatorial] debate, the Republican candidates agreed that the culprit behind virtually every woe is too much government. Truly, it was amazing that people who loathed government so much were so desperate to be in it.
That is completely inane, of course. Duh! As any tenth-grader could discern, people who think government is too big will want to be in it to reduce its size and its scope. But Collins is the kind of (northern Irish Catholic) life-form which functions on the following program: When they cant speculate about politicians sex lives, they like to make fun of white southerners. (If you think this didnt help drive the press wars against Clinton and Gore, you dont understand recent history.) Last Saturday, Collins burned her column away in precisely this fashion, opening with silly pointless flouncing about Dale Peterson, an Alabama political novice who had placed a silly ad on the web. Peterson was never a serious player; he got bounced in Tuesdays primary, finishing third on the Republican side in the race for agriculture commissioner. But Collins is a simpering idiot. If she cant waste everyones time rubbing her thigh as she thinks about sex, she wastes everyones time in this alternate manner. By the way: This isnt good for progressive politics, though pseudo-liberals adore it.
When journalists try to reason (permalink): Sometimes, the children pretend to reason about topics which are serious. Last Sunday, Dana Milbankthe Washington Posts famous Dowd-in-pantspretended to engage in such labor.
As with Collins, so with Lord Milbank! He wanted to open with a familiar trope, a declaration of his loyalty to his clans inane scripts. Seamlessly, his mental unit churned this familiar structure:
MILBANK (5/31/10): For eight years we had a president who refused to accept blame. Now we have one who seems to enjoy it.
The pattern here is standard: The last president was too [fill in the blank]; the new president isnt [fill in the blank] enough! (Sub-text: No ones as good as what we deserve!) Extremely tiny minds function this way. After that, they start lying.
Well skip Milbanks inane remark about the presidents daughter. Well skip his inane suggestion that Obama hasnt shared responsibility for this disaster with BP. Instead, well move to his baldly dishonest account of Obamas state of knowledge about Elizabeth Birnbaum.
At last weeks press conference, Jackie Calmes asked Obama a couple of questions about Birnbaums resignation, which had been tendered that very morning. Instinctively, Milbank did the thing he does besthe doctored the transcript to make his silly story work better. In this passage, he helps us see why this press conference may have been Obamas weakest hour:
MILBANK: In a sense, it's refreshing to have a president who is candid about shortcomings. Yet Obama's news conference may have been the weakest hour of his presidency.
As I sat in the fourth row on Thursday, I was struck by the weirdly passive figure before me. He delivered lawyerly phrases and spoke of his anger about the oil spill but showed none in his voice or on his face. He was, presumably, there to show how aggressively he has handled the disaster, but he seemed cool, almost bloodless.
CBS's Chip Reid asked about the resignation hours earlier of Elizabeth Birnbaum, head of the MMS, or Minerals Management Service. "I found out about her resignation today, Obama replied. Interior Secretary "Ken Salazar has been in testimony throughout the day, so I don't know the circumstances in which this occurred."
An incredulous Jackie Calmes of the New York Times wanted to know how it is that you didn't know about Ms. Birnbaum's resignation/firing.
Come on, Jackie, I don't know, Obama said with a smile.
Its hard to make sense of Milbanks account, which is somehow supposed to support the claim that this was Obamas worst hour. Birnbaum had resigned a few hours before; how (and why) was Obama supposed to know the details of what had transpired? Needless to say, Milbank doctored the transcript of Obamas exchange with Calmes to pimp up his overwrought point. This is the actual, full exchange from which he stole his quotes:
CALMES (5/27/10): I'm also curious as how it is that you didn't know about Ms. Birnbaums resignation/firing before
OBAMA: Well, you're assuming it was a firing. If it was a resignation, then she would have submitted a letter to Mr. Salazar this morning at a time when I had a whole bunch of other stuff going on.
CALMES: So you rule out that she was fired?
OBAMA: I'm come on, Jackie, I don't know. I'm telling you theI found out about it this morning. So I don't yet know the circumstances, and Ken Salazar has been in testimony on the Hill.
Calmes is one of the saner members of the press corps, but she was stretching things a bit, fudging the distinction between resigning and getting fired. (Presumably, Obama would have known about an impending firing.) As usual, Milbank knew what he must dohe doctored up this exchange to make Obama look highly pathetic. But then, the New York Times Charles Blow had done something similar just one day before. Truly, this is pitiful:
BLOW (5/30/10): People needed to be assured that Obama possessed three basic presidential traits: being informed, engaged and empathetic. As for the first trait, he was superb as always. I think amassing facts is his idea of being warm and fuzzy.
On the second, he was a bit wobbly. How is it that he didnt know if S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, who was the director of the Minerals Management Service, an agency at the heart of the spill debacle, had resigned or been fired that morning? Maybe he would have known if earlier he had not been in the Rose Garden taking pictures with Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke mens basketball team.
This is the same coach who famously bristled that Obama should stick to fixing the economy after the president picked North Carolina to win the N.C.A.A. championship in 2009. Maybe the coach could have reminded him that he still had more important things to do.
Presumably, we dont have to explain how moronic that passage is. By the way: This was the second straight week in which Blow has taken a brainless cheap shot at a major black pol. (Last week, it was Detroits Mayor Bing.) Just a guess: Since Blow has been taking some heat for his brain-dead playing of race cards, he has set out to prove that he can be just as dumb in the other direction.
Obama didnt yet know the facts about Birnbaums resignation. This was a tiny, pointless matterand yet, the mighty mites struck. But then, this is the soul of the modern press corps! Theyve behaved this way for the past twenty years, doing massive harm in the process. And make no mistakethis is the soul of an upper-class press corps, a press corps driven by intellectual leaders with vastly too much wealth and fame. When you construct such an upper-class press corps, youll end up with a form of Versailles every time. Youll end up with simpering fools like Collinswith ninnies like Lord Dowdinpants.
Good God. In this mornings Washington Post, a sobbing child informs the world that we thought the Gores were different. In fact, though her cohort has slimed many pols in this era, there is no one her cohort slimed more moronicallyor more consequentiallythan this very same Gore.
The press corps sobbing children dont know. Or they agree to pretend.
Are these creatures flesh of this earth? Sadly, their culture is gripping the planet. As oil spreads all through the gulf, their gong-show culture is even spreading to liberal journals and web sites, which are becoming much dumber, more tabloid. The dumbness of the whale is vastand the dumbness is spreading.
A modern nation cant function this way. Or have you spotted the signs?
AND BRODER MAKES THREE (permalink): As Milbank and Blow played silly tricks to denigrate Obamas performance, the Pundit Dean wrote a foolish column which praised Obamas transcendence. This was Broder, reasoning weakly, about reaction to Obamas press conference:
BRODER (5/31/10): What he offered [at his press conference] was exactly what his constituents have seen since he was elected: a clear sense that he understood the situation, that he was in command and that he fully accepted the responsibility.
He made all that unmistakably clear, as he had done in other moments when his leadership was being tested: In Philadelphia, during the campaign, when he had to deal with the issue of race raised by his former pastor's inflammatory comments; in the opening weeks of his presidency, when the nation tottered on the brink of financial collapse; when he set the course in Afghanistan and committed thousands of additional U.S. troops; and when he asked Congress to try once more on health-care reform.
I doubt there were very many Americans concerned about the events in the Gulf of Mexico who did not find a substantial reassurance in seeing Obama taking the heat on the crisis.
Are you kidding? There were millions of Americans who didnt find any such substantial reassurance! Two such people, Milbank and Blow, were putting their thumbs on the scale at the Times and the Post to undermine that reaction.
Why would Broder draw such an unlikely conclusion? Because your press corps is deeply unintelligenthas been so for a very long time. Theyve played the fool for a generation. In their papers, they do so today.
Broder differed from Milbank and Blow, except in that one core value.