Part 2—Watching two tribes get dumbed down: “My fellow Americans, the state of the union is dumb.”
We don’t expect Obama to say that tonight! If he did, he could add this:
“Powerful industries now exist to make us tribally dumb.”
To see one tribe being dumbed way down, we strongly recommend this post by the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
The Fox News Channel’s Jon Scott has always been quite hackish. At some length, Wemple quotes Scott reciting the Fox party line as he hosted a recent segment.
You can hear conservative brain cells dying as you read that post. That said, we also thought we heard brain cells dying as we watched MSNBC last night.
Rachel Maddow’s treatment of Fort Lee journeyed to a new level of dumb-and-maybe-dishonest. In our view, it’s time that someone gently led this tribal hustler away.
(For details, see our next post.)
Chris Hayes was a schoolboy embarrassment in his two-segment interview with Richard Sherman, the former Pacific-10 great. “It was really a joy to sit down with Richard Sherman today,” the schoolboy said at one point.
(We’ll review The Channel’s pitiful coverage of Sherman before the week is through. For ourselves, we strongly support all former Pacific-10 greats.)
We saw Chris Matthews rant and rail about Rand Paul’s remarks on Meet the Press concerning Miss Lewinsky. Accompanied by his faithful friend Tonto, Matthews tortured the facts of the case, just as he did for so many years as the leading cable hysteric—and mangler of facts—concerning the deeply vile conduct of Clinton, Clinton and Candidate Gore.
In real time, no one staged more breakdowns concerning Clinton’s sex life than the horrible Matthews did. Most consequentially, no one transferred the attack to Candidate Gore is a more reprehensible way.
“Powerful industries now exist to make us tribally dumb?” We don’t think Obama will say it.
That said, brain cells died as MSNBC aired an array of piddle last night. Let’s consider the way Chris Hayes treated Rand Paul’s remarks.
Hayes is supposed to be the young, smart, earnest host. His treatment of Paul’s remarks wasn’t especially smart—and it ended in a piece of piddle designed to please tribal palates.
Instead of discussing the Lewinsky nonsense, Hayes focused on Paul’s remarks concerning the “war on women.” The topic was widely discussed on MSNBC.
This is the way the Hayes show played it:
First, you edit what was said: Hayes started by selectively editing Paul’s remarks. Below, you see the tape of Paul’s remarks as Hayes aired it.
Below that, we’ll tell you what those selective edits left out:
PAUL’S REMARKS AS AIRED BY HAYES: This whole sort of war on women thing, I’m scratching my head. Because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell vet schoolA great deal was edited out of Paul’s statement. (Actually, those were parts of two different statements by Paul.)
My younger sister is an OB GYN with six kids and is doing great.
I have a lot of successful women in my family and I don’t hear them saying, “Woe is me in this terrible world.” The women in my family are doing great and that’s what I see in all the statistics coming out.
As was done all over MSNBC, Hayes dropped the parts of Paul’s statement where he cited general statistics about the general numbers of women in law school, med school and vet school. Having disappeared those general statements, Hayes proceeded to ridicule Paul for discussing his own family. Other hosts did the same thing.
(On Fox, viewers were told that Paul’s upbeat statistics about women’s successes were actually inaccurate. In this way, Fox viewers were being challenged, even as MSNBC was making its viewers a bit more dumb.)
Then, you play a familiar old card: As he mocked Paul for focusing on his own family, Hayes played a familiar old card.
To his credit, he avoided the familiar, bogus statistic to which we liberals are constantly exposed—the bogus statistic Rachel Maddow went to great lengths to defend in 2012. (Maddow’s absurd performance was almost surely dishonest.)
Still and all, this is what Hayes said:
HAYES (continuing directly): Rand Paul is right. Yes, over the past several decades there have been massive historical strides in women’s educational attainment. What Paul didn’t mention when talking about all the successful women in the Paul family is that at every single educational level, women still make less in real wages than men, by a lot.A pair of charts flashed by on the screen, too quickly to be examined. They seemed to show large gaps in pay between women and men.
This is the chart for real wages for men by different educational level. This is the same chart for women. As you can see, from a high school education to a graduate degree, all the way to Ph.D., women are making less than men.
To his credit, Hayes didn’t repeat the familiar statistic about women allegedly being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men. That said, we liberals hear that claim so often we can recite it ourselves.
To Hayes’ credit, one of his guests was Kay Hymowitz, a conservative-leaning expert on the gender pay gap. In her first remark, she offered a fleeting critique of that familiar claim, and of Hayes’ pair of charts:
HYMOWITZ: Well, I think if you look at the wage gap—snd you just showed us an interesting chart there—you see the raw numbers are extremely misleading. So for instance, we hear all the time, we just heard from the president recently, that women only make 77 cents on the dollar.Hayes didn’t dispute what Hymowitz said about the familiar old claim. This raises the question of why he showed those charts and made that claim in the first place.
Well, those are raw numbers. It’s gross averages that don’t take into account hours worked. They don’t take into account professions and occupations.
And when you take all of that into account, and also time off for having children, absolutely—then the numbers look very similar. And in fact, there’s a recent paper that was just released by Claudia Golden at Harvard saying that basically, “Yes, we have achieved a kind of parity.” But—when you take all that into account.
(It’s to Hayes’ credit that he had Hymowitz on the program at all.)
The ultimate tribal assertion: Ultimately, the segment turned into a defense of the claim that the GOP is conducting a “war on women” through its opposition to abortion rights.
Hymowitz made a fairly sensible point. According to Hymowitz, it’s hard to say that an anti-abortion rights stance constitutes a “war on women” when a very substantial percentage of women support that stance.
After a commercial break, Hayes returned to the point. He asked Irin Carmon to respond to what Hymowitz said.
Carmon is the perfect MSNBC contributor. She is youngish and conventionally attractive; she seems to be Hispanic. Beyond that, Forbes has described her thusly:
“Named by NY mag one of the faces of the new feminism. Confident and passionate polemicist. Harvard girl, natch.”
Carmon’s ardor is always apparent. Unfortunately for liberal brain cells, she often says things like this:
HAYES: We’re back...[Hymowitz] just made the point about the fact that in the polling, specifically in the polling on abortion, there is not a massive gender gap between men and women. And you were going to respond.You can’t go by what people tell pollsters!
CARMON: OK, so the way that people vote is not necessarily what they tell pollsters, right? In the last few elections where abortion has been on the agenda, the 20-week abortion ban in Albuquerque; Virginia, the governor’s race? Women have broken either for the candidate or for the issue that did not involve restricting abortion.
Just because a majority of people say that they are pro-life, I think that’s mostly a public relations issue around the word “pro-life.”
When people, when it actually comes down to politicians talking in an extreme way about women’s bodies that starts to see abortion as an issue that’s about sex and about controlling women, that is when women start to go for the candidate that is not interested in doing that.
In some types of polling, that’s true, of course. That said, the Virginia governor’s race strongly supports the general point Hymowitz was making.
Ken Cuccinelli was a clownish, over-the-top opponent of abortion rights. But according to the exit polls, he received 42 percent of women’s votes, with an additional 7 percent going to a Republican-turned-libertarian candidate who was rather vague on the issue of choice.
Beyond that, Cuccinelli received a walloping 54 percent of the votes cast by white women. The pro-choice McAuliffe received only 38 percent.
To Hymowitz, these data mean that it’s a bit odd to describe a pro-life stance as part of a “war on women.” Citing the Virginia race, Carmon rejected that view.
She said the Virginia race shows that it doesn’t matter if women say they’re pro-life. When push comes to shove, they vote against people like Cuccinelli.
Except in the narrowest possible way, the Virginia race doesn’t support that claim. But so what? After slicing the Virginia data even more narrowly, Hayes seconded Carmon’s position.
This is one of the ways liberals get dumber:
HAYES: So here’s what is interesting. Public opinion on abortion is complex. It’s textured. It isn’t simple, right? And when you ask questions in different ways you get different responses. And there’s this constant battle between both sides in which they’re citing the different polls, right?The data are pretty clear in that respect? Carmon had cited two examples. This is the way the women’s vote had gone in Virginia:
But I think Irin’s point here is really important, right? When the rubber hits the road, right? Which is like, this thing’s on the ballot. You’re gonna come out and this person is talking about it this way or that. The data’s pretty clear in that respect.
All women:Viewers were never given those numbers. Instead, we were told that the data in that race strongly support what Carmon said.
McAuliffe 51 percent, Cuccinelli 42 percent
Cuccinelli 54 percent, McAuliffe 38 percent
In the process, we liberals got a bit dumber, even as we got stroked.
How did liberals get dumber in that discussion? We were told that women strongly oppose candidates like Cuccinelli. Forget what they say to pollsters, we were told! When the rubber hits the road, they vote the pro-choice position.
Except in the narrowest possible sense, that didn’t seem to be the case in the Virginia voting. But we weren’t encouraged to wonder why so many women voted for a candidate like Cuccinelli. We weren’t asked to consider how we might communicate better with those voters, persuading them to adopt the pro-choice stance.
We were told they already vote our way—that the data are pretty clear on that point! We were told it does represent a “war on women” when the GOP opposes abortion rights, even though a very substantial percentage of women vote in support of that war.
We were never told how those Virginia women actually voted. As so often happens on Fox, MSNBC viewers were led to believe something that’s tilts toward false.
It’s easy for liberals to see how dumb Fox News frequently is. Again, we recommend that post by Eric Wemple.
Wemple describes the familiar process by which conservative viewers get tribally dumber. It tends to be harder for liberals to see this process enacted within our own tribe.
We don’t expect Obama to mention this trend in his speech tonight. If he does choose to mention this trend, he certainly won’t be wrong.
Tomorrow: The state of the union is atomized? Focused on trivia?
Also last night: We saw Megyn Kelly conduct a skillful interview about Paul’s remarks concerning Lewinsky. Repeatedly, she challenged the notion that Hillary Clinton could be blamed for things her husband once did.
Fox viewers were being strongly challenged during that segment. At the same time, our own liberal tribe was perhaps being dumbed down a tad.