ANTHROPOLOGISTS WITHIN: A portrait of nimble, self-seeking connivers on the greasy pole of advancement!


Part 3—Anthropologist Hastings speaks: Diane Sawyer started the theme. Erin Burnett merely pimped it.

Reportedly, Sawyer is paid $20 million per year, with a net worth of $80 million.

Reportedly, Burnett is paid $2 million per year. In 2012, she married her dream boat, a Citibank money man.

Her reported net worth is $12 million. In fairness, she's just 37.

The theme these deviants started and pimped? Hillary Clinton has too much money!

The Clintons' net worth is said to be $100 million. To the oleaginous Sawyer, that was too much! Hillary Clinton may be out of touch, she suggested, pretending to care.

In support of this theme, multimillionaires like Burnett dragged out cable’s various spear-chuckers—eager, questing, reliable climbers who will recite the guild’s favored scripts for cash. They do this in tag-teams designed to give the impression that the narrative is coming at you from both the right and the left.

In today’s supplemental post, we’ll review more of the work by Hoover and Hostin, the comic-book pair who assisted Burnett on three separate programs last week. But let’s be clear on one basic point:

In theory, a wealthy journalist could ask a serious question about a politician’s wealth. But that plainly isn’t what happened in the wake of Sawyer.

The multimillionaire Burnett did not present serious discussions of Clinton’s wealth. On three separate programs last week, she hosted segments straight from the clown car, in which grasping, clawing cable performers mindlessly repeated their guild’s poisonous theme of the week.

What kinds of people behave this way? That question is never discussed on cable.

Almost always, what happens inside the mainstream press corps stays inside the mainstream press corps! For decades, it has been the guild’s most important unwritten law:

The press corps does not discuss the press corps. If you hold a sinecure inside the guild, you do not discuss, explain or question the conduct of colleagues and friends.

That very powerful code of silence is the reliable norm. But on the very rare occasion, someone with an inside view describes the people around him.

You might call these people “anthropologists within.” As it turns out, the late Michael Hastings seems to have been one such scholar.

Hastings, a young and iconoclastic reporter, died in a car accident last year. As it turns out, he was writing a novel, a lightly fictionalized account of his time at Newsweek.

Hastings was working for Newsweek at the start of the war in Iraq. At that time, Newsweek was still an important, influential weekly publication.

On June 23, in the New York Times, David Carr discussed Hastings’ newly published novel. As Carr started, we were struck by a term he used:
CARR (6/23/14): At first glance, “The Last Magazine: A Novel” by Michael Hastings would appear to lack relevance in the current media age. A fictional account of life inside a failed magazine—Newsweek—in a dying industry—print— written by a now-dead journalist, the book seems very much beside the point...

But even from the grave Mr. Hastings has demonstrated anew an ability to reframe the debate. The novel, exhumed by his spouse after his death and published last week, reads as vivid archaeology that reveals much about the present moment.
According to Carr, Hastings’ novel reads like “vivid archaeology.” We’d be inclined to call it the work of an anthropologist—an anthropologist working within our shameless celebrity press corps.

We haven’t read Hastings’ novel. In what follows, we’re relying on two accounts, the account by Carr and another account by the endlessly phony Frank Rich.

That said, what kinds of people behave in the ways we’ve seen all over the press corps in recent weeks? According to Carr, this is Hastings’ account of the people he saw at Newsweek:
CARR: In Mr. Hastings’s book, even as the protagonist strives to become what he despises—a big-deal magazine writer—he realizes that soon enough it will all go away. “I feel like I’m a blacksmith in the days of Henry Ford’s assembly line, an apprentice scroll writer in the months following Gutenberg’s great invention, or a poet in 1991,” he writes.

Amid the self-seeking people at the magazine—with many hands on a greasy pole of advancement composed of book sales, cable segments and cocktail chatter—the making of war is just one more career opportunity. Finger to the wind, the men who run the place send squads of underlings and assistants scurrying for pillows, lunches and research on the coming conflict for their large thoughts for The Magazine, which is what Mr. Hastings calls Newsweek.

The milieu of the book paints a picture of a treehouse where like minds connive and look for an opening.
Say what? Even as a war approached, Hastings’ “self-seeking” colleagues were placing themselves “on a greasy pole of advancement composed of book sales, cable segments and cocktail chatter?”

Even as this war approached, these people “connived and looked for an opening,” advancing the corps’ very familiar culture of “like minds?”

According to Carr, that’s what Hastings saw at Newsweek, back when the magazine was influential. Later, Carr offers a further account of Hastings’ unflattering portrait:
CARR: For the Iraq war, the iconic image is President George W. Bush speaking in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner just weeks after the invasion began. Many in the media went along with the conceit, including myself at one point. More than a decade later, the mission in Iraq is continuing and far from accomplished.

But as Mr. Hastings points out in “The Last Magazine,” being a nimble member of the media means almost never having to say you’re sorry. “We captured Saddam,” one editor tells another in the book. It is always “we” when victory is at hand, and always “they” when the marble rolls off the table.

Journalism is a blunt instrument, a sometimes ugly business in which Mr. Hastings occasionally finds himself implicated. “In my defense, I’d like to point out that we at The Magazine are always doing unseemly things, always taking people’s experiences and actions and desires and totally mangling them for our purposes.”
Say what? According to this account, “nimble members” of the corps are constantly “taking people’s experiences and actions and desires and totally mangling them for our purposes.”

Such nimble players were clowning hard on Burnett’s program last week.

Anthropologically speaking, these “self-seeking,” “conniving” people tend to have low IQs. For that reason, they tend to work with people’s “gaffes” even more than with their “actions and desires.”

(One of Clinton’s actions this week involves the literacy of low-income children. You won’t see that action discussed in the press. You’ll never see Burnett’s vaudeville teams nimbly discussing that action.)

Unless Carr is dreaming, Hastings—an anthropologist within—painted a very unpleasant picture of the people who slither about on our cable “news” channels. We’ll recommend that you also read Frank Rich’s treatment of Hastings’ book—though we’ll have to say that, at this point, an irony intrudes.

Full disclosure—we aren’t big fans of Rich. We’re inclined to think he’s the type of person Hastings was talking about.

In his account of the Hastings book, you will see Rich assailing a long list of pundits who supported the war in Iraq. You’ll get the impression that Rich himself stood boldly opposed.

That impression will be inaccurate.

What did Rich do in the march toward war? He played both ends against every middle, as Hastings’ connivers are wont to do. In his most remarkable column, he savaged the motives of most prominent Democrat who spoke out against the rush to war.

In that column, we’d have to say that Rich was baldly dishonest.

Simply put, Rich didn’t take a stand against the war. We don’t criticize him for that; he isn’t a foreign policy specialist. We don’t even criticize those who unwisely supported the war.

We do criticize Rich for the way he slimed Al Gore when Gore have a speech against the war, for which he was widely attacked. This brings us back to the way the Sawyers, the Burnetts and the Ruckers have waged their latest jihad in the past few weeks.

You see, Rich was one of the total dead-enders in the press corps’ endless war against the Clintons and Gore. This lunacy was especially strong in the matter of Gore, who Rich was still attacking even after his film, An Inconvenient Truth, appeared to great acclaim.

(In fairness, when Gore won the Nobel Prize, Frank Rich instantly flipped, a la the Hastings portrayal.)

Rich committed himself to the Clinton/Gore hate in the manner of total war. Even as he played it both ways with respect to the coming war in Iraq, he savaged Gore’s motives when Gore spoke out in opposition.

After the war failed, Rich rushed to get in front of the pack. He repackaged himself as a bold opponent of this failed effort.

We liberals, the most gullible people on earth, purchased this reinvention. Just like that, Rich became our greatest known person on earth.

By all means, go ahead! We recommend reading Rich’s account of Hastings’ anthropology. If you do, we think you'll encounter a living example of the “nimble” “conniving” and self-advancement Hastings found among the “self-seeking people” at Newsweek.

This afternoon, in our supplemental post, we’ll show you more of this “nimble” conduct from the past few weeks. In part, we’ll look in on Hostin, who clowned in a very nimble way for Burnett last week.

That said, Hastings isn’t the only anthropologist mentioned in Carr’s column. He also mentioned Mark Leibovich, who published a book, This Town, around this time last year.

Like Hastings, Leibovich wrote his book from a favored position within the mainstream “press corps.” Tomorrow, we’ll recall what Leibovich wrote about the press corps’ hatred of All Things Clinton, a jihad which has flared up again in the past few weeks.

We’ll also recall some predictable conduct. We’ll recall the way that account was disappeared from press corps reviews of the Leibovich book.

Does the mainstream press corps dislike the Clintons? You simply don’t discuss such things if you’re paid by the Washington press.

Tomorrow: Anthropologist Leibovich speaks


  1. How many of the many sins attributed to the press corps by Somerby are committed in this one post?

    1. Hypocrisy on the War? Accusation against Frank Rich from the guy who wrote:

      ""Here at THE HOWLER, we've never doubted that Saddam had WMDs. In fact, we'd be surprised if he didn't. We think antiwar types set themselves up for a fall when they crow about the lack of quick discovery."

    2. So, if Somerby says something that some troll thinks is hypocritical, that means all other war hypocrites get a free pass and Rich was not a hypocrite?

      Seems to me Somerby is cautioning people to wait and see because dictators like Saddam tend to like WMDs (e.g., Assad) and because gas had been used in the Iraq/Iran conflict and supposedly against his own people. That seems like a reasonable remark to me. Even if it turned out to be wrong, how is that hypocrisy? Somerby didn't take both sides of an issue, as he accused Rich of doing, nor did he switch sides. I know you want to call Somerby a hypocrite, but what exactly did he do that was hypocritical?

    3. You may have a point Anonymous @ 11:55. Somerby didn't suggest the "antiwar types" had low IQ's or call them "self-seeking". Just "types." He didn't say they were "conniving" just because they were "crowing" too early, he just predicted their set up for a fall.

    4. The day Scott Walker was purported to be the subject of a "John Doe" investigation for campaign violations, the Daily Kos reported that 18 Wisconsin newspapers had banner headlines crowing about the investigation.

      I wondered at the time what that had to do with guilt or innocence.

      A few days later, "oops." Scott Walker was NOT the subject of an investigation.

      "Never mind!"

    5. Jihad, anyone?

      Jihad against women who have become wealthy?

      Jihad against anyone who committed the sin of saying unkind things about Al Gore?

  2. I was just about to say that the concerted attack on Somerby here resembles the jihad against Clintons. There is a narrative that is being pushed by either several trolls or one troll with several names/styles. There are murky motives and interests being served by the attack. It is frequently manufactured with very little regard for what Somerby ever actually says. It makes no sense but sounds pretty awful. It is organized and very quick off the mark -- usually the first comment of the day comes from a slavering troll, as today.

    1. Wow. A Vast Right-Wing Troll Conspiracy against Somerby!

      You forgot to mention that all these trolls are also on Rachel Maddow's payroll. Such is the corporate interest in bringing down this mighty blog and the mighty Oz who writes it.

    2. I would like to see an expose of the greasy pole of troll advancement.

    3. Jonny Scrum-halfJuly 2, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      You're right - it sounds ridiculous to suggest that, but is it any more ridiculous than the fact that a large number of people who seem to hate Somerby's analysis but never have anything substantive to say continue to obsess over this blog and repeatedly write troll-like commentary?

      Either way, it's pretty odd, and hard to understand.

    4. It is sad that the glory days of the early blogosphere are gone. Back when commenters eager to be the first in the box were content to proclaim: "Frist"

    5. It's not working. The headline on this one was the best thing you'll read on the internet all day.

    6. That is pretty funny coming from you JS-H. The only time I can recall you weighing in with an original comment was when you posted the link that pointed out Somerby's error about D'Leisha Dent getting into college. Of course in your case you had no idea what you had just unleashed.

      I suggest you apologize to Somerby and people who like this blog for subjecting us all to unneeded grief.

    7. Anonymous @ 2:16 I agree. It is the best headline at TDH since this one from last January:

      : Could the mess in Fort Lee, New Jersey have been a bungled attempt at a study?

      Truth to Power!

    8. You can't handle the truth!

    9. My ability to handle the truth has not been journalistically disproven.

    10. Actually the comment came at 11:16, not 2:16, 11:29.

      It was a good headline. And I think "nimble" and "connivers" are a fine edition to the quote and separate it from mere plagiarism.

  3. From Huffington Post today:

    Clinton spoke to C-SPAN as part of her ongoing book tour, and she was asked about whether or not she reads the acres of coverage about her.

    "I can't do it," she said, according to Politico. "So I skim it. If it's important it will come to me, I assume. A lot of it is inaccurate or unimportant to me. I try to keep up with it, but I can't possibly read it all. I would be doing nothing else."
    ---- end quoted material

    In my opinion, someone doing a book tour should be questioned about her book, not about how much money she made giving speeches after leaving office. The very fact that the press has been focusing on its own topics instead of asking about her book and its contents tells me they have ulterior motives.

    It is routine for ex-presidents and other public figures to give speeches for money after leaving office. Hillary Clinton charges less than most of the men leaving office do, by several hundred thousand dollars. It is routine for public figures to write books and to promote them after leaving office. Generally men who do this are treated respectfully. The next step is often a paid teaching gig in the Political Science, Government, Law School or Foreign Relations Department of some university, or an appointment at a think tank. Clinton doesn't need that because she can always work for her Foundation and promote their family charities, as Bill Clinton and now Chelsea Clinton have done.

    Hillary Clinton would deserve mockery if she were spending her days painting self-portraits in her shower.

    1. "In my opinion, someone doing a book tour should be questioned about her book, not about how much money she made giving speeches after leaving office."

      Yep. Darn that First Amendment anyway. Let's them ask any question they want, not the ones I think they should be limited to.

      And of course, they also force Hillary to sit down for these interviews for their own ulterior motives. Not like she's trying to sell anything, like, for example, books.

    2. 11:59 your comment fails to mention if the profits from the book are going to support the good works of the Clinton Family Foundation.

    3. 11:59 seems to confuse free speech with slander. People have the right to say what they wish, but they also should not complain if they are criticized for what they say.

    4. Who has slandered Hillary Clinton? Good grief, talk about "tribalism." I guess tough questions are only allowed to be asked of the candidates from the "other" tribes.

      Obviously, you don't give a damn about millions of dollars flowing from corporations to politicians. Fine, Great.

      But spare me the lecture that because YOU don't care, I shouldn't care, either.

    5. This is "Clinton Rules" all over again.

    6. Anon 2:30, If your idea of "tough" questions is to fixate on how much Hillary makes, then you are not paying attention. Corporations don't give money to candidates, they give the money to the candidate's campaign (or one of the PACs). If Hillary gave her talks for free, it would not change that. Your concern is misdirected, which is exactly, precisely the point of Bob's post. The issue should *not* be the candidate's wealth, but where the campaign money comes from.

  4. It is one thing to point out that personal interests of journalists are served by promoting a preferred narrative. Where do the narratives come from? How do they all decide to bash the Clintons or support a war? How do they get their marching orders?

    I remember how shocked I was to learn that bloggers were getting daily bulletins about what to discuss every day, talking points, which then caused a kind of unanimity and widespread consensus around the issue of the day, coming from all directions and seemingly different sources, but coordinated behind the scenes. I thought the internet was free up to that point.

    There are some blogs that are not part of such an organized effort. Corrente, Confluence, this blog, Cannonfire, were among those unallied with the push Obama effort. TPM takes its name from such organized politicking (ostensibly to oppose conservative talking points but actually promoting their own set of talking points). Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, Digby and others all went with the flow and have prospered accordingly.

    If you like your news and especially your political discussion predigested, packaged and entertaining, Huffington Post is your model. You won't find any personal foibles there, no education stats, no repetitiveness and nothing interesting to think about. Plenty of anti-Clinton articles already, even though she has not declared any intention of running. Usually one per day, with an unflattering picture. Enjoy.

    I suspect that the trollery may be arising from the independence of this and similar blogs. I wish Somerby would moderate the comments, but as long as he keeps writing and doesn't modify his content to conform to troll complaints (or talking points, or any other suggestion to change), I will be happy. It means the internet is still functioning as a place to hear divergent voices, if you look hard and can find them.

    1. I am shocked at your revelation of your shocking discovery.
      Where did these daily bulletins come from? Who destroyed the free internet?

    2. If I knew I wouldn't have been shocked by the discovery. The people who took marching orders undermine open discussion by pretending to be independent and even objective when they are not.

    3. I think the narratives must come from the Freemasons. Or maybe the Illuminati. Could be Skull & Bones.

    4. Jonny Scrum-halfJuly 2, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Thanks, Anonymous @11:45. You said things better than I could have. One doesn't have to always agree with Bob to understand and appreciate that what he's writing is legitimately his unique take on things, and not the type of "me-too" pile-on that is all-too-common elsewhere.

    5. Yes, I must admit that the two-month excursion to Tuscaloosa to discover children whose parents didn't talk enough to them when they were babies was certainly "unique."

  5. I wish the haters would be more strait forward and less sarcastic in their criticisms. (Let the sarcastic ripostes begin!! and may I say in advance HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!)

  6. WaPo reports
    In one previously undisclosed transaction, the University of Connecticut — which just raised tuition by 6.5 percent — paid $251,250 for Clinton to speak on campus in April. Other examples include $300,000 to address UCLA in March and $225,000 for a speech scheduled to occur in October at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

    These fees are enormous. I can't see how the students could get value worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from just another politician's speech.

    Campuses get lots of big-name speakers. I don't believe they all get this kind of money. On the contrary, I think conservative speakers are lucky if they get a chance to even speak. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) says, "It''s basically the academic establishment laundering contributions for an ally."

  7. There was a scandal in which Palin was paid big bucks to speak on a campus. Her speech was cancelled because it was coming from student fees.

  8. OMB (Disappearing with the OMB)

    Seems nobody in the Bobguild wants to talk about things BOB disappears. Things we know are there. Things we see in the tribe.

    BOB wants to talk about liberal silence in the face of mainstream media misdeeds. Perhaps the reason so many are silent is that, in the case of the jihad against Hillary, it started with liberal blogospheric mistrust of the Clintons and their cozy relationship with the wealthy.

    Like Matt Stoller in Naked Capitalism over two years ago:

    "Bill Clinton's $80 million payday."

    Other liberal voice raised questions:

    Mainstream media began very modest reports. Speeches to Goldman Sachs groups raised eyebrows, but at the jihadist Washinton Post, a year ago, they reported everybody does it.

    The Andy Kroll published his piece in Mother Jones in May and put a $5 million price tag on Hillary's speaking fee take. Other picked up the figure. We posted about it days ago here. BOB acts like it never appeared.

    When Diane Sawyer used the figure, she noted "it has been reported..."

    Diane did not "start the theme." She asked a question.

    The "jihad" came when Hillary foolish described herself as "broke" in response.

    Maybe some liberal voices in the media are silent because they find the fees a little troubling and/or the Clinton response more than a bit foolish.



  9. "Diane did not "start the theme." She asked a question."

    Right. And here's the critical question.

    SAWYER: But do you think Americans are going to understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?

    Obviously, average American Diane Sawyer, was concerned about this new practice of getting a lot of money for speeches started by the Clintons. And she needed to know if Hillary realized how offensive she was being to the average American.

    1. Yes, and what a horribly mean "gotcha" question that was to a person who had just spent a year on the lecture circuit, and who granted the interview to Sawyer at the launch of her tour for a book for which she reportedly received an eight-figure advance.

      How could the naive, unschooled Hillary have possibly seen that one coming?

    2. mm, Hillary's problems came in the answer she gave before
      Sawyer even asked that question.

    3. Anon 9:25, I understand. Hillary was responding to the setup to the real question. How many times has Diane Sawyer asked this question of Nancy Reagan, or Barbara Bush. You know, "your husband has been making an obscene amount of money giving speeches since he left office. Don't you realize how offensive that is to average Americans like me"?

    4. How many times did Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush run for office?

  10. Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush running for any office? Now that's a laugh!

  11. So you agree that HRC is disconnected and unconcerned about the plight of the middle and underclass as illustrated by her making money by sharing her own insight and experience?

  12. Just how do you think Kevin Drum, Sally Quinn, Josh Marshall, or Rachel Maddow make their living?


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