From Sargent to Corn to James Fallows: For unknown reasons, David Corn and Greg Sargent are afraid that the nation may be entering an era of “post-truth politics.”
This morning, Sargent linked to Corn. In turn, Corn linked to James Fallows.
Fallows offered his analysis way back in late August. To many liberals, this will sound like the truth:
FALLOWS (8/29/12): Over the years, and in a few posts this month, I've mentioned signs that the mainstream press is adjusting to the realities of "post-truth politics."Sargent and Corn are shocked, just shocked, joined by several others. Especially given the names of some of the players, we find their piteous cries just a bit hard to take.
Reporters are happiest, safest-feeling, and most comfortable when in the mode of he-said, she-said. "The president's critics claim that he was born in Kenya; administration spokesmen deny the charge." But when significant political players are willing to say things that flat-out are not true—and when they're not slowed down by demonstrations of their claims' falseness—then reporters who stick to he-said, she-said become accessories to deception. This is the problem The Atlantic's James Bennet discussed from Tampa yesterday, in a dispatch about the Republicans' false-but-endlessly-repeated claim that the Obama administration is coddling welfare recipients by dropping requirements that they work.
What has these worthies so concerned? The possibility that Candidate Romney may get elected president.
We agree—that would be a confounding outcome. But when we read the way Sargent frames this mess, we pretty much have to laugh:
SARGENT (11/5/12): Not long ago, Jay Rosen memorably dubbed Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency a “post truth” campaign. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether a “post truth” candidate can be elected president.Sargent frames the issue narrowly; he wonders if a post-truth candidate can succeed. But as he and Corn and Fallows know, our politics entered its post-truth phase quite a long time ago.
If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions, the transparency he provides about his fundraising and finances, and the specificity of his plans for the country. On the dishonesty front, this has grown more pronounced in recent days, with Romney’s embrace of the Jeep-to-China lie as a closing argument in Ohio and his absurd attacks on Obama for urging people to vote.
Corn and Fallows won’t tell you this because they played leading roles as this culture was adopted. Sargent understands this too. Just a guess: He is slicing the cheese very thin because he gets paid by the Washington Post.
That’s the place young liberal writers go to see honesty die.
People, please. Your nation adopted a “post-truth” political culture during the Clinton-Gore years! Presumably, Corn and Fallows and Sargent all understand this. They just aren’t allowed to tell.
We agree that Romney’s performance has been quite bad on the truth-telling front—though the performance of many liberal pundits has been unimpressive too. But good God! When Fallows postulates that the mainstream press corps may be “adjusting” to a post-truth politics, a sane person has to laugh.
Romney has been quite disingenuous during this campaign. That said, do we really want to pretend that he has been more dishonest that the mainstream press corps was all during the Clinton-Gore years?
We know, we know: You’ve been waiting for liberal authority figures to give you permission to say that Clinton and Gore were mugged by the mainstream press corps. But let’s face it: Those people will never give you that permission. And few of us liberals will ever stand on our own hind legs until we get that tribal consent from our tribal leaders.
(We think of Colonel Sherburne, telling the truth to that cowardly lynch mob.)
Speaking of lynch mobs, Fallows was a ranking player in the mob which sent George Bush to the White House. In the summer of 2000, his much-discussed cover story in the Atlantic was an 8000-word bomb blast, part of the twenty-month war against Candidate Gore.
The piece was penned for the late Michael Kelly, one of the craziest Clinton-Gore haters in the whole crackpot bunch. In 1999, the Atlantic had been purchased by conservative money. The ludicrous Kelly was then put to charge.
Fallows' piece helps show where that led.
Please understand: Fallows will never acknowledge what he did, any more than Lawrence O’Donnell or Chris Matthews plan to discuss their roles in the wars against Clinton, then Gore. But don’t worry! Corn and Sargent will never require that! Corn kept his trap shut all during that twenty-month war against Gore, when of course he knew what was going on.
He now sits at the right hand of the father. He kisses his ass and agrees that you must never know what the great Matthews did.
We happen to know Corn just a tad; we’ve always liked him a lot. But by conventional measures, these people sold their souls long ago; they've agreed to bury that one unfortunate decade, the decade before the war in Iraq got them out of their holes. As part of the deal, they aren’t permitted to discuss the period when “post-truth” actually became cool. They are now happy to pretend that this somehow started with Romney.
Romney has been horrendous as a candidate—but their cocktail parties crawl with such figures. They signed their oath to that guild long ago, although they don’t recall.
Visit our incomparable archives: Treat yourselves! Revisit the day when Fallows helped usher in the era of “post-truth” politics! Links to our five-part report from real time are provided below.
Fallows’ piece was the cover story in the July 2000 Atlantic. It delivered all the standard assaults against Candidate Gore, who was about to accept the Democratic nomination. According to the synopsis to the article, Gore was "the most lethal debater in politics," a man "who leaves opponents feeling not just beaten but brutalized," a guy who "has learned to destroy opponents in debates."
That was in the synopsis. According to Fallows’ own text, Gore was not only a "brutal" debater who would leave his foes "battered" as he "bent the rules and stretched the truth if necessary." He was also someone who has "learned to destroy opponents in debates," someone with the "ability to fight close in and mean."
According to Fallows, Gore possessed "the ruthlessness to frame—or distort—facts in an argument of devastating effect." Fallows referred to "the way [Gore] has learned to destroy opponents." He compared Gore to fictional figures from organized crime. He said that "Gore is manifestly willing to lie for political convenience."
According to Fallows, Gore was "willing to fight with whatever tools are necessary." He didn't repeat the standard RNC line: Al Gore is willing to do and say anything.
Fallows didn't repeat that line. But don't fret: The synopsis did!
On the Atlantic's cover, Gore was portrayed as a vampire, with a fang coming out of his mouth. The cover art did not distort the essence of Fallows’ portrait.
In real time, we did a five-part report on this lengthy cover piece. In subsequent years, subsequent research only made the Fallows piece seem that much more appalling.
You can be sure that Brother Fallows will never tell you why he did this. But when he says we’re entering a “post-truth” era now, our analysts jump out of the chairs in their cramped study carrels and run all about the room.
If you want to visit an earlier era of “post-truth” politics, just click back through the links below! Again, Fallows was working for the late Michael Kelly, one of the craziest Clinton-Gore haters in the whole lunatic crowd.
From that day to this, the children have agreed on one key point: You mustn’t be told that these things ever happened! David Corn kept his trap shut back then. Sargent has learned to play nice about such matters in the years since.
People like this will scam you forever. Pleasantly, we liberals will accept getting scammed. We are glad to accept the idea that Mitt Romney started this mess!
From real time, our five-part report on the Fallows/Kelly piece. We note that Fallows continues to draws a pay-check from the Atlantic:
Part 1: The Atlantic’s cover shows the schoolboy level to which our discourse has fallen. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00.How did George Bush reach the White House? A post-truth culture greased the slide! The truth is just five clicks away!
Part 2: Fallows reports one clear-cut lie. Oops! It was told about Gore! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/12/00.
Part 3: For Democrats, 1988 was the war of the all against all. Fallows picks out one combatant. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/13/00.
Part 4: Fallows says Gore "invented" a charge. We think you’ll say, Look who’s talking! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/14/00.
Epilogue: Elsewhere, work like this is known by a legal term: "Fraud." See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/17/00.