EPILOGUE—SKIP GATES AND THE TWO AMERICAS: Lawrence O’Donnell really cares about really poor children in really poor neighborhoods.
As long as they live in Malawi!
On Wednesday night, O’Donnell stopped his endless clowning about Donald Trump. He stopped his clowning long enough to deliver a lachrymose segment about his program’s “permanent cause.”
The segment ran a full nine minutes. It seemed like an outtake from About Schmidt—and no, we don’t mean that as a compliment.
The segment concerned O’Donnell’s great works. To watch the full segment, just click here. This is the way it started:
O’DONNELL (12/14/11): It was a year ago this week I told you about my trip to Malawi. You can see the video of that report on our website. I went there with the hope of providing desks for Malawi classrooms where most students had never seen a desk. By the time I arrived at Malawi I had learned enough about the scarcity of resources in the country that I actually didn’t think I was going to be able to provide any desks.At this point, viewers saw tape of O’Donnell proving that he is smarter than a group of Wyckoff third graders. On last evening’s Last Word, the onslaught continued, with O’Donnell reluctantly acknowledging his own vast moral greatness:
But then with invaluable guidance of UNICEF, I found a small woodworking shop that quickly hired extra workers to make 30 desks that I was able to pay for with cash in my pocket and deliver to one classroom in Malawi.
When I told you this story last year, I knew you would be moved to help, but I had no idea how generous you would be to the K.I.N.D. Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, a special partnership we established with MSNBC and UNICEF, specifically to deliver desks to African schools. You left me awestruck by, as of today, contributing over $2,413,999. That has allowed us to deliver 39,949 desks with over 5,000 more in the manufacturing pipeline that will be delivered soon.
“Kids in Need of Desks” is the permanent cause of this program. The need will surely outlive this program, as I explained to a group of public school students in Wyckoff, New Jersey.
O’DONNELL (12/15/11): This isn’t going away. This is the permanent cause of the Last Word.Insert joke here about tears of a clown. At any rate, one fact is clear:
The deprivation level is so high in African classrooms that we will need to be delivering and building these desks for a long time to come.
And in another tweet, Jill Sclever said, “I will be donating tomorrow. Segment made me cry. Great work.”
Thanks, Jill. The segment made me cry, too. Luckily, not when I did it on the show last night, but the first time I tried to read it allowed after writing it, I couldn`t quite get through it. Had to cut a few lines here and there.
Just like the first time I tried to talk about this on television. It’s that kind of story.
But I’ve never felt like crying in Malawi, never when I’m with those kids.
Lawrence O’Donnell loves really poor children. As long as they live in Malawi!
By the time O’Donnell finished last night’s segment, Sally Struthers was rolling her eyes over his saccharine self-affirmation. She shouldn’t have done such a thing, of course, and we scolded her for it. To state the obvious, kids in Malawi should have desks in their schools. (Though we don’t know when network news programs began adopting “permanent causes.”)
Kids in Malawi should have desks; nothing could be more obvious. But what about really poor kids in this country? O’Donnell will never waste your time with talk about them, or about their interests. Question: Have you ever seen Lawrence O’Donnell do a segment about American schools—about the schools which serve “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods” right here in this well-known country?
You did see him do that “Lean Forward” ad, in which he talked about low-income schools. This gave us rubes the false impression that he cares about such issues. But have you ever seen him do an actual segment—a news report—about the schools which serve really poor children near the street where he lives?
On each of the last two nights, you saw him do segments about public schools. But those segments concerned the schools of really poor kids in Malawi!
Does the relentlessly awful O’Donnell actually give a fig about really poor children here in this country? We’ve never seen a sign of such interest on his hour-long “news” show. Indeed, O’Donnell seems to avoid such really poor children in the way Isaac Newton avoided the plague. Example: When he traveled to deepest Wyckoff to talk down to that group of third-graders, he had been limousined to a township which is 0.6 percent black—a township where the median income is $154,000! Safely ensconced among his own kind, he urged the children to consider the interests of really poor children—as long as they live over there.
Later, he even admitted that he himself cries about the needs of those really poor children. As the great white host self-pimpingly said, “It’s that kind of a story.”
Viewers wrote to tell the great man that his Struthers act made them cry. Just a guess: They never asked themselves this question:
Since this is a "progressive" "news" program, why do we never see any segments about really poor kids over here?
Why don’t viewers see such segments? We can’t really answer that question. But MSNBC, the great liberal channel, never makes you waste your time on really poor kids from this country.
Newt Gingrich’s recent remarks about “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods” were dumb, bombastic and hyper-partisan in some of the ways which typify the work of their often-horrible author. But down through the years, Gingrich has actually spoken and thought about really poor children in really poor neighborhoods. Very few “liberals” ever do. For us, those children exist for one purpose only—to let us drop our R-bombs around when someone else dares to discuss them.
It’s the one play our tribe seems to have.
And so, verily, it came to pass last week: The NAEP released some new TUDA scores—and Lawrence O’Donnell yawned. His tears are reserved for poor kids over there. On the one true liberal channel, no one was asked to ponder the possible meaning of those new TUDA scores.
One young liberal tried to discuss them, and he predictably failed.
Manifestly, we liberals don’t care about really poor children. Rachel doesn’t give a sh*t; Lawrence doesn’t care either. What explains this vast disinterest? For what it’s worth, this vast disinterest lets the plutocrats spread their propaganda around—propaganda about our failing schools, our lousy kids, our lazy teachers, their demonic unions.
What explains this vast disinterest among these grotesquely self-impressed liberals? Let’s return to something Professor Gates said when he spoke with Amy Goodman:
GATES (1/8/04): Since that terrible day in 1968 when Dr. King was so brutally assassinated, the middle class segment of the African American community has almost quadrupled as a result of affirmative action, which is a wonderful thing. You think, boy, that’s what the civil rights movement was all about. That’s what Dr. King died for, that’s what he gave his life for. So many other people struggled for it.That was Professor Gates; not us, not Newt Gingrich. He was telling Amy Goodman that there are now “two nations” within black America. He said the middle-class black America was prospering, which was a very good thing. But he said the poverty class was languishing. Presumably, that includes a lot of really poor children who live in really poor neighborhoods.
But at the same time, and this is the kicker, the percentage of black children living at or beneath the poverty line is almost 40 percent, which is exactly what it was the day that Dr. King was killed. In other words, we have two nations within the African American community, the haves and the have-nots. Many of us thought that if the black middle class increased so dramatically, that that would spell the end of structural poverty for our community, at least in the disproportionate way that it manifests itself today. But that’s not what happened. Poverty remained constant while the middle class quadrupled. That’s a crisis. As Daniel Rose, the great philanthropist said in one of the segments of the TV series, that is the greatest single crisis affecting American society today.
So I did this series almost as an alarm bell, a wake-up call to say, we have come this far by faith, as the hymn goes, but we haven’t come far enough. And unless we do something drastic, unless we do something dramatic, never the twain shall meet between these classes within the African American community. The poor will be destined to perpetuate their own poverty and the middle class will be destined to continue its middle class status.
Those NAEP scores keep suggesting that something good may be happening in these children’s schools. But inside the white progressive world, it’s plain that no one cares. You couldn’t get Rachel or Lawrence to talk about this if you threatened to take away their right to shower themselves with lavish praise. Yglesias tried to discuss this topic, but he didn’t seem to know how.
Simple story: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods don’t exist in the “liberal” world. Again, you have those two Americas. The white progressive America doesn't care about the "really poor neighborhood" kind.
In the face of our vast disinterest, the corporate propaganda continues. Meanwhile, Lawrence weeps about really poor children.
Unless they live over here.
If you can’t afford to rent: If you can’t afford to rent About Schmidt, we strongly suggest that you watch O’Donnell’s segments about his own greatness—sorry, about those kids in Malawi. You will be watching the lachrymose work of a millionaire Hollywood clown.
Last night’s segment ran seven minutes; to share the greatness, just click here.
Later, Lawrence talked about his feelings in a shorter, post-show segment (click this). Once again, he broke a personal rule, admitting his own moral greatness:
O’DONNELL (12/15/11): For me, tonight’s show was all about the K.I.N.D. fund...It’s just all I care about in these shows. Whenever the K.I.N.D. fund is in the show, that’s all I care about. I’m not even thinking about the other segments in the show.Lawrence went on to discuss the difficult moral decision he made—the decision to include his daughter in last evening's segment. By the way:
O’Donnell was “not even thinking about the other segments in the show?”
Several analysts turned to us at this point. They asked us, with their innocent eyes, what made this any different.
Very good points.ReplyDelete
But you keep forgetting that there are millions--MILLIONS--of poor WHITE people. In Oregon. In Washington. In West Virginia. In Vermont. In Maine. In Indiana. In Illinois. In Idaho. In Utah. In upstate New York. In North Carolina. In Florida. In Alabama. In Arkansas. In Missouri. In Kansas. In Louisiana. In Ohio. In Iowa. Etc.
Discussing poor children and poor people also means addressing the fact, so buried by our "liberal" leaders and completely covered up by the right-wingers, that there are POOR WHITE PEOPLE TOO. MILLIONS OF POOR WHITE PEOPLE. They are being ignored just like poor people of all races in the United States.
Nobody's policies is helping them either. Neither party and almost no one in the media gives a damn about them, and gives even LESS of a damn about poor black people, poor latinos, poor native americans, poor anybody.
This is a HUGE problem.
White people are not just slipping but plummeting out of the middle class, and neither party and the millionaire media DO NOT CARE. Why won't you discuss this, or do you not care as well?
We can't talk about "two Americas" because John Edwards cheated on his wife. Also, Al Gore is fat and lives in a huge mansion presumably lit by electricity, and flies around in a private jet and rides in big SUVs.ReplyDelete
These are the important things.
Back when I watched O'Donnell, which I no longer do, when he first ran a segment of self adulation over providing desks for kids in Malawi, I wondered why the need for desks in Malawi was a better cause than the need for food for the kids in Somalia who were dying of hunger. Education is nice but, first, I'm pretty sure kids can get an education even without desks and second, it seems to me that staying alive has a bit more value to most people, and kids cannot do that without food. What is the matter with this fathead?ReplyDelete
You see this same thing in the church community, where people are eager to help people in other countries but not so ready to help those who live in other parts of their own town. I had one person tell me this is because mission trips to other countries are "fun" and "high profile", while helping people in your community isn't either of those things.ReplyDelete
People like to travel to other countries where the people are devestatingly poor because it makes them feel better about themselves. I also think we don't like to see the problems in our own country - it's much better to point the finger at other countries and pontificate about how terrible their poor people have it. It also allows them to nod their heads in agreement when they read a Heritage study that says our poor are really rich because they have microwaves, refrigerators, and TV's.
MSNBC has an agenda: Corporate Ed Reform.ReplyDelete
The hosts all know it, too. So they either buy into the propaganda (Mika, Joe, Rev. Al) or they keep their traps shut (Rachel, Big Ed, Larry O.)
Teachers have been writing to Rachel for months now to have Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol on to talk about what's going on in our schools, but she refuses to rock the boat. Kinda sad.
Mustn't bite the hand that feeds you.
Ever the contrarian I dispute the pedagogical importance of a desk. Donny Rumsfeld agrees with me, eh? I say podiums for every child for 1/2 the cost! Or whatever furniture or learning style suits them, actually.ReplyDelete
The project actually sounds nice . . . it's the type of Keynesian project that would be good for our country--locally sourced materials, made by local labor, to provide a material benefit for schools and then the whole community.
The equivalent of such a project here would be a rebuttal proposal to Gingrich who said children should get paid to be school janitors. The Democrats like O'Donnell should have tried to save these janitor jobs for adults and require them to provide a living wage.
They could demand federal support for a nurse practitioner or doctor in as many schools as they can.
They can demand federal support for pre school and after school care which has recently been cut back in a lot of communities. This will provide jobs for the caregivers and help parents to earn a living.
Here's another favorite of mine. Federally subsidized SAT/ACT courses for High School seniors--especially focused on needier communities. This will sort of level the playing field by allowing more people to learn how to play the test game.
School lunch reform. Instead of benefiting big Agra Obama could have used the recession and interest in local sustainable farming practices to revolutionize food policy. He and Michelle wasted a huge opportunity.
Support for the public transportation system and using it to get kids to school in a smarter manner. . . Obama and the Democrats really missed an opportunity to do wide-scale transportation reform . . . not just for kids, for all of us, just as in food policy.
I don't get it: there's just enough room in those classrooms for the kids to sit on the floor, all crowded together. How are they going to fit a desk for each kid in there? Aren't they going to have to find bigger classrooms? It seems a bit counterproductive. But Malawi....that will look really good on O'Donnell's daughter's college applications.ReplyDelete
It also reminds me of Greg Mortenson's school-building efforts, which didn't always seem to be the best use of funds. Some of the schools are still sitting empty, apparently.
For fuck' sake, I really enjoy this site but you are being unnecessarily viperish here.ReplyDelete
I don't know what Lawrence O'Donnell could purposefully do to end child poverty in America. I do know that his personal cause, to lift kids in Malawi off the literal dir and into seats and desk is admirable in its simplicity of purpose and achievability, if that's a word. Something that can be done, right now, affordably and in the here and now. I don't know why such a project, getting kids sitting in dirt up to a certain 19th century standard of human dignity is worthy of such withering scorn. It's a small project, one that I imagine Lawrence might have taken on due to his Catholic upbringing- but what the hell are you complaining about? Yes, Lawrence should devote his network sinecure to education issues in America. Except, even our poorest kids aren's literally sitting in dirt in huts, they really aren't. I find O'Donnell's project simple, do-able, admirable, giving those kids some dignity. I don't care if Daily Howler/Bob Somerby spits on this effort because it does solve every problem with education here at home. Exceptionally meanspirited interpretation of what I think is a good and worthwhile effort just to get those kids out of sitting in dirt floors. Yeah, Merry Christmas to you as well.
Damn hasty typing.ReplyDelete
"doesn't solve", not "does solve"
Good series Bob.ReplyDelete
"...I tried to read it allowed after writing it..." -- s/b "aloud"ReplyDelete
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