Part 2—The rubble of Rachel Maddow: In the past week, we've been reading the wonderfully foolish new book by Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails.
The book is spectacularly daft. In a thoroughly typical manifestation, it has been admiringly reviewed everywhere nonsense is sold.
That includes the New York Times, where Janet Maslin praised the book for its "bracingly fresh look at once-antiquated ideas and the milieu in which they flourished." Meanwhile, working from script, Edward Mendelson offered this in a capsule review in the Sunday Book Review:
MENDELSON (4/17/16): Sarah Bakewell's book is a joint portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Albert Camus, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger and a half-dozen other European writers and philosophers who embodied the movements in 20th-century thought known as existentialism and phenomenology. The apricot cocktails in her subtitle and her sometimes breezy tone...seem to promise an undemanding, gossipy romp. Instead, she judges and explains the ways in which each writer responded to the moral and political ways in which people think about themselves and their relations with others.Don't be fooled by that title, or even by Bakewell's tone! In a remarkable manifestation, Mendelson claimed, in a full-length on-line review for the Times, that the stories Bakewell tells in her book "include impressively lucid descriptions of what these thinkers thought and what they said in their writings and cafe arguments."
Truly, that's an amazing claim, but it's been repeated everywhere, as is the cultural norm. In the Washington Post, for example, Heller McAlpin claimed that, despite its "seductive title," Bakewell's book "is both breezy and brainy."
"Bakewell lucidly breaks down dense philosophical texts while avoiding the pitfalls of over-simplification," McAlpin strangely but predictably says.
All reviewers stated such judgments about this ridiculous book. But then, the intellectual rubble of our elites can be seen, at the present time, wherever one chooses to look.
This morning, the rubble appeared in its most obvious form on the rubble-strewn Morning Joe, where seven-figure TV stars draw no distinction between "misstatements" and "lies" and clown in the most obvious ways with concepts like "intent."
Such concepts lie beyond the ken of our journalistic elite. This has been true for quite some time, though members of that elite have all agreed not to notice or tattle.
Within our major news orgs, the intellectual rubble has been piling up for decades. You can see it today on the front page of the New York Times, as Elizabeth Harris (and her editor) speak at length about something called "segregation" without stooping to explain what they mean by that term. You can see it inside the paper, as Bilefsky and Anderson speak with enormous care about recent rapes of some very young women in Sweden, including some teen-aged girls.
(People who don't belong to our own pseudo-liberal tribe will see Bileksky, Anderson and their editor deeply sunk in "political correctness." For ourselves, we don't use that term, which we regard as hopelessly politicized. But such people won't be "wrong," despite the names we will call them. When they see us behaving these ways, they decide to enlist for Trump.)
The rubble of our cultural dumbness has been building for decades. In recent years, we liberals have been allowed to enjoy this dimwitted culture on our own "cable news" program, The Rachel Maddow Show.
When we left off yesterday, the self-advertised "smartest person on TV" (arguably!) was sharing her brilliance last Wednesday night. She performed this sharing as part of the stupid, fatuous segment with which she opened her show.
As we were excitedly told, Maddow "exclusively [had] some brand-new polling data in the presidential race, data that nobody else has got." She would be "debuting it here, hot off the presses tonight."
As MGM used to say, "That's Entertainment!" About five minutes into her show, the corporate hustler who fronts this program actually said what's shown below.
In doing so, she let us see that she's a corporate hustler. She also made another fact clear. She thinks us viewers are the dumbest mother-frumpers on earth:
MADDOW (6/29/16): Are you ready for what I believe is the greatest polling question yet of the 2016 race? Are you ready? I'm going to read it to you verbatim.The smartest person thought that was the greatest question yet. Rather, that's what the smartest person said to us—to us, the collection of gullible rubes who keep her millions flowing.
This is exactly how it was asked for, how it was asked for this nationwide poll of registered voters that we have got for the first time here tonight.
Are you ready? Here it is. I am quoting directly:
"If the choices for president were Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, or a giant meteor hitting the earth, which would you choose?"
To watch the whole segment, click here. Warning! Potential IQ loss!
Do you believe that Rachel Maddow thought that was the greatest question yet? Because she sat behind a table, we couldn't see her large orange shoes as she continued along:
MADDOW (continuing directly): The percentage of Americans who would choose Hillary Clinton in that circumstance is 43 percent. The percentage of Americans who would choose Donald Trump is only 38 percent.We'd call that remarkably weak open-mike work, performed by a manifest clown.
But the percentage of Americans who would prefer that a giant meteor would crash into the either instead of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton being president, that proportion is 13 percent of Americans, which probably means the Libertarian Party should run a giant meteor careening toward the earth as their candidate this year, because that giant meteor barreling toward the earth might have a better shot than Gary Johnson at making it into the general election debates.
That's a really good number, 13. Only need 15 to get into the debate.
My favorite part of this question, though, is actually the very last part of this result. (CHUCKLES) A full seven percent of Americans say, given the choice of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or a giant meteor hitting the earth, seven percent of Americans say, they're not sure which they would prefer.
(LAUGHTER, PLUS OFF-CAMERA LAUGHTER BY STAFFER)
Who's not sure about a giant meteor hitting the earth? I mean, do you need to know more about the character of the giant meteor? Do you need to know exactly where it's going to hit?
Do you need to know whether the meteor has been endorsed by the NRA? Is it pro-choice?
Seven percent of Americans say they're just not prepared (CHUCKLES) to make the call between the meteor and either candidate. And you know what? That may be as good an artifact as we will ever get from pollsters about the truly bamboozling effect of this year's remarkable presidential election. At least so far.
At this point, nine minutes into her show, Maddow took a commercial break. She returned to perform a pointless segment about Maine governor Paul LePage, a ridiculous but thoroughly unimportant figure concerning whom Maddow likes to posture and pose and exhibit herself, as she did this night, propping her grinning head atop a large pile of papers as she finished her segment.
Don't be fooled! There was no point to Maddow's recitation of the PPP question about the meteor hitting the earth. Similarly, there was no point to the fact that PPP had asked the stupenagel question.
The little-known PPP has been building its brand with such attention-getting corporate behavior. In turn, Maddow serves entertaining porridge to us the rubes with the exclusive results of these stupenagel questions PPP likes to ask.
The sheer stupidity of Maddow's show has become its most striking characteristic. And as this stupidity spreads across the land, her owners have been running an ad campaign in which we're told that she's the smartest person on TV!
We're dumb enough to swallow this cant. By now, Maddow is sufficiently fallen to cash in on our dumbness, of which she is well aware.
Maddow's program was intermittently stupid all week. After her clowning on Thursday night, she decamped for a July 4 vacation.
Tomorrow, we'll run through some of The Stupid we were handed on the four nights before her departure. On Friday, we'll zero in on something that was perhaps more ugly than stupid.
We refer to the "special report" Maddow promised us last Wednesday night. Before she delivered that "special report," she clowned around with that meteor question, then with her Paul LePage pose.
Manifestly, Rachel Maddow has surrendered to self-adoration. She is the rubble our tribe is now sold as we all head for perdition in a world which thinks Bakewell's book is smart, a world whose intellectual horizons are defined by Mika and Joe.
Tomorrow: Stupid and faux for all four nights
Friday: Smartest person on TV delivers a "special report"