Next post/next Monday: Were off on a mission of national import; it takes us to a bunkered federal facility on the outskirts of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Correct federal management hangs in the balance. Well return to these pages on Monday.
POT KEEPS ATTACKING KETTLES: Sad to say, Maureen Dowd has been the most influential print journalist of the past twenty-five years. In Wednesdays New York Times, she continued to rail against the fact that other women, new to the scene, are almost as dumb as she is.
Making Ignorance Chic, her headline said. But has anyone done more to make ignorance chic than Maureen Dowd herself?
In Wednesdays column, Dowd continued to target the Republican Mean Girls of last Sundays column (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/18/10). Amazingly, Dowd thinks she has reason to complain about the alleged dumbness of people like Sarah Palin.
Dumbly, Dowd contrasted Palin with Marilyn Monroe, just as shed done with Monroe and Hillary Clinton eleven long years before. In this passage, she defines the difference between the bookish Monroe and the pitiful Palin:
DOWD (10/20/10): At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of 50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.
You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well.
At least youre not one of those spineless elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who cant feel anything.
Dowd, who has made fatuity fashionable, strikes back when Palin invades her turf. She also strikes at Christine ODonnell, and at Sharron Angleand she gives Michele Bachmann a hit:
DOWD (continuing directly): Its news to Christine ODonnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Its news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Posts Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley.
Sharron Angle sank to new lows of obliviousness when she told a classroom of Hispanic kids in Las Vegas: Some of you look a little more Asian to me.
Angle was at least making an accurate point, though apropos of not very muchyou cant always tell from someones appearance what their ethnicity is. Dowd, the most oblivious of all press players, knew that this comment, assailed by all liberals, allowed her to prance about too. In the case of ODonnell, the fumbling candidate explicitly spoke to Chris Coons at one point about the phrase separation of church and state (our emphasis), unsuccessfully trying to drive a type of point conservatives typically make.
Dowd, whos dumb as a box of old shoes, betrayed no sign of knowing this. People like Dowd dont waste their time understanding the shape of our discourse.
But then, Maureen Dowd is the dumbest box of rocks of the past twenty-five years. She has also been grossly influential in our degraded press culture. She has made many things fashionable: Inanity, insouciance, invented quotations, simpering novelized nonsense. You recall her reply when poor Joe Klein suggested that she go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real.
You mean I should write about welfare reform? Dowd replied, making sad languor tres chic. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/15/00.)
As western literature is to Homer, the dumbness of modern American discourse is all a footnote to Dowd. But Maureen Dowd simply cant see her role in this great chain of being:
DOWD: In Marilyns America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners like Hes Just Not That Into You and navel-gazing drivel like Eat Pray Love. Walt Disneys Fantasia paired cartoon characters with famous composers. Even Bugs Bunny did Wagner.
But in Sarahs America, weve refudiated all that.
End of column! Things were so much smarter thenbefore Maureen Dowd came along.
Back to the future: In August 1999, Dowd spent a column comparing Monroe to the vile Hillary Clinton. (Like Hillary, Marilyn's troubles are what keep her so compelling. Click here.) Back then, Dowd at least had a clearer idea of the way she herself rolled.
The celebrity-drenched culture that dawned in the glamorous aura of Marilyn Monroe, J.F.K. and Jackie has now reached nauseating new depths, she admitted. We're always wallowing in celebrity lifestyle and deathstyle.
After that, she kept up the crap for eleven more years. Because she invested so much time in the process of dumbing a nation, we may perhaps understand Dowds pique when other mules kick in her stall.
THIS IS YOUR (RHODES SCHOLARS) BRAIN ON BUGS (permalink): Americans have suffered the bedbugs return; in the east, weve seen the rise of the stink bug. Is it possible that some sort of bug is eating our American brains?
The American economy is falling apartbut, as an election approaches, the public debate concerns the following: College pranks at Baylor in the 1980s; a high school date with a dabbler in witchcraft; the fact that someone called someone a whore; a joke about being a bearded Marxist in a college newspaper.
Those bogus claims about Gores earth tones seem positively bright by comparison. Then too, there was the long segment which opened Mondays Rachel Maddow Show. (For the full transcript, click here.)
Adjusting for former Rhodes Scholar status, this was one of the dumbest, phoniest presentations weve ever seen on cable. Result? Steve Benen leaped into action on Tuesday, praising it for its brilliance. (To read his post, click this.)
When this is the kind of work we liberals get from our former Rhodes Scholarswhen we lap such nonsense upthe death of the west cant be far away. Are insects devouring brain matter?
This very dumb segment was performed by Maddow, who gets sold to us as a former Rhodes Scholar. Some of the points she made in this segment made perfect sense. But we are referring to her repetitive claims about the work of the Beltway media. She voiced her thesis, for the first of many times, as she opened the segment:
MADDOW (10/18/10): Good evening, and thank you for being with us tonight. It is two weeks until the elections. And now, two weeks before the elections, it is finally becoming clear what is going to happen in those elections and why.
It had not been clear before because, over the past few weeks in particular, the media narrative about whats going to happen in this years elections has turned into a Republican campaign ad. There has been no daylight over the last couple of weeks between how the Beltway media has been explaining whats going to happen in politics and what conservative candidates say they want to happen in American politics.
In other words, the message that the Beltway media is using to explain whats happening in the elections right now happens to be the exact same message that Republicans are using in their campaign ads.
Over and over, for the next sixteen minutes, Maddow kept saying that the Beltway media is promoting the GOPs campaign messagesis spinning the elections for them. Here are just a few iterations of this repetitive claim:
MADDOW: We keep hearing from Republican candidates, and we keep hearing from the media that spin the elections for Republicans this year, we keep hearing how much concern about the deficit explains why Republican are going to pick up seats in this election. Its the deficit! Thats what explains this election.
MADDOW: We have the most extreme slate of big government, criminalized-abortion candidates that has ever run for office, running for office this year. So, even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media that is spinning the elections for them how much concern about big government explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, thats what explains the election, right? Its big government?
MADDOW: So, we keep hearing from Republican candidates and from the media that is spinning the elections for them how much opposition to the stimulus explains why Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections. Thats what explains the election, right? It`s the stimulus.
MADDOW: Obamacare, a classic example of liberal government overreach! Republicans will win this year because they opposed it! Thats the line from the media, and thats the line from Republicans.
MADDOW: So even though we keep hearing from Republican candidates and the media that is spinning the elections for them how much opposition to Obamacare explains how Republicans are going to pick up seats in these elections, then how do you explain show-boat conservative candidates running on everything that health reform is doing for their state? They keep saying, Its Obamacare. Thats what explains this election.
This jeremiad went on and on; weve posted only a few of Maddows assertions. Again and again, Maddow discussed the things weve been hearing from Republican candidates and from the media that is spinning the elections for them. Her repeated message was perfectly clear: The Beltway media are spinning this years election for the GOP. In various ways, the Beltway media are pushing the GOPs lines.
According to Maddow, the media narrative about this years elections is a Republican campaign ad.
That is a very strong assertion of press corps misconduct. Maddows repeated statement of this claim went on for a full sixteen minutes, without commercial break. And during all that time, this famous Rhodes Scholar offered exactly two examples of this alleged conduct by the Beltway media. But uh-oh! Her two examples came from relatively obscure press organsand each example involved a case of unobjectionable press conduct.
Are insects eating Americas brains? Remarkably, this is the way our Rhodes Scholars reason in this devolving climate!
So how about it? Is it true? Have the Beltway media been spinning the election for the GOP in recent weeks? The first of Maddows two examples of this alleged conduct right at the start of her segment. Forgive some repetition:
MADDOW: In other words, the messages that the Beltway media is using to explain whats happening in the elections right now happen to be the exact same messages that Republicans are using in their campaign ads.
This may be one of those things thats easier to show than say. So heres just one example. Here is the spin as dictated to us by the punditocracy:
Its the deficit! Thats what the elections are all about, the deficit! The reasons Republican are going to pick up seats in this election is because people are fed up with the deficit! Thats the media spin.
(Reading from news analysis piece in The Hill):
The Republican Partys focus on reducing the federal deficit may be resonating with independent voters who could swing the midterm elections."
You know, conveniently, heres that exact same spin in a typical Republican campaign ad.
At this point, Maddow played footage of a Republican candidate saying, Deficit spending is the number-one threat to our country. It is immoral to spend money we dont have.
Incredibly, that brief quotation from The Hill constitutes one of only two examples of the way the Beltway media are allegedly spinning the elections for the GOP. And yet, theres nothing much wrong with the report in question. In that analysis piece (click here), Sean Miller discusses a recent poll sponsored by The Hilla poll in which 52 percent of independent voters cited debt reduction as a priority, compared with only 39 percent who said additional federal spending to create jobs is more important. (Headline: Independents prefer cutting the deficit to spending on jobs.) On the basis of this stated preference, Miller says that the GOPs focus on the deficit might help them win the congressional districts where the poll was conducted.
As a bit of election analysis, this is thoroughly common-place stuffand The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, hardly defines the Beltway media. And yet, this is one of only two examples of the vast plot by that Beltway mediathe plot against which Maddow inveighed for sixteen minutes.
Maddows second example of media spinning was every bit as foolish. As her presentation continued, she described a second way the Beltway media are allegedly spinning the election for the GOP. In the process, she quoted the headline of an opinion column at the web site, Real Clear Politics:
MADDOW: But when we are not hearing that its the deficit, theyve got another exampletheyve got another explanation for whats happening. Theyre telling us that maybe its not the deficit. Maybe its big government!
Big government is what explains whats going to happen in these elections! The Republicans are poised to pick up seats in these elections because they represent a rejection of big government. Thats what were hearing from the media.
(Quoting headline from opinion column in Real Clear Politics:)
As Views of Big Government Go, So Go Dems Out the Door.
Conveniently, its not just what were hearing in the media. Its also what we are hearing from the people who are trying to elect Republicans this year.
Maddow quoted the headline of this columnanother piece in which the author cited polling data to explain why voters are tilting Republican. This time, the data came from a Gallup surveybut the analysis was perfectly sensible. This is true even if Maddow feels that GOP claims about big government are a bunch of piffle, a notion with which wed agree.
There! In Maddows sixteen minutes of exhortation, those were the only examples of the way the Beltway media are spinning the election for the Republicans. Maddows examples were two in number, and were quite inane; so, therefore, was her whole argument. And good grief! Maddow showed no sign of realizing that a more significant part of her presentation contradicted her thesis about the media. Early on, Maddow played tape of Chris Wallaceon Fox News Sunday!battering Republican candidate Carly Fiorina about her claims regarding the deficit, with Fiorina ducking his pointed questions. After playing tape of part of the interview, Maddow summarized the encounter: Mr. Wallace went on to ask her seven times in total what she would cut to offset the $4 trillion in lost revenue from extending all of the Bush tax cuts. Seven times he asked her before, in exasperation, he just quit.
Quite correctly, Maddow offered this as evidence that Republican claims about deficit reduction are a bit of a joke. She didnt seem to realize that her thesis about the Beltway media may be a bit of a joke as well, if even Fox is battering a major Republican candidate about her deficit claims.
Are insects eating American brains? This is now the kind of work we get from our Rhodes Scholarswith tribal hacks running as fast as they can to kiss the scholars ass.
This intellectual devolution been underway for a long time, of course. But American culture will not survive if were willing to reason this way.
Since Maddow herself brought Fox in the mix, a final point should be offered: Maddows performance was very much like the kind of dreck that gets served on Fox, on a nightly basis. On that much-maligned news channel, prime time hosts like Sean Hannity and Bill OReilly simply assert, again and again, that the Beltway media are spinning things the Democrats way. They rarely feel the need to offer serious evidence for their sweeping claims; they seem to assume that their viewers wont notice the lack of evidence, or will be too eager to swallow the message. On Monday, Maddow was playing this same sweet game for a different tribe. She treated 1.3 million liberal viewers like a gang of low-IQ rubes. (For Monday nights cable news ratings, click here.)
Was Maddow treating her viewers like rubes? Or was she herself too undiscerning to see what was wrong with her argument? Have bugs been eating this broadcasters brains? Have they been eating the brains of her staff, whose dreck she is simply reading?
Whatever the answer to these questions might be, American culture is dying before our eyes as our public debates get dumber and dumber. On MSNBC, a bunch of hacks increasingly ape a dumbness formula which has been perfected by Fox. By now, Fox has mastered the art of Tribal Cable, and MSNBC keeps applying their lessons. Maddows screeching report on the press was one of the dumbest weve ever seen. And omigod! This was the work of a heavily-sold Rhodes Scholar!
The question, therefore, must be asked: Have insects been eating American brains? Did Mondays report represent a Rhodes Scholars brain on bugs?
The New York Times follows Wallace: On Wednesday, the New York Times ran this long, front-page report about the emptiness of Republican claims about reducing the deficit. As such, the Times joined Chris Wallace and the Fox News Channel in advancing the Democratic line about the GOPs posturing.
Fort the record, David Herszenhorns report was a piece of solid workas was the pounding Wallace gave Fiorina, just three days before. But lets see: Fox has batted Fiorina aroundand the Times has followed suit, critiquing a range of Republican candidates. By way of contrast, Maddows evidence for her claim about the Beltway media involved an opinion column on a web site and a polling report by The Hill.
With evidence like that, Maddows argument never passed muster in the first place, except in the foolish mental world originally created by Fox. Was this a Rhodes Scholars brain on bugs? Or is such ridiculous work driven by the financial success which follows improved cable ratings?
Go aheadpunish yourself: Go aheadpunish yourself! Treat yourself to this full segment, which lasts just over 16 minutes. (To watch the full segment, click here.) Try not to gag at Maddows self-assurance, knowing how phony her thesis about the Beltway media actually is. And you might want to have some ear plugs handy. Maddow enjoys making lots of noise as she cons us rubes.
Lets be clear: In our view, Maddow was right when she criticized Republican claims about reducing the deficitbut thats a point which has been made by everyone and his crazy uncle. Its her repeated claim about the Beltway media which teaches us an unfortunate lesson:
Bugs may be eating American brains! Or have those bugs, plus that million per year, just chewed out one more cable soul?