Part 1—Let the gong-show begin: With so many of our gatekeepers gone, the onus of judgment now rests with us the people.
Within the political realm, party leaders no longer meet in smoke-filled rooms to pick our candidates for us. We the people are forced to spot the crazy ones all by ourselves.
Within the realm of journalism, Walter and David are no longer there to keep us from hearing crazy ideas. We have to spot the crazy ideas—and our democratized media is full of “news orgs” which are selling us The Bogus, The False and The Crazy.
Increasingly, the onus of judgment rests with us—and we the people aren’t performing real well. As usual, it’s easiest to see the flaws over there in The Other Tribe, where crazy candidate are being lauded and false claims are rather widespread.
Forget about climate science! Over in The Other Tribe, substantial majorities tell our pollsters that Obama wasn’t born in this country! One of the candidates they increasingly like took the lead in spreading this nonsense, but our mainstream news orgs sidestep this fact.
They don’t want to make that candidate mad. They want him to appear on their programs!
It’s always easy to spot the nonsense which prevails in The Other Tribe. This week, we’re going to examine one of our own tribe’s gong-shows.
We’ll call it “Sweet Demon Alabama.” It helps us see where our own liberal tribe tends to go badly astray.
Our current gong-show hit the New York Times this Saturday in a lengthy news report. It was the featured report on page A12, the first page of the “National” section.
Campbell Robertson’s dateline had him in deepest rural Alabam’. The scribe was about to spread tons of fudge while attempting to keep things technically accurate.
As it turned out, he didn’t even meet that low standard. Robertson started like this:
ROBERTSON (10/10/15): It is about an hour and 10 minutes to Tuscaloosa, the nearest big city to this little knot of houses and churches in the Alabama pines. For the hundreds in this poor county who do not have a car or a friend with the spare time, someone can usually be found who is willing to give a ride. For a fee, of course.So far, Robertson’s various statements can possibly be rated accurate. It all depends on what the meaning of “many” is!
“You want to get to T-town, it’s at least $50,” said William Bankhead, 56, sitting in front of a boarded-up building that was once Panola’s general store. “We’re a long ways from a place.”
As of last week, Tuscaloosa is the nearest location where a person here can get a driver’s license, after the state decided to stop providing services at 31 satellite locations around the state. The fallout from this decision has been widespread: national politicians and civil rights advocates have condemned Alabama for shuttering the locations, many of them in the state’s majority black counties, just a year after requiring that people show photo identification at the polling locations.
It’s true! Alabama has “decided to stop providing [certain] services at 31 satellite locations around the state.” That said, this is also true:
By our own incomparable count, nine of those shuttered locations are “in the state’s majority black counties.” Is nine counties out of 31 “many?” For our money, Robertson’s thumb was already perhaps a wee tiny bit on the scale.
Robertson made other statements in that passage which were perfectly accurate. It’s true! National politicians have “condemned Alabama for shuttering the locations.”
Also true: Those pols condemned Alabama for shuttering those locations, many of were said to be in the state’s majority black counties, “just a year after requiring that people show photo identification at the polling locations.”
A few paragraphs later, Robertson even quoted one such pol. She was calling the action “Jim Crow.”
As Robertson’s report continued, we were struck by the presence of the slippery types of journalism one often finds in the Times. At several points, Robertson offered extremely slippery accounts of what Alabama officials had said in response to our tribe’s latest high-minded assertions. Some basic information was missing or was clumsily obscured.
Eventually, Robertson made at least one statement we’d have to call flatly wrong, although we still didn’t know that as we read his report.
Our sense of discomfort about this story didn’t start with Robertson’s report. We’d gotten the scent of a tribal gong-show in prior reports of this latest outrage from the Deepest South. But after reading Robertson’s piece, we called the analysts back from their weekend leave and we set them to work.
As we continue this week’s reports, we’re going to show you what the analysts found. As we do, you’ll encounter the anatomy of a pseudo-liberal gong show.
Rachel Maddow was all worked up about this latest outrage, of course. On October 2, she offered a passionate report on the subject.
To watch the entire segment, click here. To peruse the transcript, click this.
Rachel’s passionate report was full of errors and misdirection. It had been cadged from the work of two Alabama columnists in a way which flirted with rules of plagiarism.
It was filled with misleading sleight-of-hand. A few extremely basic facts went completely unmentioned by our passionate tribal leader.
In fairness, we’ll assume that Rachel didn’t know these things. We’ll assume that her staff hadn’t done basic background work—that they had simply accepted the claims they cadged from two hurried local columns.
This weekend, our analysts did the background work. As the week proceeds, we’ll show you what they found.
Alas! With various gatekeepers largely gone, members of The Other Tribe seem to be extremely prone to false and bogus belief. Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.! On its face, that has been the mother of all such beliefs.
That said, alas and alack! Over here in our own flawless tribe, we have our blind spots too. We’re especially probe to passionate mistaken belief in matters involving race—especially race and The Other Tribe.
We love to posture about how deeply we care. Manifestly, we pretty much don’t. People are careful when they care. In this case, our fiery tribal leaders gonged up a tired old show involving an easy old demon.
This kind of conduct isn’t real helpful—but dear lord, it feels so good! We love these gong-shows in our tribe. We'll explore our latest all week.
Tomorrow: The Maddow Show and the New York Times and by golly even Slate!
You have to start with some facts: In matters like these, you have to assemble some basic facts. Today, let’s start with a few basic facts about Alabama’s population.
In the 2010 census, Alabama’s population was 4,779,745. The state was 67.0 percent white, 26.2 percent black.
You have to assemble such basic facts to evaluate what the state has just done. That said, there are other facts you have to know. We’ll discuss such facts all week, unless you just want to tell a story our tribe is inclined to like.
(Fun fact: Robertson reported from Panola, Alabama. Population? 144!)