The Dumb which devoured the press: Again and again and again and again, we think of what we've learned from Kevin Drum's work on lead exposure.
Until recent years, exposure was very high. Does that explain the amazing modern extent of The Dumb? Or does the remarkable sweep of The Dumb result from other causes?
We don't know how to answer your question, but in the last day or so, we'd say The Dumb has been everywhere. So we won't have to start with you-know-who, we'll start with a rather cruel, and weirdly unintelligent, Jonathan Chait:
CHAIT (1/16/18): It has been publicly known since last year that Trump cannot read a memo longer than a page, and any written material must be in bullet-point form. Trump himself admitted (or bragged) a year and a half ago that he does not read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” By this point it is simply taken as a matter of course that people wishing to communicate with the president must treat him as though he is suffering a severe mental impairment.Jackson didn't test Donald J. Trump for possible dyslexia. Is it possible that Trump is dyslexic, like so many others before him? Is it possible that he always has been, back to his childhood days?
Trump is not actually suffering a severe mental impairment. White House doctor Ronny Jackson, who has served in the post since 2013, informed reporters on Wednesday that the president is in fine physical and mental health. The report comes as the national media has discussed whether Trump’s functional near-illiteracy, minuscule attention span, and narcissistic pathos are the symptoms of dementia or some other kind of cognitive incapacitation. We should take Jackson’s diagnosis at face value. Trump is just an idiot.
It certainly seems possible to us, and being dyslexic doesn't make you "an idiot." Especially for someone who likes to spout about schools, we think this post by Chait represents a major attack of The Dumb, and of the weirdly unkind concerning a widespread condition.
With that, let's move to you know who. Last night, she opened her TV show in this peculiar manner:
MADDOW (1/17/18): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.Republicans don't need a single vote from a single Democrat? Where on earth did Our Own Rhodes Scholar, along with her twenty-member staff, come up with a groaner like that?
It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.
We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don't need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.
In weirder news...
When the press corps' Rhodes scholars function that way, The Dumb is devouring cable. Later today, we'll show you where Maddow went from there last night. We'll try to include her three (3) bizarre reports, starting last Friday night, about Dr. Jackson's misspelled first name and the possibility that his initial report about Trump's exam had been forged.
There was never any reason to think that Jackson's report had been forged. Seriously, how dumb does a person have to be to issue three such reports? And as with Trump, so too here:
Is there no one on her staff who's able to "talk her down?"
Of course, you haven't begun to encounter The Dumb until you open the Times. In a manner reminiscent of Chait, the headline on Gail Collins' new column says this:
"Donald Trump Gets His Sanity Grades"
In theory, Collins writes her own headlines. Surely, even she must know that none of the tests given to Trump were designed to test his "sanity." At this point, within this guild, does any distinction apply?
We've asked before how Linda Qiu can possibly be the official fact-checker for the nation's most famous newspaper. Qiu had a very strong premise today. We thought she butchered that very strong premise in an array of ways.
Most striking, though, was the headline atop Qiu's hard-copy report, which accused someone of "lying." After reading Qiu's report, we still weren't sure who the headline writer had in mind.
(Hard-copy headline: "Distorting Poll's Data, Then Lying About It.")
Qiu made no claim, in her report, that anyone had "lied." At one point, she referred to a "downright false" statement by Donald J. Trump. The editor who wrote the headline may have thought that such a statement has to be a "lie."
The New York Times works on that level. Do you read the daily hard-copy page A3?
There's much, much more all over the Times, but let's close with a second trip to last evening's cable. We refer to the discussion between Brian Williams and John Harris concerning the Clinton impeachment, which both men still seem to enjoy discussing.
For whatever reason, no transcripts are produced for Williams' 11 PM program. We don't intend to produce a full transcript for last night's exchange. Instead, we'll leave it at this:
Harris complained that voters disregarded "the facts" about the Lewinsky matter during the year of impeachment. He said "a clear majority of the people" had instead succumbed to this line of thought:
"Facts matter less than which side you are on."
Amazingly, it didn't seem to enter his head that the basic facts of a case don't, and can't, tell a person how to assess or judge those facts. For the record, Harris seems to have missed very few meals. This is surely part of the problem at the top of the press corps pile, where he now resides.
That said, Harris' formulation was just amazingly dumb. He seemed to think that knowing the facts about that affair determined how an honest person had to assess the situation. Is there any part of these post-humans' brains which The Dumb hasn't swallowed by now?
Western culture has been built upon the idea that we're the "rational animal." Meanwhile, our human wiring tells us to respect authority figures, like the people we see on TV.
That formulation by Harris was just amazingly dumb—but this is truly all we are. We advise you to adopt this framework as you look out at the world.
Beyond the valley of the dumb: In her column, Collins moved Beyond the Valley of the Dumb to The Land of the Deeply Gratuitous. We thought this particular zinger was truly rank:
COLLINS: “Amazing report, cognitive & otherwise,” cheered Donald Trump Jr. Have we ever before had a First Child rallying the troops around the president passing a mental test? We will refrain from saying anything mean about Junior because, after all, he was the one who grew up in a home where he broke his leg due to an inattentive babysitter and found his nanny dying in the basement.She'll refrain from saying anything mean! Collins is endlessly clever!
At any rate, we have no idea what Collins is talking about in that passage, and she provides no link. That said, we thought that gratuitous passage truly took her to The Realm of the Ugly and Rank.
Does some such terrible childhood event help explain Trump Junior? If so, we feel sorry for him. That said, what explains the way Lady Collins turned out?
Later: Rachel Maddow discusses herself, then plays tape of her favorite anchor from the previous night