SNAPSHOTS FROM THE FAIL: "We blame the philosophers," disgruntled gods say!


Interlude—Cite last night's segment with Franken:
Last night, they came to us again, as if in a dream, complaining about Zeus of the aegis—and about the long-running gong-show, Hardball.

Perhaps more strikingly, they complained about our nation's "philosophers"—and they made it perfectly clear where those scare quotes belonged.

We were visited by several lesser Olympian gods, to whom qwe've granted anonymity because they haven't been authorized to discuss the way their more powerful colleagues, including Zeus of the aegis, manipulate life here on Earth.

The gods were angry last night. "Modern liberals complain about dumb TV shows," one of their number bitterly said. "Is any TV show any dumber than the silly entertainments the gods have manufactured here, dating back through sacred Homer?"

These particular gods came to us in the wake of last evening's Hardball. For obvious reasons, they focused on one part of Chris Matthews' interview with Al Franken, late of Saturday Night Live, a leading purveyor of script.

"As it has started to turn out, Franken may actually be 'one of ours,' " one suspicious god said.

These gods referred to an exchange between Matthews and Franken during the opening segment of last evening's Hardball.

At the start of his program, Matthews interviewed the Minnesota solon for fifteen minutes; you can view the full interview here. At roughly 10:25, the orange-haired multimillionaire host introduced an exciting, tribally-pleasing topic—the marketing of Hillary Clinton's new book.

Below, you see how the topic was introduced. Trigger warnings: Mutual pandering; overt self-dealing:
MATTHEWS (9/6/17): Speaking of interviews and the stagecraft of politics, Hillary Clinton has had a couple of chances the last couple weeks to push the book. And I know how you push books.

Sometimes you push a book—

FRANKEN: You go on your show!

MATTHEWS: Sometimes that helps. By the way, your book's called—

FRANKEN: Al Franken, "Giant of the Senate."

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about Hillary—

To watch the entire discussion, click here, move to roughly 10:20.

Franken pandered to Matthews, then pimped his own book. With his chuckling, he signaled that he was well-pleased with his various efforts.

Whatever! At this point, Matthews and Franken began discussing Clinton's claim that she was stalked by Candidate Trump during their second presidential debate. Matthews played videotape of the alleged stalking before he and Franken discussed the alleged offense.

We had been struck by this exchange as we watched Hardball last evening. Hours later, the rueful gods called it to our attention.

Below, you see the transcript of what was said on this "cable news" show. As Matthews continued, he previewed Clinton's accusations against Candidate Trump:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Let's talk about Hillary.

Hillary Clinton [INAUDIBLE] a couple of things, but one of the things that grabbed a lot of people's attention was going after Trump—well, let's watch.

Let's watch what happened here, and what she said about what happened with her opponent, Donald Trump.
At this point, Matthews played the audiotape of the accusations Clinton makes as she reads from her new book. As the audiotape played, Matthews ran the now-iconic videotape from that second debate.

How the gods on Olympus must have laughed! The videotape which Matthews aired showed Trump doing none of the things Clinton was alleging! Despite this fact, Matthews and Franken just plowed ahead, advancing the new tribal script:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Let's watch what happened here, and what she said about what happened with her opponent, Donald Trump:

CLINTON (audiotape): We were on a small stage, and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he were't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, "Back up, you creep! Get away from me.!I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me. So back up."

MATTHEWS: So he pulls the Godzilla number, comes up behind her like he— I don`t know what he's—

He obviously wanted to make her uncomfortable. She said she felt uncomfortable, maybe professionally uncomfortable, meaning, "I shouldn't have to have put up with somebody doing this to me."

What do you make of it? What are politicians, male or female, supposed to do when some lug comes at you?
As we noted on Monday, this is now one of the official stories on which our failed discourse runs:
Pulling the Godzilla number, Candidate Trump came up behind Candidate Clinton, obviously wanting to make her feel uncomfortable. He followed her no matter where she walked, repeatedly invading her space and making faces at her.

Trump was "literally breathing down my neck," Clinton says at another point in the audiotape from her book.
This is now an Official Group Story, so christened by the New York Times. But even as the Official Group Story was being repeated on Hardball last night, the videotape Matthews played showed Trump doing none of those things!

In the videotape, Trump is standing at his assigned station, exactly where he should have been.

He's standing fairly close to Clinton on that small stage because Clinton has "invaded his space!" (Perfectly reasonably, she's standing directly in front of his lectern as she speaks to an audience member who has posed a question.)

The videotape doesn't show Trump "coming up behind" Candidate Clinton. It doesn't show him "following her closely." Indeed, it doesn't show him following her at all, and certainly not "no matter where she walked on the stage."

It doesn't show him making faces at Clinton, unless you count the Mussolini-esque countenance Trump tends to plaster on his face when he tries to look serious, displeased or concerned. (Trump isn't a very good actor.) It doesn't help us understand how she could have thought he was making faces, since he was standing behind her as the videotape ran.

In short, the videotape showed Candidate Trump doing none of the things Clinton has pleasingly alleged. But so what? Matthews and Franken continued ahead as if the videotape supported Clinton's pleasing claims in every disgusting respect!

As the conversation continued, Franken even dragged in Candidate Gore, saying he had done the same thing in a debate with Candidate Bush. But both participants acted as if the videotape supported Clinton's claims.

We're sorry, but it simply doesn't, unless your lizard's in charge.

Last night's exchange helps illustrate the way our discourse has worked for at least several decades. Our discourse is narrative all the way down. In case you haven't noticed it yet, this constitutes a dangerous total fail.

TV stars agree to stick to established scripts in the face of obvious contradictory evidence. They'll keep reciting established group scripts year after year, for decades. In case you haven't noticed it yet, this constitutes a dangerous fail. A modern nation simply can't run on this kind of fuel.

For the record, it was no surprise to see Matthews behaving this way last night, though a very strong irony existed. We thought back to the all the name-calling in which he engaged, for many years, with respect to Hillary Clinton.

Relentlessly, he trashed her as "Evita Peron;" as he did, the liberal world just sat there and took it. With regard to the invention of facts, has anyone ever invented more facts that this broken-souled corporate employee did, for twenty months, with respect to Candidate Gore? (We liberals just swallowed that too.)

It was no surprise to see Matthews behaving as he did last night. Regarding Franken, we'll only say this:

Sad. Completely pathetic, but sad.

(And by the way, won't you please go out and buy the senator's #&%&# book?)

On the merits, last night's exchange was gruesome. On the brighter side, it provided the latest striking object lesson concerning the way our failed discourse works.

That said, we were struck by one remark the disgruntled gods made as they discussed this exchange. They blamed all this on the "philosophers," making it clear, through their tone of voice, where the scare quotes belonged.

They specifically mentioned Professor Appiah, who appeared on NPR last week. "Did you listen to that program?" one eye-rolling deity angrily said, suggesting that it had been engineered by gods above him in rank.

These gods even blamed the philosophers for the endless gong-shows emerging from Hardball! Tomorrow, we'll return to Professor Appiah's visit to NPR, and we'll start explaining these gods' surprising claim.

Tomorrow: Lehrer describes the book


  1. I don't know if in the end it was satisfying to escape the fact ad hominem hurts or helps but it is impossible to really get under Bob Somerby's skin

    1. Perhaps...

      But as we'll see below, it is terribly easy to get under the skin of some us commenters who regard ourselves as liberals (or, perhaps, as "liberal-adjacent").

      Simply show us some stars of the liberal firmament, making and pimping for claims which are utterly ludicrous.

      We'll get red-faced and natter on about everything else under the heavens that's wrong and bad. We'll affirm that *we* certainly don't give any credence to those "supposed" liberal stars.

      What we won't do, ever, is acknowledge that Yes, Virginia, much of the world *does* regard them as such -- for eff's sake, one of them is actually the former liberal candidate for the presidency -- and that because of that regard their Very Odd behavior is perhaps a problem.

      Anything but that!!

  2. "Pathetic and sad, but social."

  3. 1) I just don't feel that this business with the "stalking" during the debate is worth umpteen TDH posts. Is it really that vital? Why is THIS such a "dangerous" narrative? IS it a narrative? He WAS boorish (oops..or is that another narrative?)
    He had admitted to harassment of women; he dragged Bill's accusers to the debate, etc. And "stalking: doesn't involve just invading someone's physical space. Hillary thought Trump was a "creep". Is that also a dangerous narrative? Is she allowed to make a judgment about the man?
    2) Re Matthews about Gore: "We liberals just swallowed that too." Well, I didn't appreciate Matthews' behavior, so I didn't "swallow" it. He is a pundit, not a journalist, by the way, so that gives him a bit more latitude. What were "we liberals" supposed to do anyway? Each one of us individually could have written a letter to MSNBC...but what else? Band together to get Matthews fired? Most of us had more important things on our minds back then.
    3) Somerby denounces Franken for selling his book. Might as well denounce every senator, then. Everyone in this country eventually has a book to hawk..maybe even Bob Somerby.
    4) Maybe Somerby should take a break. His anger is beginning to consume him.

    1. The real world consists of more than the idiots on TV and the NY Times. None of the liberals I know act the way Bob characterizes “us.” In this deep-red state, very few people read the Times,
      and conservatives mainly watch Fox. Now, Republican party operatives like to TELL their voters that liberals are elitists who look down on them, to make their voters feel “victimized”.
      Is that a “narrative?” I think it is, and an important one.
      But Bob only gets fired up about transgressions by liberals. And that’s fine…there’s plenty of fodder there.

  4. at some during that debate I felt uncomfortable looking at him pacing behind her. I held my breath thinking what if he ....
    I hoped one of her bodyguards would stand up, just stand up not doing anything just stand up close to the stage. That's was me watching from my house, imagine her in the stage with him. I don't know what's Bob's problem.

    1. Here's the YouTube video of the second presidential debate in 2016 [LINK]. It's easier to scoot through this one than the video at the CSPAN site Bob Somerby previously linked to.

      Go ahead @2:38 PM and vanquish Somerby on this point by indicating precisely when that some time was during the debate you "felt uncomfortable looking at him pacing behind her." When it was you were holding your "breath thinking what if he..." when it was you were hoping "one of her bodyguards would stand up..."

      I'm guessing you were most concerned during Senator Clinton's response to the question Anderson Cooper posed at 29:45 LINK. After further review, do you still think it's Somerby who has the problem.

    2. CMike, there are several points where Trump got bored with looking presidential and was pacing and engaging in other body language behind Clinton. I made the effort to review the tape and note those times. It does not support Somerby.

    3. Corby, thanks for making the effort. From your notes, at what moments precisely do you think Clinton was referring to when she wrote that Trump was “was literally breathing down my neck,” which exactly were some of the moments when he was "repeatedly invading [her] space"?

    4. I cannot know what was in her head. She never looks around. I surmise she was basing that on audience reaction to what Trump IS doing behind her. He is misbehaving.

    5. Corby, in this post Somerby says:

      [QUOTE] The videotape doesn't show Trump "coming up behind" Candidate Clinton. It doesn't show him "following her closely." Indeed, it doesn't show him following her at all, and certainly not "no matter where she walked on the stage."

      It doesn't show him making faces at Clinton, unless you count the Mussolini-esque countenance Trump tends to plaster on his face when he tries to look serious, displeased or concerned. (Trump isn't a very good actor.) It doesn't help us understand how she could have thought he was making faces, since he was standing behind her as the videotape ran.

      In short, the videotape showed Candidate Trump doing none of the things Clinton has pleasingly alleged. But so what? Matthews and Franken continued ahead as if the videotape supported Clinton's pleasing claims in every disgusting respect! [END QUOTE]

      Somerby is correct about that isn't he?

    6. No, he isn't. First, he is fixated on one video that several people here don't think is what viewers saw. Second, the stage is small and people saw camera angles that showed Trump behind Clinton. When he moved to his chair (on Somerby's film) he appeared to be coming up behind Clinton because of where she was standing to address the audience.

      It doesn't matter whether he was following her, but that he looked like he was following her. His Mussolini stare is not innocent or funny. He uses it to intimidate. His later pacing brought him in and out of frame (on the channel I watched) with a menacing look while she was speaking. It was distracting and ominous because of his expression.

      Somerby is fixated on one feed because it seems to contradict Clinton. Even that video doesn't support him but it is cherrypicking to ignore what viewers saw happen.

      This kind of specious deniability is wrong. Trump squeezed Macron's hand to dominate him. You don't say it was just a handshake. Trump used various tactics to dominate Clinton, and she felt dominated. You don't measure who stood where to confirm that, but Somerby has a grudge against Clinton. Maybe he thinks women don't get to feel dominated unless men agree. It isn't up to Somerby to decide how Clinton felt or whether her feelings are justified.

    7. Corby,

      Let me guess, you don't see the irony in your laughing at ditto-heads.

    8. If this is the post from Corby where he tries to indicate Trump's nefariousmesses, you can see from the time codes he posted there is no invading her space, there is no following her closely, there is no coming up from behind and there is no following her wherever she goes on stage. Although the following post is poorly written and hard to understand, he say Trump was "pulling focus" from Clinton which would be more magical, dittohead thinking as Trump would not have any idea of where of those cameras are zoomed to, tight or wide on Clinton and to think that he knew and acted in someway to "pull focus" is ridiculous but not out of step with the byzantine, dittohead logic of these pathetic schoolboy commenters.

      Quote - form last week - with time codes that don't indicate any of Clinton's inaccurate claims:

      "If you watch the video, both candidates stand by their chairs until around 26:12 when Trump moves forward toward the edge of the stage to address the audience. Next, Trump returns to his chair and Hillary moves to the edge of the stage to talk to an audience member, which places him behind her but by his chair. Next they stay by their chairs until 52:11 when Trump becomes restless and starts pacing around behind his chair, looking at the ceiling and pulling focus from Clinton in the foreground, who is again addressing the audience from the edge of the stage. At 1:28 he paces back and forth behind her in a way that appears menacing."

    9. The point for the schoolboy dittoheads: let's pick battles that we can win, not battles that we are bound to lose!

      You are defending a losing battle.

    10. Corbs - actually it was Macron that squeezed Trump's hand to dominate him as he later admitted to the French people. Stop dealing in scripts.

    11. Actually Trump really did invade her space, follow her closely, come up from behind her and follow her wherever she goes on stage. How do I know that? I saw it on TV!!

      Why is that true? Because a blonde "hypnotist"/"body language expert" on Fox Business News said it was true. That means it is!

      Just ask the genius Raven.

    12. Man oh man, Anon o non, I cited Fox Business News because at least that show couldn’t be called biased against Trump or for Clinton — and even there it was pointed out that during Trump’s turns to speak Clinton returned to her chair and sat down quietly, which is the expected behavior during Presidential debates; while Trump, even when he wasn’t standing up out of his chair three feet directly behind Clinton the entire time she spoke, still gestured and grimaced to the audience to distract them from what she was saying. Rude, as noted in the show.

      In 2000, Al Gore got more grief for a sigh that had been amplified by a sound tech from his mike. This misbehavior by Trump needs no such amping; in fact, the argument minimizing it relies on limiting the camera angles looked at, and demanding but then waving away all citations. Finally, we are told "insisting the future leader of the free world has to stay in his chair and be on his best behavior [is] classic school marmism"... How odd, then, that the popular-vote-winner Al Gore was so excoriated for sighing; no double standards here, eh?

    13. Raven - what is the source for your claim that in that second debate “When it’s not your turn to speak, you sit down”?

      What source supports your claim Trump was “supposed to be in his chair.”

      Certainly your source isn’t a blonde hypnotist you saw on Fox Business News.

      So, what is it?

    14. Raven - how is the google searching going? Did you find an alternative source yet for the claim that a blonde "hypnotist" made on Fox News and you stupidly believed and took to be truth?

    15. How can feelings, an inherently subjective response, be "incorrect"?

    16. Anon @ 9:20 AM: Among other things, the precedent of just four years earlier, Mitt Romney being told to sit down when he'd gone past his time and was still standing while Obama spoke.

      One might criticize the 2016 moderators for not doing the same, but they had their hands full as it was, just trying to stop him from audibly interrupting her, e.g. Cooper's "Please allow her to respond. She didn’t talk when you talked." (More rudeness by Trump you can either deny happened or assert is normal and within debate rules.)

    17. "How can you eat your pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

      Raven and others are pedantics and school marmish, oblivious to the realities of social interaction. They complain it was "intimidating" for Trump to stand up and make "Mussolini faces" at Hillary. If Hillary couldn't handle this orange clown, I wouldn't trust her to supervise a corner gas station.

    18. There ya go, Anon basically wants no rules at all, debate turned into street brawl — let the worst thug win — which would have suited Trump happily, since here he was gaming his height and body mass anyway, and had already called for debates with 'no moderator'.

    19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    20. With friends like these, feminism can't afford to have any enemies.

    21. Trump feels he had to that way towards Clinton, because her hands dwarve his.

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  6. TL;DR

    Clinton: "He was following me."

    RonHowardVoice: [He wasn't]

    Somerby's Commenters: "It Doesn't Matter If He Wasn't Following Her."

  7. Trump, Mercer and Koch just bully everyone out of the way. Is this the NY Times trying to create a vivid mythology without actually reporting too much on power?

    1. Neither the NY Times nor any other periodical is in any position of actual political power to change things regarding Trump and his puppet masters Mercer and the Koch Bros. What can they do, but try to write in such a way as to draw public attention?

      ... Well, what would be helpful is to draw public attention to the actual underlying problems to be solved...

      ... But in the meantime, there is a need for income, and drawing any kind of attention at all means the paper gets readers = income.

      In this sense, there is no such thing as bad news, and no doubt the NYT is grateful even for Bob Somerby’s frequent criticisms, with the accompanying links.