NO NEED TO KNOW! Alfred E. Neuman never worried. So too with the Post and the Times: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2011
Youre rightwe completely forgot: Youre right! Our non-annual fund drive continues this week. Yesterday, we forgot!
Tomorrow, well go back to pimping our current ventures; we think we had a pretty good weekend. For today, if you want to support the cause, you know what to do: Just click this.
From Krugman to Doctor Garofalo: In the age of talk radio and the web, its easy to see how the average Joe reasons. With that in mind, we recommend this recent blog post by a bemused Paul Krugman.
Krugman pens a short complaint about the absurd reactions generated by any comment or statement. I really do worry about the state of reading comprehension, he says. Or maybe its just that extremists cant grasp the notion of non-extreme positions held by other people.
Indeed. If you read comment threads at any site, youll see absurd or semi-absurd reactions to almost any post. Case in point: Responding to Krugmans post, the second commenter quickly explained the publics inability to reason. It's a lack of teaching critical thinking, she wrote. The powerful do not want the powerless to have strong enough analytical skills to see how little the current arrangement helps most people, or the powerless might do something about it.
Is that why we peepul dont reezun reel guud? You can sign us up with the skeptics. And sure enough! Before too long, the inevitable happened. The fourteenth commenter placed the blame on the other tribe:
Are liberals smarter, at least in a scientific sense? Do we liberals think in more nuanced ways and thus have a more analytical mind? We liberals have been telling ourselves this pleasing story for a very long time. On average, this thesis could be true. But then again, maybe its not.
Is our tribe smarter than their dumb tribe? Sometimes, it seems that Keith Olbermann signed with Current TV to disabuse the world of this notion. Consider last Fridays on-line discussion with Janeane Garofalo, who had appeared as a guest on the evenings regular program.
To watch the entire discussion, click here. In what follows, were discussing a seven-minute span which starts around the one-minute mark. (If the tape at Current isnt working, you can watch this at YouTube. Click here.)
A bit of background: Back in April 2009, at the very start of the Tea Party movement, Garofalo appeared with Olbermann on the old Countdown program. It was her third appearance on the MSNBC program in just an eight-week span. On that occasion, Garofalo offered a widely-criticized critique of the various redneck racists found in the Tea Party movement. In fact, everyone within that movement was a redneck racist, the thoughtful pundit explained.
In an early part of her discussion, Garofalo offered an overview:
A sympathetic soul might want to assume that Garofalo was joking. But actually, no. She was not.
For whatever reason, this was Garofalos final appearance on the MSNBC version of Countdown. Since Olbermann brought her back in his first week at Current, it may be that the suits at his previous channel kept her off their air, though we have no way of knowing.
That was thenand this is now. We strongly recommend that you watch the first eight minutes of Olbermanns chat with Garofalo at Current. For ourselves, we will only say this:
As recently as a few years ago, we would have assumed that no two people ever had such a stupid discussion on any topic, at any time in human history. We truly wouldnt have understood that people can be this dumb for a full seven minutes..
Some liberals will watch that tape and see something different. We will only suggest the following: This shows that the problem Krugman cites is not confined to the other tribe. And this:
Your nations future is placed in great danger by the superhuman dumbness displayed on that Current tape.
Whats so dumb about that discussion? Current TV doesnt post transcripts; we dont intend to force our analysts to transcribe the various things that were said during that gruesome chat. We will only transcribe this passage, near the two-minute mark, where Garofalo explains how she knows the Tea Party is racist:
Well only say this: In the end, its up to you to understand how monumentally dumb that highlighted passage is. As Wittgenstein said in another context: At some point, explanations must end.
(One hint: Garofalo is discussing millions of people in that highlighted passage.)
Krugmans post points to a major problem: Wee the peepul dont reezum reel gudd. At one time, this problem was contained by a cultural practice: Crazy people werent allowed to go on the air and spread their foolishness around. For that reason, citizens were rarely exposed to lunatic discussions in which tribalized people engaged in the worlds most god-awful forms of reasoning.
That system broke apart in the past few decades. First, they let Imus on the air; then came Howard Stern. After that, it was Rush and Sean.
Now, our tribe is part of the problem.
That discussion is one of the dumbest ever. Can your country survive such burdens? If we had to bet, wed say no.
Nothing new under the sun: If you watch the first eight minutes from last Fridays discussion, youll hear a lot of foolish smack, including Doctor Garofalos diagnosis of Clarence Thomas Stockholm Syndrome. (Were always glad when the white doctors emerge from the bush to help the black folk with their obvious maladies.)
This is extremely dumb stuff. But this sort of thing is nothing new from this particular doctor. Consider a few clips of Garofalos brilliance from the old Countdown programs.
In February 2009, the doctor explained a disturbing statistic: Thirty-seven percent of women had a favorable impression of Rush Limbaugh, according to a Public Policy poll. The doctor knew why that was:
Why had CNNs Daryn Kagan dated Limbaugh? The doctor explained that too:
That discussion was stunningly stupid, so KO brought her back. Three weeks later, one of the dumbest people on earth discussed the amazing dumbness of the other tribe:
Too funny. Unfortunately, a lot of the people in the right-wing base are not the most intellectual people in the world!
After the subsequent April discussion, Garofalo was gone from MSNBC. Perhaps the suits had cut her loose. Last week, KO brought her back.
Its true that Rush and Sean got there first. But can your society function this way? Our guess would be no, it cannot.
For ourselves, were surprised to read that the GOP has established (some) facts on the ground. For ourselves, we have no idea what facts Brooks has in mind. But many liberals will tend to agree with Brooks semi-complaint about Obama.
Obama hasnt educated the country about the debt challenge? Almost surely, that claim is correct.
In fairness, its very hard to educate the country about any topic these days. We live in a highly tribalized world; no public figure, not even a president, can be expected to overcome the various tribal lunacies which are found all around. If memory serves, Obama did attempt to educate the country about the national health care challenge. But no matter how many speeches he gave; no matter how many press conferences he held; no matter how long his answers were, very little education of the country emerged.
Instead, a Facebook post discussed death panels. In millions of minds, that post at Facebook stuck.
Could Obama have done a better job educating the country about the debt crisis? Everything is possible. But for today, lets ask a different question: How good a job have our biggest news orgs done when it comes to this task? Consider one example:
In the news pages of todays New York Times, Carl Hulse does a news report about the ongoing debt limit talks. At one point, he quotes Bernie Sanders:
Sanders would favor a tax increase on the nations millionaires. In many cases, those folk have never had it so good, he declared.
By instinct, most liberals will be inclined to agree with that declaration. But how good a job has the New York Times done at explaining this matter? The New York Times is our most famous newspaper. How hard has it tried to educate the country about the facts which lie behind that declaration?
For ourselves, wed be inclined to say this: The Times hasnt tried at all. Neither has the Washington Post, the Times partner in avoidance. Our American civic religion is based on a familiar notion: As citizens, we have a need to know.
But our greatest news orgs no longer seem to subscribe to that basic notion.
What, us know things? Would such a motto be out of place on our great newspapers mastheads?
By most accounts, our nation is facing a major crisis as those debt talks proceed. Over the course of the next few days, well look at the ways our biggest news orgs have walked away from a basic task.
Obama has failed to educate the country? It isnt that Brooks is wrong in that claim. But our idealistic young analysts rose from their chairs when they read the savants complaint.
Looking whos talking, our analysts cried! Heal thyself, several said.
Tomorrow: What Bruce Bartlett said