Part 1—Tomorrow's history today: In this morning's editions, the New York Times has made it official:
Last October, Hillary Clinton was stalked by Donald J. Trump at their second debate!
The famous newspaper has made this official through its letters page. Headline included, the first of several relevant letters says this:
Clinton's Choices as Trump Stalked Her at DebateThe headline says that Trump stalked Clinton. So does the letter writer. The writer refers to Jill Filipovic's piece in The Sunday Review, where this pleasing, novelized claim made its Times debut.
Re ''Donald Trump Was a Creep. Too Bad Hillary Clinton Couldn't Say That,'' by Jill Filipovic (Sunday Review, Aug. 27):
Hillary Clinton made the correct choice, to keep her cool and not confront Donald Trump over his stalking of her at the Oct. 10, 2016, debate, just as she remained calm while being grilled for 11 hours at a Benghazi hearing. It was the moderators' job to discipline Mr. Trump. They were undoubtedly too intimidated to do so, just as his G.O.P. opponents were in the prior debates.
Mrs. Clinton showed that she was not intimidated, further proof that she was perfectly qualified to be president. If she had confronted him, she would have been criticized. The woman is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.
The problem is that our society is basically sexist and misogynistic. Mrs. Clinton has always been a class act, never so much as since Nov. 8. She could have said ''I told you so'' every day since, but she has largely kept quiet.
J— M—, BELLEVUE, WASH.
The letter writer lives near the water. Ironically, she has swallowed every word from Filipovic, and by extension from Clinton herself.
We wonder if she watched the 90-minute tape of that second debate. If she did, she saw Trump engage in many objectionable behaviors that night. But she didn't see him behaving in the way Clinton has now described in the manner of a Lifetime movie as she tries to make more money off her latest book.
(Does Clinton ever stop doing this? The Hill reports on ticket prices for her book tour events.)
Did Candidate Trump stalk Clinton that night? In our view, Clinton's account in her forthcoming book is very hard to square with the videotape, which does show Trump engaging in many unfortunate practices.
That said, the New York Times has now made the novelized claim official. It does so today in another letter which appears beneath the headline we've posted:
Like Jill Filipovic, I have been mulling over Hillary Clinton's reflections in her forthcoming memoir on Donald Trump's behavior during the Oct. 10, 2016, presidential debate. My response now, as it was back then, focuses on the one action that could prevent such behavior in political debates: a clear, definitive directive that candidates remain at their chair or lectern when it is not their turn to speak. Period. No moving around. No stalking. No intimidating.This swallower of novelized tales also lives near the water. Ironically, she suggests a "no stalking" rule, with candidates required to "remain at their chair or lectern when it is not their turn to speak" during a debate.
Ms. Filipovic says that the moderators did not instruct Mr. Trump to physically back off, arguing, ''It would have been uncomfortable, and they would have faced accusations of bias.'' It is time for debate organizers to step up and accept responsibility for preventing a repeat of such behavior.
P— R—, FALMOUTH, MASS.
Where's the irony in that suggestion? That's where she'd see Candidate Trump if she watched that videotape!
(Note: Rules for deportment at debates are formulated by the campaigns. They aren't invented on the fly by moderators. During that second debate, Clinton generally sat on her chair as Candidate Trump declaimed; Trump generally stood by his chair as Candidate Clinton spoke. He did engage in a minor bit of "moving around," generally away from Candidate Clinton. As we noted on Friday, you can see these things on that unwatched videotape.)
The New York Times has made another story official. The story is hard to square with the videotape, but this is the way our discourse has worked for many years, dating back to the days when this same newspaper invented all sorts of novelized tales about the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, then about Candidate Gore's non-existent lies.
Ironically, the Times has made another story official in today's set of letters. This novelized tale is unflattering to Candidate Clinton rather than to Trump.
A third reader seems to have swallowed everything that he's been told about a different set of alleged behaviors. Under that headline about Trumnp's stalking, he offers this exciting account of Clinton's gruesome behavior:
I agree with everything Jill Filipovic says about the barriers that society has created that keep women from responding appropriately to men who seek to harass or intimidate them. Missing from Ms. Filipovic's account, however, is the inconvenient fact that for decades Hillary Clinton responded to allegations of sexual assault against her husband by denying those charges on his behalf and by vilifying the alleged victims.Is it true? "For decades," did Hillary Clinton "respond to allegations of sexual assault against her husband by denying those charges on his behalf and by vilifying the alleged victims?"
I don't know whether it's ironic or pathetic (maybe it's both) that Mrs. Clinton helped strengthen the barrier she confronted in the debate with Donald Trump.
G— C— T—, WARREN, N.J.
The word "alleged" says that the reader doesn't know if the allegations in question were accurate. He doesn't explain why a person shouldn't deny a charge, if the charge is believed, or even known, to be false.
Nor does he tell us who Hillary Clinton "vilified." That said, he's reciting a story which was widely pimped on the right during the last campaign, then was made official by this same New York Times.
In September 2016, the New York Times publishing an astonishingly incompetent front-page news report which made these charges official. Because the Time had published that astounding front-page report, it was easier for Candidate Trump to pimp that claim last fall—as he did at that second debate, the one which featured several sex accusers as his honored guests.
The New York Times has been creating novelized tales for the past many years. As a general matter, Times readers respond by swallowing whatever it is they've been told.
Career journalists have responded to this syndrome by seeing no evil and maintaining a code of silence. Dearest darlings! Mainstream journalistic careers run through the Times and the Washington Post. Everyone from Drum on down knows you simply mustn't discuss this deeply destructive pattern.
(When other people discuss this pattern, you may express your exasperation with their unseemly conduct.)
This morning, the New York Times has made the latest novelized story official. Candidate Trump stalked Candidate Clinton in October 2016! It's hard to maintain that the story is true. But it's a deeply pleasing, low-IQ, culturally mandated tale.
The Times has been doing this forever. As a general rule, we liberals simply repeat what we're told. This brings us to our main idea:
In the future, if there is a future, historians, if history still exists, will present a range of snapshots from our current fail. Through such snapshots, these historians, if they exist, will describe, with some embarrassment, the behavior of us human beings during this failed era.
Here's some of what they will tell future readers, if such readers exist:
In the era under review, technology stole control of the public discourse away from the tiny elite who had always controlled it.
Profit-seekers of the right and the left began assuming control of the discourse. They handed pleasing tales to their customers, who swallowed every word.
Also in this era, big mainstream orgs like the New York Times became increasingly upper-class and foppish. They too invented many novelized tales which readers gulped down straight.
With great embarrassment, those future historians will present snapshots from this vast cultural fail. Thanks to visions sent by the gods, we'll be able to present four such snapshots this week.
One snapshot will involve a philosopher—the official weekly philosopher of the New York Times. One snapshot will involve a major TV pundit—one who has written three puzzling memoirs, with many more to come.
One snapshot will involve a star of the pseudo-progressive cultural left and her cries of victimization. One snapshot will involved a mainstream analyst, who seemed to pick and choose his data in a recent piece about Where The Racists Are.
These snapshots will come to you from the future—and from our discourse today. As future historians will explain, our discourse runs on an embarrassing, very strange fuel. In case you haven't noticed it yet, you simply can't run a modern nation this way.
According to the gods with whom we've spoken, that's what historians will say in the future, if such an era exists.
Tomorrow: Comically disordered discourse! Professor does NPR!