Springer and Hayes do cynical: In theory, a great deal could be learned from a discussion of domestic violence.
On cable, the current discussion has been transformed, to a large degree, into the latest entertainment/moral outrage spectacular. These episodes are good for business, less good for a societal learning curve.
Everyone knows the basic steps in a cable outrage spectacular. First, a target is selected. Everything follows from that!
Once a spectacular has begun, basic facts will be selected, discarded or distorted to drive The Preferred Cable Line. Also this:
Whatever the target has done or said, only the most negative possible explanation will be entertained.
So it was last Friday night when Chris Hayes spoke with grim-faced Shira Springer, sports enterprise reporter of the Boston Globe. By now, Roger Goodell had become the target of choice, so much so that Ray Rice was suddenly being cast as the good guy in the chase after Goodell.
A new story line had developed, one which hadn’t been established by any hard facts. In the absence of serious evidence, this was the Preferred Line:
Ray Rice told Goodell the truth in that June 16 meeting! Goodell has been lying about that, and about everything else, in the months since then!
That was the preferred story line last Friday night. Presenting like Death from The Seventh Seal, Springer joined forces with Hayes to drive this story line forward.
What did Ray Rice tell Goodell at that June 16 meeting? At present, there’s no way to tell. That said, let’s look at the way Hayes set the scene before bringing Springer on.
He started with a brand new statement from the NFL. According to the NFL, Rice had now been suspended indefinitely because he had misled Goodell in that June 16 meeting.
According to the NFL, the second videotape had made that fact clear:
HAYES (9/12/14): In a letter to the NFL Players Association today, that commissioner, Roger Goodell, laid out exactly why Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been banned from the league.To watch the whole segment, click here.
The Baltimore Sun points out that Rice was suspended indefinitely because, in Goodell’s words, “This video shows a starkly different sequence of events from what you and your representatives stated when we met on June 16th and is important new information that warrants reconsideration of the discipline imposed on you in July.”
This is the official explanation Goodell is giving for suspending Rice indefinitely. This, despite the ESPN report yesterday quoting four sources that, “Ray Rice told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16th that he punched then-fiancée in a casino elevator, an assertion that contradicts Goodell’s statements this week, that when he met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.”
Hayes didn’t note the problems with that ESPN report:
The fact that none of the four (anonymous) sources are actually said to have attended the June 16 meeting. The fact that none of the sources is actually quoted saying Rice used the word “punched.”
Did any of those sources have first-hand knowledge of what Rice said to Goodell? On cable, such questions aren’t asked. Hayes simply let the point go, then cited another report:
HAYES (continuing directly): Another twist today from inside an NFL that appears to be trying to move the blame off of Goodell. According to an unnamed NFL owner in the Wall Street Journal, “Goodell privately told other owners that, during his investigation in a meeting with the Rices in June, Janay Rice said she had struck her then-fiancé and that she believed she was partly at fault for the incident.”Uh-oh! According to an unnamed NFL owner, Janay Rice told Goodell something on June 16 which had turned out to be false. The videotape didn’t show the story the Rices had told.
“After Goodell suspended Rice for two games in July, this person said, Goodell told several NFL owners he felt it would have been insensitive to question Janay Rice’s story because it would have come across as an indictment of her character."
Meanwhile a new poll out today from ESPN says that more than half of Americans surveyed do not believe Roger Goodell’s statement, that, to his knowledge, no one in the league offices saw the second video of the incident until this week.
Joining me now, Shira Springer, Boston Globe enterprise reporter.
At this time, we know of no way to judge the accuracy of that claim. As far as anyone can say at this time, it’s possible that Janay Rice misled or even lied to Goodell. It’s also possible that she did no such thing.
For what it’s worth, Hayes omitted one point from the Wall Street Journal report. According to that unnamed NFL owner, “Goodell also said he left the meeting believing that Janay Rice had become unconscious because she had fallen during the scuffle.”
As stated, that doesn’t exactly make sense. But one version of what happened had always suggested that Janay Rice lost consciousness when she hit her head on the railing in the elevator. This may be a garbled version of that free-floating account.
What was Goodell told on June 16? Like you, we have no way of knowing! But as Hayes started speaking with Springer, he worked from the cable playbook.
Note the way he started:
HAYES (continuing directly): There’s a lot to unpack here, but I want to start with that Wall Street Journal report because a very cynical— The most cynical interpretation of that is that someone unnamed, one of the owners, is attempting to essentially cast the blame for this on, of all people, Janay Rice herself.The highlighted presentation comes straight out of Outrage Spectacular 101. When discussing behavior by your target, you must always offer “the most cynical interpretation” of whatever the target has said or done.
I don’t even understand the logic. Why you would have to publicly dispute her account to give a harsher penalty?
In this case, the NFL was the target. Was one of the owners “attempting to essentially cast the blame for this on, of all people, Janay Rice herself?”
That’s certainly possible!
Of course, it’s also possible that the unnamed owner was “attempting to explain what happened.” But when you’re running an Outrage Spectacular, you only consider the most heinous explanation. “Nothing beside remains.”
For the record, Hayes’ second statement doesn’t seem to make sense. As we read it, the unnamed owner is saying that Goodell didn’t want to challenge Janay Rice at the June 16 meeting, not in some later public statement.
Is that true? We have no idea! But Springer knew the role of the guest in an Outrage Spectacular. She quickly agreed with her host:
SPRINGER (continuing directly): Yes. That was my take as well. It seemed like, unfortunately, more NFL spin with this unnamed NFL owner coming out and saying that Goodell didn’t want to press Janay Palmer, now Rice, when she told her story...You must always agree with the host, and you must denigrate the target. By law, a statement like this is required to “seem like more NFL spin.” Even as a possibility, it can’t imaginably seem like “an NFL owner trying to explain what occurred.”
As she continued, Springer offered a general complaint about the quality of Goodell’s investigation. With grim determination, she concluded by saying this: “This was just yet another example of the NFL stance, where they see no evil, hear no evil and turn the other way.”
For the record, the NFL didn’t exactly “see no evil” in this case. In their original disposition, they suspended Rice for two games and fined him an additional $500,000.
Maybe they didn’t see enough evil. But they plainly saw some.
In fairness, Springer’s angry exaggeration added to the entertainment and the outrage. It just wasn’t journalistic. We thought she worked for the Globe!
As the exchange continued, Hayes moved to a new point. In the Q-and-A shown below, Springer’s response to Hayes comes in the form of a “translation.”
Wouldn’t you know it? Once again, Springer’s translation represents “the most cynical interpretation:”
HAYES (continuing directly): And part of the reason I think that polling shows that people don’t believe him when he says that no one, to his knowledge, no one in the NFL had access to the video is that people know that the league keeps very careful tabs on people. There’s—Hayes’ initial speculation is utterly silly. Very few people have any idea about the way the NFL does, or doesn’t, “keep careful tabs on people,” about the way team security directors work.
CBS dug this up, which I have to read this:
In 2009, the NFL wrote up a job description obtained by CBS News that defined for teams the responsibility of the team security director, basically saying you guys have to have a team security director.
The description says the director is required to conduct, quote—and I’m quoting here—"personal visits to local casinos, night clubs, et cetera, requesting the cooperation of the establishment’s management in the event a player or team employee is perceived as a potential problem."
SPRINGER: Translation? We know we have problem players. We know they’re going to get into trouble. Please tell us before it becomes national news and we’re in a situation like we are now with Ray Rice.
HAYES: Right! And that’s exactly why I think people have responded so cynically to the kind of machinations from Goodell and the NFL.
Springer responds rather harshly. You have to watch her make her “translation” to see how grim and unpleasant—and cynical—she makes it sound.
A kinder, fairer person could offer a kinder translation, but that would require deflating the outrage. Such a person could respond to Hayes like this:
“It’s too bad the NFL has to waste its time doing things like that. It sounds like they try to keep the league’s screwballs from doing stupid things.” (Barney Fife used to call this “nipping it in the bud.”)
Make no mistake. During a Cable Outrage Spectacular, it’s the job of the cable guest to agree with the host and keep feeding the fury. As Hayes and Springer neared their grand finale, they decided to widen their attack, moving from the NFL owners to the nation’s tens of millions of fans.
This is where the game is always lost.
Hayes played tape of a woman who wore a Ray Rice jersey to the previous night’s Ravens game. His grim-faced guest by way of Harvard brought in an ancient sound:
HAYES: A friend of mine from Baltimore, saying tons of people on my Facebook saying, defending Ray Rice. I mean, this is the dilemma at the heart of this whole thing, isn’t it?Profit definitely matters to the NFL, as it does to the increasingly degraded MSNBC. That said, Springer was sounding an ancient note as she tried to count the witches about whom she’d heard reports:
SPRINGER: It is, that you have a fan base, at this point, that is still supportive. And not only supportive, you have more than one, but multiple—I mean, I saw 10, maybe 10, 50, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 women that was reported wearing Ray Rice jerseys to last night’s game.
Not only that, sponsors have not taken any action yet. You still have this incredibly profitable machine going forward the way it’s always gone forward, doing business. And it seems that really, in the end, all that matters is the bottom line and that fans keep coming in to support players, whether they’re Ray Rice or Ben Roethlisberg [sic] or other players.
As it was in Salem Village, the grim-faced goody was counting the people who don’t share her point of view. She'd heard that as many as fifty people disobeyed her the previous night!
You really should watch her performance, which we would say is amazingly dumb. We'd also say it's eternally destructive of progressive interests.
Note to the parsons and goodies. Note to the Lawrence O’Donnells:
The average person will never be as pure or as great as you are. No matter how hard you to try to instruct them, they will never rise to the standards you maintain.
No matter how many times you dunk them in your lakes, your ponds, your streams and your rivers, they will come up wearing some jersey that you don’t like. They’ll be wearing it for some reason you’re too lazy to ask them about.
They will notice how much you don’t like them. As a result, they’ll vote for the other tribe. You accomplish this destructive task every single time!
At least today you have your own channel, on which you can stage your own trials.
From here, Hayes and Springer moved to their final point, where they pretended they didn’t know why Thursday’s game got such a high TV rating. By this time, they were basically lying.
For background, see this morning’s post.
There’s a dirty little secret about “progressives” like these—they don’t like average people.
Hayes didn’t start out like that. We don’t think those are really his values. But the suits have been working on him for two years, and he has changed a great deal.
He knew why the TV rating was high. Does anyone actually doubt that? Or would that represent the most cynical possible interpretation?