WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE: Those People are a lot like Us!


Part 2—Clueless oh so clueless:
This Sunday morning, Sean Hannity was speaking well of us, the American people.

Hannity spoke with Ted Koppel on the CBS show, Sunday Morning. In this, their key exchange, Hannity said that we the people are "somewhat intelligent."

Koppel may not have been sure:
HANNITY (3/26/17): We have to give some credit to the American people, that they're somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show.

KOPPEL: Yeahhh.

HANNITY: You're not—you're cynical. Look at you!

KOPPEL: I am cynical, because I, you know—

HANNITY: You think we're bad for America? You think I'm bad for America?


HANNITY: You do?

KOPPEL: In the long haul, I think you and all these opinion shows—

HANNITY: Really? That's sad, Ted. That's sad.

KOPPEL: No, you know why? Because you're very good at what you do, and because you have, you have attracted...You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.
Uh-oh! In that exchange, Koppel almost took a bit of a shot at Those People, the 63 million Trump voters! To watch that exchange, click here.

In a fairly sweeping statement, Koppel seemed to say that Hannity has attracted viewers who "are determined that ideology is more important than facts." We'd be slow to offer that assessment.

On the other hand, Koppel may have been sliming Us, the folk Over Here, as well! In that one highlighted statement, he said that Hannity is bad for America—Hannity "and all these opinion shows."

Apparently, those other opinion shows are bad for America too!

Was that a shot at liberal cable shows, and at Us, the people who watch them? We can't speak for Koppel, who we thought was a bit dismissive of Hannity's many viewers. That said:

In our view, we liberals are developing cognitive habits which begin to resemble the habits we've always mocked in Those People. In Sunday's New York Times, Masha Gessen wrote an op-ed piece which specifically warned about this developing liberal culture.

"Fraudulent news stories, which used to be largely a right-wing phenomenon, are becoming increasingly popular among those who oppose the president," Gessen, a native Russkie, opined. Gessen, a recent Maddow Show guest, then cited a type of "fraudulent story" which made us think of exciting work we've seen in recent weeks on that tribally pleasing program.

Are viewers of Sean Hannity's program "determined that ideology is more important than facts?" In our view, that judgment seems a bit harsh, but we're happy to say this:

We the people have never been major intellectual giants. In our view, even our major intellectual giants rarely turn out to be giants. But we the people very rarely qualify for that status.

When it comes to the substance of policy matter, we the people rarely know what we're talking about. Consider one recent example, involving an evergreen howler:

In January, the Kaiser Foundation released a survey examining Americans' views on foreign aid. For Kevin Drum's capsule, click here.

Puckishly, Kaiser had asked the question on which we the people always fail:

"Just your best guess, what percentage of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid?" We always get tripped up on that one!

According to Kaiser, the correct answer would have been this: "one percent or less of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid." We the people didn't come close!

Only three percent of respondents gave some version of that correct answer. Meanwhile, the average answer by us the people was a walloping 31 percent! Thirteen percent of respondents had enough sense to say that they just didn't know.

We the people had no clue about this fairly basic question. We were way off, about a topic which is frequently discussed as a way to show how clueless we American citizens are.

In this case, respondents were so massively misinformed that we can assume a basic point. It wasn't just Them who had no clue. Also lacking the first freaking clue clue were the brainiacs known as Us!

We cite this survey to illustrate a very important point. When it comes to basic policy questions, we the people rarely have the slightest idea what we're talking about.

Over Here in our liberal tents, observing this fact is a key part of our culture—but we're only allowed to observe this fact when discussing Those People, the putative dimwits Over There.

Within our self-impressed liberal culture, we like to pretend that we're very bright, unlike the rubes in the other camp. We're sorry, but that just isn't the case. Our liberal culture today brims with misstatements, gong-shows and groaners. We just aren't super-bright Over here.

Our groaners are often different from Theirs. But they're groaners all the same.

Our modern liberal culture swims in silly misstatements. Our favorite silly misstatements tend to involve matters of gender and race—but they're silly misstatements all the same, and we have about a million of them.

Everyone knows this but Us.

We the people, Us and Them, are not a race of giants. We rarely know what we're talking about, but good lord, how we do love to talk!

When Hannity spoke with Koppel this weekend, he went straight to the pundit corps' favorite play, in which multimillionaire music men (and politicians) tell us how sharp we are.

Simply put, we the people aren't especially sharp. We've always fallen for music men, all through our American history.

Hannity made a familiar old play. We thought Koppel was a bit cynical in what he said in reply. As we liberals tend to do, he seemed to make a sweeping statement about Those People, the Hannity viewers—and we thought his sweeping statement was a bit unkind.

Has Hannity attracted viewers "who are determined that ideology is more important than facts?" We wouldn't be inclined to say that. We would say this:

His viewers may often fail to see that they're getting conned on the facts. But we'd say the same is true Over Here, within our self-impressed liberal tribe. That said, we liberals have long tended to believe that We are smarter and better than Them.

We think that's a dangerous, self-defeating belief. Almost surely, it helps explain why so many of Those People ended up casting votes against our advice for his highness, Donald J. Trump, and his "terrific" plans.

Tomorrow: Our familiar contempt for Them


  1. And we're back with Bob Somerby, the guy who doesn't understand the corporate-owned media doesn't allow liberal opinion without putting it's thumbs on the scale for conservatives.

  2. Somerby splits a few hairs and calls them whoppers.

    He says we make silly statements about gender and race. His favorite example is the statement that women earn less than men and he quibbles about whether the figure is "for the same work" or for different work. That is hardly any kind of whopper. And it is not equivalent to the garbage believed by those others and routinely spewed on the right.

    Somerby is committing a major false equivalency with this argument and he is wrong.

    And then he concludes that those others voted for Donald Trump because we are blind to our own false facts and because we look down on those others. WRONG. Those people voted for Trump because they liked him and they didn't recognize the attacks on Hillary for what they were -- a blatant attempt to manipulate our democratic process by the right, in collusion with Russia.

    Personally, I think I have the right to look down on anyone who chooses a conman over competence. Those people are stupid and they have done a great deal of harm to our country. And they did it while Somerby fiddled, preferring to blame liberals instead of recognizing the attack on our democratic process abetted by Republicans and our press. He fiddled.

    1. I agree with much of your comment - Somerby appears to be drawing equivalencies between conservative themes and liberal themes, which I don't think is correct.

      However, he's right that we should be careful about the arguments made on behalf of liberals. You may not think that the "equal pay" argument is a "whopper," but the way it's generally spun allows conservatives to write articles noting that various Democratic politicians have a "gender gap" in favor of men on their staff. Stuff like that feeds into the resentment of the people who listen to Hannity, who believe that liberals are full of shit and now have some ammunition to support their belief.

      And while you're also certainly correct that Trump supporters have agency and should be held to account for their decisions, I don't agree that Bob "fiddled." In fact, his was among the earliest blogs that I read that noted how the Democrats were being set-up by stories like Benghazi and the reliance by the NY Times on Peter Schweizer's research. No one listened to him, and he was again proven right that those were big issues in the campaign to discredit Clinton.

    2. Jonny, I think you are right about his complaints about Benghazi and Susan Rice and the NY Times vendetta against Clinton. But these kinds of things are still happening and Somerby is now silent about them. The attack on Planned Parenthood they are ginning up is an example. The NY Times is helping by running opinion pieces about how the Democrats should abandon abortion (e.g., choice) as a party plank.

      When you listen to the far right stations and read their websites, there are certainly a lot of examples of lefty hypocrisy and nonsense. Many of them (if not most) are fake news or distortions of fact. I don't think we are making ourselves ridiculous. I think that is being done as part of the ongoing well-financed political campaign against us. The very few examples of leftist silliness, largely unavoidable because people can be silly, get blown up to represent all of us and are repeated endlessly on those right channels -- then Somerby joins in. And aside from the vagrant trolls, the right pays no more attention to our legitimate arguments than we do to theirs. It is too painful reading through their garbage to find the occasional valid point.

      There is little point in Somerby telling us not to be silly. That is part of being human. Telling us to pay more attention to valid claims on the right isn't going to help either. Those people did something majorly wrong and it sounds like Somerby is telling us to excuse them so they can do it some more.

    3. I think that's where Bob goes wrong, too. You're right that people aren't perfect, so there are always going to be instances of liberals making stupid or incorrect claims, or otherwise acting foolish. And you're also right that the right-wing machine will blow those instances way out of proportion so that the conservative audience thinks that's all that's going on.

      But Bob's right that the liberal media shouldn't try to replicate the right-wing machine. He's also correct that journalists need to be more careful in what they say/write.

      Bob hasn't touched on this explicitly, but a big result of the right-wing propaganda is to delegitimize our institutions, including the press, which can serve only to help the one percenters, unfortunately.

  3. People have been overestimating how much is spent on foreign aid since I was a child, and I am now in my late 60s.

    I had a talk with my favorite Trump voter about why he voted for Trump. He said it was because he is tired of undeserving people getting stuff they haven't earned. He things people work the system to get free stuff instead of working for it. He divides the world up into good, deserving people who work hard to get ahead and lazy freeloaders who are criminals and get free stuff. He didn't mention anything about being looked down upon by liberals or stupid statements on gender/race on the left. He said he is tired of people getting things they haven't earned.

  4. Hannity is one of the people Trump listens to. Why didn't Koppel ask Hannity about steering Trump toward better choices as President? Why didn't he ask him about the ethics of influence and whether a journalist should have that kind of close relationship with an impressionable president? Why didn't Somerby talk about that instead of leftist hubris? Why is Somerby so impervious to what is actually going on from day-to-day in favor of these broken-record themes he replays day-in and day-out?

    Somerby is going through the motions of complaining about the media. He is actually trying to achieve a different kind of change -- in us, not the media. What is it? What does Somerby want?

    As near as I can tell:

    1. He wants us to admit that we are stupid, as stupid as those on the right.
    2. He wants us to hate Rachel Maddow.
    3. He wants us to love the right, like Malala does.
    4. He wants us to recognize and complain about trivial mistakes, sort of like grammar police do.
    5. ?

    If there is some other message he is trying to get across, I don't know what it is.

    1. He should be addressing his complaints to the Russians then.

    2. Sometimes when I make the mistake of reading the comments here, I wonder what the commenters want. Why do they read this blog that they seem to hate so much?

      I read pretty much every day, and comment probably too much. Hard to come up with a summary of though. I sorta just read, and do not try to write a report of "what are his main points?"

      I think your list is a little bit off though, I would say it is more like this

      1. Our tribal belief in our own intelligence is not accurate and does not help our cause.
      2. The left wing media brought to us by our corporate sponsors is not all that.
      3. you say that like it is a bad thing
      4. if we did that, wouldn't he be out of a job? I modify the old saying "Sell a man a fish and you can make a living. Teach him how to fish, and you just lost your job."

      Are these really trivial? The war on Gore was a trivial mistake? Deliberate selective editing is a "trivial mistake"?

      I think a large part of his point is to argue against the popular strain of tribal hatred that seems to be endemic these days.

  5. You can say all you want about the Rs but at the end of the day they are more committed to their party than the Ds. Some of the democrats don't know the difference between Party and Paarrattay as demonstrated by their behavior last year. Hillary didn't fight T on a boxing or wrestling match. It was a fight like a war battle where a leader depends on every soldier to his job. His soldiers did what they are suppose to do, hers didn't. End of story.

    1. The Rs are also way more committed to the party, than to the citizens of the United States. They proved that when they tied the hands of the President during the country's deep recession and high-unemployment rate.
      Take my word for it, I'm one of those lefties who marched against the Bush/ Cheney "Great Iraq Clusterfuck" because I loved Saddam, hated America, and wanted the United States to fail, and not at all because it was a boondoggle designed to move money from the Treasury into the hands of connected defense contractors, the greatest waste of taxpayer money in my lifetime, and would turn the Middle East into a hellhole we'll be dealing with for at least a generation.

    2. I think many on the right are sincerely convinced that market forces will cure the economy and bring prosperity that will affect both rich and poor (through better jobs). When their constituents complain about their legislative choices, I believe they dismiss constituent concerns because they think they know better than the voters in their districts. When conservative approaches fail, they think it is because there wasn't enough free market, there was too much interference, their ideas didn't get a fair chance. This goes back to the one or two economics courses they took in college and is reinforced by Ayn Rand and discussions with colleagues, where the same tired ideas are recycled endlessly, from the same Republican reading materials.

      So, no, I don't agree that they are just following their party. I think some are also motivated by principle. You are also underestimating the motive of career advancement via party loyalty. The right punishes those who take a stand against their goals by denying them advancement within the party structure (appointment to key committees and leadership roles, approval of their pork, participation in visible ways, support during their primaries and elections, etc.). Yes, the Iraq war was bad. As I recall, there were some Republicans who opposed it (Chuck Hagel, Ron Paul).

  6. Trump recently signed a bill that cut education standards, including assessment and teacher training standards. Not a word from the mainstream press or Somerby about it.

    1. Twist: Lowering standards is the only way to get more under represented minorities employed as teachers.

    2. Under represented doesn't mean under qualified.

    3. https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/its-the-tests-zitbrains/

      The bottleneck to being a teacher is passing the license exam. As with most tests URM's score lower than whites and asians on average. The lower the standard the more URM's will be able to pass the test.

      "Teacher certification tests have gotten much, much harder for elementary school teachers, the primary source of URM teachers, since 2002 and No Child Left Behind, and the original certification tests (Praxis I and California’s CBEST) pre-2001, have sufficiently dismal URM pass rates without the added difficulty. In California, for example, elementary school teachers simply had to pass the CBEST before 2002. Now they have to pass the Multiple Subjects CSET as well."

      Lowering the standards is probably a good thing as a RAND report suggests little to no difference in outcomes based on teacher certification.


      " The
      results show large differences in teacher quality across the school district, but measured teacher
      characteristics explain little of the difference. Teacher licensure test scores are unrelated to
      teacher success in the classroom. Similarly, student achievement is unaffected by whether
      classroom teachers have advanced degrees. Student achievement increases with teacher
      experience, but the linkage is weak and largely reflects poor outcomes for teachers during their
      first year or two in the classroom. "

    4. The flaw in your analysis is that all the teachers studied had passed the exam, so the results mean that above the minimum threshold for licensure, differences in scores do not reflect differences in teaching quality. There is a restriction of range.

    5. "Teacher licensure tests have little effect on student achievement. None of the licensure
      scores are significant in the joint reading specification. The licensure test is only significant in the
      separate CSET model, and there it has a negative sign (more subject matter knowledge is
      associated with slightly lower student achievement in reading). In the math models of Table 4.8,
      the licensure scores are all insignificantly different from zero or have the wrong sign. The
      separate specifications of CBEST and CSET show that test scores vary inversely with math
      student achievement in the classroom."

      The results do compare high and lower scoring passers of the test and show little to no difference. Maybe the test measures the precise point where there is a cutoff for competency and student outcomes, where lowering the standards would be a negative consequence.

      I suspect we aren't very good at assessing ourselves and we'll have as good or better outcomes with lower standards.

    6. When has that ever been true in any context?

    7. Well according to RAND it is true in their study.

      "The licensure test is only significant in the separate CSET model, and there it has a negative sign (more subject matter knowledge is associated with slightly lower student achievement in reading)."

      Another example would be the healthcare industry where the marginal increase in quality from high standards for medical professionals is very small compared to the costs and labor shortages that the bottlenecks result in. A commonly suggested solution is to have Nurse Practitioners have more responsibility. That is "lowering standards" because they have significantly less education than a Doctor would but would have overall better results because there would be, theoretically, more in supply and lower costs and raise availability.

  7. I don't believe that ideology trumps fact, but I believe cultural resentment does.

  8. "We'd be painfully slow to offer that assessment." FTFY, Bob

    The internet is loaded with examples of how little our exceptional citizens know: Finding North America on a world map; naming a supreme court justice; naming one Ammendment to the Constitution; finding their ass with both hands, etc.

  9. Bob has told us that we liberals through the "R" word around too much. We should be like MLK, says Bob, and only address racism when it is obvious.

    On Fox and Friends this week Bill O"Reilly says he didn't hear a work Maxine Waters said because She had a James Brown Wig on. Ha! Would that qualify as racism that needs to be called out?

    Opps, I forgot...."O"Reilly Gets a Pass!!'

    1. That does not qualify. How would that qualify?

    2. I would not call that out as racism - a serious charge, hard to prove. Call it what it clearly is and easily proven ... stupid.

    3. 4:16 PM,
      Agreed. It may be hard to prove that Conservatives are racists, but way too easy to prove they're stupid.

    4. Felt good to write that didn't it? And it was easy too. Didn't have explain anything, justify any claims or really think at all about what you said - instead just drop the bomb and it solved it the problem.

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  11. I worked with Hannity sharing the same studio with him for 3 and a a half years. I even filled in for him on radio at times. Before the Iraq War a caller tried to explain that after the gassing of Kurds at Halabja there was a strange legislative coalition of Pell, Gore and Thurmond to curtail the sale of dual use assets to Iraq that could have contributed to the Iraqi gas attack. And that Reagan and Bush quashed the effort. Hannity berated the caller, asked for his sources and claimed it was leftist propaganda before talking over him and hanging up. When Hannity took a commercial break I told him "Sean, the caller was correct. I have the news articles right here if you want to read them. You might be able to come up with an effective reply to counter him. Here is UPI, Reuters, AP" Hannity laughed out loud and wave his hand saying "Keep that stuff away from me! I don't want to see ANYTHING that doesn't support my argument."

    1. My condolences, for you having to be in the same room as that piece of shit.