The reign of the very dumb anecdote: In the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post, Paul Waldman wrote a fascinating piece about the reign of the very dumb anecdote.
Every four years, we’re ruled by these anecdotes, in much the way Waldman describes. But alas! As if to prove that we can’t escape them, Waldman himself advanced one such narrative, even as he scolded his colleagues for doing the same darn thing:
WALDMAN (8/14/11): In every campaign, candidates' verbal miscues draw plenty of attention, and the GOP primary race this year is no different. At a stop in Iowa on Thursday, Mitt Romney blurted out that "corporations are people" and engaged in a mini-debate on the issue with the crowd. In recent weeks, Newt Gingrich came under heavy criticism for describing Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan as "right-wing social engineering." Tim Pawlenty referred to the Affordable Care Act as "ObamneyCare,"then backed down when asked to repeat it to Romney's face in a nationally televised debate. And Michele Bachmann has been caught in a series of factual errors, such as placing the Battles of Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts; claiming her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, as the home of John Wayne, when it was actually serial killer John Wayne Gacy who hailed from there; and asserting that the founding fathers "worked tirelessly" to eliminate slavery.
Bachmann was wrong about the shot heard round the world and about the founders’ tireless work. But when he dragged John Wayne Gacy in, Waldman was involved in the same practice he decries, or pretends to decry, in the rest of his piece.
Bachmann was wrong when she named Waterloo as the birthplace of John Wayne; Wayne was actually born in Winterset, many miles away. At the same time, “journalists” have enjoyed linking Wayne to Gacy as they’ve mocked Bachmann for this error. In this favored rendition of Bachmann’s mistake, “journalists” mention Gacy’s connection to Waterloo. They fail to note that John Wayne’s parents lived in Waterloo before they moved to Winterset (click here).
Why include the one fact while dropping the other? Obviously, this is done to create the latest of the brain-dead anecdotes Waldman decries, or pretends to decry, in the rest of his piece:
It sounds like Bachmann is reeeeaaally dumb if you include the fact about Gacy. It would undercut that impression if you included the fact about Wayne’s parents. But so it has gone, for many decades, as “journalists” invent, advance or improve preferred claims about disfavored candidates.
(By the way: Gacy was born in Chicago. A long string of journalists have said he was born in Waterloo, even as they “fact-check” Bachman. But so it goes when these subhuman creatures enjoy their very dumb anecdotes.)
Your “journalists” simply aren’t very smart. Beyond that, they aren’t very honest—and they like to work in packs. For that reason, they have dealt in such anecdotes about White House candidates for at least the past thirty-nine years, a number we choose for a reason.
In at least one case, and perhaps in two, they have changed the outcome of a White House campaign through the use of their very dumb, often mistaken, stories. At the start of his piece, Waldman takes us back to the winter of 72, to the foundational episode.
Just how dumb was that very first very dumb anecdote? Waldman avoids asking—and omits a key name. As we start our new White House campaign, we’ll be seeing other such crap—and we’ll be in the hands of other “journalists” who won’t tell you the truth about the way this game is played.
In our view, Waldman is telling the truth extremely slowly in Sunday’s piece. Tomorrow, we’ll return to the winter of 72—and we will recall some things he left out.
It’s a basic tenet of Hard Pundit Law: Major journalists won’t tell the truth about other major journalists. Rising journalists won’t even come close.
Tomorrow, we’ll review that foundational anecdote. As we do, we’ll include some facts a rising scribe left out.
Special report: There’s no surviving the Times!
PART 1—THEY JUST CAN’T DO IT (permalink): Sorry.
A modern nation simply can’t function if its “press corps” is as dumb as Clifford Krauss and/or his editors.
This morning, Krauss writes a front-page report, above the fold, in your nation’s best-known newspaper. Within his first four paragraphs, he adopts a set of remarkable claims. Sorry! A modern nation won’t survive when its smartest “newspapers” are willing to reason this way:
KRAUSS (8/16/11): In Texas Jobs Boom, Crediting a Leader, or Luck
Texas is home to at least one-third of the jobs created nationwide since the recession ended. The state's economy is growing about twice as fast as the national rate. Home prices have remained stable even as much of the country has seen sharp declines.
Is Texas lucky, or has the state benefited from exceptional leadership? As Gov. Rick Perry campaigned Monday in Iowa for the Republican presidential nomination—with the economy dominating the national political landscape—the answer to that question is central to his candidacy.
Even before he formally entered the race over the weekend, Mr. Perry and his allies set out to dictate an economic narrative on his terms. A radio spot last week in Iowa told voters that the governor ''has a proven record of controlling spending and creating jobs'' and suggested that he could replicate the success of Texas on a national scale. In a budget speech a few months ago, Mr. Perry, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this article, boasted that Texas stood ''in stark contrast to states that choose to burden their residents with higher taxes and onerous regulatory mandates.''
But some economists as well as Perry skeptics suggest that Mr. Perry stumbled into the Texas miracle. They say that the governor has essentially put Texas on autopilot for 11 years, and it was the state's oil and gas boom—not his political leadership—that kept the state afloat. They also doubt that the Texas model, regardless of Mr. Perry's role in shaping it, could be effectively applied to the nation's far more complex economic problems.
Jesus Christ. That’s just dumbfoundingly stupid. And no, a nation will not survive with that sort of public IQ.
Let’s consider the things Krauss says in these opening paragraphs, which appear above the fold on the New York Times front page:
The Texas jobs boom: In the headline, Krauss—or his editor—asserts that a “jobs boom” has occurred in Texas. That seems to derive from the following statement: “Texas is home to at least one-third of the jobs created nationwide since the recession ended.”
The Texas miracle: By the time of his fourth paragraph, Krauss is saying, in his own voice, that a “Texas miracle” has occurred. He doesn’t say the miracle is alleged; he doesn’t put the phrase inside quotes. This creates a wonderful, if predictable, irony: Just this quickly, Krauss has agreed to adopt “an economic narrative on Perry’s terms”—the political goal he described right there in paragraph 3.
A jobs boom has occurred in Texas, helping define the Texas miracle! By paragraph 4, Krauss has made these assertions. In the rest of his piece, he attempts to determine how much of the credit should go to Governor Perry.
It’s almost impossible to get this dumb, unless you work for the New York Times. Let’s examine the oddness of these Perry-dictated claims.
About that alleged Texas jobs boom: Has a “jobs boom” occurred in the state of Texas? It says so right there in that New York Times headline! But inside the paper, on page A12, Krauss types this, in paragraph 12. Please read carefully:
KRAUSS: As the Republican race pits the Texas governor against a former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, the economies of the two states are bound to be contrasted. Texas has far outstripped Massachusetts in the number of jobs created over the last two years. But by other measures, the Massachusetts economy has been stronger, with a lower unemployment rate in June and economic growth of 4.2 percent last year, compared with 2.8 percent in Texas.
Say what? Massachusetts had “a lower unemployment rate in June?” By the use of that peculiar phrase, Krauss means the following: Massachusetts has a lower unemployment rate than Texas. (June’s numbers are the most recent available.) But then, a whole lot of states have lower unemployment rates than Governor Perry’s miraculous state! This was Christopher Hayes, hosting last night’s Last Word:
HAYES (8/16/11): Paul Krugman dismantled the “strongest economy in the nation” myth in the New York Times today.
Krugman says, "It`s true that Texas entered recession a bit later than the rest of America, mainly because the state`s still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008. Also, Texas was spared the worst of the housing crisis partly because it turns out to have surprisingly strict regulation on mortgage lending. Despite all that, however, from mid-2008, unemployment soared in Texas, just as it did almost everywhere else."
The unemployment rate in Texas 8.2 percent. That’s slightly lower than the national average, but it’s worse than 25 other states, including—and I have not seen this noted anywhere today—including every single one of Texas’s neighboring states, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
In fact, if presiding over a local commodity boom is the best qualification for government, well, then, Jack Dalrymple, the governor of North Dakota with its 3 percent unemployment rate, should be your guy.
The official state-by-state data can be viewed here, supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Question: How can a state with an 8.2 unemployment rate be said to be enjoying a “jobs boom?” We don’t know how to answer that question, but if Texas is enjoying such a boom, so are 25 other states! And according to official data, there are just fifty states in all!
Eventually, Krauss mentions the fact that some other states have unemployment rates lower than Texas. He does so in paragraph 24, in the following manner:
KRAUSS: This time around, the state has not escaped the downturn. The unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, a full percentage point below the national rate but still higher than other boom states like North Dakota and Wyoming, and Texas has one of the highest percentages of workers who are paid the minimum wage and receive no medical benefits.
At this late point in his pitiful piece, Krauss has no time to explain how a state with an 8.2 percent unemployment rate can be said to be in a “jobs boom.” Nor does he say that North Dakota has a three percent unemployment rate (3.0); a reader would have no idea that other states go that low. Nor does Krauss think to mention the fact that twenty-five states (out of fifty in all) have lower unemployment rates than the miracle state. For the record: Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is 5.3 percent; Nebraska stands at 4.1 percent. If the state of Texas is caught in a boom, what can be said about them?
You won’t find out in the New York Times, which persistently seems to be composed by the nation’s very slowest children. Or by grown-ups who can’t resist having their narratives dictated.
About that alleged Texas miracle: Is the state of Texas enjoying a miracle? Krauss seems to say so in paragraph 4. He spends the rest of his pitiful piece deciding how much credit Perry should be given.
But is Texas really caught in a miracle? Inside the Times, on page A12, a graphic is appended to Krauss’ report (just click here.) As part of the graphic’s good news about Texas, you will learn the following:
“Texas’ economy grew faster than the country’s as a whole last year.”
If you look at the numbers, you will see this: Texas grew at a rate of 2.8 percent, as compared to 2.6 percent for the nation. No, that isn’t a typo—and no, it isn’t a miracle.
Did named person Clifford Krauss write this report in good faith? His front-page report is so blindingly stupid that many people will assume that it can’t represent an honest effort. Krauss is a stooge, these people will say—Krauss and his posse of “editors.”
Amazingly, we don’t think that’s obvious. At the Times, the “journalists” really are this dumb, whatever else may be clouding their work. Tomorrow, we’ll look at three other examples just from today’s Times, including two pieces in which Times “journalists” are trying to savage Republican narratives.
In the case of these two pieces, we do not doubt what they’re trying to do. They trying to challenge Republican claims. But they aren’t smart enough to know how.
They just aren’t smart enough to do it! And no, your nation has no chance with very slow children like these in charge—and with a career liberal world too store-bought and dumb to react to this garbage.
Hayes should savage this piece tonight. Just a guess: He will not.