Part 5—Today on Morning Joe: Regarding the press corps’ many pretenders, let’s give credit where due.
At this point, on Morning Joe, they don’t even bother pretending! This morning, the embarrassing program’s first ten minutes provided a case in point.
Perhaps for strategic reasons, the videotape the program has posted starts in midstream, in mid-sentence. Mika is discussing an “it” for which no antecedent exists.
Still and all, you can get a sense of the oddness from the first chunk of the truncated tape. As usual, Mika has (1) made up her mind and (2) doesn’t understand.
This is how the tape begins. To watch the whole tape, click here:
MIKA (8/21/15): [tape joins conversation in progress] …Hillary Clinton’s staff says it was permissible under department policy. Is that true? Why do they keep saying that?“I have no idea what you mean by that?”
JOE: No, that is not true.
MIKA: Why do they keep saying something that is not true?
JOE: A 2009 regulation required that you had to keep your emails contained and preserved, especially for FOIA, purposes of FOIA, at the agency.
MIKA OK, so—
GENE: I believe she says that it was permissible essentially at the moment she set up the server. However, those 2009 regulations did come out. It’s clearly what the White House—
MIKA: What do you mean by that? I have no idea what you mean by that.
You could call that the height of the press corps’ pretending. Or you could regard it as the ultimate lack of pretense.
Mika Brzezinski had no idea what Gene meant by that! And yet, she and the rest of the Morning Joe gang have sat around, day after day, scattering L-bombs across the land concerning this latest scandal.
Clarification has rarely been present as these chimps have conducted their flinging of poo. Accusation and judgment were never far off.
Indeed, by the 6:50 mark on this morning’s tape—the 6:50 mark on the truncated tape—a carpet-bombing occurs. L-bombs litter the countryside. These are the principal comments:
JOE: “...these lies that Clinton’s people keep spinning every single day”Those bombs all fell within thirty seconds. Mika didn’t know what Gene was talking about, but she does know a lie when she hears one!
DONNY: “The point is that the Clinton lies are for twenty years and it doesn’t affect them”
MIKA (to Jeremy): “Isn’t the story now, that they continue to lie? To you?”
This morning’s truncated tape runs 8 minutes and 29 seconds. We watched the whole segment in real time, including the opening which has been clipped. As we did, we were struck by the following thought:
These people don’t even pretend to pretend at this point! They don’t even pretend that they are engaged in journalism.
After months of aggressive group judgment, they aren’t embarrassed to go on the air and say they don’t know what Gene’s talking about. As in Planet of the Apes, earlier cultural practices seem to have disappeared.
The big stars of this morning show no longer seem to understand the basic process of gathering facts. Soon, Mika was explaining the facts of the case, in the way that chimps of this type understand that discarded process:
MIKA: OK, so wait! I just—we have here two lines, the beginning and the end of the story. And you guys tell me what’s wrong with this picture?Mika is paid very large sums to serve as a national journalist. At one point, she even wrote a book discussing the way she'd been underpaid.
A federal judge said she did not follow government email policy in using her personal server for State Department business.
And at this hearing for the FII—FOI [sic] suit, the judge said we wouldn’t even be here if the employee had followed government policy.
Then we have her campaign staff saying that her use of a personal email account was consistent with her predecessors and permissible under department policy.
Is it, or is it not, permissible? I just want the answer.
I don’t want like lots of sentences around it. I just want the answer!
Let’s consider the ways she pursues her corporate assignment:
She tells us she has “two lines, the beginning and the end of the story.” But she doesn’t cite the source from which she seems to be quoting. She doesn’t explain, in some general way, what particular “story” she’s talking about.
(She may have been quoting, somewhat loosely, from this New York Times report. That's just a guess, of course.)
As she proceeds, here’s what she does. She sets up an opposition between two statements: a somewhat imprecise claim which she attributes to a federal judge, and a second imprecise claim from the Clinton campaign.
It doesn’t occur to her that the parties may not have been talking about the same thing when these statements were made. Nor does she raise an obvious question:
In what way did Clinton violate policy, according to the federal judge?
These questions don’t occur to Mika. She then defines the attitude she brings to all such matters, and yes, she actually said this:
“Is it, or is it not, permissible? I don’t want lots of sentences around it. I just want the answer!”
She doesn’t want a lot of sentences! She just wants the answer!
Less than two minutes later, we get Mika's answer as the L-bombs drop.
For the record, we are not assuming perfect correctness on Secretary Clinton’s part. That said, we discuss the work of journalists here, not the work of candidates.
Right from its wonderfully truncated start, that videotape from Morning Joe displays the culture and customs of modern post-journalism. There’s barely a hint of journalistic behavior in the whole rambling mess.
In fairness, Jeremy refuses to leap to conclusions, even when taunted and pushed. Gene supplies a few possible facts, but no one wants to examine his claims in the way a normal journalist would, and Gene is rarely inclined to rise to the task of challenging the clan.
Donny betrays his ADD at several points on the tape. As others seem to discuss the alleged facts of the case, he keeps flipping over to his view of the politics. In fairness, this is a form of attention disorder which runs all through the guild.
We are now left with Mika and Joe. Whose behavior is worse?
Is it Mika’s simpering passive aggression, the dingbat role she has always played as part of this peculiar program’s throwback sexual politics?
Or is it the overt aggression of Overcaff Joe, who reveals today that he can’t imagine a federal judge being wrong, overwrought, misparaphrased or in some way misunderstood? Can’t imagine such a thing as long as the paraphrased words of the judge can be used to let him drop his bombs?
We do not assume perfectly correct conduct on the part of Secretary Clinton. We also don’t assume incorrect conduct, or even conduct worth talking about.
That said, we talk about journalists here. And in that tape from Morning Joe, you see a succession of perfect examples of modern post-journalism.
The conduct results in a type of group judgment which has long been aimed at the Clintons (and at Candidate Gore). For a blast from the past—from 1994!—read Gene Lyons’ latest column at The National Memo.
Lyons seems to assume that Candidate Clinton has done nothing “wrong” in this instance. We don’t share that assumption, but we also don’t assume anything else.
Here’s what we do assert:
The Morning Joe gang has almost passed the point of pretending. This morning’s tape, which starts in mid-sentence, is a gong-show in all respects.
Who is worse, Mika or Joe? Or is it their chortling guests?