Part 3—MSNBC too: Within our journalistic culture, it isn’t polite to notice, mention, cite or complain about the dumbnification.
You’re allowed to talk about media bias. You’re even allowed to say that some statement or viewpoint is wrong.
But it isn’t considered polite to talk about the spread of The Dumb, even as it worms its way into every aspect of the nation’s journalistic life.
Within our spreading, democratized press corps, almost everyone is surfing The Dumb at this point. The right to engage in the dumbnification makes everyone’s life a little bit easier.
It increases salaries and profits.
This may help explain why it’s considered rude to mention the dumbnification. Professional courtesy stops the guild from noticing what has gone on.
For our money, the dumbnification of Salon was most striking press event of the past year. But the dumbnification is all around us. Just consider what Greg Gutfeld said.
Gutfeld, 49, hosts the nightly Red Eye program on the Fox News Channel. By day, he is one of (five) regular panelists on The Five, the highly-rated (5 P.M.) Fox program.
According to the leading authority on his life, Gutfeld is “an American television personality,” a “satirist” and a “humorist.” This doesn’t mean that he’s a bad person. It means that he says things like this on The Five:
PERINO (1/6/14): Straight ahead, Rolling Stone magazine encourages America's use to reject capitalism and embrace socialism, maybe even communism, and it's not a parody. Greg's reaction to that advice when we come back.Gutfeld started with the gulag. He ended with Rolling Stone taking it right up the keister!
GUTFELD: A hundred ten million. That's how many people died under communism last century, an impressive number, one that Rolling Stone magazine forgot when they promoted principles that helped fill all those graveyards.
The piece called for, one, guaranteed work for everybody. Two, Social Security for all. Three, take back the land. Four, make everything owned by everyone. Five, having a public bank in every state.
No, it's not a parody. I thought it was, but it's real. Of course, they left out the message of coercion needed to keep citizens from fleeing this police state. After all, a threat of death can prop up a left-wing dream, because no one in their right mind would volunteer for this crop—hence, 110 million dead. But forget this genocidal amnesia. What about the death of Rolling Stone?
Sure, they can tell themselves that this stuff is edgy, but it's so old, even older than their brain-dead publisher. You find riskier stories in Highlights. Why is that? Well, the article reveals the mag's totally subservience to the government.
The magazine used to give it to “the man." Now, it bends over and takes it—a charge of heart because of who's in the White House now.
Which is worse—the 110 million dead? Or the idea of “bending over?” In a fully dumbnified press corps, no one ever knows.
Where does this dimwittery come from? This is where:
There was a time when “television personalities” like Gutfeld weren’t allowed on television. We the people got our news from two people—David and Walter.
Neither man was crazy or stupid or weirdly dishonest. They limited the dumbness to which we were all exposed.
They didn’t give us mounds of fake facts. For the most part, they didn’t invent ridiculous topics, then invent bogus facts about them.
But uh-oh! At some point, someone let Imus get on the air. After that, somebody hired Howard Stern.
Before long, Rush Limbaugh was saying that Hillary Clinton helped murder Vince Foster, and that her daughter looked like a dog. The ride has been downhill from there—and yes, the play-for-pay “liberal” crowd has been getting in on the action.
The dumbnification of Salon is the latest chapter in the downhill slide. For our money, Chris Hayes’ reaction to Gutfeld’s reaction was just a tiny bit dumbnified too.
You can settle that issue yourself by watching the segments Hayes did with Jesse Myerson, the writer from Rolling Stone. Just for a sampler, here’s what happened when Hayes brought Myerson on:
HAYES (1/7/14): OK Jesse, did you know when you wrote this piece you would be caught in this just crazy social media updraft of invective and abuse and venom?The panel enjoyed a good laugh as Myerson, a self-confessed “far leftist,” described the way the bigoted and hateful and violent filth doo-dooed all over his mentions.
MYERSON: Definitely not. I was— Usually, what I do as a far leftist is troll liberals. And so the right wing—
HAYES: I know. I have been on the receiving end of it.
MYERSON: You have been on the receiving end of it! The right wing basically has never heard of me, until this twit named Charles Cooke tweeted—from the National Review—tweeted out this article Friday night at 9:00. And once that membrane was punctured, all of the, like, bigoted and hateful and violent muck and filth just like doo-dooed all over my—
MYERSON: —mentions, and just has basically not let up in the intervening few days.
Such sillybill/stupid appeals to the tribe now define a wide swath of press culture. If one tribe rants about the gulag, another tribe will react by playing the doo-doo card.
Financially, everyone wins. The rest of us all get dumber.
Last night, Hayes said the reaction to Myerson’s piece is “the latest right-wing freak-out.” Somewhat strangely, he also said the ideas in Myerson’s piece “are not even that radical at all.”
If that’s true, we’re left to wonder why Myerson expressed his ideas in such flamboyant ways—in ways which might tend to stir the latest freak-out. “It’s reinforcing a fear that already exists on the right,” one panelist said to Myerson last night. “And I suspect you knew that you were doing that.”
Hayes played the Megyn card during this segment, having played the BillO card in an earlier segment. We flashed on Olbermann’s tired old games and pondered the drift of this channel.
The dumbnification began on the day this channel first went on the air. There was Ann Coulter, at the time an unknown, part of the channel’s first panel.
That said, the channel’s first major dumbnification campaign involved the rancid, inane, dishonest attacks Chris Matthews directed, year after year, at both Clintons and especially at Candidate Gore.
Today, Matthews is part of the channel’s “liberal” brain trust, testament to the fact that we liberals will notice nothing at all and will swallow whatever doo-doo we’re offered.
The dumbness moved in a new direction during the Olbermann years. He retained Matthews’ open misogyny but aimed it at a new set of targets. He constantly played the BillO card, generally in the dumbest ways possible, making us liberals dumber and dumber as he did.
Career liberals noticed his ugly misogyny, even declared it as such. But as we all eventually learned, they refused to discuss it in public.
The dumbnification has continued at The One True Channel. This leads to the mystery of the Melissa Harris-Perry segment.
In the past week, Harris-Perry became the third MSNBC host to get caught in the type of vest pocket scandal which now drives our daily flight from discourse.
Alec Baldwin had already been canned. So had the reliably loathsome and dishonest Martin Bashir. (A few years earlier, Shuster had to go.)
Harris-Perry is no Bashir, but she sailed onto the shoals. In many ways, her apology for an act of poor judgment was a model, in that she used the occasion to talk about the issues involved in what happened.
Even there, we’re forced to ask a question. Is it even vaguely possible that the highlighted statement was true?
HARRIS-PERRY (1/4/14): I’m going to start with an apology. Last Sunday, we invited a panel of comedians for a year in review program. It’s what we call our “look back in laughter.”We agree that Harris-Perry showed poor judgment in using that photo. Everyone does on occasion.
But in one of the segments, we looked at a number of photos that caught our attention over the course of the year. And in that segment, I asked my guests to provide kind of off-the-cuff ideas for captions of the photos that we were seeing.
Among the images we aired was one of the Romney family that showed Governor Mitt Romney’s grandchildren, including his adopted grandson, who’s African-American. Now, given my own family history, I’d identify with that picture and I intended to say positive and celebratory things about it. But whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive. And showing the photo in that context, of that segment, was poor judgment...
Was the segment in question “offensive?” In our view, we the people get offended much too eagerly these days.
That said, the segment was tremendously dumb. And is it even possible that the highlighted statement was true?
Really? Harris-Perry presented that photo to a panel of “comedians” with the intention of saying celebratory things about it?
In the actual segment, she quickly abandoned that stated intention, joining the clueless attempts at humor. Could that statement be true?
We aren’t students of Harris-Perry’s work. Both Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly have said nice things about Harris-Perry this week. We’ll stand with their high-minded judgments.
That said, we do watch MSNBC, and the tribal culture of the channel strikes us as increasingly dumb. Only within such a narrow culture could an intelligent person present that photo to that panel for any reason except to generate silly, lame-brained derision.
Silly, lame-brained, tribal derision—the kind of piddle which now dominates a wide swath of the profit-centered “journalistic” world.
Especially if you’re a liberal or a progressive, the dumbnification of Salon ought to be troubling. That said, the dumbnification of MSNBC has been proceeding too.
At highly tribalized times like these, nothing makes for dumber work than full-blown appeals to the choir. Only within such a culture could Harris-Perry and her producers fail to see that it was unwise to present that photo in that context to that lame-brained panel.
We’re sorry to see Harris-Perry get into this big stupid mess. On the other hand, we can’t quite believe that highlighted statement.
Is there any way it could be true? If so, the myopia inside The One True Channel is worse than we ever thought.
Don’t be fooled by those who pander to your beliefs and outlooks. The dumbnification is proceeding apace on your side of the aisle.
Rush and Fox News got to it first. In our view, unfaithful servants who vote your way are rushing to get there too.
Tomorrow: Good God! The new Reliable Sources