Interlude—At the new Salon: On the brighter side, your incomparable Daily Howler keeps pounding out those results. We refer to Ruth Marcus' column about Candidate Trump in today's Washington Post.
Marcus offers a mocking summary of Trump's standard, fluff-festooned stump speech. Then, in her penultimate paragraph, she offers the highlighted points:
MARCUS (1/6/16): Readers, this [summary] is no caricature—it’s Trump unfiltered, alighting briefly on a topic, complicated or trivial, before flitting to the next. And it’s not as if Trump bolsters his stump speech with policy depth in proposals or interviews. If Obamacare is a disaster, what’s Trump’s replacement? If Common Core is dead, what’s his alternative?Counting that "added interest," Trump's utterly crazy budget proposal would actually add $11.2 trillion to the federal debt over ten years, not the smaller, less relevant amount Marcus cites. Beyond that, Marcus never explains why her colleagues in the press corps have avoided discussing this crazy proposal in the way they have.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that Trump’s tax plan—one subject he barely mentions—would cost $9.5 trillion over the first decade, not including added interest. In 2000, when a surplus was forecast, George W. Bush proposed cuts costing $1.3 trillion. They were extensively debated—in the campaign.
Still, this represents a start—and Marcus even offers George W. Bush's famously large tax cuts as a basic frame of reference! That said, Trump has offered an utterly crazy budget proposal. You'd think big newspapers like the Post would be discussing this matter on their front pages, not in the penultimate paragraph of a largely spot-on opinion column.
Marcus is a center-left columnist for a mainstream newspaper. In the main, we aren't reviewing the work of the Post in our current award-winning series, The Year of the Liberal.
Journalistically speaking, 2015 was The Year of the Liberal—the year when it became all too clear that the emerging liberal/progressive world had adopted the journalistic values and practices of the talk-show right.
We'll be discussing this point for the next few weeks. This morning, we're taking a bit of a break. We're enjoying a brief interlude.
Still, we thought we'd amplify yesterday's post about the dumbing down of the new Salon. As promised, we thought we'd show you how our liberal professors reason at that dumbed-down, once venerable site.
Has the new Salon been dumbed down in some significant way? Consider Professor McClennen's recent piece about Candidate Trump and his supporters.
McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State. Exciting headlines included, here's how her essay began:
MCCLENNEN (1/4/16): Donald Trump has made us all a**holes: How 2016 has coarsened us all into Fox News jerks/As you may know, the new Salon has become famous for its overwrought, inaccurate headlines. In their headlines, Salon's editors routinely misrepresent the contents of the report or essay in question. Routinely, editors include photos of high-interest public figures—high-interest figures who aren't mentioned in the actual report.
Trump is polarizing, yes, but the real problem is that he's making us all obnoxious. Don't let the terrorist win
While U.S. politics has a long history of nasty elections and ugly fights, it is now fair to say that Donald Trump wins the award for the most polarizing and offensive top-ranked candidate in our nation’s history. Put simply, he’s an asshole. And so are his supporters. That story has been covered, so I won’t rehash it here. Instead the question that I want to ask is how his divisive bigotry is affecting the rest of us.
For the most part, that didn't happen with this piece. We don't know what the second headline means when it excitedly says, "Don't let the terrorist win;" Professor McClennen doesn't refer to anyone as a terrorist. But in this case, the overwrought tone of the new Salon's headlines are matched by the puzzling, overwrought essay itself, which starts with this pathetic, sad assessment:
"Put simply, he’s an asshole. And so are his supporters. That story has been covered, so I won’t rehash it here."
It's stunning to think that a university professor offered that sweeping assessment, which only gets dumber when you click the link she provides.
Is Candidate Trump "an asshole?" In our view, this candidate has earned the right to be judged in extremely negative ways. That said, we can't help wondering what Penn State thinks about this professor's categories of assessment.
(We'll take a guess. Someone is thinking that the university should review its tenure procedures.)
Is Candidate Trump "an asshole?" The exciting term doesn't tell us much. That said, the real absurdity of that paragraph lies in the way the professor extends that judgment to millions of people in her very next sentence—and in the casual way she says this sweeping assessment has somehow already "been covered."
She links to a highly nuanced piece which doesn't assert or establish the claim that Trump's supporters are assholes, full stop. It's stunning to think that a person who reasons like this is a full professor at a major university—but Professor McClennen's a perfect fit at the new Salon.
In our emerging liberal/progressive world, how do our professors "reason?" Consider one pitiful passage in this endlessly punishing essay.
Having just denounced millions of people as assholes, the professor is now lamenting the way Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason." She includes a few statistics to help establish her point:
MCCLENNEN: Then 9/11 happened and the George W. Bush administration ushered in the logic of “us vs. them.” It became impossible to question anything happening in his administration without being considered a traitor. If you disagreed with the invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War, the USA Patriot Act, or torturing detainees, you hated your country.The professor offers two statistics in support of her claim that Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason and rejected any political compromise." Citing a study by Pew, she says that "36 percent of Republicans considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation and 43 percent held negative views of the party."
By the time the Tea Party was founded in response to the election of Barack Obama in 2009 we now had a significant and highly vocal segment of the population that wouldn’t listen to reason and that rejected any political compromise. A Pew Research Center study in 2014 found that 36 percent of Republicans considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation and 43 percent held negative views of the party.
Does that 43 percent perhaps sound a bit low? Wouldn't you imagine that a larger percentage of Republicans might "have a negative view" of the Democratic Party?
That may be because the professor misstated the language of the Pew study, in which that 43 percent said they had a "very unfavorable" view of the Democratic Party. But let's put that minor point to the side. Consider instead the statistics from the study by Pew the professor forgot to cite.
How do our liberal professors reason at the new Salon? The professor included that figure—43 percent of Republicans—to help us see that Tea Party members "wouldn’t listen to reason and rejected any political compromise."
She failed to cite the corresponding statistic from Pew, in which 38 percent of Democrats said they had a very unfavorable view of the Republican Party!
In our world, 38 percent is rather close to 43 percent. But in the world of our new professors, the one statistic damns a whole group, while the other statistic will be disappeared. We will then seize on a minor statistic difference to establish a pleasing difference in kind:
We Dems and liberals are the good people. The Others "won't listen to reason."
(For the record, the same problem obtains with the first statistic the professor cites, in which 36 percent of Republicans said they "considered Democrats to be a threat to the nation." The professor fails to note the corresponding figure from Pew, in which 27 percent of Democrats offered that judgment about Republicans.)
Are Trump's supporters assholes, full stop? Had this claim somehow "been covered" in the essay to which the professor links?
Is it true that Tea Party members "wouldn't listen to reason," full stop? Is that sweeping claim somehow supported by the data the professor selectively cites?
McClennen's essay, like most of her work at the new Salon, is a remarkable pitiful mess. It's stunning to think that a full professor at a major university "reasons" the way she does.
That said, the new Salon routinely offers puzzling work by university professors. Routinely, their pieces run beneath headlines which are misleading or inaccurate, tricking us rubes into clicking on essays we otherwise would have skipped.
The new Salon is dishonest and dumb. In this past year, the site's relentlessly horrible work helped establish an unfortunate point:
To a large extent, the liberal/progressive world now plays by The Rush and Sean Rules. We'll be exploring this general state of affairs over the next several weeks.
Tomorrow, Part 3: The Year of Liberal Narrative