BULLY WATCH: Blow is a terrible columnist!

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

Our tribe likes him for it: Charles Blow is a terrible columnist.

Our tribe likes him for it! The latest evidence of this liberal dysfunction appeared in Saturday’s New York Times.

Blow began by describing the taunting of Karen Klein, a school bus monitor who was tormented by four seventh-grade boys on the way home from school last Monday.

The taunting of Klein was captured on tape, then posted on Facebook. Quickly, the tape went viral. (To watch the full tape, click here.)

Blow’s mind has a viral quality too. By Saturday morning, he had spotted a “metaphor” in the conduct of those seventh-graders:
BLOW (6/23/12): But what, if anything, does this say about society at large? Many things one could argue, but, for me, it is a remarkably apt metaphor for this moment in the American discourse in which hostility has been drawn out into the sunlight.

Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at its ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society—our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.
Children have always behaved in such ways. We hope this turns out to be a weird, anomalous event in the lives of the boys on Klein’s bus. But Blow says this kind of behavior infests our adult society too.

And that part is true! We’ve seen it!

We’ve seen a multimillionaire TV star shower dick jokes on the heads of average people for more than a week—while pretending that she was embarrassed by what and her guests were doing, of course.

We’ve seen a Hollywood actress go on TV and say that anyone who doesn’t vote her way is a “redneck racist” whose limbic brain doesn’t work right. (She was cheered on by a misogynist cable news blowhard.)

We’ve even seen a New York Times columnist go on TV and invent bogus facts about a possible murder trial. When it became clear that he had misled the public, he absent-mindedly failed to correct his appalling, absurd misstatements!

But how weird! On Saturday, that same New York Times columnist was passing judgment on the apologies of four 12-year-old boys. And he was spotting a metaphor in their unfortunate conduct.

How odd! Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve seen lots of adults behave in ridiculous ways in the past several years. We’ve seen ridiculous conduct from people on Fox—and from people in Hollywood, and from people who make their money at our major “mainstream” news organizations.

But because Charles Blow is a terrible columnist, he only sees one type of error. When he unpacked his metaphor, these were the (three) rivers he’d seen:
BLOW: This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society—our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.

Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.


Women are under attack. Hispanics are under attack. Minority voting rights are under attack. The poor are under attack. Unsurprisingly, those doing the attacking in every case are from the right.
Truly, Charles Blow is absurd.

Might we make a few quick points? In the first instance comprising Blow’s metaphor, that gay soldier wasn’t booed by “a Republican audience.” As you can clearly hear on the tape, he was booed by two or three people.

Regarding Blow’s other examples, Limbaugh’s conduct has of course been atrocious for years. In a long array of instances, so has Gingrich’s. But with regard to Gingrich, just which “salvos at the poor” does Blow have in mind? We’ll have to admit that we aren’t really sure. And yet, these are the only examples the columnist can conjure.

Later, as his metaphor unspools, he actually says that the adults of whom he was reminded last week “in every case are from the right.” That’s the work of a hopeless intelligence.

For ourselves, we weren’t reminded of any adults when we watched the tape of those boys on that bus. We may have thought of Lord of the Flies—and of Eleanor Estes’ brilliant 1944 children’s book, The Hundred Dresses. (Still in print—and still morally brilliant.)

At one point, we wondered how the one boy got an image in his head of slipping a knife through Klein's body “like through butter.” We don’t know where he got that violent image, of course. We don’t even know if he got that image from any external source.

But various Hollywood factions and stars peddle violence and misogyny as highly marketable products. They get rich and famous in the process—and these people are not all Republicans.

Some of these people rush rush rush to donate to Big Major Dems.

Because his mind is somewhat constricted, Blow could think of Republicans, no one else, as his metaphor worked itself out. If we’d been forced to think of adult bullies, we would have thought of Blow himself, along with a wide range of others.

But check the comments to Blow's column! Some readers complained about his metaphor. But many members of our liberal tribe simply loved his piece. Truly, Charles Blow is a terrible columnist.

Our tribe likes him for it.

For a point of inspiration: See our next post

Only in America: Piers Morgan was fully appalled by the 12-year-olds’ conduct. “I think every one of those kids who abused bus monitor Karen Klein should be expelled,” he bravely tweeted. “Let them pay the ultimate price for their behaviour.”

Let them pay the ultimate price? Why not put them to death? Has stoning gone out of fashion?

“Real Americans don't behave like that,” the high-minded import declaimed on his Thursday night program. Well guess what? At age 12, sometimes they do!

Gaze on the wisdom and judgment of the multimillionaire “press corps!” Setting aside Karen Klein for the moment:

What did Americans ever do to justify treatment like this?


  1. Bobinistas have their work cut out for them today.

    For quite some time, their guru has been criticized for his singular focus on MSNBC and the New York Times at the expense of criticizing anything coming out of the right-wing echo chamber.

    And here he is today, blasting Charles Blow for pointing out bad behavior on the Right and not saying that the Left behaves as badly.

    Yeah, Bob. Isn't it just awful when a pundit only wants to take on one side?

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Somerby.

    1. Really?

      Have you read any other posts on this blog?

      Blow wasn't pointing out "bad behavior on the right and not saying the Left behaves as badly"

      I'll quote Blow "Unsurprisingly, those doing the attacking in every case are from the right." Every case??

      So please read a bit and then try and comment.

    2. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Be fair now!!

      In the course of 24 paragraphs Mr. Somerby managed to slip this in: "Limbaugh’s conduct has of course been atrocious for years. In a long array of instances, so has Gingrich’s." Of course he doesn't give any examples of what he is talking about. For anybody else that would be a cardinal sin of omission.

      The other day in a long screed about Maddow he even managed a sentence or two allowing how Hannity's behavior regarding the editing of video clips is worse than hers!!

      Maddow's sin? According to Mr. Somerby she said Romney supports the AZ immigration law when all Romney said was he would drop the federal lawsuit against the law after trying to deflect the question to be about E-Verify which Romney admitted didn't answer the question.

      See how this game is played?

      Now we have Mr.Somerby claiming if you criticize the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border right wing echo chamber you must find corresponding examples on the other side, no matter how tenuous the comparison may be, or else you're a "terrible columnist."

      This truly is tin foil hat stuff that just muddies the waters.

    3. Wow, 10:48. Talk about clipping a quote to make it say what you want it to say.

      Here is what Blow really said:

      "Women are under attack. Hispanics are under attack. Minority voting rights are under attack. The poor are under attack. Unsurprisingly, those doing the attacking in every case are from the right."

      So the left is also attacking women, Hispanics and minority voting rights?

    4. Real, it's also the old "false equivalency" game in which Eleanor Clift became the "liberal" counter-balance to Pat Buchanan on the old McLaughlin Group.

      Charles Blow and Rachel Maddow are become "just as bad" as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

  2. Well, about all Bob can hope for these days when it comes to traffic is the occasional link from Glenn Reynolds, so you can't blame the guy.

  3. Tribal brains commenting here. Why do you all need Bob to spend time critiquing Hannity and Gingrich? You can get that at every other site you read. But when ONE Democratic blogger decides to focus his blog on criticizing leading liberal voices -- you scream, "No-o-o this makes my head hurt! Four legs good, two legs bad! Go back to bashing Republicans so I can feel smugly superior again!"

    1. I don't want Bob spending time critiquing Hannity and Gingrich.

      Actually, what I am hoping for is a post about something besides MSNBC or the New York Times.

    2. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      Who do you think will criticize something other than the NY Times or MSNBC first, Sarah Palin or Bob Somerby?

    3. "Real Anonymous" -- The NYT is the nation's premiere (supposedly) liberal-leaning print publication, MSNBC is the nation's premiere liberal network. Bob thinks both institutions are serving liberals poorly. He also thinks that the rest of the liberal web is turning a blind eye to this, either because of tribalism or career ambitions. So he is focusing his blog on this critique, which is not being made elsewhere. Why are you so obsessed with having Bob repeat critiques of conservatives that are being made everywhere else? As a kind of "loyalty oath" or purity test?

      Do you think it's good for liberals that our leading voices make dick jokes about ordinary Americans and make broad generalizations about their racism? Do you think it's good for leading liberal voices to have made unsubstantiated claims about Zimmerman's supposed lack of injuries all over the media that have since been disproven? If the liberal world were sensible we'd be having an open debate about such things. But MSNBC feeds you red meat in exchange for ratings, the NYT remains at its pampered upper-class remove talking about how oh-so-silly "issues" are, and the liberal web keeps its mouth shut or joins in.

    4. This is the problem with this blog, though. By calling them the "premiere" (sic)"liberal" newspaper and TV network, you are granting them an authority and an influence that neither deserves.

      Now they may be "leading liberal voices" inside of your head and that of Somerby's, but so what? They do not speak, and never have, for "liberal" me.

      And no, they do not feed me "red meat." Know why? Because I'm not as dumb as you and Somerby think I am. You see, I don't read the NYT at all (out here in flyover country) and I rarely watch MSNBC, and when I do, not for very long -- usually until the first commercial then I continue channel-surfing.

      (Far more interest in the NBA playoffs and baseball, for instance. How rube of me!)

    5. It's hard to imagine how you think that's relevant. You may not watch MSNBC or read the NYT regularly, but they are, in fact, the top outlets in their field and genre.

      If you, personally, don't watch or read any news at all, should Bob therefore opt out of media criticism entirely?

    6. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 2:57 PM

      I, like many people based on the ratings, rarely watch MSNBC or Rachel Maddow and when I do its for entertainment or election results, not to help me form an opinion.

      I started reading the NY Times on the bus ride to high school. One day the captain of the basketball team, who rode the same bus, called me a "pseudo-intellectual"!!

      True story.

      He went on to become one of the top refs in the NBA and I wound up posting here.

      "If the liberal world were sensible we'd be having an open debate about such things."

      If we're going to debate, and that's certainly isn't what Mr. Somerby does here, I'd like it to be about questions like how can a majority of Americans be against "Obamacare" but like its provisions. Does any amount of explaining the law matter in the face of 24/7 border-to-border and coast-to-coast conservative media opposition?

      According to Mr. Somerby this echo machine doesn't exist except as a false equivalent to NY Times and MSNBC.

    7. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      "According to Mr. Somerby this echo machine doesn't exist except as a false equivalent to NY Times and MSNBC."

      Allow me to add:

      This is the rule Roger Ailes sought to have enforced when he was setting up FOX News and this is the rule Mr. Somerby, as evidenced by his recent posts, has agreed to accept.

      We can only speculate about the reasons.

  4. ". . . but they are, in fact, the top outlets in their field and genre."

    I have no idea how you reached that conclusion, but even if true, it tells us a lot about the "field and genre" as it does about MSNBC and the NYT.

    Since you missed the point the first time, I will repeat it: ". . . you are granting them an authority and an influence that neither deserves."

    The point is not whether their audience is the largest of their "field and genre". The point is the authority and influence they wield.

    Now granted, the NYT might wield much influence over the "Village". And perhaps if I were living inside the Beltway, MSNBC might look like a monster of influence as well (though I doubt it.)

    And actually, I don't want Somerby to stop media criticism altogether. Au contraire. I wish he'd start it.

  5. By the way, Matt, the NYT is "Liberal" only if you buy into the "liberal media" myth that's been sold to us since Spiro Agnew.

    Perhaps it falls somewhat left-of-center, though not that much, in its own editorial opinions, but it's op-ed and straight reporting are pretty much down the middle, with examples of serving both sides of the divide.

    Good grief, this was the newspaper that opened the Whitewater mess and carried George Bush's water in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

    Somerby has also spent the past 13 years telling us how the NYT savaged Al Gore.

    That's the "premiere" (sic) liberal outlet in its field?

    1. I am the Anon above who posted that comment and I did say the NYT was "supposedly" liberal. Most people posting on this site are well aware that the NYT's liberalism is overstated by the right. But please, genius, tell me what else could possibly be considered the nation's premier "liberal-leaning print publication."

    2. He doesn't mean anything by it. Bob's just not allowed to criticize the NYT or MSNBC. Any excuse will do.

    3. 3:21, who cares?

      You want to believe that the NYT is the "premier liberal-leaning print publication" in America? Go right ahead.

      But the question remains: So what?

      Is it worth devoting so much time to a blog counting all the sins of the op-ed columnists who write for hit?

    4. Hilariously Anon at 9:50AM is disproven by me, so he dodges the question and tries to change the subject. Oh Mr. genius sir, let me ask again, what else is the premier liberal-leaning print publication in America? If you know of one other than the flawed Times I'd sure like to hear about it!

      And yes, this does matter, because of course it's worth it for ONE DEMOCRAT on the ENTIRE INTERNET to write a blog that focuses on critiquing the values and execution of the nation's premier liberal-leaning print publication.

  6. I wish I were as sure of myself as most of you.

    So sure that Blow wasn't using his platform, and this "opportunity" presented by a widely-discussed bullying case, to say effectively "that's how the other side acts, but not us."

    But I'm not sure of that. At all.

    It looks very much like that's exactly what Blow did. I can't agree it was a good idea.

  7. Real Anonymous: Your assertion that Somerby doesn't think the right-wing echo chamber exists is amazingly ignorant considering Somerby's history (did you know that he was the first person EVER to fact-check one of Ann Coulter's books?). But as I said above, we liberals now have multiple sites that focus on debunking Fox News. You can go to a plethora of liberal sites to see Gingrich fact-checked. If that's what you care about, go there! I myself am glad that there is one sole solitary person out of the entire Internet who is critiquing the two leading liberal-leaning news organs from a Democratic point of view.

    To anyone asserting the NYT and MSNBC have no influence because you or your neighbors don't read them -- you understand amazingly little about how the media world works. Every young liberal journalist dreams of a job at the NYT. The values and standards the NYT promotes are incredibly important because of that alone. These young journalists see Parker, Barbaro, Collins, and Dowd and realize that that's how to get a job at the NYT. So that's the direction they go. Try googling "Creeping Dowdism," you might learn something.

    As for MSNBC, several of our other young rising liberal stars dream of a cushy TV gig at MSNBC to supplement their lean print journalist incomes. As Bob has documented better than anyone else, TV is how you really get rich in journalism. Reports last week mentioned Ezra Klein as in the running for their open 3 PM slot, but he didn't get it. Rest assured he hasn't given up hope.

    1. The Real AnonymousJune 25, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      I know Somerby's history as a teacher and stand up comic.

      I know Ronald Reagan's history too.

      That doesn't mean I'd argue Reagan didn't change his views drastically as he aged.

      "Your assertion that Somerby doesn't think the right-wing echo chamber exists"

      I never asserted that. What I said was its rarely referred to except to compare MSNBC and the Times to it using the old false equivalency argument.

      An example: In his 24 paragraph screed about Blow, Mr. Somerby allowed how Limbaugh and Gingrich have been at it for years (getting close to 2 decades now actually).

      Another example: In his screed about how Romney never, ever said he was in favor of AZ's immigration law (even though he'd drop the feds lawsuit challenging it) he allowed how Hannity's video editing is worse than Maddow's.

      As far as financial rewards gained by emulating those who are successful, have you noticed how many Limbaugh wannabe's have sprung up?

      Have you noticed the quickest way to a well paying pundit spot on the nation's most watched news channel is to be an unsuccessful republican candidate?

      Has Mr. Somerby noticed?

      He doesn't say.

      Why not?

      Because you can't mention the right wing 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border echo machine unless its to make a false equivalence between it and MSNBC and the NY Times.

    2. Actually, for your money, Real Anonymous, it seems Somerby isn't allowed to mention MSNBC and NYtimes AT ALL without you bullshitting that it's a "false equivalency."

      Your whining -- it is very tiresome. It is the same bleat every time:

      "Bob, Stop talking about MSNBC and NYT -- FOX is sooooo much worse. But you're saying they are equivalent. WAAHHHHH! It hurts me. I can't read it any more."

      "I'll be back to whine the same way tomorrow."

    3. As far as I'm concerned, Bob can write about MSNBC and the NYT every day and exclusively -- and he does.

      Just don't get too surprised when all that rooting around for the worst bad thing somebody in either place said or wrote yesterday gets pretty boring to read.

      And really, the only reason I come here any more is to watch the Somerby Tribe spring into action any time and every time someone points out that the record is broken it keeps repeating the same few notes over and over again, and maybe it's time to put a new tune on the ol' Victrola.

  8. Leaving aside the thumbs on the scale of BOTH Blow AND Somerby, it's interesting to consider The Daily Howler's contention that 12 year olds have always behaved like this, not too far from a "boy's will be boys" take on the whole thing. No doubt, some truth to that; but Blow would seem to contend that a new level of crass cruelty and meanness is emerging in our culture, which might be worth considering weather or not you think it is limited to one side of the political spectrum. Of course, people have been claiming this at least since we were all born, but just maybe it's turning out to be truer than we thought?
    Might this not be illustrated by the crass entertainment consumed not just by people who enjoy Rush Limbaugh but by those who enjoy Adam Sandler? Just sayin....

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