Josh Marshall says we're off the rails!


Rip Van Winkle awakes:
Yesterday afternoon, Josh Marshall issued the following statement. He may have been wrong on his underlying facts, but he was certainly right on his basic assessment.

Headline included:
MARSHALL (8/10/16): We're Off The Rails, Folks

It's a logical development based on what happened yesterday. But when the Secret Service has to talk to one presidential candidate about hinting at the assassination of the other candidate ... folks, we've gone seriously off the rails as a country.
Marshall linked to this report about a report—to a report by Esme Cribb about a report which said that the Secret Service had spoken to the Trump campaign about its candidate's latest garbled but highly insinuative statement.

Cribb may have been wrong on the basic facts—she graduated from college in June—but Marshall is certainly right in his basic assessment:

"We're seriously off the rails."

The analysts rolled their eyes at Marshall's declaration. ("We wonder when he noticed," one of them yawningly said.) As a matter of fact, we've been "off the rails" in major ways for at least the past twenty years. In the opinion of our own youngsters, Josh has worked hard to avoid calling attention to this long-standing problem.

We've been seriously off the rails for a very long time in several major ways. Donald Trump didn't invent the lunacy known as Trumpism.

Trumpism defined the practices of the mainstream press long before Candidate Trump came along. The career liberal world has accepted, enabled and advanced this disorder for the past twenty-plus years.

People like Marshall looked away when Trumpism rolled through the New York Times. They even tended to look away from the work of purveyors like Limbaugh and Hannity, whose destructive behavior the mainstream press has persistently failed to address.

People of a conservative bent have been assailed by Trumpism for a great many years. Our mainstream press corps persistently looked away as this public disaster occurred. A new report by NBC News gives us one tiny glimpse of where such craziness has taken us.

In our view, NBC is imperfectly stating the actual results of a recent survey. But in a familiar yet bizarre finding, NBC reports this:
CLINTON AND ROUSH (8/10/16): One way that Donald Trump launched onto the political stage five years ago was through his fervent claims that President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen...

Seventy-two percent of registered Republican voters still doubt President Obama's citizenship, according to a recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll conducted in late June and early July of more than 1,700 registered voters. And this skepticism even exists among Republicans high in political knowledge.


A first look reveals significant and surprising differences between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to their beliefs about Obama's birthplace.

While more than eight in 10 Democrats agreed with the claim [that Obama was born in the U.S.], far more Republicans disagreed with the statement (41 percent) than agreed with it (27 percent). An additional 31 percent of Republicans expressed some doubts about whether Obama is a native U.S. citizen (i.e. indicating that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement). Only slightly more than one in four Republican voters agreed that the president was born in the United States.
We have no idea why Clinton and Roush think those differences between Democrats and Republicans are "surprising." Can anyone play this game?

We'll also note that respondents weren't asked if they think Obama is a citizen. They were only asked if they think he was born in the United States.

That said, the results of this survey are little short of astounding. They represent the highly dramatic, confounding tip of a highly destructive iceberg.

Voters of a conservative bent have been fed bullroar for decades. They've been fed endless demonological tales about both Clintons and about Candidate Gore. They've been fed crazy mis- and disinformation about various policy matters.

People like Marshall politely looked away while their powerful mainstream colleagues took part in the wars against both Clintons and Gore. Josh then created a vehicle in which we liberals are fed a highly selective diet of information and "stories."

This week, Josh has discovered that the country is off the rails. The country was badly off the rails from March 1999 through November 2000, when the mainstream press corps conducted its war against Gore. Politely, Josh didn't say so.

The latest results about Obama's birth represent an astounding state of affairs. That said, such survey results have persistently been ignored by our big mainstream news orgs.

Presumably, such orgs don't want to offend the many readers and viewers who share the lunatic factual belief explored in such survey questions. Presumably, our big news orgs take a pass on this matter to feather their corporate nests. (Have you ever seen a big news org interview people about this?)

In the liberal world, we've started creating our own corporate news orgs, orgs which are devoted to misleading Us in the way the Limbaughs and Hannitys have long misled Them. We liberals are already developing disordered beliefs about an array of favorite topics. If you think We could never end up like Them, we'll suggest you shouldn't feel certain.

Josh has played the careful game every step of the way. It's been a long, crazy game, one which has routinely worked through the organs of the mainstream press corps.

People like Josh have never told you. It's never been good for careers.

Josh has built a money machine at his current home. This week, he discovered that our country is off the rails.

The reporter he hired right out of college may have had her basic facts wrong. But her salary is likely quite low, and we'll guess that her report was "close enough for on-line 'liberal' work."

NBC's report is familiar yet astounding. After a quarter century of mainstream-approved Trumpism, we the people are more than just "off the rails."


  1. Though imperfect in it's details, Bill Maher's last rant got it right:
    it's time to put aside petty squabbles about who is theoretically
    doing damage for next three months, along with the pet issues.

    The idiots who stand to damage the Country are the people
    still arguing for Trump, They are the ones fighting for the
    "good show" and close race Bob always argues is a form
    of miserable reportage.

    "O"Reilly does not get a pass.
    Hannity needs to be viewed as the pubic menace hie is.

    And this idiot needs to be chased off the national stage.
    Should he make it to the election, he must be throttled, and
    those not supporting this outcome should be viewed as the
    mental cases they are.

    Who are you voting for, David in Ca? We must know if it's
    worth listening to you for half a minute again, even in jest.

    After this nightmare is over, it is the duty of the left to
    help viable conservative voices build a respectable party
    in any manner they can.

    Bob's usual "our side does it too" in all it's occasional
    validity, should be treated as very frivolous whining until

  2. It's all right here:, our own little Goebbels gulag.

  3. Alright Bob. All of us liberals agree that Hannity and Limbaugh are terrible at facts, logic, etc. People have even written books about it (e.g., Logic and Mr.Limbaugh). It's a nightly feature of a couple of MSNBC programs. What do you recommend? Bear in mind that the people inclined to swallow the tripe those people serve are not likely to be convinced by cogent argumentation.

    1. How do "all of us liberals" get "the people inclined to swallow the tripe" to be on our side? It's called MSNBC.

  4. Bob Somerby serves his readers his first mention of Trump's now famous "Second amendment people" remark and widespread discourse about it in the mainstream "press corps."

    What do we learn from Bob Somerby?

    Josh Marshall "may have been wrong" on the facts. Never mind which ones or how many.

    His reporter "may have been wrong" on the facts.
    Never mind which ones or how many.

    The factually challenged TPM reporter is young, barely out of college. Hired "right out of college."

    Somerby likes youngsters too. He surrounds himself with them. Smart. Quotable. Imaginative. Imaginary.

  5. "People like Marshall politely looked away while their powerful mainstream colleagues took part in the wars against both Clintons and Gore."

    Bob Somerby

    "Gore faces many challenges over the next two months. But his greatest obstacle may be the simple fact that most political reporters don't like him. I don't mean kinda--I mean, they really don't like him. For better or worse, most Beltway reporters view the vice president with a mix of bemusement and contempt. They may not think much of George W. Bush, and they may not vote for him. But the feelings the Texas governor generates just don't compare to those reserved for the vice president. Consider how Gore's media image has changed over recent years. A decade ago, Gore was viewed as an attractive, if rather precocious, rising star of his party. Today one often finds him portrayed as deceptive, ambitious, craven, opportunist, and unprincipled as well as inept--a caricaturist's catalogue of political ills. Familiarity may breed contempt, of course. But every nook and cranny of Gore's personality has been pulled and pried at until even positive attributes like curiosity and intellect sometimes get warped into bad qualities like haughtiness and condescension.


    But none of these shortcomings fully accounts for the press's sour view of the vice president. At the heart of the edginess in the coverage of Gore is lingering bitterness and consternation over his boss. Gore has gotten himself trapped in the web of the press's vexed feelings about Bill Clinton. For years Beltway journalists watched Clinton slip the noose again and again in countless scandals, both real and imagined. For many, the more he cheated political death, the more frenzied they grew in their efforts to find some scandal or outrage that would finally sink him. The failure of impeachment and the president's still commanding levels of public support were just baffling to most political reporters. And the punditry has become wedded to the notion that somewhere, somehow there must be some reckoning for Clinton's sins. That's the genesis of that obsessive media talk about Bill Clinton's scandal-shattered legacy, and also the root of the deeply held belief that Gore logically must--and should--be paying the price for Clinton's transgressions."

    Josh Marshall, politely looking away in September, 2000.

    1. No names. No specifics. "Beltway reporters."

    2. In our view, Josh understood the situation extremely well. In fairness, none of us really understood how bad this press problem was back then.

    3. Fools for Scandal, by Gene Lyons, 1996.

    4. Great 4:09. Mine at 3:01 was a direct quote from Bob Somerby. June 1. 2007