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THIRD TENOR SPEAKS! Atrios says that we were unfair concerning last Saturday’s sandwich: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2008

THIRD TENOR SPEAKS: Atrios says we were unfair when we discussed his post-debate musings (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/29/08). That’s always possible, of course—and all things being equal, it’s better to stay away from people’s hard-to-limn motives. For what it’s worth, though, we have to say that his case is a bit underwhelming. And Jesus Christ! Could he possibly avoid running so fast to crouch behind his wife?

ATRIOS (9/29/08): The main reason I stopped reading Somerby awhile ago was his tendency to strongly imply/assume bad faith among nominal allies when often more innocent explanations are the correct ones.

The “any judgments,” in the first quoted post, referred to, in my mind, how I imagined the debate would impact the race, something which I have yet to deliver an opinion on because I never saw the debate aside from a couple of clips

And Mrs. Atrios, who Bob has yet to go after, can attest to the fact that McCain's extremely condescending attitude towards Obama was the subject of our debate discussion as we listened in the car.

We have no idea who said what to whom about what topic, in what vehicle. And the worried professor can feel quite sure that we won’t “go after” his wife. (Truly disgraceful.) But we’re sick to death of fly-weights like this—of their lazy, insulting, condescending performance. Just for the record, we were talking about you, Brother Atrios. You, and your work. You alone.

Were we unfair to Atrios? We have no ultimate way of knowing, as is almost always the case when we suggest that someone may have been less than completely forthcoming. In his third post about Friday’s debate, Atrios said that McCain’s “incredibly condescending attitude towards Obama” had “come through loud and clear on the radio bits” he heard as he rode in that car. Indeed, McCain “sounded like he thought Obama was on [a] par with dog shit,” he said. To us, that sounds like Atrios had a very strong reaction to what he heard in that car. And yes! It struck us as odd that, after Atrios heard such conduct—conduct which came through loud and clear—his first post about the debate said this. Nothing more:

ATRIOS (9/27/08): Debate

Well, due to travel hell I was in a car during the debate. Caught some of it on the radio, though it's hard to make any judgments without seeing the visuals.

I understand McCain has a wee bit of a problem looking Obama in the eye? Pretty weird.

To us, that seems like a pretty tame post—if you actually thought that you’d heard McCain treating Obama “on a par with dog shit.” (If you thought you’d heard it “loud and clear.”) But then, we think this second post is also weird, if you really thought you’d heard McCain behaving that way.

Of course, it’s obvious that Joe Klein was totally faking when he complained, around Saturday noon, about McCain’s outrageous conduct; his full report on Friday night clearly said something quite different. In the case of the ever-disintegrating Josh Marshall, it was also a bit hard to reconcile Saturday’s outrage with the mild comments of Friday night, posted while live-blogging.

But then, this is a pattern we’ve now observed for a good many years. It surprised us when we first encountered it—when we first saw mainstream journalists reinventing their real reactions to get in line with emerging Group Narratives. We had reached a rather late point in life before we ever so much as dreamed that any real people behaved this way; in the case of the insider press corps, we didn’t know that mainstream journalists invent bogus stories, then agree to pretend that they’re true. But as we’ve learned in the past ten years, people behave this way all the time! And we’ve learned something else in the past few years: The gruesome habits of mainstream journalists are attractive to “liberals” too.

Sorry, Atrios. We think those Saturday posts suggest a (newly famous) “crap sandwich.” And you can stop pretending that this involves someone other than you.

One last point about “nominal allies,” for whose likely decency Atrios thoughtfully vouches.

Starting in the summer of 2002, we began to express an unfortunate theme, one we had only begun to ponder: We began suggesting to readers that their nominal allies are often not actual allies. (We tepidly mentioned E. J. Dionne first.) This takes us back to a political era which may now be nearing an end, as American institutions disintegrate. But looking ahead to what may become a vastly changed political landscape, we’ll suggest to readers that the growing inanity of the liberal web makes that entity no ally either. Increasingly, the liberal web is written by and for fly-weights. You’re handed silly, childish tales—silly tales that will make you feel good.

You’re told that you play on a team called The Shirts—and that The Shirts are very good people. You’re told about the vile team called The Skins—and you’re handed endless proof of their troubling ways. Just yesterday, the Post’s Shankar Vedantam did a nice job describing the general way this process works, as he has done many times in the past. (His weekly pieces are true must-reads.) But increasingly, the liberal web is written for rubes. People like Atrios serve you crap sandwiches, assuming you’ll wolf them straight down.

Unfair to Atrios? To tell the truth, we can’t exactly say. But again, just click here to read that third post, the one about the way McCain was treating Obama “on a par with dog shit.” Do you really believe that Atrios thought that? Or was he just serving another thick sandwich—scripting you with the words you should say? Trust us: If you believe he really thought that, there will be many fine meals ahead.

For ourselves, we can’t help wondering if the Three Tenors didn’t all learn a catchy new tune. Their outrage was stirring—by Saturday noon. In real time, it seemed oddly muted.