STOPPED MAKING SENSE: Coppins says we do it too!


Part 3—Can't think of many examples:
Did the American public discourse ever make good sense?

We can't exactly tell you. But now, with most of the gatekeepers gone, it's our impression that our discourse makes much less sense than before.

In Sunday's profile of Candidate Trump, McKay Coppins described the way this breakdown has worked for folk on the right. In the passage shown below, he pretended to play it fair.

We'd be inclined to say that Coppins played it fair by the book. We think you know the rules on this. If it has happened on the right, the mainstream journalist is required to say that we liberals do it too.

In Sunday's Washington Post, Coppins bowed to this rule:
COPPINS (11/29/15): The American right has always contained a combative, nativist fringe, where radicals and kooks bend world events to fit their conspiracy theories. There were the John Birch Society newsletters of the 1970s and ’80s; the AM talk-radio shows of the ’90s; the world-government chat rooms and e-mail chain letters around the turn of the millennium; and the vibrant, frenzied blogosphere of amateur muckrakers of the mid-2000s. (Anyone wondering whether the phenomenon is ideologically exclusive need look no further than George W. Bush’s presidency, when the left-wing Web teemed with crazed speculation that the White House had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.)

But in the Obama era, the reach and power of this segment has increased dramatically. The fringe has swelled with new Web sites, radio stations, confabs, causes, pressure groups, celebrities and profit-making businesses noisily pitching themselves to the tea party. An entire right-wing media ecosystem has sprung up, where journalist-warriors flood social media with rumors of sharia law coming to suburbia and hype a fast-approaching “race war” in America targeting whites. The Republican establishment—a loose coalition of party committees, moderate donors and business interests—once hoped to harness this tremendous new energy to recapture the White House.

Instead, the Fringe Establishment is the one doing the harnessing...
Cracker, please! In that highlighted passage, Coppins checks the mandated "fairness" box. But he does so in an utterly silly way.

In our view, Coppins' portrait of events on the right is accurate and fair. It's true! In recent decades, "an entire right-wing media ecosystem has sprung up," in much the way Coppins describes. A sprawling "fringe" has come into existence, and this fringe has often spread crazy ideas.

Increasingly, the crazy ideas which get pimped by this fringe have come to dominate conservative thinking. In the face of this rapidly-growing topsy, "the Republican establishment" is no longer in control.

That portrait seems accurate and fair. But by the rules of mainstream journalism, Coppins was required to make the guild's most sacred claim.

By the rules of the game, he was required to say that Both Sides Do It. But because he doesn't really believe that, he fulfilled his sacred obligation in this silly-bill way:

"Anyone wondering whether the phenomenon is ideologically exclusive need look no further than George W. Bush’s presidency, when the left-wing Web teemed with crazed speculation that the White House had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks."

Is it true? Did the left-wing Web ever teem with that particular speculation? Presumably, it all depends on what the meaning of "left-wing Web" is! We'll assume that some sites somewhere on the Web may have teemed with that speculation. But it's silly to suggest that this was ever a significant belief on "the left."

Coppins fulfilled his obligation within the rules of the guild. When writing in the Washington Post, you're required to say that Both Sides Do It. But he satisfied his obligation with a silly pseudo-comparison. Trutherism has never been a big deal on the political left.

That said, to what extent has the liberal world behaved like Them Over There? The GOP has been overrun by a powerful "Fringe Establishment." To what extent has our own liberal discourse possibly stopped making sense?

We'd say Coppins may be a bit blind to the truth of this matter. Let's review a few more of the accurate claims he makes about Them on the right.

In our view, Coppins does a good job describing the ways Their discourse has stopped making sense. At the start of his piece, he describes an interview with Donald Trump in January 2014.

Coppins describes himself "trying desperately to get Donald Trump to stop telling me about his Barack Obama conspiracy theories...Our interview had started out fine, but now Trump kept veering off on long, excited tangents about forged birth certificates and presidential coverups."

According to Coppins, Trump was "connecting the dots for me like a crazy uncle who has cornered his nephew at Thanksgiving dinner." To state the obvious, there's little reason to doubt that this actually happened. If you owned a TV set in 2011 or 2012, you saw the current GOP front-runner playing this crazy uncle role right in your own living room.

Those crazy ideas and crazy claims now constitute a standard part of thought and belief on the right. As he continued along in his piece, Coppins does a fair and accurate job describing the way these fringe ideas have become so dominant Over There.

As noted above, Coppins describes the way those crazy ideas have been promulgated in recent years by the "new Web sites, radio stations, confabs, causes, pressure groups, celebrities and profit-making businesses" which have been "noisily pitching themselves to the tea party." Perfectly fairly, he attributes the rise of those crazy ideas to "this era of democratized media" with its many "niche media outlets."

He describes the way Trump has worked to gain standing with sites like Breitbart, "a crusading right-wing Web site that wields tremendous influence within a certain hyper-aggrieved class." Later, in a matter involving himself, he describes the way "Trump's fantastical perspective was being accepted as reality in the Fringe Establishment."

All that is perfectly fair. In our view, this is the problem:

We liberals have "new Web sites...and profit-making businesses" too. Liberals and progressives are now playing active roles in that new "democratized media" too.

We liberals have "niche media outlets" which are "wielding tremendous influence within a certain hyper-aggrieved class." Have our own cable shows and Web sites created a class of crazy ideas to match the crazy ideas Coppins describes on the right?

In our view, no, they have not. But in our view, we're catching up fast, and it's always hardest to see such factors at work when they involve your own tribe.

Is it true, what Coppins said? Is it true that Both Sides Do It? Is it true that both sides, to some extent, have stopped making sense?

In our view, actually yes, it is. We find it hard to believe that this state of affairs actually serves progressive interests.

Required to make the standard claim about the way We Do It Too, Coppins could only think of 9/11 truthers. We think our own failures go well beyond that. Tomorrow, a pair of brand-new examples from our own niche sites.

Rather plainly, we liberals are creating our own hyper-aggrieved class. Again and again, we've stopped making sense.

Is this sort of thing helpful?

Tomorrow: Is this sort of thing helpful?


  1. Thanks to people like Fay Wells who wrote the narcissistic article about her neighbor calling the police on her when she was seen trying to break into her apartment, and those who defend her ilk's narcissistic attention-seeking victim complexes, 14 more are murdered.

    A small price to pay for the feelz gained from progressive self-indulgence.

    "A man who has been working in the area said he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.

    “We sat around lunch thinking, ‘What were they doing around the neighborhood?'” he said. “We’d see them leave where they’re raiding the apartment.”

    1. When void of counterarguments, one should take care not to resort to maligning and stigmatizing the mentally ill by careless use of that status as an insult.

    2. It's never about race or religion. There are no cultural practices and ideologies within any particular racial or religious or political group that lead to epidemic anti-social behaviors and violence. There are no cultural practices and beliefs in other groups that deter the same, especially whitey's western cultural and Christian values.

    3. Mohamed al JeffersonDecember 3, 2015 at 10:05 PM

      @2:28 PM - the bloody-shirt waving blogger's favorite target.

      Feel the hate.

    4. @ 12:43 PM - seriously, mate, get help.

  2. In your view, has Bob begun repeating himself a bit more than usual? Is it true? By rules of the game does Bob need to use pimp as a verb at least once?

    1. We'd be inclined to say you know the rules on this. In our view, It's true! By the rules of the game, Is it true? within the rules of the guild, In our view, this is the problem: In our view, no, they have not. But in our view, Is it true? Is it true? Is it true?
      In our view, actually yes, it is. We find it hard to believe Is this sort of thing helpful?

    2. Cracker please.

  3. In 2008, Hillary Clinton saw the effect when a previously split African American Democratic vote shifted dramatically to poll almost exclusively for Obama. Imagine what would happen if that African American voting percentage split instead between Democratic and Republican candidates? It could affect a close race, as Clinton learned in 2008.

    Is it any wonder then that Democrats woo African American voters? Somerby implies that we have sacrificed our understanding of truth but perhaps the reality is more cynical. Aside from racial issues, many African American voters are more conservative than the typical Democratic voter. This has been reflected in Obama's own policies and actions in office. Some African Americans might feel more comfortable as Republicans if it were not for their attitudes and behavior around race. So, it is in Democratic interests to remind them, to emphasize the white craziness about race on the right. Doing that makes us appear our own kind of crazy, but that is a small price to pay for retaining the presidency. If Somerby wants to believe that we on the left believe our own pandering, I think he is giving us on the left the benefit of the doubt.

    1. Pandering isn't only about race. Look at the concerns of major Democratic constituencies and see what is being said to keep them in the corral.

    2. That sounds unconsciously racist.

    3. I doubt it's racist - it's just untrue. Obama has given black America very little to be happy about, aside from having having the First Family be black. There has been little attention to black needs, as issues like mortgage theft, high black unemployment and way too many police-on-black assaults pile up. Are African-Americans begging for attacks on abortion clinics or shrinking government to drown it in a bottle or more wars in the Mideast and more goodies for Wall Street? If so, they're doing it in publications I haven't read. They may be fairly religious, but they're not wearing wedding bands to save themselves for Jesus or mocking people of color (i.e. themselves) as the "sin problem, not skin problem" that vexes us.

    4. Very important - I don't see blacks begging for open carry and gun rights over human rights, and on drug laws, they're certainly not pushing for more 3 strikes idiocy, and even in debates over gay marriage, we didn't see blacks spearheading the opposition - overall they seemed positive and accepting. So no, black America is still largely quite liberal - nice try to sow some panic though.

    5. Black people are very divided over abortion, gay marriage and gay rights, immigration, and hold many of the same family values and religious views as conservatives. Obama has been cautious on those issues because of his desire to maintain their support.

    6. See any major black action against gay marriage? I don't - mostly trying to get their heads around it, much like the rest of the population - even gays themselves took time to warm to gay marriage.
      Re: abortions, blacks get 30% of them, so obviously blacks aren't that divided. There's more noise about male responsibility and single parenting than there is condemnation of abortion. Give it up already.

    7. People don't vote their circumstances. They vote their attitudes.

  4. The notion the "left" believed GWB orchestrated 9-11 comes from a mouth as stupid as the one bloviating that he saw American Muslims by the 1000s celebrating the 9-11 attack.

  5. 9/11 was documented as a conspiracy - 19-20 people involved with backing from the Mideast, and possibly others in different airports.
    That a bit of fire in the top caused a perfect support failure and collapse in both buildings (especially since most of the fuel in #2 burned off outside the building during the collision) is rather astonishing, including Building #7, which somehow collapsed due to burning diesel.

    Unlike Donald Trump's mob of Muslims in New Jersey, these facts are documented with video and other forensics, so we don't have to rely on a raving senior's faulty memory. The miraculous find of a hijacker's passport in the debris where black boxes couldn't be located is certainly more noteworthy than a birth certificate that says Obama was born in Hawaii where he said he was.

    What's more important, the zeal with which Bush rushed into Iraq with no proof and no plans to great cost, loss of life and self-defeating results makes all the "they wouldn't do that" objections about 9/11 disappear - they did, so why wouldn't they another time? (It's hard to see why the liberal province of Manhattan where all those abortions happen would cause upset when real patriots live in Iowa and Montana and Texas).

    Of course just because they could have doesn't mean they did - though it's instructive to realize that the remains of the WTC carted off as quickly as possible prevented a good deal of fact-finding.

    It's also instructive to realize that a group of policemen and city officials stonewalled a video for 18 months, lying through their asses the whole time, to cover up a blatant, unprovoked killing, and even went and erased 1 1/2 hours of tape at a nearby store to shield themselves. Again we realize, "people are huge assholes", just like they were with the excessive breaking the rules for government surveillance, largely covered up until Eric Snowden leaked it - and all defense against a more embedded conspiracy falls short - the people in government are not terribly honorable, they lie, steal and even kill, and unless they're watched carefully, they'll keep expanding their awful behavior.)

    So yeah, compare 9/11 truthers working off actual rubble and strange collapses, vs. birthers fretting over a birth certificate despite a newspaper announcement & him being American by birth via his mother anyway, vs. the conspiracy to lead us into Iraq. 9/11 truthers may be wrong, but they certainly look much closer at the facts than either of the other groups do.

  6. I should have added the strange conspiracies to shUT down the government, and the conspiracy to drag Benghazi out for a decade.

  7. "rushed into Iraq"? Hardly a rush. Bush's Iraq invasion was a year and a half after 9/11.

    1. He was looking for a reason to attack Iraq from his first day in office, according to Richard Clarke. How long do you imagine it takes to mobilize and deploy troops in a major offensive?

    2. David doesn't do Richard Clarke. It can't be factually refuted. After all, he's an irresolute wingbat.

    3. "He" being David in Cal, of course.

    4. Bush got Congress declare war in Iraq 13 months after 9/11. FDR got Congress to declare war on Japan 1 day after Pearl Harbor. The war in Iraq may have been wrong-headed, badly managed, secretly intended all along, done for bad motives. and based on lies. But it was not a rush.

    5. Don't be an idiot. FDR geared up for war during several years before we were attacked by Japan, supporting the British against Germany. If we had to convert plants to war manufacture on day 1 after Pearl Harbor we would never had won that war.

    6. Uh, David. I suppose the fact there was no declaration of war against Iraq is balanced out by the fact that 9/11 is irrelevant to the date of that non-existent declaration since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

    7. @ 2:14 PM,

      You make good logical factual points. Which is why "Drive-by Dave" will ignore you.

  8. The 9-11 Conspiracy movement had little support in the liberal press, as Bob accurately points out. The major acceptation being Pacifica Radio, who embraced the worst of it and pretty much lost all credibility, and destroyed itself in the process.
    The real significance is, for that period, the Republicans were able to deflect and criticism of Bush's hapless Presidency by CLAIMING they were being accused of conspiracy nonsense. This worked quite well for some time, almost until Katrina. In a sense, it remains effective to this day: Rudy sent first responders to ground zero without proper face protection, destroying their health and creating yet another catastrophe for the taxpayers of New York. But hey, he had to go off to the World Series!

    1. Just so we're clear, there WAS a neo-con conspiracy to use 9/11 to invade Iraq.