The way our minds tend to work: Just how "rational" are we humans? How do our minds seem to work?
It's all part of the anthropology of the modern public discourse! Two basic questions are involved:
What sorts of topics do we choose to talk about? And when we talk about those topics, what kind of sense do we make?
Answers! In the journalistic realm, we often talk about topics which are inane—about pork rinds, earth tones, broccoli, personal notes and such. Then too, when we talk about serious topics, our efforts are often quite feeble.
On balance, just how "rational" are we? We'll look at three current examples.
Colbert King on the state of the schools:
Is his weekly column in today's Washington Post, Colbert King discusses a serious topic—the state of the D. C. Public Schools. But when he discusses Lewis Ferebee, the mayor's nominee to be the new chancellor, he very weirdly says this:
KING (12/8/18): Which gets us back to Ferebee and the challenges he faces should he get the post. He would be the city’s sixth permanent school leader since 2000, The Post reported. There’s a reason for the turnover. The job’s a killer. Not only must the chancellor tackle the daunting problem of the wide achievement gap between students from affluent households and low-income families (a problem that remains unsolved in the Indianapolis public school system that Ferebee led for the past five years), he also will encounter a governance structure so indirect and complicated that it only could have been designed by a Rube Goldberg devotee.According to King, "the daunting problem of the wide achievement gap" between affluent kids and low-income kids "remains unsolved in the Indianapolis public school system that Ferebee led for the past five years."
That's a very strange thing to say. It's also typical of the way our upper-end journalists have talked about low-income schools for at least the past fifty years.
King seems to suggest that Ferebee should have solved that daunting problem during his five years in Indy. In fact, that daunting problem has "remained unsolved" all over the United States for as long as anyone has bothered to track such matters.
That daunting achievement gap has been a deeply intractable problem. Despite this blindingly obvious fact, cosseted journalistic elites love to pretend that the problem exists because people like Ferebee have weirdly failed to wave their magic wands at it.
(This was the full platform of former chancellor Rhee. By her reckoning, she would stamp her feet and yell at the teachers about this problem and they would magically fix it.)
Remarks of this type make no earthly sense. They betray a deeply detached insouciance which dates to the court of Marie Antoinette.
Despite this fairly obvious fact, uncaring journalistic elites love to offer such "analyses." This low-IQ posturing has dominated upper-end journalism for the pats fifty years.
Quinta Jurecic spots the collusion:
Quinta Jurecic is managing editor of Lawfare, the high-profile legal affairs blog of the Brookings Institution. As such, she writes from the top of the legal pile within Insider Washington.
Last Sunday, Jurecic offered a puzzling analysis piece in the New York Times Sunday Review. Could her reasoning have been any fuzzier? All the way down, we'd say no.
Alas! A stampede is currently under way, and when we humans stage a stampede, we tend to abandon our intellectual standards, such as they were to begin with. Jurecic is looking for guilt in the warrens of Trump, and so, she reasons like this:
JURECIC (12/2/18): From the day the Mueller investigation began, opponents of the president have hungered for that report, or an indictment waiting just around the corner, as the source text for an incantation to whisk Mr. Trump out of office and set everything back to normal again. The evidence that the special counsel has so far made public is damning enough. Yet even as the investigation seems to gather momentum, it has become increasingly clear that whatever findings Mr. Mueller reaches will be only a small piece of a much larger political puzzle.To what extent is intellectual rigor thrown away when public stampedes occur? Consider what Jurecic says there:
The special counsel's office has already produced a hefty pile of evidence. The indictments of a Russian ''troll farm'' called the Internet Research Agency and of Russian military intelligence officers involved in the hacking of Democratic Party emails told a detailed story of a Russian effort to stir up American political passions. The documents revealed by Mr. Corsi suggest that he and Mr. Stone—who was in regular contact with Mr. Trump at the time—might have known in advance of planned releases by WikiLeaks of hacked documents.
Not enough collusion for you? Consider Mr. Cohen's latest plea agreement...
Jurecic says that some documents suggest that Corsi and Stone might have known in advance of planned releases by WikiLeaks of hacked documents. At this point, she blows right past the words "suggest" and "might" to say this constitutes "collusion."
By the way, collusion in what? Jurecic doesn't say.
Without forgetting "suggests" and "might," let us ask a question. Would there be anything legally wrong with foreknowledge of the type which might have occurred? Jurecic doesn't address that point.
Instead, she acts like this state of affairs, which might obtain, would constitute major collusion. It seems to us that she reasons in similar slipshod ways all the way through her piece.
This comes from the top of our legal elite. But so we humans tend to behave when one of our stampedes is on.
Brian snarks again:
Last evening, Brian Williams gave us liberal viewers something we very much like. He aimed some pleasing snark at The Others—in particular, at one such man.
Brian had his snark pants on. He spoke with legal analyst Joyce Vance:
WILLIAMS (12/7/18): Hey, Joyce, on all of this, the sum total of all of this, I'm not trying to get you in a tussle with a Harvard law professor whose back may be sore after the water weight from carrying the water for this president, it`s been observed of late. But here now we`ll talk about on the other side Alan Dershowitz on his view of the sum total of today.So cool and so utterly pleasing! Instead of debating this Harvard professor in person, Brian decided to open a big can of snark and shoot it all over the place.
DERSHOWITZ (videotape): Well, I think we`re seeing a coming attraction to what the report will be. And I think the report will set out a circumstantial case based on all the lying that's taking place. A circumstantial case for arguably political sins. But I don't see any crimes.
WILLIAMS: Joyce, he doesn't see any crimes. Do you?
Helping things along, he edited down what the offensive Trump-lover had said.
For what it's worth, we watched Dershowitz's entire segment with Tucker Carlson last night. All in all, we thought the professor's varied remarks made fairly decent sense.
By the way, has Dershowitz been "carrying water" for Trunp? As part of that varied presentation, Fox viewers were actually allowed to hear this:
CARLSON (12/7/18): We may be losing perspective of this. I just want to remind our viewers on our way out that you are not a figure on the right, you were not a Trump voter, you're merely defending what you think is our tradition of law. And, and I appreciate that.Elsewhere, Dershowitz has routinely said that he didn't vote for Candidate Trump; that he donated money to Candidate Clinton; and that he approves of virtually none of President Trump's policies or behaviors.
DERSHOWITZ: And I've been saying the same thing for 55 years. I—
CARLSON: Yes. I've noticed.
DERSHOWITZ: I've been saying the same thing for 55 years. I've expressed the same criticism of prosecutors whether they go after Democrats or Republicans.
Dershowitz doesn't have many good things to say about Donald J. Trump. But when we humans stage a stampede, we like our demons undiluted, the flavor Brian served.
Just for the record, back in 1999 and 2000, Brian kept playing these reindeer games against the psychiatrically shaky Candidate Gore, who was said to be wearing too many polo shirts out on the trail. This was said to be a fiendish play for female voters and a sign of a disordered mind.
That's what Brian's owner wanted back then (GE CEO Jack Welch). Last night's snark was what the new owners want from Brian now.
By the way, this is the way Vance responded to Brian:
WILLIAMS: Joyce, he doesn't see any crimes. Do you?"It's looking like hard evidence," Vance said. But hard evidence of what crime? For whatever reason, Vance didn't say, and Brian didn't bother to ask.
VANCE: You know, I disagree with him very strongly. I think that there are all sorts of crimes here, including a crime that lands at the president's doorstep.
And this issue of well, there's only circumstantial evidence is absolutely silly, because prosecutors rely on circumstantial evidence all the time...Prosecutors use circumstantial evidence all the time. You don`t have to have a smoking gun in every case.
Here, where you've got witness after witness lining up, and where you've now got evidence that there wasn't just suddenly a Trump Tower meeting out of the blue with Russians in 2016 but rather a course of conduct between folks in the Trump campaign and the Russian government, or at least government-linked, that spanned years, it's not so much smoke and mirrors. It's looking like hard evidence.
This is the kind of cable product you're served after a stampede starts. The low-IQ conduct is so common that viewers will rarely notice.
For ourselves, we'd love to see Brian interview Dershowitz and Vance at the same time. Instead, you were given a barrel of snark last night, just like the snark this big baboon aimed at the wardrobe of Candidate Gore so many times in the past.
Children are dead all over Iraq. In his service to CEO Welch, Brian worked hard toward that end.
That said, it's all anthropology now. What kind of animals are we really? What sorts of things do we do?