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AN AGE OF PROPAGANDA (PART 1)! Matthews groped for ways to help Arnold. We found it a sign of the times:


GROPE THIS: How low in character is Washington’s “press corps?” Chris Matthews has long been the low of the low, and he proved it again on last Friday night’s Hardball. That morning, the Los Angeles Times had reported that six women had accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping and grabbing, without their consent. Matthews has been the muscleman’s chief shill in the media, so he quickly got to work, standing by his man. But uh-oh! Friday night, trouble was brewing! On Hardball, Gloria Allred expressed concern about the Times report:

ALLRED: What I’m concerned about is what Arnold Schwarzenegger has done, what he has allegedly done to women, to the six women who reported incidents to the L. A. Times. We don’t know if it is true or not, but Mr. Schwarzenegger himself, Chris, said where there’s smoke, there’s fire. He suggested that he acted badly.


ALLRED: He suggested that he apologize. But he didn’t specifically say what he did. We’re not stupid. The Times reported that he grabbed women’s breasts, that he grabbed under their skirt and to their buttocks.

Uh-oh! It didn’t sound good! So Matthews began misdirecting. “By the way, where were you on Clinton?” he asked, specifically mentioning Monica Lewinsky. And soon an obvious distinction was offered. “This is a different situation,” Allred said. “This is unconsented-to conduct.”

Hmmm. Let’s see if we can puzzle this out. Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. These six (now fifteen) women say they were groped. The distinction seemed fairly clear to us, but the Hardball host was thoroughly flummoxed. Allred voiced the distinction again. But he just couldn’t figure it out:

ALLRED: The situation with Monica Lewinsky was consented-to conduct. She consented to that conduct. In the newspaper article in the L. A. Times, the situation with the six women with Arnold Schwarzenegger—

MATTHEWS: So it’s OK if it’s—

ALLRED: —is unconsented-to, if you believe it’s true.

MATTHEWS (openly sarcastic): OK. Just to get this straight, just to—Gloria, so your record is straight here. So it’s OK to have consensual relations with a woman who is 30 years or whatever younger than you in the workplace. That’s OK. And it is OK to lie about it. But in this case, he admitted he did it and that’s not OK. What is your value system here?

Can’t you see the total clowning, and one of the clowning clowns who produce it? Matthews feigned utter confusion—he just couldn’t figure this “value system” out! And now, concluding his segment with Allred, he showcased his low, smutty character:
ALLRED (continuing directly): Well, it is very clear. It is not unlawful, although I don’t think it is wise, to have a sexual relationship that is consented to in the workplace.


ALLRED: But, if it is unwelcome in the workplace, as is alleged against Arnold Schwarzenegger, that’s unlawful. If it is true, it is sexual battery that he committed, Mr. Schwarzenegger. And that is potentially a crime.

MATTHEWS: Great. OK. My producer is telling me to shut you up. OK? I'm trying to be polite. Go ahead, Kim [Serafin].

Matthews—“trying to be polite”—didn’t tell Allred to “shut up” himself. He just said his producer was saying it!

But Matthews was hardly alone this weekend. Many pundits seemed confused by the concept of consent. Of course, few of them clowned any harder than Matthews. But he’s long been an industry leader.

THEY’VE GOT YOUR CONSENT RIGHT HERE: Many pundits were having trouble with the “consensual/nonconsensual” distinction. Wow, it was hard to sort out! Luckily, Susan Faludi explained why that might be. Why was Matthews so utterly puzzled? Why should Allred just “shut up?” Writing an op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Faludi offered a general suggestion:

FALUDI: A Schwarzenegger spokesman told The Times that [one of the alleged groping episodes] was just a case of “locker room humor.” Which actually explains a good deal of Schwarzenegger’s appeal to male voters. He comes out of the testosterone-ruled world of weight rooms and action movies, where women are the designated observers and adorners, and where men find their place in the wolf pack through a well-established ordeal of hazing and humiliation.

The men who don’t make it to the top in that world still have the compensation of identifying with the one man who does, as long as they don’t identify with any of the women, as long as they don’t “say nothing.” They still belong to the pack, by virtue of being male.

No matter how much sand gets kicked in their face, they still can fantasize that one day they, too, like Charles Atlas, will do enough leg lifts to rise in the ranks…The locker room game works as long as only men get to play, and only as long as they agree to play by certain rules. One rule is that sensuality is verboten, but aggressive jocularity is not. Humiliating women in a “playful” way can signal a powerful rejection of “the feminine” and a powerful reinforcement of male bonding.

Of course, Matthews has always been a sand-kicking bully when female guests talk back on Hardball. We have written in the past about his rude putdowns of Norah O’Donnell, Elizabeth Holtzman, Kiki Moore, Mary Boyle. Let’s say this for Bill O’Reilly—he tells men that they ought to shut up. Matthews—a 98-pound bully and coward—likes to say “shut up” to women.

YOU LIVE IN AN AGE OF PROPAGANDA: Many pundits dragged Clinton in, eager to get their favorite movie star off the hook. They tended to ignore two distinctions:

Consent/non-consent: “[A]ll of Arnold’s incidents were one-off,” Andrew Sullivan wrote in a silly disquisition which said that Clinton was worse, so much worse. “Clinton, for the most part, pursued the same women over time.” It’s unclear who Sullivan meant by that, except for Lewinsky, of course. But he also mentioned Gennifer Flowers—a person who alleged a twelve-year, passionate love affair, not an unwanted advance. But somehow, many pundits conflated the Flowers allegation with the assault allegations against Schwarzenegger. But we think you know why that is. Among other reasons, your “press corps” isn’t very smart or very honest—and you live in an age of propaganda.

Credible/non-credible: Pundits tried to shill for Schwarzenegger, citing turrible conduct by Clinton. Any many pundits just keep citing Clinton-accusers who lack credibility. Take Flowers, for example. Her initial 1992 tabloid story was filled with howling factual errors—embarrassing, utterly stupid errors that plainly called her tale into question. She later wrote an entire book without naming a single time and place where she and Clinton were alone together. By 1999, she was making crackpot cable presentations, accusing Clinton of a long list of murders (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/03). But you live in an age of propaganda—and your “press” had invested time and energy into pretending that the shapely songstress was credible. In fact, as is now quite obvious, she is a consummate crackpot and clown. (For the record, Clinton admitted to one sexual act with the yellow-haired yodeler, not an act of intercourse.)

Then, of course, there’s Kathleen Willey, the corps’ favorite Clinton-accuser. The press corps simply refuses to tell you how bad her credibility turned out to be. They knew to hide what Linda Tripp said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03), and when Robert Ray said that Willey had lied, they knew to hide that from you too (same reference). Today, they still cite Willey’s sad tales wherever they line up for Arnold.

Do the accusations against Schwarzenegger seem to be true? That is a matter of judgment. (We think the general answer is obvious.) Should they affect how Californians vote? Voters decide that, not us. But you live in an age of propaganda, and many pundits are shilling for Arnold. They’ve deceived you for years about Clinton-accusers, and their fakery continues on still.

SULLIVAN’S STRUGGLES: Andrew Sullivan struggled hard to show that Clinton was worse, so much worse. Here’s our favorite of his six silly items:

SULLIVAN: Item two: most of Clinton’s sexual targets were women who worked for him or were under his direct authority. Some of Arnold’s targets were on movie sets where he certainly had social power but where he was, as far as I know, not the owner or direct boss.
Readers, there’s only one word to describe such slick parsing. You know what it is: “Clintonesque.”

By the way, who are these Clinton “targets,” who supposedly made up the bulk of his victims? Presumably, Sullivan refers to Flowers and Lewinsky. But Flowers’ allegations lack credibility, and Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. (And no, she wasn’t “21,” a bit of clowning to which Maureen Dowd returned in yesterday’s column.)

By contrast, Schwarzenegger stands accused of multiple assaults against unwilling women. Sullivan, of course, finds those allegations less troubling. Reason? Schwarzenegger wasn’t the boss at the time! Say hello to the endless clowning which defines a corrupted press age.