Supplemental: Ann Hornaday gets it extremely right!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2014

We would extend her critique:
On Thursday, we thought Professor Dyson had an unusually strong op-ed piece in the New York Times. We highly recommend it.

We think Ann Hornaday tops him today! She does so on the front page of the Washington Post.

For our money, you’ll rarely read a more cogent analysis than the one Hornaday offers. In the hard-copy Post, her piece appears beneath this headline:

“Hollywood turns abuse into an easy plot device”

Hornaday is a film critic. She’s discussing Hollywood, not cable news—but we think her analysis travels, especially when she relates two upcoming Hollywood films to the NFL’s current problems.

For the record, we know Hornaday a tiny tad, although we haven’t seen her or her handsome husband in years. Back in 2007, their adorable daughter, then perhaps 6, took delight in sneaking up on us at the bagel joint and scaring us out of our wits.

This morning, Hornaday discusses two upcoming Hollywood films; they feature two big movie stars. She describes a troubling plot device the upcoming films employ:
HORNADAY (9/20/14): “A Walk Among the Tombstones” also pivots around a plot device that has become as troublesome as it is overused in Hollywood: an inciting incident of sexualized violence against a woman so heinous that it demands nothing short of a brutalizing rampage to avenge. It’s a trope trotted out with similar making-the-doughnuts roteness in “The Equalizer,” due out next Friday, in which Denzel Washington plays a freelance crime-fighter determined to bring rough justice to a group of thugs who have nearly beaten to death a teenage prostitute he recently befriended.
According to Hornaday—we’re thrilled to see this on a front page—movies like these “have an uneasily symbiotic relationship with violence, especially against women and children.”

In films like these, violence against women is “deployed as a narrative device: not to incite genuine offense,” Hornaday says, “but as an aesthetic element in itself, allowing filmmakers to indulge their most luridly toxic fantasies while pretending to abhor them.”

So true! As Hornaday went into more detail, she took us back to the 1970s, when we walked out of The Deep because of the lurid way it kept trapping Jacqueline Bisset underwater—in a succession of wet T-shirts, of course—as she was subjected to thrilling threats of violence.

Whenever the plot began slowing down, they sent her underwater.

In those days, we used to watch an hour of TV police drama each school night—Streets of San Francisco, Mannix or Cannon—until we recoiled against the way those programs increasingly used lurid threats of violence against women as a way to draw eyeballs in.

Hornaday describes this approach in substantial detail. We never knew there was an industry name for this type of dreck, but apparently there is—“woman in jep” (shorthand for woman in jeopardy).

In Hornaday’s view, this sort of thing became respectable in award-winning films like The Silence of the Lambs, which featured two big movie stars we’re all supposed to respect.

By now, the analysts were loudly cheering. And, as Hornaday continued, she just kept pouring it on:
HORNADAY: Not only have the perils of Pauline become exponentially more perverted, pornographic and pervasive, they’ve become the lazy screenwriter’s go-to springboard to get the action underway, a sure-fire mechanism for recruiting the audience’s most base curiosities and giving the protagonist—usually male—crucial moral cover for spending the next hour and a half indulging in his own righteous brand of sadism and savagery.

“A Walk Among the Tombstones” and “The Equalizer,” let it be noted, strive mightily for high-toned restraint and good taste: Both movies keep their vilest acts against women “tastefully” off-screen, submitting the audience to quick, lacerating glimpses of the horrors their writers have dreamed up…

In both cases, the oblique approach has the same effect, which is to invite viewers to conjure unspeakable behavior on their own, momentarily shifting the image from the screen in front of them to their own collective mind’s eye. Thus does Hollywood coyly perfect what it does best: having its cake and eating it too, making the most reprehensible violence part of its aesthetic and industrial practice, while keeping it arm’s-length enough to claim (barely) credible deniability.
We agree with every word. Speaking only for ourselves, we’ll suggest that similar “cinematic grammar” and motives have perhaps been at work in recent weeks as cable news has histrionically complained about the Ray Rice case.

We know! We want to believe that the high-minded people we see on our screens are actually high-minded people!

They’re loudly complaining about conduct which is plainly undesirable. Surely, we want to think, their motives must be pure.

We’ll suggest that we should be a bit less easy than that.

Hornaday goes on to describe the NFL’s recent behavior. “[Roger] Goodell and his colleagues have been so dizzyingly incoherent in their responses to real-life violence this week,” she says.

We might not go as far as that, but we would quickly add this point:

Anderson Cooper and his colleagues have often been “dizzyingly incoherent” too! Because they pose as journalists rather than business owners, we should expect more of them than we expect of Goodell, who is simply the spokesman for a giant corporation.

The dizzying incoherence continued on cable last night. We think of Rachel Maddow’s interview with William Rhoden. We think of a perfect pundit moment authored by Cooper himself.

Most strikingly, we think of the loud histrionics of Mel Robbins, the “CNN legal analyst.”

We’d post a sample of the things Robbins said as she pretended to offer commentary to Erin Burnett. But we’d have to put exclamation points after every word she said.

Forgive us for being less than admiring of loudmouth performers like Robbins. On CNN, she’s sold as a “legal analyst”—but on her own site, she’s sold as “The Most Powerful Female Motivational Speaker You Can Hire.”

The Hollywood of CNN wants you to think that Robbins is sincere. As we watched her orate last night, we couldn’t help wondering if she might not be trying to sell us her books; if she might not be trying to get us to pay her a higher speaking fee.

Hornaday criticizes Hollywood and the NFL. We’d suggest that you think about adding CNN, another big corporate entity whose work has often been dizzyingly incoherent in the past two weeks.

Is Hollywood selling you phony piety in its “women in jep” films? It’s been doing that for a very long time—and people we’re all supposed to admire are making millions of dollars as the stars of such dreck.

Well, guess what? In substantial part, cable TV is Hollywood too! As we read Hornaday’s superb analysis, we did think of CNN.

Last night, former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton spoke with Burnett—and briefly went off-message. He assailed the NFL for the many situations it has covered up down through the years, including steroid use and the brain damage being done to its players.

Tarkenton was still in the pocket as he attacked the target this way—but then, he started to scramble. Aggressively, he assailed “the media” for the general disinterest they’ve shown in these topics down through the years.

In the wake of the second Ray Rice tape, the pundits are loudly braying. Not unlike Roger Goodell, they had little to say about any of this before that tape emerged.

Often, their wildly overstated analyses seem to make little sense. Are the pundits playing it straight? Or are some of these overwrought players possibly braying from Hollywood?

Are some of them trying to bump up their fees? Because they tell us they’re journalists, we think these questions matter.


Supplemental: The Houses of Anderson Cooper County!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Incompetence has its rewards:
We’ll give you this:

Except to the NFL kingpin himself, it doesn’t much matter if Roger Goodell keeps or loses his job.

Nothing much turns on Goodell’s job status, except the joy of the chase.

That said, we’re not sure when we’ve seen a dumber performance than the one turned in by Anderson Cooper and the CNN team as they’ve staged their dimwitted rampage against Goodell over the past two weeks.

How dumb has the CNN gaggle been? Just try them:

When they read Don Van Natta’s report for ESPN, they didn’t notice that none of Van Natta’s “sources” were said to have attended the June 16 meeting they said they were describing.

When Goodell said that he’d been misled at the June 16 meeting, they couldn’t imagine what he possibly could have meant. Their cluelessness persisted even as their own reporter, Miguel Marquez, kept hitting them over the head with the obvious possibilities.

In the ultimate tour de force, Erin Burnett said she couldn’t see the difference between dueling claims that Rice had possibly “slapped” or “hit” his fiancée, as opposed to having “punched” her. In the world of Erin Burnett (and others), those words are all the same.

You really have to be dumb as a rock to turn in the work this gang has produced. Either that or you have to be faking.

We’ll guess it has worked both ways.

On the brighter side, incompetence has its rewards! Cooper has staged a classic “outrage event” over the course of the past two weeks.

We’ll guess the suits have been well pleased. After all, CNN is a big profit-chasing corporate entity, not unlike the NFL. Except CNN is much worse!

At any rate, it certainly hasn’t been all furrowed brows for CNN’s Silver Fox! In June, he added Litchfield County’s historic Rye House to The Houses of Cooper County!

The New York Post got there first. Emily Smith delivered the good for Page Six.

We can’t swear this is all accurate:
SMITH (6/21/14): Anderson Cooper and his partner, Benjamin Maisani, will be relaxing in historic splendor in Connecticut’s affluent Litchfield County this summer. Multiple sources tell us the CNN anchor has splurged on a massive, 10,127-square-foot Tudor revival stone mansion, called Rye House, for the mid-to-high seven figures.

The tony estate—sold by Karen Shaw, a former Miss Connecticut who starred on “Dallas” and “The A Team,” and her husband, Marc—was built in 1908 and designed by Wilson Eyre, a founder of House & Garden magazine. The home includes an Olympic-size swimming pool and tennis court, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its 18 rooms feature original chestnut wood paneling, limestone fireplaces and a hand-carved marble staircase. There’s also a private four-bedroom guest wing.
The 280-acre grounds boast Japanese pagoda trees, wisteria, magnolias, a walkway with stone pillars and a grape arbor.

...Depending on which local you ask, Cooper bought the property in leafy Litchfield for anywhere between $5 million and $9 million.
It’s only 280 acres, but the place is just for weekends and summering. According to Smith, Cooper’s New York crib is a Greenwich Village firehouse he bought in 2010 for $4.3 million.

Remember when Cooper was helping us ask if the Clintons have too much money?

By July, the picture was darkening. Yahoo Homes reported the underside of the Rye House acquisition. Apparently to help swing the deal, “Coop” was selling his side-by-side waterfront homes in or near the Hamptons. Combined asking price: $6.2 million.

For your best tour of the new Cooper manse, we’ll suggest that you click over to Curbed. The big old drafty mausoleum doesn’t look inviting to us. But you know our motto in such affairs:

You can only be in one room at a time.

(“Sell your clothes but keep your thoughts.” We believe Abraham Lincoln said that!)

You can count this as an addition to our award-winning series, The Houses of Journalist County. The series resumes next week.

Remember—there’s nothing “wrong” with being wealthy and owning strings of drafty old homes.

There's nothing “wrong” with any of that! We’re only asking a basic question as our award-winning series proceeds:

Could journalism ever emerge from the fabulous mansions of Journalist County? If you watched Cooper’s insulting performance the past two weeks, you may have received your answer.

Our award-winning series resumes on Monday with The Houses of Nantucket, Mass. What emerged from the chase for those “cottages,” tucked among the swells as they are?

Do we hear the war in Iraq? We’re not sure that answer is wrong!

Correction: It wasn't Abraham Lincoln at all! It was Thoreau. Click here.

Supplemental: A remarkable column by Catherine Rampell!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Also, those NFL arrest rates:
Catherine Rampell has a remarkable column in the Washington Post.

We don’t mean that as a compliment.

Rampell’s column concerns the way we the people view our public schools. We’ll grant you, she does say this:
RAMPELL (9/19/14): Few consistent tools are available to measure the quality of U.S. education over time; the best we have is probably the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, first administered in 1971. And believe it or not, NAEP scores have been steadily improving, with most national measures now at or around all-time highs. The biggest gains have generally gone to nonwhite students, helping narrow—though not eliminate—the achievement gap.
It’s unusual to read something like that, especially in the Post.

That said, that is just one brief part of Rampell’s column. In the bulk of her column, she tries to determine why we the people think our schools are worse than they used to be—especially since, objectively speaking, that doesn’t seem to be true.

We think her attempt to explain is just sad. For Princeton grads at the Washington Post, some things can’t be said.

We’ll discuss that column at some point next week. We also thought we’d recommend a report from FiveThirtyEight about NFL arrest rates.

Benjamin Morris did the report, all the way back in July. We’d call this his nugget:
MORRIS (7/31/14): Although there seems to be an endless stream of stories about NFL player arrests and misconduct, this is largely because there are a lot of NFL players (and they’re famous). At the league’s peak (during training camps), there are about 2,560 players attached to NFL teams (limit 80 each). As I’ll show, arrest rates among NFL players are quite low compared to national averages for men in their age range—but there are some types of crimes that trail the pack significantly.
“Arrest rates among NFL players are quite low compared to national averages for men in their age range?” We find that claim quite surprising.

Let’s be clear. Nothing in this report changes the way the NFL has handled cases of domestic violence this year, or in the past. If you don’t like the way the league has performed, this report presumably won’t change your judgment.

That said, we think Morris’ findings are quite surprising—and his report appeared in late July! Given all the thunder about the NFL in recent weeks, we think it’s surprising, and quite revealing, to see that this report has been almost completely ignored.

Did Morris get his information right? We can’t tell you that. Here’s an academic report on this subject from two of them perfesser fellers through an address at Duke.

Personally, we don’t think of the NFL as a judicial body. We want the police and the courts to handle criminal acts. If we’re going to talk about domestic violence, we’d like to see a wider discussion of the way the courts, and other institutions, are handling such matters across the board.

Katie McDonough actually did that this Wednesday, in this lengthy, thoughtful piece at Salon. By the next day, she had returned to more familiar soil—to the rampage against witch Goodell.

Dare we suspect it? Domestic violence is hard, very hard. The NFL can be fun.

SALEM VILLAGE AND CABLE NEWS: What Roger Goodell might have been told!

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Part 4—The brain cells of Anderson Cooper:
A week ago Tuesday, on September 9, Anderson Cooper was puzzled.

The previous day, a damning videotape had been released by TMZ. It showed Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ running back, punching his fiancée, Janay Palmer, inside an Atlantic City elevator.

Previously, there had been no tape of what occurred in the elevator. A different videotape had shown Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée off the elevator that night. But there had been no way to see what happened inside the conveyance.

As usual, Cooper was puzzled. Originally, the NFL had suspended Rice for two games and fined him an additional $500,000. When the new videotape appeared, the league hit Rice with an indefinite suspension.

Cooper was puzzled by that. As many other “journalists” would do in the next ten days, he asked Jeffrey Toobin a question:

What possible difference did the new videotape make?
COOPER (9/9/14): Jeff, when you hear the commissioner, Roger Goodell, saying, “Well, we didn't see the tape.” I mean, he said, “We didn't know what was on the tape.”

But I mean, anybody with, you know, brain cells can tell you, if you're dragging an unconscious woman out of the vehicle you can get a pretty good idea of what happened inside that elevator.
Anybody with brain cells could tell you! Of that fact, Cooper felt sure.

Based on his work in the past two weeks, Cooper may not be the best person to count up everyone’s brain cells. But in that clip, he was advancing a theme which would become quite common as the Salem Village of cable news staged its latest group chase.

Cooper was suggesting that the new videotape hadn’t added new information to what we already knew about the elevator incident. According to Cooper, the NFL had always had “a pretty good idea” of what happened inside that elevator.

Earlier in the program, Cooper had played tape of the NFL’s Roger Goodell being interviewed by Norah O’Donnell. After playing the tape of Goodell, Cooper stated his point more explicitly:
COOPER: Late today, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this to CBS This Morning's Norah O'Donnell:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: How is it that the NFL couldn't get their hands on a second tape but a Web site called TMZ could?
GOODELL: Well, I don't know how TMZ or any other Web site gets their information. We are particularly reliant on law enforcement as the most reliable. It's the most credible. And we don't seek to get that information from sources that are not credible.
O'DONNELL: The question becomes, did the NFL drop the ball or was the NFL willfully ignorant about what was on this tape?
GOODELL: Well, we certainly didn't know what was on the tape. But we have been very opened and honest and I have also, from two weeks ago when I acknowledged that we didn't get this right. That's my responsibility and I'm accountable for that.
O'DONNELL: But what changed? I mean, on the first tape she was lying unconscious on the ground, being dragged out. Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?
GOODELL: No. We certainly didn't, and I would tell you that what we saw on the first videotape was troubling to us in it of itself. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, it was extremely graphic and it was sickening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Surprising he said we didn't know what was on the tape when obviously—it's pretty obvious what was on the tape.
According to Cooper, it was always “pretty obvious what was on the tape.” It was surprising when Goodell said he didn’t already know what he would see on the tape.

Later today, we’ll do a post which will help you picture the telegenic CNN TV star as he lounges, cavorts and plays in The Houses of Cooper County. In fairness to the CNN star, O’Donnell also seemed puzzled by the NFL’s reaction to the new videotape.

As many other stars would do, she voiced her puzzlement over the NFL’s conduct. “What changed?” the CBS star asked Goodell. (O’Donnell was once much better than this.) “Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?”

From that day to this, a range of TV stars and journalists have worked off this general framework. They’re expressed deep puzzlement about the NFL's reaction to the second tape.

Why would someone be more upset after seeing the second tape? After we saw the first videotape, didn’t everyone already know what the second tape would show?

TV stars have pounded Goodell for reacting differently to the second tape. They keep forgetting to mention a major point—their own behavior massively changed when the second tape appeared.

Our TV stars paid little attention to the Rice matter before the second tape surfaced. But after the second tape appeared, they staged one of their patented Cable Entertainment/Moral Outrage Spectaculars, with Goodell eventually supplanting Rice as their primary target.

Everyone was thoroughly puzzled concerning that second tape. If you had any brain cells at all, you already knew what that tape would show, they said.

By the end of last week, this had morphed into a second piece of script. In this second script, the TV stars rolled their eyes at Goodell’s claim that he had been misled about what happened in the elevator at a June 16 meeting with Rice. Working off a blatantly shaky report by ESPN, the TV stars all bought the idea that Goodell had of course been told the truth.

Rice told Goodell that he punched Janay Palmer! All the cable stars knew it.

What was Roger Goodell told in that June 16 meeting? Like the scripted TV stars, we have no way of knowing.

But because we have at least three brain cells, we know what Goodell might have been told. And we know what that second tape could have shown, even though hapless stars like Cooper simply can’t seem to imagine.

Below, we’re going to tell you, as quickly as possible, what Goodell might have been told in that June 16 meeting. We’ll also tell you what that second videotape could have shown.

When that second tape appeared, it showed an extremely violent punch to the face of Janay Palmer, who is now Janay Rice. On the other hand, it could have shown something less incriminating.

Let’s get our brain cells all in a row and try to stay on the path:

What might the second tape have shown? What might Goodell have been told in that meeting?

Possible answers to that question have been floating around for months. On Cooper’s September 9 show, CNN reporter Miguel Marquez gave him a bit of a hint.

Marquez played tape of Chris Mortensen, a major investigative reporter at ESPN. Well before the June 16 meeting, Mortensen had described something he had been told:
MARQUEZ (9/9/14): The existence of the inside-the-elevator view was known for months. In May, ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen had it described to him. The description appearing to partly exonerate Rice:

MORTENSEN: I'm told, for those who've seen the video, it wasn't pretty. And in fact, she attacks him, we don't know the reason why, and he strikes her, strikes her hard, and her head, according to the sources I've spoken with, struck the rail inside the elevator and she was unconscious.

MARQUEZ: Ravens' general manager Ozzie Newsome on July 24th called the NFL's investigation a thorough process.
Back in May, someone had (falsely) told Mortensen that the tape would show Janay Palmer “attacking” Rice. In Mortensen’s account, there was also a suggestion that contact with the elevator rail may have explained Janay Palmer’s loss of consciousness.

Reporting to the brilliant Cooper, Marquez said that this account, delivered in May, had “appeared to partly exonerate Rice.”

A person can judge that assessment as he likes. But if Goodell was told that Rice had been defending himself from an “attack” by Janay Palmer, that might have been considered a mitigating factor.

If Goodell was told that Palmer lost consciousness because she hit her head on the rail, that might have been a mitigating factor too. Meanwhile, consider this:

What if Goodell was told that Rice had merely “slapped” Janay Palmer? What if Goodell was told that Janay Palmer “attacked” Ray Rice; that Rice “slapped” her when she did; and that she slipped and hit her head on the rail, thereby losing consciousness?

That isn’t what the second tape showed. But obviously, the second tape could have shown something like that.

Was Roger Goodell told something like that? Like the multimillionaire TV stars, we have no way of knowing. But let’s consider something else Marquez reported to the stars they parade at CNN.

It was now Thursday, September 11. The highly telegenic Marquez was hauled on the air to speak to the highly telegenic Erin Burnett.

Below, you see what he told her about an exciting new ESPN report. The report was extremely shaky on its face, but only if you know how to read:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): If you look through that entire article, this relates to a June 16th meeting in which Rice, his wife, two reps from the players' union, Ozzy Newsome, the GM of the Ravens and the president of the Ravens were all in the meeting.

There were five different accounts of what Rice told Mr. Goodell during that meeting. Four of them said that he—that Rice admitted hitting his wife and the fifth said that Rice “slapped” his wife.

And I also say it is unclear because the owner of the Ravens, Steve Bisciotti said earlier that he believed that Rice had—that Rice had told him that he had hit his wife, but it was an open-handed slap and she was aggressive with him and drinking, and that all of the damage was caused when she fell in the elevator and hit her head on the railing.
Say what? As is required by Hard Pundit Law, Marquez’s account was a bit unclear. (Telegenicity may have its tradeoffs.)

Let’s ask the obvious questions:

Did Bisciotti really say that? Did he really say that Rice told him that he struck Janay Palmer with “an open-handed slap?”

The second tape could have shown Rice doing that. In the end, of course, it didn’t.

That said, did Rice really make that claim to Bisciotti? Did he really tell the Ravens owner that he hit Palmer with “an open-handed slap?” That he did so because “she was aggressive with him?” That all the damage occurred when she fell and hit her head on the railing, with all that claim might suggest?

We don’t know if Rice said that. But unlike the beautifully scripted Cooper, we can at least imagine this obvious possibility.

Just for the record, here's part of the statement by Bisciotti which Marquez was paraphrasing for Burnett. In this clip, Marquez is airing the tape for Cooper on that same Thursday night:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): The alternative narrative, and keep in mind that some of those individuals in that room are friends of Rice or people who think that he is getting a raw deal in all of this, the alternative narrative of this was espoused really by the team owner, Steve Bisciotti, when he talked about the way he envisioned what happened in that elevator, prior to seeing the TMZ tape.

BISCIOTTI (videotape): We love Ray, so we have a tendency to hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see. And so the—the misdemeanor, the explanation that she hit him, he hit her with an open hand. The facts that she had—was aggressive. I was picturing—I was picturing her whaling on him and him smacking her.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, I mean, there's now this investigation being headed by the former director of the FBI. Some people say it's not going to be impartial enough before it even gets under way.
In that clip, Bisciotti seems to say that he received an “explanation” in which Rice hit Palmer “with an open hand,” and only after Palmer hit him.

That isn’t what actually happened, of course. But could that be what Goodell was told in that June 16 meaning?

We have no way of knowing, but it’s obviously possible. But so what? On that same September 11 program, Cooper persisted with the script.

By now, Goodell had said that the story he heard on June 16 was “ambiguous.” The nation’s most telegenic star was puzzled by that statement. “How is it that this could be ambiguous?” Cooper wondered that night.

Burnett was even more clueless. She interviewed Marquez that same night about Goodell’s interview with O’Donnell, the interview where Goodell said the story he heard on June 16 was “ambiguous.”

Burnett and Marquez discussed that comment. They produced this very, very, very, very, very sad exchange:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): If you go through the entire interview, [Goodell is] very clear that he's concerned seeing her brought out of that elevator. The other thing is, you don't even need any of that because, as we've pointed out before, the summons that was made publicly available and reported everywhere after the February 15th incident, it says that he “hit” her, “rendering her unconscious,” in plain English.

So the fact that he wouldn't have known that he hit her, either from Rice's own mouth or from the police who were on the scene, just doesn't seem credible.

BURNETT: No, it doesn't. And certainly the word ambiguous, whether it was a “slap” or a “hit,” also seems strange to me.
Good God! Obviously, Goodell knew that Rice “hit” Palmer that night. In the wake of the June 16 meeting, he suspended Rice for two games and fined him an additional 500 large.

The suspicion would be that Goodell was told that Rice only “slapped” Palmer, perhaps in some sort of self-defense. With that in mind, let’s discuss the meanings of three simple words:

If you “slap” someone, you have also “hit” them! But you haven’t viciously punched them, and that is the conduct which was shown on the second videotape.

That videotape could have shown something different. It could have shown Rice slapping Palmer with an open hand in response to an attack by Palmer. It could have shown Palmer slipping, then hitting her head on the rail, thereby losing consciousness.

That isn’t what the second tape showed, but it could have shown that. Beyond that, that may be the story Goodell was told in the June 16 meeting. Consider:

All along, Janay Rice had expressed regret for her “role in the incident.” It may be that the Rices were telling some version of that story until the second videotape emerged.

Is that what happened? We have no idea, but it’s an obvious possibility. Unless you’re being paid millions of dollars to stage entertainment/outrage spectaculars, in which case you may play it dumb and keep the story simple.

Or you may simply be that dumb in your real life.

What was Goodell told in that meeting? We don’t know, but there is a blindingly obvious range of possibilities. Unless you work for CNN, in which case you might construct a pleasing story in which the corporate witch was wrong, just oh so wrong.

People like Cooper have played these games for a great many years. In 1999 and 2000, his predecessors played a similar game about Big Liar Gore, keeping it up for twenty straight months. We’re now entering our second war in Iraq because of what those murderous, pseudo-journalist entertainers did.

These games work for one reason—because everyone else goes along. In the current instance, read this post by Kevin Drum, our favorite blogger.

Granted, it was just the second day. But we were surprised by this passage:
DRUM (9/8/14): And yet, that [second] video told us nothing. We already knew what had happened. Based on previous video, we knew that Rice had punched Janay Palmer hard enough to knock her out. We just didn't have it on tape.
Maybe he hadn’t been following the case. But when our brightest people reason that way, we really have no defense against the games of the press corps.

Let us tell you one more thing about what might have happened. This involves something which might have happened on the elevator that night.

Last week, a news report by the AP’s Rob Maaddi attracted a ton of attention. Maaddi reported that someone in law enforcement sent a copy of the second videotape to an NFL executive three months ago.

(Last Friday night, on The O’Reilly Factor, Maaddi clarified a previously murky point. He said the tape was sent to an NFL executive at "the NFL offices on Park Avenue" in New York.)

Maaddi’s report was widely discussed. What follows has disappeared:
MAADDI (9/10/14): The video, shown to the AP on Monday, is slightly longer than the TMZ version, and includes some audio.

Rice and Janay Palmer—now Janay Rice—can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, "She's drunk, right?" And then, "No cops."

Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time...
Maaddi saw a different version of the videotape. He says Palmer “appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch.”

We all do stupid things at some point. Did Palmer spit at Rice that night?

We have no way to answer that question. Maaddi and his editors apparently thought the action was clear enough to include in the news report.

If Palmer spat at Rice that night, we’ll assume it was the dumbest thing she has ever done in her life. (Emphasis on “if.”)

We all do stupid things at some point. We assume that Janay Rice is a good decent person. She and her husband have a beautiful daughter, with whom they’ve been photographed smiling and laughing. We’re hoping for the best for all three. We aren’t lusting to see them humiliated, attacked, scapegoated, banished from our modern Salem Village or sent to jail. We aren’t lusting to see them turned into metaphors or cartoons.

That said, that part of Maaddi’s report has disappeared. In interviews, no one asked him about it.

If Maaddi wasn’t fairly sure about what he saw on the tape, he shouldn’t have put it in his report. If it actually happened, it’s ultimately a part of the story, perhaps in several ways.

On cable, though, that part of Maaddi's report didn’t fit the pleasing, simple-minded story people like Cooper were pleasing their viewers with. Just for the record, Cooper is a terrible fit for his current job, although he may not have enough brain cells to know that.

All over the cable dial, people like Cooper have played it dumb in the current cable chase. They did the same thing during Campaign 2000, in a much more dangerous context.

People are dead all over the world because of the game they played in that instance. Now, we’re gearing up to go over there again!

That said, nothing will ever make our “journalists” tell us how this stupid shit happens. Nothing will make them stand and resist their guild’s next brain-dead chase.

We love it when they hand us this crap. As in Salem Village, so too today:

It makes us feel morally pure. We feel much purer than Roger Goodell, the man to whom Rice told the truth.

Later today: The Houses of Cooper County!

Supplemental: Sometimes you just have to laugh with the Times!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

Which part of the Ngogo group don’t you understand:
This morning, we were hard at work reading our “National” section in the New York Times.

Suddenly, it happened! Beneath the report about testosterone drugs, a headline caught our eye:

“Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally, Study Suggests”

Based on that headline, it seemed like the study hasn’t nailed anything down. But the study was at least prepared to suggest that violent chimps have absolutely no one to blame but themselves!

We’ll admit it—they had us at “lethal violence in chimps.” We had no idea why a report of this type was in our “National” section.

Most of this nation’s chimps are in zoos. Has lethal violence found its way there, despite all our lead abatement?

As it turned out, the report concerned a lively debate among the nation’s scientists. As he started, reporter James Gorman described the state of play:
GORMAN (9/18/14): Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive?

A study published Wednesday in Nature is setting off a new round of debate on the issue.

[...]

There is no disagreement about whether chimpanzees kill one another, or about some of the claims that Dr. Wilson and his 29 co-authors make.

The argument is about why chimpanzees kill. Dr. Wilson and the other authors, who contributed data on killings from groups at their study sites, say the evidence shows no connection between human impact on the chimpanzee sites and the number of killings.

He said the Ngogo group of chimpanzees in Uganda ''turned out to be the most violent group of chimpanzees there is,'' even though the site was little disturbed by humans.

They have a pristine habitat, he said, and ''they go around and kill their neighbors.''
Based on the Ngogo group—it sounds a bit like a weekend talk show—it almost sounded like we humans were off the hook this time! Meanwhile, if anyone deserves to be violently angry with neighbors, it would have to be Dr. Wilson himself, what with all those co-authors.

As always, things weren’t quite that simple. Some anthropologists aren’t willing to take Ngogo for an answer:
GORMAN (continuing directly): Robert Sussman, an anthropologist at Washington University who supports the idea that human actions put pressure on chimpanzee societies that results in killings, was dismissive of the paper. ''The statistics don't tell me anything,'' he said. ''They haven't established lack of human interference.''

Brian Ferguson, an anthropologist at Rutgers University who has written extensively on human warfare and is working on a book about chimpanzee and human violence, also argued that the measures of human impact were questionable. The study considered whether chimpanzees were fed by people, the size of their range and the disturbance of their habitat. But, Dr. Ferguson said, impact ''can't be assessed by simple factors.''
It seems there’s a Sussman in every crowd, refusing to get with the program. If Howard Mortman were writing this piece, he would probably put it like this:

Why can’t he let it Ngogo?

With respect to Dr. Ferguson’s work, maybe it’s time for some pithy signage.

“Please don’t feed the Ngogo group!” Why should that be so hard?

Reporter Gorman powered along, even discussing Demonic Males, the lively 1996 text which studied the origins of human violence. Gorman closed with two quotes about chimps and war.

“War has nothing to do with what chimpanzees do,” one scholar suggestively said.

Supplemental: The tragedy, and the scourge, of Salon!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

Sorbonne scholar cons liberal readers:
Last night, we watched part of Bill O’Reilly’s segment about the spanking debate.

(As the segment continued, we clicked back to Chris Hayes’ two-segment interview with Naomi Klein.)

Just now, we read Salon’s account of O’Reilly’s segment. We’re not sure when we’ve seen a clearer example of the ongoing tragedy, and the scourge, of the new, dishonest Salon.

The author of Salon’s piece on the segment is the brilliant young scholar, Joanna Rothkopf. By every standard reckoning, she has had all the advantages.

After prepping at Georgetown Day, she got her B.A. (in literary studies) at Middlebury, class of 2012. She spent her junior year at the Sorbonne, studying “cinema” (“movies,” or film).

She got a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia. This very year!

Today, Rothkopf deceives you within an inch of your life at the new and pathetic Salon. You can hear the liberal brain cells dying as this highly privileged person teams with a grotesquerie of a headline editor to produce this pile of “merde” (offal, ordure):
ROTHKOPF (9/18/14): Bill O’Reilly’s shameful parenting advice: Giving kids a “little whack” can be effective/
Fox News host Martha MacCalllum valiantly argues with the least reasonable man on television


On Wednesday evening’s edition of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly turned his attention to the public debate surrounding corporal punishment and children, following Adrian Peterson’s indictment for child abuse.

O’Reilly’s guest, Fox co-host Martha MacCallum presented a poll that found that the majority of Americans believe that spanking children is okay, however MacCallum did well to point out that child abuse and spanking are very different things in terms of public opinion. Even so, she continues, spanking doesn’t work: “You end up producing a child who treats their child the same way,” she says.

The entire segment, O’Reilly tries to get MacCallum to admit that sometimes, just a little bit of smacking is a good thing, at the very least just to get the kid’s attention.
Having watched the start of O’Reilly’s segment, we were puzzled by that account.

(Sacre bleu! The punctuation in paragraph 2 is just the way we found it.)

What actually happened last night? The segment started with MacCallum stating the results of a nationwide poll about spanking. Quickly, the least reasonable man on television could be seen saying this:
O'REILLY (9/17/14): You can't beat a child in this country or you will be charged with a crime. Taking a stick, which is akin to a whip, off a tree and whipping it like this, that's going to leave— A four-year old!

MACCALLUM: That's abuse.

O'REILLY: All right. So the topic of spanking, all right? But like in the Northeast, I don't know anybody who really spanks their children anymore. I don't. I never spanked.

MACCALLUM: When I'm saying—it's about 65 percent think that you should be allowed to reprimand by spanking.

O’REILLY: Allowed to.

MACCALLUM: But it doesn't mean that many people are doing it.
It was fairly clear that O’Reilly disapproved of what was done to that 4-year-old with that stick, which was akin to a whip. He said he never spanked his child. He said he doesn’t know anyone who spanks their kids.

MacCallum then gave the numbers on spanking from different parts of the country. Quickly, though, she returned to this:
MACCALLUM: I think what we need to clarify is what we're talking about here. And I think the studies that have been done...prove that children who have been subjected to this kind of behavior, it doesn't work. If you're trying to discipline your child—and we've heard people all week who are convinced this is an appropriate way to discipline a child—but what we're learning is, it's not. You end up producing a child who treats their child the same way, and aggressive behavior and abusive behavior stems from that kind of discipline.

O'REILLY: I agree. I think parents should be skilled enough to be able to find a way to stop the child from doing misbehavior—

MCCALLUM: Of course they should!

O’REILLY: And the same thing in school.
“It’s child abuse all over the place,” O’Reilly said a bit later. “It's a horrible plague. Same thing with domestic violence. The difference is, if you inflict pain on the child, that should be a crime.”

Referring to Adrian Peterson, O’Reilly sounded a great deal less than sympathetic. “Peterson is going to be—they'll take care of Peterson,” he gloweringly said.

Because we saw these parts of the segment, we were surprised when we went to Salon today and found the brilliant young pseudo-liberal telling the nation—in English, no less!—that the least reasonable man on television had spent “the entire segment” trying “to get MacCallum to admit that sometimes, just a little bit of smacking is a good thing.”

Let’s review:

O’Reilly said he doesn’t spank his child. He said he has never spanked his child, and that he barely knows anyone who does.

He said parents shouldn’t need to spank their children. He said if parents inflict pain on their child when they spank, that should be a crime. He called the mistreatment of children “a horrible plague.”

But so what? In the best Olbermann tradition, a privileged youngster at Salon went out and sold you a big pile of con about what O’Reilly had said.

Good lord, but we love our cartoons! And if you deeply love cartoons, there will always be a group of suits at some site who will sell them to you.

You can watch the entire O’Reilly segment at Salon. If you do, you will also see the later part of the segment, in which O’Reilly seems to be saying that it’s OK if parents lightly tap their kids to keep them from running out in the street or burning themselves on the stove.

You can decide for yourself what O’Reilly meant at that point. (Rather clearly, MacCallum says you should let them burn their hands.) But Rothkopf’s post is grossly inaccurate. And as is routine at the new Salon, the headline editor made things much, much worse.

At some point in the past few years, the suits at Salon decided to reinvent the site this way. It’s stunning to see the effect they’re willing to have on young “writers” like Rothkopf.

We’ve been warning about this progression for years—about the way the emerging liberal world has been learning to ape the behavior of Rush and Sean. Rothkopf’s piece is a sad example of what we’ve been talking about.

You can hear liberal brain cells dying as you read the latest example from the suits at the new Salon. Straight outta Columbia J-School, the brilliant young star of the famous Sorbonne played her liberal readers for fools as she played along.

SALEM VILLAGE AND CABLE NEWS: Another perfect pundit performance!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

Part 3—Sunny Hostin delivers:
In yesterday’s post, we saw Mike Pesca, a good decent person, deliver a bit of perfect pundit behavior.

On Monday’s Anderson Cooper show, another such performance occurred. It was delivered by Sunny Hostin, a “hang ’em high” former prosecutor with a warm, sunny smile.

Hostin is a familiar type of cable pundit. She’s a youngish, conventionally attractive, female former federal prosecutor for whom all people are plainly guilty and in need of extensive punishment.

Nancy Grace invented the type. By now, this type of casting on “cable news” programs is extremely familiar.

When Hostin shows up in Salem Village, the target will always be guilty. Let’s discuss the perfect moment she authored on Monday evening’s show.

Cooper spent his first half hour discussing the NFL’s various problems. Twenty-four minutes into the program, Jeffrey Toobin did something unusual.

Toobin made a positive statement about the current target:
TOOBIN (9/15/14): Now the NFL, I think to its credit, just hired four very prominent domestic violence experts to try to articulate and help them formulate a policy. One of the many problems of the NFL's response here is that the rules were very unclear, and basically dumped it all in Goodell's lap and he could be the emperor who decided, you know, how each case was resolved on its own merits.

The problem with that is, you don't have clear rules so that you have some people who have been convicted of domestic violence who are playing. You have some people who have been suspended. The length of the suspension is up for grabs. So the fact that they've hired these good people and at least in the future, I hope, we'll have—
Toobin is a former prosecutor who tends to take a more moderate view than Hostin does. On “cable news,” a figure like Toobin is often cast in tandem with a Nancy Grace knock-off.

In this passage quoted above. Toobin was breaking the basic rules of his trade. Here’s why we say that:

In the previous week, the NFL had become the obvious target of cable’s latest Entertainment/Moral Outrage Spectacular. In the Salem Village of cable news, the NFL was plainly the latest witch.

The parsons and goodies of the Village were chasing the NFL all around. Now, Toobin said that the NFL, “I think to its credit,” had done something constructive!

We were struck by the timing of Toobin’s comment. By now, twenty-four minutes had passed in the program, but Cooper hadn’t reported the hiring of these “prominent experts.”

Whatever! Out of nowhere, Toobin was saying the current target had done something constructive. Infallibly, Hostin interrupted, producing this superb example of perfect pundit behavior:
HOSTIN (continuing directly): I have to completely disagree with you, Jeff. And that is because we know, after the scandal erupted, what did Goodell do? He did implement a policy, right? He implemented this two-game suspension and then an indefinite—I guess, a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense for domestic violence.

He is playing catch-up! The NFL is playing catch-up. So to name these four women as domestic violence experts on his team at this point, I think, is too little, I think it's too late, and I think it's tone deaf.
Hiring experts on domestic violence? The conduct was tone deaf!

You’ll rarely see a better example of perfect cable pundit behavior. Let’s note what Hostin did.

Interrupting Toobin’s remarks, she said she completely disagreed with his statement. That represents the total oppositional dumbness cable news has long adored.

Why did Hostin disagree so completely? In honesty, her logic is hard to parse.

She started by saying that Goodell initiated a domestic violence policy in late August—a policy whose basic conditions she misstated.

On this basis, she said the recent hiring of the experts was too little and too late. She also said it was “tone deaf” to hire the four experts.

We’re not real sure how to parse that.

For starters, we’ll note that Hostin didn’t seem to know the basics about the policy Goodell put in place after the scandal erupted. Under that policy, a first offence for domestic violence will bring a six-game suspension.

Thundering loudly, Hostin seemed to think the number was two.

In fairness, everyone makes mistakes of this type; Hostin makes them quite often. That said, it’s hard to know what the NFL could possibly do this point, given Hostin’s logic.

Because Goodell announced a policy in late August, she says it’s “tone deaf” to hire four experts to help him further now. She says it’s “too late” to do that.

By that logic, what can the NFL possibly do if it feels the need for better advice with regard to this problem? By Hostin’s logic, all further action is wrong!

Hostin didn’t seem to know the basic facts; her logic was rather obscure. But she was exhibiting perfect behavior, like Pesca in yesterday’s post.

Below, you see the basic pundit rule Pesca and Hostin were following. This was the rule in Salem Village. It’s also the rule in the modern cable chase:

Whatever the target says or does, it can only show us, even more clearly, that the target is guilty as charged.

Everything must be taken to show that the target is truly a witch. Last week, the pundits had reached that judgment about the NFL. On Monday evening, Hostin knew that the target was guilty as charged.

Hostin isn’t especially lucid. As a pundit, her value lies in the fact that she will find every target guilty as charged.

She will “completely” disagree with alternate judgments, even if she’s a bit fuzzy about the issues at hand.

Hostin’s fuzzy thinking was on display all through Monday’s program. Cooper was quite fuzzy too.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s report, let’s examine the basic point of the current chase.

Early in his segment on Ray Rice, Cooper introduced Miguel Marquez.

On what basis is Rice appealing his suspension from the NFL? Marquez gave a clear explanation:
MARQUEZ: Roger Goodell [is]saying that he was either led astray, or misled, or lied to by Mr. Rice during that June 16th meeting. He has been saying that now several times over the last week while Rice, at least his side of the camp, [is] saying that it was Goodell that was told everything by Ray Rice, and that he didn't hear it and made his decision on the two-game suspension, and only changed his mind once that TMZ Sports video came out showing the inside of the elevator in that Atlantic City casino.

[...]

Goodell is saying that the indefinite suspension is because he was led astray, not for the beating of Janay Palmer back in February.
Goodell is saying that he was misled. Rice is saying that Goodell was given the whole ugly truth.

What was Roger Goodell told in that June 16 meeting? Moments later, Cooper and Hostin tried to puzzle that out. Each star was remarkably clueless. Pitifully, let’s start with this:
COOPER: It’s interesting now, Miguel saying that Roger Goodell had been saying, “Well, I was kind of misled.”

That's not what we heard from the coach of the team in that press conference who said, “Well, no, nothing Ray Rice said was any different—you know, everything that's come out is pretty much what he told us.” And there must have been a roomful of attorneys in that meeting between Roger Goodell and Ray Rice. I mean, at least Ray Rice's attorneys were there.

HOSTIN: Right.

COOPER: It must be pretty clear what was actually said.

HOSTIN: Well, no question about it. I mean, we know that the meeting took place and we know that there were representatives for Ray Rice and representatives for the NFL.
Cooper started by bungling a fact. John Harbaugh, “the coach of the team,” wasn’t present at the June 16 meeting.

(Ozzie Newsome, the general manager, was present. As far as we know, he hasn’t made a public statement about what was said in the meeting. If he did make a public statement, that wouldn’t mean it was true.)

After that, Cooper bungled an obvious bit of logic. Since Rice’s attorneys were at the meeting, “It must be pretty clear what was actually said,” the TV star deduced.

Hostin cheered him on. “No question about it,” she said.

Could they get dumber and live? If there’s an audiotape of the meeting, it may be “pretty clear what was said.”

(Even then, there could be disputes about what various statements meant and implied.)

Beyond that, it may be “pretty clear what was said” if a reliable transcript was created.

(We stress the word “reliable.” CNN’s transcript of Monday’s program has Toobin making the clueless remark, “It must be pretty clear what was actually said.” Does CNN ever bother getting its transcripts right? If we were Toobin, we’d want our name taken off that remark.)

At this point, can we talk? Absent tape or reliable transcript, it won’t be clear in any way what was actually said!

The teams of lawyers will disagree. The fact that Cooper and Hostin don’t understand that tells us about the types of performers CNN puts on the air.

As the pair continued to talk, they continued to flounder. Finally, Hostin asked the clueless question pundits have been asking for two weeks.

Tomorrow, we’re going to answer that question. Below, you see Monday’s exchange:
HOSTIN (continuing directly): But I think that the larger question is, how could Goodell and the NFL have screwed this up, have botched this up so much that Ray Rice now has the ability to appeal?

And I think, Jeff, that he has solid ground. I think he's standing on solid ground, quite frankly, because we know that he was suspended for two games. If he indeed told the truth—and there was a video showing the aftermath of the knockout—

COOPER: And a police report.

HOSTIN: —and a police report that clearly says he hit her and rendered her unconscious—I looked at the police report today—there was really nothing different that occurred, other than the fact that this videotape was shown to the public.

COOPER: Right. The only, the only thing that's different now, Jeff, is that—

HOSTIN: What did they think domestic violence looks like?
Haplessly, Hostin said Rice is on solid ground in his appeal “if he indeed told the truth” at the June 16 meeting.

Stating the obvious, this begs the basic question: How will anyone be able to show whether Rice told the truth?

Finally, the avenging angel of Salem Village fell back on the silly question our pundits have asked for weeks: “What did they think domestic violence looks like?”

In context, here’s what that question meant:

As the original tape showed, Janay Palmer was unconscious when she came off the elevator that night. For that reason, pundits have said, it was always obvious that Ray Rice had punched her, just as the second tape later showed.

When the second tape emerged, it showed Rice punching Palmer in a very violent manner. Pundits have stood in line to ask this exceptionally clueless question:

What else did Roger Goodell think the tape could have shown?

We can’t tell you what Goodell thought. Nor can we tell you what he was told at that meeting.

But we can very much tell you what he might have been told in that meeting. The outlines of what he might have been told have been floating around for months.

What might Roger Goodell have been told? In what way might he have been misled, even lied to?

Tomorrow, we’ll run you through these obvious questions, in precisely the way Cooper and Hostin never could—or never would.

Sunny Hostin seems to think that Roger Goodell should go. If CNN was a journalistic concern, Hostin would have been gone herself, several years ago.

Tomorrow: The basic question