Part 2—The year of liberal dumbness: Something unusual, something good, occurs at Slate today.
Jamelle Bouie, a career liberal journalist, challenges our tribe's latest talking-point.
Truth to tell, our latest bumper sticker is a bit dumb. It involves the federal government's refusal to drop a drone on the Malware Bird Reserve, which has recently been seized by an armed gang of The Others.
On a journalistic basis, the year just passed has been declared The Year of the Liberal. An unfortunate fact became clear last year. To a large extent, our liberal world now plays by The Rush and Sean Rules, the rules which have long governed the tribal world of pseudo-conservative talk.
Within any world which is run by those rules, no generalization is too sweeping if it advances a tribal narrative. No analogy is too dumb, if it lets the tribe in question restate a favored claim.
In 2015, it became unmistakably clear—to a large extent, the liberal world now runs by such rules. And with such rules in effect, our intellectual leaders rarely speak up to warn us against our sweeping, unintelligent claims.
This morning, Bouie escapes that unfortunate pattern. He rises to say that our latest script doesn't exactly make good sense.
Bouie warns us that the issues involved in the Malware Sagebrush Revolt "don’t lend themselves to quick soundbites and instant reactions." Incredibly, his piece appears beneath these headlines, which can only be called counter-tribal:
Is the Oregon Standoff Evidence of a Racial Double Standard?According to those headlines, the Malware Standoff actually isn't "evidence of a racial double standard." In the past year, it became clear that career liberal journalists are strongly disinclined to make such counter-revolutionary claims.
Not really. And we are in danger of drawing the wrong lessons from the fact that these armed militiamen are white.
On what basis did Bouie make such a strange statement? In the passage shown below, he cites the tribal bumper sticker which has been moving in recent days about the federal government's refusal to drone The Malware However Many. Then, he performs a leadership function—he says the logic of the widely-glued sticker is wrong:
BOUIE (1/5/16): To observers on Twitter, [the federal government's] caution was galling, especially after a year of highly visible police violence against unarmed black Americans and political fear-mongering over Muslim refugees to the United States. “Let’s be clear,” said columnist Cenk Uygur, “If Muslims had seized a federal building, they’d all be dead by now #whiteprivilege #OregonUnderAttack.” Likewise, thousands of people retweeted an image of an armed militiaman captioned “150 armed white men take over a federal building and threaten violence if removed—Not a single shot is fired at them” followed by a photo of Tamir Rice with the caption, “12-year-old black boy plays with a toy gun—is gunned down in less than two seconds without as much as a warning.”We're so old that we can remember when Uygur didn't tweet piddle like that. As for Bouie, he mixes several arguments in that passage, perhaps underselling the basic problem, which he does explicitly state:
It’s easy to see why both tweets struck a chord. But it’s also worth noting the extent to which the Rice shooting—and many others—are fundamentally different from that of a standoff between armed fanatics and federal law enforcement. It’s not just that these are different organizations—local and city police forces versus the FBI and other federal agencies—and different kinds of confrontations with different procedures, but that there’s also a different history involved. Confrontations at Ruby Ridge and in Waco, Texas ended with scores of dead (white) civilians, and inspired the Oklahoma City bombing—the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Law enforcement has been willing to use lethal violence against armed white protesters and the results were catastrophic. It’s no surprise federal agents are cautious; they walk with the hard-learned lessons of the 1990s. Even if the Bundys are paper tigers, no one wants to relive the past. In that, law enforcement officials are correct.
People! It makes little sense to compare the split-second judgments of one or two Cleveland policemen to the considered judgment of the FBI in a totally different type of situation. That comparison makes little sense—except within a growing tribal world where limited judgment constantly reigns, with little intervention from tribal intellectual leaders.
For decades, the pseudo-conservative world has functioned on this miserable basis. In 2015, it became unmistakable clear—to a very large extent, the liberal/progressive world now plays by the same sorts of rules.
The dumbing down of the liberal world became quite clear this past year. In our view, this process was especially clear in the work performed at two corporate news orgs—the new Salon and MSNBC. In the latter case, we especially refer to the dumbing-down of The Rachel Maddow Show, which may or may not have reflected a considered corporate strategy.
In at least one major way, these dumbing-down processes were strongly alike. Ever so briefly, let's mention the new Salon.
The dumbing-down of the new Salon has been underway for years. This was the year in which the transformation of the venerable site reached a groaning state of fruition.
How dumb is the work at the new Salon? The work is extremely dumb. This afternoon, we'll try to make ourselves show you how dumb the professors can be at the site. Other work spirals from there.
A type of irony surrounds the dumbing of Salon, a dumbing which plainly reflects some sort of ownership strategy. At its birth in 1995, Salon was one of the Web's first magazines—and it was invented as a place for intelligent liberal thought.
Because of that history, the site's recent dumbing is especially striking. The same can be said of the dumbing of the Maddow Show, which was originally promoted as the home of Rachel Maddow, a former Rhodes scholar.
Professionally, Maddow has ceased to be a Rhodes scholar. That's certainly true in the first half hour of her nightly program, which is now devoted to the promulgation of the dumbest domestic political drivel we've ever seen on our "TV machine thingy."
Starting in early May, we devoted oodles of time to the critique of this drivel. Can Maddow possibly be as politically clueless as the character she now plays on TV? We can't answer that question. But Maddow's first half hour is now reliably dumb in a way that has rarely been seen, even on "cable news" programs. To sell this product to us rubes, she mugs and clowns and discusses herself in ways which would insult the intelligence of any audience which wasn't tribal on the Rush-and-Sean level.
As we continue to discuss The Year of the Liberal, we'll try to find a way to revisit Maddow's ridiculous political work during the past year. To give you a taste of how clueless this work tends to be, let's close today's award-winning post with one short segment from her program last night.
Maddow devoted last evening's first segment to Candidate Trump's appalling birtherism in 2011 and 2012.
Maddow has arrived at this topic very late in the game. Back in June, she clowned her way through three straight programs which focused on Trump's formal presidential announcement. His birtherism went unmentioned; indeed, Maddow barely managed to mention his noxious remarks about all the "rapists" the Mexican government was sending across the southern border.
Instead, Maddow stressed the peculiar claim that she had no personal animus against Candidate Trump. She focused on clowning and trivia.
What guided this peculiar three-day performance? We have no idea. That said, we'd be inclined to cite those three programs as The Worst Journalism of the Past Year. Last night, Maddow actually managed to recall the past birtherism of this appalling candidate.
That was the focus of Maddow's opening segment. After a commercial break, she returned for a second, short segment concerning Candidate Trump.
That short segment's full text is shown below. It's hard to be as politically clueless as this, but Maddow seems to achieve that task on a nightly basis:
MADDOW (1/5/16): This is a question I legitimately have no answer for. I cannot explain this. Perhaps you can.That was the entire segment. Maddow has puzzled about this political mystery on her program before.
We are 28 days away from the Iowa caucuses. We are 36 days away from the New Hampshire primary. Can you spot what is weird about this video of folks waiting outside in the cold tonight for a Donald Trump rally?
[Videotape of Trump supporters]
What's weird about them is that they are in neither of those two states I just mentioned. These folks waiting in the cold tonight, this huge long line outside the Donald Trump rally are in deep blue "Taxachusetts."
This is a line to get into a Donald Trump rally in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell, Massachusetts. Yes! And this is the third major campaign event that Donald Trump has mounted in the state of Massachusetts recently.
And if that is not weird enough, later this week, Mr. Trump is going to be making a big campaign stop in Burlington, Vermont, as in the city where Bernie Sanders was mayor.
Donald Trump, now campaigning regularly in Massachusetts and starting to campaign in Vermont.
Why is he doing that? I have no idea.
Why has Candidate Trump done three events in Massachusetts? Why isn't he spending his time in New Hampshire instead?
Not being privy to this campaign's inner workings, we can't answer that question. But it's perfectly obvious why Candidate Trump might have decided to held those three events.
First, Massachusetts is right next door to New Hampshire. (Many people know this.) When Trump spoke in Lowell last night, he was roughly three miles from the Granite State border.
As the crow flies, Trump was roughly twelve miles from Nashua, New Hampshire's second largest city. Bill Clinton had spoken at Nashua Community College that very afternoon.
(Paul Tsongas hailed from Lowell. For that reason, his victory in the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic primary was deeply discounted as a win by a virtual native son.)
Many people at Trump's event may have hailed from New Hampshire! Beyond that, though, southern New Hampshire, where everyone lives, is largely served by Boston TV stations and by the major Boston newspapers.
As people have noted a million times, events which get covered by the Boston press reach the New Hampshire electorate, most of whom live in the southern part of the state. Maddow lives in Massachusetts, but these blindingly obvious thoughts didn't cross her clowning, spotless mind.
That said, there's a second, even more obvious reason why Candidate Trump may have decided to go to Lowell—and even to Burlington, a city in Greater Sanderstan. People, hold onto your hats:
Massachusetts and Vermont are holding Republican primaries this year!
According to the leading authority, those primaries will be held on March 1, Super Tuesday. Based upon the way people vote that day, Massachusetts and Vermont will send delegates to the GOP convention.
Presumably, Trump would like to win the Republican primaries in those states, and the bulk of their delegates. Do we recall the way Obama organized various ruby-red states on his way to winning the 2008 Democratic nomination?
Nothing turns on that short segment on last night's Maddow Show. It's just the latest example of the remarkable political cluelessness which Maddow seems to evince on a nightly basis. She now devotes at least half her air time to such clueless observations, which she helps us swallow with her endless mugging and clowning and now with her incessant drumming upon her desk.
For whatever reason, the Maddow Show was badly dumbed down this past year. Meanwhile, the dumbing-down of the new Salon reached a point of absurdity.
Presumably, these transformations reflect corporate strategies, in which corporate planners devise the best ways to garner eyeballs and clicks. The conservative world has functioned this way for a very long time. In the past year, it became clear that the corporate liberal world works the same darn way.
The dumbing-down of these liberal entities was quite apparent last year. And uh-oh! When liberal stars and liberal sites agree or decide to be dumbed down, we liberal proles get dumber and dumber, due to the lack of leadership.
This morning, Bouie has played a rare leadership role. That said, our liberal world got substantially dumber last year.
As this dumbing down proceeds, Maddow can't imagine why Candidate Trump would visit Taxachusetts. It's very hard to get that dumb, but you can trust us:
In the course of this scary new year, our clowning Rhodes scholar will try.
Coming Thursday: Part 3—The year of liberal narrative
This afternoon: This is what the professors are like at the new Salon!