Where do Official Group Stories come from?


Times hails "black voter surge:"
Anthropologically speaking, where do Official Group Stories come from?

They come from the internal hard-wiring of a profoundly faulty species. That said, to watch on Official Group Story spread, consider this news report in today's New York Times.

John Eligon's report advances a current Standard Story. In hard copy, the report appears beneath his pleasing headline:
Win in Alabama Shows Muscle of Minority Voters
Is that what Doug Jones' win over Roy Moore shows? Maybe yes, maybe no; we'll offer some data below. But here's the passage where Eligon recites the Official Story—where he pleasingly says we saw a "black voter surge" this week, reciting script as he goes:
ELIGON (12/15/17): Many people have long felt that Democrats come around during election time asking for their votes, but then do not fight for the issues that matter most to them, several political operatives said. They have also expressed concern that Democratic spending on minority communities was not commensurate with the loyalty that they show to the party. An analysis three years ago found that 98 percent of the money the major Democratic committees spent on consultants went to those who were white.

The eight Democratic organizations with budgets of at least $30 million last year all had white leaders, according to Steve Phillips, an activist and fund-raiser. Mr. Phillips also found that of the first $200 million that independent Democratic groups allocated during last year’s presidential election, none of it went to mobilizing black voters.

Some say they are seeing the beginnings of a shift, after black voter surges in Virginia and Alabama.

About 30 percent of the electorate in the Alabama Senate race was black, according to CNN exit polls,
making the black share of the vote in that election higher than it was in both of Barack Obama’s presidential victories. Mr. Jones won 98 percent of the votes among black women and 93 percent among black men.
Is that accurate? Was there a "black voter surge" in Alabama this week?

Anthropologically speaking, let's note the way Eligon toys with elementary facts to tell us The Current Official Group Story:

In support of his pleasing claim, Eligon starts by saying this: "About 30 percent of the electorate in the Alabama Senate race was black, according to CNN exit polls."

Inevitably, Eligon has rounded up. CNN's actual number is 29 percent.

After turning 29 into 30, Eligon makes another pleasing claim. He says this "mak[es] the black share of the vote in {Tuesday's] election higher than it was in both of Barack Obama’s presidential victories."

That simply isn't true. According to the exit polls from those prior elections, the black share of the Alabama vote was 29 percent in 2008 and 28 percent in 2012. This year's number matches 2008, beats 2012 by one point.

Already, Eligon has made a flatly inaccurate statement. In the larger sense, by withholding the previous exit poll data, he produces a grossly inaccurate picture of the overall reality.

In fact, black turnout as a percentage of the overall vote was almost exactly the same in those three elections. Eligon goes on to say this:

"Mr. Jones won 98 percent of the votes among black women and 93 percent among black men."

That's true, though exit poll data are drawn from samples and are therefore subject to error. That said, Jones' share of the black vote is very similar to the percentages Obama received. Here are the numbers from each year's exit poll:
Percentage of black vote received in Alabama
Obama 2008: 98 percent
Obama 2012: 95 percent
Jones 2017: 96 percent
There's little to choose among those three numbers. Black turnout was roughly the same each year as a percentage of the state. So was the percentage of the black vote received by the Democrat.

If those facts are true, why did Jones win this year, while Obama never came close? Answer:

Mainly because of a change in the way white Alabamians voted. Here are the relevant numbers from the three elections to which Eligon referred:
Percentage of white vote received in Alabama
Obama 2008: 10 percent
Obama 2012: 15 percent
Jones 2017: 30 percent
The biggest difference in this year's election involved the way white voters voted. Jones swept the black vote, as Obama did before him. But he did substantially better among the (much larger) white vote.

Where do Official Standard Group Stories come from? In this particular case, we can't answer that question. (As a general matter, they come from our deeply flawed human desire to dream up the stories we like.)

We can answer these questions:

Was there a "huge black turnout" this year, as a Washington Post headline said? Was there a "black voter surge," as Eligon has claimed?

It's hard to know why you'd want to say such things except from a desire to push an Official Preferred Group Story. Concerning that huge voter surge, the number of black voters in these four elections looks like this:
Total black turnout, Alabama
2008: roughly 609,000
2012: roughly 581,000
2016: roughly 595,000
2017: roughly 390,000
We're not sure why you'd want to call this year's turnout "huge," given those previous turnouts.

In fact, many fewer black Alabamians voted this year, as compared to the numbers who voted in those previous elections. What makes this year's turnout "huge?"

We're also not sure why you'd want to say that this year's turnout constituted a "surge." Again, this is the percentage of the statewide vote cast by black Alabamians:
Black vote as a percentage of total vote, Alabama
2008: 29 percent
2012: 28 percent
2016: 28 percent
2017: 29 percent
Why would you say that a "surge" occurred this year?

In fact, black turnout was way down this year; white turnout was down a bit more. To the extent that there was a "surge," it occurred among the (sharply reduced) number of white voters who did turn out. They gave Jones 30 percent of the white vote, two to three times as much as Obama got.

(There were no Alabama exit polls in 2016. There is no number for Candidate Clinton's percentage of the white vote.)

Anthropologically speaking, Homo sapiens is the species which like to make stupid sh*t up. Once somebody makes some story up, tribal minions all stampede off to repeat it.

Eligon is one of those hacks. As liberals, do you ever get tired of being talked down to like this by a bunch of silly people on "cable news" and at the New York Times?

Was there anything "wrong" with black turnout this year? Well actually, yes, there maybe was, unless you think that 40 percent, give or take a few points, is a sensible turnout rate when your state is about to send a total crackpot lunatic to the United States Senate.

Overall turnout was 40 percent! Black turnout was sad; white turnout was worse.

Afterwards, somebody dreamed up a story. We're really "defining democracy down" when we brag about this year's turnout.

At any rate, we liberals all began to recite. Anthropologically speaking, we're wired to do sh*t like this.

We've behaved this way for many years. Today, we have Donald J. Trump in the White House. Are you happy with how this has worked?

Alabama exit polls: To access the exit polls, click as shown. There were no Alabama exit polls in last year's Trump-Clinton election:
2008 exit polls

2012 exit polls

2017 exit polls

ANTHROPOLOGY NOW: Where do group misstatements come from?


Part 2—Drum asks, anthropologists answer:
Kevin Drum asked a good question this week, even if in overwrought and selective form.

His question appeared in the headline which sat atop a recent post. The question he asked was this:
Do Republicans Believe Their Own Lies?
In one way, there we went again! If a person believes an inaccurate statement, then, of course, his or her misstatement isn't a "lie," if we're all still speaking English, which we frequently aren't.

That said, Drum was asking a very good question—though his question applies to Democrats, liberals and journalists as well as to Those People.

In a nutshell, Drum's question starts with this accurate observation:

We often see members of political groups repeating standard misstatements. The statement in question is factually false, but it gets repeated over and over again.

That's the background. Drum's question is this:

When people repeat a standard misstatement, do they believe the inaccurate claim they're making? Or do they actually know that the statement in question is false?

Given the times in which we live, Drum restricted his excellent question about this syndrome to Republicans. In particular, he correctly noted that Republicans commonly make a misstatements about the way Obamacare—the ACA—first passed into law.

How did Obamacare pass into law? Did it pass the Senate under "reconciliation," requiring just 50 votes? Or did it pass with a real majority as defined by Senate math, with 60 votes out of a hundred?

In fact, it passed with 60 votes. The leading authority on the matter tells the story like this:
On December 23, [2009,] the Senate voted 60–39 to end debate on the bill: a cloture vote to end the filibuster. The bill then passed, also 60–39, on December 24, 2009, with all Democrats and two independents voting for it, and all Republicans against (except Jim Bunning, who did not vote).
Despite this history, Republicans routinely claim that Obamacare slithered through with just 50 votes. Drum was wondering if Republicans really believe this inaccurate statement, or it they're simply lying when they make this claim.

We took his question to a panel of anthropologists. Thoughtfully, they explained the way the minds of our failing species work.

Not unlike the lemming, they said, members of the species known as Homo sapiens are strongly inclined—"hard-wired" even—to work in groups. Even worse, we're inclined to divide ourselves into rival groups—Us and Them, or perhaps skins and shirts or even Nike and Reebok—and to battle things out from there.

We tend to acquire our beliefs from the sachems of our tribal group. If we hear the sachems say X, Y or Z, we minions will start to repeat it.

Typically, these scientists told us, the minions will in fact routinely believe the various claims they are making, The minions will rarely fact-check the statements they hear from tribal leaders and then from other tribal minions.

As a general matter, they will assume their own tribal claims are correct, and that the tribal claims of The Others are wrong. Or at least, so these scientists said.

These scientists panted a gloomy picture of the way our species works. You can forget all that "rational animal" crap, one of them hotly said, brandishing a supersized rum toddy.

That said, their presentation turned even more gloomy when they offered some current examples of the way this hard-wired system works. They pointed to the current claim that a "huge black turnout" decided Tuesday's Senate election. Incredibly, they also pointed to some bogus statements made just this week on The Rachel Maddow Show!

Liberals hear Rachel make these claims, these scientists said, and they are strongly inclined to assume her claims are accurate. Soon, minions start to repeat her claims. As a general matter, liberals believe these false or highly misleading assertions, according to these scientists.

These anthropologists were painting a gloomy picture of the way our species works. That said, we fact-checked the claims from the Maddow Show and saw that the scientists were right.

It was much as the anthropologists said. This bullsh*t works this way Over Here as well as among The Others!

We'll take you through Maddow's recent misstatements in the next day or so. That said, we'll suggest that you consider another deeply destructive example from the recent past.

We refer to the widely bruited claim that Candidate Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Within the upper-end mainstream press corps, minions repeated this claim for twenty straight months, helping send Candidate Bush to the White House, where he launched a disastrous war.

The journalists' claim that Gore made that statement is extremely hard to sustain, these scientists told us. By normal standards, the scientists said, the journalists' ubiquitous claim should be scored as false.

Despite this fact, journalists kept repeating their claim from March 1999 through through November 2000. Some of them even put the word "invented" inside quotation marks, though Gore had never used it!

Almost surely, many of these journalists believed the assertion they were making, the anthropologists surmised, since they'd seen their sachems make it.

Many journalists did believe their guild's inaccurate claim, the scientists said—but some of them likely did not.

Drum was asking a very good question about the way our species works. Because we live in tribal times, he may have seemed to suggest that his excellent question only applies to The Others.

In fact, a wide array of major groups parade about the countryside repeating bogus claims. Bees do it; birds do; even educated D's do it. They fall in love with favored claims which may, in fact, be false.

As a biological species, we're strongly inclined to fall in love with our tribal claims and assertions. Anthropologically speaking, we aren't especially strongly inclined to ask if these statements are true.

Our documentary film, Anthropology Now, will be coming to movie palaces soon.

"I love the smell of misstatements in the morning?" Many people from many groups will implicitly make that statement in this award-winning film.

Still coming: Weaponizing moral claims. Also, the sounds of silence

Full disclosure: On July 20, 1958, we were present in Fenway Park when Bunning pitched his first no-hitter.

Only ten years old at the time, we sensed he was up to no good.

Diagnosing Omarosa!


What these nitwits are like:
Omarosa Manigault is one of our less significant persons.

That said, the children love to gossip and talk about her. In the end, this is what these corporate nitwits are actually like.

This morning, Morning Joe opened with several embarrassing minutes in which Mika snarked, smirked, gossiped, clowned and side-eyed about Omarosa. Joe wasn't in his seat yet.

Eventually, we may be able to offer a transcript of this embarrassing mess. That transcript may help you see what these nitwits are actually like, though sighs and eye-rolls aren't recorded in such documents.

Later in the program, Mika and Yamiche devoted five minutes to this utterly pointless matter. To watch them stage their parody of human behavior, you can just click here.

Last night, on CNN,
Don Lemon and (mainly) a pair of guests embarrassed themselves for roughly ten minutes as they gossiped about Omarosa. This is very much who these corporate employees actually are. Also, this is a major part of our deep national problem.

The children like to gossip and play! As a matter of anthropology, this has been, and will continue to be, a route to national and global disaster.

ANTHROPOLOGY NOW: "Fictitious times!"


Part 1—The mental styles of a species:
Long ago and far away, a certain famous fellow named Moore made his greatest statement.

"We live in fictitious times," the famous fellow said.

We aren't referring to Roy Moore, the craziest candidate yet. We aren't even referring to Roger Moore, of 007 fame.

We aren't referring to either Wes Moore. We're referring to filmmaker Michael Moore, who made his insightful statement during his unruly speech at the 2003 Oscars.

Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine, won for Best Documentary. We thought of his statement this very morning as we thumbed through the Post and the Times.

As we did, we imagined another documentary film—a film called Anthropology Now. This film would explore the mental styles of one animal species, our own, the species called Homo sapiens.

Anthropologically speaking, major elements within this famous species tend to seek out, and create, Moore's "fictitious times." Scientifically speaking, we especially think of the specimens described as upper-end journalists.

Live and direct from Alabama, Professor Wilson has helped us see that the social behavior of ants is a great deal like that of our own famous species.

Like ants, our species' professional journalists are strongly inclined to work in groups. Behaving in neatly choreographed ways, they tend to produce novelized versions of public events, thereby helping to create Moore's "fictitious times."

Is it time for a documentary called Anthropology Now? For our money, press coverage of the just-concluded Alabama Senate campaign was one of the most interesting recent press events.

Anthropologically speaking, the journalists displayed a wide array of their most basic predilections as they covered, or pretended to cover, this high-profile Senate campaign. According to scientific observers, those predilections were these:
Hard-wired predilections of the species in question:

1) An endless desire to talk about sex and various sexy-time topics;

2) A potent desire to avoid discussing "matters of substance;"

3) A powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading claims to help create novelized stories about favorite topics;

4) A powerful inclination to focus on irrelevant facts, or to disappear relevant facts which undermine such stories;

5) A strong inclination to pursue and promote the individual's career self-interest at the expense of normal truth-telling or reporting behaviors.
Do we live in fictitious, novelized times? Does Moore's Dictum still hold true, even when the fictitions and the novelized stories have been designed to serve "progressive" interests andends?

Scientists tell us the answer is yes! Having received that assurance, we saw novelization and fictitous claims all over this morning's press. We thought of the need for a feature film, a film called Anthropology Now.

Our misery started with the opening minutes of Morning Joe, in which the children staged a remarkable display of hiss-spitting and gossip. Since producers have had the good sense to drop those embarrassing minutes from the videotape they've posted, we'll move ahead to some of the more striking fictitious claims and novelized presentations.

Good lord! Opening the Washington Post, we were met by this headline:
Democrats see hope for 2018 in huge black Ala. turnout
In fairness to Weigel and Scott, they never claimed, in their report, that there was a "huge black turnout" is Alabama this Tuesday. Apparently, this novelized claim was the work of a headline editor.

In fairness to this species member, he or she was trying to drive a story line designed to serve progressive interests. But as those scientists assured us, such good intentions don't necessarily mean that a pleasing claim is sensible or true.

Was there any such "huge turnout" this Tuesday in Bama? Today, we're able to look at fuller numbers concerning Tuesday's turnout.

Below, we'll show you basic turnout data from Tuesday's Senate election, along with the corresponding data from last year's presidential election.

Was there a "huge black turnout" on Tuesday? The numbers look like this:
2016 Alabama election:
Total votes cast: 2,123,372
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 28%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 595,000

2017 Alabama election:
Total votes cast: 1,346,147
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 29%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 390,000
Let's think about those numbers:

Last year, 595,000 black Alabamians turned out to vote. This Tuesday, 205,000 fewer black Alabamians turned out, in a high-profile election.

By the norms of many western democracies, last year's turnout rates around the nation were sparse. Are we perhaps "defining democracy down" when we describe Tuesday's turnout as "huge?" Are we possibly making a claim which is novelized and maybe misleading?

Anthropologically speaking, such questions don't arise! As you will see everywhere you look, our mainstream journalists have agreed that they will tell that heartwarming story, full and complete anthropo-freaking stop!

Given the wiring of our species, you're going to see that story told, in various misleading/inaccurate ways, again and again and again and again in the next few days. As ants are programmed to work together in building the anthills in which they will live, our journalists are programmed to work together in telling the stories they like!

Over the course of the past five weeks, the journalists agreed to view the Bama Senate race through a particular lens. Perhaps somewhat strangely, they focused on aspects of Roy Moore's sexual and/or social behavior from forty years ago.

In the course of telling the story this way, they tended to avoid discussions of Moore's crazy behavior and ludicrous statements as a public official in the past twenty-five years. On cable, they focused on this somewhat peculiar topic even as they tended to ignore the impending passage of a major "tax reform" bill.

Republican tax scams took a back seat. Roy Moore's dating in the 1970s came first!

According to major anthropologists, this group behavior no longer seems strange when we consider the hard-wired impulses of the species in question. As noted above, Homo sapiens is wired to display "an endless desire to talk about sex," along with "a potent desire to avoid discussing 'matters of substance.'" Throw in that "powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading factual claims to help create novelized group stories" and you start to understand this passage from Margaret Sullivan's feel-good column in this morning's Post:
SULLIVAN (12/14/17): Enough voters—especially black voters—decided that they believed the highly credible accusations against Moore. They voted their consciences, and in some cases went against their own voting histories, putting a Democrat in office in ruby-red Alabama.

What did it mean?

“There are standards. There are limits,” was how Jake Tapper put it minutes after CNN called the race for Democrat Doug Jones.

He was talking about voters’ reactions to the harrowing stories of sexual misconduct that four women told The Washington Post in mid-November—that Moore, as a man in his 30s, had preyed on teenage girls and, in one case, molested a 14-year-old, Leigh Corfman.
Scientists will call attention to Sullivan's (and Tapper's) inclination to present a highly simplistic, "feel-good" story in which, by one percentage point, right has conquered wrong.

That said, they'll call special attention to Sullivan's account of that initial report in the Washington Post. They'll cite her account as an example of the species' tendency to embellish, misstate and mislead.

Is it true? Did the four women in that original Post report make "accusations against Moore" in which they told "harrowing stories of sexual misconduct?"

Today, that stands as Sullivan's account of her own newspaper's famous report. But how accurate is that account?

Without any question, it's reasonable to say that Leigh Corfman told such a story in that Post report. But how about Gloria Thacker Deason, another of the four women?

Deason said she dated Moore for several months when he was 32 and she was 18, then 19. (She was a college student.) She said her mother felt that Moore was "good husband material." She told the Post that "their physical relationship did not go further than kissing and hugging."

Was that "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Was it an "accusation" at all?

Don't even ask! According to major anthropologists, Sullivan's species is programmed to see Deason's story as such within the extremely narrow warrens of their tribal "ant hills." So too with the story told by Debbie Wesson Gibson, who said that Moore kissed her twice during the several months when they dated, once again with her mother cheering the relationship on.

Did Gibson tell "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Within the anthill, yes, she did, these anthropologists tell us. Professor Wilson failed to respond to a request for comment, though we feel entirely sure about what he would have said.

Is it possibly time for a film named Anthropology Now? We picture Michael Moore standing over the Washington Post, making some such wry observation as, "I love the smell of bullsh*t in the morning."

Would such a documentary sell? Almost certainly not, the anthropologists say. The particular species under review has always loved embellished stories, especially tales about sex.

Meanwhile, back at the press corps:

As the children fretted about past kisses, they largely ignored Roy Moore's ludicrous conduct as a public official. "Too boring," their editors reportedly said.

Especially on "cable news," they pushed coverage of that Republican tax bill way down the list of topics. Last night, they had to obsess about Omarosa before they could rush through such fare.

That said, they've behaved this way for decades now. This helps explain the ludicrous budget and health care systems under which the American people labor. Such problems may seem pretty minor to corporate "cable news" millionaires!

The scientists point to other recent phenomena. That sprawling report in yesterday's New York Times about test scores in Chicago?

It will go completely unmentioned by liberals, the scientists insist. According to these anthropologists, these liberals aren't wired to care.

That confession of twenty years of self-serving silence offered by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate? "Liberals will praise her for her 'courage,' " the scientists quickly predicted, even before such comments began appearing on-line.

Gail Collins' silly cite of the latest script,
in which Senator Heroine was in Bible class when Donald J. Trump so horribly slimed her? "They're going to eat that pap with a spoon," one wry scientist said.

In our next few reports, we'll continue to outline the structure of this major new film. We'll especially focus on the silences which surround so many current news topics—the sounds of the silent generations who have, again and again and again, chosen not to speak in service to their careers.

Is the time right for Anthropology Now? The long, dumb history of "fictition" says the answer is no.

Our species has always loved a good story, these scientists tell us. A good story, the dumber the better, garnished with plenty of sex.

Tomorrow: The silent generation

We chose to see this as a complaint!


Parker profiles Donald J. Trump's original top enabler:
We chose to see it as a complaint when Kathleen Parker semi-profiled Mika Brzezinski in today's Washington Post.

We're so old that we call remember when Joe and Mika helped launch Candidate Trump. We became regular viewers of Morning Joe first half hour during that period, so weird did we think the program's performance was.

The lovebirds have spent a lot of time pretending they never did that. Their program grows ever more crazy, part of the growing dose of The Crazy with which our world is assailed.

We chose to think that Parker was almost saying, "Enough!" In a column headlined "Women's rage unleashed," she started describing Mika:
PARKER (12/13/17): The tweet heard 'round a world already agog about events in Alabama launched yet another cultural moment, at least along the Washington-New York corridor. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," a female guest said the tweet made her "blood boil," while co-anchor Mika Brzezinski wagged her finger at the screen and launched a soliloquy of scold at Ivanka Trump and other White House women.

It was her own version of a special place in hell for women, even a daughter, who persist in supporting Donald Trump.

It wasn't always thus, Mr. Irony interrupts. For months during the campaign, Brzezinski and her now-fiance, Joe Scarborough, gave Trump free rein on their show. "Morning Trump," some dubbed it. In recent months, perhaps in penance for helping Trump get elected with free airtime, the couple has become his morning nightmare.

Perhaps, too, Trump's personal insults of Brzezinski have turned her into a feminist avenger. On Tuesday, she peered piercingly into the camera, singeing the cameraman with her gaze, and schooled press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
We were glad to see Parker mention the nightmare of "Morning Trump." We think this program's original obeisance should not be forgotten.

Within the guild, these things are typically done with tact. But we thought Parker might be starting to say that things have gone too far on Morning Rant when she said that Mika's "soliloquy of scold" had started to make her seem like a "feminist avenger."

In our view, the brainless histrionics of the program once called "Morning Trump" is a visible part of our deepening cultural problem. We chose to think that Parker was suggesting as much as she continued her semi-profile:
PARKER: Brzezinski's moment wasn't quite Walter Cronkite's "mired in stalemate" declaration of U.S. failure in Vietnam, but she clearly decided to part with journalistic tradition and make Trump's takedown her personal mission. As her message intensified, her male guests remained stoic while Scarborough had the look of a boy trying not to do anything that would attract Momma's attention.

If Trump, in his strange way, had hoped for such a reaction, Alabamians likely enjoyed the distraction after months under the microscope.
Was Parker mocking Mika and Joe? Fervently, one can pray.

This morning, Mika ranted and railed about the way Judge Roy Moore rides his horse. She went on, and on and on, about this essential topic.

These rants aren't lovely, dark or deep. If we might quote a recent observer, her male guests remained stoic while Scarborough had the look of a boy trying not to do anything that would attract Momma's attention.

Our press corps has long been mired in various forms of The Crazy. Once, two stars made goo-goo eyes at their best pal, Candidate Trump. Now they "part with journalistic tradition" as they rant and clown.

Willie attempts to tackle turnout!


There's only one word for this—sad:
In fairness, the children have to spend lots of time in hair and makeup.

They also have to study their scripts. As Talking Cable Star Ken has said, "Cable news is hard!"

Once in a while, the children's scripts compel them to tackle some technical matter. So it was that Willie Haskell-Geist found himself attempting to discuss voter turnout down Alabama way.

Willie tried to tackle the topic in the first segment of today's Morning Joe. Joe Scarborough played along as Willie bungled the topic.
To observe the initial bungling, click here, move four minutes in:
GEIST (12/13/17): I said something on the air yesterday about the African-American turnout. They had talked about getting Obama-level 2008 turnout. I think the term I used was "pipe dream." I couldn't see how, without Barack Obama on the ballot, that was going to happen.

They did it! They did it. African-Americans turned out in the same numbers as they did—think about that!—in 2008 with Barack Obama, an historic candidate, on the ballot. Look at that!

JOE: That's just staggering. That is the most incredible story of all coming out of—

WILLIE: Isn't that unbelievable?

JOE: Unbelievable!

WILLIE: Doug Jones rode into the Senate on the back of African American voters and some suburban Republican women voters in this state.
The feel-good scripting is easy to spot. But as Willie and Joe carried on in this way, a visual seemed to say that African-American turnout in yesterday's election had been 29 percent.

That would be an extremely low turnout rate. Why in the world would Willie and Joe think that was so great?

Inevitably, Willie had bungled this topic in every conceivable way. For starters, let's try to establish some basic facts:

For starters, No, Virginia! African-Americans didn't "turn out [yesterday] in the same numbers as they did in 2008." On the other hand, black Alabamians didn't post the miserable turnout rate of 29 percent.

As technical topics go, "turnout" and "turnout rate" just aren't real hard at all. But they proved to be way too much for Willie and Joe this morning.

A few minutes later, Willie tried to tackle the topic again. This time, his pitiful technical bungling was even more apparent. Click here, move six minutes in:
GEIST: Just to underline these numbers one more time:

2008, black turnout in Alabama was 29 percent. 2012, it was 28 percent. And again, last night, 29 percent, in an off-year election without Barack Obama on the ballot.

MIKA: Wow!

WILLIE: And by the way, the broader turnout, according to the Secretary of State, was 40 percent. Remember his prediction, 25 percent? Forty percent last night.
Question: Has anyone ever been more incompetent than Willie Haskell-Geist? Who but a major "cable news" star could possibly be this dumb?

Note what Geist said in that second bite at the apple. First, he seems to praise black Alabamians for a turnout rate of 29 percent. He then says the overall turnout rate was a much higher 40 percent!

Why would he want to praise black voters if their turnout rate was so much lower than the overall rate? This obvious puzzle went unexplained as Mika simply said "Wow."

In fact, Geist had thoroughly bungled this topic. Let's take it step by step:

Black turnout: Almost surely, black turnout was not as large yesterday as in 2008.

In 2008, there were 2.10 million votes cast in Alabama. Yesterday, only 1.34 million votes were cast.

Overall participation was much lower yesterday. Almost surely, way more black Alabamians went to the polls in 2008.

Statewide turnout rate: According to Geist, the Secretary of State has said that the overall turnout rate yesterday waas 40 percent. That's the type of low turnout rate which our democracy routinely produces, even in high-profile elections.

We'll assume that's an accurate statement. But when Geist says black turnout rate was a much lower 29 percent, he's almost certainly wrong.

In that statement, Geist is confusing "black turnout rate" with "black turnout as a percentage of total turnout." As compared to 2008, voter turnout was way down on a statewide basis. But the black percentage of the total vote matched the percentage from 2008.

There's nothing hard about these topics, until a hapless bungler like Haskell-Geist comes along. That said, the scripting here was obvious. In line with current, extremely childish feel-good nostrums, the children wanted to praise blacks and women for pushing Jones over the top.

Haskell-Geist tried to do accomplish this task. As he did, he seemed to say that yesterday's black turnout rate was 1) extremely low, and 2) much lower than the overall turnout rate.

No one challenged his obvious bungling. Mika knew she ought to say "Wow;" Joe simply played along. No one else corrected the record. On Morning Joe, the rules are clear:

The minions do not correct the stars as the stars bungle along.

None of this pitiful bungling matters, except as a portrait of corporate press corps incompetence. These people are overpaid TV stars, full and complete total stop. They know very few facts, can handle few technical topics.

They do understand their prevailing scripts. They exist for one purpose only:

To peddle prevailing corporate narratives, thus treating their viewers like marks.

THE PAROCHIALS: The topics NBC likes to cover!


Epilogue—Craziest candidate ever:
Was Roy Moore the craziest candidate ever? Or at least since Judge Roy Bean?

Possibly not! That said, he was almost surely the craziest Senate candidate in the modern era. He made, and makes, Sharron Angle seem excessively sane.

Moore had been a major public figure since 1992. He had routinely engaged in crazy behavior as a public official—behavior that was crazy even by Alabama conservative standards.

He'd made endless crazy statements, a practice he maintained this month to the very end.

Yesterday, Moore was likely the only voter in Alabama who arrived at the polls on a horse. Aside from his wife, that is, who's a much better rider than Judge Moore is—or so said Mika Brzezinski this morning, in one of her angry rants.

Judge Roy Moore may have been the craziest candidate ever! That's why we were struck by what Vaughn Hillyard said on today's Morning Joe.

Hillyard may turn out to be a great TV journalist. At present, he's the very young NBC News reporter who was dispatched to Alabama to cover the Senate race.

What do we mean by very young? Hillyard is four years out of Arizona State (class of 2013). He's inexperienced, but telegenic. This brings us to his statement today, as seen on Morning Joe.

We were struck by what Hillyard said. In our view, it helps explain a horrible headline which appears on the front page of today's Washington Post:
HILLYARD (12/13/17): You guys, I'm not a man from the Deep South here. I haven't spent much time in Alabama until this last month, when I came out here the day the Washington Post broke the story, on November 9.
Hillyard went on to make some fairly silly but on-script remarks about the things he's learned, "over these last five weeks," about Alabama.

Forget those fairly silly remarks. We were struck by Hillyard's statement, which we've heard him make before, about when he arrived in Bama.

Uh-oh! According to Hillyard, he was dispatched to Alabama on November 9. According to Hillyard, that was "the day the Washington Post broke the story."

There was no need for Hillyard to say what "the story" was. He was referring to the original Washington Post report about an alleged sexual assault by Moore, and about the famous jurist's dating habits circa 1979.

Full disclosure: According to Nexis, Hillyward was in Alabama on Tuesday, September 26, covering Election Night in the Senate primary. After that, NBC News pulled him back—until "the story" broke.

Here's the way we read that fact. We'll speculate a bit:

NBC News probably wasn't hugely concerned about the fact that Judge Roy Moore was the craziest candidate ever. Along with all the other big orgs, the network probably wouldn't have paid a lot of attention to the crazy statements and behaviors which have marked Moore's life in and around public office in the past twenty-five years.

By the standards of corporate news, that sort of thing is boring. But when the Post launched a good sex story, young Hillyard was on the next plane.

Over the next five weeks, he provided a youthful, telegenic presence in the deep red state. Early this morning, he closed his run with some fairly silly remarks.

We're commenting here about NBC News, not about Vaughn Hillyard. Sadly, we're inclined to link the network's love for "the story" to this front-page headline in today's hard-copy Washington Post:
"GOP nears deal to cut top tax rate for wealthy"
Over the past five weeks, the boys and girls of the upper-end press have been in love with "the story." Again and again, especially on cable, they seemed to focus on Moore's dating habits from forty years ago.

The children love to talk about topics like this. More substantial topics bore them. The suits consider substantial topics to be deadly. This has been the norm in corporate news for at least the past thirty years.

They love to talk about sex—and, at one time, about drugs. They hate to talk about matters of substance. As they talk about sex and drugs and the like, they love to embellish, invent and disappear facts. This proclivity has now been extended to their new love, their love for virtue-signalling stances regarding gender and "race."

As they've entertained themselves in these ways, they've enabled a deadly war which changed the course of world history. They've enabled the massive looting which still characterizes our nation's health care "system."

And uh-oh! In their childish horseplay, they've also enabled the GOP tax proposal which may pass in the next week or so. Doug Jones won't be sworn in yet. He won't have a vote.

As that ludicrous tax proposal has been making its way through the Congress, the children have been talking about Judge Moore's long-ago dating habits, not excluding the scandalous fact that his wife was only 24 when the pair got married. But then, the children have been behaving this way for at least the past thirty years. At the upper end of the guild, they're quite well paid for their service.

As you know, it's all anthropology now! Through miracles of telepathy, future anthropologists keep sending us statements from the years which follow the nuclear conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War.

Our species simply wasn't up to the task, these gloomy savants keep saying. As we listened today to NBC's fresh-faced reporter, we couldn't say that these gloomy sprites necessarily have it wrong.

More to come: Clown college! Pathetically, Willie Geist-Haskell tries to discuss turnout rates.

Also, Kathleen Parker has heard enough from someone on Morning Joe.