The emerging anthropological concept of "narrative transmission!


Can't see the trees for the script:
We liberals! We'll never throw off our chains until we're finally able to see the shortcomings of journalistic and academic leaders within our own feeble ranks.

Full disclosure: Most of our insights in this area come to us through the auspices of Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM), the disconsolate yet trademarked group which emerged in the aftermath of the global catastrophe they refer to as Mister Trump's War.

These future scholars can communicate to us through certain electromagnetic effects which were triggered by Trump's initial nuclear assault on former NBA star Dennis Rodman, a friend of Kim Jong-un. At any rate, these disconsolate scholars tell us that the anthropology of the future involves the science of "narrative transmission," which sounds to us a great deal like the phenomenon we've always called "reliance on tribal script."

According to these future theorists, man [sic] was never the rational animal at all! Instead, we humans were the animal—in point of fact, the great ape—which couldn't see the paw in front of its face unless it comported with script.

This phenomenon has been running amok in the New York Times of late. That said, yesterday's column by the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan was surely an all-time classic.

Has any column of its type ever been more thoroughly novelized? In service to one of the Treasured Narratives of the Moment (TM), Sullivan produced a series of narrative-friendly claims for which she makes no serious attempt to argue.

Sullivan is devoted to script. The problem is there from the start:
SULLIVAN (2/18/19): If you think the media treatment of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was not seriously marred by sexism, please proceed directly to social media, Fox News, my email or wherever trolls gather.

Because the underlying idea here is that, among the many flaws of 2016 campaign coverage, was the disadvantage Clinton had because of her gender.
As she starts, Sullivan says you're a dunce or a troll if you don't agree with her "underlying idea" (that is to say, with her script). According to that fashionable narrative, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign was "seriously marred by sexism."

That may or may not be true. It may all depend on what the meaning of "seriously marred by" is!

Needless to say, it's hard to assess a murky claim of that type. For starters, though, we'll tell you this:

Sullivan's column at the Post began in May 2016. Using Nexis, we find no column in which she ever made anything resembling this claim back then, in real time, during the actual Trump-Clinton campaign.

Sullivan's snarkily sure of her premise—now. Back then, she had nothing to say about it. Nor does she try to argue her point in any conventional way as her column proceeds. Pitifully, this is the way she continues:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): In her post-election book, “What Happened,” [Clinton] described one of the many ways that played out—through false equivalency.

“If Trump ripped the shirt off someone at a rally and a button fell off my jacket on the same day,” she wrote, the headlines would report: “Trump and Clinton Experience Wardrobe Malfunctions, Campaigns in Turmoil.”
Was Hillary Clinton's campaign "seriously marred by sexism?" In a virtual pantomime of evidence, Sullivan quotes a passage to that effect from a book—a book by Hillary Clinton!

Clinton offers a satirical claim about how bad the press coverage was. Sullivan seems to think she can treat this as some sort of evidence, which of course it's not.

This opening passage in Sullivan's column is a virtual parody of journalism—indeed, of rational behavior itself. But as the column proceeds, the attempts at reasoning may get even worse.

In the passage posted below, Sullivan seems to be complaining about the press corps' treatment of Candidate Clinton. But again, she offers no specific examples of press corps behavior, and she moves quickly toward claims that make no sense at all—toward claims which, according to Future Anthropologists, virtually define the emerging science of narrative transmission:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): The obsession with Clinton’s voice (shrill), her laugh (witchlike), her purported lack of stamina, her marriage, her supposedly inauthentic love of hot sauce—combined with the constant analysis of how voters simply couldn’t warm up to her—is still all too fresh.

One of the reasons it’s so fresh is that we’re hearing echoes of it, already, in the early coverage of the female Democratic lawmakers who have declared their 2020 candidacies.

The long-ago love life of Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) has been parsed, as has what music she partied to as a Howard University undergrad.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s uncertainty about how to eat fried chicken has been ruthlessly mocked.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy was in trouble even before she declared because of the senator from Massachusetts identifying herself as Native American. (This was a real blunder, to be sure, but not the career-ending one it’s often portrayed as.)

And there’s so much more, even a year away from the 2020 Iowa caucuses. But why?
Why is there so much of this bullshit? Duh! Because that's how our "press corps" works!

In that passage, Sullivan presents trivial criticisms of female candidates—trivial criticisms which have already surfaced this year. That said, similar nonsense has been aimed at male candidates for decades now—though Sullivan, and the other pre-rational humans within the press corps, constantly seem to be unaware of this blindingly obvious fact.

The dumbest example in that passage involves Gillibrand and the fried chicken. Has Gillibrand been mocked about the way she ate fried chicken at a campaign event?

Yes, she has been! Just as, in Campaign 2004, Candidate Kerry was raked over the coals for the way he ate his cheese steak on that fateful trip to Philly!

Meanwhile, other male candidates, dating to VP candidate Sargent Shriver in the 1970s, have been mocked for ordering the wrong kind of beer, or for failing to drink beer at all, at various campaign events.

This sort of journalistic bullshit has been standard for decades now. It's very much the way these idiots work.

The sheer stupidity of this kind of work is a defining characteristic of the modern upper-end "press corps." We've been writing about this kind of gong-show behavior for twenty years right here at this site.

That said, this gong-show behavior has largely been aimed at male candidates. Because this fact doesn't comport with preferred script, non-rational humans of Sullivan's ilk are said to be completely unable to bring these facts to mind.

According to the future anthropologists—they come to us in nocturnal events some analysts have compared to dreams—a curious feature of human life is put on display when people like Sullivan pen columns of this type. They explain the problem as follows:

Many humans, these experts tell us, are able to observe events in the world only if they comport with some pre-existing group narrative. In this case, Sullivan (and many others) have been pushing a narrative which is suddenly very popular:
Female candidates get no respect at all!
To what extent might that claim be true? In theory, that's a very important question.

But in the hands of humans like Sullivan, no evidence or logic need apply where preferred script is involved! Such non-rationals will bellow about the fried chicken while disappearing the cheese steak. In their pre-rational minds, the previous stupidity of their guild simply never happened, these anthropologists tell us, because these humans can only observe an event if it comports with some deeply adored prior script.

There's more to say about Sullivan's column—indeed, about Sullivan herself, about the destructive role of the Buffalo News in 1999. We'll just say that children are dead all over Iraq because of what the News did.

That said, the rest of Sullivan's current column is a parody of journalism, of the rational process itself. As for the quote from Professor Rosen, where do they get these people? According to Future Anthropologists, only Professor Harari seems to be willing to tell!

Was man [sic] ever the rational animal? Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) quickly replied to our query:

"Surely you jest," they said.

We liberals will never throw off our chains until we understand this anthropology, which comes to us from the future. The people who tell us the stories we like are frequently highly incompetent.

The Others can see how bad their work is. The only dumbkopfs are Us.


  1. "The only dumbkopfs are Us."

    If you were fools, that would've been great. But no, you're zombies, and your goebbelsian high priests are perfectly rational.

  2. "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s uncertainty about how to eat fried chicken has been ruthlessly mocked."

    It's not like Trump destroyed male opponents by holding up for ridicule the slob like way they ate pizza.

  3. Off topic: Trump administration launches global effort to end criminalization of homosexuality

    For those here Trump is a bigot. Note that Barack Obama and George W. Bush did not do this.

    1. I don't care. I believe Putin.

    2. 3:00 PM,
      Unless Saudi Arabia or Russia say "No", of course.

    3. Putin and Trump = Wayland Flowers and Madam.

  4. All the women running are repugnant and yes shrill. FEEL THE BERN.

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