Part 2—Fascist pigs, Nazis, Confederates: At Salon, the liberal world’s intellectual culture is in a state of free fall.
Much of that fall involves The Hate. Then too, liberal readers are getting massively doused with The Dumb.
Consider yesterday’s piece by Falguni Sheth, a professor of philosophy at Hampshire College. But first, consider this:
In mid-September, the analysts spent the weekend sobbing after Sheth began a piece with this absurd complaint about the undergraduates she is forced to teach. The headline at Salon said this:
“Why our best students are totally oblivious:”
SHETH (9/13/13): This past week, I taught my first classes of the semester. The college where I teach attracts young men and women who are generally left of center. Some of them are the children of progressive activists and academics. Many of the students who enroll in my courses hope to spend the rest of their lives ending poverty, racism, sexual oppression, among other forms of injustice. As such, they are an extremely aware crowd.What makes those students “totally oblivious?” To support that assessment, consider this:
In one of my courses, which deals with race, philosophy and legal theory, I listed a series of names on the board and asked students to describe who they were: Trayvon Martin, Yusuf Salaam, Shaker Aamer, Aafia Siddiqui, José Padilla. Nearly every student in the room was familiar with the first name, and could give in excruciating detail the facts of the case and trial, and the questionable laws used to defend George Zimmerman in public discussion...
Not a single student recognized the other three names.
Nearly every one of the students recognized Trayvon Martin’s name. But good lord! Not a single one of these undergraduates knew about Aafia Siddiqui!
(We’ll take a break while you click this link, attempting to qualify yourself for admission to college.)
We were struck by how absurd that passage was. At the same time, Salon was running a piece by Brittany Cooper, who complained about the students she taught in a recent stint at the University of Alabama.
“I did not find the couple of hundred that I taught to be particularly progressive or forward thinking about race relations, in my courses where topics about race and gender diversity were critical subject matter,” Professor Cooper wrote.
If we might borrow from our Dylan, we pity the poor college professor, burdened with students like these!
In truth, the dumbness of these particular pieces extended well beyond these absurd remarks. But the new Salon is committed to advancing The Dumb, as Professor Sheth helps us see again in her latest piece.
Everybody makes mistakes! That said, the analysts screamed and covered their eyes when they hit Sheth’s latest, which appeared at the start of her piece about the killing of Miriam Carey in DC last week.
The piece is full of complaints about the early press coverage of this event. Many of Sheth’s complaints are absurd; some of her complaints involve points which are well worth considering by some steadier hand. But the highlighted passage is a classic mistake, of the type in which the new Salon seems to revel:
SHETH (10/7/13): But while Carey’s family since corroborated that she indeed suffered from mental illness, the temptation to use this confirmation as evidence that the media (and police) handled this tragedy appropriately, is misguided. Like Alec MacGillis and several others, I am skeptical of the insistence that her shooting was necessary and inevitable.Puzzled, we clicked Sheth’s link to see where that quotation had come from. Groan! It came from the New York Times on Friday, October 4—from that paper’s initial report of the shooting of Carey, which took place on October 3.
For one thing, at least one part of the chaotic series of events was clarified: Carey was unarmed and shot after having gotten out of her car. (Italics by Sheth)
“Ms. Carey managed to get out of the car, and was shot by several officers. According to a law enforcement official, she was not armed, and it was not known whether she presented an immediate danger.”
Yet, with few exceptions, the media had little interest in exploring those two tiny details. In fact, they unquestioningly repeated the police narratives which—no surprise there—were intended to justify the shooting.
Why were we puzzled by that quotation, which Sheth was presenting on Monday afternoon? We were puzzled because we had also read the New York Times on Saturday, October 5! On the paper’s front page that day, the Times largely retracted its report from the day before. This was the start of Saturday’s updated front-page report:
KLEINFIELD (10/5/13): The woman who was shot to death after a taut, high-speed car chase through the streets between the White House and Capitol Hill was still in her car, snagged on the curb of a grass-covered median, when the police fired at her, a Senate official said on Friday.For the record, Gainer was once the DC chief of police.
Terrance W. Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, who was briefed on aspects of the episode, said the woman, Miriam Carey, was trying to make a U-turn between a United States Capitol Police security booth and some planters in the middle of the street on Constitution Avenue when Capitol Police officers and uniformed Secret Service officers shot at the car with semiautomatic pistols.
Initially, Ms. Carey was thought to have gotten out of the car when she was shot on Thursday afternoon. Early accounts of such events are often inaccurate, however, and on Friday, new details emerged about the shooting and the woman who was killed.
Was Carey in her car, or out of her car, when she was shot and killed? We don’t know. As best we can tell, the question has not been resolved. (In this report from Saturday's Washington Post, the Post seems to report that Carey was in the car.)
Everybody makes mistakes, but this is very much the way The Dumb now works at Salon. Last Friday, Professor Sheth read a certain fact in the New York Times. Three days later, she was still linking to that report, not knowing that the Times had amended its report the next day.
Meanwhile, what was the gist of Sheth’s piece? She was savaging various news orgs for their careless initial reporting of the killing. But alas! To show how bad the initial reporting had been, Sheth had quoted an initial report—an initial report which itself was rejected as premature.
Does anyone know how to play this game around this liberal journal? This is the way the clowning proceeds at the new Salon on a daily basis. And as the clowning proceeds, the liberal world is getting dumbed down to the ground.
Might we state the obvious? This is very much the same kind of Big Dumb which has driven “conservative journalism” in the past several decades. In both tribes, we now get the tribal stories we like. Please disregard the mountains of Dumb required to give us those tales!
That said, the new Salon isn’t restricting itself to The Dumb. It’s also aggressively selling The Hate. It’s teaching liberals to hate The Other. Most pleasingly, it’s teaching us how to hate The Other millions of folk at a time.
We don’t refer to Joan Walsh alone, though her work has been awful. To punish your brain, just try reading this new piece, in which the relentless Andrew O’Hehir complains about “this year of white rage and white derangement, the year of George Zimmerman and Paula Deen and a government shutdown engineered entirely by a small group of congressmen who represent a lily-white, neo-Confederate nation within a nation.”
(Headline: White America says, “Let the Fire Burn.”)
In the piece, O’Hehir discusses a film about the bombing of Operation MOVE in Philadelphia in 1985. Needless to say, he is reminded of the many people whom he currently hates—the people who live in (name-call alert!) that “lily-white, neo-Confederate nation:”
O’HEHIR (10/7/13): Welcome to America, people, where the past, as Faulkner famously observed, is not even past. That wrenching story of hope and hatred from 28 years ago hit me especially hard in this year of white rage and white derangement, the year of George Zimmerman and Paula Deen and a government shutdown engineered entirely by a small group of congressmen who represent a lily-white, neo-Confederate nation within a nation. Half a century of evil and insidious racial politicking has brought us to this point of right-wing wish-fulfillment apocalypse, along with the profoundly racist congressional gerrymander of 2010 and the creeping fear among many white Americans that the country they thought they understood—thought they owned—has been yanked out from under their feet.Like Walsh, O’Hehir can tell you what people are thinking millions of folk at a time. What they’re thinking is often quite vile. But the way, what made the 2010 gerrymander profoundly racist? At the new Salon, no such questions need apply!
We’ll discuss O’Hehir’s piece by the end of the week. For now, let’s turn to Frank Bruni’s latest column, which discusses one part of this mess.
In this morning’s New York Times, Bruni discusses a manifestation which increasingly defines our nation’s political discourse. He talks about a familiar topic: over-the-top name-calling.
There’s nothing new about this piece. In our view, Bruni fails to turn the corner—he fails to spot the new species of name-calling which is polluting the world.
He starts with a familiar suggestion—we shouldn’t compare our political opponents to Nazis. He goes on to offer other examples of over-the-top name-calls.
We don’t necessarily agree with all his judgments. For ourselves, we don’t think references to “hostage-taking” are necessarily the same as talk about Nazis. We don’t think that every comparison to the Nazis—or to Neville Chamberlain—is just like every other.
That said, we keep seeing a new type of comparison in the pages of the new Salon. It represents a domestic equivalent to comparisons to the Nazis. We keep seeing very dumb people compare other folk to Confederates.
Some such discussions may make good sense. History lasts a very long time. So do human cultures, including the culture in which certain kinds of northerners hate people who live in the South.
Some such discussions may make good sense. But at the new Salon, very little ever makes sense; comparisons tend to leap over the top. As one commenter to a recent piece wrote, “Salon is quickly becoming the liberal version of Breitbart.”
For decades, people like the late Andrew Breitbart have worked to make conservatives dumber. Now, Walsh and the rest of the gang at Salon have adopted the same business model. They’re schooling us liberals in The Dumb. And they’re schooling us all in The Hate.
They’re teaching us to “study war,” in the words of the old Negro spiritual.
Last weekend, we saw Joan Baez discuss name-calling as an act which violates the basic tenets of non-violence. In that same American Masters program, we saw Jesse Jackson describe the way Dr. King viewed Baez.
This is the best transcription we can find. In this excerpt, Baez praises the relative success of non-violence:
BAEZ: When we were in smaller groups and I was there and [Dr. King] was speaking, he would joke afterwards. He would say, “Yeah, I threw the word 'nonviolence' in there a couple, couple of extra times 'cause I know Sister Joan was there."Is it true that non-violence works? Why in the world did Baez seem to say, earlier in the program, that calling policemen “fascist pigs” was a violation of the tenets of this approach—of this approach which works?
JACKSON: King, I think it really was mutual admiration. Most artists, protecting their careers, stood a bit away from the cutting edge of our struggle, asking for their hot tea and their lemons and their fruit and all of the stuff that you get performing on some stage. She came as a member of that family.
DR. KING (videotape): Please, dear God, go into the march, to the activities, and I'm with you as much as I possibly can be, but do it with nonviolence. Thank you.
BAEZ: To be realistic about nonviolent action, I got good news for you guys, it works pretty well, certainly compared to the other stuff. It works pretty well. The only failure worse than nonviolence, as a method of fighting, has been violence—complete flop!
Does that mean that name-calling doesn’t work? Is there evidence backing that claim?
The new Salon is actively teaching liberals to “study war.” Frequently, that way lies disaster.
It’s thrilling to learn to hate The Other. It’s especially thrilling to learn how to hate large groups of The Other.
To learn how to hate the racists, the Yankees! To learn how to see large groups of people in the least flattering, least forgiving, most diminished way possible.
Dr. King didn’t do that! Famously, Mandela invited his jailers to his inauguration. But what would those dumb-asses know? They were just the biggest winners of the past century!
It’s thrilling to learn to hate The Other, especially when we learn to hate them in clumps. But uh-oh! Be careful what you thrill to!
Remember the start to Gone with the Wind? An hour into the famous film, do you recall where all that tribal fervor had led?
Tomorrow: Dr. King looks at The Other