THE RELIABLE ABSENCE OF BASIC SKILLS: Unintelligible, Gessen says!

THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2017

Part 3—Crowd bursts into applause:
As major political figures go, Donald J. Trump tilts rather strongly toward inarticulate.

As she delivered the Arthur Miller Lecture to the PEN World Voices Festival, Masha Gessen took note of this fact. For ourselves, we'd prefer a more nuanced analysis. But the gist of this sketch was correct:
GESSEN (5/7/17): [Donald J. Trump] 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.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

And then there is Trump’s ability to take words and throw them into a pile that means nothing.
To watch the tape of Gessen's lecture, you can just click here.

Trump tends strongly toward inarticulate in his extemporaneous speech. According to Gessen, her learned audience would now be "subjected to" an example.

"I'm actually going to subject you to an excerpt from an interview that he did with AP for the hundred days," she said. "It was really hard to choose because the whole interview's like this."

The Associated Press had published a transcript
of its interview with Trump on April 23. Two weeks later, Gessen warned the crowd that they would be subjected to an excerpt. Indeed, she was going to read the painful excerpt aloud!

At this point, you need to see how the excerpt looks in the AP's official transcript. Below, you see the full interview chunk from which Gessen took her excerpt.

In the main, Donald J. Trump is speaking here about his award-winning Tomahawk strike. This is the full interview chunk from which Gessen took her excerpt:
AP: Can I ask you, over your first 100 days—you’re not quite there yet—how do you feel like the office has changed you?

TRUMP: Well the one thing I would say—and I say this to people—I never realized how big it was. Everything’s so (unintelligible) like, you know the orders are so massive. I was talking to—

AP: You mean the responsibility of it, or do you mean—

TRUMP: Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area—you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away—and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet .... every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) ... This is involving death and life and so many things. ... So it’s far more responsibility. (unintelligible) ....The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest—you know, you go down the list.

AP: Right.

TRUMP. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.
Trump was asked how the office has changed him. We'd be inclined to call his answer fatuous but basically harmless.

The AP had inserted one "(sic)" when Trump seemed to change a number. For ourselves, we'd prefer to see that term appear in brackets.

In that segment, Trump rambled a bit about the size of the job. Already, though, you've noticed something about that AP transcript. Just in that one short interview chunk, the term "unintelligible" has been inserted three times.

Additionally, ellipses (dot dot dots) have been used four times. But hallelujah! At the very start of its document, before the actual transcript begins, the AP has already explained what those insertions mean:
ASSOCIATED PRESS (4/23/17): A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used.
The ellipses, and the "unintelligible" notations, were meant to indicate places where the audio was unclear.

The AP explained this point right at the start of its document. Apparently, Gessen hadn't read it. A fair observer must also say that Gessen seems to have little experience reviewing published transcripts by news orgs, in which such insertions are extremely common, although they're rarely explained.

Citizens, let's talk! It's completely common, in such transcripts, to encounter the insertion of terms like UNINTELLIGIBLE or INAUDIBLE.

Another term, CROSSTALK, will often appear in such transcripts, generally to indicate that six or seven cable news stars were all explaining something at once. Along with all the "unintelligibles" and all the ellipses, this term appears twice in the AP transcript, which is at least slightly odd, since only two people were involved in the AP's discussion.

Whatever! Everyone knows that terms like UNINTELLIGIBLE are common in press corps transcripts. You'd almost think that major journalists would know what such phrases mean.

In this instance, the AP took the trouble of spelling it out, but Gessen apparently hadn't read the AP's explanation. And so it came to pass! As Gessen subjected her audience to the painful excerpt from Trump, she played the term "unintelligible" for laughs, then pondered its ultimate meaning.

As she subjected the crowd to the excerpt, this is what Gessen said. We'll italicize the portions where she is supposedly reading Trump. Her worst moment comes at the end:
GESSEN: 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 actually the entire interview's like this.

So here is Trump:

Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria.

Period.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like 79 missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area—you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away—and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet every decision is much harder than you’d normally make.

Unintelligible.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

This is involving death and life and so many things. So it’s far more responsibility.

Unintelligible.

The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency.

Period.

This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world.

Now I made a partial list of words that lose their meaning in this passage. Responsibility; the number 59; the number 79;

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

Death; people; risk; city; civilian; hamlet, decision; hard; normal; life; the United States.

And even the word "unintelligible," inserted by the journalist, means nothing, because how can something be unintelligible when uttered face to face in an interview?

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

[APPLAUSE]

And the role of the journalist is also rendered meaningless in the most basic way...
Oof! Everybody makes mistakes—and Gessen, who has walked the walk as a journalist, has earned, and richly deserves, the public's full respect.

But that is a horrible offering. Gessen gets her first laugh by reading the world "period," implying that Trump's sentence structure made no sense at that point.

It didn't occur to her that the transcript might be poorly punctuated at that point. Such errors are tremendously common when news orgs publish transcripts of extemporaneous speech. We'll assume Gessen doesn't know that.

We'd call that a cheap first laugh. Assuming it was sought in good faith, it suggests a surprising lack of familiarity, on Gessen's part, with typical news org transcripts.

Her reading of "period" produced a cheap first laugh. But good God! The analysts began to writhe and scream when Gessen scored bigly with this:
GESSEN: And even the word "unintelligible," inserted by the journalist, means nothing, because how can something be unintelligible when uttered face to face in an interview?

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

[APPLAUSE]
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow! The analysts were writhing in psychic pain. But the audience, comprised of smart brilliant writers, burst into laughter at this point, then offered dim-witted applause.

Tomorrow, we're going to subject you to what Gessen said next. Today, in closing, let's settle for this:

Nothing will turn on the fact that Gessen produced this large misrepresentation, which we assume was an honest mistake.

(Over in the tents of The Others, it will be scored as a "lie." In doing so, The Others will, of course, be behaving just like Us.)

Nothing will turn on the fact that Gessen made this blatant mistake. Beyond that, the path of history isn't going to change because that smart brilliant erudite wise learned audience showed its appreciation with a round of dim-witted applause.

Still and all, our analysts said, after calming down, that this is the sort of thing which happens all the time Over Here within the tents of our own smart learned tribe. Sometimes, if it weren't for the lack of understanding and skill, there would be no such critters at all.

Masha Gessen is smart and sincere, and she's walked the walk. When the times get sufficiently tribal, this is the kind of performance we get from those who are truly our best!

Tomorrow: Using our words; we return to third grade basic skills

27 comments:

  1. Bob should change the subtitle of his blog from 'musings on the mainstream "press corps"' to
    'musings on the liberal "press corps"', since he devotes exactly zero percent of his blog
    to discussing Fox News, Breitbart, Limbaugh, et al. Or perhaps rename it to the 'anti-Rachel Maddow rage blog.'
    Having said that, there was a great deal to admire about this blog in the Clinton/Gore years. Bob was right on the money
    in identifying some weird anti-Clinton/Gore bias in the liberal press (even then, he didn't discuss right-wing media).
    But the press' criticisms of Clinton/Gore then were mostly trivial and unfactual, and Clinton and Gore were pretty much
    'traditional' politicians, with no real fascistic tendencies and no above-average animus towards the press.
    Bob is trying to show that the (liberal) press today has the same non-factual, superficial bias towards Trump,
    who MAY be disordered, but, in Bob's view, apparently, is not a threat.
    There is simply no comparing Trump with Clinton or Gore, and, even if an anti-Trump feeling exists in the press,
    their criticisms and concerns are based on somewhat more serious matters than the color of the candidate's suit or what kind
    of shoes he wore. Matters such as collusion to rig an election, threats to shut down the free press, obstruction of justice, etc, just to name
    a couple. So Somerby, IMHO, is way off base in the attempted equivalence of then and now.
    He also, after discovering 'bad' in Maddow (for example), continually proceeds to then tarnish ALL liberals as 'bad', ie guilty
    of the same transgressions he finds in the 'broken-souled' press corps. That is a generalization, a stereotype,
    the very kind that Somerby decries when he sees it in the press.
    And, by the way, Trump IS often unintelligible, even when his words are clearly audible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An excerpt from my memoirs ...

      "... and it was at this very time that a strange and peculiar butt wind was hereby produced, sending my wondering mind into such a deep state trance that I couldn't help but maintain my sanity for more than two or three anton moments.

      A vast visual landscape came to being in my subconscious once more, causing my woman friend to proclaim the existence of a certain nausea due to the present odorous environment.

      As usual, I always defer to her superiority in such matters, being that she is such the dominant woman.

      It was her theory that the aforementioned butt wind was, by necessity, the preconceived end result of a sequence of events set into motion eons ago by the 15th Overlord of the Sectarian sub-states in Bjark Orlendundren.

      I supported her reasoning and suggested we then proceed to investigate upon our arrival via the subsequent warp-journey to this distant time and place...."

      To be continued...

      Delete
    2. > “Trump IS often unintelligible, even when his words are clearly audible.”

      Thank goodness he can express his covfefe in writing e.g. tweets!

      Delete
  2. Bob seems to think Gessen is unaware of what unintelligible means in this case. Seems to me Gessen is likely aware but is using the use of the word to make a point. Also seems to me this has occurred to Bob, but he has willfully decided to ignore that to score his own point. This furthers Gessen's point in my view.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would if I could pee on Bob.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Assuming it was sought in good faith, it suggests a surprising lack of familiarity, on Gessen's part, with typical news org transcripts.

    There's exactly a zero percent chance she was acting in good faith. This is bog-standard jewish tricks. The jews absolutely hate Trump, as Trump is far too goy-presenting. He fulfills all the goyish stereotypes that the jews have worked hard demonizing in hollywood films and television shows. Worse still, he wasn't fully beholden to jewish money in the campaign, which means their control over him isn't absolute.

    Just look at how he defies them in Syria! Israel wants Syria destroyed, and Trump is fucking up the plan. So Trump must go down. Any means necessary. If that means pretending you don't know how transcripts work, that's no sacrifice at all. Jews are willing to go a lot lower than that, believe me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump is all over the map with Syria; he in fact has no coherent Syria policy and is therefore not defying anyone or anything except good foreign policy. Bush started the Syria conflict due to his support of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and oil/gas pipelines that would serve his friends at the expense of Russia.

      Russia gave Trump his presidency, but he is such a weak and ineffectual leader he had to actually bomb Syria to try to bolster his sinking poll numbers. One does not have to be jewish to see what a flawed person Trump is, what a disaster he is at being president. Frankly, in a way, to liberals, this is not so horrible since Trump might not be able to cause nearly as much economic and societal damage as what Bush or Reagan did.

      Delete
    2. "Bush started the Syria conflict"

      Whoa...

      Delete
    3. So if there's any question whether anti-Semitism reigns among Trump supporters, I’ll just cite that comment as an example....

      Delete
    4. It's counter-semitism. And it's absolutely true, especially in the case of Masha Gessen, an insane Jew filled with bizarre ethnic loathing of Russians. Like the neocons, her type need to be removed from public discourse.

      Delete
    5. @ 1:37 & 6:57 - don't forget your coats when you go outside, comrades:

      https://www.wunderground.com/q/zmw:00000.164.27612

      Delete
  5. We have our press limning the buffoon with buffoonery. Bob wants our press to report more facts that cannot be easily turned aside with plausible deniability.
    At this point, Trump's people can create reasonable doubt about most of the charges against them by claiming they are nothing more than the whining of Democrats that can't accept the loss of the election.
    There is enough truth to that to make it stick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have a WH that flat out lies about something we can see with our own eyes (convention crowds) among many, many other things. Since they create their own alternative facts, they don't even bother with plausible deniability.

      Bob's hatred for the media (although he oddly hardly seems to criticize Hannity et al) has turned him into a true Trumpkin

      Delete
  6. Yay,Yay,Yay,Yay,Yay. Somerby's series could not be more the blogging equivalent of a Rachel Maddow Show if he deliberately attempted to copy her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The seeds of this series began in the one which preceded it. In a July 10 ramble about a four year old web article about academic philosophy. In that we are told of forthcoming work on skill free journalism. "We'll focus on Masha Gessen's recent lecture/interview at the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival."

      Bob starts in earnest July 13 by first describing the lecture series at length and offering his pointless critique of Samantha Bee, who interviewed Gessen after the lecture. He then reprints a bio sketch of Gessen from Wikipedia.

      Finally we get to hear: "Gessen hasn't simply talked the talk; she has also walked the walk. She's sharper than the average bear." As for the lecture, we we are told she has a "liberal audience" that laughed and applauded. We are told she offered "absurd analyses," "overstatements" and she didn't understand the basic structure of the AP transcript.

      Instead of demonstrating this by quoting anything in the lecture, Bob returned to the AP transcipt of the interview with President Trump. In one of the silliest bits of understatement from a blogger who thinks politicians, but not the press, should be given the benefit of the doubt, Somerby says "Some of Trump's statements in that interview provoked a lot of discussion." (The Toronto Star headline of it: "The 19 strangest things Donald Trump said in his surreal 100-days interview Trump’s Associated Press interview is replete with lies, exaggerations, rambles and strange non-sequiturs.")

      Somerby praises the jounalist who did the interview but attacks the transcript.

      "In a puzzling array of ways, the AP's transcript is a bit of a mess.

      Our view? In a slightly different world, it would be hard to imagine a major news org publishing such a transcript."

      Then without noting any examples of what is wrong with the transcript he returns to his example free attack on Gessen. And the liberal audience.

      "It's completely clear, from Gessen's lecture, that she hadn't fully perused the transcript from which she chose to work. In her lecture, she used certain parts of the transcript to generate laughter and applause. But it seems depressingly clear that she hadn't performed basic due diligence before composing her text."

      Instead of ending with "watch this space" we are told once again "Gessen's smarter than the average bear."

      Delete
  7. Bob starts morphing into full RachelBob on July 14 which he heads "The AP composes a transcript: but leads with quotes from an obscure film. After this touch of Maddowesque irrelevancy he moves quickly to portray journalists
    as ghosts who "Invent irrelevant facts."

    Finally Sommaddow gets back to the topic.

    "The AP transcript was flawed. Gesen's use of the transcript was deeply flawed...Gessen's lecture dealt with a deeply important subject."

    Without further telling us what the the flaws of the AP or Gessen are we instead get a long copy of what Gessen said in the lecture which had nothing to do with Trump or the transcript. We are told something a second and third time, "Have we mentioned the fact that Masha Gessen has actually walked the walk?"

    We are once more told "The transcript is remarkably puzzling in certain ways, especially given the importance of the interview the AP was recording. We're forced to say that Gessen's use of the transcript was substantially worse."

    Finally we get told another time about "her lack of due diligence."

    We still haven't heard a word about flaws in the transcript hinted at in the header.

    Bob tells us not to make Gessen a God, but assures us her "soul is very much worth saving." But it will take at least another break before Bob's criticism can deliver salvation to her smart bear soul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Bob Somerby never needs to cite specific details; we are just supposed to blindly trust his judgment on these matters.

      Exactly what we should not do toward any of those journalists of the "mainstream press corps", of course, though apparently it's okay to give that benefit of doubt to Donald J. Trump (alone among politicians).

      Delete
  8. Maddow should never be criticized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not true. But maybe not 99% of the time?

      Delete
    2. Comparing Bob to Maddow is a critque of whom?

      Delete
    3. Maddow's show is a reflection of her character and the character of her viewers.

      Delete
    4. Clearly, as Maddow reports on Trump scandals (she may be the most determined show host on the topic), it is far, far more important that green-eyed Somerby chase after her, endlessly barking and nipping at her ankles about her style, than that he give any attention let alone credence to the substance of what she's reporting.

      Delete
  9. Since Gessen and her audience "know" that Trump is an evil moron, any response not acknowledging this "fact" is funny to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Bob knows the audience was "liberal" and they were the biggest problem. Thank God for Bob, his ability to read the President's mind and his willingess to tell it like it is about those laughing liberals. They are such a danger.

      Delete
    2. Since Gessen and her audience "know" that Trump is an evil moron...

      No, fuckface. Didn't you get the memo? Robert Mueller is the evil here. Keep up, shithead traitor.

      Delete