Dissembling watch: Gabler, Chotiner and Maddow hold court!


The Band said we're just being childish:
For years, Neal Gabler performed extremely well as a media critic on the defunct program, Fox News Watch.

This morning, the new Salon reprinted a piece he wrote for BillMoyers.com. His piece critiqued mainstream press coverage of Candidate Clinton, dating all the way back to the 1990s.

We saw our own frameworks again and again. That said, we were puzzled by this "quotation" from Sally Quinn:
GABLER (4/121/6): The media never much liked the Clintons to begin with. In this election season of anti-elitism, one reason why is instructive for its condescension. As Sally Quinn, Washington Post writer and society doyenne (she was executive editor Ben Bradlee’s wife), put it in a famous, huffy 1998 article, the Clintons had sullied the White House and Washington had “been brought into disrepute by the actions of the president.” What she was really saying was that they were country bumpkins, not part of the ritzy DC establishment that she inhabited, and they needed to be punished for it.
In our view, that 1998 report by Quinn is one of the most valuable pieces of journalism from the whole Clinton-Gore era. In great detail, she recorded a very important fact—by 1998, "Establishment Washington" basically hated the Clintons.

Within a few months, that hatred would be seamlessly transferred to Candidate Gore as the liberal world slept in the woods.

In her very important report, Quinn didn't say that she hated the Clintons. She did something very different. Importantly, she recorded a string of major insiders telling the world that they did.

If anyone ever actually tries to do a history of that era, Quinn's report will be an invaluable reference. But every liberal seems aware of "the Sally Quinn rule." We're required to say how awful it is that she wrote that "huffy" report.

There was Gabler playing the game! We decided to fact-check his quote.

Readers, is it true? Did Sally Quinn say, in a huffy piece, that Washington had “been brought into disrepute by the actions of the president?"

Once again, we scanned Quinn's lengthy, invaluable piece. In the relevant passage, here's what she actually wrote:
QUINN (11/2/98): In addition to the polls and surveys, this disconnect between the Washington Establishment and the rest of the country is evident on TV and radio talk shows and in interviews and conversations with more than 100 Washingtonians for this article. The din about the [Lewinsky] scandal has subsided in the news as politicians and journalists fan out across the country before tomorrow's elections. But in Washington, interest remains high. The reasons are varied, and they intertwine.

1. THIS IS THEIR HOME. This is where they spend their lives, raise their families, participate in community activities, take pride in their surroundings. They feel Washington has been brought into disrepute by the actions of the president.
At the start of that passage, Quinn is explaining a point she stresses several times—average Americans didn't hate the Clintons the way "Establishment Washington" did. And uh-oh:

When she wrote the bolded sentence, she was reporting what "Establishment Washington" felt. Rather plainly, she wasn't stating her personal view.

Note to readers of Salon—you just got played by Gabler!

Does anybody avoid this sort of thing at this point? Moments later, we were reading Isaac Chotiner's interview with Rachel Maddow at Slate. At one point, Chotiner invited Maddow to insult Megyn Kelly. Here's what Chotiner said:
CHOTINER (4/11/16): What do you make of Megyn Kelly being held up as this exemplar of good journalism? It’s a weird turn of events for anyone who regularly watches her race-baiting show.
Chotiner dropped an R-bomb! He included a link to an earlier piece, in which he said this about Kelly:

"Her approach to the Black Lives Matter movement has been to call it 'obviously beyond the bounds of decency,' and to instead present it as a danger to police."

Wow! Did Megyn Kelly really call the Black Movement "obviously beyond the bounds of decency?" Did she "present the movement as a danger to police?"

It didn't quite seem to make sense to us. So we clicked another link, to a post for Vanity Fair.

Doggone it! This is what Kelly had actually said, as quoted by Evgenia Peretz:
PERETZ (1/27/16): One of these topics—the Black Lives Matter movement—came up during the course of our interview for my piece. Kelly's perspective on the issue was pointedly firm. “They're going out there and yelling in the cop's face ‘Pigs in a blanket. Fry 'em like bacon.’ It's obviously beyond the bounds of decency," she said of the protestors.
We remember the incident. Kelly didn't say that Black Lives Matter was "obviously beyond the bounds of decency." She was referring to a particular incident, on one occasion, in which a small group of protesters were publicly calling for the death of police—rather, for the death of the pigs.

Congratulations! You've just been played by Chotiner!

Does anyone just tell the truth any more, without all these silly demonizations? Flawlessly, we recalled the Dylan lyrics, as reworked by The Band:
We pointed you the way to go
And scratched your name in sand
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand
I want you to know that while we watched
You discover that no one would be true
That I myself was among
The ones who thought
It was just a childish thing to do
Are we just being childish? As we keep discovering that no one will be true?

Maddow's first answer: In her response to Chotiner's first question, a certain major cable star kept defending the guild:
CHOTINER (4/11/16): How would you assess the Trump coverage on cable news?

MADDOW: I absolutely hear it when people complain that Trump gets too much time on television, but I do think it can at least be explained, if not excused. It’s part of his campaign style to be unpredictable, to not always say the same thing. Yeah, he does have a stump speech. That’s true of any candidate, but in addition to the stump speech repetition and that sort of discipline, his indiscipline, or at least his willingness to say unexpected things and go unexpectedly shocking places at unpredictable times, means that it’s worth it to have a camera there whenever he’s talking.

I think that the criticism is fair, but I also think that the coverage has been understandable. Other candidates are reasonably frustrated by it, but they should also take it as a challenge to up their own media game so that reporters think it’s worth having a camera there every time they talk too.
While absolutely hearing the criticism, Maddow thinks it can be explained (away). Here's the problem with what she said:

No one has criticized cable nets for "having a camera there whenever Trump is talking." That's an obvious thing to do. Of course they're going to do that.

MSNBC has been criticized for something different—for having a camera there and broadcasting Trump's entire speeches. There is absolutely no reason to do that, so Maddow fudged it good.

Maddow bullshat the problem away; Chotiner let her do it. According to The Band, and they were quite good, it's silly to find this surprising.


  1. I'm not sayin' they brought the White House into disrepute, I'm just sayin' that these other people, who are my peers and who I hang out with, THEY think that.

    Distinction without a difference, Bob.

    1. This is our town," said one who forcefully condemn the president's behavior. "We spend our lives involved in talking about, dealing with, working in government. It has reminded everybody what matters to them. You are embarrassed about what Bill Clinton's behavior says about the White House, the presidency, the government in general."

    2. Inaccurately relating a quote and its context?

      No problem!

      In fact, noticing that it happened is the worse sin, Bob!

    3. I don't agree. Whether one wants to quibble over how Sally Quinn has been quoted or misquoted, I don't think it's worse that TDH brought it to everyone's attention. It's his blog and he can post whatever he wants to post.So I don't thinks it's a "worse sin."

    4. The Press-Bias-against-Hillary narrative is outdated. Hillary has received far better and more extensive coverage than Bernie. One hideous example is how the Corporate Media has embraced and run with the NY Daily News buffoonish hit piece in order to attack the economic/regulatory knowledge of Bernie. They have shoe-horned into the dissembling Clintonites who use NYDN incident to challenge whether Bernie is "qualified," while Hillary continues her innuendo in that vein. Perhaps someone should ask her whether eight years later she has a definitive answer on whether Obama is a muslim. The Clintons lie consistently and she isn't getting called on hers.

    5. Nobody said it was a worse sin and meant it. Nona Nym might have been trying to be cute and sarcastic.

      Nona Nym was also perhaps trying to show he/she knew what Dennis Doubleday was implying in his comment. Thus Nona Nym was doing with Doubleday what Bob Somerby says Neal Gabler was doing with Sally Quinn. Howler readers have been played by Nym.

      Say, is Nym more like Gabler or like Rachel Maddow's strawman argument Bob exposes later in the post? We just doin't know. That said, which is the greater sin?

    6. Steve, your comment about Hillary reminds of another quote in Sally Quinn's piece about Bill.

      "His behavior is so over the edge. What is troubling is the deceit, the failure to own up to it. Before this is over the truth must be told."

    7. Anonymous at 9:15am: what is the import of your quoted language?

    8. It shows that as far back as 1998, when Sally Quinn wrote her article, that people knew Bill Clinton lied, as you put it in your comment, "consistently."

      Of course the quote I used has never been featured in any of the many posts Bob Somerby has devoted to the Sally Quinn article over the 18 years he has been blogging since it was written.

    9. In fact, given the troubling anonymity of Quinn's quotes in the article, we have no real way of knowing that she DIDN'T fictionalize a third party and have them say what she was thinking.

    10. Most of Quinn's quotes are sourced, not anonymous.

      The Clinton hater I quoted @ 9:15 was Al Gore's later choice as his running mate.

      Somerby never mentions him.

  2. Chotiner must think that the essence of the BLM "movement" is that they advocate for mobs of people who wish to shout vague threats at cops in false rhyme. Gee how could anyone be against that? They must all be racists. Darn racist moderate democrats and non-activists alike. Evil racists, every last one of 'em.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Bob is worse than Dick Cheney. Two total liars. Two moral cowards.

  5. One is a sociopathic warmonger who's twisted pathology has led to hundreds of thousands dead and maimed... the other guy said some unflattering things about Rachel Maddow. I'm not buying the comparison.

    1. One is a sociopathic warmonger who's twisted pathology has led to hundreds of thousands dead and maimed... the other guy blames those deaths on lazy dumb liberals and the press.


    2. You think lazy dumb liberals and the press weren't responsible for Al Gore's defeat? I disagree.

    3. Disagree all you want. But I never said that nor remotely implied I thought that.

      I don't believe I mentioned the late Senator from Tennessee or his Summertime Farmer Son at all.

      You are engaging in exactly the kind of behavior our dear Blogger has alleged in and deplored from Rachel the Mentally Ill Clown.

    4. I'm sick of one thing here: Bob. He's worse than Cheney. Cheney is underrated Bob is worse, sitting at home flaccid, bony, typing out inconsistencies, pants down on the toilet with crusted dairy products dripping, a circa 99 ThinkPad warming his aged middle. Same thoughts, same phrases, day after day, week and after week, year after year, No one listens. He's like a demented prairie goat. Corduroy pants, fake lies, moustached gibberings after a failed career no one, no one cares, he may as well sail away in a wooden boat across a quiet lake an enter an unknown hut and there sleep under a murdered moon for a thousand years. it would make more of an impact.

    5. Older ThinkPad models are revered by technology enthusiasts, collectors and power users due to their durable design, relatively high resale value, and abundance of aftermarket replacement parts. ThinkPad laptops have been used in space, and were by 2003, the only laptops certified for use on the International Space Station.

    6. Cheney has shown more respect for lesbian women lately than Bob has.

    7. Too much focus on Dick Cheney has preveted proper appreciation of the role Rumsfeld played in all of this.

    8. Somerby the man is nothing more than pickled sea spider masquerading as a stand in juice toy.

  6. Can any of Bob's readers answer this question?

    When Bob writes: "That said, we were puzzled by this "quotation" from Sally Quinn" why does Bob put quotation marks around the word quotation?

    1. Because he thinks she wasn't quoted properly, as he explains. That makes the quotation not a real quote, hence the quotation marks.

      A real quotation would not have attributed to her something she did not say.

    2. I thought Bob just wrote a major post about misuse of quotation marks and leaving out spoken references to quotes and unquotes.

      Yet here he is engaging in the practice and here you are defending it.

      Sally Quinn did say that which is contained in the quotation marks.

  7. "But every liberal seems aware of "the Sally Quinn rule.""

    Bob Somerby

    We did a search of the complete Howler archives.

    We found innumerable references to liberals being lazy and dumb as a rule and rubes and tribal as a group. We found a plethora of piddle and piffle about rules of thumb.

    We found exactly zero reference to "the Sally Quinn Rule." Bob seems to have kept it a secret all these years.

  8. I think Bob is, alas, all over the place here, and as the drama of "Tears of Rage" owes a special place in my heart, I must try to untangle.

    The wayward child of the song has betrayed the love and disrespected her parents, finally doing something so objectionable She has held herself up to the general derision of the community. The parents have come to her defense, many, many times. They do not deride her, or scorn or condemn her. They note something that is just as devastating or more so: She has acted in a fashion that is beyond their defense, that they cannot endorse as part of the family. They have treated what they have given her as trivial. Hence the sorrow (tears) that culminates in anger (rage). This has been an incident, possibly, beyond repair.

    So it's not really "us", the community, that is called to account. Sally Quinn may have behaved like an ass, and it won't be the last time, but I'm not sure it fits the framework of the song.
    As for Gabler, I'm not sure I get the great significance of the distinction Bob draws, or that he was trying to "play" anyone. Willing to be corrected here. Then again, we have the confusion with the Chotiner statement, as if "we" (the community) are all represented by him, and as if the community never notices when a journalist starts talking nonsense (the childish thing). This seems stuck on the end, in a way we have become accustomed to, to show that whatever outrage is done to Clintons or Gore is matched by the liberal communities' unfair treatment of poor Fox News. Dubious.

  9. Trolls, All The Way DownApril 13, 2016 at 5:46 PM

    Your Howler Gets Results!

    Faux context? Slippery use of attribution? The problems are real, are in your mainstream liberal media.

    But the Bigger Problem?

    Somerby, of course!

    1. The problem used to be the Press Corps and the political media in general. Over time, oddly, the problem became "liberals" and "our tribe.".

    2. Dear Douchebag Troll @ 7:34 PM - please read Anonymous at 1:33 AM.

    3. Douchebag Slinger @ 8:03.

      You talking about the Bobfan so dumb he/she couldn't tell Nona Nym was doing a poor imitation of your fellow Troll Jokester @ 5:46?

    4. Our trolls can't be imitated, but their essence can be distilled and aired. Nym was right, but I would say that.

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