CARTOON NETWORK! Sorry! The Center wasnt all over cable, despite what observers recall:: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT: How endlessly weak is press corps logic? Yesterday, CNN pundits wondered if Roberts should reveal his views on Roe. As they debated, Candy Crowley presented the puzzling view discussed in the last two HOWLERs:
CROWLEY (9/14/05): But when somebody comes before the Supreme Court—if I go to the Supreme Court on an abortion case, and I know that I'm looking at someone who doesn't think that there's a constitutional right to abortion, aren't I going, "I don't know want this guy to judge me? Because I know exactly how he feels and he can't do it fairly? Boom.According to Crowley, Roberts shouldnt reveal his views because, if he did, he couldnt judge fairly. But Crowley ignored an obvious fact—we already know what the eight current justices think about the Roe decision. Indeed, theyve discussed their views many times in the past. Does that mean that they cant judge fairly in future cases? If not, why should Roberts be the only one whose view on Roe are a mystery? The question would occur to almost anyone—except to a high press corps panel:
JEFF GREENFIELD (continuing directly): Jeffrey will tell you what advocates do in that case.Given the fact that we know the other justices views, Crowleys position doesnt seem to make sense—but none of the panelists noted the problem. Meanwhile, is a judge biased if he has a pre-existing view? In this matter, Crowleys logic was so weak that Toobin politely semi-objected. But understand: According to Crowley, the eight sitting justices are all biased about Roe. And Roberts would somehow become biased too, if he revealed his view on the famous decision.
Of course, Roberts already holds his view, whether he reveals it or not. In that sense, he will automatically be a biased judge—Crowley just doesnt want to know what his bias is (although she knows about all the others). Were often struck by the reasoning skills we see among our highest-paid pundits. Although our bias may have guided us, we thought this was a good exhibition.
CARTOON NETWORK: Darn it! We disagree today with Kevin Drums assessment of Michael Browns New York Times interview. Does this interview serve a purpose? Kevin says no, but well say yes; we cant assess the accuracy of Browns various statements, but this interview does serve a high purpose—it starts to replace a cartoon story with a (likely) more accurate tale. As they so often do, the pundit corps built a cartoon around Brown in the aftermath of Katrina; indeed, in its typical prig-piling way, the Washington Post even ran to blame Brown for an interview the more powerful Michael Chertoff had given (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/13/05). Browns interview suggests that the actual story may be more complex than this press corps cartoon—that all the blunders may not have been his. Were surprised to see Kevin move so quickly to disparage this attempt at reporting—this early attempt to re-examine the corps latest dumb-ass cartoon.
Darn it! We had planned to praise Kevin today for yesterdays post about Katrinas urban legends—and we had planned to thank him for his generosity in including our work in the mix. In that post, Kevin noted that several bogus stories had developed around Brown and his role. We thought this was important work, for reasons well discuss below. Unfortunately, Kevin seemed to walk away from this initial impulse under the force of reader e-mails. Levees of the mind seemed to burst. Lets note how this occurred.
In our report, we had noted an obvious fact—pundits made many clear misstatements about TV coverage of the miseries at the New Orleans Convention Center (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/12/05). For example, Ted Koppel scolded Brown on Thursday night, September 1, saying this: Ive heard you say during the course of this evening on a number of interviews you just found out about [the Convention Center] today. Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting about it for more than just today. But ABCs reporters had not been reporting about it for more than just today; according to the Nexis archive, no ABC show had mentioned the Center until 2:30 PM Eastern that day. It hadnt been mentioned on World News Tonight. It hadnt been mentioned on Good Morning America. And no, it hadnt been mentioned on Nightline. This was typical bullshit from Koppel, the utterly lazy, self-impressed fop who didnt bother to figure out the Bush budget plan during Campaign 2000 and who didnt prepare for his interview with John ONeill during Campaign 04 because he was busy attending a roast for his best pal, Colin Powell (links below). Lets say it again: This was a typical pundit misstatement, and it did deserve correction. But other pundits also rushed to misstate; as these idiots always do, your millionaire pundits agreed on a tale in which they could happily prig-pile on Brown. And lets say it again: In doing so, they did themselves a favor—they found a way to avoid the possibility that the failures in FEMA went above Browns station. Happily, they prig-piled on low-level Brown—and avoided the scarier Chertoff.
In yesterdays post, Kevin endorsed what we had found; he said we seem[ed] to make a good case that although the situation at the Convention Center was briefly reported the previous evening, it had been widely aired for at most a few hours before Chertoff's statement, not a day. But then the e-mails came flooding in, and Kevin began to retreat. Good God! It looks like TV coverage the previous evening was more extensive than Somerby suggests, he wrote in an UPDATE—and he linked to a string of reader comments. But uh-oh! This evidence came first:
DRUM E-MAIL:Ignore the understandable spelling problems. Try to believe that Kevin would cite a two-week-old recollection as a contradiction of our report, which cited the actual archival record about the cable coverage. Thats right! Not being complete fools after all these years, we didnt base our report on what we recalled; we based our report on the Nexis record, which includes all cable and network news for the (Wednesday) evening in question. And were sorry to kill a pleasing cartoon, but the Convention Center was not all over the cable news that night (nor was it mentioned on ABC at all, or on any broadcast network). As we noted: According to the Nexis record, the first report of a major problem at the Center aired around 10:20 PM Eastern, on Scarborough Country; earlier, CNN had aired two fleeting references to people gathering at the Center, without describing the severity of the problem. But then, heres the second e-mail Kevin cites to support the claim that it looks like TV coverage the previous evening was more extensive than Somerby suggests. The first two points come straight from our report. The third point seems to be faulty:
DRUM E-MAIL: A check of the Lexus Nexis archives shows that Somerby's account of the coverage from the evening before is a bit thin. MSNBC, CNN, and Fox all reported that people were heading to/being sent to the Convention Center. Chris Lawrence reported on Paula Zahn's 8pm show that 3,000 people were at the Convention Center and that a dead body had been abandoned outside it.But Lawrences brief report to Zahn was one of the two CNN cites we had mentioned. We also noted that the story was being heavily reported by the next day (Thursday). Meanwhile, we did look for these transcripts on Brown—and this readers recollection also seems to be wrong. CNNs transcripts are available for the whole day, and—although they were covering the Convention Center hard, starting at 7 oclock Thursday morning—they have no record of any statement by Brown until the 4 PM hour (Eastern). Heres what he said in a press conference then, straight from the CNN archives:
BROWN (9/1/05): We're aware of the situation in the Convention Center. There are approximately 5,000 people in the Convention Center, and food and water is being delivered to them also. We're continuing the same type of efforts in Mississippi and Alabama.Again, that was Browns press conference (with General Honore) during the 4 oclock hour. Had he held another conference, one hour earlier? We can find no sign of it. Meanwhile, just for the record, here is the entire body of Fox reporting about the Convention Center on the Wednesday night in question. The exchange occurred on The Fox Report, during the 7 PM hour:
SHEPARD SMITH (8/31/05): Well as another enormous helicopter comes overhead, I want to go to Jeff Goldblatt live in the city. Jeff?That was it! Over the course of the entire evening, that was the total body of Fox reporting about the Convention Center. But then, the total reporting on CNN and MSNBC encompassed no more than a minute or two. This story was not all over the cable news that night—you had to be glued to the screen just to catch it—and the other pundit statements we quoted were every bit as stupid and wrong as Koppels misstatement about ABCs coverage. Sorry, but according to the full Nexis record, there were only a few fleeting mentions of the Center Wednesday night. People may indelibly remember something else, but thats what the full record shows.
None of this has much to do with Browns performance, which we arent equipped to evaluate, except in the most general ways. But it does have something to do with your press corps performance. Why does any of this matter? It doesnt matter, unless you want to avoid a world where pundits feel free to hand you cartoons—the kinds of stories they invented (for years) about Bill Clinton, and then about Gore, eventually putting Bush in the White House. For years, liberal readers cheered and applauded when we criticized those stupid press stories. Unfortunately, many such liberals are now more than happy when cartoons are invented about Bushs aides. Many were thrilled to have a cartoon they could enjoy about dumb-ass Brown—and they failed to see that these idiot tales were, in part, protecting Chertoff, a more important Bush hand by far. But our report was about the press—and their statements were dumb and inaccurate.
Why did we spend our time on this matter? Why did we go through the tiresome process of sifting through the Nexis records—a process Kevin seems to have by-passed, not just once, but two separate times? We did it because we have come to despise these pundits in seven years of daily research—a period in which they have mainly invented cartoons about Democrats, cartoons which changed your nations history. (Fiery career liberals still refuse to discuss that, since they and their organs sat and kept still while this remarkable process unfolded.) We despise the pundit corps dim-witted clowning—and no, we arent about to cheer when they start to embellish about Brown. Nor do we put our tail between our legs when e-mailers write to say what they remember. We dont run to kiss their keisters. We continue to say what weve found in the record.
Why does any of this matter? Because we think individuals (and political movements) owe a trust to average, ordinary, normal people—the kind of people we were raised by, the trusting kind, who are easily fooled. Over the course of the past fifteen years, the average voter has been played for a fool by the Koppels, the Mitchells, the Matthewses, the Riches. (And the Gerths, the Cecis, the Kits and the Brunis.) We think liberals owe those voters a trust—a trust that, when they come to our sites, they wont be met by embellished facts and by the stupidest possible logic. (We found a single photo caption! We think you should be totally furious!!) Weve been disgusted, in the past dozen years, to see the public abused as its been. And yes, it fills us with disgust when we see our side adopting these practices. We can be just as dumb as they are, our conduct sometimes seems to portend.
In that story in todays Times, Kirkpatrick and Shane begin to replace a cartoon tale with a larger story. Who will that larger story harm? We dont have the slightest idea. But many liberals, like many conservatives, prefer to be handed inane cartoon tales. This, of course, is human nature—until we train ourselves to move past it. Its up to the leaders of a movement to do that. And leaders will sometimes have to tell a naughty story: What you recall may not be quite true. You may think the Center was all over cable—but that doesnt mean that it was.
By the way, one final comment, a point weve made several times: At this point, if we have to embellish to make a case against Bush, we ought to get out of the case-making business. No, the Convention Center wasnt all over the cable news that night—and no, ABC hadnt mentioned it once. At this point, if you feel that you just have to say something different, its because you simply prefer to embellish. But then, weaklings and fakers throughout human history have thrilled themselves by playing this game—by playing this cheap, stupid game with the masses. Its the ultimate act of contempt for the rubes. We think liberals ought to renounce it.
Brownie remembers: In todays interview, Brown says he did know about the Center on Wednesday, but he just absolutely misspoke Thursday night (9/1), when he kept saying otherwise. Who knows? Its even possible that this is true; he may have been covering for his boss Chertoff, who told NPR at some point Thursday that he didnt know about the Center. Or Brownie may simply be making this up. At any rate, Kirkpatrick reports that Brown had no staff on the site until Thursday, so he had to get his information from local authorities. Did that reflect bad management practice? Like you, we dont have the slightest idea—though some, in love with cartoonish tales, will insist that they do know, full well..
THE FIERY LIBERAL WEB CATCHES UP: Yesterday, many on the liberal web correctly praised Knight-Ridders latest—a report which begins to suggest that Chertoff may have been more at fault than Brown. (Click here to see Tim Grieves clear summary.) But then, we had already noted that transfer-of-blame, in Tuesdays clowning Post editorial. Duh! In the Washington press corps, pundits often pile on the weak because theyre afraid to report on the strong. Good for Knight-Ridder, which dared to say that it might have been Chertoff who bore greater blame. But you know us liberals! We had signed up for a rich cartoon tale, and some libs will fight to retain it.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Koppel, of course, just flat doesnt care. During Campaign 2000, he was too lazy to study the Bush tax proposal; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/3/03. During Campaign 04, he rolled over, unprepared, for Swiftee John ONeill—after spending the evening at a gaudy dinner, where he honored his best buddy, Powell. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/18/04 and 10/19/04. But you know how the human mind works! When he flatly misstates about Big Dumb-Ass Brown, were supposed to stand up and cheer! Suddenly, Koppel is on our side—and all his dumb statements are marvels!
TOMORROW—HOWLER HISTORY! ALL NEW MATERIAL! How did a clown like Bush become president? In the fall of 99, your press corps knew what they had to deep-six. New material! Frank Bruni stars!