Part 3—The role of the mainstream press: History teaches that Professor Harold Hill was the original "music man."
In fairness, Professor Hill wasn't a "snake-oil salesman" in the literal sense. He wasn't selling elixir remedies or other ersatz health cures which could actually kill you.
He was working a gentler scam when he went to River City in July 1912. He was going to sell trombones to the people of that town—real trombones which the people of the town were actually going to get.
As the leading authority has explained, he was just going to skip out of town without teaching the children how to play their new trombones. This scam broke down when he fell in love with the local librarian—who had learned, in another plot twist, that the so-called Professor Hill wasn't a real professor.
Uh-oh! Marian the librarian had researched Hill's claim to professorial status. Professor Hill had claimed to hold a degree from the Gary Conservatory, Class of 1905. But uh-oh! When she checked this claim, she learned that the Gary school hadn't opened its doors until 1906!
So it went when Meredith Willson told the story of the nation's original "music man." Already, you'll note a similarity to the first national-level Clinton accuser—to Gennifer Flowers, who arrived on the scene with thrilling claims in January 1992.
As it turned out, Gennifer Flowers was a music woman. As it turned out, she had made all sorts of fantastical claims which turned out to be—what's the term?—untrue!
The list of her fantastical tales was actually quite impressive. But just consider one of the claims which Jonathan Alter, writing in Newsweek, immediately shot down.
In January 1992, Flowers told the tale of her torrid 12-year affair with Arkansas' governor, a fellow named Bill Clinton. She told her thrilling tale in the pages of the tabloid Star.
She was paid $150,000 by the Star, with a lot more money yet to come. At the time, her salary as an Arkansas state worker was $17,000 per year.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Flowers' tale was thrilling. But uh-oh! One week after her story appeared, Newsweek’s Alter noted some problems with her thrilling claims. Among Alter's various fact-checks, you must consider this:
“Flowers claims she met Clinton at the Excelsior Hotel in 1979 or 1980. The hotel didn’t open until late 1982.”
Newsweek had been a bit genteel in its description of that alleged "meeting." In the Los Angeles Times, Lauter and Shogan described the problem a bit more directly in a news report which appeared that very same week:
LAUTER AND SHOGAN (1/24/92): Flowers' story includes several questionable points in addition to her previous denials. She alleges, for example, that beginning in 1980, while she was living in Tulsa, Okla., she and Clinton frequently would meet and have sexual relations at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock. The hotel was not built until two years later.Oops! According to Flowers, she had been rutting with her lover in a hotel which hadn't yet been built. Seventy years earlier, the original "music man" said he'd received a degree from a conservatory which hadn't yet opened its doors.
So it goes when the music men—and the music women—spread out across the land.
It's important to understand several points about the way these matters work. These points will involve the role of the mainstream press corps in creating a discourse within which our contemporary music men have thrived.
By the time Flowers arrived on the scene, the music men were already back in force. Hill may have settled down with Marian, but his successors had swarmed on the land.
By the time Flowers arrived on the scene, our political culture was awash in bogus claims about major topics—substantive claims which had come to us straight from the mouths of our music men.
To what claims do we refer? For today, consider one set of substantive claims—the set of claims which led millions of people to think that the Social Security trust fund was a fraud, and that the venerable program "wouldn't be there for them" by the time they retired.
How widespread was this belief—a belief which had been manufactured by waves of bogus claims by waves of music men? In 1994, the Associated Press reported a now-iconic survey of voters aged 18 to 34.
“Young Americans find it easier to believe in UFOs than the likelihood Social Security will be around when they retire,” the AP reported. Among respondents, 46 percent said they believed in UFOs. Only 34 percent said they believed that Social Security would still exist by the time they retired.
In the past, we've endlessly discussed the carefully constructed claims which led so many people to this manufactured misperception. Today, we note an essential fact:
Those slippery claims came from a generation of music men. But those claims gained widespread purchase because the "mainstream press corps" averted its gaze from the relentless scamming in which the bogus, misleading claims were spread across the land.
In this way, the mainstream press corps enabled that scam. Before long, they were performing the same favor for the luscious Flowers.
They decided they loved her thrilling claims; they agreed to forget about her many clownish misstatements. By the year of Bill Clinton's impeachment, they were offering her as an heroic truth-teller—and of course, as a thrilling, ginormous babe (see below).
This brings us to the music men with the names Matthews and Fineman. Also, to the enabler who wrote this post, just this past week, about the source of all the false beliefs which now constitute Trumpism.
In fairness, Kevin Drum told part of the truth; he just wasn't willing to tell the whole truth.
You've been scammed this way for many years. Is Drum, who has the right name for the job, perhaps a "music man" too?
Tomorrow: Drum's post, plus the horrible Maddow
Just how luscious was Flowers: By the year of impeachment, a wide range of mainstream players were treating the music man Flowers as history's most reliable source.
We're speaking here about mainstream and liberal "journalists." We aren't discussing Republicans. We aren't talking about the Koch brothers.
Flowers was now assumed to be wonderfully truthful; she was also wonderfully luscious. Here's a tiny taste of Chris Matthews, AKA Trump-before-Trump, in August 1999:
MATTHEWS (8/2/99): I gotta pay a little tribute here. You're a very beautiful woman, and I— And I have to tell you, he knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that; Hillary Clinton knows that. How can a woman put up with a relationship between her husband and somebody, anybody, but especially somebody like you that's a knockout? I don't quite get this relationship...It's an objective statement, Gennifer. I'm not flirting.Flowers proceeded to tell Chris all about the Clintons' many murders. In fairness, she was a knockout. It was an objective statement! Everybody knew that!
During these years, Matthews was building the world of Trump, with the trusty Fineman by his side. Drum would walk straight into the sea before he'd be willing to tell you.
In these ways, we liberals remain barefoot, silly, disarmed, clueless. On the bright side, careers remain safe. The music men rampage on.