Supplemental: Vastly misstating what Varney said!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014

Maddow’s strange meltdown continues:
In our view, it’s understandable, though not especially wise—many liberals are displeased by criticism of Rachel Maddow.

The reaction is understandable. That said, Maddow continues to spiral downward, in her manic presentation and in her basic facts. Consider her ginormous misrepresentation of fact on last evening’s eponymous show, accompanied by the standard doses of clowning, snark and snide.

Fairly late in last night’s program, Maddow teased her final segment. She said that Fox had been confronted with some “uncomfortable or damaging numbers.”

How had Fox reacted to those numbers, which hadn’t been specified yet? Maddow said the channel was engaged in “a fantastical reimagining of what the real numbers actually mean:”
MADDOW (10/29/14): I’m not sure they know what they’re doing is very funny, but it is, in fact, very funny when you see them do it. If you know somebody who watches Fox, this is what they’re being told right now is the state of the country.

That story, and the funny tape of it happening live on TV, is next.
Great! We were going to get some funny tape of what Fox viewers are being told is the state of the country.

As the segment in question began, we learned that Maddow was referring to the nation’s low gas prices. Quite correctly, she noted that conservative pundits, including many on Fox, trashed Obama in 2012 because gas prices were high.

She even played tape of Candidate Romney saying that Obama “gets full credit or blame for what’s happened...to gasoline prices under his watch.”

That’s a fairly silly notion, of course. But back then, Romney said it!

Now that gas prices are low, how is “Fox” handling the subject? According to Maddow, “Fox”—by which she seemed to mean Stuart Varney—was saying that low gas prices are harmful to the economy!

For the record, Varney is one of the most ridiculous pundits on Fox, but he’s a relatively minor player. At present, he hosts the 11 AM weekday show on the Fox Business Network, with occasional horrible guest spots on Fox News itself.

Varney is a frequent nightmare. Increasingly, so is Maddow. As she continued, she showed a chyron from Varney’s program. Plainly, the chyron said this:

“CHEAP GAS HURTS ECONOMY?”

Just in case you're wondering, yes. The question mark was there.

On the basis of that, and that alone, Maddow proceeded to what you see below, clowning as she went. Warning! What follows is grossly inaccurate:
MADDOW (10/29/14): Republicans have been saying forever that President Obama is responsible for gas prices, right? There’s Mitt Romney saying President Obama gets the full credit or blame for gas prices.

OK, so credit then, right? The president is supposed to get credit for low gas prices now, right? A week before the election?

That’s a problem for the right. But don’t worry, Fox has got it covered. On the business version of Fox News, look at their headline on this story about the unusually low gas prices right now. Look at this. Ha! [Banging on table in hilarity] “Cheap gas hurts economy?” Ha-HA!

This is genius. This was flagged by the website Media Matters.

Fox has now decided that actually looooooow gas prices are a threat to America! Is President Obama purposefully tanking the economy with these unconscionably loooow gas prices?

Hey, we report, you decide!

Fox has now decided that low gas prices are a bad thing. Obama and his low gas prices hurting the economy. Presto change-o! Problem fixed!
To watch the full segment, click here.

Maddow went on to moralize about what “the right”—by which she apparently means Stuart Varney—could or should have done. “The right could have just decided they just don’t believe low gas prices,” she said. “They could have decided the numbers were cooked.

“But this is even easier,” she said. “The low gas prices exist, but now they’re bad.”

Somehow, Maddow had jumped from Varney’s ambiguous chyron all the way to “Fox” and “the right.” On the basis of one chyron, we were learning what Fox is now telling “half the country.”

Unfortunately, Maddow was completely wrong about what Varney had said. What follows is becoming a nightly occurrence on Maddow’s increasingly strange TV program.

What had Varney actually said about our low gas prices? In fact, he spoke with a guest, Anthony Scaramucci, about a Wall Street Journal report which said that $3 gas “carries rewards—and risks.”

Varney and Scaramucci both came down on the side of rewards. As a courtesy, we’ll guess that Maddow had no idea what Varney had actually said on his show. But here’s the relevant transcript, drawn from the actual tape:
VARNEY (10/28/14): We’ve been trumpeting the virtues of low gas, low oil prices. The Wall Street Journal this morning says gas at three dollars carries rewards and risk. It says you get down too low and American producers stop producing and that’s bad for the economy. You go with that?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think there’s an efficient frontier. So I’m not exactly sure what that number is...

What I think is critical for the economy, though, is if you look at the average consumer, Stuart, below making $50,000 a year, their energy costs are roughly 21 percent of their disposable income. That’s two times more than it was in 2001 and that’s crimped the economy and that’s stalled the consumption for the middle class and the lower middle class.

So this decrease in gas prices is going to be very good for the Christmas season. It’s good for Walmart, it’s good for Macy’s, I also think it’s good for Costco.

And so, net-net, I take the position that it’s better for the economy because of the consumption value there.

VARNEY: I’m with you. Anthony Scaramucci!
It isn’t the biggest deal in the world. But Varney hadn’t said anything like the words Maddow crammed in his mouth. As he closed the segment in question, Varney said the low gas prices would be good for the economy. At the start of that transcript, he says that he has been “trumpeting the virtues of low gas prices” all along.

Everybody makes mistakes, but Maddow is now committing these groaners pretty much every night. It only gets worse if you see the way she clowns and cavorts through her bungled reports, trashing “Fox” for misstating facts even as she does the very same thing.

This segment was the latest embarrassment. A few extraneous factors make it even worse.

For starters, Maddow made an even bigger blunder about what “Fox” is saying on last Friday’s program. We’ll discuss that groaner tomorrow.

Second, consider the matter of the chyron under which Maddow herself performed:

“WHAT YOUR UNCLE WHO WATCHES FOX ALL DAY IS UPSET ABOUT NOW”

This extended a tasteless hook which Maddow introduced, in unpleasant fashion, on last Friday’s program. We’ll discuss that tomorrow too.

In fairness to Maddow, Media Matters badly blundered here too. Because Maddow cited them as her source, we looked to see what they had posted.

All they had was Varney’s chyron,
minus the question mark. There was no sign that Media Matters checked to see what Varney actually said.

Maddow took their bullshit and ran. As she closed the embarrassing segment, this is the pablum she fed to us, her hapless viewers:
MADDOW: If you don’t watch Fox on a regular basis, I understand.

But it is important to know this is what half the country is being told this is the news right now about the election with six days to go. Be mad about the low gas prices! They’re hurting the economy!

You’re amazing.

That does it for us tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow.
Is that really what half the country is being told? In fact, Varney said nothing like that. And he was her only example!

Something seems to be wrong with Maddow. As we’ll continue to note tomorrow, something is wrong with her show.


SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Low-IQ work of the insider press!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014

Interlude—Show us the wine list:
How sharp—how “smart”—is the mainstream press corps?

Consider a current example.

In a recent on-line report, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple described a set of charges by major journalists against the Obama White House.

Most dramatically, USA Today’s Susan Page “called the current White House...‘more dangerous’ to the press than any other in history,” according to Wemple’s report. The statement was made at a recent seminar conducted by the White House Correspondents Association.

At one time, Page was president of the WHCA; in our view, she has never seemed to be crazy or stupid. According to Wemple, she was making “a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in a violation of the Espionage Act.”

Let’s assume that Susan Page was discussing a genuine point of concern. Here’s the problem:

When Wemple listed other complaints made at the WHCA seminar, the analysts started to cry. We’ll confess we have no earthly idea why the example described below constitutes a problem at all, let alone an example of “White House-administered madness:”
WEMPLE (10/27/14): The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not. Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.

That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me—a meeting has occurred.
Given the way our journalism works, we don’t understand why that incident, as described, is worth discussing at all. According to Wemple, it represents “the best instance of White House-administered madness.”

Already, we were puzzled. But after describing another underwhelming complaint from the press, Wemple hit the jackpot with this:
WEMPLE: Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev noted how the White House stopped giving details on the fine wines served at state dinners, an opaque measure that she exposed in this story. In pursuing the piece, said Talev, she got the runaround from White House press officials, making her “so mad at them.” Over the course of a few weeks, she had to become, in essence, a wine correspondent.
By now, the analysts were weeping inconsolably. Some of them tore at their hair.

Talev really did write a Bloomberg report concerning the lack of information about fine wine at the White House. To peruse the piffle which tortures the minds of these frequently puzzling life forms, you can just click here.

In her report, Talev went into stunning, numbing detail about this new terrible problem. She speculated about the reasons for the shift concerning the naming of wines.

For ourselves, we don’t know why the White House no longer provides the names of the wines it serves. But we can offer a bit of history from Campaign 2000.

During that deeply consequential campaign, Candidate Gore was letting reporters attend his many fund-raisers. Candidate Bush, who was raising much more money than Gore, was keeping his fund-raisers closed.

As you may have heard, the New York Times’ Katharine “Kit” Seelye, was at war with Candidate Gore at this time. For that reason, she filed one report after another detailing the fancy menus at Gore’s fund-raising dinners, even citing “the Miros and Chagalls” she was able to spot at one of the fancy-pants venues.

Times readers were buried under irrelevant detail about Gore’s fancy-pants dinners. By way of contrast, it was virtually impossible to learn in the Times that Bush’s events were closed.

Readers kept hearing about the “sesame-seared salmon and pistachio mousse” served at Gore’s heinous events. They rarely heard about Bush’s events at all, and were told just once, in passing, that his events were closed.

Anyone with an ounce of sense would have seen the political strategy in this pseudo-reporting. For a fuller account of this gruesome conduct, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/15/06, with a link to this earlier post from 2002.

For a real-time report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/29/00. Did you know we’ve been there from the start?

Is the White House withholding its wines to avoid this type of misconduct? We don’t have the slightest idea. But that absurd report by Talev starts to answer the basic question found at the start of this post.

How sharp—how “smart”—is the insider press corps? Again and again, they seem so preternaturally unimpressive that their conduct challenges basic notions about human capability dating to Aristotle.

This Sunday, the Outlook section of the Washington Post printed extensive excerpts from a lecture given by Ben Bradlee in January 1997. To review that lecture, click here.

As far as we know, Bradlee was every bit as fine a person as his friends and his colleagues all say. But how sharp was Bradlee’s lecture that night?

Tomorrow, we’ll finish our answer to that question. This will lead us to the important topic we couldn’t quite get to this week:

It will lead us to decades of silly, destructive tales about our White House campaigns. Those silly tales have already changed the history of our nation and world. Our press corps will peddle such silly tales until they’re forced to stop.

Tomorrow: Lies and the iconic journalists who accuse lying liars of telling them

Supplemental: Ways to get Joni Ernst elected!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2014

Some Iowa activists help:
In Iowa, some activists are trying to get hog-castrating Republican Joni Ernst elected to the United States senate.

Actually, we’re trafficking in a tiny bit of snark. The activists in question are liberals. In this morning’s New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg described their recent efforts:
STOLBERG (10/29/14): At the University of Iowa last week, Ms. Ernst was just four minutes into her stump speech promoting her “Iowa values,” when several young women began shouting her down. The scene grew so raucous that the candidate cut her talk short, ducking inside a classroom building to slip out a backdoor.

“Women are watching! Women are watching!” the protesters chanted as she left. Stacia Scott, a 22-year-old social worker who helped lead the protest, echoed Democrats’ talking points about Ms. Ernst. “Joni Ernst,” she said, “is not a woman for women.”
“Women are watching? Women are watching?” That’s what we’re afraid of!

It’s always hard to say how voters will respond to events like this, or to anything else for that matter. Beyond that, we find no sign that this event is being discussed in Iowa.

We’re sure the activists in question are wonderfully well-intentioned. But good intentions don’t necessarily cut it with average voters.

We liberals are famous for staging jihads which alienate average voters. We’re seeing this impulse enacted more and more often as our emerging liberal news orgs continue to emerge.

How can liberals and progressives bring average voters to their side? It’s a very important question.

We can shout at people we don’t support. Or we can learn how to speak persuasively to average voters—in the vernacular, we can learn to “talk pork to the people.”

That said, we’re a tiny bit under the weather today. So we’re going to leave it right there.

SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Salty language and other folks’ lies!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2014

Part 3—How smart is the Washington press corps:
How sharp—if you must, how “smart”—is the mainstream Washington press corps?

Quite often we think, not real smart. Again and again, the men and women within that guild just don’t seem especially sharp.

Many people have a hard time coming to terms with that assessment, which may seem counterintuitive. Let’s start with a trivial example.

In this morning’s Washington Post, Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein share their recollections of the late Ben Bradlee, who died last week at 93.

Bradlee had an enormously important career at the Washington Post. He’s widely revered at the Post, as far as we know for good reason.

Bradlee was an impressive person. This is the way Woodward and Bernstein begin their portrait:
WOODWARD AND BERNSTEIN (10/29/14): Four decades ago, Ben Bradlee told us his general theory of newspapering and life: “Nose down, ass up and moving steadily forward into the future.”

He understood the past and its importance, but he was utterly liberated from it. The past was history to learn from. And he refused to let himself be emotionally encumbered by it or deterred by either the lows or the highs.

The military analogy, so often a cliche, holds in his case: a great general, calm in battle, with the love and affection of his troops, of whom he was as protective as he was aggressive in sending them on their mission.

He was an original of his own creation, different from everybody else in his newsroom—different in temperament, different in outlook, and different even in his physicality and his language (a mix of high-church English and the locution of a savvy sailor). He transformed not only The Washington Post but also the nature and priorities of journalism itself.
Their overall theme, as with everyone else, is Bradlee’s reverence for the truth. But before they begin exploring that theme, they entertain us with their reference to Bradlee’s salty language.

Woodward and Bernstein presented this point in just their fourth paragraph. Ditto for David Carr, who recalled in last Thursday’s New York Times that Bradlee “swore like a sailor.”

Gene Robinson held off until paragraph 7 in yesterday’s Washington Post. At that point, he recalled Bradlee’s “blue language.”

As we’ve long noted, our journalists are only happy when they all say the same things. In the current matter, we’ve been struck by the somewhat childish way they’ve all run to Bradlee’s blue streak.

We assume the portrait is accurate—that Bradlee did swear like a sailor. This strikes us as a somewhat silly trait, though plainly the trait didn’t “matter.”

That said, we’ve been struck by the way our mainstream memoirists all run to that salty language. They seem to think the salty language is entertaining for us the rubes, even perhaps that it was secretly cool.

Over the years, we’ve been struck, again and again, by how unimpressive our journalists are. We’ve been struck by their love for silly stories designed to prove some important point, by their low intellectual standards, by their general lack of analytical skill.

By their lack of seriousness.

These people are famous, and they’re seen on TV. Many went to the finest schools, the much honored Bradlee among them.

For these reasons, people may find it hard to believe that our journalists just aren’t especially sharp. Prevailing press criticism is drenched in claims of ideological bias. You’ll rarely see a critic say that our journalists aren’t especially sharp, that they don’t seem especially serious.

In our view, our journalists don’t seem real sharp on a fairly regular basis. We had that reaction on Sunday morning when we read the lengthy excerpts from a lecture Bradlee once gave.

The excerpts appeared in the Washington Post, leading the Outlook section. They were drawn from The Press-Enterprise Lecture, which Bradlee delivered at Cal-Riverside in January 1997.

As far as we know, Bradlee was an impressive man who always did his job as he saw it. That said, we were struck by the fact that this lecture just wasn’t real sharp, even though it’s being held up as a tribute to press corps culture.

Yesterday, we noted one problem with the address. In his lecture, Bradlee seemed to say that every segment of society was engaged by that time in “a lot of spinning and a lot of lying”—every segment except his own, which was seeking the truth.

We’re giving Bradlee a pass on that framework, although it doesn’t seem hugely insightful. As we noted yesterday, our Grandfather Rufus did much the same thing in an earlier lecture, in February 1880.

Bradlee offered the world’s oldest framework that night: the other sectors are corrupt, my sector is truthful and honest. Beyond that, we were struck by the murky way he dealt with the very concept of “lying,” and by the highly promiscuous way he threw the charge of lying around.

How sharp was Bradlee that night? Not especially sharp! At the start of the lengthy excerpts in the Post, he complained that many people were “spinning the truth, shaping it to some preconceived version of a story that is supposed to be somehow better than the truth, omitting details that could be embarrassing.”

Without any question, that claim was accurate. Still:

Shaping the facts to a “preconceived version of a story that is supposed to be somehow better than the truth?” Earlier this year, Bill Clinton referred to that very practice, describing it as the use of a “storyline.”

Bradlee and Clinton described the same practice—but Clinton said the mainstream press corps is constantly engaged in that practice. That possibility didn’t intrude on Bradlee’s lecture that night—and Bradlee was quite promiscuous in his ascription of “lies” to everyone else.

As far as we know, Ben Bradlee always did his job in the way he saw it. We’d say he wasn’t especially sharp that night.

By the time he delivered that lecture, his own press corps had created and advanced a wide range of very silly stories, especially in their coverage of White House campaigns.

By now, those silly stories have plainly changed the world’s history. In our view, liberals need to understand those silly stories better.

Bradlee didn’t seem to know that this culture had invaded his own guild. In our view, he wasn’t real sharp that night.

Tomorrow, more detail on why we say that.

Tomorrow: Highly promiscuous charges

Capehart succumbs rather early: This morning, in an on-line post, Jonathan Capehart succumbed to the mandate in just his third paragraph.

“He said exactly what he thought and did so with the bluest language possible,” Capehart writes.

A bit later, Capehart adds this second point:

“I didn’t know Bradlee at all.”

Our direction for the week!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014

Two major points of focus:
We expect to explore two themes this week.

In our featured series, “Silliest Tales of the MSM,” we plan to explore the ways the MSM has covered White House campaigns in the years since Nixon.

In our view, liberal interests have been badly harmed by the practices in question. Will liberals ever reject this MSM culture?

The answer would seem to be no.

We’ll also look at some of the ways our new liberal orgs may perhaps be going astray. We need to appeal to regular voters. What keeps this from occurring?

Where else do you get this kind of service? As we keep waiting for Ben and Jerry, we’ll repeat our heartfelt plea:

If you want to contribute to this site, you can just click here.

Supplemental: Rachel Maddow plays doctor with Issa!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014

We’re not sure who was worse:
Let’s brace ourselves for several thoughts we may be inclined to dislike.

For starters, we’ll recommend David Brooks’ new column concerning our nation’s hyper-tribalization.

For our money, the following portrait is basically accurate. Brooks is even nice enough to use an example in which a contingent of The Red Tribe is pointlessly overwrought:
BROOKS (10/28/14): The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.

Politics becomes a marker for basic decency. Those who are not members of the right party are deemed to lack basic compassion, or basic loyalty to country.

Finally, political issues are no longer just about themselves; they are symbols of worth and dignity. When many rural people defend gun rights, they’re defending the dignity and respect of rural values against urban snobbery.
In our view, that’s an accurate portrait of our growing tribalization. Brooks was even nice enough to chide the nation's “gun nuts.”

In comments, of course, hyper-tribalized liberals swung into action, helping prove Brooks' case. This was the first real comment:
COMMENTER FROM CONNECTICUT: Actually, it's a lot simpler than that. The Democratic Party is far from perfect, but the Republican Party has gone insane and has abandoned all pretense of principle. Rank-and-file Republicans are fooled by right-wing spin into believing that the Democratic Party is the party that is compromised. Thus strong negative passions are aroused on both sides—typically honest ones on the Democratic side, fabricated ones on the Republican.
Just for the records, we agree with that first point. In our view, quite a few rank-and-file Republicans do get fooled by varieties of right-wing spin.

But all through the annals of time, tribal players have described the world in the way we see as this comment ends. Inevitably, reactions by people in Our Tribe turn out to be “typically honest.” The sub-humans in The Other Tribe are emitting “fabricated” passions.

Brooks’ column, and the instant reactions, made us think of Rachel Maddow’s performance last Friday night.

We refer to the mockery she dumped on Darrell Issa. More significantly, we refer to the cherry-picking and doctored tape which let her thrill us with a portrait of a hopelessly fallen buffoon in The Vile Other Tribe.

We aren’t big fans of Issa here—but we also aren’t fans of Maddow. We thought last Friday’s program was an insult to liberal viewers all the way through.

Maddow started her program with Issa, who had made some relatively minor mistakes in a House hearing about Ebola that day.

What mistakes had Issa made? In an opening statement which he seemed to be having trouble reading, he twice said “Guyana” when he should have said “Guinea.” Beyond that, he said “Eboli” several times when he should have said “Ebola.”

Maddow went on, and on and on, screeching about these errors. To help enrage us even more, she did some cherry-picking:

In the opening statement she was mining, Issa had in fact referred to “Ebola” a great many times. She cherry-picked the two or three times when he said “Eboli,” then gave the impression that he didn’t know the name of the disease in question at all.

Concerning Guyana, can we talk? A few weeks earlier, Maddow had made a rather strange geographical error herself. Rather plainly, she seemed to say, several times, that Estonia, which President Obama was visiting, is part of “the Balkans.”

As a matter of fact, Estonia is one of “the Baltics.” After Maddow mocked Issa concerning Guyana, conservatives replied by mocking her rather obvious earlier error, which she has apparently denied making or intending to make.

In such ways, tribal players have learned to heighten each other’s loathing down through the annals of time.

Warning! Things got substantially worse before Friday's segment was done! At one point, Maddow simply doctored the videotape of Issa, thereby misrepresenting what he had actually said.

During Maddow’s mocking of Issa, she twice played tape of something else he said at that day’s hearing. She rather plainly doctored the tape, hiding the fact that his expert panel had actually seemed to agree with his actual statement.

(In fairness, this may have been that famous old demon, “bad staff work.” Maddow may not have known that Issa’s remark had been doctored.)

At the 1:07 mark on this C-Span tape, Issa is accusing the head of the CDC of having made several errors about Ebola. In this exchange with Dr. Nicole Lurie, he describes a way a person could contract Ebola on a bus:
ISSA (10/24/14): We have the head of CDC—supposed to be the expert—and he's made statements that simply aren’t true.

Doctor, you can get Ebola sitting next to someone on a bus if they, in fact, throw up on you, can't you? That's reasonable.

LURIE: The way you get Ebola is by exposure to body fluids. Yes.

ISSA: OK. So when the head of the CDC says, "You can't get it with somebody on the bus next to you," that's just not true.
No one on a five-member panel challenged Issa’s representation. Dr. Lurie seemed to agree with his statement.

(Later in the hearing, another witness, Rabih Torbay, plainly said you can get Ebola from someone on a bus. He’s vice president of international operations for International Medical Corps.)

In our view, it isn’t likely that someone afflicted with Ebola is going to throw up on somebody else on a bus. But Maddow doctored the tape on two occasions, making it look like Issa had made a completely ridiculous statement which everyone knows to be false.

Sadly, Maddow shrieked the following at one point in her segment. Please note what has been amputated from Issa's actual statement:
MADDOW (10/24/14): When we look back on this time, when books are written about this, and they will be, about this as a challenge and a health crisis and a moment that called for leadership in this nation, it’s almost impossible to believe, but that historical record is going to have to show that there has been a huge partisan divide in the response, a sharply divergent difference in the two kinds of responses that we’ve had in this country.

I mean, this really is turning out to be the Republican response.

ISSA (videotape): You can get Ebola sitting next to someone on a bus.

MADDOW: No, you can’t.

Darrell Issa today, right? Who can’t tell Guinea from Guyana or Eboli from Ebola, but he knows better than any doctor. Don’t take the bus, America! Darrell Guyana, leading the charge in Congress!
To watch the whole segment, click here. This chunk comes after the six-minute mark. At various points, you may need to turn the volume down.

In the first part of that passage, Maddow states Brooks’ basic point. Given the way things are today, even a topic like Ebola produces a tribalized set of responses!

That said, can you see what Maddow did next? She dropped the part of Issa’s statement which refers to someone throwing up on that bus. Obviously, that doctoring changed what Issa had actually said.

She then proceeded to insist that you can’t get Ebola on a bus. She mocked Issa for failing to listen to doctors, even though Dr. Lurie seemed to agree with what he actually said.

Did Issa make a valuable point? We’d be inclined to say no. But rather than speak to his actual point, Rachel Maddow, and/or her staff, got busy playing doctor.

Rather than speak to Issa’s point, they took their clippers and doctored his statement. Thus enabled, Maddow shrieked and railed about the extremely dumb thing he (hadn’t actually) said.

Last Friday night’s program was rancid throughout. In our view, Maddow’s ongoing decline proves a very basic point—when you make people very rich and very famous, some of them will lose their way, especially if they have sycophantic corporate suits urging their clownishness on.

Maddow’s whole program was awful last Friday. As usual, the host just wasn’t obsessively honest in the things she did and said.

Needless to say, tribal players will swing into action, saying this simply can’t be the case.

That’s what Brooks is talking about! People, steel your tribal nerves! We still recommend his column.

SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: How honest, how smart is the MSM?

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014

Part 2—Ben Bradlee’s important lecture:
In fairness, Grandfather Rufus did the same thing at one time.

In February 1880, he delivered a lecture, “Human Hypocrisy,” in New Haven, Connecticut. On February 2 of that year, the New Haven Union ran the text of the speech in tiny type running all the way down one column of its front page.

(Yes, that’s our grandfather, not our great or great-great grandfather. Improbably, the numbers add up. Wikipedia focuses on an early part of his career, which began in the 1850s.)

In his lecture, Grandfather Rufus detailed the role hypocrisy plays in the various professions. Reading the text several decades ago, we noticed an omission:

Grandfather Rufus described the way hypocrisy works in every profession—every profession but his own!

(Which we’d call “traveling showman.” In 1896, he shattered New Brunswick attendance records with his immortal show, “Professor Wormwood’s Monkey Theatre.” In the New Brunswick of that day, there probably weren’t a lot of ways to see teams of disciplined, highly-trained monkeys. If “Professor Wormwood” came to town, you pretty much had to go.)

More than a century later, Ben Bradlee did the same thing in a somewhat similar lecture. Excerpts from Bradlee’s 1997 address dominated the front page of the Outlook section in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Bradlee died last week at the age of 93. As everyone knows, he had had an enormously important career at the Washington Post.

(Over the weekend, we watched tapes of his interviews on C-Span. His charisma was obvious.)

Bradlee was a hugely important figure in the mainstream press corps of the past fifty years. In part for that reason, we think his lecture is highly instructive.

Bradlee delivered The Press-Enterprise Lecture at Cal-Riverside on January 7, 1997. The address was called, “Reflections on Lying.”

In the lengthy excerpts in Sunday’s Post, Bradlee, a very impressive person, started like this. We noticed an instant omission:
BRADLEE (1/7/97): Newspapers don’t tell the truth under many different, and occasionally innocent, scenarios. Mostly when they don’t know the truth. Or when they quote someone who does not know the truth.

And more and more, when they quote someone who is spinning the truth, shaping it to some preconceived version of a story that is supposed to be somehow better than the truth, omitting details that could be embarrassing.

And finally, when they quote someone who is flat-out lying. There is a lot of spinning and a lot of lying in our times—in politics, in government, in sports and everywhere. It’s gotten to a point where, if you are like me, you no longer believe the first version of anything. It wasn’t always that way.
When we read the highlighted statement, we thought of Grandfather Rufus.

In that sentence, Bradlee said there was “a lot of spinning and a lot of lying in our times.” But these were the specific places where he said these behaviors were found:

In politics
In government
In sports

We couldn’t help noting that he failed to mention his own guild, the mainstream press corps. As he continued, he made an extremely murky reference to the fourth estate:
BRADLEE (continuing directly): I guess it started for me with Vietnam, when the establishment felt it had to lie to justify a policy that, as it turned out, was never going to work. It mushroomed during the counterculture days, when sacred protective shrouds were ripped away from every institution in our society. Government itself, of course, the church, schools, colleges, family and sexual relations, business, especially big business, the Boeskys, the Milkens, the Barbarians at the gates. And, of course, the press, which was on hand to record the ripping of the shrouds with glee. Some thought: too much glee.

One by one these institutions got a hard second look from the new generation, the first hard look since World War II and the first new look from citizens of the Information Age. But Vietnam, the counterculture—Haight-Ashbury and drugs and all that—the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Nixon’s exile to disgrace, the S&L scandals, Irangate, the Gulf War, they were all terribly important stories, historical turning points that had to be covered with energy and intelligence.

Let’s look at Vietnam first and the damage it did to the habit and the virtue of truth, to the politicians caught in its jaws, to the press caught up in the web of official lies.
In that passage, does Bradlee say that “a lot of spinning and a lot of lying” could be found in the mainstream press?

Actually, no—he doesn’t. In that passage, his formulation is extremely murky. He merely says that “sacred protective shrouds” had been “ripped away from” the press in recent decades, as had been the case with “every institution.”

We aren’t real sure what that means. But by the end of Sunday’s excerpts, Bradlee is clearly praising the mainstream press corps for its attempts to uncover the lies with which it was now surrounded.

“Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face,” Bradlee says roughly halfway through the excerpts. As he approaches his conclusion, his framework looks like this:
BRADLEE: Where lies the truth? That’s the question that pulled us into this business, as it propelled Diogenes through the streets of Athens looking for an honest man.

The more aggressive our search for truth, the more some people are offended by the press. The more complicated are the issues and the more sophisticated are the ways to disguise the truth, the more aggressive our search for truth must be, and the more offensive we are sure to become to some.

So be it.

Remember, Walter Lippmann was right so many years ago when he wrote that, in a democracy, the truth and nothing but the truth are rarely available immediately. In a democracy, the truth emerges—sometimes it takes years—and that is how the system is supposed to work and eventually strengthen itself.
That takes us one step past Grandfather Rufus.

Grandfather Rufus merely omitted his own profession when he detailed the reach of human hypocrisy. By way of contrast, Bradlee openly praised his own guild.

In Bradlee’s formulation, the lying and spinning were everywhere else. People in the mainstream press were trying to puncture the lies.

According to Bradlee, other people got mad at the press when its members conducted their search for the truth. The more aggressive their search became, the more some folk were offended.

In that lecture, Bradlee never suggested that anyone ever got mad at the press corps for valid reasons. People got mad at the press corps because of its search for the truth, not because of its spin or its lies.

In that sense, there’s a familiar old term for that lecture. It was a bit of a whitewash.

To some extent, Bradlee’s formulations were perfectly accurate, of course. During the decades he was discussing, many journalists had been engaged in a search for the truth—presumably, Bradlee among them.

But something else was true about the decades in question. By the time of Bradlee’s lecture, the mainstream press corps was riddled with spin.

It was also riddled with “storylines”—narratives, scripts, standard stories. All too often, the press corps was driven by standard stories its members devised to advance their own simple-minded views of a more complex world.

Sometimes, people had become “offended” when the press corps had behaved in such spin-drenched ways. But in the excerpts from that lecture, Bradlee seems totally unaware of this obvious fact.

Being human, we all have blind spots. To our ear, that lecture displays a large blind spot about the culture which had developed within the mainstream press.

That doesn’t mean that Bradlee was being dishonest. You’ll note that we haven’t accused the press corps of “lying” or of “lies,” though Bradlee tossed those terms around in exceptionally careless ways.

Was Bradlee being dishonest that night? We know of no reason to think so.

That said, other journalists have been dishonest about their profession as the years have gone by. We’ll also say this about Bradlee’s lecture—in some very basic ways, it was light-years away from smart.

How smart, how honest is the press? Concerning the way the press corps covers White House campaigns, we say those are very important questions for liberals and progressives to ponder.

During the decades which Bradlee discussed, his guild had developed a very bad habit. It had begun inventing silly stories about our White House campaigns and about the people within them.

By now, this low-IQ conduct has changed the history of the world, and not in a way which is good. This conduct hasn’t been very honest—and it has been light-years from smart.

Before this series is done, we’ll review those silly stories and their remarkable effects. We’ll start with 1972, when Candidate Muskie got knocked from the race—in large part, thanks to some very peculiar behavior at the Washington Post.

Tomorrow, though, we’ll return to that lecture, asking a very important question:

Ben Bradlee was a very important journalist. Was that lecture smart?

Tomorrow: How smart is the mainstream press?