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Daily Howler: Pierce's book arrived in the stores. Greedily, we fell upon it
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A SNOOTFUL OF DEMOCRATIZATION! Pierce’s book arrived in the stores. Greedily, we fell upon it: // link // print // previous // next //

Corporatist bollixed by racialist: In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks endorses Sonio Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. In the following passage, he deftly sums up some of the evidence. But we were most struck by one word:

BROOKS (6/9/09): She is quite liberal. But there’s little evidence that she is motivated by racialist thinking or an activist attitude.

Tom Goldstein of Scotusblog conducted a much-cited study of the 96 race-related cases that have come before her. Like almost all judges, she has rejected a vast majority of the claims of racial discrimination that came to her. She dissented from her colleagues in only four of those cases. And in only one of them did she find racial discrimination where they did not. Even with what she calls her “Latina soul,” she saw almost every case pretty much as they did.

When you read her opinions, race and gender are invisible...

We were struck by Brooks’ use of the unremarkable word, “racialist.” Struck because we had seen our most brilliant liberal pretending, just one night before, that she’d never heard such a puzzler.

That brilliant liberal was Rachel Maddow, our own corporate-chosen Rhodes Scholar. Maddow was discussing Newt Gingrich’s endlessly-shifting account of Sotomayor’s world view and character. In our view, Gingrich has played the world-class fool on this topic—but then, that’s a game at which our own Scholar excels. In this passage, she was discussing last night’s GOP fund-raising dinner:

MADDOW (6/8/09): Last week, our friend Ana Marie Cox reported on this show that Mr. Gingrich was almost disinvited from tonight’s event—Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House—after he tweeted that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was a, quote, "Latina woman racist." After Republicans including Senators John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions recoiled publicly against that, and reportedly after the party threatened to yank his speaking slot at tonight’s party, Mr. Gingrich newt-tracted the “racist” charge saying, quote, "The word ‘racist’ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person.”

That climb-down was enough to get him back invited, but he has been backsliding ever since. Last week Mr. Gingrich went on Fox News and said this:

GINGRICH (videotape): It’s clear that the quote is clearly racist.

MADDOW: Ah, it’s just her quote! Not actually her! I see the difference? (Mugging) Then, there was some further fine-tuning this weekend on CBS.

GINGRICH (videotape): It`s clear that what she said was racist and it’s clear—or, as somebody wrote recently, "racialist," if you prefer.

MADDOW: “Racialist.” Yes, that’s totally different than racist? That’s totally not racial-baiting at all. (Mugging) It’s totally different. (Laughter) What’s he talking about?

As always, you have to watch the tape (click here) to see our own Rhodes Scholar mugging and clowning her way through the night. But in this passage, Maddow treats her liberal audience as if their average IQ is 11. She acts as if she doesn’t know the difference between “racist” and “racialist.” She acts as if she can’t distinguish between 1) the charge that someone is a racist and 2) the charge that this person made a racist statement.

Here at THE HOWLER, we think Gingrich has played the consummate fool on this matter. We don’t think Sotomayor’s statement was racist; we’re inclined to think that people who take her statement that way may not quite understand what the word “racist” means. But while we think Gingrich has played the fool, we did understand both distinctions he voiced. Like Brooks, we know that “racialist” is different from “racist.” Like everyone else on the face of the earth, we know there’s a difference between calling some person a racist and saying that this person once made a racist statement.

Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve had it with Maddow—with her mugging, her clowning, her self-adoration, her reliance on a professional dope like “our friend Ana Marie Cox.” (For the record, Cox strikes us as very bright—except when she’s doing her own clowning and career-building. As she did yesterday, making the idiotic remarks which Media Matters flagged. Just click here.) We’ve had it with Maddow playing the fool, treating her progressive audience as if they’re nine years old. We’ve had it with her brilliant jokes (about “newt-tracting,” for example)—even as she hands us rubes the dumbest analyses possible.

Yes, Virginia. There really is such a word as “racialist.” And yes, it really is different from “racist.” Let’s look again at what Brooks said:

BROOKS: She is quite liberal. But there’s little evidence that she is motivated by racialist thinking or an activist attitude.

When he said that, he wasn’t talking about “racist thinking.” You can even look it up! For one on-line definition, click here.

Is Maddow really as dumb as she acts? It’s always possible, of course. But we are sick, right up to our ears, of the silly, mugging games she incessantly plays.

Dumb it down! Please the rubes! Be sure to feed their tribal desires! These are the rules of the “corporate news” crowd as they ceaselessly stalk the wild demo. In the next few days, we will return to the silly bills who surround this scholar on her GE-owned gong-show. We’ll look at such cable stars as Wolff, Wolffe and Harris-Lacewell—and of course, at Maddow herself.

We’ll even return to a long-suspended question: Might the key to all this bullsh*t lie in the world of Bill Wolff? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/19/09.)

A SNOOTFUL OF DEMOCRATIZATION: This Sunday, it became official. Charlie Pierce’s new book arrived in Baltimore. Greedily, we fell on a copy. We began reading, a bit too fast.

We haven’t finished the book, and we really did read too quickly. But Charlie is working in fertile territory. We’ve been thinking about the book for the past several days.

For a brief overview, just click here. Oh, what the heck! We’ll cut and paste:

DOUBLEDAY: With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Charles Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

With Idiot America, Pierce’s thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

For an actual review, just click here. For Chazbo’s Q-and-A session at Firedoglake, just click this.

What the heck. We thought we’d offer a few frameworks our reading called to mind.

First, and minor: The book is called Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. We’re always a bit unsure about titles like that. As with the very smart, very funny early web site, Media Whores Online, some titles tend to restrict the way the titled product gets viewed. Charlie’s book is worth thorough consideration. We hope it gets it.


It’s always dangerous to talk about (Doubleday’s term) “the glorification of ignorance.” We humans are all ignorant, of course; on our best days, we’re only a little less stupid than we were on the others. And of course, it’s always easy to assume that only the other tribe is stupid. That said, the sheer stupidity of American discourse has been quite apparent of late. We’ve paid a gigantic price in the last nine year for the systemic stupidity of the previous decade. (Al Gore said he grew up on a farm!) Charlie seems to be digging deep into some of the deep back-story.

When we ponder such issues, we always think of the strange ways major parts of this nation began.

As it turns out, we Somerbys seem to have arrived in Massachusetts early (1639). And sure enough! By 1692, Elizabeth Somerby (born 1646) was being tried for witchcraft, in Wenham—where she was acquitted. (Sensibly, she married the man who defended her, a fellow named Reverend John Hale.) But then, many of this colony’s early arrivals were, by normal assessments, a bit kooky. They had sailed in leaky boats across a sea full of monsters to a land they believed to be full of savages. Why had they done such a ludicrous thing? Of course! Because they didn’t like the way the King was making them say the Lord’s Prayer! Others risked their lives coming to other colonies because of the quest for riches. It’s hard to avoid a simple thought: The saner ones may have stayed home in England! Later in our history, the ones who were too crazy to make it with this crazy crew were transferred further—to Texas.

Our history here is a bit truncated. For more scholarly fare, we’ll still recommend Michael Lind’s Made in Texas. But wasn’t there always a crazy strain in the English-speaking population which founded the crackpot nation Pierce reviews in this book? We don’t know the answer to that, but that’s one framework Pierce’s book evoked for us. Another goes back a much longer time, to the time when the glorious Greeks asserted that “man [sic] is the rational animal.”

For some reason, this misleading framework has always appealed to us non-rational western animals. For some time, we maintained the illusion in this country (“founded on intellectual curiosity”) by relying on certain elites. Jefferson wasn’t your average fellow—and neither was Edward R. Murrow. But then, one fateful day, we got ourselves a snootful of democratization. Under this influence, we decided to let other types take their turns at the head of the table. We let Imus take a chair; then, we let Howard Stern in too. Soon, the world’s biggest collection of crackpots and fools were shaping our national discourse.

We’d traded reasonably sane elites for a bunch of stone-cold crackpots and nuts. In the process, we discovered that we mostly can’t make out the difference.

We haven’t finished Charlie’s book—but we dang straight plan to. We’ll suggest that you run it down too, perhaps after reading some actual reviews. We’re living in an age of inanity, and by the way: Even now, our most brilliant career liberals can’t being themselves to discuss the ludicrous ways we got to this ludicrous point. Remember that when you think that this book is surely about somebody else. That it surely ain’t about you or yours. That your tribe just can’t be involved here.