We’re not sure who was worse: Let’s brace ourselves for several thoughts we may be inclined to dislike.
For starters, we’ll recommend David Brooks’ new column concerning our nation’s hyper-tribalization.
For our money, the following portrait is basically accurate. Brooks is even nice enough to use an example in which a contingent of The Red Tribe is pointlessly overwrought:
BROOKS (10/28/14): The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.In our view, that’s an accurate portrait of our growing tribalization. Brooks was even nice enough to chide the nation's “gun nuts.”
Politics becomes a marker for basic decency. Those who are not members of the right party are deemed to lack basic compassion, or basic loyalty to country.
Finally, political issues are no longer just about themselves; they are symbols of worth and dignity. When many rural people defend gun rights, they’re defending the dignity and respect of rural values against urban snobbery.
In comments, of course, hyper-tribalized liberals swung into action, helping prove Brooks' case. This was the first real comment:
COMMENTER FROM CONNECTICUT: Actually, it's a lot simpler than that. The Democratic Party is far from perfect, but the Republican Party has gone insane and has abandoned all pretense of principle. Rank-and-file Republicans are fooled by right-wing spin into believing that the Democratic Party is the party that is compromised. Thus strong negative passions are aroused on both sides—typically honest ones on the Democratic side, fabricated ones on the Republican.Just for the records, we agree with that first point. In our view, quite a few rank-and-file Republicans do get fooled by varieties of right-wing spin.
But all through the annals of time, tribal players have described the world in the way we see as this comment ends. Inevitably, reactions by people in Our Tribe turn out to be “typically honest.” The sub-humans in The Other Tribe are emitting “fabricated” passions.
Brooks’ column, and the instant reactions, made us think of Rachel Maddow’s performance last Friday night.
We refer to the mockery she dumped on Darrell Issa. More significantly, we refer to the cherry-picking and doctored tape which let her thrill us with a portrait of a hopelessly fallen buffoon in The Vile Other Tribe.
We aren’t big fans of Issa here—but we also aren’t fans of Maddow. We thought last Friday’s program was an insult to liberal viewers all the way through.
Maddow started her program with Issa, who had made some relatively minor mistakes in a House hearing about Ebola that day.
What mistakes had Issa made? In an opening statement which he seemed to be having trouble reading, he twice said “Guyana” when he should have said “Guinea.” Beyond that, he said “Eboli” several times when he should have said “Ebola.”
Maddow went on, and on and on, screeching about these errors. To help enrage us even more, she did some cherry-picking:
In the opening statement she was mining, Issa had in fact referred to “Ebola” a great many times. She cherry-picked the two or three times when he said “Eboli,” then gave the impression that he didn’t know the name of the disease in question at all.
Concerning Guyana, can we talk? A few weeks earlier, Maddow had made a rather strange geographical error herself. Rather plainly, she seemed to say, several times, that Estonia, which President Obama was visiting, is part of “the Balkans.”
As a matter of fact, Estonia is one of “the Baltics.” After Maddow mocked Issa concerning Guyana, conservatives replied by mocking her rather obvious earlier error, which she has apparently denied making or intending to make.
In such ways, tribal players have learned to heighten each other’s loathing down through the annals of time.
Warning! Things got substantially worse before Friday's segment was done! At one point, Maddow simply doctored the videotape of Issa, thereby misrepresenting what he had actually said.
During Maddow’s mocking of Issa, she twice played tape of something else he said at that day’s hearing. She rather plainly doctored the tape, hiding the fact that his expert panel had actually seemed to agree with his actual statement.
(In fairness, this may have been that famous old demon, “bad staff work.” Maddow may not have known that Issa’s remark had been doctored.)
At the 1:07 mark on this C-Span tape, Issa is accusing the head of the CDC of having made several errors about Ebola. In this exchange with Dr. Nicole Lurie, he describes a way a person could contract Ebola on a bus:
ISSA (10/24/14): We have the head of CDC—supposed to be the expert—and he's made statements that simply aren’t true.No one on a five-member panel challenged Issa’s representation. Dr. Lurie seemed to agree with his statement.
Doctor, you can get Ebola sitting next to someone on a bus if they, in fact, throw up on you, can't you? That's reasonable.
LURIE: The way you get Ebola is by exposure to body fluids. Yes.
ISSA: OK. So when the head of the CDC says, "You can't get it with somebody on the bus next to you," that's just not true.
(Later in the hearing, another witness, Rabih Torbay, plainly said you can get Ebola from someone on a bus. He’s vice president of international operations for International Medical Corps.)
In our view, it isn’t likely that someone afflicted with Ebola is going to throw up on somebody else on a bus. But Maddow doctored the tape on two occasions, making it look like Issa had made a completely ridiculous statement which everyone knows to be false.
Sadly, Maddow shrieked the following at one point in her segment. Please note what has been amputated from Issa's actual statement:
MADDOW (10/24/14): When we look back on this time, when books are written about this, and they will be, about this as a challenge and a health crisis and a moment that called for leadership in this nation, it’s almost impossible to believe, but that historical record is going to have to show that there has been a huge partisan divide in the response, a sharply divergent difference in the two kinds of responses that we’ve had in this country.To watch the whole segment, click here. This chunk comes after the six-minute mark. At various points, you may need to turn the volume down.
I mean, this really is turning out to be the Republican response.
ISSA (videotape): You can get Ebola sitting next to someone on a bus.
MADDOW: No, you can’t.
Darrell Issa today, right? Who can’t tell Guinea from Guyana or Eboli from Ebola, but he knows better than any doctor. Don’t take the bus, America! Darrell Guyana, leading the charge in Congress!
In the first part of that passage, Maddow states Brooks’ basic point. Given the way things are today, even a topic like Ebola produces a tribalized set of responses!
That said, can you see what Maddow did next? She dropped the part of Issa’s statement which refers to someone throwing up on that bus. Obviously, that doctoring changed what Issa had actually said.
She then proceeded to insist that you can’t get Ebola on a bus. She mocked Issa for failing to listen to doctors, even though Dr. Lurie seemed to agree with what he actually said.
Did Issa make a valuable point? We’d be inclined to say no. But rather than speak to his actual point, Rachel Maddow, and/or her staff, got busy playing doctor.
Rather than speak to Issa’s point, they took their clippers and doctored his statement. Thus enabled, Maddow shrieked and railed about the extremely dumb thing he (hadn’t actually) said.
Last Friday night’s program was rancid throughout. In our view, Maddow’s ongoing decline proves a very basic point—when you make people very rich and very famous, some of them will lose their way, especially if they have sycophantic corporate suits urging their clownishness on.
Maddow’s whole program was awful last Friday. As usual, the host just wasn’t obsessively honest in the things she did and said.
Needless to say, tribal players will swing into action, saying this simply can’t be the case.
That’s what Brooks is talking about! People, steel your tribal nerves! We still recommend his column.