Part 1—The mental styles of a species: Long ago and far away, a certain famous fellow named Moore made his greatest statement.
"We live in fictitious times," the famous fellow said.
We aren't referring to Roy Moore, the craziest candidate yet. We aren't even referring to Roger Moore, of 007 fame.
We aren't referring to either Wes Moore. We're referring to filmmaker Michael Moore, who made his insightful statement during his unruly speech at the 2003 Oscars.
Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine, won for Best Documentary. We thought of his statement this very morning as we thumbed through the Post and the Times.
As we did, we imagined another documentary film—a film called Anthropology Now. This film would explore the mental styles of one animal species, our own, the species called Homo sapiens.
Anthropologically speaking, major elements within this famous species tend to seek out, and create, Moore's "fictitious times." Scientifically speaking, we especially think of the specimens described as upper-end journalists.
Live and direct from Alabama, Professor Wilson has helped us see that the social behavior of ants is a great deal like that of our own famous species.
Like ants, our species' professional journalists are strongly inclined to work in groups. Behaving in neatly choreographed ways, they tend to produce novelized versions of public events, thereby helping to create Moore's "fictitious times."
Is it time for a documentary called Anthropology Now? For our money, press coverage of the just-concluded Alabama Senate campaign was one of the most interesting recent press events.
Anthropologically speaking, the journalists displayed a wide array of their most basic predilections as they covered, or pretended to cover, this high-profile Senate campaign. According to scientific observers, those predilections were these:
Hard-wired predilections of the species in question:Do we live in fictitious, novelized times? Does Moore's Dictum still hold true, even when the fictitions and the novelized stories have been designed to serve "progressive" interests andends?
1) An endless desire to talk about sex and various sexy-time topics;
2) A potent desire to avoid discussing "matters of substance;"
3) A powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading claims to help create novelized stories about favorite topics;
4) A powerful inclination to focus on irrelevant facts, or to disappear relevant facts which undermine such stories;
5) A strong inclination to pursue and promote the individual's career self-interest at the expense of normal truth-telling or reporting behaviors.
Scientists tell us the answer is yes! Having received that assurance, we saw novelization and fictitous claims all over this morning's press. We thought of the need for a feature film, a film called Anthropology Now.
Our misery started with the opening minutes of Morning Joe, in which the children staged a remarkable display of hiss-spitting and gossip. Since producers have had the good sense to drop those embarrassing minutes from the videotape they've posted, we'll move ahead to some of the more striking fictitious claims and novelized presentations.
Good lord! Opening the Washington Post, we were met by this headline:
Democrats see hope for 2018 in huge black Ala. turnoutIn fairness to Weigel and Scott, they never claimed, in their report, that there was a "huge black turnout" is Alabama this Tuesday. Apparently, this novelized claim was the work of a headline editor.
In fairness to this species member, he or she was trying to drive a story line designed to serve progressive interests. But as those scientists assured us, such good intentions don't necessarily mean that a pleasing claim is sensible or true.
Was there any such "huge turnout" this Tuesday in Bama? Today, we're able to look at fuller numbers concerning Tuesday's turnout.
Below, we'll show you basic turnout data from Tuesday's Senate election, along with the corresponding data from last year's presidential election.
Was there a "huge black turnout" on Tuesday? The numbers look like this:
2016 Alabama election:Let's think about those numbers:
Total votes cast: 2,123,372
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 28%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 595,000
2017 Alabama election:
Total votes cast: 1,346,147
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 29%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 390,000
Last year, 595,000 black Alabamians turned out to vote. This Tuesday, 205,000 fewer black Alabamians turned out, in a high-profile election.
By the norms of many western democracies, last year's turnout rates around the nation were sparse. Are we perhaps "defining democracy down" when we describe Tuesday's turnout as "huge?" Are we possibly making a claim which is novelized and maybe misleading?
Anthropologically speaking, such questions don't arise! As you will see everywhere you look, our mainstream journalists have agreed that they will tell that heartwarming story, full and complete anthropo-freaking stop!
Given the wiring of our species, you're going to see that story told, in various misleading/inaccurate ways, again and again and again and again in the next few days. As ants are programmed to work together in building the anthills in which they will live, our journalists are programmed to work together in telling the stories they like!
Over the course of the past five weeks, the journalists agreed to view the Bama Senate race through a particular lens. Perhaps somewhat strangely, they focused on aspects of Roy Moore's sexual and/or social behavior from forty years ago.
In the course of telling the story this way, they tended to avoid discussions of Moore's crazy behavior and ludicrous statements as a public official in the past twenty-five years. On cable, they focused on this somewhat peculiar topic even as they tended to ignore the impending passage of a major "tax reform" bill.
Republican tax scams took a back seat. Roy Moore's dating in the 1970s came first!
According to major anthropologists, this group behavior no longer seems strange when we consider the hard-wired impulses of the species in question. As noted above, Homo sapiens is wired to display "an endless desire to talk about sex," along with "a potent desire to avoid discussing 'matters of substance.'" Throw in that "powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading factual claims to help create novelized group stories" and you start to understand this passage from Margaret Sullivan's feel-good column in this morning's Post:
SULLIVAN (12/14/17): Enough voters—especially black voters—decided that they believed the highly credible accusations against Moore. They voted their consciences, and in some cases went against their own voting histories, putting a Democrat in office in ruby-red Alabama.Scientists will call attention to Sullivan's (and Tapper's) inclination to present a highly simplistic, "feel-good" story in which, by one percentage point, right has conquered wrong.
What did it mean?
“There are standards. There are limits,” was how Jake Tapper put it minutes after CNN called the race for Democrat Doug Jones.
He was talking about voters’ reactions to the harrowing stories of sexual misconduct that four women told The Washington Post in mid-November—that Moore, as a man in his 30s, had preyed on teenage girls and, in one case, molested a 14-year-old, Leigh Corfman.
That said, they'll call special attention to Sullivan's account of that initial report in the Washington Post. They'll cite her account as an example of the species' tendency to embellish, misstate and mislead.
Is it true? Did the four women in that original Post report make "accusations against Moore" in which they told "harrowing stories of sexual misconduct?"
Today, that stands as Sullivan's account of her own newspaper's famous report. But how accurate is that account?
Without any question, it's reasonable to say that Leigh Corfman told such a story in that Post report. But how about Gloria Thacker Deason, another of the four women?
Deason said she dated Moore for several months when he was 32 and she was 18, then 19. (She was a college student.) She said her mother felt that Moore was "good husband material." She told the Post that "their physical relationship did not go further than kissing and hugging."
Was that "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Was it an "accusation" at all?
Don't even ask! According to major anthropologists, Sullivan's species is programmed to see Deason's story as such within the extremely narrow warrens of their tribal "ant hills." So too with the story told by Debbie Wesson Gibson, who said that Moore kissed her twice during the several months when they dated, once again with her mother cheering the relationship on.
Did Gibson tell "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Within the anthill, yes, she did, these anthropologists tell us. Professor Wilson failed to respond to a request for comment, though we feel entirely sure about what he would have said.
Is it possibly time for a film named Anthropology Now? We picture Michael Moore standing over the Washington Post, making some such wry observation as, "I love the smell of bullsh*t in the morning."
Would such a documentary sell? Almost certainly not, the anthropologists say. The particular species under review has always loved embellished stories, especially tales about sex.
Meanwhile, back at the press corps:
As the children fretted about past kisses, they largely ignored Roy Moore's ludicrous conduct as a public official. "Too boring," their editors reportedly said.
Especially on "cable news," they pushed coverage of that Republican tax bill way down the list of topics. Last night, they had to obsess about Omarosa before they could rush through such fare.
That said, they've behaved this way for decades now. This helps explain the ludicrous budget and health care systems under which the American people labor. Such problems may seem pretty minor to corporate "cable news" millionaires!
The scientists point to other recent phenomena. That sprawling report in yesterday's New York Times about test scores in Chicago?
It will go completely unmentioned by liberals, the scientists insist. According to these anthropologists, these liberals aren't wired to care.
That confession of twenty years of self-serving silence offered by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate? "Liberals will praise her for her 'courage,' " the scientists quickly predicted, even before such comments began appearing on-line.
Gail Collins' silly cite of the latest script, in which Senator Heroine was in Bible class when Donald J. Trump so horribly slimed her? "They're going to eat that pap with a spoon," one wry scientist said.
In our next few reports, we'll continue to outline the structure of this major new film. We'll especially focus on the silences which surround so many current news topics—the sounds of the silent generations who have, again and again and again, chosen not to speak in service to their careers.
Is the time right for Anthropology Now? The long, dumb history of "fictition" says the answer is no.
Our species has always loved a good story, these scientists tell us. A good story, the dumber the better, garnished with plenty of sex.
Tomorrow: The silent generation