Part 2—The New York Times does it again: Last night, American president Donald J. Trump staged one of his trademark rants.
On the front page of today's late editions, news reports describe the rant in the Washington Post and the New York Times. It's amazing to see how poorly reporters were able to describe the problems with the president's rant. Basic skills are remarkably few at these famous newspapers.
When wayward boys kick anthills down, ants tend to descend into turmoil. In the wake of Charlottesville, we're seeing that kind of turmoil among us, the rational animals.
Our journalists' lack of basic skill only makes matters worse. Consider what happened on the front page of Sunday morning's New York Times, the week's most important edition.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Above the fold on the front page of Sunday morning's hard-copy Times, a mocking headline rolled its eyes at Those People, the ridiculous, dumbkopf Trump voters.
Below, you see what that front-page headline said. Also, we list the headlines which appeared on page A17, where the lengthy news report was continued:
Front-page headline:Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Times subscribers got to enjoy the mockery aimed at Those People:
"Trump's Tumultuous Week? To Supporters, It Went Well"
Headline on page A17:
"A Bad Week for Trump? To His Core Supporters, Things Went Just Fine"
Boxed sub-headline on A17:
"In tribal America, hardening views of a president's actions"
Trump had had a very tough week, but the dumbkopfs thought it went well! "Things went just fine," the dumbkopfs said, speaking dumbly from their posts inside "tribal America."
Anyone with an ounce of sense could see the mockery in those New York Times headlines. Unfortunately, the headlines butchered the contents of the front-page report they pretended to describe.
Those headlines sat atop an analysis piece by Sabrina Tavernise, an experienced Times reporter who isn't crazy, dumb, stupid, inane or even twenty years old.
Born in 1971, Tavernise graduated from Barnard in 1993. She had written a sensible, if imperfect, analysis piece, in which she quoted six "core supporters" of Trump, one of whom didn't seem to be a supporter of Trump at all.
None of the six said that things had "gone well," or had been "just fine," during the tumultuous week after Charlottesville. No one said anything dimly like that, until some editor at the Times composed those bullshit headlines.
(Please note: On line, the headlines have been cleaned up. We're discussing the headlines which appeared in Sunday's hard-copy Times.)
Alas! When Trump supporters see work like this, they may understand what they're seeing. In this case, they had two possible choices:
Those headlines may have been written by an editor who wanted to mock Those People, the dumbkopfs who voted for Trump.
It's also possible that those headlines were written by an editor who doesn't know how to paraphrase—whose basic skills are so weak that he or she believed those headlines actually captured what the dumbkopfs had said.
In fact, those mocking headlines didn't capture what the Trump supporters had said. Assuming good faith on the part of the Times, the dumbkopf here would have to be the editor him- or herself.
What did the Trump supporters say? For starters, let's call the roll of the people to whom Tavernise spoke.
Tavernise quoted six Trump supporters or semi-supporters. We list the personae here:
Dramatis personae! Dumbkopfs Tavernise quoted:Those are the people Tavernise quoted. None of them said anything like what those headlines reported.
Parson Hicks, 35, "a health care finance executive [in Boston] who supports President Trump"
Larry Laughlin, "a retired businessman from a Minneapolis suburb"
Gregory Kline, 46, "a lawyer in Severna Park, Md.," who "said he did not vote for Mr. Trump"
Michael Dye, "a 52-year-old engineer who is the treasurer for the Republican Party in Annapolis, Md....who said he voted reluctantly for Mr. Trump"
John McIntosh, 76, "who lives in New Bern, N.C., and voted for Mr. Trump"
Debra Skoog, "a retired executive in Minneapolis and a lifelong Democrat who voted for Mr. Trump"
None of them said that things "went well" during Trump's tumultuous week. None of them said that "things went just fine" during that bad week for Trump.
You can read the Tavernise report to see what these six people actually said. But it's time to make an unpleasant, if obvious, statement:
If you can't tell that these people didn't say what the headlines reported, you're part of our national problem. If you can't see that those headlines are bogus, our very real problem with "tribal America" does rest, in part, on your head.
What did those six people actually say? To the extent that they were quoted, the six people said different things. Hicks, the 35-year-old black businesswoman, was quoted at the greatest length and her photograph appeared. Here's the bulk of what she was quoted saying:
TAVERNISE (8/20/17): Moral outrage at Mr. Trump’s response to Charlottesville continues to glow white hot, but it has a largely partisan tinge.It's always dangerous to think that no one is "thinking logically" except you. Aside from that, there's nothing crazy, or crazily "tribal," about that assessment by Hicks.
From Ms. Hicks’s perspective, the president simply pointed out a fact: Leftists bore some responsibility for the violence, too. Of course, Nazis and white supremacists are bad, she said. But she does not believe Mr. Trump has any affinity for them. He said so himself. But she is exasperated that a significant part of the country seems to think otherwise. The week’s frenzied headlines read to her like bulletins from another planet.
“I feel like I am in a bizarro universe where no one but me is thinking logically,” she said. “We have gone so off the rails of what this conversation is about.”
Ms. Hicks, who is black and grew up in Charlotte, N.C., welcomes the public soul-searching on the meaning of Confederate monuments. She believes that the statues were erected to intimidate black people and that they should be taken down. But instead of focusing on that, she sees opponents of Mr. Trump focusing on Mr. Trump.
“This is not about me as a black person, and my history,” she said. “This is about this president and wanting to take him down because you don’t like him.”
Mr. Bannon’s departure was more noise that didn’t mean much, she said. “The show is going to go on.”
Indeed, that paraphrased reference to "frenzied headlines" seems especially apt when we see the headlines some editor dropped upon this above-the-fold front-page report.
According to Tavernise, Hicks "does not believe Mr. Trump has any affinity for" Nazis and white supremacists. If we were asked for our own assessment, we would express less certainty.
That said, it's true that the embattled Trump "said so himself"—explicitly said that he has no affinity for such ridiculous people. And it's true that the nation's headlines may sometimes "read like bulletins from another planet." The headlines atop the Tavernise piece provide a good example.
What did the other dumbkopfs say? Here's what Kline was quoted saying:
TAVERNISE: Gregory Kline, 46, a lawyer in Severna Park, Md., who is a Republican, said he did not vote for Mr. Trump but understands that part of the president’s support comes from fury at the left, particularly the media. When there is an attack by Muslim terrorists, for example, the media reaches for pundits who say most Muslims are good. But when it is a white supremacist, “every conservative is lumped in with him,” he said.Kline says he didn't vote for Trump. That said, his comments about the media aren't crazy. We'd call them perfectly fair.
“It’s not that people are deaf and dumb and don’t see it,” he said of Mr. Trump’s sometimes erratic behavior. “It’s that they don’t care. I’ve heard rational people I really respect make the craziest apologies for this president because they are sick of getting beat on and they are happy he’s fighting back.”
Conservatives do see themselves stereotyped and ridiculed in the upper-end, low-IQ press corps. Quite sensibly, many will see themselves treated that way in the headlines which topped this front-page Sunday report.
Tavernise cannot be blamed for the headlines atop her report. The blame for those mocking headlines rests with some unnamed editor who may simple lack the skills which produce sensible paraphrase.
(For twenty months, the coverage of Campaign 2000 was built on heinous paraphrase. Our upper-end, elite reporters have long shown little ability with this basic skill. We dumbkopfs in the liberal rank-and-file have always accepted this conduct.)
Tavernise can't be blamed for those headlines. That said, we don't think her report is perfect. When she refers to "an increasingly tribal America," she may perhaps seem to suggest that the tribalism is all found Over There, on the Trump supporters' side. And when she finally quotes a professor, here's what the brainiac says:
TAVERNISE: Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Harvard University who writes about democracy, said partisanship in the United States today is dangerously deep.It's perfectly clear that Professor Mounck is warning us about the tribal partisanship Over There. It's the rare day when the New York Times quotes a professor citing the tribal behavior widely found within our own self-impressed tents.
“It’s now at a stage where a lot of Americans have such a loyalty to their political tribe that they are willing to go along with deeply undemocratic behavior,” he said. “If their guy says, ‘I think we should push back the election for a few years because of a possible terrorist attack,’ I fear that a significant part of the population would go along with it.”
When wanton youth kick anthills down, the ants are gripped by turmoil. As in the stories of Homer of old, Chaos reigns. In time, the ants rebuild.
The disordered tirades of Donald J. Trump have helped create a great deal of turmoil within our national discourse, which was already pathetic. In the wake of Charlottesville, chaos invaded the suburbs of our reliably inept and tribal discussions.
Different people had different thoughts about Donald J. Trump's various remarks in the wake of those events. And sure enough:
On the front page of Sunday's New York Times, a nameless editor—yay yay yay!—helped Us mock Them Over There.
No one quoted by Tavernise said what those headlines alleged. On the brighter side, the headlines let Us enjoy some good solid fun as we made our contribution to the tribal chaos.
In the wake of Charlottesville, we ants are running all about. Our own glorious liberal tents are full of these unhelpful creatures.
Tomorrow: A noxious confession leads to—what else?—ridiculous liberal cheers