Part 5—Our tribe’s epistemic capture: The nation’s professors have never seemed as sad as they do this morning.
When we awoke, the analysts handed us this full-length report in the New York Times. It describes the decades our professors have spent exploring the happiness gap, which is said to be “small,” or may not exist at all.
Yes, that’s right—the happiness gap! The possible gap in happiness between our red and blue tribes!
We’ll summarize the professorial foolishness, foolishness which Erica Goode reported with a straight face:
For decades, the professors had concluded that liberals were happier than conservatives, though not by a large amount. But uh-oh! According to Goode, it turns out that this “well-established” finding was based on a weak methodology:
Those professors! They’d simply asked large numbers of people to say how happy they were!
Who ever thought that this constituted a sound analytical method? The nation’s professors, that’s who! But now, rebel scholars have authored studies which are “raising the possibility that although conservatives may report greater happiness than liberals, they are no more likely to act in ways that indicate that they really are happier.”
What sorts of studies have pointed to this utterly useless conclusion? According to Goode, the professors have “examined two behaviors linked to happiness: smiling and using positive language.”
In one of their studies, they examined photos of members of Congress, “finding that conservative politicians were less likely than liberals to display smiles involving facial muscles around the eyes.”
And not only that! “Liberal-leaning politicians, the researchers found, were more likely to use positive words and no more likely to use sad or negative words.” Put that in your hash pipe and smoke it!
Don’t get the professors wrong! By the end of this morning’s report, Professor Ditto is telling Goode “that the studies could not definitely answer the question of who was happier.”
Indeed, “It would be a mistake to infer from our data that liberals are ‘objectively’ happier than conservatives,” this professor and his colleagues have written, in an important new article in the journal Science.
An obvious question comes to mind at this point. Are these people really professors? Could they be part of some make-work project left over from the New Deal?
Who knows? Perhaps this is really a project designed for patients spending their final years in an upscale residential facility. Where nurses once supervised easy crafts projects, elders are now led to believe that they are engaged in “research!”
Given the many important topics on which our professors have failed to instruct us, the sheer inanity of this project beggars description. That said, the New York Times will always rush to lend credence to such marginalia.
Is there really such a thing as a “sad” or “happy” word? Can we really count such words, thus learning if people are happy?
Two weeks ago, John Tierney explored a similar, implausible project in a full-length report for the Science Times section. The analysts rolled their eyes that day. This morning, they dreamed of the ledge.
Might we make an obvious statement? These professors are basically wasting their time in pursuit of useless, chimerical “knowledge.”
Our nation badly needs professional help understanding a range of important topics. Routinely, our professors are absent concerning such questions, much like The Seventh Seal’s God.
Instead, professors spend decades on the happiness gap, and the New York Times is right there to report it. This makes us think of Professor Jamieson, who has failed, again and again, to show us our real world.
What happens when liberals don’t understand the real world? When we submit to epistemic capture?
For one thing, we write the letters which appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. But first, consider a sensible-sounding suggestion which got big play this week on the liberal web.
The suggestion came from Armando Llorens (Big Tent Democrat) over at Talk Left. In a slightly more rational world, his suggestion would make perfect sense.
Armando said a primary challenge to Hillary Clinton would force “the Media” to drop all the pseudo-scandal crap. A primary fight would make them talk about important issues, he said.
Armando explained his point quite clearly. In a rational world, his analysis would make perfect sense. Over at Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore reposted the bulk of Armando’s presentation. We’ll do the same, right here:
LLORENS (3/11/15): The Media doesn’t actually care about policy. Partly because it’s hard to report on policy. Partly because they don’t really care about policy. The only way they do is if a political opponent raises the issue...We’d love to see a contested primary. We’d likely vote for some Democrat other than Clinton if a viable hopeful appeared.
Do you want to hear about income inequality and how Clinton would try to attack the problem? Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Media to cover that. It will require a primary challenger to do this.
Want to hear about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy views? Want her hawkish ideas challenged? Don’t count on the Media for that. It will take a primary challenger.
I don’t think any fair person can challenge Clinton’s commitment to women’s rights. But just yesterday she gave a speech at the UN on the 20th Anniversary of her famous “women’s rights are human rights speech,” the chances of prominent coverage would have been nil but for the chance to ask about eGhazi.
Without a contested primary, no important issues will be covered.
Democrats need a contested primary.
Hillary Clinton needs a contested primary.
Because our Media is simply terrible.
That said, we don’t think a primary challenge will lead the press to discuss important issues. We say that because we can remember the debates which went undiscussed in the past.
Would a primary fight lead to the discussion of issues? Crackers, please! Let’s recall the primary fight between Candidates Bradley and Gore.
In 1999, Candidate Gore—the Democratic front-runner—was challenged by Candidate Bradley, a well-known, highly respected political figure. By the fall of that year, the hopefuls were staging a spirited debate about their health care plans.
That was an important issue. Do you remember what happened next?
On Wednesday, October 27, 1999, the candidates staged their first debate, at Dartmouth College.
In some detail, the hopefuls discussed their dueling health care plans. But so what? On Sunday, October 31, 1999, Mary McGrory reviewed the debate in her column in the Washington Post.
McGrory, a former Pulitzer winner, was still a major figure in the insider press corps. This is the appalling way her horrible column began:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.In a slightly more serious democracy, “journalists” of this type would be frog-marched to re-education camp. But our point today is different.
Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station.
Mary McGrory had no intention of talking about important issues! She opened her column with a discussion of one candidate’s allegedly comical wardrobe, a hot topic in the guild at that time. Her effort slid downhill from there.
Let’s refresh our recollections:
By this time, the press corps was up to its ears in its twenty-month War Against Candidate Gore. Over the course of several months, they discussed every aspect of his clothing—his boots, hit suits, his polo shirts, the height at which he hemmed his pants.
The color of that one suit (brown). The number of buttons on his suit jackets (three).
The reason he was wearing those polo shirt (to pander to female voters). The reason he dressed one way at certain events, a different way at others. (Al Gore doesn’t know who he is!)
Indeed, it was on that same day, October 31, when McGrory’s guild started their gruesome, month-long assault on Naomi Wolf, who had supposedly directed Gore to wear earth tones. The blood and misogyny ran in the streets as they advanced this inane attack against Wolf, with no evidence offered.
The liberal world just stared into air. So did Professor Jamieson.
Might we recall another point about that Dartmouth debate? In the aftermath of that debate, three journalists described astonishing conduct inside the Hanover press room.
How had our journalists comported themselves during that first debate? “The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something,” the Hotline’s Howard Mortman reported on his influential org’s little-watched cable program.
Jake Tapper, then of Salon, seemed to describe the same conduct. “The reporters were hissing Gore, and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event,” he said on C-Span's Washington Journal, though not until December. In Time magazine, Eric Pooley made it three:
“Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.”
These scribes were describing astonishing conduct on the part of the press. The nation’s professors let it go, Professor Jamieson included.
For the record, the press corps actually did discuss the Gore/Bradley health care debate, but they did so in a predictable manner. They kept insisting that Candidate Gore was lying about Bradley’s plan.
For twenty months, the GORE LIAR script controlled all their discussions. In their approach to those dueling health plans, they followed that script to a T, ignored almost everything else.
(In January 2000, even the press corps largely renounced the claim that Gore had been lying about Bradley’s health plan. When they did, they moved on to their next bogus claim—the claim that Gore was lying about his past stance on abortion.)
This is the way the press corps reacted to the challenge by Bradley. Almost surely, this is the way the corps will react if someone challenges Clinton.
To the extent that a challenge involves important issues, the press will force their discussion into pre-existing frameworks about Clinton’s troubling character. This is the way the press rolls.
If anything, Armando was much too kind in his description of the press. It isn’t that “they don’t really care about policy.” The actual truth is much worse.
In truth, they refuse to discuss important issues; our press corps hates the discussion of issues. If important issues do get raised, they adopt one of two approaches:
They may ignore the debate altogether. Or they shape it to their pre-existing scripts about who has bad character problems.
Why don’t liberals understand these things? Why did Kilgore present Armando’s analysis without recalling these past events?
In part, it’s because of the Professor Dittos and their endless diversions. More directly, it’s because of Professor Jamieson, the academic world’s top dog concerning the nation’s press.
For decades, the press corps has dragged Professor Jamieson out to offer soft soap about their work. Because we liberals can’t see who she is, we become the helpless victims of “epistemic capture.”
For unknown reasons, Professor Jamieson forgot to tell us about those booing, jeering journalists. She averted her gaze from the ugly misogyny which was directed at Wolf. From the inanity of the attacks on that one candidate’s clothing.
Thanks to the work of professors like this, we liberals continue to shamble along. We still don’t seem to understand the way certain candidates get treated. We may even think that a primary challenge will force a discussion of issues!
Armando is smart and decent. He’s also much too kind. Nothing will stop the national press from pursuing their scripts about Clinton’s Clintonian character—from inventing silly pseudo-disputes which help “prove” their various notions.
Because of our epistemic capture, we the liberals don’t seem to understand this. We haven’t been told what was done to Gore, or to Clinton and Clinton both before and after that.
For that reason, it’s easy for us to get swept along in the latest manufactured scandal. That helps explain the letters which appeared in yesterday’s New York Times.
The first letter writer is “a lifelong Democrat who is leery at the prospect of a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency.” Her handling of those emails “reeks,” this very first writer said.
That said, it’s the second letter writer who really tells the tale. Clueless in Los Angeles, the fiery Dem says this:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/12/15): Hillary Rodham Clinton should turn her email server over to the State Department to stop this nonsense. Until that happens, the Republicans will not let up. I believe her explanation. Her personal server may have been more secure than any government server.To us, this Angeleno seems to be in full capture. She actually thinks that Clinton can “stop this nonsense,” “end this now” by handing over her server.
I can understand her caution, but she needs to let an impartial party review all the emails on that server. Please, Hillary, end this now!
(She also thinks the scandal is driven by the GOP, not by the mainstream press corps.)
The person doesn’t seem to understand the way the world works. People! Nothing ever ends these discussions, which are designed by script.
What will happen if Hillary Clinton hands over her email server? The third letter writer helps us see the answer:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/12/15): There are many questions left after Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged that she had deleted about half her emails from her years as secretary of state:This (basically endless) list of questions shows us the nature of these scandal adventures. There is no way to “end this now” or to “stop this nonsense.”
When she left office, why were the government-related emails not transferred immediately to an appropriate place like the State Department or the National Archives?
When were the emails deleted?
Who deleted the emails?
Who decided whether emails were government-related or private?
If there was a mix of government issues and private issues in an email, what happened to that email?
Why would the private emails be deleted, and in such quantity?
For the government-related emails, didn’t the recipients question why they were written with a nongovernment email address?
In all such episodes, as soon as any one question is answered, ten more will be invented. These new, extremely important questions will be bruited across the land.
We’ve now had a dozen years of war because the press corps behaved that way in 1999 and 2000. ISIS is burning people alive because the press corps invented serial lies by Gore and endlessly fingered his clothing.
We’ve explained all these episodes in detail. That includes the booing and hissing which occurred in that Hanover press room. (We got a call from the site that night, in which we were told what had happened.)
Professor Jamieson seemed to know that she mustn’t discuss such things. Liberal pundits also declined to discuss these topics. Within the guild, you don’t blow the whistle on yourself and your colleagues!
As a result of all that silence, we liberals have succumbed to epistemic capture. We can even imagine the national press corps discussing “important issues!”
Alas! Our useless professors refuse to serve. Our “liberal journalists” constantly jockey for (paying) positions within the guild.
In the cluelessness which follows, a letter writer crazily thinks that Clinton can “end this now.” Needless to say, the New York Times is happy to showcase such nonsense.
We understand that letter writer. It’s Armando and Kilgore we don’t quite get.
Which part of “twenty months of script” don’t we liberals understand after all these script-ridden years? What keeps us from telling those letter writers about the real shape of their world?