Part 4—It loves you all the way: It's been years since we heard them singing their song late at night at the Manchester Holiday Inn, during the 2004 New Hampshire Granite State primary.
Later that evening, Susan Estrich would sidle over to the comedians' table to boast about the large amount she was being paid to serve as a "Fox News Democrat."
Earlier, though, their song had rung out. We can still hear their singing today. Was the ghost of Sinatra on hand?
When the mainstream press corps loves youWe were surprised that they were so bold as to sing their song in public. It was like the scene in Casablanca where everyone sings La Marseillaise ("The Marseillaise"), though also perhaps a bit different.
It's no good unless they love you
Al-l-l-l-l the way.
Through the good or lean years
And for all those in-between years
Come what may...
That said, the accuracy of their pundit anthem was clear.
So true! When the nation's pundits decide they love you, they love you all the way. And there's no one the pundits love as much as they [HEART] those sex accusers—depending on who's being accused, of course.
What do they do when they [HEART] an accuser? They swear that every story he or she tells has the ring of truth, if not a great deal more. And so it was when Willa Paskin gazed on Stephanie Clifford, who was visiting Anderson's Playpen this past Sunday night.
The headline on Paskin's report at Slate takes the form of a tribal command.
"Believe This Woman," the headline demands. Along with everyone else in the guild, Paskin had gulped every word:
PASKIN (3/26/18): According to Daniels, in 2006, the then 27-year-old adult film star had sex with Trump, who was 60 and host of the Apprentice at the time....So great! We not only got to hear a story which had "the ring of truth." We got to enjoy some laughs too!
Told in detail in a highly anticipated 60 Minutes sit-down with Anderson Cooper, Daniels’ version of events had the ring of truth, and the laughter too. In relating her first encounter with Trump, Daniels laughed about how much he talked about himself, as if she still couldn’t believe it: “And he’s like—’Have you seen my new magazine?’ ” she told Cooper. But the story about how she disarmed him—first asking “does that normally work for you?” and then suggesting she spank him with a magazine with his face on the cover—revealed her to be astute and feisty. She took the measure of this ridiculous person and teased him in exactly such a way that he warmed to her. He gave up the pompous pose and became, briefly, human, asking Daniels about herself.
Leading idiocracy scholars say this combination—the desire to settle for the suggestion of truth as long as we get to enjoy a few laughs—is an unmistakable indicator that a society had been hurled all the way down to full-blown idiocracy.
That said, how about it? Did Daniels' version of those events bear "the ring of truth?" According to several "close enough" scholars, it all depends on what the meaning of "have the ring of truth" is!
In several recent late-night sessions which we may have imagined, these scholars have been rather hard on Paskin's analysis of Clifford's Playpen appearance. For example:
Did Daniels' version of events "reveal her to be astute and feisty?" These experts agree that Daniels' story did portray her as astute and feisty—indeed, as almost transplendently so.
But these experts then raised an obvious point. By normal standards of interpretations, stories like this will sometimes be seen as perhaps "too good to be true," when the story is told by the person who comes out looking so astute.
Unfortunately, in modern journalism, "too good to be true" has been replaced by a contradicory bromide. Stories once deemed "too good to be true" are now mirthfully deemed "too good to check."
No skepticism concerning Clifford's self-flattering story appears in Paskin's report. She simply accepts this "perfect squelch" story as accurate, enjoying the way this new leading lady has taken the measure of Trump.
Paskin never so much as mentions the possibility that Clifford's story, however pleasing, may in fact be untrue. Indeed, as her account of Clifford's appearance continues, so does the total belief:
PASKIN: This was Daniels’ mode throughout, not going harder on Trump than was necessary. From the opening moments she insisted she was not a part of #MeToo, that their sex was consensual, that she was not a “victim,” and that to say otherwise was to undermine real victims. She then proceeded to outline a bad sexual encounter, all tied up with ideas of what women “owe” to men. Daniels didn’t want to have sex with Trump. She wasn’t attracted to him. But when she came out of the bathroom of his hotel room to see him, in her words, “perched on the bed,” she told Cooper, “I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ [Laugh.] And I just felt like maybe—[Laugh.] it was sort of—I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone. And I just heard the voice in my head, ‘Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.’ ” Daniels’ certainty that, in this situation, the only thing to do was just go ahead and have sex with this creepy old guy was kind of heartbreaking. She is also extremely unself-pitying. All I could think was: “Cat Person”!The international experts with whom we spoke, or with whom we believe we may have spoken, found additional fault with this passage.
These scholars said they had no idea when Clifford "insisted...that to say otherwise was to undermine real victims" of sexual misconduct.
"That simply wasn't part of Clifford Playpen narrative," one thought leader sadly noted, adding that it mainly serves, in this Slate piece, to make Clifford seem more feminist-friendly.
That said, the scholars were far more critical of Paskin's rush to accept Clifford's story on its face—her story about why she ended up f**king Donald J. Trump in the first place.
Daniels' story could be true, these scholars generously said. Any story could be! That said, why isn't this story equally plausible, one straight-talking academic star asked:
Daniels didn’t want to have sex with Trump. She wasn’t attracted to him. But she had gone to his bungalow with career advancement in mind. When he told her he might be able to use her on his brainless network TV show, she decided to urge the old coot along in a traditional fashion.Why isn't that account as plausible as the story Clifford told? That's what this well-known authority figureasked, while noting that Paskin had adopted a more modern traditional stance:
She had decided to [HEART] the accuser! The mainstream press corps has reflexively adopted that stance for decades now, this leading authority said.
The scholars took special note of the last remark in the passage we've posted.
"All she could think was Cat Person?" According to this consortium, the inability of upper-end journalists to think of more than one possibility is a leading indicator of a society's decline to idiocracy.
We thought these scholars, who we may have imagined, were extremely convincing. Clifford's story could be essentially true, they said—but it could be total bullshit! Did she later receive a physical threat? Stating what is blindingly obvious, that helpful claim could also be totally false!
Thoughts like these will rarely occur to the modern American pundit. The modern pundit is principally known for his or her love for sex accusers, for the tendency to [HEART] those accusers the whole dang freaking way.
"Believe this woman," these modern pundits will quickly declare. In Manchester, it was the liquor speaking. More often, expert now allege, it may just be the lead!
We choked on the conclusions these lauded experts reached. The stampede to believe what Clifford said is a standard sign of idiocracy, these laureates sadly said.
We didn't want to believe the scholars, and yet that song rang out in our heads. In truth, they've behaved exactly this way with the sex accusers for more than twenty years.
In one profoundly embarrassing episode, they stampeded off to believe NAME WITHHELD in the spring of '98. That embarrassing pundit stampede also followed a 60 Minutes appearance!
It ended in a remarkable way. You weren't encouraged to know that.
Tomorrow: You gotta believe! The Great Stampede of The Lovesick Boys in March 1998