"Moral equivalence" at the Post!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

The journalists can't help it:
When it comes to promoting "moral equivalence," the journalists just can't help it.

Just consider the headlines which sit atop a featured piece in this morning's Washington Post. We refer to David Weigel's lengthy piece about the opening of the new season of the famously tedious TV program, Saturday Night Live.

Weigel's lengthy piece dominates the front page of the paper's Style section, the only section anybody ever actually reads. It sits beneath a large double headline. Rather plainly, those headlines promote a "moral equivalence" between Candidates Clinton and Trump:
This year; [sic] is it still a laughing matter?
As Saturday Night Live starts again, the pressure's on to sketch Trump and Clinton in starker terms
Especially within the context of the current election, any dope can understand what that headline implies. We have the two worst candidates in history! The pressure is on to sketch Clinton and Trump in the harsh way they deserve!

It's classic "moral equivalence." It also baldly misstates the entire thrust of Weigel's intriguing piece.

(At present, we can offer no link. See below.)

Weigel's piece does not report that the pressure is on to paint Clinton and Trump in starker terms. Weigel reports that the pressure is on to paint Trump in starker terms—to stop normalizing Trump while demonizing Clinton, as the program is alleged to have done last year.

Whatever you think of Clinton or Trump; whatever you think of the program's past work; that is the pressure Weigel describes in his 1500-word piece. But how typical! As a familiar warm liquid began to run down his leg or her leg, some editor placed a headline atop the piece which completely reversed its content.

Whatever you think of the program's past work, Weigel describes complaints about an alleged double standard in its profiles of Clinton and Trump. He reports that advocates of Candidate Trump and Candidate Sanders thought last year's profiles of those candidates were helpful to their campaigns. He reports that Clinton supporters thought Kate McKinnon's portrait of Candidate Clinton took things a whole different way.

Whatever you think of this program's past work, that's the claim which Weigel discusses. Whoever wrote the headlines either 1) doesn't know how to read or 2) is unable to get through the day without the requisite dose of fresh-squeezed "moral equivalence."

For ourselves, we think Saturday Night Live is a low-IQ blight on the political culture—a low-IQ blight which occasionally produces a skillful, entertaining impression of some political figure. When that happens, the success of the impression flows from the performance skills of some individual performer.

Having said that, beware! Just because those featured performers are skilled, that doesn't mean that they have insightful political perceptions, or any such perceptions at all. At least on the surface, this point seems most clear in Weigel's account of his interview with McKinnon.

Midway through his essay, Weigel quotes Bernie Sanders himself. Sanders says that Larry David's ballyhooed, utterly pointless impression of Sanders "was a positive in the campaign, absolutely," last year.

Weigel continues from there. We can give you a link down below:
WEIGEL (10/1/16): McKinnon's Clinton, a breakout character, was less of an obvious boon to the campaign. A typical sketch had her promising anything that voters wanted, with a rictus and wild eyes. "Aren't we such a fun, approachable dynasty?" she asked in an early sketch about a "spontaneous"-looking campaign video. In last season's finale, she and "Sanders" shared a drink at a bar over how the primary was "so rigged"—an impression that continues to cost Clinton votes from her left.

McKinnon, who thanked Clinton in her Emmy victory speech, told the New York Times' Maureen Dowd in 2015 that Clinton was "a brilliant intellectual, a crusader for things I care deeply about." Asked about the idea that her impression could swing the election, McKinnon called it "the worst thing I could ever imagine," and described the impression as a joke more at society's expense than the candidate's.

"If you had a man saying the same things, that would not qualify as a comedic character, and I think that's deeply problematic and speaks more about our culture than it does about her,"
McKinnon said. "She's a staunch, passionate lady, and in our culture, unfortunately, there's something funny about that. There shouldn't be anything funny about that, but that tickles us for some reason. So that's what I've been working with, and her zeal is what I find delightful about her."

McKinnon isn't the only comedian with regrets that the election has been framed as a choice between a relatable buffoon and a power-hungry dynast...
Could McKinnon's portrait of Clinton actually effect the campaign? In principle, yes, it plainly could. In practice, there will almost surely be no way to tell.

That said, McKinnon—at least as presented by Weigel—shows little sign of understanding the way this dynamic might work. (For what it's worth, it seems clear that SNL's sketches after the first Bush-Gore debate did affect the subsequent conduct of the Gore campaign.)

At least as presented by Weigel, McKinnon offers a lofty, overthought analysis of what the public's reaction to her portrait "really" means. It "speaks more about our culture than it does about [Clinton]," she loftily, thoughtfully says.

It's society's fault, McKinnon says, at least as presented by Weigel. Meanwhile, the image of McKinnon discussing these topics with Maureen Dowd creates an image which will be hard to get out of our analysts' heads.

In terms of its politics, SNL has been an extremely low-IQ show almost every step of the way. In our view, writer-for-life Jim Downey is a very decent guy—you can see us jousting with him in this C-Span videotape—but his politics could hardly be more simple-minded.

At one point, Weigel says this: "Other comedy shows might get didactic; Saturday Night Live aims to mirror and parody what voters already know."

Translation: SNL aims to mirrow what voters think they know. The program deals in the dumbest forms of conventional wisdom, an obvious fact which Weigel was too professionally cautious to say.

(Similarly, there is no sign that Weigel challenged McKinnon about her airy analysis of the possible problem he is discussing. Translation: McKinnon is a major star. Weigel's a mid-level journalist.)

Could SNL effect the election? Actually, yes—it could. In his lengthy, high-profile essay, Weigel discusses an intriguing criticism which has been aimed at the low-IQ network show.

Some headline writer came along. As a journalist, he just couldn't help it.

Many Post readers will scan those headlines. Many, many fewer people will read the Weigel report.

Our kingdom for a link: At we post, Weigel's essay can't be found on the Post's web site. It's the lengthy, featured piece in this morning's Style section, the only section anyone reads. But it doesn't seem to be available to anyone but Post subscribers.

Does anyone have the slightest idea how this newspaper works?

BREAKING! The missing link: Using Google, we found this link. If you go to the Post's web site, there is no sign that this intriguing essay even exists.

On-line, the headline reflects what the article says. In this morning's hard-copy Post, the very prominent double headline turns the piece on its head.

Does anyone have any idea how this newspaper works?

39 comments:

  1. "famously tedious TV program, Saturday Night Live."

    Yes , talk about dynasty! This brand has been running on empty for decades.

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  2. Comics have hurt Republican in the past. E.g., Tina Fey, playing the role of Sarah Palin, said she could see Russia from her house, but many people think Palin actually said it.

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    Replies
    1. The best Palin skit Fey actually recited her words verbatim.

      Akroyd doing Nixon's last night in the White House was hilarious. Otherwise agree with Somerby, SNL political humor has been uninspired to say the least.

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  3. I haven't tuned in to SNL for probably 20 years, but I liked the early, funny ones.

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  4. Kevin Drum says: "As [Ezra] Klein says, what Hillary Clinton did was so obvious, and so ploddingly executed, that it's almost wrong to call it a trap."

    No one in the Clinton camp is claiming brilliance, so why knock Clinton this way? She did what she needed to do. If she hadn't done this, she would have been criticized for running a crappy campaign. She proved she can handle Trump in ways none of the Republican primary candidates were able to do. Yet, Klein has to call her names like "plodding". Why?

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  5. Huffington Post is dredging up old statements made by Clinton (to donors) criticizing Sanders. How is that going to help her win over millennials? It is almost as if Huffington wants to undermine her campaign efforts and put Trump in office. It isn't as if she were currently saying such things (why would she, when Bernie isn't running?). This is the way the press works against her.

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  6. A short piece on Maureen Dowd that Howler readers will appreciate...

    http://billmoyers.com/story/michiko-kakutani-maureen-dowd-new-york-times/

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    Replies
    1. In this link, Gabler foolishly says Trump is another Hitler. A few of my cousins also make this silly claim. There are so many valid reasons to think Trump would make a bad President. Why focus on an invalid one?

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    2. It's invalid to believe Trump would make a bad president because of his similarities to Hitler? I disagree.

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    3. By all means, keep making this point, Anon 10:48. I think the Hitler comparison actually helps Trump, in the same way that the supposed murder of Vince Foster helps Hillary. In both cases, the ridiculous criticism makes the critics look silly. Refuting the silly criticism has the effect refuting all criticisms, even the valid ones.

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    4. There is nothing silly about Hitler. Six million Jews and another six million non-Jewish people were exterminated by Hitler. People were displaced all over Europe by his attempts at ethnic cleansing. Eastern Europeans were enslaved in his work camps and many died. Nothing silly at all about Hitler and narcissism was the least of his faults.

      It is not silly at all to compare Trump to Hitler when he talks about building a wall and deporting 11 million people, when he jokes about killing journalists and suing/closing down papers who criticize him. Not silly at all when he spreads vicious lies about people that he must know are untrue, from the President to his opponent in this race, to media figures.

      Hitler gained military and political advantage by making agreements and breaking them. Trumps talks blithely about not honoring US treaties with other countries. His word means nothing. He said during the debate he would honor the election results, then took it back the very next day. His word means nothing. A person like that in power is dangerous.

      And then there are his mob connections and his admiration of global gangsters like Putin and his ilk.

      Vince Foster was a lie about Hillary, a cruel one given that he was a close friend who committed suicide. Trump's similarity to Hitler is not a lie. It is obvious and chilling. We will all be fools if we do not heed the warning that history has bequeathed us.

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    5. "Refuting the silly criticism has the effect refuting all criticisms, even the valid ones."

      BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

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    6. Anon 12:17 - Walls are normal: England is building a wall to keep out immigrants. So is. Hungary. Israel has built a wall to keep terrorists out. Mexico is contemplating a wall on their southern border to keep out immigrants. The White House has walls. Homes in wealthy Atherton have walls. Etc.

      Regarding the deportations, the law calls for illegal immigrants to be deported. You are criticizing Trump for saying he will obey the law.

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    7. Hitler had lots of handy laws supporting what he did too. "I was just following the law" sounds suspiciously close to "I was just following orders." You really need to listen to yourself, David.

      It's very cute the way you pretend Trump is talking figuratively about a law instead of referring to a brick-and-mortar construction. The man is a builder. When he says he is going to build a wall, he means it literally.

      They used to build walls to keep out the plague in Europe. Instead, these walls trapped victims inside and they died anyway. Europe's history of walls is troubled, even without considering Berlin. But Trump doesn't read books, so he wouldn't know. What is your excuse, David?

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    8. David, go peddle your alt-right white nationalist bullshit on other sites you might be more comfortable with.

      this is a progressive website, so wtf are you doing here, TROLL/

      Delete
    9. You answered your own question, mm.

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    10. "Walls are normal: ...."

      Smarter trolls, please.

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    11. Hey Anon 9:02 and Anon 3:36; In 2006, Congress passed the H.R. 6061 (109th): Secure Fence Act of 2006. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer voted yea. So, a wall was just fine. Suddendly, favoring a wall means one is a Nazi or in favor of the Black Plague.

      This tells me that our opinions are pretty maleable. We imagine that we think for ourselves, but all too often, we're parroting what our opinion leaders tell us to think.

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    12. Hey troll - your simple mind simplifies the "wall" issue to favor your wingnut agiprop. As far as you pontificating about what "we" imagine, think, or parrot, you (a) could care less and (b) don't have a clue.

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    13. My opinions aren't malleable enough to follow a maleable opinion leader.

      Delete
  7. From Digby, rehashing a Salon article:

    "In summary, multiple outlets have reported that Donald Trump vouched for and rented an apartment to Joseph Weichselbaum—a known felon and soon-to-be-convicted drug trafficker. For some still-unknown reason, Weichselbaum's drug prosecution passed briefly through Trump's sister's courtroom in a state that had no apparent connection to the case. And Trump continued to pay Weichselbaum's helicopter company after Weichselbaum was convicted and (according to Spy) after Trump had founded his own helicopter business."

    This guy ran cocaine and marijuana via his helicopter business (he was convicted and went to jail for it). And people are saying it is far-fetched for Dean to suggest Trump may be using cocaine (or something similar) these days.

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    Replies
    1. Wayne Barrett reported this years ago in his book on Trump. David Cay Johnston put it in his book on Trump that was published a few months ago. It has been on The Smoking Gun website, but the MSM ignores it. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/the-donald-and-the-dealer-173892

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    2. Trump is a tea-totaler and is not a drug user, which makes it even worse. If he didn't want drugs from Weichselbaum for personal use, then why is he trying to cover it up? Was he in business with Trump about something other than helicopters?

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    3. I don't think we can take Trump's word for it that he is a teetotaler. He behaves like someone under the influence. If he isn't on something, then he is mentally ill -- his behavior is not normal, or anything close to normal.

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    4. David Cay Johnston, who has covered Trump for over 30 years, reports that he does not drink or do drugs. He has talked to many people who have been around Trump in business and worked closely with him, including those who are on the outs with Trump or were fired by him. If he says he isn't a user, I believe him.

      Delete
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  9. "... the famously tedious TV program, Saturday Night Live." Thank you for saying it. Back in the day (before videotape), I always wondered why all those supposedly hip people were watching TV instead of going out on Saturday nights.

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  10. Hillary Clinton has banned lobbyists on her transition team. That happened yesterday.

    With all the idiocy going on, actual news that might be relevant to voters is being overlooked.

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  11. The idea of relying on comic actors mugging for the camera to bring down a "clear and present danger" to the republic like Trump brings to mind the old story of Thomas Nast vs. Boss Tweed.

    I knew Thomas Nast. Thomas Nast was a friend of mine Alec Baldwin, you're no Thomas Nast.

    Meanwhile, I'm wondering, "Can the Washington Post take down Donald Trump? Is it going to try?

    If not, what's the point?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, they are going to try. Saturday, WaPo featured a story about a supposedly typical Trump supporter. They chose a woman who had been hospitalized for emotional difficulties. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/finally-someone-who-thinks-like-me/2016/10/01/c9b6f334-7f68-11e6-9070-5c4905bf40dc_story.html


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    2. Good. I hope they're successful and that more news media join in the effort.

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    3. Any decent patriotic American will do all they can to defeat this unhinged mentally unstable fraud con man. That leaves you out David.

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    4. Hmmmm... what's your excuse David?

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    5. Then there's Gennifer Flowers, yet another typical Trump supporter. How many feature articles will deal with her antics with nary a fact check about her many lies?

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  12. They've changed the headline.

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  13. This seems a lot of ink for a forlorn topic. We liberals can't get enough of dumb and silly skits. On the other hand, Dennis Miller. I think Samantha Bee is the best of these people to roll along, but, what difference does it make....

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