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.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:
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.
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 goAre we just being childish? As we keep discovering that no one will be true?
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
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?While absolutely hearing the criticism, Maddow thinks it can be explained (away). Here's the problem with what she said:
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.
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.