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STILL AMAZED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS! The editors said they were amazed when spending cuts won over tax hikes: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2011

Gore among the Aspens: You can’t blame Al Gore for being frustrated. He was speaking at a meeting of the Aspen Institute, after all.

The expert-laden association is headed by Walter Isaacson. How much more must be said?

Whatever! Gore was addressing these experts last week. We’ll let Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn take the expletive-laden story from there:

SAMUELSOHN (8/8/11): Al Gore is calling B.S. on global warming skeptics.

The former vice president and climate crusader told an Aspen Institute communications seminar Thursday that people who doubt climate science are the same ones who helped tobacco companies over four decades question the dangers of cigarette smoking.

"Some of the exact same people—by name I can go down a list of their names—are involved in this," Gore said. "And so what do they do? They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message: 'This climate thing, it's nonsense. Man-made CO2 doesn't trap heat. It may be volcanoes.' Bullsh-! 'It may be sun spots.' Bullsh-! 'It's not getting warmer.' Bullsh-!"

Gore's speech to the Aspen Institute was reported by Real Aspen, which added a brief audio segment of his comments Monday. Video of the event is expected to be available later this week, according to an official from the Aspen Institute. Carbondale, Colo., NPR affiliate KDNK also reported Gore's remarks Friday morning.

If you live in Carbondale, Colorado, you probably heard all about it!

Politico was too dainty to print the full word “bullshit.” For a fuller transcript of what Gore said, along with an audio tape of his comments, you can visit Think Progress Green. Just click here.

Gore was describing a basic part of modern American culture. Pseudo-experts rule the day in almost all realms of public discussion. Routinely, they’re funded by interested parties. For some pseudo-experts, Exxon Mobil might be a source of funding-for-propaganda. In the realm of “education reform,” Bloomberg News might be another.

But over and over, our discourse is shaped by Potemkin pseudo-experts. Just last week, the intellectual giants at S&P couldn’t even do the math! And even Politico came up short! As Samuelsohn continued, he managed to bungle one part of what Gore said:

SAMUELSOHN (continuing directly): "There about 10 names [sic] out there," Gore added. "When you go and talk to any audience about climate, you hear them washing back at you the same crap over and over and over again. They have polluted the sh-. There's no longer a shared reality on an issue like climate even though the very existence of our civilization is threatened. People have no idea!"

Climate skeptics, Gore added, have made it nearly impossible to talk about the issue anymore.

"It's no longer acceptable in mixed company, meaning bipartisan company, to use the goddamn word climate," he said. "It is not acceptable. They have polluted it to the point where we cannot possibly come to an agreement on it."

Actually, Gore said, “There are about ten other memes out there.” In that one short sentence, Samuelsohn made three mistakes. Transcribing can be hard!

Gore was describing the basic structure of all American discourse. Pseudo-experts and pseudo-journalists invent strings of memes (standard stories). Everyone in the in-group repeats them—and soon, these tales are in everyone’s heads. Gore described the basic nature of all American discourse: “When you go and talk to any audience about [any topic], you hear [standard stories] washing back at you, the same crap over and over and over again.”

This has been true for a very long time. For one example, this practice decided Campaign 2000, sending George W. Bush to the White House. You can read about it at our companion site—and almost nowhere else. (Chapter 6 is almost ready for posting.)

The mainstream “press corps” rarely mentions such facts about our “bullsh--” laden discourse. Darlings! Be sensible! It simply isn’t done!

Krugman said the same thing: In 2004, Paul Krugman described this process, using an alternate term:

KRUGMAN (8/3/04): Reading the Script

A message to my fellow journalists: check out media watch sites like campaigndesk.org, mediamatters.org and dailyhowler.com. It's good to see ourselves as others see us. I've been finding The Daily Howler's concept of a media ''script,'' a story line that shapes coverage, often in the teeth of the evidence, particularly helpful in understanding cable news.

A script is a meme. Those fellow journalists sent their regrets.

Special report: Still amazed after all these years!

PART 1—STILL AMAZED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (permalink): Just for the record, Rachel Maddow isn’t willing to name their names either.

The darling child is a slick career player, skillful at running us rubes. She likes to makes us think she fighting for us even as she protects her own interests. So it went on last night’s program, when Her Slickness pushed back against all those hacks in the mainstream press—very bad players whose famous names she slickly refused to name:

MADDOW (8/8/11): Of all of the Republican presidential candidates this year, all of them but one, all of them but Jon Huntsman, said they would vote against raising the debt ceiling—meaning that as presidential candidates, they are advising Republican members of Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling. They are advising Congress to let the United States of America default.

Members of Congress, who in some cases seemed like they would be delighted to do that. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah quoted in the Washington Post this weekend, saying, “We weren’t kidding around, either. We would have taken it down.”

And by it, he means you. He means the U.S. economy. We would have defaulted. We wanted it to go nuclear.

If we’re talking about the risk of default, if we’re talking about playing with fire, this was not a “both sides” kind of thing. The Beltway loves to say, “Oh, both sides deserve the blame. Be evenhanded here.” This is the platonic form of, “Not both sides’ fault.”

I’m sorry if this sounds partisan to point out, but this was not both sides committing the same error. This was one side. This was Republicans alone causing this problem by saying they would not raise the debt ceiling. And it’s liberals and Democrats who have been saying all along that that take by the Republicans was dangerous.

[...]

This was not both sides. I’m sorry to tell the Beltway. I know it’s upsetting. This was not both sides.

Maddow was right about one thing, of course. It was Republicans, and Republicans only, who said they wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. But who has been saying that it was “both sides?” Who was Maddow chastising here?

Of course! “The Beltway” has been saying that! Bravely daring to “sound partisan,” the slick career hustler went after “The Beltway.” She failed to explain how a highway can make absurd statements, then get “upset” when challenged.

Paul Krugman’s a hero and Maddow’s a hack. But will anyone ever name the names of the people who are saying that both sides did it? Will anyone ever name names like “Bob Schieffer?”

Darlings! It just isn’t done! Here’s how Kathleen Parker handled this general problem as the August 2 target date neared. Writing in the Washington Post, Parker criticized those media figures who encouraged the debt limit brinksmanship. Or did she? Prepare for some wonderful clownistry:

PARKER (7/29/11): Take names. Remember them. The behavior of certain Republicans who call themselves Tea Party conservatives makes them the most destructive posse of misguided “patriots” we’ve seen in recent memory.

If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the Tea Party Republicans who fragged their own leader, John Boehner. They had victory in their hands and couldn’t bring themselves to support his debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. No new taxes, significant spending cuts, a temporary debt-ceiling solution with the possibility of more spending cuts down the line as well as action on their beloved balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

These people wouldn’t recognize a hot fudge sundae if the cherry started talking to them.

The tick-tock of the debt-ceiling debate is too long for this space, but the bottom line is that the Tea Party got too full of itself with help from certain characters whose names you’ll want to remember when things go south. They include, among others, media personalities who need no further recognition; a handful of media-created “leaders,” including Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips and Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (both Phillips and Martin declared bankruptcy, yet they’re advising Tea Party Republicans on debt?); a handful of outside groups that love to hurl ad hominems such as “elite” and “inside the Beltway” when talking about people like Boehner when they are, in fact, the elite (FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity); and elected leaders such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who grandstand and make political assertions and promises that are sheer fantasy.

Too funny! At two separate points, Parker said we should “take names” of those who created the debt limit mess. We’ll want to remember those names “when things so south,” she said. But when it came to those “media personalities,” she found a very slick way to avoid such typing such names.

We’ll want to remember their names, Parker said. But then, when it came to this one special class, she said it was wrong to include them!

To her credit, Parker was willing to name many other names; she even correctly pounded Bachmann, a task from which Nicholas Kristof predictably shrank that week. But when it came to those media figures, no names were allowed—immediately after she said that we’d want to remember such monikers!

The clowning is general when major press figures pretend to critique their colleagues. Center-right columnists and pseudo-left phonies agree on the need to keep quiet. But then, we also emitted low mordant chuckles as we read Sunday’s New York Times editorials.

Eventually, the editors said some intriguing things. But they started like this:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (8/7/11): A week later and we are still amazed at how the Republicans in Congress pulled it off. They held the economy hostage, won some cheap political points, and all of us will spend the next decade paying the ransom as government programs—$900 billion over 10 years in the first round—are slashed and the recovery is put at risk.

We know—it’s just a figure of speech. But why were the editors “still amazed” at the way “the Republicans pulled it off?” Why were they amazed at all? The GOP did exactly what it said it would do, acting on things it says it believes in. It was helped by familiar political narratives which have been decades in the making—and by the relentless refusal of this “newspaper” to do any real reporting.

We don’t know why the eds were amazed by the fact that the GOP “pulled it off.” But the editors seem to be amazed by most things that happened last week:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (continuing directly): The only glimmer of hope is that the battle is not completely over—if President Obama is finally willing to fight.

Under the terms of the ill-conceived debt agreement, Congress has to propose another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures by December. Just to ensure that rationality does not have a chance, Republican leaders said they would not put anyone on the deficit-cutting “super-committee” who might entertain the idea of raising taxes.

A week later and we are even more amazed by the failure of Mr. Obama and the Democratic leadership to stand up to this intransigence. If they do not start pushing back, with the same ferocity, the results will be disastrous.

We know—it’s only a figure of speech. But we don’t know why the eds are amazed by this phenomenon either. There are various ways to explain that “failure,” some of which are Obama-friendly, some of which are not. But should the editors be amazed? Given the sweep of the past thirty years, what happened was hardly surprising.

Should the editors be “amazed” when spending cuts win out and tax increases get dumped? Perhaps—if they’re living on Neptune! In fact, the editors live on a different far planet; they live on “the planet of the press corps,” a well-ordered orb with a very strange culture. One oddity among many: On that strange planet, major press figures know that they must never name each other’s names.

Why were the editors so amazed? We’ll ponder that topic all week. We’ll also review the intriguing things the editors went on to propose—until they suffered a panic attack and took back what they had said.

Darling Rachel played you last night—but such things have gone on for a very long time. How has this puzzling system worked out? And why were the editors so amazed by its predictable fruit?

Tomorrow—part 2: Intriguing ideas about taxes