Part 1—Rationalize this: Back in the 1960s, leading zoologist Desmond Morris had a key idea.
He wrote a book, The Naked Ape, based upon this idea. The leading authority on his book sums it up like this:
The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal is a 1967 book by zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris that looks at humans as a species and compares them to other animals. The Human Zoo, a follow-up book by Morris that examined the behaviour of people in cities, was published in 1969.Forget that part about ratios! According to Morris, of all the species of monkeys and apes, only members of our own species "are not covered in hair."
The Naked Ape, which was serialized in the Daily Mirror newspaper and has been translated into 23 languages, depicts human behavior as largely evolved to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter. The book was so named because out of 193 species of monkeys and apes, only humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) are not covered in hair. Morris, the author, who had been the curator of mammals at London Zoo, said his book was intended to popularize and demystify science.
Morris said that Homo sapiens not only have the largest brains of all higher primates, but that sexual selection in human evolution has caused humans to have the highest ratio of penis size to body mass...
The Naked Ape generated a lot of buzz. It even inspired a same's-the-same 1973 film starring Victoria Principal—a film which was "very loosely based on the book," according to the leading authority on the Tinseltown production.
That said, Morris' book is rarely discussed today. In this era, leading experts more commonly refer to our species as the gossipy or credulous ape.
Why have so many international experts adopted this weltanschauung—this framework, perspective, way of thinking, general understanding or possibly even this paradigm or heuristic? (Plural: "weltanschauungs.")
Why are international experts describing us as the credulous ape? According to two anonymous people who say they know what they're talking about, the framework arose from comments on "cable news" last Tuesday night concerning the Manafort trial. Even for cable, last Tuesday's statements were so odd that they have transformed international understanding of the nature of the human animal.
The first of these statements was made by Nicolle Wallace, guest host on the Maddow show that evening. Wallace's 4 PM program, Deadline: Kaffeeklatsch, is a rollicking album of current gossip about Donald J. Trump, the badly disordered yet captivating American head of state.
Last Tuesday night, Wallace was filling in Rachel Maddow, who had taken several days off to work on the hand gestures involved in her "performance of the Rachel figure." The Manafort trial had begun that day with rapid jury selection, followed by opening statements. As she spoke with Politico's Josh Gerstein, Wallace posed a puzzling question:
WALLACE (7/31/18): Can you—I read this and I wonder about this— If I read this correctly, he [Manafort] was wearing a suit today.Wallace asked why Manafort was wearing a suit in court instead of his all-green prison attire. An array of international experts have suggested that this may qualify as the dumbest question ever asked.
WALLACE: We've seen other photos where he's wearing a jumpsuit. The jurors will not be informed, or see any images of him wearing that jumpsuit. Why would that be?
"Even on cable," one expert sadly said.
Gerstein offered a somewhat convoluted version of the blindingly obvious answer. Along the way, he even said that it might be "prejudicial" were the jurors to see the defendant "shackled," or even "in handcuffs."
Wallace then offered a jesting remark about the already famous "ostrich coat." Panelists enjoyed a good laugh.
Already, experts were shifting uneasily in their swivel chairs. But two hours later, it happened again!
Brian Williams spoke with Gerstein about the trial, but also with Cynthia Alksne. Turning to Alksne, he proceeded to ask the same ridiculous question, answering it as he did:
WILLIAMS (7/31/18): Cynthia, you're the lawyer here, so I got two more for you. Number one is another mechanical question. Tell the folks watching why it is that Paul Manafort—and we've established he likes him some high-end menswear—is able to wear a suit in court, even though we have seen his booking photo in the green jumpsuit that prisoners wear in that part of the state of Virginia.Williams answered his own question, then let Alksne say that he was right. In different circumstances, Alksne suggested, humiliation of the defendant might have been called for. This is why a cable channel brings legal experts in!
Is it courtesy, and is it because coming in in a prison jumpsuit would be instantly visually prejudicial?
ALKSNE: Yes, it is. It's more fair for him to appear in front of the jury in a suit than it is an orange jumpsuit.
WILLIAMS: All right.
ALKSNE: And there's no reason to humiliate him in that way. There's enough happening in the courtroom as it is.
(Williams had already joked about the ostrich coat in an earlier exchange with Gerstein. This explains his entertaining aside about the way Manafort, unlike the clotheshorse Williams, "likes him some high-end menswear."
By now, jibes about the ostrich jacket were mandated by Hard Pundit Law. "Cable news" has long since established itself as a gossip/entertainent medium.
Even so, international obsevers were taken aback by the sheer dumbness of the question Wallace and Williams both asked:
Why was Manafort allowed to appear in a regular suit? Why wasn't he forced to appear in a bright orange prison jumpsuit?
Two major stars of "cable news" had actually asked this question! One of the stars had explicitly said that she was puzzled, perhaps even flummoxed, by this state of affairs.
The sheer absurdity of this question was noted by savants worldwide. "Surely, this is the gossiping, credulous, or even perhaps the braindead ape," successors to the late Desmond Morris were soon saying at sparely attended professional gatherings.
For today, let's state the obvious. Obviously, Wallace and Williams never thought that Manafort would appear before the jury in his orange or green jumpsuit.
No one thought he'd be presented in shackles or in handcuffs. No one thought he'd be frogmarched in, arms pulled back and head shoved very low.
(Abundant evidence made that unnecessary, Alksne seemed to suggest.)
It's hard to believe that anyone at The One True Channel actually thought that cable viewers, however gullible, distracted or dumb, would actually need this point explained. Still, the question was asked, on two separate programs!
Two cable stars asked the ridiculous question. Around the world, traditional weltanschauungs began to crack under the strain.
Morris said that we were naked. Aristotle is said to have called us "rational."
In the wake of last Tuesday's events, experts are aggressively throwing that earlier construction away. They're playing tape of Wallace and Williams, after which they're sadly saying:
Go ahead! Rationalize this!
Some of these experts have even asked an additional question: How credulous do we apes have to be to watch cable programs like these? Could it be that, in the end, we're just the credulous ape?
Tomorrow: Foer explains