FOR LACK OF A PRESS CORPS! Daveys liberal use of soft soap continued a growing tradition: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2009
Why health reform is such a struggle: In one way, two recent polls about health care reform are just astoundingly bad. According to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed. A new poll by CNN/Gallup has it even: 49-49.
That doesnt mean that health reform wont pass. Given the ludicrous state of American health care, it does reveal an unfortunate fact: In your country, there is nothing that even dimly resembles a progressive politics. Given the ludicrous state of the nations health care, its stunning to think that the liberal/Democratic Party world cant produce better numbers than that.
That brings us to the latest non-correction correction on last nights Maddow Show.
Rachel Maddow opened the show with an utterly pointless topic. She did an interview with Tamara Lowe, executive vice president of the Get Motivated Seminars Incorporated. Why was Maddow wasting viewers time on this topic? Heres why:
George W. Bush is going to speak at two upcoming Get Motivated events. On Tuesday night, Maddow had devoted an entire segment to ridiculing this ludicrous notion. (To watch that segment, click here.) But on Wednesday night, she opened with Loweand soon took part in one of her programs familiar non-correction corrections.
As Maddow opened, she offered this fawning treatment of the motivational program she had mocked just one night before. To watch the full segment, click here:
On Tuesday night, this organization was cause for scorn. By Wednesday night, it had become an American phenomenona major organization whose huge events feature a rotating roster of A-list star speakers.
Why the ginormous change in tone? Perhaps because of the non-correction correction which occurred as soon as Lowe opened her mouth. After a bit more fawning about Lowes greatness, this was Maddows first question:
Oops. On Tuesday, Maddows viewers got to laugh at how ridiculous and demeaning it was to think that Bush would take part in such an event. Last night, if you were listening carefully, you seemed to learn that Bush is the sixth straight former president to do so. (This takes us all the way back through Ford.) A bit later, Maddow endorsed what Lowe had said, referring to the way you have had so many former presidents.
Uh-oh! In fact, President Clinton has headlined at least one of Lowes events, in 2001. So, it would seem from our cursory research, has President Carter. But then, the organizations web site, which Maddow said she had scanned at length on Tuesday, states that presidents Reagan and Bush 41 had also spoken at events. On Tuesday night, Maddow didnt mention such facts when she helped us rollick about the remarkable fact that Bush 43 would do such an event.
Clinton and Carter have spoken too. You werent required to know that.
After Lowe was allowed to correct the record, Maddow proceeded rather weirdly. She asked a series of accusatory questions which she said were based on e-mails she had received from unnamed viewers. This is a very strange way to conduct journalistic researchand in this, the last of Maddows accusatory queries, she made no attempt to ask Lowe an obvious question:
But was the e-mailer correct in the charge Maddow read on the air? Does Lowe inform participants that they cant be happy or healthy without Jesus? Lowe kept shaking her head as this text was readbut Maddow didnt ask her! And then, in the end, she turned to a typical trick she plays on people like Lowe:
Lowe hadnt shown the slightest sign of being uncomfortable during the interview. But Maddow likes to play this game with guests of whom she culturally disapproves. After failing to lay a glove on such people, she likes to pretend, with comments like this, that she has batted them all about town. Apparently, were supposed to believe that thats what we have seen happen.
How does this relate to those health reform numbers? With all this silly nonsense, Maddow was handing us liberal comfort food, the enduring staple of her program. (Last nights program was larded with the delicacy.) On Tuesday night, young progressives got to imagine that they are much smarter and morally better than the utterly silly people who stage these motivational eventsthe people to whom Maddow fawned one night later. At Hullabaloo, Tristero thought Maddow was mocking the people who attend these events (click here). That wasnt our take on Tuesdays segment, but many of Tristeros commenters quickly stepped in to declare that such people actually are deeply stupidand of course, much less moral than we liberals are.
On balance, of course, the people who attend these events are no dumber than us dumb-bunny liberalswe who cant even convince the public of the need for health reform, despite the utterly ludicrous state of American health care. But we liberals have always enjoyed pretending that were better than average Joe rubes. This is pleasurable liberal sport. But its dumb on the meritsand its very bad politics.
Why are those polling numbers so bad, despite the ludicrous state of our health care? Because the liberal world is gigantically inepteven as we laugh at the values and the intelligence of average people. And alas! The people who attend those events are, in many cases, the people who hold those poll numbers down. On Maddow, you are often invited to laugh at those peopleuntil Maddow has to go on the air with the latest non-correction correction.
Maddow failed to tell it straight Tuesday night. Every president has done these events, not just comical Bush. She failed to be forthright in setting the record straight on Wednesday evening. But the key problem here is the sheer waste of time involved in silly segments like theseand the noxious attitude these segments may breed in the ranks of young liberals. For decades, we liberal hayseeds have loved to laugh at the average American rubes. And were too dumb to see the way that connects to those bad polling numbers.
Given the ludicrous state of our heath care, those polling numbers are astoundingly bad. They stand as an indictment of our capabilities. To be honest, we liberals just arent all that brightalthough weve always preferred to observe this trait in The Other.
Final note: Maddow sometimes does very good work. We think she does this sort of stuff a bit more.
Be sure to read each installment: Monica Davey broke out the soft soap. Be sure to read each installment:
And now, for our thrilling conclusion:
PART 3FOR LACK OF A PRESS CORPS: Why do some people loathe Michele Bachmann? Why have Democrats accused the lady of reckless lies, outrageous claims? Truth to tell, New York Times never found out in Monica Daveys profile.
Alas! Davey took out a tub of soft soap and softened Bachmanns most unusual statements, speeches and interviews. Whats the big fuss about Michele Bachmann? Why are Democrats saying those things? By the time Davey got through with her profile, it was hard for a reader to say.
But then, this is now established practice in the dying enterprise once known as a press corps. The mainstream press corps routinely runs and hides from conservative figures like Bachmann. Presumably, news orgs dont want the heat from the right that a more accurate profile might bring. But whatever the motive might be, it is now established practice to clean up the most unusual statements of such figuresthe statements for which these people are loved by some, and loathed by others.
In July 2002, Ann Coulter published Slander, her first major best-seller. The book was larded with howling errorsunless you read the review of the book in the New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02). In that review, Janet Maslin simply counted up Coulters endless footnotes, then used their large number (780) as proof of the ladys assiduous research. (Maslin: A great deal of research supports Ms. Coulters wisecracks.) For ourselves, we checked out the substance behind these footnotes. Alas. Coulter had misrepresented what her sources had said, again and againand again. Earth to Maslin: The fact that a footnote accompanies a claim doesnt mean that the claim is accurateexcept when the mighty Times uses soft soap in discussing an oddball conservative.
In 2005, Coulter was back with her latest effort, Treasonand Time magazine published a fawning, two-week Valentine to her remarkable greatness (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/05). John Cloud was really seeing no evil. This was one of his silliest statements:
Many others did find those errors. Time hadnt tried very hard.
Just last month, this soft-soap practice continued when Time put Glenn Beck on its cover. Here too, the magazines David von Drehle seemed to work very hard to spin down Becks groaning misstatements. Maybe he borrowed some of Daveys soft soap! For Jamison Fosers treatment of this soft-soap piece, click this. Anything sound familiar here? Von Drehle omits Beck's most shocking and outrageous statements, Foser correctly notes.
In short, Daveys soft-soap treatment of Bachmann is very much par for the course. The reason for this is awkward but clear: Simply put, your nation lacks a mainstream press corps with journalistic values.
No, it wasnt Daveys job to say what she thought of Bachmanns speeches and statementsfor example, of the speech Bachmann made in the House, in which she seemed to say that the health reform bill would establish school sex clinics run by Planned Parenthood in which 13-year-old girls would be given abortions, with her parents none the wiser. It wasnt really Daveys job to say what she thought of this remarkable speechbut it was her job to describe it. (Many people love Bachmann for such speeches.) Alas! Davey avoided describing the sweep of the speech, leaving Times readers barefoot and clueless. She refused to describe the vast sweep of Bachmanns assertions about thosesex clinics. In the process, she spared herself from having to fact-check Bachmanns remarkable claims.
In this, and in various other ways, she therefore refused to tell Times readers what the big fuss is about.
Lets put it another way: Davey refused to be a journalist. Forget what Davey might think of Bachmann. She refused to describe the statements and speeches which have created the big major fuss around this controversial figure. And by the way: She also refused to quote major Democrats explaining why they loathe Bachmannexplaining why they have accused her of outrageous claims, reckless lies.
Surely, it wouldnt have been very hard to find a major national Democrat willing to explain the problem as Democrats see it. Late in her profile, Davey did manage to quote two Minnesotans. They give us a fleeting look at the real problem with Bachmann, as many Dems would see it:
What exactly did Reed mean when she said that Bachmann instills fear and anger in people? What did Carlson mean when she mentioned the conspiracy-type stuff? Due to Daveys liberal use of soft soap, New York Times readers really had little way to know.
Indeed, Davey offered a companion fact check to her profile. But from the Democratic perspective, the problem isnt Bachmanns factual errors. Its her encouragement of paranoiac reactionsher encouragement of conspiracy thinking. You do have to know that her facts are wrong. But the problem goes well beyond that.
A reader might have understood Reed and Carlsons commentsif Davey had described Bachmanns remarkable speech about those school sex clinics. But Davey didnt describe that speech. Instead, she got out her tub of soft soap and scrubbed down what Bachmann had said. In this way, King Banaianwho thinks that Bachmann is providing straight talkwas protected from the need to make a fuller appraisal.
Did Bachmann provide straight talk in that speech? Or was she promoting fear and conspiracy? Sorry! New York Times readers cant judge that question, because Monica Davey worked hard, on page one, to avoid what Bachmann had said.
Its easier when news orgs play it this way; presumably, it saves them grief from the right. On the down side, it means that you dont really have a press corpshavent had one for a very long time.