Part 2—Crowd cheers embarrassing fail: At various times in the past thirty years, our news orgs began composing transcripts, which they would post on-line.
They posted transcripts of their TV shows, including their "cable news" programs. They posted transcripts of interviews with public figures.
Both in theory and in practice, this is a good idea. If you want to be able to critique your nation's public discourse, it's very helpful to have a record of the various things that get said. Even by cable performers!
That said, there are problems. As with everything else our news orgs do, they tend to be a bit slipshod in their production of transcripts. Often the transcripts are composed by machines, which on occasion may misfire even more than we humans do!
Computer-generated transcripts will sometimes include comical errors in the attempt to record the words which were actually said. Beyond that, these transcripts will often be riddled with punctuation errors as the computers attempt to record the structure of the thoughts expressed, along with the mere strings of words.
A third problem is quote common within our news org transcripts. Especially in our entertaining "cable news" pseudo-discussions, the various children asked to perform are often all speaking at once.
Lazy news orgs adopt various strategies to adjust for the resulting confusion. They rarely seem to ask real humans to listen to the audiotapes to complete the record of what the various people in these shoutfests actually said.
Have you ever tried to figure out what some person actually said on one of our lively "news shows?" Have you ever tried to publish a record of what was said that is both complete and fair?
If so, you know how annoying it can be to work with news org transcripts. When a transcript merely says [CROSSTALK], you may have to listen, again and again, to discern what was actually said.
This may take hours out of your day. Here at our own award-winning site, we've provided that type of award-winning service for way too many years.
We've burned many hours out of our lives correcting and completing erroneous transcripts published by major news orgs. Evidence suggests that Masha Gessen has never engaged in such acts.
Don't get us wrong! Gessen is a highly respected figure; in our view, she should be. As a journalist, Gessen has walked the walk. Attention should be paid.
That said, we currently live in a largely skill-free world. Within the realm of American journalism, the reliable absence of basic skills can, as a rule, be assumed.
Meanwhile, the professors walked off their posts long ago. Even in basic, egregious cases, they can't be expected to help.
Gessen displayed a certain lack of basic skills when she gave a recent lecture. We're forced to note that she also displayed a lack of basic due diligence.
On May 7, Gessen delivered the Arthur Miller Lecture as part of the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival. She was then interviewed by Samantha Bee, a well-known, completely capable comedian who seemed to know that she lacked the background and the skills to serve in this new capacity.
The interview was an awkward waste of time. We'll focus on Gessen's lecture.
Have we mentioned the fact that Masha Gessen has walked the walk, and deserves the respect she is granted? As she started her lecture, she spoke about an important topic—the destruction of the public discourse in her native Russia by the end of the Soviet era.
(Warning: Gessen is another one of "the Russians!" If you hate the idea of receiving information from such people, you should likely stop reading right now.)
Because Gessen has walked the walk, she knows whereof she spoke. That doesn't mean that her judgments were automatically correct, since no one's judgments are.
It means that she, unlike our cable clowns, has earned and deserves our respect.
Gessen was motoring along rather nicely as her lecture proceeded. You can read an edited version of her lecture here. You can watch her lecture in full via this YouTube tape.
Gessen was discussing a very important topic. But then, at one point, she began to read from a recent transcript.
The transcripts had been published, two weeks before, by the Associated Press. It recorded, or tried to record, a lengthy interview in which the AP's Julie Pace spoke with Donald J. Trump.
In part 1 of this report, we noted some of the obvious problems which appear at the start of this AP transcript. Gessen's lecture began to break down when she started quoting, or pretending to quote, something Donald J. Trump is said to have said by that AP transcript.
Let's be fair! Gessen received a great deal of laughter and applause as she quoted, or seemed to quote, what Trump had said to Pace. Around the 12:30 mark of the YouTube tape, she starts to set the scene for her reading of Trump's remarks with these comments about the way Trump uses words:
GESSEN (5/7/17): Donald Trump has an instinct for doing both of the kinds of violence to language that are familiar to me from speaking and writing in Russian. He has a particular nose for taking words and phrases that deal with power relationships and turning them into their opposite.Already, we'd be inclined to disagree with some of Gessen's judgments. But at this point, at the 14:45 mark on that tape, you can see Gessen as she starts to quote Trump—and at this point in Gessen's lecture, our idealistic young analysts began to scream, writhe and wail.
Think about, for example, how he used the phrase “safe space” when talking about Mike Pence’s visit to Hamilton.
The vice-president-elect, he was booed and then passionately and very respectfully addressed by the cast of the show. And Trump was tweeting that the show should not have happened because, he said, theater should be a safe space.
Now, the thing about the phrase “safe space” is that it was coined to describe a place where people who usually feel unsafe and powerless would feel exceptionally safe. Claiming that the second most powerful man in the world should be granted a “safe space,” in public, turns the concept precisely on its head.
And he really does have a talent for doing this. He performed the exact same trick on the phrase “witch hunt,” which he claimed was being carried out by the Democrats to avenge their electoral loss.
Witch hunts cannot actually be carried out by losers.
The agent of the witch hunt must have power. And of course, he has seized and flipped the term “fake news” in much the same way.
But he also has a talent for using words in ways that make them mean nothing. Everyone is "great" and everything is "tremendous." Any word can be given or taken away. NATO can be obsolete and then no longer obsolete, which challenges not only our shared understanding of the word “obsolete” but also our shared experience of linear time.
And then there is Trump’s ability to take words and throw them into a pile that means nothing.
I'm actually going to subject you to an excerpt from an interview that he did with AP for the hundred days. It was really hard to choose because the whole interview's like this...
Like the girls in Salem during the aforementioned witch hunts, they claimed the presence of destructive forces as Gessen performed her public reading of Donald J. Trump's remarks. From there, Gessen proceeded to criticize NPR in a way which we thought was strikingly odd, but typical of the age.
Quite plainly, Gessen's reading of Donald J. Trump betrayed a lack of due diligence. Her criticism of NPR was, in our view, a marker of an under-skilled era.
Tomorrow, we'll try to explain the basic problems with Gessen's reading of Donald J. Trump. We'll note the problems which obtain with her critique of NPR.
Gessen isn't a cable clown. She's a real live serious intelligent journalist who has earned full respect.
For that reason, her lack of due diligence, and her basic errors, are especially worth nothing. And oh, dear lord, that liberal crowd!
How did we ever reach the point where Donald J. Trump holds the nuclear codes? In our view, Gessen's lecture, and that admiring audience, helps supply an answer to that important question.
It's a question which rarely seems to trouble our own liberal heads.
Tomorrow: As the analysts wail