Part 1—Zernike’s zombie idea: In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman describes the process by which we get fed our “zombie ideas.”
Krugman discusses the bogus claim that there is a serious “skills gap” afflicting our economy. He notes that there are quite a few other influential bogus facts out there.
He calls these bogus facts “zombie ideas.”
According to Krugman—and we strongly agree—we may get fed these bogus facts as an assertion of “tribal identity.” This is Krugman, speaking accurately:
“The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story—or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico—is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on.”
Indeed. In many instances, people’s heads get stuffed full of bogus facts. The recitation of these bogus facts can be an assertion of tribal identity.
Then too, the accumulation of bogus facts may create a sense of tribal identity. Let’s not leave that problem out, since it can happen to us!
In today’s column, Krugman discusses zombie ideas which come from the right and/or the plutocracy. That said, other influential groups feed us different zombie ideas.
This brings us to today’s story. A new set of zombie ideas is being peddled as we type. In last Friday’s New York Times, Kate Zernike played a role in the creation and spread of these new bogus facts.
Zernike is easily one of the worst reporters we’ve ever covered. Here’s the way her treatment of the Mastro report began:
ZERNIKE (3/28/14): She “seemed emotional.” She was “habitually concerned about how she was perceived by the governor.” A boyfriend had ended a relationship.Did Christie call Bridget Kelly “stupid?” On balance, we’d say he did not—and we’d say that this has already become a bit of a zombie fact.
Bridget Anne Kelly has been the center of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal since early January, when it was revealed that she sent an email calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to stanch the damage the scandal had caused to his political fortunes, fired her as his deputy chief of staff after that, calling her “stupid.” But the report commissioned by Mr. Christie and released Thursday doubles down on a strategy of portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently and dependent on men for approval and stability.
Has Kelly been “the center of blame in the lane closing scandal” since early January? It seems to us that a fellow named Wildstein has also been a “center of blame.”
Zernike will rarely make an accurate statement where a less accurate statement will do. But Kelly as the center of blame is a very minor problem with last Friday’s report.
Elsewhere in Zernike’s report, she offers facts which are grossly misleading, even flatly false. And uh-oh! As of this morning, we can see the inevitable process in which her bogus claims are becoming zombie ideas.
Can we talk? Bridget Kelly is never shown “weeping” in the Mastro report, let alone “weeping frequently.” Beyond that, the word “emotional” is applied to her one time only.
By way of contrast, the world “emotional” is applied to Governor Christie at five different points in the report. At two points in the Mastro report, Christie is shown in tears.
(For a searchable version of the report, you can just click here.)
What can explain Zernike’s claim that Kelly is “portrayed as weeping frequently?” Had Zernike even read the Mastro report when she produced her instant report?
We can’t answer those questions. But Zernike’s claim may have sounded good to Mike Kelly (no relation to Bridget Kelly), whose zombie-fueled column appears today in the Bergen Record.
Has Mike Kelly read the Mastro report? We can’t answer that either. That said, the Record is the paper of record (no pun intended) in the Fort Lee affair—and this is the way Mike Kelly’s column starts:
KELLY (3/31/14): It’s a dilemma faced by historians, corporate managers, journalists, even lawyers representing couples in divorce court. When is it appropriate to reveal details about someone’s personal life?Has Kelly read the Mastro report? This morning, he repeats a false claim—the claim that the Mastro report portrays Bridget Kelly “weeping frequently and behaving erratically after a romantic breakup.”
That question is the focal point of a debate swirling around the report released last week by a team of lawyers hired by Governor Christie that exonerated him from any blame in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.
At the center of the controversy is a conclusion that seems fitting for a novel, not a report on traffic jams that were alleged to be political payback: Bridget Anne Kelly, the former gubernatorial aide whose email suggested “some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” had been distraught, weeping frequently and behaving erratically after a romantic breakup.
Let us say it again: Bridget Kelly is never shown weeping, or even crying, in the Mastro report. The claim that she is shown “weeping frequently” is just flatly false.
That statement is false, but it’s on its way to becoming a “zombie idea.” Almost surely, many people will repeat that claim as part of their tribal identity.
To his credit, Mike Kelly doesn’t put the word “erratically” inside quotation marks in the passage we’ve posted. He doesn’t claim that the Mastro report actually uses that word to describe Bridget Kelly’s behavior.
As such, Mike Kelly rejects the flat misstatement which drove Joan Walsh’s piece last Friday—a flat misstatement which was spanning the globe by the start of the weekend. (He retains the loaded characterization while dropping the claim that Mastro used the quoted word.)
That said, what about Mike Kelly’s other claim—the claim that Mastro’s report shows Bridget Kelly “weeping frequently?”
We’re sorry, but that isn’t true. Bridget Kelly is never shown weeping, or even crying, in the Mastro report. Below, you see the only passage which is in any way relevant.
It is now December 13, 2013—three months after the lane closings, at least four months after the alleged “romantic breakup” (Mike Kelly’s term) which Mike Kelly says is used to explain the frequent weeping.
In an “emotional and, at times, agitated manner,” Christie holds a meeting in which he “ordered his staff,” including Bridget Kelly, “to come forward with any information about the lane realignment.”
No one speaks up! Christie then holds a press conference, saying that none of his staff knew diddly-squat about the lane closings.
After the press conference, the following scene occurs. In his press conference, Christie has named Deborah Gramiccioni as Bill Baroni’s replacement at the Port Authority:
MASTRO REPORT (page 102): Shortly after the press conference, Gramiccioni passed by Kelly’s office and noticed that Kelly was seated alone and looked as if she had been crying. Gramiccioni entered Kelly’s office and asked her what was wrong. Kelly said she had spent the morning going through her emails for O’Dowd, was unable to find any emails discussing the lane realignment, and did not remember whether she had any emails relevant to the lane realignment issue. Gramiccioni asked Kelly how she could not remember whether she had any such emails, to which Kelly responded that her practice was to delete her emails to prevent her children from reading any communications she had with her ex-husband. Gramiccioni recalled thinking that this was an odd, non-responsive answer. Gramiccioni then advised Kelly that if she had anything else to share, she needed to talk to O’Dowd again or else she would be in serious trouble. Gramiccioni told O’Dowd about her conversation with Kelly, noting that Kelly had looked upset and had continued to deny having any emails reflecting her knowledge of the lane realignment.Did those events really happen? Did they happen as described? Without consulting the flight of birds, we can’t answer those questions.
But this is the only place in the Mastro report where there is any reference to Bridget Kelly weeping, crying, being in tears, or looking as if she has been in tears. In 340 pages, that is the only such reference, claim or portrait.
Chronologically, there is no claim or suggestion that this has anything to do with the alleged breakup. As such, Mike Kelly’s chronological claim about the report is bogus and zombie too.
In Zernike’s opening paragraphs, this lone event somehow gave birth to the claim that Bridget Kelly is shown “weeping frequently” in the Mastro report. Zernike’s statement was flatly false, but Mike Kelly makes the same statement this morning.
The word “erratic” no longer appears inside quotes. In its place, we get this latest false assertion, which will likely become a zombie idea and a marker of tribal identity.
There’s a lot to criticize about the Mastro report. Even seen as a statement by the (Christie) defense, it’s very weak in several major respects. (On the other hand, it seems to include some new information.)
That said, Mastro’s report doesn’t come from the press corps. At this site, we talk about the work of our nation’s “journalists,” not about the work of our political hacks.
Last Friday, Joan Walsh composed an orange-shoed review of the Mastro report. Her ludicrous logic was the main problem. But she started with a flatly false quotation, which was soon spanning the globe.
In that morning’s New York Times, Zernike had advanced a different false fact. Three days later, Mike Kelly has made the same false statement in the paper of record for the Fort Lee affair.
Our “journalists” have been working this way for decades. They have invented many false facts and false quotations. Some of their many inventions have led to deaths in this country and, in very large numbers, all around the world.
The career liberal world has routinely accepted the conduct to which we refer. Career liberals will continue to accept, or engage in, this newest misconduct.
Krugman describes the process today, but let’s be very clear. The plutocrats will feed you false claims, but so will fallen corporate players from within our own pitiful tribe.
Only you can decide how you feel about those bogus facts, the false and misleading claims which become your own tribe’s source of identity. Will you decide to repeat those false facts? Or are you prepared to reject your tribe’s zombie ideas?
For decades, the American public has lived in a world of zombie ideas and bogus quotations. In many respects, our “journalistic” world has been a world without facts, amen.
Krugman describes the process today. These would be our questions for you:
Do you like some of these zombie ideas? Does your sense of identity make you accept your own tribe’s bogus facts?
Tomorrow: More from Zernike’s reports
Yet to come: Hayes [HEART] Stefano