Interlude—What Bob Dylan heard: "I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken."
Bob Dylan reported the sighting—in 1962! Visitations from the future may have been involved.
We offer that speculation for an obvious reason. At that time, it was much, much harder to see so many broken-tongued talkers.
Today, such talkers are all around; they're all over cable news and talk. Their cousins are widely found at print publications, where they can be found composing headline sets like this:
Can Richard Carranza Integrate the Most Segregated School System in the Country?Are the New York City Public Schools "the most segregated school system in the country?"
A new chancellor is talking a big game about making New York City’s schools more equal—but that’s the easy part.
The academic study from which this claim derives actually makes no such claim. And sure enough! By the second paragraph of the Atlantic essay found beneath that set of headlines, it's clear that the author of the essay understands this fact.
That said, so what? The inaccurate claim is becoming quite popular among us on the pseudo left. So is the puzzling insinuation at the start of this op-ed column in today's New York Times, headline included:
How Elite Schools Stay So WhiteThe "top public high schools" to which that passage refers are currently 52% Asian-American—and Asian-Americans reportedly have the highest poverty rate of any group in New York City.
Who deserves to get an elite education?
That question is being debated in Massachusetts, where court papers argue over Harvard’s use of race in its “holistic” admissions process, and in New York City, where politicians are trying to increase the number of black and Latino students at top public high schools.
But the answer has always been obvious: only the elite.
On that basis, it's puzzling to see the operation of those top public high schools lumped in with the authors' claims about the way "elite schools stay so white." But those claims are popular among our tribe, and the New York Times is inclined to promote them. On that basis, a column appeared which didn't exactly seem to make perfect sense.
It's very, very easy today to find talkers whose tongues may seem broken. They're found all over "cable news." They even exist in print.
Sometimes, their efforts provide bits of comic relief. At the top of page A3 in today's New York Times, some unnamed editor has listed seven of today's "Noteworthy Facts."
Three of those noteworthy facts would be these. No, we aren't making this up:
Of InterestDylan didn't report seeing talkers whose efforts seemed naively parodic. But those are three of today's seven "Noteworthy Facts."
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER
The Leadenhall Building in London is known as the Cheesegrater.
Many good historians believe that Bills in Sydney, which opened in 1993, was the first restaurant to serve avocado toast.
In 1984, Bernard Hinault, a five-time winner of the Tour de France, punched a shipyard worker who was part of a protest over layoffs that stopped the early season Paris-Nice cycling race.
It isn't that the New York Times includes no accurate facts. Right next to the column about the way Asian-majority schools show that elite education has always been designed to favor whites, a regular columnist tells Times readers about a recent poll:
BRUNI (7/25/18): On Sunday, NBC News and The Wall Street Journal released a poll that took place mostly after Helsinki. It showed that Donald Trump’s approval rating, which usually hovers around 40 percent, had risen to 45—still bad but, bafflingly, better than before. Republicans were why. They gave him an approval rating of 88 percent, which is positively alpine and higher than the one that Democrats gave Barack Obama at the same point in his presidency eight years ago.Trump's approval rating did indeed stand at 45 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll—unless you watched a pair of talkers on Monday evening "cable news!" The pair of talkers said this:
O'DONNELL (7/23/18): And, John, a new poll, NBC/Wall Street Journal, shows that the president's approval rating is far below a majority. But 88 percent of Republicans say they support the president. And unfortunately, in most of the media, they never do the math on what that actually means, since only 26 percent of voters are Republicans.That's what the talkers actually said—and no, nothing they went on to say corrected the bizarre misimpression they'd given. Injecting a note of comic relief, Lawrence complained that the rest of the press corps refuses to do the math!
HEILEMANN: Here we go.
O'DONNELL: Eighty-eight percent of 26 percent is something like 23 percent of voters support Donald Trump.
HEILEMANN: Yes. The Republican Party is shrinking.
(Just for the record, that approval rating—45 percent—is almost exactly where Obama stood at this point in his own first term, in July 2010. USA Today/Gallup had him at 41!)
Bruni seemed to say he's "baffled" by Trump's approval number. That said, many talkers insist that no one should ask Trump supporters why they feel as they do. Heilemann voiced a related bit of pique as he spoke with O'Donnell.
When Dylan won the Nobel Prize in 2016, Patti Smith sang his 1962 song at the formal ceremony. Listening to her performance, we were struck by the prophetic quality of his claim about the talkers.
Today, they're all around! From the White House over to Fox and then on to The One True Channel, it seems to us that tongues are broken all over the American discourse. For the past several years, we've been wondering if anthropology can explain our transparently broken culture, which didn't start with Trump.
This culture didn't start with Trump? Just for the record:
The lunacy didn't start with Trump, but it always ran through him. In April 1990, Diane Sawyer scored the big interview with Marla Maples for her dim-witted ABC magazine program, PrimeTime Live.
“All right, was it really the best sex you ever had?” That's what Sawyer thoughtfully asked, letting us see the types of things she'd do to acquire her wealth and her fame. (At the time, her salary was reported to be $3 million per year.)
Nine years later, Sawyer scored the big interview with Candidate Gore when he announced his race for the White House. She hit him with a brain-dead, broken-souled "pop quiz" designed to show that he'd never been anywhere near a farm, one of the ten thousand broken-tongued lines of attack being aimed at Bill Clinton's chosen successor by the mainstream press.
In June 2014, when Sawyer interviewed Candidate Hillary Clinton, this wealthy goddess of TV faux "news" attacked Clinton for her unseemly wealth! That said, people like Sawyer have dragged us down all across the past three or four decades. We liberals have luvvved them every step of the way—and their ugly parodies of public discourse have always run through the inanities and the disorders of Donald J. Trump, who was excitingly said to have given Maples the best sex she ever had.
Diane Sawyer is Donald Trump. So are quite a few others. Somehow or other, Dylan heard their tongues a-talkin' all the way back in 1962!
What can anthropologists tell us about all this broken-tongued talking? At this point, we feel the discourse has fallen apart to such a degree that this is pretty much the only real question left.
The question won't make sense to you unless you're willing and able to see the depth of the nonsense which surrounds us. The tongues are broken inside the White House, but quite a few tongues are also broken inside our own failing tribe.
Some of us can't make out that second fact, but it's true nonetheless. As we wait for Mister Trump's Ultimate Fully Dispositive War, we've asked Professor Harari to explain how we got to this place.
Given our "massive brains," how has our "highly intelligent" species managed to create such a mess? Tomorrow, we'll resume Harari's account, 100,000 years in the past.
According to Professor Harari, our species drove all other humans to extinction. "Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark," he mordantly says at one point.
Can Harari explain how we managed to reach this brain-dead place? As we wait for Mister Trump's War, what sort of enlightenment can we derive from the story he tells?
Tomorrow: Toward that chance mutation