Interlude—The mothers get disappeared: When we humans stage our moral panics, our limited intellectual skills tend to fail completely.
So it has been in the Roy Moore case, where major corporate-owned journalists have had a very hard time describing the charge with which Moore stands accused.
Of what does Moore stand accused? Last evening, on CNN Tonight, the Washington Post's David Swerdlick—and no, we kid you not—described Moore as "someone who's alleged to be a serial dater of teenagers."
An assistant editor at the Washington Post actually told Don Lemon that! Moore stands accused of "dating teenagers" when Swerdlick tells the tale.
The assistant editor didn't mention the two alleged sexual assaults of which Moore stands accued. And then, good grief!
When Lemon tried to help him out, this odd exchange occurred:
LEMON (12/5/17): You're being kind with "a serial dater." Because there was one woman who said she, at the time she was 14, and he went beyond just—How hard is it to keep track of the number of alleged assaults? Sadly, when corporate journalists stage a panic, they routinely have trouble keeping track of even the most basic facts.
SWERDLICK: Yes, just to be clear, he's accused of at least one crime in one instance.
Lemon seemed to think that we're dealing with one alleged assault. Even as he tried "to be clear," Swerdlick did little better. But then, our pundits are skilled at reciting standard group scripts. They tend to remarkably weak on their basic facts, as CNN contributor Ana Navarro demonstrated just a bit later.
Later in that 10 PM hour, Navarro, spouting her standard colorful insults, offered this peculiar account of yesterday's front-page report in the Washington Post. As she did, the analysts groaned, then covered their ears:
NAVARRO: The only thing that has changed in the last three weeks is that more women have come out. In fact, another one came out today in Florida, who had a card, when she was a teenager, that he signed to her. More and more women have come out in the last three weeks.Navarro seemed to be referring to Debbie Wesson Gibson, who was the focus of yesterday's front-page report in the Post. That said, Gibson isn't "another woman" who has "come out in the past three weeks." She was part of the Post's original, November 10 report about Moore's past behavior.
Gibson's account of dating Moore was a basic part of the very first report about this matter. Was Navarro aware of this fact?
To appearances, she didn't know that. But then, with amazing regularity, corporate pundits betray ignorance of the most basic facts when they stage their panics. So it was in Salem Village. So it is today.
Of what does Moore stand accused? Swerdlick's account was extremely peculiar last night. One night earlier, Rachel Maddow had continued the long struggle she has maintained with this vexing question.
We'd say that Maddow did better than Swerdlick. Still, we found this weirdly unclear:
MADDOW (12/4/17): Also, the U.S. Senate race, which is going to take place one week from tomorrow in Alabama. Today the president abandoned all pretense and explicitly endorsed the Republican candidate in that race, who has been accused by multiple women of having either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers and when now-candidate Roy Moore was a grown man in his 30s.According to Maddow, Moore "has been accused by multiple women of having either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers and when...Moore was a grown man."
Without any doubt, two women have said that Moore sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers. Those are very serious charges—and two can be thought of as "multiple" in and of itself.
That said, who are the women who have said that Moore "sexually harassed them" when they were teenagers? Was Maddow referring to the teenage women Moore dated at that time, the ones who have Swerdlick so upset?
More specifically, was Maddow referring to Gibson, who has described the high esteem in which she held Moore when the two were dating, and for years thereafter? Gibson is the woman concerning whom Navarro seemed confused. Is she one of the people Maddow thinks was "harassed?"
Alas! Our pundits have had a very hard time describing the accusation against Moore. As we noted yesterday, Lawrence O'Donnell extended the panic to the point where he smarmily complained, for several nights, about the fact that Moore married a woman who was 24 when he was 38.
Two nights later, Lawrence wept about President Kennedy, our dear departed Jack. But as we noted yesterday, he married a woman who was 24 when he was 36!
In fairness, Lawrence wasn't the first to advance this deeply intrusive complaint about Moore's troubling marriage, which has lasted some 32 years. Weeks earlier, Slate's Will Saletan, who isn't crazy, initiated this indictment, going beyond even Lawrence in his Dimmesdalian bill of particulars:
SALETAN (11/14/17): “I’ve been married to my wife, Kayla, for nearly 33 years.” Moore presents this as proof of his character. But do the math. Thirty-three years ago, when they met, Moore was 38, and his wife-to-be was 24. That’s a difference of 14 years, roughly the same age gap his accusers describe. Kayla Moore’s bio also mentions that she had “previously been named Miss Alabama US Teen 2nd Runner up.” Moore didn’t just date pretty women who were 14 years his junior. He married one.Lawrence is nutty; Saletan isn't. But when our species enters a panic, even people who are sane may author accusations like this, in which Saletan would frog-march Moore away for having dared to marry someone conventionally pretty!
It's all athropology now! As we wait for Donald J. Trump to launch his nuclear war, we no longer see any reason to try to steer the nation's "journalists" toward more rational practices.
As we wait for Trump to act, we're channeling future anthropologists, most likely from other planets, who will describe the behaviors of the species which brought that war to pass.
Those anthropologists will note the way our species' extremely limited intellectual skills would tend to disappear altogether at times of moral panic. In footnotes, they might marvel at outliers like Karissa Fenwick, who writes an extremely intelligent column in today's Washington Post.
Fenwick is a graduate student in social work at USC—Southern Cal. She has brought an harassment complaint against an academic mentor.
In tdoay's column, Fenwick does something extremely intelligent—right in her headline, she invites the world to "question my story." With extreme wisdom, she says this process might help create the type of discussion we very much need at this time.
Fenwick could never be a journalist; she's far too wise for that. At times like these, our journalists tend to do something quite different—they tend to disappear, embellish or invent facts to drive their panics along.
In the current panic, a basic fact has been disappeared. Here it is:
According to the Washington Post, two mothers of the teenagers Moore dated cheered the relationship on!We've never seen a cable pundit mention this basic fact—and you've never seen that either. This fact has been thoroughly disappeared, enabling panicky complaints like the one Swerdlick issued last night.
Moore did date several teenagers—Gibson was 17, another young woman was 19—but were they being "harassed?" Given the mores of the place and time, should people like Swerdlick be staging stampedes about those troubling events?
Parochials like our corporate journalists will serve you the facts and the stories they like. They'll disappear the facts they don't like. Tomorrow, we'll start doing something different.
Following in the shoes of Fenwick, we'll suggest that you use better sense. As we wait for Mr. Trump's war, we'll suggest you consider the cultural context surrounding the past events of this pleasing group panic.
Two women have accused Moore of committing sexual assaults. They've made very serious charges. It isn't hard to remember that number. It isn't hard to cite these extremely serious accusations first.
The women Roy Moore dated back then have made no such claims. Tomorrow, we'll start to ponder the cultural context surrounding those relationship, which left Gibson holding Moore in the highest esteem.
This may explain the world views of those women's mothers—even of Moore himself.
None of this "matter" at this point as we wait for Trump to strike. But the story we tell will at least be interesting about the American past.
We think this cultural history is interesting and instructive. Our modern "journalists"—panicky, corporate, scripted, inane—fall far short of that.
Tomorrow: "The best love story, ever"