FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2020
"Don't even ask," experts say: Plainly, this has become a Week Which Was.
We cringe now when we look at the tapes from Tuesday night's "debate." How far apart were the candidates standing for ninety-five minutes?
Not real far apart.
In retrospect, it's amazing that the debate commission didn't position the candidates farther apart. According to the constitution, what do we do if both nominees have died by November 3?
In fairness, bad judgment lies at the heart of human behavior and drives most human history. Over the course of the past several years, we've been schooled in such understandings by a group of anthropologists.
They report to us from the years which lie beyond the conflagration they refer to as Mister Trump's War. They school us through nocturnal submissions which the haters deride as mere dreams
"Simply put, our species was never wired for adherence to Enlightenment values and understandings," these experts have patiently told us, again and again and again.
"Our species has always been wired for full investment in tribal narrative," they despondently say.
"Claims to rationality came much later," they say, "and resemble Trumpism itself."
We humans are rational in much the same way Trump is a very stable genius, or so these experts claim. As we near the end of The Era Which Was, they identify two dueling sources of societal misperception.
The intellectual disorder of Donald J. Trump:
On Tuesday night, Chris Wallace tried to chastise Donald J. Trump for his constant interruptions of Candidate Biden.
When he did, Candidate Trump began interrupting him.
"How much more do you need to know?" our glum future scholars ask. There has been no limit to the clownish disorder emerging from Donald J. Trump.
The intellectual disorder of the New York Times:
A second strand of argument is a bit more puzzling. The lunacy of the current era didn't start with Trump, these scholarly experts insist.
This lunacy, for which we're wired, has been building for decades, they say. Surprisingly, they point to repeated work by the New York Times, a newspaper which is branded as our liberal tribe's best and brightest.
For basic reasons of wiring, our liberal tribe has had a hard time seeing this source of disorder and misperception, these scholarly experts keep saying. They point to endless peculiar conduct by the ballyhooed Times—and as they do, pitiful weeping can be hard in the caves where they now live.
How strange! These experts claim that the modern era began in 1987, when the Miami Herald hid in the bushes outside Gary Hart's home.
The Herald was afraid that Candidate Hart might have a girl friend. Responding to impulses which date to prehistory, they felt a strong need to be find out.
This was backwash to the pursuit of President Nixon, these experts insist. Simple-minded journalists had somehow got it into their heads that they themselves were the good, decent people and the pols were immoral and bad.
A tribal perception took form. Soon, journalists were hiding in the bushes concerning Candidate Hart and calling us to ask if Candidate Gore had ever smoked marijuana when he was 19 years old.
Yes, they actually did that! They also chased minor errors by Candidate Biden, driving him from the White House race.
In this way, and in that year, a dimwitted era was born.
The pivotal role by the New York Times begins in 1992. It begins with Jeff Gerth's bungled front-page reports about the Whitewater pseudo-scandal. (Have you ever seen a journalist try to explain how Gerth's claims came out, or even what they were?)
Gene Lyons dissected the bungling in Harper's, one of our most respected liberal journals (except at moments like this). His essay was expanded into a 1995 book, Fools For Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.
The media to which Lyons referred were the New York Times and the Washington Poat. For that very reason, his book was ignored by the upper-end press corps.
Gerth's bungled front-page reporting was never acknowledged by the rest of the guild. This led to a decade of pseudo-scandals, and eventually onward to Trump.
Other debacles followed at the Times. In 1999 and 2000, Maureen Dowd devoted seven (7) columns to Candidate Gore's troubling bald spot, including a mocking column on the Sunday before the nation voted.
Meanwhile, Katharine Seelye joined the Post's Ceci Connolly in one of the longest-running, dumbest assaults on a nominee in journalistic history.
In December 1999, their Love Canal bungle was wondrously comic. (Their flat misquotation of Gore was debunked by videotape from a class of New Hampshire high school kids!) But because the bungle came from the Times and the Post, it had to be covered up.
Because this was being done at the Times and the Post, other "journalists" refused to discuss it. As the years wore on, the Times extended its stunningly dimwitted war, aimed now at Hillary Clinton.
By 2016, the newspaper's love of Emailgate was so egregious that liberal bloggers were even prepared to complain. In 2015, the paper's crazy Uranium One maxi-report met with little such opposition.
The crazy report resulted from an explicit business deal between the wholly ridiculous New York Times and Trump crackpot Steve Bannon. But so what? The Times put the transparently bungled report in print, and our "journalists" all kept their mouths shut.
Dowd had remained quite active. In the summer of 2016, she came up with the strangest piece of journalism of the 2016 campaign—her unsourced claim that Beau Biden had trashed Candidate Hillary Clinton as he lay dying, using his last few nouns.
Inevitably, the Times took Dowd's unsourced claim and used it in a Sunday morning front-page news report. This may have been the craziest piece of journalism of this whole Era Which Was.
According to major experts, there were few limits on the dumbness of the Times. The paper even resurrected Gennifer Flowers in a front-page report in October 2016, another attack on Candidate Clinton.
Along the way, Dowd had been a constant source of dysfunction and misperception—not just with her reports about The Spot, but also with her repeated denigrations of Obama, "the diffident debutante," and of Candidate Edwards, who she'd dubbed The Breck Girl.
Howard Dean's wife was an unsightly mess. Dowd devoted two columns to this theme as the feminist world skillfully looked away.
In 2016, Clark Hoyt, then the Times' public editor, amazed the world by savaging Dowd her her sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton. Given the power of Dowd and the Times, the others averted their gaze.
(Our tribes often take the form of guilds, despondent anthropologists claim.)
This past week, we were all allowed to see the way the Times frequently plays. We also got to see the predictable way our own liberal tribe reacted.
In a giant front-page report, the Times created a transparently bogus claim about Commander Trump's past income tax payments. A central claim was transparently bogus, but our team failed to notice.
Imagine," these major experts say. "You have a completely disordered figure like Trump, and the New York Times still feels the need to invent embellished claims!"
Overnight, Trump's insanity has been put on high display. He clowned about the virus all year. Now, the virus has him.
For members of our liberal tribe, it's easy to see the lunacy among the other tribe. It's hard to see the work of the Times for what it actually is.
The Times is part of our own liberal tribe, and one's own tribe can't be wrong. These are the basic rules of the game as set by our war-inclined brains.
This explains how "a parallel income tax" can be "no income tax at all!" And yes, that's what the New York Times wrote this very week, in an endless and comic report.
"The human brain was wired this way from the day our earliest ancestors crawled out onto the land!"
So these expert scholars say, as weeping is hard within their caves and the band at the Times plays on.
On Tuesday, the candidates were maybe ten feet apart. "Don't even ask," experts say.