Part 1—The New York Times publishes Hacker: Right through this morning’s 4 o’clock hour, Fox News was pouring it on.
At that very recent hour, Fox was rebroadcasting Greta van Susteren’s program from Friday evening’s 10 o’clock hour. In case they had missed it the first million times, Fox viewers got to see Greta and Newt tell them this:
VAN SUSTEREN (6/7/13, 6/10/13): What do you think President Obama thinks about this? Does he pay attention? Or is this getting to him? Is this a distraction?While urging the Congress to just “get the facts,” Gingrich continued advancing a fact his channel has invented.
GINGRICH: You know, Kubler-Ross did this book on death and dying, where you start with rejection and then anger and then bargaining and then acceptance. I think they're still in the rejection phase. I think he's still trying to figure out, can I do a foreign trip, can I make a big speech, what can I do to cover—you know, to get people not to think about it?
The next phase, though, and this is part of what happens in any big scandal, is the amount of time you have to spend being briefed, the number of new things— Imagine the president suddenly walking in and saying, “Oh, gee, turns out the Internal Revenue Service commissioner was in this building, in the White House, 157 times.” You've got to stop and say, why was he, what was—who was he meeting with? I don't think he was meeting with the president 157 times.
And then you get the next story and then you get the next story. And so part of what happens is, you lose a great deal of your energy to be a leader just having to absorb all these punches and having to get briefed on what do they mean, how are we going to handle them, what are we going to do?
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you make—how do you make the determination whether something is political or if something’s a legitimate inquiry?
GINGRICH: Well, I think this is something Republicans have to be very careful about in the House. The country is very supportive of a Congress which gets the facts. It is not supportive of a Congress which goes on a partisan witch-hunt. And I would say the calmer and the more fact-oriented the Republicans can be in developing these investigations, the broader support they'll get in the country.
Last Friday might, in the 9 PM hour, Sean Hannity continued to pimp his channel’s invented fact too. He was helped by the hustler Jay Sekulow, an officer of the court:
HANNITY (6/7/13): I want to ask both of you the same question that is puzzling to me, is— Shulman met, went to the White House 157 times. Now his answer was that, “Well, I was there once for an Easter Egg roll,” hunt, or whatever it is. Nobody, as I checked the records— The top cabinet members of Obama, Jay, they've not been there 157 times. What do you think—To watch this exchange, click here.
SEKULOW: There were sure an awful lot of conversations. Yes, I think— Well, number one, it’s inexplicable. I mean, I don't know how you explain 159 [sic] visits by the head of the IRS to the White House. They can't possibly be talking about that much tax policy, because there weren't that many changes to the internal revenue code. So, you wonder what was going on here.
Sean pimped the 157 visits at another point in his program. This morning, in the 4 o’clock hour, the 157 visits were being pimped again.
As Hannity spoke with Sekulow, we got to see the two kinds of facts which now define our national discourse:
We saw one fact which had been invented: Douglas Shulman went to the White House 157 times!
We also saw, or failed to see, a bunch of facts which have been withheld. Withheld this night were various facts which have been established elsewhere, though they’ve rarely been repeated. These facts concern the actual location of the 157 meetings in question; the other things Shulman said when he testified; the actual nature of the meetings in question; and the state of the evidence concerning how many meetings Shulman may have attended.
On Fox, those facts have been withheld. They’ve been replaced by a fact which has been invented.
Again and again in the past twenty years, our discourse has turned on these two kinds of facts—invented and withheld. In the past few weeks, we’ve had an excellent chance to see the way these two kinds of facts create novelized, post-factual discussions.
As we recall this particular episode, let’s break it down into three easy pieces. This is the way this particular episode has worked:
The Fox News Channel: Fox has invented and pimped certain “facts.” In the process, it has aggressively withheld many other facts. Night after night, millions of people have been disinformed in the process.At MSNBC, hosts have said nothing about the sad abdication by the Post and the Times. Those hosts will continue to say nothing about it this week. In this way, our discourse continues to be structured around our nation’s two kinds of facts: Invented and withheld.
MSNBC and the liberal press: MSNBC and the liberal press have largely stood by and stared into air as this process has unfolded on Fox. The reliably gruesome Rachel Maddow pretended to address this matter just once, last Tuesday. When she did, she interrupted her sad presentation with her usual clowning. She showed us tape of adorable penguins, waddling down a flight of stairs in cute little dashikis! No really, this entertainer implored. No really! Please look over here!
For background, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/7/13.
The Washington Post and the New York Times: The Washington Post and the New York Times have treated this episode as a perfectly normal affair. At the Post, Glenn Kessler has refused to fact-check O’Reilly, Hannity and Van Susteren as they have kept deceiving the public. The New York has said nothing about this affair, and will continue to do so.
On Fox, voters get disinformed. On MSNBC, liberal voters get entertained.
This has been a recent episode, built around recent events. That said, it’s amazing to see how much of our foundational public discourse is built around those two kinds of facts—invented and withheld. This brings us to yesterday’s New York Times, which prominently featured those two basic kinds of facts.
It was the Sunday New York Times, a sprawling pseudo-journalistic institution! On page one of the Sunday Review, the Times featured a lengthy analysis piece by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus.
In extremely murky prose, Hacker and Dreifus made an very valuable point about the Common Core standards which will soon be defining public school education. At least, we think they made a valuable point. Their writing was so jumbled and so unclear that we wouldn’t bet the farm on what their point actually was.
We’ll guess that many Times readers weren’t clear about their valuable point. Does the New York Times employ editors?
As best we could tell, Hacker and Dreifus were attempting to make a very important point. But in one familiar part of their piece, their murky prose became extremely clear.
In that passage, they stated a standard claim about public schools—a claim Americans constantly hear. Their claim was built around two kinds of facts—invented and withheld. It often seems there are no other types of facts within our American discourse.
Health care, public schools, Social Security? Whatever the topic, the American public has been bombarded, for many years, by those familiar types of facts, invented and withheld. Often, these bogus facts and the novels they help create have been selected for us by very powerful interests.
All week long, we'll look at the invented facts in yesterday’s piece—and we’ll look at the facts which were withheld. We’ll also consider the very strong point Hacker and Dreifus seemed to be trying to make.
In the weeks to come, no discussion will emerge about their extremely valuable point. When it comes to public schools, clear vision is clouded by familiar facts of the aforementioned types.
Tomorrow: Hacker’s folly