Part 7—The year of liberal embarrassment: In the realm of journalism, was 2015 really "The Year of the Liberal," as so many observers are currently claiming?
We're always reluctant to join stampedes of this type. That said, we'd have to agree with that growing assessment, on balance.
In our current award-winning series, we've already discussed 2015 as the year of liberal dumbness. Also, as the year of liberal narrative/script.
Before this week is done, we plan to discuss the year just passed as the year of liberal hatred and loathing. But first, let's spend a day or two discussing another characteristic of 2015:
Let's discuss the year just passed at the year of liberal embarrassment.
In our view, 2015 was the year when it became embarrassing, on a daily basis, to read the routinely ridiculous work done by our liberal savants. For a tiny example of what we mean, consider what Lena Dunham just said.
In the past year, it became a bit like what President Kennedy said! In our liberal journalistic realm, "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."
Well—the new generation of which we speak wasn't exactly born in this century. Although, in some cases, they come amazingly close.
(As we'll note in the next week or so: Especially in the case of young women who are deemed sufficiently telegenic, our corporate "cable news" bosses are willing to make some remarkable booking decisions. Cable hosts play along.)
Here's the prob! In some cases, the pleasing youth of this new generation of Americans has them discussing various matters concerning which they seem to lack the first clue. For a tiny example of what we mean, consider what Dunham has recently said about the "rabidly sexist" coverage of Candidate Clinton.
“The way that Hillary Clinton’s been talked about in the media is so gendered and rabidly sexist in every single portrayal,” Dunham is quoted telling Variety. “Whether it’s the attacks on her personal life or the adjectives that are used to describe her clothing, we have to do a full reexamination.
"If we were allowed to talk about male candidates like that, I’d have a f–king field day,” Dunham thoughtfully said.
(Full disclosure: Our analysts say that the word Dunham used was almost surely "f*cking.")
There is no doubt that Clinton has sometimes met with sexist and misogynist coverage down through the years, often from stars of the corporate liberal firmament. (When that occurs, the rest of us liberals have always seemed to know that we mustn't notice or speak.)
That said, what sorts of rabidly sexist treatment did Dunham have in mind? Speaking to The Guardian, she spelled it out.
Prepare for a very minor example of the type of "liberal embarrassment" which became so common in the past year. Jill Abramson did the reporting:
ABRAMSON (1/24/16): “I am so frustrated with the dialogue around Hillary among my peers,” Dunham told me in an email. “It feels so gendered, even from women, so harshly sexist. We never throw claims of too establishment or too stiff or even too selfish at male politicians. It’s unfair in the deepest sense.”Good God! "We never throw claims of too stiff at male politicians?"
According to standard biographies, Dunham, who is 29, was alive on the planet during Campaign 2000, when the charge of being too stiff (and even too wooden!) was dumped on the head of Candidate Gore for two solid years, helping send Candidate Bush to the White House.
Dunham was alive at the time—she just wasn't paying attention. This has her making remarks to Abramson which produce the latest case of AALE—Acute and Astounding Liberal Embarrassment.
Dunham seems to have no earthly idea what she's talking about! That said, she plays a very marginal role in the emergence of the liberal journalistic world which, according to various scholars, made last year "The Year of the Liberal."
Dunham's statement are embarrassing, but she isn't really part of the liberal journalistic world. For better or worse, the new Salon is part of that world.
So are Rachel Maddow and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In 2015, reading the work at the new Salon became a daily embarrassment, and the pattern continues right into this week. Can any serious person believe that Steve Almond composed this embarrassing mess in good faith? Can anyone explain how the person who wrote this piece became a Penn State professor?
Reading the new Salon is now a daily embarrassment. That said, Maddow and Coates are much bigger journalistic stars, and their work became a frequent embarrassment in the course of the past year too.
Without saying as much in so many words, Kevin Drum has been sketching the world of liberal embarrassment in the past few days.
In this post, he presents the data behind the recent Oscar nominations flap. (We presented similar data last year.)
In this very significant post, he presents a graphic which lets us see that we are perhaps being misled by some rather bad journalism about the mess in Flint.
We'll look at that post and consider that topic tomorrow. For today, let's consider the latest bit of liberal embarrassment surrounding the work of Coates, which Drum explores in this post.
In Drum's unspoken but obvious view, Coates' recent remarks about the 1994 crime bill are about as insightful as Dunham's comments on stiffness. As with Maddow, so too with Coates—he seems to have swollen with wealth and fame, to the point where Americans are starting to cite Shakespeare's words:
"Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
"That he is grown so great?"
In his most recent departure, Coates holds court on the 1994 crime bill, concerning which he seems to know about as much as Dunham knows about Campaign 2000 and other such phenomena. When Drum read this recent proclamation by Coates, he felt he'd at last heard enough:
COATES (1/24/16): Voters, and black voters particularly, should never forget that Bill Clinton passed arguably the most immoral “anti-crime” bill in American history, and that Hillary Clinton aided its passage through her invocation of the super-predator myth.How much does Coates know about that bill? We're sorry, but that statement suggests the essence of AALE, as Drum explains in his post, though not in so many words.
Why is it so painfully silly to demonize the Clintons so? Perhaps because roughly two-third of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for that bill?
Perhaps because our own congressman, Kweisi Mfume, voted for the bill? (Later, he became head of the NAACP.) Perhaps because the nation's only black senator, Carol Moseley-Braun, voted for the bill?
Perhaps because the House's only former Black Panther, Bobby Rush, voted for the bill? Perhaps because James Clyburn voted for it?
So far, we've only named well-known black pols who voted for the bill which exposed the Clintons as demons, according to Coates' over-the-top assertion, which we should never forget.
For those who want the names of white pols, be advised that Senator Wellstone voted for the bill. As did Senator Kennedy.
In the House, who supported the bill? A future speaker named Pelosi. Also, a future presidential candidate. His name was Bernie Sanders!
None of this means that the bill in question was a good bill (or that it wasn't). It means that Coates is displaying a possible case of Dunham Syndrome in his overwrought presentation--a presentation which captures the kind of work, from a great many parties, which established the year just past as the year of liberal embarrassment.
Upon what meat does Coates now feed? Along with Maddow, he feeds on the best cuts of steak! The spiraling of the work of the pair illustrates an important point: when we humans are handed massive money, affirmation and fame, it may tend to harm our performance.
Dunham's recent statements are liberally embarrassing, but so was a fair amount of Coates' work last year, starting with the first seven pages of his award-winning book. Because of the dumbing down of our liberal world, few people noticed or mentioned this fact.
Who voted against the 1994 crime bill? Almost all Republicans did, on the basis that it spent too much money on too many projects which were designed to aid the black community.
That doesn't mean there weren't perfectly valid reasons to vote against the bill, and some white and black Democrats did. Rep. John Lewis voted against the bill. So did Senator Feingold.
(He was the only Democratic senator to vote against the bill, except for Senator Shelby of Alabama. Shelby remained a Democrat ten more weeks, at which point he switched parties.)
There is plenty to say and learn about that 1994 bill. It's just that Coates' demonization sounds so much like the sort of thing Dunham would say.
Tomorrow, we'll move to Drum's important post about the situation in Flint. We'll discuss the endless liberal embarrassment created by Maddow last year.
As so many people are saying, 2015 was the year of our own tribe's embarrassment! As that that unfortunate theme took shape, Maddow played an extremely active part.
That role has continued this week.
Also tomorrow, or later: Sagacious remarks by Professor Painter on the topic of "never forgetting"