Part 2—Charles Blow's improbable claim: Are American journalists human?
For reasons which are fairly obvious, the question arises quite often. Just consider a pair of offerings from yesterday's New York Times.
On page one of the National section, Ashley Parker—she's long been suspect—penned a lengthy news report about Donald J. Trump and fast food.
The inanity of the topic would raise almost anyone's suspicions. At one point, though, Parker even reported that Trump has said he likes fast food because fast food is "quick."
Our Extraterrestrial Spotter Unit (ESU) came to us, gravely concerned. "Would a human reporter record such a statement?" the head of our unit inquired.
As Parker droned about fast food, her newspaper's editorial board was discussing Candidate Trump's latest budget proposal. Here too, questions quickly emerged.
Starting last fall, the Times had largely ignored Trump's first budget proposal, the craziest such proposal in modern political history. Now, Trump had released a different proposal, or at least the outlines of same.
This time, the editors sat up and took notice. But they too aroused suspicion, especially when they said this:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (8/9/16): [S]ignificant tax cuts exact very real costs. Mr. Trump’s previous tax plan, released last year, would have reduced federal revenue by $9.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center, meaning that Mr. Trump would have to slash government spending or increase borrowing substantially. George W. Bush pushed big tax cuts through Congress in 2001 and 2003 with the promises of strong growth that never materialized.Were they human, would the editorial board of a great newspaper compose a passage like that? The editors failed to wonder why Trump was proposing a second "tax plan," and that comparison to Bush's "big tax cuts" omitted a relevant number.
"Alleged journalists, use your number words!" one of the analysts cried:
A tale of two "big tax cuts" (over ten years)To the editors, those are simply a pair of "big tax cuts." Are the editors human?
Cost of Trump's tax cuts in 2015: $9.5 trillion
Cost of Bush's tax cuts in 2001: $1.3 trillion
As the ESU has long noted, basic facts and information no longer exist in the press. You can see that point illustrated in this morning's New York Times—for example, in the paper's featured front-page news report, which keeps repeating the claim that Candidate Clinton wants to "abolish the Second Amendment."
Corasaniti and Haberman keep repeating this claim, placing it in the mouths of several different players. They never note the fact that the claim is clownishly wrong.
Are Corasaniti and Haberman human? The ESU has filed.
Frankly, we don't claim to have all the answers concerning these obvious questions of origin. That said, questions arose on Monday morning concerning Charles Blow's repeated claims to terrestrial, even North American, status.
When Blow claims terrestrial status, he typically says he grew up in Louisiana. That said, is the scribe terrestrial at all?
The ESU filed a report based on the parts of Monday's column shown below. This first passage helps us see that our modern "journalism" tends to be narrative all the way down:
BLOW (8/8/16): On Friday, a headline on AL.com in Alabama blared: “Poll shows Clinton leading in Georgia: Is Alabama next?” It’s a question worth pondering in a state where 27 percent of the registered voters are black, according to a January Pew Research Center report. But it should be noted that Alabama is doing its very best to disenfranchise as many of those voters as possible.In that passage, Blow drives a favorite pseudo-liberal narrative: "It's still 1955 in the South!" To please liberal readers while dumbing them down, he quotes a grossly misleading column which appeared last fall.
As John Archibald pointed out on AL.com in the fall: “Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite registered voters.” He pointed out that the state “opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them.” As he put it: “Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.” Furthermore, “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.”
Welcome to the South, folks. And thank you very much, Chief Justice John Roberts, for your opinion in the disastrous Shelby County vs. Holder case. How did you put it: In the South, “Things have changed dramatically.” Yeah, right.
Archibald's column provided a wonderful example of the way you can grossly mislead readers while making accurate statements. It's true, for example, that the state of Alabama “opted to close driver license bureaus in eight" of "the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite registered voters.”
Another factual claim is true. Those closings, which have partially been amended, did include "every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters." (If we recall correctly, there were two such counties.)
What Archibald didn't note is the fact that virtually none of Alabama's roughly 1.3 million black citizens live in these small rural counties. As we laboriously noted last fall, these are the total populations of the eight small counties to which Blow still refers:
Total populations of those eight Alabama countiesThe gigantic majority of black Alabamians don't live in those small rural counties. While we're at it, ask yourself this:
Macon County: 21,452
Hale County: 15,760
Sumter County: 13,763
Wilcox County: 11,670
Lowndes County: 11,299
Bullock County: 10,914
Perry County: 10,591
Greene County: 9,045
In the area where you live, how many jurisdictions of 10,000 people have their own DMVs?
Archibald's column was grossly misleading. We developed a lot of information last fall, but in the modern "journalistic" context, there is virtually no such thing as information flow.
Whatever you think of those office closings, we invite you to ask yourself this about Blow: Ten months later, would a human journalist still treat unsuspecting readers to such grossly misleading facts?
We'll grant you—this is very much the way our modern "journalism" works. Information is destined to die a quick death. For life forms like Blow, it's all about narrative flow.
This is the way our modern "journalism" works. But that's exactly why our ESU keeps coming to us with concerns about the possible extra-terrestrial origins of top players like Blow.
That said, is Blow from Louisiana? Later in Monday's column, his functioning really seemed to slip:
BLOW: Lastly, there’s Louisiana, probably the hardest of the hard sells, where the Trump supporter and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has said he is running for the U.S. Senate. In a recent poll conducted by the University of New Orleans’ Survey Research Center, Duke “gets support from 14 percent of black voters—a figure that eclipses the support Trump gets nationally or in nearby Georgia in a new poll from that state,” as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump put it, giving a hat tip to tweets from The New York Times’s Campbell Robertson.Blow, a data journalist, seemed to be completely puzzled by the data he cited here. He claimed Louisiana origins, but said he can't explain the survey he cites. Perhaps most strikingly, his functioning led him to make a jibe about Southern blacks drinking too much homemade wine.
(Louisiana is my home state, but don’t ask me to explain this. I can’t. Somebody drank all that magnolia wine.)
Is Blow from Louisiana, or from the earth at all? A quick look at the survey in question shows that only 174 blacks were surveyed. According to our arithmetical sub-department, that seems to mean that 24 black Louisianans (14 percent) stated support for Duke.
That isn't a lot of people; the small sample size involves a huge margin of error. And by the way—human beings of all descriptions often draw surprising conclusions, for all sorts of surprising reasons.
People who inhabit the earth understand that fact. Extraterrestrials don't.
Blow's slapdash work, and his jibe about wine, further convinced our ESU that he may not be human. We warned them that modern pseudo-liberal culture places an extremely large premium on never having the slightest idea what Other People are thinking. But we couldn't really tell them that their suspicion was wrong.
We humans are "the rational animal," Aristotle once said. (Perhaps he found the magnolia wine!) Modern journalists, working from narrative, betray a quite different instinct.
Blow routinely works this way. This Monday, we thought his functioning was strikingly challenged. That said, many readers were thrilled and pleased by his thrilling claim, in which it's still 1955 and Those People haven't changed.
Trump wants to make America great again. Blow wants to say that nothing has changed.
It's just two different narratives! No one would say that Trump's of this earth. Why are we slow to brook this thought with players like Parker and Blow?
Tomorrow: Pundit professors gone wild
Friday: Major reviewers all seem to agree. Sartre made Husserl quite clear!