Childish, embarrassing work: The critics insisted that we were wrong when we held "The Daniel Dale Experience" over for a second week, as we did last Monday.
In truth, we'd stumbled into the decision. That said, the rolling coronation of Dale became official this past week. From that, we think we can derive some anthropology lessons.
The rolling coronation of Dale continued in the past week. Last Thursday evening, on The Last Word, Dale was hailed as an "invaluable" servant to "future historians" by none other than Lawrence O'Donnell.
Yesterday morning, the official coronation took place in the Washington Post's Outlook section.
There's a great deal to learn from the rolling group judgment now being expressed concerning Dale's current work. And yes! In part, these anthropology lessons will take us back to the work of Professor Harari concerning the actual dominant traits of our warlike species.
Yesterday's ceremony took place on page 2 of Outlook. In essence, Dale broke a bottle of champagne over the bow of his own ship. In hard copy, his essay ran beneath this across-the-page headline:
It’s easy to fact check Trump’s lies. He tells the same ones all the time.As we've said several times, it seems to us that Daniel Dale is completely sincere in his ongoing work about Trump's "lies." That said, the best among us may have their heads turned when they get turned into gods.
In that headline, Dale seems to be humble-bragging about his own ongoing work. The bragging ceases to be disguised as his essay starts.
Dale strikes us as completely sincere, but just how sharp is his work? This is the way he began:
DALE (11/18/18): It’s easy to fact check Trump’s lies. He tells the same ones all the time.Forgive us if we suspect that the lionization has started to go to Dale's head.
I’ve made it my mission to fact-check every word Donald Trump utters as president. That means trying to watch every speech, read every transcript, decipher every tweet. I’ve accidentally established a reputation for using Twitter to point out that he’s lying within seconds of him telling a lie.
People sometimes ask in response how I can blast out these corrections so quickly. But I have no special talent. My secret is that Trump tells the same lies over and over.
As he starts, Dale ceases to be a journalist; instead, he fashions himself as a man with a "mission." He says the public is stupefied by the speed with which he can work.
Dale then proceeds to offer examples of Donald Trump's "lies." At this point, we're forced to raise a question about the level of intellectual skill at work within our upper-end press.
Let's be clear on one basic point. Fact-checking Donald J. Trump is indeed important work. There is no doubt that Trump utters an endless array of false and/or misleading statements. He makes a lot of unfounded claims. He exaggerates routinely.
Over the weekend, Trump gave the impression that he knows how prevention of forest fires works. Almost surely, he didn't have the slightest idea what he was talking about. As people with cognitive impairments may do, he makes such baldly ridiculous statements on a routine basis.
Does Donald J. Trump really believe that he understands the way "raking" the forest floor would prevent forest fires? Over the weekend, he gave that gonzo impression. In truth, this disordered man may be so far gone that he did believe what he said.
At any rate, let's state the obvious. Not every false, misleading or unfounded statement is in fact a lie. Beyond that, it's hard for an observer to know when an actual lie actually is a lie. (You can tell when you are telling a lie. It's harder with somebody else.)
Did Person X just tell a lie? Making that judgment requires a type of knowledge that's hard to obtain about other people, especially about disordered people like Trump. Traditionally, American journalism has operated on that basic understanding.
Traditionally, journalists have been very slow to say a false claim is a lie. In yesterday's sprawling essay, Dale walks away from such traditional understandings. As with O'Donnell, so too here:
Everything is a lie to Dale. These are his first examples:
DALE: On his fifth day in office, Trump baselessly alleged widespread voter fraud. He did the same thing this past week. In his third month in office, Trump falsely claimed that the United States has a $500 billion trade deficit with China. He has said the same thing more than 80 times since.To Dale, every false, unfounded or annoying statement now qualifies as a "lie."
Listen to this president long enough, and you can almost sense when a lie is coming. If Trump tells a story in which an unnamed person calls him “sir,” it’s probably invented. If Trump claims he has set a record, he probably hasn’t. If Trump cites any number at all, the real number is usually smaller.
We're supposed to assume that a disordered man like Trump knows how large the trade deficit with China is. We're supposed to feel sure that this disordered man didn't believe the various claims he has made about voter fraud.
Most embarrassingly, every time Trump tells a story in which someone addresses him as "sir," we're apparently supposed to regard that as a lie!
"You can almost sense it," Dale says. He's speaking there as a novelist; he's a journalist no more. In this way, modern tribal journalism sinks into a childish morass on the level of something invented by Donald J. Trump.
Not every false claim is a lie. Not every lie can be reliably identified as such by an external party. That said, the liberal and mainstream press corps have fallen in love with the claim that targeted pols are "lying." No other locution will do.
Those paragraphs by Daniel Dale constitute remarkably childish work. When journalists work with such limited skills, democratic government is further endangered.
Let us share some news:
The fact that our journalists are no sharper than this helps explain many of our the disasters of the past thirty years. If our journalists possess such childish intellects, it's hardly surprising that they were willing, for several years, to assure the world that Candidate Gore was the world's biggest liar, the bomb they now throw at Trump.
(Beyond that, those journalists "could almost sense" that Candidate Gore had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man." They said it over and over and over again. Children are dead all over the world because these idiots behaved this way. Thanks to the press corps' codes of silence, you're still not permitted to know this.)
Why do people like Dale and O'Donnell think no word but "lie" will suffice? We can't answer that question, but the intellectual level of their work comes right off the part of the playground where the 7-year-olds are fighting about who gets to use which swing.
Is something wrong with speaking with a bit more precision than our "journalists" are willing to do? With saying that President Trump constantly makes statements which are blatantly false; with saying that he constantly repeats such claims even after they've been corrected; with saying that he constantly issues sweeping claims which seem to be completely unfounded; with saying that he acts like he knows what he's talking about when he plainly doesn't?
Would something be wrong with using the term "apparent lie" in appropriate situations? Would something be wrong in exercising the kind of judgment one would expect at the highest levels of a major elite in the world's most powerful nation, the one with the most nuclear bombs and the most disordered commander in chief?
When our press corps behaves in the manner of O'Donnell and Dale, very bad things start to happen. Among those bad effects is this:
The Others look at work like this and see that it really is "fake." They see that the Washington Post is publishing silly, childish crap in its most visible weekly section. This reinforces the view, Over There, that nothing else should be listened to or believed in mainstream critiques of Trump.
Dale's essay in yesterday's Outlook section is baldly embarrassing work. It's embarrassing to see such work published in the Washington Post, lauded on The Last Word.
Can we talk? Anthropologically, this isn't the work of us the rational animal. This is "gossip" and "fiction"-fueled tribal war of the kind Professor Harari has described.
Tomorrow, before running to catch a train, we'll show you what several major journalists said when Dale made the same type of presentation on CNN's Reliable Sources. How bad was the overall discussion that day? We'll quote two other participants in that discussion to show you the utterly fatuous level of current upper-end press corps work.
People die around the world under presidents like Trump. Over the past thirty years, childish work by our upper-end press has enabled these many deaths too.
Tomorrow: Pure piffle from Marvin Kalb