Part 4—Our own tribe's art of the con: Goofus and Gallant are fighting today in the New York Times.
Their columns appears on the same op-ed page. At issue is the way they regard tens of millions of voters.
Goofus likes to generalize about tens of millions of voters. In his hands, they quickly become Those People. He lets his bombs fly:
GOOFUS: I can almost guarantee that we’ll see attempts to sanitize the positions and motives of Trump supporters, to downplay the racism that is at the heart of the movement and pretend that what voters really care about are the priorities of D.C. insiders—a process I think of as “centrification.”To Goofus, Those People are basically all alike—and, of course, they're evil. Amazingly, it even seems that Those People are all men!
Trump support in the primaries was strongly correlated with racial resentment: We’re looking at a movement of white men angry that they no longer dominate American society the way they used to. And to pretend otherwise is to give both the movement and the man who leads it a free pass.
Goofus is willing to generalize wildly as he discusses those people. Gallant is much more granular as he discusses some of their millions of lives:
GALLANT: [E]conomic loss has triggered a series of complex spirals...A few decades ago there were 175,000 coal jobs in the U.S. Now there are 57,000. That economic dislocation has hit local economies in the form of shuttered storefronts and abandoned bank buildings.West Virginia is a state with lots of Trump supporters. To Goofus, that support reflects only one thing—their virulent "racial resentment." (Warning! Shaky academic construct!)
Everywhere there are local activists trying to rebuild, but it’s hard to hold off the dislocation, distrust and pessimism. Birthrates drop. Family structures erode. Life expectancy falls. People slip between the cracks and inevitably drug use rises. According to The Charleston Gazette-Mail, between 1999 and 2009, per-capita consumption of oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl tripled. By 2009 West Virginians were annually filling 19 painkiller prescriptions a person.
Heavy opioid use often slides over into heroin use. Heroin overdose deaths tripled between 2009 and 2014. In those years the state had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.
Gallant describes a wider range of phenomena affecting those voters' lives.
Whatever! In our view, neither Goofus nor Gallant penned an especially insightful column today. Instead of scoring their fight, let's look at Paul Krugman's remarks today about the American press corps—about the way the press may cover the presumed Trump-Clinton fight.
Krugman starts his column discussing this topic. Halfway through, his attention wanders.
This frequently happens when we liberals discuss any part of the press which isn't called "Fox News." We liberals love discussing Fox News. But we have a very hard time focusing on the mainstream press, where some of our heroes reside.
In a way, it's just as well that Krugman's attention wandered. He offered very little of value about the press corps' work regarding Trump and Clinton.
How lazy can work like this get? Krugman speculates about what the press corps may do, while failing to note what they've already done! He names the names of no actual journalists. He names no actual news org.
He offers familiar speculations before his attention wanders. A few of our analysts leaped from their carrels as they read these parts of his column. Some of the youngsters even denounced him as a "grown-ass white man."
It's a term they learned from watching Maddow. We cuffed them aside for using the term, while admitting they had a bit of a point in their complaints about Krugman.
"Mother-f**ker!" one of these young people heatedly cried. "Why speculate about possible coverage? Why not mention the crazy things your own paper has already done?"
We explained that Krugman, a Times employee, possibly maybe can't do that. At the same time, we acknowledged that the fiery young analyst had a tiny bit of a point—for example, about this part of Krugman's column:
KRUGMAN (5/6/16): [O]ne candidate is engaged in wildly irresponsible fantasy while the other is being quite careful with her numbers. But beware of news analyses that, in the name of “balance,” downplay this contrast.Have you seen any "news analyses" which have "downplayed this contrast" between Trump and Clinton? We aren't sure we have.
We have seen something much more remarkable. We've seen the New York Times and the Washington Post completely ignore Trump's crazy budget proposal, the craziest such proposal in modern political history.
Trump released his crazy proposal last September. But so what? Within the new borders of our "journalism," his proposal barely exists.
It would almost be refreshing to see someone "downplay the contrast" with Clinton's proposals. That said, Krugman doesn't seem to have noticed the amazing way the American "press corps" has disappeared Donald J. Trump's lunatic budget plan.
Trump's lunatic plan has gone unreported. Speculating about what the press corps might do, Krugman declines to note this fact.
The New York Times has worked rather hard to disappear other matters. Amazingly, neither the Times nor the Post has offered a front-page report about the episode which launched Trump's current political career—the astounding, disgraceful birther campaign he launched in 2011.
There has been zero reporting on this disgraceful episode. Did Donald Trump really send investigators to Hawaii to probe the facts of Obama's birth? Were they really amazed by the things they discovered there?
Almost surely, Trump was lying about all parts of that extended story. But the New York Times has agreed to pretend that none of this conduct ever occurred. So has the rest of the stooge-filled guild we still describe as a press corps.
Eventually, we called security to the damp basement where the young analysts sleep at their carrels. This had the expected calming effect. But as they continued, the analysts mentioned the recent episode which has occasioned barely a peep from our liberal world.
We refer to the recent case of Trump's invented fact.
Alas! This recent episode took place at Krugman's own paper, not Over There at Fox News. For that reason, we liberals have barely managed a peep of protest about this peculiar conduct.
Within the span of a week, the Times recited a phony fact Trump has invented. Indeed, the Times recited it three separate times, in three high-profile locations!
It appeared in a news report right at the top of the paper's front page. It appeared in a Maureen Dowd column on the front page of the Sunday Review.
It even appeared in a cover story in the New York Times Sunday magazine. But so what? The liberal world, now including Krugman, yawned and looked away.
Kevin Drum cited one of the recitations, failing to note that it had appeared at the top of the Times front page. In comments to Drum's post, you'll see his readers wander off topic, just as Krugman does today midway through his column.
In a brief post at Slate, Daniel Politi mentioned Dowd's recitation of the fake fact, skipping the other two mentions. Have you seen anyone ask the obvious question:
How can a newspaper like the Times print a plainly bogus fact three different times in just one week, in three high-profile locations? How can such nonsense happen?
How on earth could the New York Times do that? Your liberal heroes will never ask. We love to rail about Fox News. When it comes to the Times, we sleep.
Krugman can't or won't mention this episode because he gets paid by the Times. Other players won't mention it because they want to get paid by the Times.
Donald J. Trump opposed the war in Iraq! As with his claims about the Hawaiian probe, Candidate Trump has rather plainly been lying about this. We saw him do so again last night.
Candidate Trump has been lying about Iraq. But if the New York Times hired a plane to write his claim across the sky, the Krugmans, Chaits and Marshalls would never complain. Or notice!
These people have been conning you in this way for years. Rachel Maddow also knows the art of this familiar con. So does Christopher Hayes and everyone else at their channel.
Will Trump's invented fact matter? Quite possibly, no—it will not.
"Al Gore invented the Internet" is an invented fact which took many lives. If we trust the current polls, "Donald Trump opposed the war in Iraq" may not make a difference.
That said, we liberals are asleep in the woods, as has long been our custom. At Slate, Jamelle Bouie has offered this formulation:
BOUIE (5/4/16): Romney wasn’t a bad candidate. He ran a competent and largely professional campaign against an incumbent who presided over high unemployment and slow growth. No, Romney wasn’t favored, but he also had a better shot than most candidates who run against a sitting president. If you believe that Trump can win—absent an exogenous shock like a terrorist attack or recession—you need to show how he beats Romney. You need to move this from the realm of speculation and into the world as it exists.In Bouie's judgment, Candidate Trump can't win this year "absent an exogenous shock." That seems to mean that Trump could win in the event of a shock.
(Bouie imagines two types of shock, fails to imagine the possibility that a shock could emerge from the email matter.)
According to Bouie, Candidate Trump is behind. Also according to Bouie, an exogenous shock could make the election close. (We disagree with Bouie's apparent certainty that nothing else could do this.)
If the election gets close, Donald J. Trump's invented fact could tip the scales and let Trump win! But so what? Nothing will ever inspire our leaders to push back against the New York Times—to protest the horrible work by the silly people who work for that ludicrous newspaper.
Dearly beloved, it just isn't done! The Times could write it across the sky. Our heroes and stars wouldn't notice.
The pattern involving our leaders is clear. They'll feed us pabulum about Fox News; we will love them for this. When it comes to the crazy work of the Times, they will do what they've always done:
Our leaders will avert their gaze. Our fiery leaders will clam.
Meekly, we'll accept this. Rachel and Christopher are our heroes. Despite their massive corporate salaries and their possible love of success, we liberals are secure in our knowledge:
These major stars play on our side. They're part of our circle of cable news friends. They play it straight, close to the vest.