Self-governing watch: The Others, the mainstream press and Us!

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

Our pursuit of the truth from the files:
Are we the modern American people "too dumb to be self-governing?"

Now that someone like Donald Trump is allowed to run for president within one of our major parties; now that people like Anderson Cooper are allowed to pretend to interview Candidate Trump on TV; are we the people sharp enough to make sensible judgments about what is happening around us?

Increasingly, the answer seems to be no. But for those of us who live Over Here within the tents of Our Own Liberal Tribe, that answer masks a possible problem:

Our own approach to the crisis we face is, at this point, perhaps lacking.

Especially after a weekend like this, it's easy for us liberals to see the craziness of Candidate Trump.

(For Kevin Drum's excerpts from yesterday's Meet the Press, you can just click here.)

It's somewhat harder for us to see the role the mainstream press corps has played, and continues to play, in this downward spiral.

(Drum didn't mention Chuck Todd's apparent lack of preparation when he interviewed Trump.)

(We refer to Todd's apparent confusion about the 22-year-old liberal "protester" who rushed the stage at a Trump event on Saturday and ended up getting arrested. Thanks to Todd's lack of clarity, Trump was able to wriggle away from Todd's critique of his ludicrous comments concerning that event.)

It's easy for us liberals to see the craziness of Trump. We may not realize that our tribe's intellectual leaders often avoid discussing the role of the press in the invention of Trump and Trumpism, a role which stretches back decades.

It's very hard for us to see the role We play in this mess. Before discussing the man who rushed the stage at the Trump event, let's review this news report in yesterday's Washington Post.

The news report was written by Guarino and Johnson. Its hard-copy headlines defined a possible problem with our own tribe's recent conduct.

Below, you see those headlines. The top headline used a naughty word. In the past three days, many pundits and reporters have been avoiding that awkward term:
Organic, organized Trump disruption
Student leaders and other engaged Chicago activists planned ahead
The naughty word is "disruption." As the mainstream press has aggressively swerved against Trump in the past few days, mainstream reporters and mainstream pundits have been avoiding that term.

In today's New York Times, Rappeport and Haberman provide heroic service as they avoid that term and its implications. To its credit, the Washington Post was a bit more direct in Sunday's news report.

Last Friday night, did Candidate Trump's Chicago event encounter a "planned disruption?" Even on a program like Morning Joe, we liberals are being enabled in our tribal desire to avoid this question.

(Joe and Mika have staged a complete 180 in the past week. On a daily basis, they are now dissembling very hard about their endless past fawning to Trump, who became toxic for them when he refused to condemn the KKK on Sunday, February 28.)

Did Candidate Trump's Chicago event encounter a "planned disruption?" Conservatives are being told that it did, for fairly obvious reasons.

This understanding may drive conservatives to the polls to support Trump tomorrow. With that possibility in mind, it's interesting to see which of our teammates created this "planned" event.

Who "disrupted" Friday's event? At the start of the Post's report, we get our first hint of an answer:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON (3/13/16): The push to disrupt Donald Trump's campaign rally began a week ago, when news first broke that the Republican presidential candidate would appear at the University of Illinois campus here on this city's West Side.

Student leaders of campus organizations such as the Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association began organizing their own rally and march to the venue; a Facebook page publicizing the efforts attracted 11,000 people.

Activist organizations, also largely composed of young people, were making their own plans, rooted in the police-shootings demonstrations that have rocked this city for months.

Chicago high school student and frequent demonstrator Cameron Miller, 18, said he and others met twice last week at a local Dunkin' Donuts to examine a floor plan of the pavilion, with the idea of storming the stage in unison during Trump's speech. He said they were prepared to endure physical violence for their actions but agreed not to fight back.
If Guarino and Johnson are right, Cameron Miller tried to formulate a plan to storm the stage Friday night, thereby disrupting the Trump event.

If Guarino and Johnson are right, Cameron Miller is 18 years old and a high school student. In the passage shown below, a certain theme starts to emerge:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON: The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, with no racial or ethnic majority and a student body that is nearly 30 percent Latino.

Many students here are particularly outraged by Trump's proposals to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, bar foreign Muslims from entering the country and build a giant wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Trump is putting out a lot of hatred, saying that marginalized groups shouldn't be welcomed here at UIC or Chicago," said Juan Rojas, a 19-year-old sophomore.
We're not entirely sure what Rojas means by the quoted statement. At any rate, Rojas is 19 years old.

Later, Guarino and Johnson quoted someone even younger. In our view, his comment defines a painful problem for those Over Here in Our Tribe:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON: One of the organizers of the November Black Friday protests, 17-year-old Lamon Reccord, said the Trump rally provided an opportunity to show the city that the police reform movement was still active. Days before the rally, he used his extensive list of emails and phone numbers to energize followers to show up outside the pavilion.

"We need more people to make the public aware of all these political issues we care about," he said.
Reccord, who is 17, says we need "to make the public aware of all these political issues we care about."

That's an extremely good idea. But how should liberals, progressives and Democrats go about that task?

We thought we spotted a possible problem in that Washington Post news report. That possible problem starts with these numbers: 17, 18, 19.

It also involves the highly sensible desire voiced by one of those young observers—the desire that we progressives should make the public aware of the issues we care about.

In our view, that's a worthy objective. Also in our view, it's entirely possible that Lamon Reccord, age 17, has exactly no idea how to go about it.

There's no reason to think that teenagers, no matter how principled, will have sound political judgment. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the admirable energy of the young should perhaps be wed to the seasoned judgment of elders.

In this case, if Guarino and Johnson are right, some of our younger players decided to "disrupt" Trump's Friday event. In our view, that's a bad idea on the merits. Beyond that, it could easily produce an unfortunate political result.

(Or not.)

Whatever happened in Chicago, something else happened the very next day. A 22-year-old Wright State student rushed the stage while Trump was speaking in Dayton, forcing security agents to scramble.

He ended up getting himself arrested, as of course he should have been. Videotape of his previous work is now being widely displayed. Click here; prepare to cringe.

Are disruptions of this type a wise political strategy? Over Here in Our Own Liberal Tribe, we're being enabled by corporate leaders in very unhelpful ways. Our tribal and corporate press corps minders are helping us avoid the fact that "disruptions" have been occurring. They're encouraging us not to think about that obvious fact.

In that very familiar old way, we're being dumbed way down.

Are we the modern American people "too dumb to be self-governing?" Over here in our glorious tribe, it's easy for us to answer that question with respect to the ludicrous Trump.

It's easy for us to answer that question, rightly or wrongly, concerning Trump's supporters. But how about the role we're playing? In this highly polarized time, what can be said about Us?

Many players are working hard to help us avoid that question. That's a form of tribal dumbness, and dumbness rarely helps.

We'll continue these "self-governing" posts all week. We'll work from our immortal "too dumb to be self-governing" files.

Coming this afternoon: Our plans for the rest of the week


  1. Meanwhile, Charles and David Koch, and the other far right, and libertarian wealthy are smiling. As Bob has said, "Divide and conquer."
    Read Jane Mayer's Dark Money. The two tribes are being played.

  2. That said, Bob. That said.

    More from the "too dumb" files.

  3. "It's very hard for us to see the role We play in this mess."

    Working from the "very hard" files, we hope to comment all week on things we cannot or do not see, in addition to those things which are merely hard to see.

  4. "I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate
    who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of
    time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

  5. One thing I can see positive about "disruptive" activity is that it does give extra attention and scrutiny to the bad guys.

    Having grown up during the late 60s, my political consciousness was definitely raised by seeing similar activity. Sometimes you need this rabble-rousing to get people -- and the press -- to pay attention.

    I don't think it's necessarily counterproductive. If so, what should we be doing instead? Bob doesn't give an alternative.

    1. Aren't we supposed to be leading Rachel Maddow away from her desk so she does not suffer the fate of Elvis?

  6. As I recall, disruptive activity by leftist radicals in 1968 allowed the hated Richard Nixon to defeat a well-respected Hubert Humphrey.

    1. Wrong again, David. Or do you think the Chicago cops were "leftist radicals"?

      Probably from where you sit on the political spectrum, they were.

    2. You're half right Anon 6:39. The Chicago cops were unneccesarily brutal. But, what the nation saw was a riot started by out-of-control leftist radicals. The message was that authority and discipline were needed. As a result of riots at the Dem convention, Nixon started out with a big lead. That lead shrank steadily during the campaign. Had the election been a week later, Humphrey might well have won.

      P.S. even if you think the riots should be blamed more on the police than on the rioters, don't forget Chicago is and was a Dem-controlled city. Misbehavior by the Chicago police is the responsibility of Democrats.

    3. If Dems had kept the surrender monkeys out of their Indochina "empire" Al Gore Jr. might never have become a soldier/journalist and Bob Somerby might be a retired JuCo philosophy adjunct prof.

    4. As much as you want to believe that all "Dems" are alike, Chicago was controlled by Boss Daley, who was quite a unique character.

      And we saw police thuggery both inside and outside the convention hall.

      And no, the riot wasn't started by "out of control leftist radicals." The riot was started by the cops, and they were pretty much the only ones doing the rioting.

      It is a lesson all police departments have learned from.

  7. Unfortunately Bob seems to be having trouble telling the difference between "protest" and "disruption." From the bits he cites: Black and Muslim student organizations planned their own march and rally -- a protest. A 17-year-old sent emails encouraging people to meet up OUTSIDE the pavilion -- a protest. Another person quoted doesn't say anything at all about organizing a protest or a disruption. It's only one quoted 18-year-old who talks about disrupting the speech.

    Besides, one person's "disruption" is another person's walk-out or sit-in or other noble act of civil disobedience.

    Does Bob seriously think that it is a "wise political strategy" for clear-minded Dem party leaders to tell young people to calm down and go home?

  8. it was because of these supposedly too-young-to-make-political-decisions protesters that damning video of Trump inciting violence was captured and spread widely, resulting in Trump receiving scathing criticism from all sides -- the left, the mainstream media, and even many conservatives. here's an example from Bob's favorite punching bag: