Overview: “Anthropology lessons” continue this week!

MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014

An old practice reappears: At the start of last week, we thought we’d have a bit of fun, treating the press corps as the source of some “anthropology lessons.”

Alas! During the week, a familiar old practice reappeared in earnest, largely at the Washington Post. As the week proceeded, this basically wiped the grins off our faces. But it didn’t vitiate the need for those scholarly lessons.

Never before has the Washington “press corps” created a prevailing “narrative” so early in a White House campaign! But it’s fairly clear that this happened last week, an astonishing 29 months before Election Day 2016.

The creation of an election narrative has three familiar components. Here’s the way these things work:

Elites within the mainstream press corps create a poisonous narrative about some White House candidate. The narrative may be friendly. Or it may be poisonous.

On cable, questing pundits scramble to get in line with the new Standard Story. If the narrative trashes a major Dem, liberal journalists pretend they haven’t noticed.

As the narrative works its effects, our leaders don’t say a word.

Last week, it was the Washington Post which took the lead in this matter. For that reason, we had to chuckle at a piece which appeared in yesterday’s Outlook section.

The piece was written by Lillie Lainoff, who's just a freshman at Yale. Truth to tell, Lainoff’s piece is rather poorly reasoned, which isn’t surprising given her age. Unless it was meant as an arch inside joke, we have no idea why it appeared.

What could possibly make this piece an arch inside joke? Capping the week when the Post set its latest narrative into motion, Lainoff’s piece was an argument in defense of not being original!

Her essay ran beneath this headline: “This essay isn’t all that original—and that’s okay.” You could see that as a parodic account of the way our “journalism” works in this, the age of the narrative.

How does our “journalism” work in the current age? In March 2000, E. R. Shipp described the way the process was working at this same Washington Post.

At the time, Shipp was the Post’s ombudsman. She described the way The Post was misreporting basic events in support of its preferred views of the major candidates:
SHIPP (3/5/00): Typecasting Candidates

There is something not quite satisfying about The Post's coverage of the quests of Bill Bradley, George W. Bush, Al Gore and John McCain to become our next president...

For sure, The Post provides its share of "who's winning the horse race" stories and those that dissect a candidate's strategy—the "insider" stuff that many readers tell pollsters they could do without, thank you.

But The Post has gone beyond that kind of reporting in favor of articles that try to offer context—and even conjecture—about the candidates' motives in seeking the office of president. And readers react—sometimes in a nonpartisan way, more often not—to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.
As she continued, Shipp went into detail about the way The Post had been “typecasting” Candidates Gore and McCain. The Post was skipping unflattering facts about the heroic McCain, she said. At the same time, the paper was inventing unflattering “facts” about the “delusional” Gore.

(That was Shipp’s word, describing The Post’s typecasting.)

This remains one of the cleanest descriptions ever offered of this anti-journalistic practice, which is the familiar norm within our mainstream “press corps.” In Shipp’s description, The Post seemed to have assigned different “roles” to the four major candidates, as if the paper was scripting a drama.

Post reporters were bending their work in support of these preferred story-lines. As a result, Shipp correctly wrote, “some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.”

This same process went into effect at the Washington Post last week. All over cable, the nation’s pundits swung into action, getting in line with the new narrative being pumped about Hillary Clinton.

Your favorite liberal pundits kept quiet, the way they always do.

We’ll review as many cases as possible this week—the Hostins, the Hoovers, the Hendersons, even cable hosts like Cooper, Burnett, O’Donnell, Matthews. We’ll review the predictable posturing of woman-of-the-people Mika Brzezinski, who hauls in only $2 million per year.

Within the guild, it’s against the law to explain the process which began unfolding last week. Shipp explained it long ago. It has rarely been described since.

To cap the week when this process took form, The Post decided to run a very weak Sunday Outlook piece. The piece explains that it isn’t such a bad thing to be unoriginal—to say what others have said.

We have no idea why the Post ran this piece. But the piece captures the ethos of this tribe in the week when it swung into action with its latest “typecasting.”

Was this meant as an arch inside joke? The piece reminds us that it’s OK to say the same thing as everyone else. It also reminds us of the low standards of this guild:

Why, a college freshman could peddle this pap! You just keep you ear to the ground and get in line with the text!

That piece by Shipp was very sharp. Precisely for that reason, it was never mentioned again.

We still owe you that report: For whatever reason, the Post seems to prefer young climbers from Yale.

Example: The no longer young Dana Milbank, class of 1990. Last Wednesday, Milbank devoted a column to the claim that President Obama plays too much golf.

People, the ludicrous Milbank cried. He plays a round every week!

Quite literally, we recall hearing this sort of thing said about President Eisenhower when we were ten. More than fifty years later, the Washington Post still puts this pap into print.

That said, we still owe you a report about Molly Ball’s remarks to Chris Hayes. Ball, class of 2001, established herself as one of the most compliant script-readers we’ve ever seen in her instant adoption of the new narratives about Hillary Clinton.

Ball writes for The Atlantic. In our view, the brilliant compliance of people like Ball should be displayed for all to see and admire.

Like The Post’s Philip Rucker (class of 2006), she may have majored in Deference Studies during her tenure at Yale. We still owe you that report. Barring new craziness from The Post, we'll get to it this week.

ANTHROPOLOGISTS WITHIN: Defining the problem!

MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014

Part 1—Balz on board: With the death of his mentor, the late David Broder, Dan Balz is sometimes considered the dean of the Washington press corps.

In yesterday’s Washington Post,
Balz affirmed the instant narrative his own newspaper created last week. In the process, he raised a question which can only be answered by the anthropologists who emerge, on the rare occasion, from within his own corrupt guild.

What is that question? We’ll post it below. First, let’s review Balz’s weekly column, which was quite significant this week.

As always, Balz’s column, The Sunday Take, appeared atop page 2 of yesterday’s Post. On-line, it appears beneath a puzzling headline—a puzzling headline which advanced a familiar, though unexplained, premise.

“It may be too difficult for Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself.” That’s the headline atop the Balz piece.

In one way, we find that headline puzzling. In another way, its premise is highly familiar.

As Balz began his column, he praised Hillary Clinton for her wide “command of issues” and her “knowledge of global hot spots.” He then suggested that she is trying to reinvent herself.

In what way has Clinton been doing that? Headline included, here's the way Balz began:
BALZ (6/29/14): It may be too difficult for Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a sparkling résumé but she is also captive to that biography. Experience is her greatest asset but she is constrained by her longevity in the public arena. She knows plenty—but perhaps too much to become an aspirational presidential candidate offering unlimited possibilities. She can evoke realism but can she seize the future?

Through countless interviews over the past few weeks, the prospective White House candidate has demonstrated the value of experience.
Her command of issues, her knowledge of global hot spots, her familiarity with world leaders, her understanding of the presidency, her recognition of the challenges of gridlocked politics—all of these set her apart from virtually everyone else who may run in 2016, with the possible exception of Vice President Biden.

Those public appearances also have reinforced just how difficult it is for someone who has been in the political maelstrom for a quarter of a century to reinvent herself
or to suddenly appear (or be viewed) as fresh and forward-looking. There is simply too much history in the minds of most Americans, except the very young, for the presentation of someone other than the familiar Hillary Clinton. Her book tour is a reminder that no candidate, or president, is as good as his or her advance billing.
As he began, Balz heaped praise on Clinton, a favor Marc Antony once bestowed on Brutus and the rest.

Balz praised Clinton’s “command of issues,” her “knowledge of global hot spots.” He spoke of her “familiarity with world leaders,” her “recognition of the challenges of gridlocked politics.”

But how odd! Balz then said that Clinton’s recent interviews show how hard it is for someone like her “to reinvent herself.”

That statement went directly to headline. We have no idea what it means.

In what way has Clinton been trying to reinvent herself? We have no idea, nor can we find the place in his column where Balz tries to explain.

We do know this—the unlovely claim of “reinvention” is part of a long-standing narrative concerning the Clintons and Gore. The idea that Candidate Gore was in a constant state of “reinvention” was one of the staples of the press corps’ scripting of Campaign 2000.

Al Gore is reinventing himself! This claim was advanced with comic-book zeal, as these narratives always are. This theme reemerges, without explanation, in Balz’s peculiar new column. Starting in the headline, the familiar old talking-point was sent to the rest of the guild.

How is Clinton “reinventing herself?” Dan Balz, a honorable man, never quite explains! But as he continues, Balz affirms the new narrative which has emerged from the Clinton book tour—a waspish brew concerning personal wealth, troubling gaffes and the possibility of being “out of touch.”

Does Clinton have command of the issues? Is she amazingly knowledgeable? For the record, that isn’t our view of Hillary Clinton, whom we don’t adore as a pol. That’s what Balz himself said!

Quickly, though, these words of praise led Balz to the passage shown below. In this passage, he pronounces full-throated affirmation of his newspaper’s instant narrative about the deeply troubling Clinton. At the same time, he fails to explain the odd behavior of his own poisonous guild:
BALZ (continuing directly): Clinton has spent the month promoting her new book, “Hard Choices.” What has drawn the most attention, of course, are her stumbles, particularly those involving the wealth she and her husband, Bill Clinton, have amassed since his presidency ended.

Her comments about being “dead broke” upon leaving the White House and not being among the “truly well off” today have triggered an avalanche of coverage raising questions about whether she has lost touch with the lives of ordinary Americans.

The Clintons no doubt still see themselves much the same as when they first met in law school more than four decades ago. Neither came from great wealth, and his origins were far more humble than hers. Both had brains and ambition and the opportunity to act on them, and they did. They rose to the pinnacle of the public sphere, and in the past decade, they have also gotten rich.

Their public accomplishments were not handed to them. By “dint of hard work,” as she puts it, they have become one of the most powerful and famous couples in the world—a past president and possible future president. The Clintons’ lives today could hardly be more different from the lives of most Americans.
Just like that, there it was! In that passage, you see the dean of D.C. “reporters” affirming the narrative which sprang full-blown from his own paper last week.

Below, you see the essence of Balz’s remarks. This is the lens through which your “press corps” has now agreed to filter reporting and punditry about a presidential campaign which is almost three years away:
Hillary Clinton is very rich. She has also committed two stumbles.

Her life “could hardly more different from the lives of most Americans.” She may be out of touch!
Just for the record, we once met Balz, up in New Hampshire, during the 2000 primary. We were introduced by Mary Matalin, at a press corps watering hole.

Just for the record, Balz’s life “could hardly be more different from the lives of most Americans.” But that’s neither here nor there!

Balz is certainly right on one point. Without any question, the pair of “stumbles” he cites have produced an “avalanche of coverage” in recent weeks. Within his own guild, a string of very wealthy people have been wringing their very wealthy hands, displaying their enormous concern about the meaning of these troubling events.

In the words of CNN’s Sunny Hostin, these inveterate hustlers are concerned that Hillary Clinton may no longer be “Jenny from the block.”

They’ve talked and talked about the “stumbles,” and about Clinton’s wealth. As you know if you own a TV, they’ve talked about nothing else.

Here’s what Balz forgot to explain in his important column. Why did a couple of “stumbles” produce an “avalanche?”

Why are “journalists” discussing those stumbles rather than the many issues Clinton so deftly commands? Why is this guild so obsessed with these stumbles? Why have they obsessively focused on a pair of alleged gaffes?

Columnist Balz blew right past that point. This conduct is required of leaders within this guild.

On the print side, Balz’s own Washington Post has been the leader in creating the avalanche of concern he deftly summarizes. In the past week, the young “reporter” Philip Rucker published two 1800-word, front-page reports about the Clintons’ troubling wealth.

On Saturday, the youngster produced a third, shorter report about the “grotesque” and “obscene” amounts of money Clinton commands.

Yesterday, Balz affirmed all aspects of this narrative in his weekly column. As he did, Ruth Marcus produced a screeching op-ed column in which she eventually went all-italicized caps, defiantly telling Hillary Clinton THAT SHE SIMPLY HAS TO STOP EARNING SO MUCH MONEY.

Who died and made Ruth Marcus the Inka? What makes this stunningly privileged person imagine herself the sun god?

No one—and we do mean no one—is going to ask that question! Within the closed circle of the American “discourse,” such conduct goes unchallenged.

These people have done this sort of thing many times in the past. Most consequentially, they did this for twenty months during Campaign 2000, starting in March 1999, when they unveiled the prevailing narrative for coverage of that campaign.

Rather plainly, their conduct sent George Bush to the White House. Now, they’re at it again.

Let’s not miss an important point. Career liberals have always sat by, saying nothing, as these “journalistic” scams have unfolded.

E. J. Dionne isn’t going to help you with this! The silence of these liberal lambs has always been an essential part of this highly destructive and inane tribal practice.

It would almost take an anthropologist to explain the behavior of this strange tribe! Tomorrow, we’ll start with the late Michael Hastings, the first of three “anthropologists within” whose work we’ll consult this week.

Tomorrow: Walking like an anthropologist, Hastings profiles the guild

The headline in our hard-copy Post: In our hard-copy Sunday Post, Balz’s column ran beneath this headline:

“The non-reinvention of Hillary Clinton”

You’re right! The editor who composed that headline is barely literate. That said, literacy isn’t required within this tribe. Deference to narrative is.

Supplemental: Rucker keeps pouring it on!


Also, the Times bungles Denmark: Young elite “journalist” Philip Rucker just keeps pouring it on!

This morning, he’s been bumped to page A3 of the Washington Post. But he continues to document every penny the Clintons have stolen since 2001.

“Obscene” and “grotesque,” he says today,
describing a payment for a speech which will apparently go to the Clinton Global Initiative. (Rucker fails to record that apparent fact, which was reported on CNN last night.)

Rather, Rucker quotes a pundit who dropped those bombs. He quotes no one asking why the Post has embarked on this startling jihad.

Rucker’s reporting this week has had nothing to do with any current news topic. Rather plainly, Rucker’s owners are creating a “narrative” for the next presidential campaign—for an election which is still 29 months away!

Rucker is simply doing the scutwork in support of his owners’ preferred story line.

Can we talk? If you can’t see that pattern at play in Rucker’s reporting this week, you haven’t been alive on the planet over the past twenty years. Second possibility: You’ve always relied on the “liberal pundits” who are keeping quiet about this performance, just as they’ve done in the past.

Who the heck is Philip Rucker? Sadly, his story is quite familiar in these modern times.

Mother and Father sent him to Yale, filled with pride at his brilliance. He emerged in the class of 2006 with a degree in Doing As Told.

This pattern is followed by the bulk of today’s elite young “journalists.” Everyone else averts their gaze from the work these young climbers produce.

This is a process called “buying the narrative.” All next week, we’ll offer examples.

It’s obvious that the Washington Post is creating a narrative for the next campaign. That said, much of what we think we know comes from our repeated exposure to such Standard Stories.

For one small, sadly comic example, consider what happened in last Sunday’s New York Times, right there in the Sunday Review.

For unknown reasons, the Times decided to publish a giant puddle of piddle by a writer named Judith Newman. The piece was called, “But I Want to Do Your Homework.”

Almost obscenely, Newman started like this:
NEWMAN (6/22/14): My son and I are shouting at each other, and crying. He is holding his essay between his fingertips as if it’s a dead cockroach. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just made a few corrections...”

“How could you do this?” Henry sobs. “You didn’t follow the format! I told you you’re allowed to edit—not write! You can’t write!”


“Listen,” I hiss. “People pay me to do this. I have a master’s in literature from an Ivy League school.” I continue, pathetically. “I write for all the major magazines. I write for The New York Times, for God’s sake.” Oddly enough, this doesn’t mollify him.
Just that quickly, Newman had told us about her elite degree. If she really shouts at her son and cries about who should be doing his homework, she has also told us about her apparent mental illness.

Presumably, she was lying about that, for fuller effect. But as she continued, Newman described the way she keeps insisting on doing her son’s homework for him. Quickly, though, the joke turns out to be on Newman herself:

Even with her Ivy degree, even though she writes for the Times, when she rewrote one essay for her son, he got a 73!

Newman’s piece approaches perfect piddle, as readers noted in comments. We were struck by the familiar impression which was conveyed by this minor passage:
NEWMAN: Let’s ignore, for the moment, the question of whether homework makes kids smarter and more successful. Almost all studies on the subject say it doesn’t, and in countries with some of the highest levels of academic achievement (hello, Denmark and Finland), there is little or no homework. But in many American schools there is anywhere from one to four hours of it a night.
In the highlighted passage, we see the promulgation of a familiar narrative. For the ten millionth time, readers are exposed to the suggestion that students in other countries around the world blow our sorry students away in academic achievement.

Journalistic elites adore this theme; it’s endlessly advanced. Routinely, it’s used to denigrate our public school teachers with their fiendish unions.

This narrative is constantly advanced by Ivy League giants like Newman. If you read the Washington Post or the New York Times, you encounter such claims all the time.

Why did we notice that highlighted passage? Simple! Denmark isn’t a big high achiever on the major international tests. As a general matter, its students don’t outscore American kids, despite our demographic complexities and challenges.

In the most recent administrations of the major tests, Denmark’s students have achieved average scores very similar to those of American kids. As a general matter, its mop-headed students don’t outscore ours, however much homework they are or aren’t doing.

Let’s take a look at the record, something the Times and the Post rarely do when they’re advancing the narrative Newman conveyed in that passage.

When people seek to denigrate American schools, they often turn first to the PISA, an international test of 15-year-old students.

American students score less well on the PISA than they do on the TIMSS or the PIRLS. That said, these are the relevant average scores from the most recent PISA testing:
Average scores, 2012 PISA, Reading
International average: 496.45
Denmark: 496.13
United States: 497.58

Average scores, 2012 PISA, Math
International average: 494.04
Denmark: 500.03
United States: 481.38

Average scores, 2012 PISA, Science
International average: 501.14
Denmark: 498.47
United States: 497.41
Denmark did outscore the United States on the PISA math test. That said, here are the relevant scores from the most recent TIMSS (Denmark took part on the Grade 4 level only):
Average scores, 2011 TIMSS, Grade 4 math
International average: 500
Denmark: 536.96
United States: 540.65

Average scores, 2011 TIMSS, Grade 4 science
International average: 500
Denmark: 527.99
United States: 543.84
Denmark outscored the international average, though not by as much as the top-scoring nations. Our students outscored the international average a little bit more.

The PIRLS tests Grade 4 reading only. These are the most recent scores:
Average scores, 2011 PIRLS, Grade 4 reading
International average: 500
Denmark: 553.99
United States: 556.37
There are no perfect tests. But Denmark isn’t a high scorer on the PISA. Overall, it scores about the same as the U.S. on the big international tests.

Reading Newman’s fatuous drivel, New York Times readers were given a different impression. For about the ten millionth time, they were fed the official approved impression, in which other countries ace these tests while the U.S., a helpless pitiful giant, lags pitifully behind.

First question: If you were Judith Newman’s kid, would you want her doing your homework? Even in the Sunday Times, she doesn’t seem inclined to restrict herself to accurate representations.

A more serious pair of questions take us to the heart of the propagandistic processes which control a great deal of what we read:

Why did Newman throw in that claim about Denmark’s brilliant kids? Why didn’t the New York Times fact-check so basic a claim? (Data from these major tests are very easy to check.)

We can’t answer those questions. But if you read Americans newspapers, you’re constantly given false impressions about domestic and international test scores.

It happens again and again and again. Gloomy narratives prevail—the narratives loved by our corporate elites. Routinely, these narratives are driven along by bogus factual claims—claims which are easily fact-checked.

Why do our newspapers function this? We can’t tell you that. But another narrative is being crafted in the Washington Post this week. And all across our great wide land, our “liberal” pundits keep their traps shut about it.

All over cable this week, careerist pundits were finding ways to purchase this narrative. All next week, we’ll offer examples of the ways these hustlers played along.

Meanwhile, down in Savannah, Mother and Father are proud of their boy. They sent their brilliant child off to Yale.

He majored in Going Along.

Supplemental: The view from Merrywood!

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: Invention of Narrative 101!

FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2014

Interlude—The minion’s return: In today’s editions, Philip Rucker is on the front page of the Washington Post. Again!

Across the nation and around the world, anthropologists are scurrying to acquire hard-copy editions of the paper, in which Rucker and his tribal elders behave in ways these scholars are calling unprecedented.

At issue is a cultural practice of the primitive stone-age people known as the “mainstream press corps.” It’s the practice known as “inventing a narrative,” a variant of the traditional practice known as “creation myth.”

What happens when this group decides to establish a “narrative?” The basic practice can be divided into three parts:
Three basic steps in creating a “narrative”
Step one: Obscenely wealthy tribal elders present the conceptual framework through which a presidential campaign will be discussed. From this point forward, all discussion of the campaign must conform to this “narrative.”

Step two: Lesser figures in the tribe rush to advance the “narrative.” These are the figures Mann called “minions” in the Inka context.

Step three: All such adepts pretend they don’t know where the “narrative” came from.
That final step is important. As we’ll note below, Rucker enacts this feigned cluelessness in each of his front-page reports. Other adepts have been performing this function on cable.

Anthropologists have long known about this three-step tribal practice. This morning, though, they are saying that the highly primitive “press corps people” have never established a “narrative” so far in advance of an actual White House election.

With this basic background established, let’s turn to Rucker’s second front-page report of the week. Each report supports the narrative introduced by the obscenely wealthy Diane Sawyer on June 6:

Hillary Clinton is too damn rich to be running for president!

Within the press corps, all “minions” must ignore the oddness of a person like Sawyer advancing this heartfelt concern. At the Washington Post, Rucker has now authored two lengthy front-page reports in support of this “narrative.”

For the most part, this morning’s report simply repeats the contents of Monday’s report. Each report was quite lengthy:
Rucker’s front-page reports (so far):
Monday, June 23: “Clinton's rarefied life could be a liability in campaign.” 1820 words
Friday, June 27: “How the Clintons went from ‘dead broke’ to rich.” 1833 words
Never before has this primitive group established one of its sacred “narratives” so far in advance of a White House election. Amazingly, the White House election now in question is 29 months away!

Even in Campaign 2000, the press tribe didn’t establish its “narrative” (Al Gore is a liar, just like Bill Clinton!) until March 1999, 20 months in advance of the election. At that time, they invented three “lies” by Gore in support of their theme.

Their work sent George Bush to the White House.

That campaign set the previous mark for earliest creation of “narrative.” In the current case, no one is even running for president! And yet, it is abundantly clear that a “narrative” has already been declared.

The early onset of this “narrative” shatters all previous records. Equally striking is the sheer amount of space the Washington Post is devoting to this effort.

This morning’s report runs 1833 words, but it is accompanied, in hard-copy editions, by a large, utterly useless graphic on page A10. This graphic is designed to show the importance of a matter which has inspired such a large spread.

On-line, Rucker's piece is littered with an endless series of graphics, almost to the point of parody. More commonly, the Post is known for its inability to assemble any information at all.

This morning’s report is every bit as waspish as Monday’s effort. Beyond that, it stresses the same basic themes.

Once again, Rucker stresses the only two topics in which his tribe takes interest—personal wealth and “gaffes.” This is the way his piece begins, hard-copy headline included:
RUCKER (6/27/14): How the Clintons went from ‘dead broke’ to rich

Over seven frenetic days, Bill Clinton addressed corporate executives in Switzerland and Denmark, an investors' group in Sweden and a cluster of business and political leaders in Austria. The former president wrapped up his European trip in the triumphant Spanish Hall at Prague Castle, where he shared his thoughts on energy to a Czech business summit.

His pay: $1.4 million.

That lucrative week in May 2012 offers a glimpse into the way Clinton has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune. Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was "dead broke," as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016.
As always, alleged gaffes are featured. In this case, Hillary Clinton’s alleged gaffe (“dead broke”) is featured in the headline and in the opening paragraphs, where it goes unexplained. It's also featured in the headline atop the internal graphic.

Readers can search Rucker’s text on their own, observing its waspish persistence. Suffice to say the young “minion” leaves no stone unthrown in his search for negative insinuations and associations.

Our analysts were especially struck by the regularity with which the Class of 06 climber inserted statements about various people who wouldn’t comment on various aspects of his largely pointless report. By our staff’s most recent count, Rucker spreads six such references through his report, creating a much desired negative impression.

Readers can search Rucker’s text on their own. In closing, let us illustrate the third step in the process by which this tribe establishes one of its “narratives.”

In this case, Diane Sawyer unveiled the “narrative” back on June 6. Rucker’s elders at the Post chose him to further the “narrative.”

In the course of his work, Rucker has executed the crucial third step in this familiar process. He suggests the narrative is coming from somewhere else, not from his own reports.

Rucker executed this task in Monday’s front-page report. In the following passage, he made it seem that he himself might even be concerned about the “caricature” of Clinton which may lie ahead:
RUCKER (6/23/14): Bill Clinton rose from poor beginnings in rural Arkansas to the presidency. In 1992, it was Clinton's everyman connection that helped him defeat then-president George H.W. Bush, a patrician who was ridiculed for not knowing the price of a gallon of milk and for expressing amazement at supermarket scanners.

Now, Hillary Clinton risks a similar caricature. On tour this month for her new book, "Hard Choices," Clinton mingled with regular people at signings, but only under strict rules: no photographs and no personalized autographs. There are Secret Service agents to keep the crowds in order and aides to hand her books, count how many she signs and ferry her to the next stop. The former first lady recently said she hasn't driven a car since 1996.
Skillfully, Rucker warns of a possible “caricature” without saying where its outline is coming from. In the very same paragraph, he himself advances the caricature, as he does all through this piece.

Today, Rucker negotiates the same task, again with ease and skill:
RUCKER (6/27/14): Since leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton has followed her husband and a roster of recent presidents and secretaries of state in this profitable line of work, addressing dozens of industry groups, banks and other organizations for pay. Records of her earnings are not publicly available, but executives familiar with the engagements said her standard fee is $200,000 and up, and that she has been in higher demand than her husband.

The speaking itineraries could be a political challenge for Hillary Clinton should she run for president, giving opponents an opening to attack the Clintons for being beholden to powerful interests. Some companies that have paid Bill Clinton for speeches have faced scrutiny from federal regulators.
In that passage, Rucker warns that Clinton’s wealth and speaking fees could let her opponents attack her. He fails to note that the attack is already underway in his own waspish work.

We’ve noted this practice many times over the past fifteen years. That said, every “minion” knows that he or she must walk this highly cynical line—must fail to mention the obvious source of the narrative and the attacks in question.

On Wednesday night, Margaret Hoover executed this task on CNN. She spoke with Erin Burnett:
HOOVER (6/25/14): The point is, her favorability has actually gone down five points in the last few weeks. I mean, this has suffered—I think they realize that they hit a roadblock here. And this is something— There's a narrative solidifying that is, is she going to be relatable? She hasn't driven a car in 16 years. She's been driven around because she's been either the first lady or a secretary of state or a senator.


HOOVER: You and I both know what it takes. Narratives solidify early and stumbles like this don't get washed away.
Hoover said a “narrative” was solidifying, a narrative that probably wouldn’t get “washed away.” But she never said where the “narrative” came from, even as she herself rather plainly advanced it.

Sunny Hostin also advanced the new narrative that night, far more egregiously than Hoover. This is required conduct from the money-grubbers who battle for cable cash by reciting the tales of the elders.

Hostin’s fawning “embrace of narrative” was especially skillful this night. We’ll review her words at some future point.

In closing, let’s note Hoover’s “royal lineage,” or panaqua. Margaret Hoover of CNN is Herbert Hoover’s great-granddaughter!

That's right! Even Herbert Hoover’s kin are concerned that Hillary Clinton is out of touch!

Fifteen minutes later, Burnett threw to Anderson Cooper. Cooper had advanced the new narrative two nights earlier. He is Gloria Vanderbilt’s son.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s son thinks Clinton may have too much cash! Kin of Hoover are concerned that Clinton is out of touch!

For obvious reasons, some anthropologists are suggesting that this pattern may reflect elaborate “dark humor” arranged by tribal priests. But no matter how clownish this gong show may get, corporate liberals will let it continue. That’s what they did in Campaign 2000, sending George Bush to the White house.

Anthropologically speaking, fiery “liberal” clowns like Joan Walsh have their paws in the money pile too. You simply don’t challenge the tribal elders when they get their “narrative” going. The minions don't challenge the gods.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what happened when Chris Haves discussed the growing attacks on Clinton with Molly Ball, yet another Yale grad (class of 2001). We’ve never seen anyone echo the elders with so much speed and precision.

At some point, did Yale start teaching a course called “Adherence to Narrative 101?” Around the world, top anthropologists, shaking their heads, have finally started to ask.

Tomorrow: Ball’s recitation

Supplemental: What Lawrence O’Donnell said!


It’s just that time of the cycle: We’re glad to see that Lawrence O’Donnell has recovered from the injuries he suffered in a taxicab accident.

This has been his first week back on the air. Last night, he offered an intriguing framework concerning the pressing question of Hillary Clinton’s wealth:
O’DONNELL (6/25/14): Joining me now is Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter for the Washington Post, and Ezra Klein, editor in chief of Vox.com and an MSNBC policy analyst.

Nia, as far as I can tell, I personally am not aware of any interest in how the Clintons have earned their money outside of the media’s interest in it. And this is that stage of a presidential campaign, which I say is already under way, in which because there really isn’t anything going on, and because the voters aren’t even close to thinking or speaking about it, the media then speaks for the voters and says, “Hey, what about all that money you have?”

HENDERSON: No, I think that’s right...
To watch this full segment, click here.

For the record, Lawrence has always been a rather strong Clinton/Gore-detractor. He loves to talk about Miss Lewinsky; almost surely, he always will. He was still trashing Gore as a liar in the middle of October 2000—inaccurately, no less.

In the passage we’ve posted, Lawrence made two observations about the current excitement concerning Clinton’s wealth:

First, he said he knows of no interest in this matter other than that of the media. He then explained the media’s interest. The media are only raising this question because nothing else is going on at this stage of the campaign.

Henderson quickly agreed with Lawrence, as is required by law. That said:

Technically, no “campaign” of any kind is going on at this point. Clinton’s book concerns her term as secretary of state, the type of subject our “journalists” find unutterably boring. For that reason, they have transferred their attention to the only two topics that interest them—personal income and “gaffes.”

Also, perceived “authenticity!” Things they can pull from their keisters!

“There really isn’t anything going on” at this stage of the “campaign?” In one sense, that’s true, of course. But in another sense, Clinton is making an announcement next week about her project, Too Small To Fail.

That project is going on right now. She isn’t being asked about it because people like Lawrence don’t give a rat’s ass about the lives of black kids.

For our first post on the subject, click this.

How hard is it for us to discern these blatantly obvious points? You’ll never hear them voiced from within the sacred cult we call “the press corps.” But how hard it is to see the truth about the way this obscenely wealthy sacred cult actually works?

The next step is to wonder why your favorite liberal commentators never tell you this. Tomorrow, we’ll show you what happened when Chris Hayes discussed the Clinton book tour with yet another script-reciting Yale graduate.

These people all follow the rules of the cult. How long will it take us to see this? To insist that our heroes say this?

ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: Sun gods affirmed!


Part 4—Rucker serves Sawyer Inka: Anthropologically speaking, it’s hard not to think of the 15th-century Inka when we consider the way our young “journalists” defer to their priests and their rulers.

In his heralded book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles Mann described the ancient folkways of the Inka. These folkways live on, slightly disguised, in the work of young Yale grads like Philip Rucker, who now writes for the Washington Post.

Anthropologically speaking, some things never change! Thupa Inka was the son of the Pachakuti Inka, founder of the empire:
MANN (page 82): Carried on a golden litter—the Inka did not walk in public—Thupa Inka appeared with such majesty, according to the voyager Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, that “people left the roads along which he had to pass and, ascending the hills on either side, worshiped and adored” him by “pulling out their eyebrows and eyelashes.” Minions collected and stored every object he touched, food waste included, to ensure that no lesser person could profane these objects with their touch.
To state the obvious, such patterns of deference are widely observed within the modern-day “press corps.” Exalted leaders like Dowd/Matthews/Sawyer are revered in similar ways, with younger journalists like Rucker cast in the role of the “minions.”

Anthropologically speaking, some things never change! No one could read this next account from Mann’s heralded book without thinking of the many young adepts who flock out of modern-day Yale and proceed to their nation’s capital city, determined to pander to their own guild’s gods, hopefully on cable:
MANN (page 98): Royal lineages, called panaqua, were special...When the Inka [the emperor] died, his panaqua mummified his body. Because the Inka was believed to be an immortal diety, his mummy was treated, logically enough, as if it were still living. Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro's companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out of litters, seated on their thrones and surrounded by pages and women with fly whisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive.
Mann seems to think that folkways like these will strike modern readers as strange. In fact, similar practices are quite common within TV “news divisions.”

This is especially true on election nights, when mummified stars of broadcast news past are presented on special broadcasts to offer current “observations.” Young members of the priestly class sit politely by on such occasions, acting like nothing peculiar has occurred.

In short, the resemblance to Inka cultural norms could hardly be more plain.

Some things never seem to change within our “family of man!” Just consider what happened when Diane Sawyer expressed her concern a few weeks ago about Hillary Clinton’s wealth.

If we had an actual press corps instead of a group of young adepts, someone might have noted the oddness of Sawyer’s familiar performance. According to the scattered reports which sometimes leak out within the press, Sawyer had been banking $12-20 million per year for quite a few years at the time she expressed her concern about Clinton’s unseemly wealth.

If we had an actual press corps, someone might have noted the comical oddness of Sawyer’s ritualized conduct. Someone might even have noted a second part of the ritual slaughter—the failure to ask Clinton about actual projects in which she is engaged.

Alas! Because priests like Sawyer are obscenely wealthy and wholly uncaring, they will never ask targets like Clinton about projects like Too Small To Fail. (This project is designed to help low-income children in the first few years of life.) Indeed, priests like Sawyer are unlikely to know that such projects even exist!

If we might borrow some of Mann’s language, these priests employ large numbers of “retainers and advisers.” These minions work “to ensure that no lesser person could profane” the priests with knowledge of such low affairs.

Sawyer, who is obscenely wealthy, played a very familiar game when she voiced her concern. In a rather selective fashion, the press corps has now punished a string of major White House contenders for owning houses which are too expensive or too big or simply too many in number.

Obscenely wealthy journalist/priests routinely take part in this puzzling ritual. Way back in June 1999, Sawyer took the lead role in a similar game on the night that Candidate Gore formally announced his campaign.

Interviewing Gore on his Tennessee farm, Sawyer asked a series of questions intended to drive a bogus script: Al Gore says he grew up in Tennessee, but he really grew up here in Washington!

Alas! Sawyer quickly unveiled a pop quiz, asking a series of questions designed to test Gore’s knowledge of farming. Below, you see her questions, which were geared to the press corps’ war against Bill Clinton’s successor:
From Diane Sawyer’s pop quiz, June 1999:
“How many plants of tobacco can you have per acre?”
“What is brucellosis?”
“What are cattle prices roughly now?”
“And this is my mother's question: My mother says when a fence separates two farms, how can you tell which farm owns the fence?”
According to Sawyer, her first threequestions came from her cousins, who were “all tobacco farmers and cattle farmers.” None of her questions had anything to do with anything Gore had ever said, but they created a sense of awkwardness and embarrassment right at the start of the high-profile interview.

The pop quiz furthered the prevailing narrative in which Candidate Gore was the world’s biggest liar, just like President Clinton. In fact, Sawyer’s questions had come straight out of her worthless, upper-class ass. Various news orgs ran very hard with this gong-show performance.

Sawyer has been playing this low-IQ role in our national discourse for about a million years now. Last week, the obscenely wealthy Nixon enabler helped us see how worried she is about Clinton’s troubling wealth.

Young adepts like Philip Rucker knew how to react to this work by their tribal leader. This Monday, Rucker posted a long report about Clinton’s troubling wealth on the front page of the Post.

Rucker, a Savannah native, graduated from Yale in 2006. For whatever reason, the school seems to provide our most obsequious young “journalistic” enablers, a point we’ll explore a bit tomorrow.

Rucker’s report appeared above the fold on the front page of Monday’s Post. To our ear, his performance was highly advanced, and it was very sad.

Like Sawyer, Rucker was quite concerned. Hard-copy headline included, this is the way he started:
RUCKER (6/23/14): Clinton’s rarefied life could be a liability in campaign

When Hillary Rodham Clinton said this month that she was once “dead broke,” it was during an interview in which she led ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer through her $5 million Washington home, appointed like an ambassador’s mansion. Mahogany antiques, vibrant paintings and Oriental rugs fill the rooms. French doors open onto an expertly manicured garden and a turquoise swimming pool, where Clinton recently posed for the cover of People magazine.

On her current book tour, the former secretary of state has traveled the country by private jet as she has for many of her speaking engagements since stepping down as secretary of state last year. Her fee is said to be upwards of $200,000 per speech; the exceptions tend to be black-tie charity galas, where she collects awards and catches up with friends such as designer Oscar de la Renta and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Such scenes reveal a potentially serious political problem for Clinton as she considers a 2016 presidential run: She and her husband are established members of the 1 percent, leading lives far removed from the millions of middle-class voters who swing elections.
As propaganda, we’d call that rather advanced—advanced, and pitifully sad.

The Clintons, of course, are well beyond the realm of the “one percent.” That said, Rucker pushed every possible button in the course of advancing Sawyer’s familiar old theme.

Hillary Clinton even has friends like Oscar de la Renta! Her home is now worth $5 million—and it has paintings and rugs!

In his opening sentence, Rucker played the skillful propagandist, comparing Clinton’s statement about her financial status in 2001 to the market value of her Washington home today.

It wasn’t until his eighteenth paragraph that Rucker explained a basic point—the Clintons were actually $10 million in debt at the time to which Clinton referred in the troubling gaffe with which he began his report.

Meanwhile, Rucker littered his piece with scalding denunciations of Clinton, sourced to a trio of unnamed “Obama advisers” along with several others who let him reveal their names. He even played a few old cards which have long been called into question:
RUCKER: Bill Clinton rose from poor beginnings in rural Arkansas to the presidency. In 1992, it was Clinton’s everyman connection that helped him defeat then-president George H.W. Bush, a patrician who was ridiculed for not knowing the price of a gallon of milk and for expressing amazement at supermarket scanners.

Now Hillary Clinton risks a similar caricature. On tour this month for her new book, “Hard Choices,” Clinton mingled with regular people at signings, but only under strict rules: no photographs and no personalized autographs. There are Secret Service agents to keep the crowds in order and aides to hand her books, count how many she signs and ferry her to the next stop. The former first lady recently said she hasn’t driven a car since 1996.
Those familiar old scripts about President Bush have long been called into question, initially at the Washington Post itself. Meanwhile, Rucker was concerned about everything from the size of the vacation home the Clintons rented three summers ago to the excessive number of rules which exist when Clinton signs books.

Last summer, the Clintons even invited Paul McCartney to visit their rented vacation house! So Rucker said, plainly concerned.

By normal standards of news reporting, Rucker’s front-page piece is really strikingly poisonous. Perhaps you can guess where our thoughts wandered when the young adept typed this:
RUCKER: Bill and Hillary Clinton own two houses: A brick Georgian in Washington near the Naval Observatory that they purchased in 2001 for $2.85 million is now assessed at $5.05 million, according to D.C. property records. They also own a white Dutch farmhouse in Chappaqua, N.Y., that they purchased in 1999 for $1.7 million and was last assessed at $1.8 million.
As we read that damning passage, we’ll admit that these thoughts came to mind:

Is Diane Sawyer living in public housing? Is she able to remain in New York thanks to rent control? Here again, we see the familiar norms of our poisonous priests, which their colleagues in the pundit class will always advance or ignore:

Obscenely wealthy “journalists” will suggest that disfavored pols are out of touch based upon their wealth. “Minions” like Rucker will work to advance this time-honored theme.

No one ever mentions the wealth of the journalistic players who, due to their deep concern, have chosen to initiate the troubling story line.

Wealth and gaffes will be discussed. Projects and policy views will not. The gaffes can be real or they can be invented, as Sawyer capably demonstrated in the case of Candidate Gore.

Anthropologically speaking, little has changed since the time of Thupa Inka. Mummified figures like Sawyer are wheeled thro0ugh the streets. Minions like Rucker spring into actions, whisking the flies from their faces.

Mother and father, who sent them to Yale, look on with great family pride.

Tomorrow: Chris Hayes sells Terry Gross

Our thoughts also wandered to this: According to Rucker, the Clintons own two homes. The homes were purchased for $1.7 million and $2.85 million.

Plainly, the Clintons are wealthy. That said, our thoughts also wandered here:

In 2004, Chris Matthews bought his summer home on Nantucket for $4.4 million. That was roughly the cost of both Clinton houses combined.

At the time, Tim Russert’s summer home on Nantucket was worth several million dollars more than that.

Was Russert “out of touch?” Actually, no—he was a man of the people! Everyone knew that because Russert keep saying that he was just a working-class kid from Buffalo.

Young hustlers like Rucker were always on hand to repeat what the Inka said and whisk the flies from his face.

Supplemental: Chris Hayes diagnoses Park Slope Collegiate!


One parent’s important complaint:
What actually makes a good school good? That’s an important question.

On Monday night, Chris Hayes did a segment about Park Slope Collegiate, a Brooklyn public school which is suddenly attracting upper-income white students from the surrounding neighborhood.

Yesterday, we did a post about this segment. We forgot to include this videotaped exchange, in which Hayes discussed the school with a black parent:
HAYES (6/23/14): Casey Robinson, a parent whose son attends Collegiate, has seen the influx of white neighborhood students in the building bring not only more diversity, but also more resources.

Do you feel like, “Oh, OK! The city starts paying attention, like funds start to flow, like stuff starts getting done, when there’s a certain kind of parent who’s got their kid there?”

Do you feel that’s true?

ROBINSON: Yes, but you can’t get around it because it’s true.

HAYES: Right.

ROBINSON: It’s not something that you want to sugarcoat and say, “That’s not true.” It is true.
That was the full exchange on this important topic. On a journalistic basis, we call Hayes’ conduct just this side of heinous.

Here’s why:

This segment was a pre-recorded, videotaped report. Hayes interviewed teachers, students and parents about Park Slope Collegiate.

He also interviewed Jill Bloomberg, principal of Park Slope over the past ten years.

In the brief exchange shown above, a parent makes a very serious charge about the recent operation of this public school. Is the charge accurate?

Hayes prompts the parent, then quickly agrees with what the parent says. He is never shown asking Bloomberg, or anyone else, about this serious charge.

Again, this was a prerecorded report. As a piece of journalism, that exchange is heinous.

On the brighter side, we liberal viewers got to feel good when the parent made this charge. We heard a pleasing, feel-good, simple story:

The problem with low-income urban schools? Such schools are under-resourced!

Was Park Slope Collegiate under-resourced before the white neighborhood kids arrived? Was the school suddenly better equipped when it got its first few upper-income white students?

We have no idea. But there’s a reason for our ignorance:

We learned about this public school from watching the Chris Hayes program. And on a journalistic basis, Hayes wasn’t working real hard.

To watch the full segment, click here.

Supplemental: What makes a good school good?


One commenter’s basic idea: Last month, The Atlantic featured “Segregation Now...,” the 10,000-word cover report about Tuscaloosa’s schools.

This month, The Atlantic topped itself. It featured Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 16,000-word cover report, “The Case for Reparations.”

In our general view, Coates’ piece combines superb modern history with a puzzling sense of what is possible in our politics and our national discourse. We may limn the piece in future weeks.

In the meantime, Coates’ piece has produced a lot of discussion. This includes a comment by one reader which struck us as highly instructive concerning the way many people perceive low-income schools.

When David Frum challenged Coates’ piece, a reader named Wendy offered the comment shown below. She seems to answer a basic, very important question:

What makes a good school good?

In our view, this reader’s comment paints a common picture of what is “wrong” with “low-performing,” low-income schools. We’re posting the bulk of the comment:
COMMENT TO FRUM POST (6/3/14): The damage done by red-lining shows itself in neighborhoods. "Reparations" (or reparative spending) could address that.

Put highly-resourced top-notch public schools in the crappiest, poorest, highest crime neighborhoods. Small class sizes, well-equipped science labs, new textbooks and enough computers and an excellent library, honors and AP classes, arts and athletics and breakfast and lunch and field trips and tutoring and robotics and Shakespeare and music production and the kitchen sink. All the things the most expensive/most selective private schools charge top-dollar for.

Guaranteed admission to any kid who lives within 5 blocks and shows willing. The rest of the slots—half go to a good-odds lottery for kids within 10 blocks, the other half to a less-good odds lottery for the rest of the city...

It's not cheap. But it gives those kids what their parents would have been able to give them if their grandparents hadn't been screwed.
That comment sketches a view which seems to be common, especially on the left. In our view, Nikole Hannah-Jones paints a similar portrait at times in “Segregation Now...”

Wendy seems to think these things about low-income urban schools:

Low-performing urban schools are basically under-resourced. They don’t offer enough AP courses. Their science labs aren’t well-equipped. Class sizes are too large. The textbooks are old.

The libraries in these schools are no good. They don’t have enough computers. They need more field trips and more Shakespeare—and more money for the various things the best private schools have.

To us, this is a portrait of urban schools straight outta 1965. We think this picture may tend to keep liberals from understanding the nature of our educational challenges.

Don’t get us wrong! Presumably, plenty of low-income schools are under-resourced in some of the ways Wendy mentions. But we aren’t inclined to think that Wendy understands the principal challenges faced by these “low-performing” schools.

In the next few days, we’ll look at the way Hannah-Jones seems to reinforce this portrait at times in “Segregation Now...” We’ll tell you why we think this portrait misses the most basic point.

Today, we’ll offer another post, concerning a recent cable presentation which reinforced Wendy’s picture of urban schools. This presentation was made on Monday night’s Chris Hayes program.

Yesterday, we discussed this Monday night show, but we forgot to mention this particular presentation by one public school parent. On a journalistic basis, we thought Hayes did very poor work in enabling this presentation.

What makes a good school good? We think the most basic part of the answer is fairly obvious. That said, the liberal world seems to be full of people who don’t seem to know what it is.

On Monday, Hayes reinforced Wendy's view of low-income urban schools. On a journalistic basis, we don’t think he should have done so.

Please see our next post.

ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: An oleaginous, oily old coot!


Part 3—Diane Sawyer’s concern: Yesterday morning, the New York Times discussed the so-called “word gap.”

Motoko Rich’s news report topped the paper’s National section. It ran beneath this headline: “Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth.”

Good for the New York Times and good for Motoko Rich! In her report, she discussed the advantages which are said to accrue from early immersion in literacy.

And not only that! At the very end of her report, she mentioned Hillary Clinton:
RICH (6/24/14): Dr. Navsaria is the medical director of the Wisconsin chapter of Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit literacy group that enlists about 20,000 pediatricians nationwide to give out books to low-income families. The group is working with Too Small to Fail, a joint effort between the nonprofit Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation that is aimed at closing the word gap.

At the annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Denver on Tuesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce that Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, will donate 500,000 books to Reach Out and Read. Too Small to Fail is also developing materials to distribute to members of the American Academy of Pediatrics to help them emphasize the read-aloud message to parents.
There it was again! Clinton is working on a project designed to give low-income kids a fairer shot at life in a literacy-based society. For our previous post on this topic, just click here.

Does this mean that Hillary Clinton cares about low-income kids? We can’t answer that question, but we can tell you this:

In interviews about Clinton’s new book, she isn’t being asked about this initiative, which is designed to help low-income kids get a fairer shot. Instead, journalists are focusing on her “gaffes” about her own personal wealth.

Allegedly, these gaffes help us see that Clinton is out of touch—that she doesn’t care about, or understand, the lives of the middle-class and/or the poor.

The journalists seem very concerned about this. Anthropologically speaking, it’s one of their tribe’s sacred rituals. They flog the gaffes—and ignore the proposals! In our view, anthropology lessons are involved in this uniform cultural preference.

Is Hillary Clinton “out of touch?” We have no idea.

We know that she has sometimes tended to produce “gaffes” in the past. This dates to twin gaffes from early 1992, those involving 1) Tammy Wynette standin’ by her man and 2) Clinton’s decision, as a younger woman, not to stay home and bake cookies.

Anthropologically speaking, the modern tribe known as “the press” employs such alleged gaffes as a sacred part of their rituals. Within this tribe’s holiest rites, such gaffes can be interpreted in one of two different ways:

If the politician in question is favored, the gaffe will often be interpreted as a sign of authenticity and plain-speaking. If the pol in question is disfavored, the gaffe, which may be real or invented, shows that the pol is “out of touch,” perhaps even “inauthentic.”

Those are a few of the most sacred rules of the press corps’ highly exotic religion. In recent weeks, a comical element has been added to these familiar rites.

We refer to the choice of journalistic high priests who have been chosen to sally forth to see if Clinton is “out of touch” due to her personal wealth.

These priests won’t ask about the word gap. The word gap involves the interests of black kids, kids their tribe plainly abhors.

The priests will ask about Clinton’s wealth. Quite dramatically, they will worry about what this personal wealth reveals about Clinton’s personal values. Anthropologically speaking, the priests will worry even harder when Clinton is perceived to have emitted a gaffe in response to their questions.

Like you, we’ve seen this made-for-TV movie many times in the past. In its current manifestation, the ritual started with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, who was shown asking Clinton these questions as part of an edited program:
SAWYER (6/9/14): Tonight, Hillary Clinton's 66 years old.


SAWYER: Lives on a schedule almost as taxing as a campaign tour. She and her husband, thanks to some big spenders, including Wall Street companies, are no longer the couple struggling for money. Reportedly, they can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches.

It has been reported you've made five million making speeches. The president made more than $100 million.

CLINTON: Well, if you, you have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education, you know, it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard and it's been amazing to me. He's worked very hard, first of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, you had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and then pay you pay off the debts, get us houses, and take care of family members.

SAWYER: But do you think Americans are going to understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?
Frankly, Sawyer was very concerned about all that personal wealth.

She didn’t inquire about the lives of low-income black kids. Speaking on behalf of “Americans,” this famous high priestess was concerned about Hillary Clinton’s swag.

Therein lies a rather comical tale. You might call it a comical story inside an enigma, wrapped around an anthropology lesson.

We think the wealth of politicians can be a point of concern too. But then, we think the same about the wealth of “journalists” like Sawyer, whose salary is variously estimated to be anywhere from $12 million to $20 million per year.

Sawyer pockets $12 million per year? Let’s clarify what that means:

In the exchange we highlight above, a person who “earns” five times the median income each week for reading words from a teleprompter is probing the values of a person who earns that same amount for giving a speech.

Go ahead; enjoy a quick mordant laugh! Meanwhile, what kind of person postures that way? Let’s take a look at the record:

Sawyer grew up in a prominent Republican family in Louisville. In 1963, at the age of 17, she was crowned America’s Junior Miss.

After graduating from Wellesley in 1967, Sawyer returned to Louisville and became a TV weather “babe.” Within three years, she was in Washington, serving as a press assistant to President Nixon.

After Nixon’s resignation from office, Sawyer followed him to California, where she helped him write his memoirs. According to the leading authority on her life, “she also helped prepare Nixon for his famous set of television interviews with journalist David Frost in 1977.”

By 1978, Sawyer was back in Washington. By now, her high-profile national “journalism” career was underway.

Can we talk? There’s absolutely nothing of value that you learned from Diane Sawyer. This useless person’s most famous “journalistic” moment occurred in 1990, when she famously asked Marla Maples if sex with Donald Trump was the best sex she’d ever had.

Thanks to Sawyer, we got an important answer from Maples: Yes, it actually was the best sex! The best sex she’d ever had!

Sawyer is in her current position because she’s conventionally good-looking and because she married Mike Nichols, a major cultural figure. In her recent interview with Clinton, she pretended to be concerned about the amount of money Clinton makes for giving a speech—even though she herself is paid the same amount (or more) every week!

Anthropologically speaking, this kind of conduct would be seen as comical from a person in almost any other sector. But by the cultural rules of the press corps, such odd behavior from their own priests can never be discussed.

Question: Have you seen a single person mention the oddness of this exchange, in which an obscenely wealthy TV star worries about the amount of money someone receives for giving a speech? Of course not! By the cultural rules of this very odd tribe, such odd behavior can't even be noticed, let alone discussed!

Meanwhile, over at Slate, the former crown prince of Merrywood was also troubled by all that Clinton loot. Yesterday, his concern reappeared, this time directed at Joe Biden’s worrying wealth.

Anthropologically speaking, the Trobrian Islanders once seemed strange to those who recorded their folkways. In truth, those Islanders of the 1790s had nothing on our own primitive group.

We think you know their folkways! By the cultural rules of our modern press, every adept is going to ask about Clinton’s personal wealth. The adepts will also worry about the meaning of her gaffes.

None of these adepts would be caught dead asking Clinton about the word gap or discussing her work in this area. Anthropologically speaking, such things simply aren’t done.

Anthropologically speaking, members of this primitive tribe care about others just like them. They care about others with even more wealth.

They don’t care about low-income kids. Above all else, they mustn’t ever give a different impression.

Meanwhile, all younger “journalists” know they must advance the values, and even the language, of the tribe’s reigning elders. In the case of Clinton's worrying gaffes, adherence to the tribal script has even been pushed by Chris Hayes!

Anthropologically speaking, Diane Sawyer is an oleaginous, oily old coot. Tomorrow, we’ll see the way the younger priests have scurried to further her values, which seem “inauthentic” to us.

Tomorrow: The development of the younger priests! Just eight short years outta Yale

Supplemental: Addressing the gaps with Chris Hayes!

TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014

His segments seemed shaky to us: Last evening, Chris Hayes devoted two segments to issues of racial balance in schools and our large achievement gaps.

In his second segment, he even interviewed Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The Atlantic’s 10,000-word report, Segregation Now...” He also interviewed Sheryll Cashin, a professor at Georgetown Law School who focuses on certain types of school issues.

We’d say both segments were very shaky. Here are some reasons why:

In his first segment, Hayes discussed a school in Park Slope, Brooklyn—Park Slope Collegiate—whose student enrollment is suddenly becoming more racially balanced. According to Hayes’ taped report, white parents from the school’s high-income neighborhood are suddenly sending their kids to this, their neighborhood school.

This was a feel-good segment. It was also quite poorly written. Hayes never even explained what grade levels Park Slope Collegiate serves. The amount of white student inflow was also poorly defined.

Why did white parents from the neighborhood decide to start sending their kids to Park Slope Collegiate? That basic part of the story was very poorly explained too.

Everybody got to feel good as they watched this feel-good segment. But the explanations and the reporting were extremely weak.

In the next segment, Hayes interviewed Hannah-Jones and Cashin. Here again, everybody got to feel good, but the information flow struck us as very shaky.

We were puzzled by Hayes’ account of the Brown decision. We were puzzled by Hannah-Jones’ response to Hayes, because it seemed to contradict the (accurate) account of Brown she gives in The Atlantic.

So the exchanges tended to go. Hannah-Jones seemed to contradict her own reporting from The Atlantic at several points in the discussion. On the bright side, viewers got to enjoy a sense of group agreement each time this occurred.

Below, you see the most important exchange of the night. This strikes us as very careless:
HAYES (6/23/14): Is there—what is the evidence about the benefits of desegregation, Sheryll?...Do we know from the research, are there tangible benefits that accrue to the kids who are attending desegregated schools, as opposed to desegregated ones?

CASHIN: Absolutely. There’s forty years of research that shows that low-income and disadvantaged kids do much better in integrated middle-class schools. Poor kids in high-poverty schools on average are two years behind poor kids in middle-class schools.

HAYES: Wow. Wow.

CASHIN: And meanwhile, more advantaged kids, middle-class kids, are not harmed by being exposed to poor kids, nor are they harmed—in fact, they benefit. There’s research that shows they benefit from being exposed to kids of all colors. So, diversity, well-resourced integrated schools work for all kids.
Personally, we favor well-resourced, integrated schools too, to the extent that they can be created. But we also favor accurate statements about important issues, like the needs and interests of black kids.

That highlighted statement by Cashin brought a pair of “Wows” from Hayes. He was soon emoting about “the solution that actually the literature tells us works quite well.”

Cable viewers got to feel good as these exchanges occurred. For ourselves, we got the feeling that Hayes may not actually know what “the research tells us” at all.

Let’s consider the statement by Cashin which brought forth his two “Wows.” Here it is again:

“There’s forty years of research that shows that low-income and disadvantaged kids do much better in integrated, middle-class schools. Poor kids in high-poverty schools on average are two years behind poor kids in middle-class schools.”

Do “poor kids” really perform two years better in integrated, middle-class schools? It doesn’t look that way to us. Here’s where the claim probably comes from:

In her new book, Place, Not Race, Cashin sources a similar claim to the 2007 NAEP math report. See endnote 57, page 137.

We can find no claim of that type in the 64-page report Cashin cites. But the following data can be extracted from the NAEP Data Explorer for last year’s Grade 8 math test.

Hang onto your hats! Below, you see the average scores for black students receiving free lunch, depending on the percentage of students in their schools who were eligible for the federal lunch program.

We'll explain that again, down below. These are the basic data:
Average scores, black students receiving free lunch
Grade 8 math, 2013 NAEP

75-99 percent eligible: 255.56
51-74 percent eligible: 257.71
35-50 percent eligible: 264.09
26-34 percent eligible: 264.36
11-25 percent eligible: 266.45
6-10 percent eligible: 265.66
Again, here’s what those data mean. Black eighth graders receiving free lunch averaged 255.56 if they attended schools in which 75-99 percent of the students were eligible for the federal lunch program. Their counterparts scored roughly nine points higher if they attended schools which were more middle-class.

(There are very few schools where fewer than ten percent of the students are eligible for the lunch program. Nationally, half of all students qualify.)

We’re assuming that Cashin’s claim comes from some such data. Hayes should explain on a future show. This would replace his reaction from last night’s show, which we’ll quote again:

“Wow. Wow.”

Last year, black free-lunchers scored nine points better in those middle-class schools. By standard rules of thumb, that isn’t a two-year difference. It also doesn’t mean that the typical student pulled from a lower-income school would necessarily do nine points better in a more middle-class school, even over time.

Here’s the reason:

All black kids receiving free lunch aren’t alike! The free lunch population in the middle-class schools may be less impoverished than the free lunch population in the low-income schools. These populations may be different in other ways too.

(Students are eligible for free lunch if their family income is roughly 130 percent of poverty level. Presumably, there’s a fair range of family income even within the free lunch population.)

Where did Cashin get the claim about the two-year difference? We don’t know. We also don’t know why her 2014 book is citing a 2007 report in support of a current claim.

In our view, Hayes should find out and explain. Having said that, we’ll take a guess concerning Cashin’s claim:

If you don’t “disaggregate” the data—if you don’t break the data down by race—you may generate numbers which make it look like a larger difference exists between the low-income and the middle-class schools. At least in last year’s Grade 8 math, that would be an illusion.

At any rate, we’re showing you the actual differences from last year’s Grade 8 math tests. We’ll continue to look at the numbers, but Hayes should do more on this show than make viewers feel good about feel-good ideas by reflexively saying “Wow.”

We didn’t think much of what we saw on this program last night. We thought we saw a lot of “feel good.” We didn’t think we saw a lot of careful reporting.

Does Chris Hayes care about black kids? Or does his TV show exist to make liberal viewers feel good?

(To watch the first segment, just click here. For the interview segment, click this.)

ANTHROPOLOGY LESSONS: Joan Walsh disappears!

TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014

Part 2—A very strange pattern of culture: In our view, there were two remarkable aspects to Maureen Dowd’s recent column.

One is the fact that the column was written at all.

Hillary Clinton had been on TV; the predictable screeching had started. Still, it’s remarkable that Dowd’s column could have started in the manner shown below.

Dowd was discussing the nation’s previous secretary of state. On the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review, her analysis started like this:
DOWD (6/15/14): No one wrote about blondes like Raymond Chandler.

''There is the small cute blonde who cheeps and twitters and the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue glare,'' he wrote in ''The Long Goodbye.'' ''There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very, very tired when you take her home.''

There's the pale, anemic, languid blonde with the soft voice. ''You can't lay a finger on her,'' Chandler notes, ''because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading 'The Waste Land' or Dante in the original.'' And when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith, he writes dryly, ''she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them.''

None of his descriptions, however, conjures the two regal blondes transfixing America at the moment: Hillary and Elsa.

Inanely, “Elsa” is the main character from Frozen, last year’s animated Disney film.

We’ll grant you—this latest Disney offering was extremely good. According to Wikipedia, “a sing-along issue was released in 2,057 theaters in the United States. This version featured on-screen lyrics, and viewers were invited to follow the bouncing snowflake and sing along with the songs from the film.”

That would have appealed to Dowd. Beyond that, “Frozen received widespread critical acclaim,” Wikipedia reports, “with several critics comparing the film favorably to the films of the Disney Renaissance, particularly The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.”

For these reasons, it was only natural that Dowd would mention the latest Disney film as she shared her thoughts about the former secretary of state. As it turns out, Hillary Clinton reminds Dowd of Elsa, the cartoon princess with whom she may have sung along.

That linkage was only natural, if perhaps a bit embarrassing. What was truly remarkable was the way Dowd shared that tabloid taxonomy of blondes right at the start of her column.

What kind of blonde is Hillary Clinton? The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times pundit was thinking extremely hard.

Is the former senator from the state of New York the kind of “small cute blonde who cheeps and twitters?” Is she “the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue glare,” or perhaps the kind of blonde “who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm?”

It’s astounding to think that a major New York Times columnist would start a column this way—a column about a former secretary of state. Even more amazing was the widespread silence which greeted this rank performance.

It isn’t like Dowd has never been challenged for this type of thing. As we noted yesterday, public editor Clark Hoyt showed his colleagues how to do it in June 2008.

In a punishing column which was nonetheless too kind, Hoyt scalded Dowd for “assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column” all through the 2008 Democratic campaign. Referring to a New York Times news report about the reporting and punditry surrounding Candidate Clinton’s campaign, he said this about Dowd’s performance:

“Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism.”

Hoyt even dropped the S-bomb as he described Dowd’s work this day. This should have helped his slower colleagues understand the theory of what had been wrong with Dowd’s unrelenting performance.

Needless to say, there was nothing new about Dowd’s performance with respect to Candidate Clinton in 2008. For more than a decade, she had assailed a long string of major Democrats in similar “gender-heavy” ways:

Relentlessly, Candidate Edwards had been assailed as “The Breck Girl” in that same 2008 campaign. In two columns, Candidate Obama had been “the diffident debutante.”

All the way back in Campaign 2000, Candidate Gore was said to “so feminized, he’s practically lactating.” Two days before the November 2000 election, Dowd opened her column with an image of Gore before a mirror, singing “I Feel Pretty” as she contemplated his bald spot.

That remarkable column had also appeared in the Sunday New York Times.

Needless to say, Dowd had savaged spouses and daughters of major Dems in similar ways. In January 2004, her columns about Howard Dean’s wife had been especially startling. This was a taste of the derision Dowd heaped on Judith Steinberg Dean, a practicing physician who failed to please the pundit:
DOWD (1/15/04): The first hard evidence most people had that Howard Dean was actually married came with a startling picture of his wife on the front page of Tuesday's Times, accompanying a Jodi Wilgoren profile.

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side—the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.
That “startling picture” hadn’t pleased Dowd. She also complained about “the green shag carpeting” she somehow pictured in the Deans’ Vermont home.

“Even by the transcendentally wacky standard for political unions set by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Deans have an unusual relationship,” Dowd explained this day, complaining that Steinberg was treating her patients in Vermont instead of campaigning in Iowa.

“Physician, heal thy spouse,” Dowd said as she closed her column. Ten days later, Dowd critiqued Dr. Steinberg’s “unfamiliar lipstick and blush” and said she “seemed as fragile as Laura in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’”

“It's impossible to know how her style of being a style agnostic would wear during a campaign,” the prize-winning columnist thoughtfully judged.

Dowd had been morally and intellectually ill for years by the time Hoyt’s column finally appeared. Her illness routinely took the form of the “gender-heavy” assaults which Hoyt had finally called sexist.

To Dowd, Hillary Clinton is just a tabloid blonde. That’s where DowdWorld starts and ends. In the end, that’s all there is for this lost soul.

That’s why the silence which greeted Dowd’s recent column was much more remarkable than the sad column itself.

We live at a time when corporate pseudo-liberal news orgs are forming on the pseudo-left. At Salon and on MSNBC, the wailing and screeching about racism and misogyny are pretty much endless.

The values are good; the intelligence level of the critiques will often be rather anemic. That said, these emerging news orgs love to complain about this type of offence.

This time, the silence was loud.

Go ahead—Google “Dowd, Clinton and Frozen.” Clark Hoyt is now head of the Gridiron Club. No one has followed his lead.

Dowd’s very strange piece about tabloid blondes was met with silence all through the press. This includes the emerging pseudo-left press, which is normally vigilant about offenses like this.

According to Nexis, Dowd’s critique of Clinton as a tabloid blonde wasn’t mentioned on MSNBC. At Salon, Katie McDonough took a pass at Dowd’s column, though we’d say it was rather inept.

Joan Walsh, Salon’s loudest reinvented voice, had nothing to say about Dowd at all. To us, this suggested the need for anthropology lessons.

Out back, the banging and hammering can be heard as workers construct an “Anthropologists’ lodge” on our sprawling campus. When the construction is done, we’re going to hire teams of scholars, adding them to our staff.

We’ll ask them to examine the ways of the mainstream press. This will include the ways of our very loud pseudo-liberal press, which gives columns like this latest piece by Dowd a very peculiar pass.

What cultural folkways explain the very loud silence of Walsh last week? Walsh, who is extremely loud and always irate, will also always defer to garbage-can work of this type from Dowd, who is visibly ill.

What explains these peculiar “patterns of culture?” Ruth Benedict is no longer here to help us examine such riddles, but we’re going to hire the best anthropologists we possibly can.

Tomorrow, as construction continues, we’ll turn to another strange recent event. This strange event involved Diane Sawyer, and another large dollop of silence.

Tomorrow: Diane Sawyer, upset by the money

Before Elsa, there was Marilyn: During the years of her visible illness, Dowd has classified Clinton as a tabloid blonde before.

This month, Dowd wrote a column about two blondes—Hillary Clinton and a cartoon princess. In August 1999, she selected Marilyn Monroe as her comparison blonde.

In a column called “Blonde on Blonde,” Dowd created tortured comparisons between Clinton and Monroe. Needless to say, “Both paired off in rocky romances with sex-addled young Presidents.”

Dowd has been disturbed for years, in highly visible fashion. Routinely, her illness takes the form of the gender-trashing Hoyt finally described as sexist.

The rest of the press corps averts its gaze from this relentless behavior. In our view, it’s a very strange “pattern of culture.”