Willie attempts to tackle turnout!


There's only one word for this—sad:
In fairness, the children have to spend lots of time in hair and makeup.

They also have to study their scripts. As Talking Cable Star Ken has said, "Cable news is hard!"

Once in a while, the children's scripts compel them to tackle some technical matter. So it was that Willie Haskell-Geist found himself attempting to discuss voter turnout down Alabama way.

Willie tried to tackle the topic in the first segment of today's Morning Joe. Joe Scarborough played along as Willie bungled the topic.
To observe the initial bungling, click here, move four minutes in:
GEIST (12/13/17): I said something on the air yesterday about the African-American turnout. They had talked about getting Obama-level 2008 turnout. I think the term I used was "pipe dream." I couldn't see how, without Barack Obama on the ballot, that was going to happen.

They did it! They did it. African-Americans turned out in the same numbers as they did—think about that!—in 2008 with Barack Obama, an historic candidate, on the ballot. Look at that!

JOE: That's just staggering. That is the most incredible story of all coming out of—

WILLIE: Isn't that unbelievable?

JOE: Unbelievable!

WILLIE: Doug Jones rode into the Senate on the back of African American voters and some suburban Republican women voters in this state.
The feel-good scripting is easy to spot. But as Willie and Joe carried on in this way, a visual seemed to say that African-American turnout in yesterday's election had been 29 percent.

That would be an extremely low turnout rate. Why in the world would Willie and Joe think that was so great?

Inevitably, Willie had bungled this topic in every conceivable way. For starters, let's try to establish some basic facts:

For starters, No, Virginia! African-Americans didn't "turn out [yesterday] in the same numbers as they did in 2008." On the other hand, black Alabamians didn't post the miserable turnout rate of 29 percent.

As technical topics go, "turnout" and "turnout rate" just aren't real hard at all. But they proved to be way too much for Willie and Joe this morning.

A few minutes later, Willie tried to tackle the topic again. This time, his pitiful technical bungling was even more apparent. Click here, move six minutes in:
GEIST: Just to underline these numbers one more time:

2008, black turnout in Alabama was 29 percent. 2012, it was 28 percent. And again, last night, 29 percent, in an off-year election without Barack Obama on the ballot.

MIKA: Wow!

WILLIE: And by the way, the broader turnout, according to the Secretary of State, was 40 percent. Remember his prediction, 25 percent? Forty percent last night.
Question: Has anyone ever been more incompetent than Willie Haskell-Geist? Who but a major "cable news" star could possibly be this dumb?

Note what Geist said in that second bite at the apple. First, he seems to praise black Alabamians for a turnout rate of 29 percent. He then says the overall turnout rate was a much higher 40 percent!

Why would he want to praise black voters if their turnout rate was so much lower than the overall rate? This obvious puzzle went unexplained as Mika simply said "Wow."

In fact, Geist had thoroughly bungled this topic. Let's take it step by step:

Black turnout: Almost surely, black turnout was not as large yesterday as in 2008.

In 2008, there were 2.10 million votes cast in Alabama. Yesterday, only 1.34 million votes were cast.

Overall participation was much lower yesterday. Almost surely, way more black Alabamians went to the polls in 2008.

Statewide turnout rate: According to Geist, the Secretary of State has said that the overall turnout rate yesterday waas 40 percent. That's the type of low turnout rate which our democracy routinely produces, even in high-profile elections.

We'll assume that's an accurate statement. But when Geist says black turnout rate was a much lower 29 percent, he's almost certainly wrong.

In that statement, Geist is confusing "black turnout rate" with "black turnout as a percentage of total turnout." As compared to 2008, voter turnout was way down on a statewide basis. But the black percentage of the total vote matched the percentage from 2008.

There's nothing hard about these topics, until a hapless bungler like Haskell-Geist comes along. That said, the scripting here was obvious. In line with current, extremely childish feel-good nostrums, the children wanted to praise blacks and women for pushing Jones over the top.

Haskell-Geist tried to do accomplish this task. As he did, he seemed to say that yesterday's black turnout rate was 1) extremely low, and 2) much lower than the overall turnout rate.

No one challenged his obvious bungling. Mika knew she ought to say "Wow;" Joe simply played along. No one else corrected the record. On Morning Joe, the rules are clear:

The minions do not correct the stars as the stars bungle along.

None of this pitiful bungling matters, except as a portrait of corporate press corps incompetence. These people are overpaid TV stars, full and complete total stop. They know very few facts, can handle few technical topics.

They do understand their prevailing scripts. They exist for one purpose only:

To peddle prevailing corporate narratives, thus treating their viewers like marks.


  1. But, they're all really good at identifying "child molesters." And "sexual predators."

    They seem to revel in it.

  2. Let me add something:

    "They do understand their prevailing scripts. They exist for one purpose only:

    To peddle prevailing corporate narratives, thus treating their viewers like marks."

    I'll go even farther. The women are all hired for their looks as the No.1 consideration, just like FOX News.

    They of course would go nuts at such an observation.

    But the proof for this claim is easy. How come none of the women on MSNBC are ever what Grandma used to call "plain"? And if looks are a key hiring ingredient there, do brains always follow?

    Are these the best and brightest?

  3. Check your Dragonspeak AGAIN, comrade.

  4. This post is almost willful gobbledygook. Somerby ignores some very unusual, one might say, historic aspects of last night's election to carp about some cable TV presenter's weak presentation. (Or maybe it wasn't weak...it *seemed* weak, and some of those graphics *seemed* to say something...)
    The fact is that the turnout last night far exceeded the projections given by the Alabama Secretary of State prior to the election. By contrast, only 18 percent of Alabama's voters turned out for the Aug. 15 Republican and Democratic primaries in the special Senate election. For the Sept. 26 GOP runoff between Moore and Sen. Luther Strange, turnout was 15 percent.
    To the extent that Geist was trying to express his astonishment at the results (and yes they were astonishing), he was correct. Or one could always examine more substantive analysis of the election....or not.

    Somerby ought to provide links to back up some of his (apparent) factual assertions. But then, it's rich that someone who mistakes "median" for "average" would chide someone for misunderstanding statistics.

    By the way, for readers who may be confused: There is no one named "Willie Haskell-Geist" on Morning Joe. Somerby is attempting to mock the man by using some ancient pop culture reference...I think. At any rate:
    Somerby: keeping Willie "Haskell-"Geist honest since 2007. We do Very Important Work here at the Howler.

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerDecember 13, 2017 at 2:40 PM

      Don't expect Bob to report the news you want to see. That is not his job. Don't expect Bob to present you with the facts. That is not his job either. Don't expect Bob to treat his betters with the respect they (you?) think they deserve. Not his job. You can expect that whenever someone to the "left" side of the mass media gets the facts wrong, misstates the truth or disappears the information we (you?) need to know, he just might make a big deal about it. That actually *is* his (self-appointed) job, whether he is right or wrong. If you don't like that, maybe you are reading the wrong blog.

    2. "Somerby is attempting to mock the man by using some ancient pop culture reference...I think. "

      Not that ancient. Unless, you're pretty parochial and uneducated.

      You probably don't get the Pecksniff stuff, either.

      I'm glad Bob writes as he does. I'm a left-winger, but I agree that this MSNBC crowd is just atrocious.

      Good piece of his today-- he's nailed it.