Interlude—Following which, the fall: Oof. Undeniably, without any question, Masha Gessen made a clear mistake.
This serves to remind us that everyone does. At any rate, Gessen's clear mistake came when she uttered these words:
GESSEN (5/7/17): And even the word "unintelligible," inserted by the journalist, means nothing, because how can something be unintelligible when uttered face to face in an interview?Oof. As we noted yesterday, those words were part of Gessen's lecture to the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival. She was discussing the transcript of an AP interview with President Donald J. Trump.
In that remark, Gessen displayed an obvious lack of preparation with her source material. Also, a surprising lack of familiarity with the transcripts produced by news orgs, which routinely contain certain types of mistakes.
And that liberal audience! Good God!
Alas. Gessen's comment, which drew laughter and applause, was off base in several ways.
There is no reason to think that the journalist in question, Julie Pace, inserted the word "unintelligible" in the transcript of her interview with Donald J. Trump. We'll guess that was more likely done by unnamed AP editors.
(As Gessen continued, she referred to the journalist as a "he," again suggesting a lack of deep preparation. Pace is identified as the journalist in the AP document.)
Beyond that, the Associated Press, which prepared and published the transcript, had clearly and dutifully explained what the insertion of the word "unintelligible" was intended to mean.
The insertions didn't mean that Donald J. Trump's statements didn't make sense at those points. They simply meant that "the audio recording of the interview [was] unclear."
Oof! Gessen had made a clear mistake. Because her mistake aligned with audience preconceptions, the big, highly literate, very smart, highly learned and all-knowing audience proceeded to shower her with laughter and applause.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing occurs all the time within our liberal tents. You can't get us extremely bright liberals to acknowledge the obvious fact which follows, but this helps explain how Donald J. Trump ended up where he is.
Masha Gessen made a mistake, proving that everyone does. Basically, it was a mistake of preconception. Mistakes afflict us all.
That said, as Gessen continued, she made a succession of larger mistakes. These further mistakes raise a deeper issue:
They speak to the reliable absence of basic skills, especially during highly partisan tribal times.
Gessen is smarter than the average bear. During her journalistic career, she has also walked the walk.
She's highly regarded, and she should be. For that reason, her display of the absence of basic skills is especially worthy of note.
Gessen is one of our brightest and best. If her basic skills can be called into question, does our obviously brilliant, self-impressed tribe possess any such skills at all?
Your question is very important, but it's also quite hot here this week. Largely because the question's important, we're going to wait till Monday morning to finish this award-winning report.
We want to give you a good clear look at the reliable absence of basic skills within our admittedly brilliant tribe. Within the intellectual realm, does our self-impressed liberal tribe possess even the most basic skills?
(Wittgenstein might have leaned toward no. He would have had a decent point.)
What did Masha Gessen say next? How did her basic skills fail her?
On Monday, we'll make a suggestion for our tribe as we answer that basic question:
In the realm of basic intellect, it's time to start using our words.
Monday: Using our words