THREE-CARD MONTE, TRIBAL SCRIPT: At the very start of the book!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2015

Epilogue—The first of several stories:
We're so old that we can remember what was life was like in this country before the fascistic Candidate Trump advanced his latest proposal.

(To better understand Trump's fascism, see Salon's "The GOP can’t believe this is really happening: The 7 biggest establishment freakouts in the wake of Trump’s fascist turn."

Also, see Salon's "Paul Krugman: Fascists like Trump only possible because Republican leadership is 'inbred and out of touch.'"

Warning! Krugman doesn't use the word "fascist" in the column under review. No problem, though! The headline writers at Salon decided to help him along.)

Back to our disappeared national idyll:

Last Sunday was the final day of that earlier era. On that day, we read Maria Konnikova's assessment of the persuasive power of stories and the reasons why otherwise sensible people may fall for various cons.

Konnikova's piece made us think of the highly persuasive stories our own liberal tribe increasingly promulgates and loves. It also made us think of an extremely well-received book.

In our view, the book, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a superlative memoir. Have we always had Paris over here? Coates' account of his trips to that city will let us always have Paris all over again in a whole different context.

We'll also recommend, in the strongest way, Coates' portrait of an important figure in his memoir, that figure being his wife. "She always gave the best advice," we might want to say, stealing from glorious Homer. As Terry Malloy meets Edie Doyle and realizes he wants to be more like her, picking up the glove she has dropped and reflexively slipping it onto his hand, so too we admire Coates for the good sense he displays in recognizing and accepting the constant good sense of his very wise, superlative wife, who goes unnamed in his book.

In our view, certain parts of Coates' memoir are quite beautiful, a trait Coates has always pursued. Other parts could perhaps be extremely instructive if anyone wanted to discuss them, which no one actually wants to do. Within our vastly self-impressed tribe, we do what's been done in the case of this book when it comes to such subject matter—we offer the mandated words of praise, then quickly depart in disinterest.

Major elites give Coates awards. The book goes undiscussed.

We think the memoir is exceptionally good at certain points. We think the book's various analyses pretty much aren't. They're helped along by all those stories, persuasive stories of the type our liberal tribe increasingly loves.

One such story opens the book. First, a bit of background:

On Monday, November 25 of last year, "a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson, 28, for firing six shots in a confrontation in August that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said late Monday."

We're quoting the next day's news report in USA Today. That Sunday, November 30, 2014, CBS' Face the Nation began its hour with a segment about that decision.

Norah O'Donnell was the program's guest host. She spoke about this topic with three guests, all of whom were black progressives. One of the three was Coates.

(The other guests: Benjamin Crump, lawyer to Michael Brown's family, who was interviewed first. Also, James Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University, who then appeared with Coates.)

Coates' widely-praised book begins with an account of what happened on that program. He doesn't name the program, and he doesn't name O'Donnell. But it's clear that this is the program he is talking about.

In his first six pages (pages 5-11), Coates discusses what happened on that program and his reaction to same. As a general matter, we'd have to say that his account of what occurred is extremely hard to square with the program's transcript and tape, which exist to this very day, even in this new era.

By his fifth page—and these are short pages—Coates is flatly misstating basic facts concerning a final exchange. Fifteen hundred words into the book, we read an account which is flatly inaccurate. Coates then portrays himself walking the streets, in the wake of the show, in deep existential gloom.

In fairness, it makes a good story! But do our tribe's persuasive stories actually have to be true?

In our view, Coates tells quite a few stories in his book which are fact- and logic-challenged. Some concern well-known, important events; they're stories he has told in the past, perhaps in ways which differ a bit from the stories he tells in the book.

Do our stories have to be true? Within our self-impressed tribe, we're very good at critiquing the behavior of the fascists, bigots, racist and xenophobes we can see Over There in Their tribe.

We're very, very tough on Them. What kinds of standards do we maintain for Us, Over Here, in Our Own glorious tribe?

In ur view, Coates' memoir is sometimes quite beautiful. Other parts of his memoir could be extremely instructive if we ever decide to discuss them in a serious way. On the other hand, his analyses strike us as weak and perhaps unhelpful. But you haven't seen such matters discussed because, if you really want the truth, in Our Tribe we don't really care.

Coates' subject matter is extremely important. This country is full of good, decent kids. In various ways, he's writing about their experiences—but as we've noted again and again, there's no sign that anyone cares.

After the start of the year, we hope to offer an extensive review of Coates' new book, with allusions to his previous memoir. Given the wealth of topics Coates discusses, any such respectful review would take a number of weeks.

His subject matter is very important. Do we actually care about those topics? Or do we just like the kinds of stories which let us trash Them, Over There?

33 comments:

  1. Eva Marie Saint once said in an interview that she dropped that glove by accident, and Brando, being the genius that he was, spontaneously picked it up and began trying it on. Elia Kazan, being the genius that he was (when he wasn't informing on friends before the HUAC), kept the camera rolling, allowing legions of future Roger Eberts to speculate on the heavy symbolism, as if the glove were as intricate part of the story as Terry's coat, or the pigeons.

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  2. In our view, certain posts in Somerby's blog are quite repetitive, a trait Somerby has always reinforced by repetitive phrases. Other posts could perhaps be extremely instructive if anyone wanted to discuss them, which no one actually wants to do.
    In our view.

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    1. In ur view, Somerby's post is sometimes quite repetitive. Other parts of his post could be extremely instructive if we ever decide to discuss them in a serious way. On the other hand, his analyses strike us as weak and perhaps jealous. But you haven't seen such matters discussed because, if you really want the truth, in this comment box we don't really care.

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    2. Somerby's subject matter is extremely important. This country is full of good, decent kids. In various ways, he's writing about their failure once adulthood strikes—but as we've noted again and again, there's no sign that anyone cares, despite our noting, alas.

      After the start of the year, we hope to offer an extensive review of Somerby's latest series, with allusions to his previous opus on Journalist's houses. Given the wealth of topics Somerby repeats, any such respectful review would take a number of weeks and cover similar series.

      His subject matter is very important. Do we actually care about those topics? Or do we just like the repeated stories which let us trash journalists and our failed liberal souls for putting up with them? We don't know. Anything is possible.

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    3. Parade of DouchebagsDecember 11, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      Just passing by?

      No, sadly they are here to stay it seems.

      Delete
    4. Within our self-impressed comment box, we're very good at pleasuring ourselves by repeating the same epithets.

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    5. "This is a nice fantasy but that story is inconsistent with the physical evidence. That means it could not have happened that way."

      I wouldn't call Officer Wilson's testimony a "nice" fantasy.

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  3. It may be that there is a larger perceived truth and the details of any specific situation don't matter when they appear consistent with that larger truth.

    For Coates, racism is a fact, a larger truth. No truth in details of any life event can obscure that abiding larger truth. So does it matter if the singular details are wrong?

    When we stereotype, we impose on individuals the judgment relevant to an overall group. It can result in serious injustice when the individual differs from the group and the injustice is worse, the greater the difference. When events differ from the larger picture, they too can be misjudged to the extent that they differ, do not fit the stereotype. It probably matters to the people involved in those events how they are judged.

    Stereotypes and larger truths run roughshod over details but change happens in the particulars, the details of everyday life. When you round off the truth of events to fit an overall truth, you ignore the small signs of change embodied in those events. If you ignore a new and perhaps fragile change in order to impose upon it that larger truth, does it persist or does it go away?

    How can Coates recognize improvement in racial relations if he persists in assuming that all events embody the overriding truth of his life, that he will be treated badly because he is black, no matter how he is actually treated in the many daily transactions of his life?

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  4. We're so old that we can remember when Terry Malloy meets Edie Doyle. We can remember when Oliver Barrett IV meets Jenny Cavalleri. We can remember when Squat didn't know Squadoosh from Sam Hill.

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    1. I can remember better series. I can remember better received series. To me this one speaks as none since Tuscaloosa. Or perhaps one of the Dimmesdales. On the other hand some seem astounded his series are perhaps unhelpful.

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  5. About the repetetiveness: yes, whole sentences are repeated word for word. Why?

    Also, Bob has already written about the problems with the first few pages of Coates's book, promising an analysis of the book as a whole at a later date. That never materialized; instead we're treated to another post about the first few pages.

    You're terrific, Mr. S., but you could be even better.

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    1. Sorry for the typo in the comment above.

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  6. Coates is simply the latest High priest in our new national religion of "Antiracism" to which we must all genuflect or be charged with blasphemy, according to an important essay by John McWhorter in the Daily beast. To me it is extraordinary to see such views openly published anywhere outside the Alternative Right.

    The dam is beginning to burst...

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    1. "The mag is beginning to burst ...."

      FTFY - NFO

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  7. Well Coates book is not in the local library, although it is in the library of a neighboring town of 3,000. Only 152 pages. I admit to some jealousy of somebody who gets to make a living writing about his own life and also giving his opinions on TV. Also gets to make trips to Paris.

    All part of his life as an oppressed black man suffering from racism in America.

    Wonder what he said about Mike Brown. In the liberal world, we still hold it as a great injustice that Brown got shot, and Trayvon of course, was just 'walking while black'. Meanwhile, most still do not know the name of Angel Hooper.

    My white brother used to impress his white classmates by telling them we went to Paris and London over the summer. Both of those are cities in Ontario. I am the only one of my siblings who has ever been to Europe.

    I await my book deal. By next spring I can include a chapter of the winter I spent without turning the gas on - to save $200.

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    Replies
    1. Bob Somerby may be able to give you tips on getting your book deal. Snuggling under blankets with analysts can take the chill out of a cold winter's night.

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    2. Books tend to be delayed getting to public libraries because publishers do not want to impact sales figures. Give it a few more months and the book will be there. Or you could donate a copy.

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  8. Between the world and me I can't explain why Bob would do two posts about the same incident in a book without once mentioning the book's title.

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    1. Do you really not know the book's title?

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    2. Trouble reading have we?

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  9. As a general comment to The Community, perhaps it is time for a reprisal of the speech of July 4,1964 by George Wallace, in which he lays it out for the following fifty years.

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    1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/lbj-wallspeech/

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  10. Shouldn't we be rejecting out tribal bombs by now?

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  11. The most revealing thing about the Darren Wilson investigation was how the Ferguson DA/Police came up with scads of helpful but confused witnesses to an event only seen by very few actual witnesses.

    Then the Justice dept used the manufactured witnesses' confused ramblings as a basis for rejecting the only witnesses with a great view of what happened.

    So what happened? The actual witnesses who spoke up immediately were clear; Brown turned, raised his hands, and was then executed by Wilson. The best one was on video in real time actually duplicating Brown' hand positions and saying on the recorded video "He had his hands up".

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    1. This is a nice fantasy but that story is inconsistent with the physical evidence. That means it could not have happened that way.

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    2. "Scads?" How many? And what did the ones who actually saw the event say? I heard there was ONE dubious witness, while many were interviewed, and others backed up the cop's story.

      And how do you get around the DNA on the Cop?

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    3. You heard? All the witnesses testimony was published.

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    4. Yes indeed. When traffic hits dip from low to below low, summon the Wilson/Zimmerman Defense Team and lets argue about it all over again, saying nothing we haven't said hundreds of times before.

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    5. Hey, Crump lied about Trayvon.

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    6. Here's the actual video where you can see and hear in real time the only known actual unbiased witnesses' reactions to the Brown execution/shooting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sblJdLcgXfU

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    ReplyDelete
  13. Maybe the post on rejecting our tribal bombs will come today?

    ReplyDelete
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