YEAR OF THE SPECIES: What did Hoda Kotb know?

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2018

Part 2—The question which won't be asked:
In the earlier years of TV news, moguls were less devoted to the need for disguise.

In those days, Dave Garroway was the host of NBC's Today show. As the leading authority on the show has recalled, his co-host was a chimp:
Though initially panned by critics, Garroway's style attracted a large audience that enjoyed his easygoing presence early in the morning. His familiar "cohost," a chimpanzee with the puckish name of J. Fred Muggs, did not hurt his genial manner, but his concurrent seriousness in dealing with news stories and ability to clearly explain abstract concepts earned him the nickname "The Communicator" and eventually won praise from critics and viewers alike.
But seriously, though, Muggs was a consequential early star. In 2002, when his trainer died, the Los Angeles Times recalled the ways of a somewhat less buttoned-down era:
WOO (3/15/02): Muggs landed an audition in early 1953 with the year-old "Today" show, NBC's experiment in early-morning news programming that was slumping badly in the ratings.

[...]

The magnetic Muggs was signed to a contract and, to the dismay of "Today" show host Dave Garroway and other serious journalists, became a sensation.

Dubbed Garroway's "right-hand monkey," he sat on the anchorman's lap, his leash concealed and held by Mennella or Waldron,
who hid under the desk. Garroway bantered with and interviewed him. Muggs played in skits, accumulating a wardrobe of 450 outfits.

Children threw tantrums if their parents didn't let them watch Muggs; soon the parents were hooked, too. The "Today" show's ratings rocketed within weeks, and two dozen new sponsors were signed. Fan mail poured in for Muggs.
After defeating that ratings slump, the frequently temperamental Muggs starred on Today from 1953 through 1957. At one point, he apparently inspired an analysis from the Russkies—an analysis which wasn't necessarily wrong:
Muggs went on a world tour to promote Today; in Japan, where his popularity was second only to that of Marilyn Monroe, 15 geishas waited on him, while in Russia Izvestia described him as "a symbol of the American way of life" and said he was "necessary in order that the average American should not look into reports on rising taxes, and decreasing pay, but rather laugh at the funny mug of a chimpanzee."
Did Izvestia really say that? So the Arizona Republic seems to have reported in real time, on January 31, 1955.

Izvestia's remarks were hurtful, but they weren't necessarily wrong. Tomorrow, we'll revisit the way our major news organs have helped keep "the average American" from "looking into" basic facts about the outlandish costs of American health care, with a nod to this long-overdue, 15-years-later report.

In the modern era, no chimps disgrace the Today show! In the modern press era, that task is left to the program's human co-hosts, like the recently defrocked Matt Lauer, the major, ridiculous TV star once known as "America's dad."

Yesterday, NBC News announced that Hoda Kotb will replace Lauer in Today's co-anchor chair. At The Daily Beast, a fully grown human named Tim Teeman described Kotb's appeal, spewing script as he went:
TEEMAN (1/2/18): At 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning Savannah Guthrie rightly opined to viewers that appointing Hoda Kotb as co-host, alongside her, of NBC’s Today had to have been the “most popular decision” that NBC News ever made.

There was a hashtag ready to go,
#SavannahHodaTODAY, and the hosts proudly watched it rise to the top of the morning's trending Twitter topics, way above the cold weather.

Three hours later, at 10 a.m., Kathie Lee Gifford, Kotb’s long-time cost of the fourth hour of Today, said the occasion marked a “very special Booze Day Tuesday.”

And so it is that the brilliant and warmth-radiating Kotb will wear two hats every morning: the news anchor shepherding Today show fans through the biggest headlines of the day—though these are quickly subsumed on regular news days by segments about food, fashion, and parenting—and then, after an hour’s rest provided by the more controversy-inclined Megyn Kelly, back to her 10 a.m. perch with Kathie Lee Gifford, made famous by the duo’s filled wine glasses which are now more for show than gulping from.

There are very few TV hosts who can convincingly segue from national tragedy to whooping over makeovers, but Kotb is one of those hosts. It was not only the most popular decision NBC News could have made, it was surely also one of the easiest.
The hiring of Kotb created more interest than even the frigid cold weather! Skillfully gushing, Teeman described Kotb's skills:

Kotb is one of the rare TV hosts who can "convincingly segue from national tragedy to whooping over makeovers." Beyond that, she can handle "the biggest headlines of the day—though these are quickly subsumed on regular news days by segments about food, fashion, and parenting."

Citizens, this is a business! Those headlines are also subsumed by the fun of such Muggsian antics as "Booze Day Tuesdays" and glasses filled with wine at 10 A.M., though mostly just for show. Muggs was popular in his day, but species-specific routes to warmth tend to dominate now.

As he continued, Teeman played by the rules. He agreed to assume that Kobt and co-host Savannah Guthrie were shocked, shocked by the news of Lauer's many years of appalling conduct.

Having agreed to reinforce that morality play, Teeman turned to the important question:

"But what of Kotb or Guthrie’s salaries? Will they be the same or anywhere near Lauer’s reported $20 million a year?"

Will Kotb score twenty million, like Matt? Perhaps repulsively, this was the Daily Beast headline:
NBC’s ‘Today’ Is in Hoda Kotb's Debt. It Should Pay Her Back, Handsomely
Our species is wired in such a way that these are the matters which count. For reasons of biological programming, people making regular wages tolerate gagworthy clatter like this from the alphas to whom we defer.

At any rate, back in the day, Muggs was cost-effective. For insisting that they hadn't heard about Matt, Today's co-hosts may cost the network quite a bit more.

With regard to Lauer's misconduct, we leave you with a familiar pair of questions:

"What did Hoda Kotb know, and when the heck did she know it?"

Of one thing you can be sure—no one within the mainstream press will ever ask those questions. Dearest darlings, it just isn't done! What happens within our species' guilds tends to stay right there!

Our species is wired to behave in these ways. What would the old Izvestia say if it was still fully here?

Tomorrow: "Necessary in order that the average American should not look into [non-existent] reports"

10 comments:

  1. What kind of misogynist must one be to compare a woman to a chimpanzee for the crime of replacing a man as co-host on a TV show?

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    1. Give it a rest, day after feigned high dudgeon day you're making a fool of yourself.

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  2. Why is Somerby throwing the word "species" into his titles this year?

    He continues to pretend he knows anything about anthropology. But more seriously, he is now attributing the bad behavior of some journalists to a failing of all human beings. His loose references to tribalism suggest he has been influenced by criticisms by folks like David Brooks and Jonathan Haidt, a conservative political psychologist who also uses sociobiology to justify his claims about politics.

    Within the academic fields of anthropology and psychology, there is a caution about using biology to justify any theory. Evolutionary theories are appealing but unprovable, so skepticism reigns. Not so in Somerby's world. Because he has never taken an anthropology or psychology course during his time at Harvard, he doesn't understand the caution needed when evaluating theories asserting that human nature justifies a claim about human behavior.

    Psychologists are especially cautious because of the evolution of eugenics into the pseudo-racial hatreds of Hitler's regime. Those guys are at it again in the USA and Somerby's diatribes against human tribalism encourage the same racialist thinking. If people are now like chimps there can be no appeal to anyone's civilized impulses.

    Brooks and Somerby are on the same page with their doomsaying attacks on human nature. So are the white supremacists who blame bad behavior and social downfall on the worse nature of some races. It is all in our genes, our species is wrong. The main difference is that Somerby claims our whole species is rotten, whereas the supremacists hold out hope for those with white skin. Who holds out hope for civilization? Not Somerby. Not Brooks.

    Somerby is giving up on our institutions at the very time when we must support them so that they can protect us from the Gibbon in the White House. Every attack places us in greater jeopardy. Way to go, Somerby, you ass!

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  3. Only someone who doesn't know anything about the wide variety of monkey social organization could refer to "alphas" so cavalierly, straight from the men's rights reddit.

    "Our species is wired in such a way that these are the matters which count. For reasons of biological programming, people making regular wages tolerate gagworthy clatter like this from the alphas to whom we defer."

    Somerby is having a race with The Donald to see who can be declared mentally incompetent first.

    Today's blog post is deeply offensive to women. Somerby cannot imagine Hoda rising to any standard of journalism comparable to The Great Matt Lauer, who was removed for engaging in behavior that should not have been tolerated as long as it was. A woman is promoted so of course journalism has now gone to the chimps.

    Ugly, Somerby, ugly!

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    1. You three (or two or one) have petty well ruined this comment section- congratulations, now people will just read Somerby's posts and move on.

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  4. The species are fine, it's the US elites (hell, all western elites, for that matter) that appear to be utterly insane.

    To the point where the old Izvestia wouldn't bother commenting: just reproducing the shit-circus of the western mass-media nowadays goes a long way to expose the degeneracy.

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    1. Mao, if you're going to participate you need to learn this country's jargon. Those elites are called alphas. Get with it!

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  5. Somerby looks a little foolish when he just now discovers that human beings tend to act tribally. Also, that TV stars can make a lot of money. Why, I bet Bill Maher makes a chunk of change for his "clatter." And those solons at Fox & Friends. Why DO people making regular wages tolerate those salaries and that clatter? It's unavoidably biological, says Prof Somerby. Guess that makes regular wage earners inescapably complicit in the egregiousness of it all. But, especially, of course, liberals. And the "mainstream" press. Why don't they find out Hoda Kotb's complicity in her hiding of Lauer's sins? I mean, her silence is perhaps as troubling as Lauer's behavior. Of course, we assume, along with Somerby, that she must have known. But then again, it's quite possible she didn't. But let's assume she did, a la The Howler. But we have no idea what she actually knew. But she's a scumbag, quite possibly, or in all likelihood. But who knows really? And then that obscene salary...(Note: Hoda Kotb making $18 million dollars less than Lauer...)

    Wonder if any men at NBC knew anything about Lauer? Nah, let's just criticize the women. Why did the victims wait so long to come forward? Damn hypocritical liberals. But it's all anthropology, you know, science now.

    Perhaps, with his keen understanding of anthropology, Somerby might think about what it means to have coworkers and bosses, some of whom may be friends. Most of us don't go around plotting our coworkers' destruction, or defying our bosses, unless we're prepared to lose our jobs, and possibly our friends. Must be nice to live in an ivory tower, and not be "pseudoprogressive" or a "careerist."
    And, this again: "For reasons of biological programming, people making regular wages tolerate gagworthy clatter like this from the alphas to whom we defer."
    Is Somerby speaking of himself (again) by saying "we?" Cuz I don't know anyone who "defers" to Today show hosts. So Somerby must be referring to himself here. Maybe he should try not deferring to people on TV? Or pretending that others do? Maybe he could drop the "we" business and eliminate the confusion in his writing?
    And if it is indeed "biological programming", doesn't that render Somerby's years of name-calling and mocking of liberals moot? Does he admit his "efforts" to improve liberals' chances and to improve our discourse have been futile? His blog merely a pointless catalog of human folly, humans being uneducable?

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  6. J. Fred Muggs, as of 2014, is still alive and well and living happily in Florida.

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