Digby gets it right/Plus, the worlds most ridiculous sentence: We recommend this Digby post, a post we may discuss further next week. Warning! Digby links to the wrong report, as Stephanie Mencimer did before her, creating a world of confusion. To read the actual polling report in question, go ahead: Just click here.
We dont agree with every word in Digbys rumination. But we were struck by a change in the weather as Digby tried to imagine why Tea Party folk responded to a certain poll question in the way they did. Please note: Mencimer snarkily called the Tea Party racist based on their answers to that poll question. But 44 percent of all Americans answered the question the same racist way; this includes 49 percent of independents. (By way of rather modest contrast, 61 percent of Tea Party folk gave the racist answer.) We dont know why all those people answered the question the way they did; we wouldnt have answered it that way. But Mencimers combination of snark-and-bungle shows us where things lead when pseudo-liberals have a good time tossing their r-bombs around.
By implication, Mencimer calls almost half the country racist! We think Digbys more nuanced reaction makes a great deal more sense, unless you think politics is a game designed to make liberals feel good.
Meanwhile, in this mornings New York Times, Sam Dillon may have written the worlds most ridiculous sentence. Nothing he says here is actually false. But sometimes, you just have to laugh:
DILLON (11/19/10): Reading scores for the nations 12th-grade students have increased somewhat since they dropped to a historic low in 2005, according to results of the largest federal test, released Thursday. Average math scores also ticked upward.
Experts said the increases, after years of dismal achievement reports, were surprising because every year the nations schools are educating more black and Hispanic students, who on average score lower than whites and Asians.
The black-white achievement gap dates back more than a century, though researchers debate why it persists. Researchers presume that language barriers pull down scores for Hispanics.
Were puzzled by several parts of Dillons report, which we may discuss next week. But truly, you just have to laugh at that highlighted sentence.
The black-white achievement gap dates back more than a century! Wed have to call that the worlds greatest under-statement. Well guess, for example, that the achievement gap was fairly strong in the 1840s, when it was against the law in many states to teach black children to read. (That would include our own Maryland, where Frederick Douglass was forced to teach himself how to read through various acts of guile.) Well guess the gap may have existed during the ugly, early days of Jim Crow.
The achievement gap dates back more than a century! This isnt exactly Dillons fault. But sometimes, you just have to laugh at the formulations which result when journalists fumble for ways to avoid discussing the brutal shape of our history. People! How well did enslaved persons read, as compared to those in the mansion? For ourselves, wed have to guess that the gap was quite large.
Final note: You pretty much have to laugh at that companion sentence too. Researchers presume that language barriers pull down scores for Hispanics! Really! You mean if children barely know how to speak English, that may hurt them on English-language tests? Does it really take researchers to come up with presumptions like this?
First, the analysts dropped their heads. Then, they mordantly laughed.
Special report: When Stewart met Maddow!
PART 4GO TELL IT TO LEMON (permalink): Sometimes, Rachel Maddow seems to do good work. But first:
Lets recall what she said about CNNs Don Lemon. Lets compare that with the high-minded claims she made to Jon Stewart last week.
Speaking with Stewart, Maddow was full of assurances about her own lofty practices. I think we both have a commitment to not lying, to telling the truth, even when we are making a point, she high-mindedly said at one point (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/10).
Go tell it to Lemon! On November 5, Maddow ran tape of CNNs mild-mannered young star; she told a million viewers that Lemon had pimped a GOP line in the run-up to that weeks elections. Year of the conservative Republican woman! Maddow shrieked, in the way she tends to do when attracting a lot of attention. This was one of the favored and exciting memes in political coverage this year! She played tape of Lemon and two other broadcasters, letting the trio represent all the other evil-doers. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/8/10.
A million people saw Maddow make this charge against Lemon. But in fact, Lemon had said nothing that dimly resembles the meme Maddow stuck in his mouth. For that matter, neither had the other two broadcasters on whom she dropped her charge; Michelle Bernard and Gretchen Carlson hadnt voiced the offending meme either. By November 11, when she spoke with Stewart, Darling Rachel had had a full week to go on the air and correct her blatant misstatementthe bogus charge shed directed at Lemon. But Rachel Maddow had done no such thing. This humble star quite rarely does.
Its amazing to think that a national broadcaster would misrepresent the work of another broadcaster that way. From our observations, Lemon is a hundred times more honest and fair than Maddow is, even on her best daybut there was our corporate-picked liberal darling, dropping a bogus charge on his head. Six days later, Maddow was thoughtfully telling Stewart that she has a commitment to not lying, to telling the truth, even when [shes] making a point. Its moment like these that have made us wonder about what goes on inside Maddows head.
I have a commitment to telling the truth, Maddow loftily told Stewart. And not only that! I dont think that I do that, she loftily said, when Stewart suggested that everyone tends to overstate in the course of making a point. And not only that! Im trying to pursue bad arguments wherever I find them, she loftily said, when Stewart asked if the left ever suffers from the same sins as the rightfrom the lack of nuance found at Fox, for example.
At one other point, Maddow vouched again for her perfect decorum. In this passage, Stewart was trying, for the ten thousandth time, to explore the difference between his role as a comedian and Maddows role as a journalist:
STEWART (11/11/10): I dont take any satisfaction in just being a critic. Roger Ebert doesnt make movies. So to say, like, "Well, Roger, youre in the game." No, hes not. He`s not making movies. Hes sitting in the seat going, "This movie sucks!" Thats me.
And by the way, very proud to do it. There is no honor in what I do, but I do it as honorably as I can.
MADDOW: In politics, in covering politics, we dont get involved. I dont get involved and tell people what to vote for, who to vote for.
MADDOW: I dont tell people, you know, "Call your congressman. We need to do this thing." I dont do anything like that.
MADDOW: And so for me, Im not on the field either.
At this point, Stewart launched one of his many murky metaphors; the chance to explore this point was lost. But Maddow made it clear throughouther own conduct is perfectly pure. She doesnt lie, even in making a point. She doesnt tell anyone how to vote. She pursues bad arguments wherever she finds them. Does she overstatesurrender nuance? I dont think that I do that, she quite absurdly said.
Our advice? Tell it to Lemon, who is still owed a correction. (As are Carlson and Bernard, although at least one is from the wrong tribe.) Or just watch the program Maddow aired last Friday, one night after running the tape of her lengthy session with Stewartthe tape in which she endlessly vouched for her own flawless procedures.
Too funny! One night after making all those pronouncements, Maddow aired a program which would make an observer wonder about her high-minded pronouncements. At one point, she made all the analysts laugh! Its Make Texas Mad at Us Night here on the Rachel Maddow Show, she said, referring to a pair of reports in which she went after the biggest, reddest state of them all. Texas, you stay classy, she sarcastically said at one point, throwing gruel to the liberal herd but making a minor mockery of her assurances to poor Stewart. Just to see how far she went to find a way to mess with Texas, this is the full transcript of her second Texas-bashing report, which dealt withno, were not making this up!an issue involving the Texas boxing commission. (To watch this full segment, click here.) By the way: Several of Maddows factual statements are flatly untrue and/or grossly misleading, although they do help make a point:
MADDOW (11/12/10): Story number two: True or false? One of the cheatingest boxers in recent history is being allowed to fight for a huge pay-day because Texas and Texas alone does not give a flying flip what kind of cheater he is.
The big boxing match thats happening this weekend could only happen in Texas legally. True or false? True! The biggest draw in boxing is a fighter named Manny Pacquiao. Mr. Pacquiaos next fight is tomorrow night and he is taking on a fighter named Antonio Margarito.
Antonio Margarito is a cheater! Before he fought a man named Sugar Shane Mosley, Mr. Margarito was caught with something a lot like plaster in his boxing gloves, as in, Youre hitting me leather gloves with your hands inside them. Im hitting you with leather gloves with my hands inside them, plus a little something extra to break your face.
Thats not only super-against-the-rules; it is super-dangerous, even barbaric, even for boxing. Because he was caught red-handed as it were, and amid universal suspicion that Mr. Margarito had loaded his gloves in previous fights as well, he was suspended from boxing for a year, by the California state athletic commission. Every other state athletic commission honored Californias move. And Antonio Margarito was effectively banned from boxing in the U.S. for just about all of last year.
Then, because people would pay to see it, he was booked to fight Manny Pacquiao. But neither California nor Nevada, where most big-money fights happen, would give Margarito a license. Dude! The guy had plaster in his gloves!
Thats where Texas comes in. Without a hearing, and ignoring the extended bans in California and Nevada, the fight folks in Texas said its all good and granted Antonio Margarito a license to box in the Lone Star State.
Who cares if he cheated, and he cheated in a way that could kinda sorta help you kill a guy if you wanted to? Tomorrow night, Antonio Margarito, hopefully without loaded glovesBut who knows?could earn as much as $6 million to fight Manny Pacquiao at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas. Texas, you stay classy! Well be right back.
Some of that is actually accurate. But some of that is simply untrue; some is just misleading. We wont go into all the factual fudgingthe facts Maddow overstated or misstated; the facts she simply omitted. But its absurd to say that Texas and Texas alone does not give a flying flip what kind of cheater he is. That said, the humor here lies in Maddows sudden interest in pursuing a boxing licensing issuea quixotic pursuit which allowed her to scold the nations biggest red state for its lack of class.
For tribal liberals, such nonsense is sweet comfort food, the sort of nonsense which makes Maddow a hero. Its also the sort of thing Stewart was probably talking about when he told Maddow that, every now and then, MSNBC might seems a bit tribal.
Earlier in the program, Maddow had pursued another story from Texas, a story involving an execution conducted under Governor Bush. By normal standards, this earlier topic was more plausible as a news report on a show like Maddows. But when Maddow added her boxing talea tale which was driven by many bad factsshe turned her program into a pleasing Make Texas Mad at Us Night. On Monday, she again discussed the boxing story, once again scolding the state of Texas for its lack of classand once again making factual statements which were baldly inaccurate.
The analysts simply shook their heads as Maddow threw this fact-challenged pabulum to the liberal herd. But they blanched when they recalled the way she had sworn to Stewart that she doesnt do things this way! But then, Maddows programs on Friday and Monday nights were loaded with silly, fact-challenged reports in which she seemed to seek bad arguments from only one sidethe kind of reports which largely define the tribal quest for todays pseudo-liberal. Her logic was weak; her facts were wrong; her targets were all from one side of the aisle. Mondays report on Saint John McCain was especially clownish, and was factually challenged to boot. (Is Robert Gates a military leader? Discuss.) Through reports like the ones she aired these nights, Maddow gets rich and famousand the liberal world gets dumber and dumber. And Stewart gets a bit of egg on his facehaving been told, again and again, that this isnt Maddows way.
Sometimes, Maddow does air good reports. On Wednesday night, for example, she did a detailed report about Republican intransigence on the START treaty. In this report, she failed to clown, or mug, or wave her arms, or put her feet up on her table; she also interviewed a bright, cogent journalist about the issue in question. She followed up on Thursday night with a second cogent report on the START treaty. On Wednesday, the analysts motioned their colleagues into the room as this miracle unfolded; they silently watched as Maddow showed what a more serious liberal news program might look like. But can we talk? In truth, Maddow bungles her facts quite routinelyand no, she doesnt rush to correct. Beyond that, she heavily toes the tribal line as she searches around for bad arguments. In the process, she often makes us liberals dumb. Thats bad for progressive interests.
Poor Stewart! Politely, like a doting parent, he tried to help his wayward child see the small error of her ways. But Maddow is the type of person who will throw Lemons picture on the screen and blatantly misstate what he said, thus producing a pleasing, false story for us, the dumb liberal herd. She will then refuse to correct her blatant misstatement. She will then semi-lie in Stewarts face, boasting about her procedures.
We say semi-lie because Maddow may even believe the various things she told Stewart.
Sorry. Maddow frequently pimps bungled or misleading facts; you have to fact-check every word. Beyond that, its absurd to suggest that she pursue bad arguments wherever she finds them. That said, our sides ditto-heads have largely purchased her line. They insist that she and KO stick to the facts, just as the pair have instructed.
Tell it to Lemon, we brightly advise. After that, Maddow might tell Stewart why she sold him all that smack on last Thursdays plu-foolish program.