Supplemental: Ghosts, goblins and uncles are out there tonight!


Rachel does it again:
Last Friday evening’s Maddow Show was a gruesome hour.

As Maddow started this 14-minute segment, she introduced a scary demographic from “an alternate universe.”

We refer, of course, to “your older male relative”—your scary, crazy old uncle. Warning! These demons were destined to play a major role in another in Maddow’s string of large factual groaners:
MADDOW (10/24/14): OK. Time to visit an alternate universe. Time to visit the email inbox of your older male relative.

Let’s call him your uncle who watches Fox News all day, the one who makes you half-love Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family and half-dread it all year long because he’s going to be there.

In the alternate universe of your Fox News-watching conservative uncle’s email inbox, in that world of aggrieved conservative, all-capital-letters paranoia, this is the biggest deal in the world right now. This is official surveillance camera footage shot inside the board of elections in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Now, it’s surveillance video, so it’s a little herky-jerky. But you can clearly see people entering the facility, coming through the doors. And they’re coming in there to drop off their ballots for the election.

This county has a collection box set up. You see person after person coming through the doors and dropping off their ballots.

But, then, in this video—Dun, dun, dunnnnnn!—there’s this guy. And your Fox News-watching uncle is very upset by this guy right now.

As you can see, the guy is wearing shorts and flip-flops and a t-shirt. The t-shirt is from a group called Citizens for a Better Arizona.
Maddow was having some fun with another group of Those People. In this case, she was talking about your “older male relative,” who lives in the world of “all-capital-letters paranoia.”

Because your uncle watches Fox all day, Maddow says he is very upset about something in Arizona. Before we see where the ginormous groaner comes in, let’s spend a bit more time on the unpleasant portrait she drew.

Maddow has superb manners—when people are physically present. At the same time, she often displays terrible judgment concerning various groups of Those People out in the rube-y red states. Let’s say she isn’t obsessively loving toward the large groups of people she loathes.

As she continued, she kept discussing your older uncle. Along with his paranoia, it seems he’s a smidge racist too:
MADDOW: The frenzy started spread at Arizona right wing blog. It spread from there and all the national right-wing blogs. And now, I guarantee you, your aforementioned conservative uncle is painting his Facebook wall with this story, and with this damning surveillance camera footage, as we speak. Did I mention that the guy in the video is clearly Hispanic?
Rachel guaranteed it! Your paranoid uncle is upset because the guy in Arizona is Hispanic!

As she continued the segment, Maddow kept sprinkling in additional insults about your older male relative. Apparently, women no longer watch Fox:
MADDOW: The crime of legally participating in the normal voting process while appearing to be Hispanic has blown up on the right this week like a dirty bomb. And your uncle is not going to pass you the marshmallow yams at Thanksgiving this year until he gets a straight answer from you about what really happened in Maricopa County because he saw the tape.

So from the alternate universe of America’s right-wing media, you should know that that is part one of what they rolled out this week. But it is a week and a half before the national election, and your paranoid conservative uncle’s inbox does really need filling at this point in time.


The election is a week and a half away and your uncle needs reading material.


To be fair, the Republican Party proper is not responsible for fringy right-wing blogs and the stuff that they make up on the Fox News Channel and your uncle and his “Where’s the birth?” t-shirt, right? I mean, that is what’s going on in the right, but you can’t expect the Republican Party to answer for all of that, just as you don’t expect the Democratic Party to answer for the whole left.
She closed with a screed about the way Fox has been making up facts. “This is nuts this year,” she said. “Tell your uncle I said so.”

To her credit, Rachel didn’t engage in a week and a half of dick jokes this time—while pretending she’s deeply embarrassed by all the dick jokes, of course. That said, this is a very dumb, unpleasant way for an alleged progressive to behave toward a large demographic—toward a very large group of people, toward people who are people pretty much like she is.

Maddow displays very strange judgment about matters of this type. That said, let’s get to the gigantic groaner which lay at the heart of this segment.

According to Maddow, your paranoid, racist, Fox-watching uncle is very upset about that tape from Arizona. Because he “watches Fox News all day,” he isn’t going to pass you the yams until you explain that videotape from Maricopa County.

Did we mention that the guy in the tape is clearly Hispanic?

Here’s the problem:

When we watched this segment last Friday, we didn’t think we’d ever seen anything on Fox about the stupid, manufactured non-issue in Arizona.

That said, we don’t watch Fox in a systematic way. So we decided to do a very strange thing—we decided to check.

We used a simple search term: “Arizona.” Searching on Nexis back through October 1, we found no sign that the issue in question had ever been mentioned on Fox.

We found no mentions by Bill O’Reilly or by Megyn Kelly. We found no mentions by Sean or Greta.

Unless Nexis is crazily wrong, the topic hasn’t been mentioned on The Five or on Special Report. Neil Cavuto hadn’t mentioned it either. (He airs daily at 4.)

Let’s be fair! Nexis only covers Fox programs which air between the hours of 4 PM and 5 AM. But in the 13 hours per day that Nexis does cover, we found no sign that the topic in question had been mentioned on Fox at all.

Maddow did catch one error by Fox in this insult-laden segment. Megyn Kelly had made an error about a voting procedure in Colorado.

For once in her recent life, Maddow got something right!

That said, Maddow led the segment with the Arizona hubbub. She guaranteed that your crazy older uncle will hassle you about it this year—because he watches Fox.

We can’t say that no one has ever played this card on the daytime side of Fox. That said, Maddow offered no examples. We were expected to take her guarantees as a matter of trust.

We’ve long since stopped expecting Maddow to get her basic facts right. In our view, her political insights are about as useful as those from a Ouija board.

That said, her programs since last Friday night have been a blunderbuss of embarrassing errors, even as she keeps warning her viewera about all the errors on Fox.

Fox does make a ton of errors; increasingly, so does Maddow. The more troubling part of last Friday’s segment was her unpleasant mocking of your older male relative, the one who is racist and paranoid.

(This Thanksgiving, tell him what Rachel did! At long last, he’ll have something to be paranoid about!)

Maddow’s incessant clowning and self-involvement are now being matched by an almost pathological disregard for facts. By the way:

This Wednesday night, she made another groaning error about the things they're supposedly saying on Fox. As she grinningly staged that embarrassing mess, she sat beneath a large billboard:


Truly, this is a bad idea. Both parts of this bullshit should stop.

SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Lies and the journalizing journalists who sell them!


Part 4—That lecture just wasn’t real sharp:
Again and again, the people in our celebrity press corps just aren’t especially sharp.

Last night, brain cells died all over the land as Rachel Maddow staged her latest blatantly faux DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS report.

In fairness, a similar number of brain cells had died the night before. On that occasion, Maddow offered a lengthy, pointless rumination on the canisters in the closet at her MSNBC office, the rumination which occasioned last night’s CORRECTIONS charade.

We often wonder how anyone can watch Maddow’s show without noting the oddness of what she does. But in truth, we the people just aren’t very sharp, and none among us is any less sharp than the people who make up our “press corps.”

This brings us back to Ben Bradlee’s lecture from 1997.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reprinted the lecture on the front page of the high-profile Outlook section. It was printed as part of the self-celebration which always occurs in the press when one of its iconic members dies.

Bradlee had an enormously important career at the Post. As far as we know, he was every bit as principled as his colleagues say.

That said, the lecture which the Post reprinted was massively lacking in smarts. Almost eighteen years later, the Post didn’t seem able to see that.

Bradlee directed the Watergate journalism which brought down President Nixon. He also invented the Post’s Style section. This helped advance a journalistic culture in which a bunch of people who aren’t very sharp are invited to ruminate, speculate and obsess about presidential contenders, quite routinely in ways which just aren’t very smart.

Next week, we’ll examine three decades of silly stories about our White House campaigns—silly stories which, in some cases, have changed the history of the world. For today, let’s review the late Ben Bradlee’s lecture, noting why it’s such a bad idea to give our “journalists” free rein.

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

Earlier this week, we noted a possible problem with the lecture. Bradlee denounced the lying and spin which suffused all segments of the society—all segments except his own, which he portrayed as involved in a high-minded search for the truth.

Many people in the press corps were involved in a search for the truth. But all too often, they weren’t especially sharp, as is clear all through Bradlee’s lecture.

Bradlee was very careless this night in his ascription of “lies” to major political figures. Must we tell you that President Clinton was one of the figures so charged?

Sometimes, politicians do tell “lies,” of course. That said, journalists often aren’t very sharp when they try to discuss such matters.

How sharp was Bradlee that night? In the lengthy excerpts from the lecture published in Sunday’s Post, this is the way he started:
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.

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...
In politics and government, had there ever been a time when a sensible person could believe the first version of the truth?

In that passage, Bradlee seemed to say there had been such a time—the age before Vietnam. That strikes us as a shaky idea, though Bradlee went on to offer a long, penetrating passage about the reams of official lying which accompanied the war in that foreign land.

That said:

We were more struck, in that early passage, by Bradlee’s jumbled thoughts about the notion of “telling the truth.” If a newspaper quotes someone who doesn’t know the truth, would you say that the newspaper who quoted that person “isn’t telling the truth?”

To our ear, that’s an odd way to put it. This first step helps lead Bradlee to disaster as he continues along.

As the lecture continued, Bradlee offered his detailed review of official lying about Vietnam. Eventually, though, he shifted gears.

The reader may wish to cheer him on. But this is puzzling work:
BRADLEE: Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face. No editor would dare print this version of Nixon’s first comments on Watergate, for instance: “The Watergate break-in involved matters of national security, President Nixon told a national TV audience last night, and for that reason he would be unable to comment on the bizarre burglary. That is a lie.”

We won’t dare do that. But that is what it was, and, for better or for worse, we aided and abetted in publishing something that wasn’t the truth, something that was a lie. I hate to hedge this by calling them non-truths; I like to call them lies. And even the boldest editorial pages, where such a comment might be appropriate, are reluctant to strike that hard, that fast.

So we have to wait, searching aggressively for ways to prove the lie, and in the process, we alienate those who don’t believe or don’t want to believe the lie.
Modern liberals may want to cheer. But that passage is a jumble of highly illogical statements. It doesn’t make any real sense.

Consider the first part of that passage:

Bradlee refers to President Nixon’s “first comments on Watergate.” When Nixon made those initial comments, newspapers didn’t even know that his remarks were inaccurate.

But so what?

For unknown reasons, the person who wrote that passage seems to say that newspapers should have denounced Nixon’s comments, the very next morning, as “a lie.” Weirdly, he seems to be complaining when he says that “even the boldest editorial pages...are reluctant to strike that hard, that fast.”

Please! Newspapers shouldn’t strike that hard and that fast when they don’t yet know what they’re talking about. Those comments by Bradlee make no earthly sense.

As he continued, Bradlee seemed to say that newspapers had “aided and abetted...a lie” by publishing Nixon’s comments. Except as self-flagellation, it’s hard to see how that makes sense. Here's why:

When presidents make important statements, those statements constitute news. Bradlee seemed to be saying that newspapers shouldn’t publish such statements until they can prove that the statements are true. That would be a very strange way to run an American newspaper.

At the end of that passage, Bradlee roars a complaint: “So we have to wait, searching aggressively for ways to prove the lie.”

That’s right! You aren’t supposed to call something a lie until you can prove your charge! Everyone has always known that. The icon Bradlee seemed to be peeved by this restriction that night.

Here’s why this confusion matters:

Later in his lecture, Bradlee gave two examples of contemporary “lies.” First, he denounced some behavior by Newt Gingrich. Then, he turned to President Clinton.

His passage on Clinton was full of fiery denunciation, but it made little real sense. As Bradlee sets the scene, we see the level of his anger and invective:
BRADLEE: The other story, equally brimming with lies and equally dominating our front pages, of course, is the Democratic National Committee’s lurid fundraising problems.

This is currently my own favorite to illustrate the problems facing the public and the press as they search for the truth. You know the grand outlines:

Although the law forbids non-U.S. citizens and companies from contributing money to U.S. political campaigns, a motley crew of foreigners contributed hundreds of thousands of bucks to the Clinton campaign and the Clinton defense fund. (“Motley crew” hardly describes them: Suma Ching Hai, a slinky cult leader from Taiwan; Wang Jun, a weapons dealer from mainland China; and a couple of Indonesian millionaires named Riady—one of whom visited the White House 20 times. That’s just to name a few.)

These donors have had extraordinary access to President Clinton, including the odd sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom.
According to the fiery journalist, the story in question was “brimming with lies.”

The story concerned the DNC’s “lurid” fundraising problems. It involved “a motley crew of foreigners,” even including “a slinky cult leader from Taiwan.”

What was the truth about these matters? We can’t tell you that, because we simply don’t know.

We do know this:

As Bradlee continued, he made flamboyant accusations of lying. But his accusations didn’t really seem to make sense:
BRADLEE: The earliest comments described the visits as “purely social” by a White House spokesman. That was a lie. Financial donations were first defended as legitimate. That, too, was a lie, and $1.5 million was then returned.

One day, December 22, 1996, three days before Christmas, the White House gave three distinctly different versions of a May 9th meeting between senior Clinton aides and officials of Clinton’s defense fund to discuss several hundred thousand dollars of questionable donations. All this behind closed doors, and we don’t know anything about it. An authorized White House spokesman said there was a debate at the meeting about whether to keep $378,999, with some White House officials suggesting that some of the money appeared to be legitimate and should be kept.

Reporters who went with that version were lying, apparently, because the next version said no one suggested keeping anything; aides were simply raising questions.

And later that was rendered “inoperative,” in Ron Ziegler’s immortal phrase. The questions raised concerned only how to explain to donors and the public that their money was being returned.
In that passage, Bradlee continued to thunder about all the lies and the lying. He included the mandatory comparison to Nixon, via press sec Ron Zeigler.

That said, consider the problems:

In that first paragraph, were the statements in question “lies?” Although he thundered, Bradlee showed no signs of having evidence to that effect.

Not every misstatement is a lie. Throughout this lecture, Bradlee seemed unclear on that basic fact.

That said, Bradlee’s account really brole down when he discussed the events of December 22, 1996. For the record, these events had occurred just two weeks before Bradlee gave his lecture.

Quite correctly, Bradlee says that a Clinton official “gave three...different versions of a May 9th meeting” that day.

He seems to refer to a news report by Ruth Marcus in the December 23 Washington Post. The best link we can give you is this.

That said, here’s the problem:

We see no reason to think that the official in question was “lying.” Here is the heart of the exchange, as described by Marcus:
MARCUS (12/23/96): A White House official, who was not present at the session but who is authorized to speak for the White House, at first said that there was a "debate" at the meeting, with some of the top officials questioning whether, given the Clintons' precarious financial situation, all the money needed to be returned.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of the aides suggested keeping the checks that appeared to be legitimate—those written on actual checking accounts by donors who seemed to have the necessary funds.


In a second conversation, after checking again with one of those at the meeting, the official gave a slightly different version of events, saying that no one at the White House urged keeping the funds but that aides were simply "raising questions" about why some of the checks should be returned if they appeared legitimate.

"It was an obvious question to ask…because people were concerned that the Clintons needed as much money as was legitimate to raise," the official said.

In a third conversation, after checking again with the meeting participant, the official said he had misunderstood the nature of the discussion and that in fact the questions were not about whether to keep some of the questionable funds but how to explain to donors why the money was being returned.
That was the basic account by Marcus. Let’s assume it’s basically accurate.

Let’s also assume that the official in question was Mike McCurry. What made Bradlee feel so sure that McCurry was “lying” that day?

Marcus seemed to be describing a process in which McCurry, who wasn’t present at the meeting in question, kept checking with people who had been present to produce further information. If McCurry had been “lying” in his first account to Marcus, why would he come back, that very same day, with a revised account?

Effusively, upper-end journalists praised Bradlee’s character all through the past week. We know of no reason to think their judgments were faulty.

But at the time Bradlee gave that lecture, the press corps was settling on a “storyline” about what a liar Bill Clinton was. More disastrously for the world, the Washington Post was also revising an earlier judgment:

Within the paper, the Post was deciding that Vice President Gore was all tangled up in Clinton’s corruption. Within a few months, the hammer would fall:

Vice President Gore had bad character too! It wasn’t just President Clinton!

Bradlee flew to Cal-Riverside, where he mightily thundered. He was quite promiscuous in his charges and accusations that night. All through his lecture, his logic made little real sense.

That lecture was written by a man who, if we want to be truthful, wasn’t real sharp when he wrote it. People are dead all over the world because these people, who aren’t overwhelmingly sharp, like to get a snootful or two and thunder out their cadre’s view of the world, which is often less than impressive.

In that lecture, you see the early steps down the path which eventually took George Bush to the White House. We aren’t happy with how that turned out. We don’t think you should be happy either.

Coming next week: Three decades of silliest tales

Tales of the Lincoln Bedroom: Bradlee included the requisite comparison to Nixon. He also worked in a reference to the Lincoln.

Just for the record, the Washington Post and the New York Times engaged in a giant amount of flimflam about those Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers. You should also know this:

In 2005, USA Today’s Judy Keen reported that about fifty donors to President Bush had enjoyed Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers in the previous year.

Personally, we don’t care about that. This is the point:

When Clinton did it, it was vile. When Bush did it, the press corps yawned. For all Lincoln details, click here.

In his careless remarks at Cal-Riverside, Bradlee was very much part of that syndrome. Eighteen years later, the Washington Post still thinks his remarks were great.

Last Sunday, the thunder appeared in the Post once again! How odd! The Clintons are liars all over again.

We think you should be concerned about that, whoever you favor for president.

Supplemental: Vastly misstating what Varney said!


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 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:


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:


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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?


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?

While waiting for Ben and/or Jerry!


We detail our plans for the week:
We hope you’ll make it a point to read “Silliest Tales of the MSM,” our main series this week.

For part 1, just click here.

We’re going to review the silly ways our White House campaigns have been covered by the mainstream press, going back to Kennedy/Nixon in 1960 and the bizarre demise of Candidate Muskie in 1972.

We plan to review the silly ways our mainstream press corps has covered these White House campaigns. In the process, we’ll show you which of the two major parties has been more badly hurt by all the silly fare.

At our companion site, How He Got There, we look at the way the mainstream press covered the gruesome 2000 campaign. In that case, their two-year war against Candidate Gore changed the history of the world. But did you ever stop to think about this:

They eliminated the Democratic front-runner in Campaign 1972. They did the same darn thing in Campaign 1988.

During Campaign 1992, they ginned up a scandal called “Whitewater” which lent its name to am entire era of pseudo-scandal. This led to the madness of Campaign 2000, in which their ludicrous coverage rather plainly sent George Bush to the White House.

We certainly wish that Ben and/or Jerry would arrive with a corporate sponsorship, allowing us to finish the story of Campaign 2000 at our companion site. (Most of the research is done.)

But this week’s main report will provide an intriguing overview. In our view, the silly tales of the MSM has harmed one side a great deal more than the other in the past forty years. We’ll lay out the story this week.

While we’re waiting for Ben and/or Jerry, we’ll ask you to consider contributing a tub of ice cream too. We think you’ll be gaining a new perspective this week. That said:

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

Supplemental: Public school propaganda again!


The Post manufactures consent:
Over at the Washington Post, the disinformation about public schools pretty much never stops.

A piece in yesterday’s Outlook section just kept pouring it on.

James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley touched all the mandated bases. They talked up Teach for America, charter schools in general and the KIPP charter network in particular. They complained about “the dumbing down of academic standards and an overemphasis on political correctness.”

As they closed their piece, they blasted “the shameful state of our primary and secondary schools.” But in the following passage, they got specific about our schools in a way which is easy to challenge:
PIERESON AND RILEY (10/26/14): Which brings us to the real hole in the debate over income inequality in this country: the problems plaguing our K-12 education system. Fifty years ago, it was possible for a child to grow up in a home where neither parent had a college degree, and still attend a decent public school, go to college and become a professional. Seventy-five years ago, it was possible to grow up in a home where no one spoke English and still attend a decent public school, go to college and join the middle (if not upper) class. Despite the quotas that were in place, making it difficult for racial and ethnic minorities to attend the most elite schools, state colleges were well within reach and provided a rigorous education for working-class kids. A high school graduate knew how to read, write and perform basic math. Any college professor will tell you that’s not always the case anymore.
It was so much better back then! High school graduates had much better academic skills! You can ask any college professor!

Without any doubt, plenty of low-income kids are doing poorly in school. But according to our most reliable data, students today are performing better in reading and math than their counterparts forty years back.

If you “disaggregate” test scores—if you break the student population up into its demographic groups—kids today are doing much better than in 1971.

We’ve run through these basic facts a million times by now. Presumably, everyone actually knows these facts. That includes Piereson and Riley and the relevant editors at the Post.

Where are we getting our data? We’re referring to the basic data which have emerged from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the federal testing program which began in 1971.

The NAEP isn’t our favorite hobby-horse. Everyone regards the NAEP as the “gold standard” of domestic testing—as “the nation’s report card.”

NAEP data are relentlessly used by educational researchers and education reporters alike. That said, it’s as we’ve told you for all these years:

Everybody swears by the NAEP. But nobody is willing to tell you what the NAEP data show!

In this case, it’s Piereson and Riley who are making familiar claims which can’t be squared with results from the NAEP. As always, the Washington Post is providing a platform for the pro-“reform” propaganda.

It’s stunning to see the way the Post does this without a peep from the liberal world. Consider one especially audacious part of the latest brainwashing.

As they continue from the passage above, Piereson and Riley quote research by Stanford’s Sean Reardon.

What they say in the following passage is true. Below, we’ll show you what they chose to leave out:
PIERESON AND RILEY (continuing directly): Today, for most low-income kids, college is merely a fantasy. If you finish high school, you are probably unprepared to attend a good four-year university, even if you could get in. And if you do, you will probably need multiple remedial courses. About half of students entering the California State University system do, for instance.

According to 2011 research by Sean Reardon of Stanford University: “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years.” One of the factors Reardon points to is greater residential segregation by income, noting that such divisions are “closely linked to school-attendance patterns.”
According to Reardon’s research, the achievement gap has been growing between students from low-income and high-income families.

(Warning: Reardon is talking about genuinely affluent families, not the mere middle-class.)

To the extent that Reardon’s research is right, that’s an undesirable fact. But uh-oh! In April 2013, Reardon discussed this very research in a lengthy piece in the New York Times. When he did, he made a point of debunking the claim the propagandists are making:
REARDON (4/27/13): The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.

Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s.
The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.
Duh! When Reardon discussed this research, he explicitly rejected a certain “myth.” It’s the very myth the propagandists were peddling in yesterday’s Post, cherry-picking Reardon’s findings to serve their disgraceful ends.

Citing the NAEP, Reardon specifically noted the overall rise in academic performance. Cherry-picking Reardon, the propagandists sold you the opposite tale.

In this morning’s New York Times, we read about the brave young teacher who intervened in last week’s school shooting. But on the cover of Time magazine, we’re treated to the latest dramatic attack on our “rotten apple” teachers.

Yesterday, Piereson and Riley kept pouring it on, enabled by the Washington Post. This prompts a key point about gatekeepers:

In one way, our gatekeepers are long gone, as we discussed last week. Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley no longer sift the things we’re all permitted to hear.

In another important way, we’re surrounded by hidden gatekeepers. They peddle disinformation of a type the plutocrats favor. With their stunning message discipline, they misinform the whole nation.

The Washington Post keeps dragging these people out to disinform us about public schools. Mixing her cocktails and playing her games, Rachel Maddow just keeps looking away.

(On the brighter side, she is paid $7 million per year for all the entertainment and silence.)

“Manufactured consent,” Noam Chomsky calls it. Yesterday morning, the process was audaciously played out again, right before our eyes.

SILLIEST TALES OF THE MSM: Sunday, muddy Sunday!


Part 1—Ben Bradlee’s important address:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times and the Washington Post put on quite a show.

In the New York Times Sunday Review, Frank Bruni donned Maureen Dowd’s familiar raiment, ruminating about recent presidents’ various “Daddy issues.”

In his own piece in that high-profile section, Nicholas Kristof said, once again, that we must “provide great schools” for “inner-city children who desperately need a helping and”—that “we owe all children a fair start in life in the form of access to an education escalator.”

We agree! But what can we do to create such great schools? Kristof didn’t say.

Nina Burleigh is best known for her reaction to the Clinton/Lewinsky excitement, during which she quoted herself saying this: “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”

Yesterday, the Sunday Review dragged Burleigh out for an introspective think piece, “Why I Lose All My Jewelry.” It joined a gaggle of navel-gazing columns which pondered “The Dangers of Eating Late at Night,” “My Mother’s Psychotherapy—and Mine,” “The Problem With Positive Thinking” and “The Meaning of Fulfillment.”

Another piece explored the reasons we’re afraid of the things we’re afraid of. Meanwhile, on the Sunday Review’s front page, the featured piece started like this:
SUELLENTROP (10/26/14): For more than five years, almost every word that I’ve written professionally has been about video games. I used to cover things like presidential campaigns and prison reform. But at some point, video games began to seem as consequential as those subjects, if not more so.
Chris Suellentrop ended up writing about an important topic, if in a curious way. Burleigh built a feel-good framework around her lament for her missing jewelry.

That said, a serious person might ask an obvious question:

How can it be? How is it possible that a journalist at the New York Times could have formed the crazy thoughts described in Suellentrop’s opening passage?

At some point, video games began to seem as consequential as White House campaigns? A person might wonder how a journalist ever came to believe such a thing. For one possible answer, keep reading this week's posts.

All in all, this week’s Sunday Review was crammed with upper-class foppishness. Increasingly, this is the trademark of the upper-class publication with will be running The New York Times International Luxury Conference at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental hotel—a paper which published a special section, Wealth, as part of last Thursday’s edition.

If yesterday’s Times was a thing to behold, the Post may have been worse.

For unknown reasons, Glenn Kessler’s weekly Fact Checker piece displayed the text of a political ad by Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky senate candidate. As he started his fact check of the text, Kessler made this odd assertion:
KESSLER (10/26/14): This ad has not been publicly released by the Grimes campaign. In The Fact Checker’s experience, the most fact-challenged ads are those that fly under the radar, as campaigns hope that reporters don’t notice the content—but voters do.
Let’s assume the text in question is false and misleading, as Kessler went on to judge. If the “ad” in question “has not been publicly released by the Grimes campaign,” then why was the ad being fact-checked? How would voters “notice the content” of the ad?

In what sense was the “ad” an actual “ad” at all?

Kessler still hasn’t answered these questions, which quickly appeared in comments. There may be perfectly sensible answers, of course. But at this point, can anyone here play this game?

Kessler’s piece was puzzling; we assume explanation will follow. But we didn’t decide that yesterday was Sunday, muddy Sunday until we went to Outlook, the Post’s counterpart to the Times’ increasingly foppish Sunday Review.

Outlook isn’t especially foppish; its characteristic errors head off in other directions. Yesterday, we were struck by this egregious piece, the latest “education reform” agitprop this newspaper sells by the barrel.

For the specifics, see our next post. Most of all, we were struck by Ben Bradlee’s address from January 1997.

Ben Bradlee died last week at the age of 93. He seems to be loved and revered at the Washington Post, where he had a long and very important career.

Yesterday, the Post honored Bradlee on the front page of Outlook, running excerpts from an address he delivered in January 1997. We thought it was the muddiest piece on a very muddy Sunday.

(Warning! The Post provides an apparent link to the full text of Bradley’s address, the Press-Enterprise Lecture. Yesterday, the link wasn’t working. Today, it takes us to an eight-minute video tribute to a different journalist. We ask our thoughtful question again: Can anyone here play this game?)

Bradlee will always be remembered for the work he supervised concerning President Nixon and Watergate. He also invented the Post’s Style section, where journalists were encouraged to let their “New Journalistic” muses take hold.

Decades later, Bruni is writing about various candidates’ various “Daddy issues.” A second journalist is saying that he came to feel that video games were as consequential as White House campaigns—and he didn’t seem to see how odd that statement is.

Let’s assume that Bradlee’s Watergate work was flawless, important, brilliant. A person could argue that terrible trends resulted when the successful pursuit of President Nixon was twinned with the invention of Style.

All week, we’ll look at the silly tales about White House campaigns which came to dominate our political discourse in the era following Watergate. Spoiler alert:

By our count, those silly tales have hurt major Democrats far more than major Republicans. Those silly tales, which we liberals love, have badly harmed progressive interests.

Yesterday, Bruni was typing from the game preserve which surrounds the invention of Style. Back in 1997, Bradlee showed no sign of knowing—possibly even of caring—what it was he had wrought.

Was outing Watergate really worth it? Along the way, it seems to have left us with earth tones, blow jobs, invented quotations—and with those “Daddy issues.”

We liberals refuse to oppose this game. It has badly hurt liberal interests. Does anyone actually care?

Tomorrow: Bradlee’s address

Dumbing the liberal world way down!


This really can’t yield good outcomes:
If you want a taste of the heinous, we’ll suggest that you read this whole post.

In our years at this site, we’ve done a lot of work on the way the press corps has covered presidential campaigns. Dating to 1972, the track record is heinous, especially for Democrats, a point we expect to explore in the next few weeks.

(For forty-two years, the liberal world has just sat there and tolerated this nonsense.)

We’ve also covered the coverage, or the non-coverage, of certain policy issues. For example:

Why do you never hear the most basic facts about American kids’ rising test scores? Why do you hear so little about the mammoth costs of American health care, as opposed to the cost of health care in other developed nations?

Why do you never hear about that corporate looting on MSNBC? That innocent question leads to our third point of emphasis:

At some point, we began to focus on a third area—the development of allegedly liberal/progressive news sites like MSNBC and the new Salon. In our view, this is still the most fascinating topic in current American media.

Understandably, we liberals want to believe in those sites. We want to believe in the people we see at those sites.

We want to believe in their savvy, their smarts. We want to believe in their honesty, their sincerity.

More broadly, we want to believe that Our Tribe, the liberal tribe, is good and smart. We want to believe that Their Tribe, the conservative tribe, is stupid, bad and vile.

Throughout human history, we the people have wanted to believe the best about our own particular tribes. At present, we suspect that this impulse will yield bad results for progressive interests.

Yesterday, we really saw the liberal world getting itself dumbed down. For starters, we read a piece by Amanda Marcotte which sat beneath these headlines at Salon:
Why conservatives prefer propaganda to reality
A new Pew study on America's media consumption offers a window into the right's collective mindset
To a distressing extent, the piece was pure propaganda—low-IQ propaganda designed to be pleasing to us.

Not much later, we clicked three links in a piece by Joan Walsh, who was once such a mainstream squish. It ran beneath these banners:
America’s modern political nightmare: Two electorates, separate and unequal
The glee with which the GOP relies on Obama-hate to turn out its base shows the disturbing racial reality of 2014
Silly us! We clicked all three links in the fourth paragraph. In all three cases, the source materials didn’t support the pleasing claims Walsh was making.

We were impressed by the low quality of those pieces at Salon. Then we watched last night’s Maddow program.

Most horrible was the closing segment, in which Maddow, for the second straight Friday, basically told us the viewers that she thinks we’re dumb. That said, we thought the whole program involved the type of feckless overstatement Maddow was loudly condemning on the part of The Other Tribe.

Many liberals want to believe in the people we meet at our new liberal sites. We think that isn’t a great idea. We’ll explore that topic next week.

Understandably, some readers don’t like it when we state such concerns. In this matter, we think their instincts are wrong.

In our view, the liberal world is being dumbed down in ways which are likely to do it harm. With that inappropriate thought in mind:

If you want to support the work of this site, you can just click here.

To watch that segment: For the second straight Friday, Maddow ended her program with a kitschy game show segment, The Friday Night News Dump.

To watch her hype the segment, click this. Warning! You’ll find yourselves being talked down to, in a fairly obvious way.

To watch the full game show segment, click here. Warning! Brain cells dying!

Presumably, this is a ratings move. It reads like defeat to us.

You can count on Hurricane and Jordan!


And on your Daily Howler:
Confidence in the federal government has been on a bit of downturn.

Here’s how bad it seems to be getting:

This morning, for the second day in a row, we opened a major newspaper to glamour shots of Hurricane and Jordan, the highly competent Secret Service K-9 unit attack dogs.

Yesterday morning, their head shots peeped out at us from inside the Washington Post. Today, Jordan’s glossy appears in the Times, next to a glowing news report by a grateful Michael Schmidt, who speaks for a grateful nation.

Here’s the way he started out, hard-copy headline included:
SCHMIDT (10/24/14): K-9 ‘Agents’ Lift Spirits of the Secret Service With Heroics at the White House

Jordan took a kick to his snout. Hurricane was slammed to the ground and repeatedly punched. Both were rushed to a veterinarian for treatment.

But by stopping a fence jumper from getting into the White House on Wednesday night, the two members of the Secret Service’s K-9 unit accomplished something that humans in the agency have been hard-pressed to do recently: They performed their duties flawlessly and, at least for a day, lifted the morale of a Secret Service that had been rocked by a series of embarrassing incidents.

What the dogs, both Belgian Malinois, did was stop a man who had managed to get over the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. The dogs, which can run 25 miles per hour and have a bite that applies hundreds of pounds of pressure per square inch, knocked the man to the ground, and bit him. As the man tried to fend the dogs off, officers moved in and arrested him.
Careful, Schmidt! If you build them up too much, they may decide to make their move to the private sector!

(Warning! This Sunday, Maureen Dowd will almost surely lament the fact that the president doesn’t apply that many pounds of pressure!)

You can count on Hurricane and Jordan—and on your Daily Howler. We pursue the press corps like fleet Malinois every day of the week.

Next week, we’ll start to hound you again about the merits of our work. For today, let’s tip our caps to these federal employees, while jauntily saying this:

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

Supplemental: Carol Costello has ruined the world!


But first, Paul Krugman’s column:
Liberals should be very angry, furious, with CNN’s Carol Costello.

But first, a note about Paul Krugman’s new column.

In his column, Krugman discusses the ways plutocrats just keep winning with political programs which hurt the bulk of voters. This was his first explanation:
KRUGMAN (10/24/14): One answer is propaganda: tell voters, often and loudly, that taxing the rich and helping the poor will cause economic disaster, while cutting taxes on “job creators” will create prosperity for all. There’s a reason conservative faith in the magic of tax cuts persists no matter how many times such prophecies fail (as is happening right now in Kansas): There’s a lavishly funded industry of think tanks and media organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving that faith.
We wish, wish, wish that we saw liberals and progressives trying to explain this state of affairs to misled voters in “middle America.”

We rarely see that effort being made. That brings us to Krugman’s second explanation, where we think his political sensors go significantly wrong:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions—government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.
Earth to Krugman: Many highly visible putative liberals really are “snooty elitists!” In that passage, Krugman seems to deny this obvious fact—and he mixes this apparent denial with a somewhat snarky claim about race, a topic which should never be discussed in a casual manner.

We think the messaging there is bad. This brings us to Carol Costello.

In that second passage, Krugman seems to roll his eyes at persistent political claims about liberals being “snooty elitists.” Unfortunately, snooty elitism is on wide display in various parts of the putative liberal world.

Everyone can see this fact except us snooty liberals! Costello’s recent display on CNN is one of the worst such displays in years.

Why do tons of people in middle America believe that liberals are “snooty elitists?” In part, because ridiculous people like Costello keep going a million miles out of their way to reinforce the storyline.

At issue is Costello’s recent, deeply ridiculous report about Sarah Palin’s family. For Politico’s report on Costello’s absurd performance, you can just click here.

We’ll have to link you to the MRC’s NewsBusters to let you see the full two minutes. Therein lies a tale.

Without question, you totally ought to click this link and watch the tape of Costello’s performance. Ridiculous people like Costello, behaving in these ridiculous ways, are the leading edge of a (frequently accurate) stereotype—a stereotype which keeps getting liberals defeated.

Click this link and watch that tape! You will be looking into the face of 1) astounding journalistic misconduct and 2) persistent liberal dysfunction and defeat.

It would be hard to get any dumber than Costello is on that tape. That said, can you think of other examples of this type of behavior?

Sad to say, we can!

In Krugman’s column, he seems to suggest that the image of liberals as snooty elitists is a silly stereotype. When he links that patently bogus suggestion to snarky claims of his own about race, he ensures that large numbers of voters will disregard his claims.

In fact, a mountain of snooty attitude lies behind that image of liberals. Meanwhile, everyone knows about snooty elitist liberals—everyone except us snooty liberals!

Everyone knows it. All too often, snooty elitists R us!

The unbelievably clueless Costello just did you a world of harm. Liberals should be very angry about her ridiculous conduct.

With respect to NewsBusters: Way back when, in September 2000, we did an hour on C-Span’s Washington Journal with our host, Brian Lamb, and the MRC’s Brent Bozell.

In fairness to Brent, he played well with others that day. But in those days of liberal somnolence, we couldn’t have imagined a time when his outfit, the MRC, would actually get something right.

Today, we liberals have emerged from the woods. All too often, our conduct is Costello-level absurd.

Today, the MRC is sometimes right. People like the snooty Costello just keep sending them gifts!