Part 4—Our own Bizarro World: Was the news report accurate?
Is it true? Did Governor Bentley, current top racist in the red states, actually close 31 driver’s license offices? More to the point, was this statement true?
“Nearly all of the offices were in predominantly black neighborhoods.”
Well actually, no! Unless we grant a generous allowance for the imprecision of several terms, that statement just isn’t accurate. But the statement appeared in a news report in The Hill, a leading Capitol Hill daily.
When we asked The Hill for a source for this claim, we learned the horrible truth. As it turned out, that statement was a lazy paraphrase of other misleading statements. The Hill provided no source to justify its statement—a statement which is grossly misleading and almost surely just wrong.
It’s true that the mustachio-twirling Bentley closed 31 satellite offices in response to a budget cut by the Alabama legislature. (Some of the offices had been open just one day a week.) But those offices were located in 30 counties—and many of those counties are much more heavily white than the state as a whole.
Below, you see the eight largest counties which lost a driver’s license office. (With the exception of Lauderdale County, each county lost its only such office.) As a basic frame of reference, Alabama was 67.0% white in the 2010 census:
The eight largest counties which lost an officeWere “nearly all the offices” located “in predominantly black neighborhoods?”
Lauderdale County: 92,709 (86.4% white)
Lawrence County: 34,339 (77.6% white)
Chambers County: 34,064 (58.8% white)
Franklin County: 31,704 (83.0% white)
Geneva County: 26,790 (86.3% white)
Cherokee County: 26,021 (92.7% white)
Winston County: 24,484 (97.3% white)
Bibb County: 22,597 (75.8% white)
That statement made a pleasing story even better. But The Hill was unable to justify the claim. Almost surely, it's wrong.
This fascinating episode has lasted several weeks. It has created a classic case study of a type of extremely bad journalism, in which false or misleading claims are produced in support of a pleasing story.
That bogus claim in The Hill was just one part of a large body of bogus reporting. In the course of this dissembling, we liberals have been shielded from knowing a wide set of basic facts.
Uh-oh! In comments to a recent Washington Post report, one reader began pushing back against our dissembling! In our view, that reader’s comments help us see why this sort of tribal clowning represents bad liberal politics.
Those comments—the commenter’s name is Ken Black—are part of a wider trend. But first, let’s note one last part of our own tribe’s dissembling. This brings us back to Rachel Maddow, who has dissembled her way through five separate segments about this topic on four different Maddow Show programs.
On October 2, Maddow aired her first report on this topic. As she finished, she made a statement which is basically flat-out false:
“Out of all God’s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state, in the Black Belt, as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote.” (our emphasis)
Check that list of the eight largest counties to see how bogus that statement is. On Maddow’s show, this was the start of the process by which liberal viewers were misled, misinformed and dumbed way down concerning the facts of this case.
Maddow’s second report aired on October 13. Please note the important information she decided to share about Governor Bentley. Then, please note a basic matter she didn’t attempt to explain:
MADDOW (10/13/15): Governor Bentley was already unpopular with members of his own Republican Party at home. In part, that is because Governor Bentley’s wife filed for divorce this year after fifty years of marriage. And the rumors about that sensitive matter have only recently left the headlines in that state. In the uproar over that issue, Governor Bentley faced calls for him to resign, faced calls for investigation into potentially inappropriate use of state troopers on the state plane.After she finished with Bentley’s divorce—the rumors lingered in the headlines!—Maddow reported that Bentley had “tried to defend” the office closings he had ordered “in all those Black Belt counties.”
This has not been a great year for Governor Robert Bentley in Alabama. It has not a great year for him with his own party. But the past two weeks have just been a disaster.
After the news broke about Mr. Bentley’s plan to close all the DMVs in all those Black Belt counties, he first tried to defend it.
He told reporters that closing all of those offices in mostly black counties had nothing to do with voting rights whatsoever. He tried to defend his decision.
But in the end, he could not defend his decision—and today, Alabama press is reporting that those offices where you get that most common form of voter ID, those offices could reopen because now, Governor Bentley has decided to change course...
According to Maddow, Bentley “told reporters that closing all of those offices in mostly black counties had nothing to do with voting rights...But in the end, he could not defend his decision,” she said.
Maddow said that Bentley had tried to defend his decision. She then forget to explain what sorts of things he had said in his own defense!
Why had Bentley and other officials said that the office closings wouldn’t affect voting rights? Maddow has never explained that Alabamians can still get a free photo ID for voting purposes in every Alabama county—a basic service which wasn’t affected by the office closings.
Beyond that, Maddow has never described the wider set of facts involved in the office closings. She has simply continued dissembling in the way shown above:
She keeps talking about office closings in Black Belt counties while failing to mention the office closings in larger, heavily white counties. Let’s put that another way:
She keeps forgetting to mention the basic facts Ken Black would note in his comments!
We’re sorry, fellow tribals! The office closings were not restricted to “this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state”—to “those Black Belt counties.” The office closings occurred in counties all over the state, affecting black and white Alabamians in a proportion which closely matches the population of the state as a whole.
In five full segments on this topic, Maddow has never explained those facts. It almost seems that she has tried to create a different impression!
Beyond that, Maddow keeps noting that Bentley tried to defend the motive behind his decision. But she keeps refusing to tell her viewers what the defense consists in!
In this way, liberal viewers are kept barefoot and deeply clueless. We’re pleased by the story our TV star tells—but we don’t know the basic facts.
We think there’s a special place in “cable news” Hell for corporate multimillionaires like the horrendous Maddow. By some bizarre mental process, such people feel they have the right to pick and choose the facts the rest of us rubes will know.
We’ve seen Sean Hannity play this game with conservative viewers for many years. When she isn’t clowning and wasting our time with pointless snark about Herman Cain, the horrible Maddow now plays this role in the lives of us liberal rubes!
This creates a new type of Bizarro World. All across the conservative world, voters are permitted to hear a fuller set of facts. But over here in our liberal cocoon, hustlers like Maddow now keep us under-informed!
Increasingly, the liberal world pays a political price for this kind of dissembling. That price was there for all to see when Ken Black began pushing back.
Alas! On October 17, the Washington Post’s Vanessa Williams did a blog post about Alabama. Before long, misinformed readers began leaving comments—clueless comments which reflected the line Maddow and others had pimped.
Liberal readers were full of bluster—and they were pitifully clueless. Ken Black had researched the facts!
Increasingly, this represents a very bad type of liberal politics. Tomorrow, we’ll tell you why—and we’ll show you what was said in those pitiful comments.
Tomorrow: Damaged by The Dumb