Part 4—Rachel’s feces and urine: In a post-journalistic “press corps,” pointless distraction is all.
So it was as the New York Times explored Newt’s doctoral thesis.
The text was composed in 1971. Needless to say, Maureen Dowd hasn’t read it. That didn’t stop the fatuous lady from offering her pseudo-thoughts on the subject in last Sunday’s column.
For a good (waste of) time, just click this.
The very next day, the Times published a second column on the pointless topic. This piece was written by Adam Hochschild, a specialist who has read the thesis and knew whereof he spoke. The topic remained completely pointless—a familiar type of distraction. But Hochschild offered a savvy thought about one key disappointment:
HOCHSCHILD (12/5/11): A curious document it is—but not in ways that Mr. Gingrich’s enemies might hope for, since the dissertation is not filled with racism or drum-beating for colonialism’s glories. At the start he asks, “Did the colonial powers perform a painful but positive function in disrupting traditional society and so paving the way for more rapid modernization? Even if they did, was the price of colonial exploitation too high?” Good questions, but he never answers them. Instead, he surveys his subject in a highly pedantic way, dutifully covering rural and urban schools, church and state schools, white and black schools, Protestant and Catholic schools, and education for men and for women. Footnotes, statistics and quotes from eminent authorities abound.Say what? The dissertation isn’t filled with racism? Reading Dowd, you would have thought that Newt’s racist soul had been revealed in this ancient text. But of course, she hadn’t read it! She was just beating some tom-toms herself, a familiar tribal ritual well known within the “press.”
Despite these limitations, however, Mr. Gingrich is clear-eyed about colonialism. “Belgium ran the Congo as a profitable business,” he writes. “This goal could be achieved only with a passive native population.” He notes that the various “civilizing” efforts the Belgians were so proud of “were commercially motivated. For example, the natives received medical care because it improved their capabilities as a work force. They received enough education to be effective workmen.”
He refers to the “paternalistic” policies of a mining company and the colonial government and to the channeling of blacks into vocational and technical training as “ ‘Uncle Tom’-ish,” though “advanced” for its time. Secondary education for girls was “appalling”; for boys, “also pretty dismal.” School financing was “woefully inadequate” and it was “pathetically unjust” that spending per pupil on the children of white settlers was nearly 10 times what it was for Congolese.
We had to chuckle when Hochschild described the disappointment inherent in Gingrich’s non-racist thesis. Hochschild goes on to complain that Gingrich is nowhere near as good an historian as Woodrow Wilson was; it’s hard to know why anyone is supposed to care about that. But as he started his discussion, Hochschild noted the obvious point of the focus on this thesis; pseudo-liberals and pseudo-journalists hoped to play the game in which they posture about the racism of the other tribe. This is a predictable practice of vessels like Dowd—and complaining that everyone else is a racist has long been the joy of pseudo-liberalism.
We love to call the other tribe racist! We’ve seen this tribal practice employed this past week as various fakers, charlatans and frauds have keened and wailed and paraded about, complaining about Gingrich’s largely pointless comments concerning “really poor children.”
Please understand: Posturing phonies like Maureen Dowd don’t care about really poor children. According to Joe Klein, this is the way she reacted when Klein suggested, long ago, that she get off her big fat ass and write about topics that matter:
JERVEY (6/99): "Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties... I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?' And she said, 'You mean I should write about welfare reform?’”In fairness, Marie Antoinette didn’t “go out and see poor people” either. But plainly, Dowd doesn’t give a fig about low-income children, although she knew how to posture and preen concerning Newt’s recent remarks.
Dowd’s silly shit about Gingrich’s thesis was just a clownish distraction. You can store it with all the irrelevant shit in which the posturing ninnies of our “press corps” have wasted everyone’s time examining the work that was done by Big Pols when they were still in college. We refer to the years of clowning about Hillary Clinton’s undergraduate thesis; the analyses of Michelle Obama’s thesis at Princeton; that front-page report about Gore’s grades at Harvard; the silly blowhard clucking about Bill Bradley’s SAT scores. All these people had long adult lives through which a person could judge their values and competence. But pseudo-journalists need ways to kill time and drive preferred narratives. College performance and doctoral papers can serves as ports in a storm.
The storm about Gingrich’s remarks about “really poor children” hasn’t been quite as stupid as this. But the racial posing has been extreme. It has also helped establish a point:
Gingrich has played ugly tribal games all through his public career. But he didn’t invent our country’s tribal wars. And, in many obvious ways, his Gingrichism has now become us! Our tribe is steeped in culture war too. We play the game much as Gingrich does, with race as our primary tool.
But first, how hapless is the work of your press corps? For starters, let’s consider the way Charles Blow “rebutted” Newt’s recent remarks.
Blow had his fancy pants in a wad in Saturday’s New York Times. (Headline: “Newt’s War on Poor Children.”) To his credit, he did manage to quote the words the ex-speaker had spoken. Then, he began to roar:
BLOW (12/3/11): On Thursday, at a campaign stop in Iowa, the former House speaker said, “Start with the following two facts: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.” (His second “fact” was that every first generational person he knew started work early.)We wouldn’t have spoken the ex-speaker’s word ourselves, though we wouldn’t necessarily say they are “false.” (We chuckled sadly when Blow said they show how “dark” Newt’s soul really is.) Just for the record: Newt’s second fact was actually this: Every successful first generational person started work early.
This statement isn’t only cruel and, broadly speaking, incorrect, it’s mind-numbingly tone-deaf at a time when poverty is rising in this country. He comes across as a callous Dickensian character in his attitude toward America’s most vulnerable—our poor children. This is the kind of statement that shines light on the soul of a man and shows how dark it is.
Blow was quick to say that Gingrich is callous, Dickensian. Those were mandated words. But look what happened when the great caring man set out to refute Newt’s facts. This is typical work at the Times, where the lofty professional folk don’t work with such critters real well:
BLOW (continuing directly): Gingrich wants to start with the facts? O.K.A compassionate person averts his gaze when presented with work of this type. Blow seems to think he’s refuting Gingrich on the basic facts of the case. But by the time he gets to some relevant facts, he actually seems to confirm the outline of what Gingrich said! According to Blow’s own facts, a full two-thirds of “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods” do not live with a parent who works.
First, as I’ve pointed out before, three out of four poor working-aged adults—ages 18 to 64—work. Half of them have full-time jobs and a quarter work part time.
Furthermore, according to an analysis of census data by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College, most poor children live in a household where at least one parent is employed. And even among children who live in extreme poverty—defined here as a household with income less than 50 percent of the poverty level—a third have at least one working parent. And even among extremely poor children who live in extremely poor areas—those in which 30 percent or more of the population is poor—nearly a third live with at least one working parent.
Duh. That's what Gingrich said! On the basic facts of the case, Blow seems to agree with Newt.
A lot of good, deserving children do not grow up with an adult who works. That doesn’t mean that Gingrich is right when he says these children “have no habits of working” (although he may be). But do you expect Blow to be right about that when he can’t stop posturing long enough to evaluate those simpler facts?
(“‘Facts’ are not Gingrich’s forte,” Blow writes. Never let it be said that humor is absent from the Times’ pitiful work.)
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods” often grow up without parents who work. Does that mean they are handicapped in the way Gingrich describes? For ourselves, we don’t know. But in case you thought Maureen Dowd cared about things like that, just check out the garbage she pimped, one day after Blow’s effort.
Dowd went all “Dickensian” too, in a mandated word choice. Remember: This is the person who eye-rolled Klein when he said she should “go talk to poor people:”
DOWD (12/4/11): Newt is like the Great White Hunter out on campaign safari, trying to bag a Mitt, an animal with ever-changing stripes. Certainly, the 68-year-old’s haughty suggestions on child labor last week in Iowa smacked of harsh paternalism and exploitation.Embarrassing. "Has he not heard of the working poor?" This was Dowd's response to a claim about the alleged problems of the non-working poor!
He expanded on Dickensian remarks he’d made recently at Harvard, where he said “it is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid,” adding that 9-year-olds could work as school janitors.
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” he asserted in an ignorant barrage of stereotypes in Des Moines. “So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday.”
Has he not heard of the working poor? The problem isn’t that these kids aren’t working; it’s that they don’t have time with their parents, who often toil day and night, at more than one job, and earn next to nothing.
Newt’s the kind of person whom child labor laws were created to curb. He sounds like a benign despot with a colonial subtext: Until I bring you the benefits of civilization, we will regard you as savages.
Gingrich has said many ugly things down the years, driving our tribal warfare higher. But Dowd does the same thing in that pitiful passage. You can’t get dumber than Dowd is in there—and her Gingrichism is loud and insistent. But remember: Dowd doesn’t care about any of this, a point she made to Klein long ago. This is just a loud tribal yell. It’s a mandated scream—nothing more.
Is Gingrich right in the things he says about “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods?” Like you, we aren’t experts on that. But our reactions to his comments were quite different than Dowd’s, in part because we could picture real children, with real names and faces, who would have been thrilled to get the chance to work in some of the ways he described. As this stupid non-discussion has evolved, Gingrich has pictured the possibility of giving those “really poor children” other types of jobs at their schools. Last Thursday, in Iowa, he said this:
GINGRICH (12/1/11): You have a very poor neighborhood. You have kids who are required under law to go to school. They have no money. They have no habit of work. What if you paid them part-time in the afternoon to sit at the clerical office and greet people when they came in? What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian? And I'd pay them as early as is reasonable and practical.We can picture their names and their faces. They would have been thrilled by a chance like that—just as many ten-year-olds jumped at the chance to be paper boys in the middle-class world we grew up in. In truth, there’s nothing odd about what Gingrich has been proposing. Nor is there anything hugely original; we would assume that his proposals are already being enacted in various schools across the nation. As is often the case with Gingrich, only the bombast makes his proposal stand out. That, and the ugly stupid reaction from our own dumb tribal side.
I am prepared to find something that works, that breaks us out of the cycles we're involved in right now, and finding a way for poor children to learn how to work and learning how to have money that they've earned honestly is an integral part of that.
Of course, when it comes to ugly partisan faking, no one’s a bigger fraud than Dear Rachel. Before we discuss her own Dowdian record, let’s look at the tribal thunder she let loose on the world at the start of Monday’s program:
MADDOW (12/5/11): And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Happy Monday.Wow. Just for the record:
So what did poor children do to deserve this? What could poor children have done that was so wrong that earned them the role that they are now playing in American presidential politics? The current front- runner for the Republican nomination for president, the man who’s leading in three of the four early voting states, as well as in the national polls, has now made his third in a series of policy pronouncements about what he wants to do to poor children. I ask you again, what they have done to deserve this.
First, the candidate advocated making poor children janitors at their own schools. Poor children would be taken out of class and given a mop.
GINGRICH (videotape): They’d be dramatically less expensive than unionized janitors. And you`d begin to reestablish the dignity of work. And in very poor neighborhoods, you have to literally reestablish the dignity of work.
MADDOW: Right, because poor people don’t know anything about work. Also child labor, underappreciated factor about it, it’s very cheap.
Deciding that one policy pronouncement about poor kids was not enough. Mr. Gingrich then suggested that poor kids could be assistant janitors and they would specifically be responsible for cleaning the toilets.
So poor children would be responsible under a Newt Gingrich presidency for cleaning up the urine and feces of the other children in their schools.
Gingrich said nothing about taking kids “out of class;” that distortion was pure tribal pleasure, a thrill sent up our legs. Nor did he say a word about the feces or urine of other children; that was where Maddow’s mind went. But those who give you tribal pleasure must always pleasure you more than the others. Maddow continued her ugly dumb chatter with Karen Finney last night.
Question: Does Maddow care about low-income children? Does she care any more than Dowd? We’ve seen no sign of that on her program. Let’s close by reviewing the work of two tribal posers over here in our tribe:
Lawrence O’Donnell: Does O’Donnell care about really poor children? In a recent ad for his show, he is shown musing about the way low-income kids should be taught. It’s hard to get more phony. We have never seen him do a segment, or say a word, about low-income schools on his actual program. Low-income kids are useful for image-shaping—but they won’t be discussed when it counts.
On his actual program, O’Donnell has sponsored a project to buy schools supplies for very poor children—for very poor children in Africa. That’s an outstanding thing to do, though his posturing did seem like an outtake from “About Schmidt.” But we have never seen him discuss low-income American kids on his show. This big fraud just doesn’t care.
Rachel Maddow: Does anyone care about low-income kids any less than this masterful poser? Maddow has been faking it good this week, promiscuously mixing real complaints about Gingrich with her talk about urine and feces. But she has made ridiculous, embarrassing tribalized bungles about child labor laws in the past. Meanwhile, have you ever seen her do a segment about the needs of low-income kids? About the problems of low-income schools? About the way public school teachers get trashed?
In this case, the answer may be yes! As far as we know, Maddow has never done a segment about low-income schools in general; as we’ve long noted, we liberals quit on low-income kids a long, long time ago. But she did report on a largely black school in Detroit at one point—a high school for pregnant teen-agers! That Detroit high school is important, of course, like all schools serving low-income kids. But for a faker like Maddow, low-income black kids only get real when they get pregnant. When the other tribe plays that way, we tend to get out our big bombs.
We don’t throw R- and B-bombs here. If we did, we’d bomb Maddow first. We'd bomb her ugly, uncaring Gingrichism, a tribal habit which, more and more, very much seems to be us.
In his nasty tribal approach, Gingrich has been a blight on the discourse. Are you sure that our tribe isn’t worse?
The politics of Maddow’s plantation: MSNBC postures as The One True Liberal Channel. But how weird! You have never seen a discussion of low-income schools on its air.
Why is that? We don’t know—but we can tell you this:
Maddow’s channel is deeply involved in the war against public school teachers. NBC just staged its second annual “Education Nation” forum. It advanced all the billionaire-financed, teacher-bashing tropes which are described as “education reform.” We don’t know why the network has purchased this package—but it quite plainly has.
This is the network’s political stance. In their reliable silence, its hosts just keep playing along.
Maddow is paid seven figures a year. In the face of such swag, really poor kids can go hang.
We’ll posture on their behalf now and then. Other than that, take them elsewhere.