TRIBAL DECLINE: The Times undertakes to "re-educate!"


But also, the candidates' songs:
Don Lemon tried to get there first. We stumbled upon the segment in question twice last night, groaning each time as we did.

That said, the project unfolds in fullest flower in today's New York Times. In print editions, it's thumb-nailed on the constantly fatuous page A3, with Astead Herndon and Patrick Healy "shar[ing] some background on the interactive article" in question.

Already, we were puzzled—and somewhat ashamed for our species. But then, we continued ahead in the paper, and we found three full pages—page A16 through page A18!—fully, completely and hopelessly devoted to this pitiful project:
What the Rally Playlists Say About the Candidates
Song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates...
That's part of the way the sprawling project is headlined in hard copy. To see the way it's headlined on line, you can just click here.

Readers, is it true? Do "song playlists at campaign rallies tell you a lot about presidential candidates?" Well, actually, yes they do, especially if you're seven years old, or you have an I.Q. of 11.

We told our young analysts to avoid staring directly at the three full pages of this claptrap in today's hard-copy Times. They tell us that, for each of ten different candidates, the Times gives readers a lengthy list of the songs which are played at their campaign events; a capsule account of what each play-list secretly means; and a rambling, pointless analysis of each list from one of the Times' music critics.

Abundant learning results. For example, here's what Times readers are able to learn about Candidate Gillibrand:

On the one hand, Ms. Gillibrand includes a track by Le Tigre, the underground feminist dance-punk band that Kathleen Hanna founded not long after the riot grrrl icons Bikini Kill split. On the other hand, a misstep: There are several hundred Lil Wayne songs that could have appeared on Ms. Gillibrand’s playlist to include contemporary hip-hop. But the selected song is from a “Spider-Man” movie soundtrack, and it features XXXTentacion, who, before he was killed last year, had been accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. (The campaign says it removed the song in the spring.)

With this newspaper's patented brilliance, music critic Caramanica caught Gillibrand is a misstep! Early on, they played a song from a Spider-Man film, and...

Well, you can read it for yourself. Try not to linger. Don't stare.

This morning, the Times devotes three full pages to this rather typical claptrap. For what it's worth, this type of diversion has long been with us, often used as an adjunct to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."

This afternoon, we'll revisit a memorable example from October 1999. But this very morning, on page A3, Times politics editor Patrick Healy explains how the brainstorm hit him in this current year of our lord:
HEALY (8/21/19): Six months ago, I had a thought: What could we learn about the 2020 candidates through their rally playlists? About audience and intended message? So we got them from nine Dems (and Trump). And this interactive was born.
By Healy's admission, he had a thought "six months ago." That said:

With respect to Donald J. Trump's playlist, we learn that the songs played at his rallies "includ[e], surprisingly, gay swagger."

Checking the markings on the playlist, we learn that this refers to the fact that the campaign sometimes plays Y.M.C.A., by the Village People. In such ways, the Times helps us learn what rally playlists say about the candidates.

This may seem like the great newspaper's most pointless enterprise yet. Obviously, it isn't. As evidence, we return to the page A3 "Here to Help" feature from last Tuesday, August 13. In hard copy only, it started off like this
Here to Help

If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read.
Start by asking yourself some questions:

Do you want to read for enjoyment or for knowledge? Do you want to stretch yourself in some way? Are you looking for escapism? (There’s nothing wrong with that!) Do you want to be part of the cultural conversation around the current “it” book? Are you curious about a book that has been atop the best-seller list for months?
"If you want to be a better reader, you first need something to read." Yes, that's what it said.

"You don’t need to buy one," the Times' Tina Jordan said as she continued, behaving as if the paper's subscribers were the dumbest known people on earth.

As she continued in hard copy, Jordan listed many ways Times readers might pick out a book. The hard-copy feature was drawn from this truly astonishing on-line post. In hard copy, the different strategies Jordan discussed included such approaches as these:
Here to Help, continued:
If you're still not sure what you want to read, here are some other ways to figure it out:

Ask a friend.

Head to the library.

Find a bookstore....

Look at a "best book" list....
Interesting! If you can't decide what book to read, you can ask a friend!

In such ways, the New York Times rarely ceases to amaze. Within the academy, the famous newspaper's repetitive dumbness is a fairly obvious matter of anthropological interest.

It is within this ever-expanding context that we recently stumbled upon the newspaper's "1619 Project." We first saw it mentioned by executive editor Sean Baquet in the purloined transcript of a recent, fairly lengthy meeting he held with the Times' staff.

The project debuted in the Times magazine last Sunday. It still isn't entirely clear what the project will entail, but at one point, some editor decided it made good sense to use the term "re-education" in connection with what may turn out to be a thoroughly worthwhile project.

"A re-education is necessary," the overview material boldly declares at one point. Some editor thought it made good sense to employ that old Maoist term as this project was launched.

The 1619 Project may turn out brilliantly well—and then again, it may not. For ourselves, we thought we stumbled upon an unhelpful perspective in Sunday's lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who had nothing to do with that playlist piddle. We'll only suggest that you keep this provisional thought in mind:

This project is being brought to you by the people who think our public school achievement gaps are a matter of test prep, full stop; by the people who think it makes sense to burn three full pages on the various candidates' campaign song-lists; by the people who recently spent so much time telling readers how they might select a book, should they decide to read one.

By the people who ran with "Creeping Dowdism" in spite of Katherine Boo's warning; by the people who decided to partner with conservative hack Peter Schweizer in their coverage of the Trump/Clinton race (Uranium One!);

By the people who refused to challenge Trump on his birtherism garbage right on through their front-page report on the topic; by the people who resurrected and vouched for the ludicrous Gennifer Flowers late in the fall campaign.

Hannah-Jones didn't do those things. But others around her did!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—and despite the things you constantly hear, our species is deeply flawed. Tomorrow, we'll look at several things Baquet told his staff—and at something one Times staffer said.

Candidate Gillibrand made a misstep; Trump is involved in gay swagger. If you want to select a book, you can ask a friend.

This is the way our species works, even at its most "elite," Hamptons-based levels. Top anthropologists tell us that this is a large, ongoing problem.

Tomorrow: What's in a trio of words?


  1. “"A re-education is necessary," the overview material boldly declares at one point. Some editor thought it made good sense “

    Unless Somerby wants to be seen as a propagandist, he needs to link to this quote so that we can see it in context.

    “For ourselves, we thought we stumbled upon an unhelpful perspective in Sunday's lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones”

    For his selves, he thought it was “unhelpful?” In what way? Unhelpful to what?

    This entire post consists merely of a litany of supposed failures by the Times, which is intended to frame the 1619 project as just another inept offering from the Times, potentially as trivial as the rally playlist or read-a-book story, both of which Somerby spends an inordinate amount of time on. Of course,
    “The 1619 Project may turn out brilliantly well—and then again, it may not.”

    And that is the emptiest, most unhelpful statement of all.

  2. "This project is being brought to you by the people who think our public school achievement gaps are a matter of test prep, full stop"

    Test prep was used to explain the reason why more Asian students than African American students were being admitted to the elite high schools in NYC. I never heard it used as the reason for the gaps on any other test. For example, it was not used to explain gaps on the NAEP. Just the entrance exam for those special high schools.

    So this seems to be a pretty unfair criticism, yanked out of context and applied inappropriately to imply something the NY Times never said.

    But since when is Somerby fair? Not today, apparently.

  3. It does seem a bit self-serving for the NY Times, a written form of media, to want to promote more reading. Shame on them!

    Somerby does seem unaware that one form of recreational reading in the US is to join a book club. Someone has to pick the books that such clubs read and then discuss. Is this really trivial to him? I think it is essential to promote reading and self-education in a democracy, helpful (to use Somerby's favorite term).

  4. "Re-education" is a fraught word. In North Korea, China, and Communist Vietnam, "Re-education Camps" were prisons. Re-education as it was implemented in Vietnam was seen as both a means of revenge and a sophisticated technique of repression and indoctrination,

    1. David, are you aware that the right has engaged in a decades long revisionist attempt to rehabilitate the South's participation in slavery and the civil war? It is akin to the holocaust revisionism and denial that has been pursued by the global right wing.

      When Gone With the Wind, the book and the movie, came out, there were protests that they were glossing over the atrocities of the South and portraying the South as a victim of a Northern War of Aggression, not showing the activities that would make the South appear less vicitimized by a war they started. Recent films, such as 12 Years a Slave attempt to correct this record too.

      There wouldn't be any need for "re-education" if the right hadn't engaged in this lengthy propaganda effort to "miseducate" the public about the Civil War and its legacy, slavery and its role in our country's history.

      Equating this effort to bring actual history to the public with "reducation" is disingenuous and attempts to undercut the need to understand racism and current race relations in a broader historical context. We are not Chinese, nor are we communist, so this is not only irrelevant but obstructionist.

    2. @12:12- by "Right" I think you mean "Southern Democrats". The Republicans were totally against slavery and against Jim Crow.

    3. No, by "right" I mean the right wing, including both Southern Democrats and Republicans in the South. This is something that happened in the 20th century, not something back in Lincoln's time, so "The Republicans" were not totally against slavery and Jim Crow.

    4. For review of where revisionism comes from and what it entails, see:

    5. DinC,
      Why do you think the "Southern Democrats" turned "Republicans" as soon as LBJ uttered the words "We shall overcome"?.
      Usually you lie by commission. Now you lie by omission.

    6. David is just being his usual trollish dickhead self.

      He likes to play this game. He learned history from one the felons pardoned by Donald J Chickenshit, Acting President - Dinesh D'Souza.

      Run along now David, don't you have some black votes to suppress somewhere, anywhere? A racist party's work is never done you know.

    7. The media helped create false views of both slavery and the civil war along with negative stereotypes of black people. Some of the protests of Gone with the Wind:

      Also this:
      "Not everyone loved it. There were protests from daughters of Union veterans, communists and African Americans alike. The NAACP objected to the film's treatment of black characters. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American actress to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy, but she was barred from the Atlanta premiere due to segregation laws."

    8. DinC tells his lies because he believes all the readers of this blog are as stupid as Mao and as disingenuous as Somerby.

  5. It is young people who tend to want to have music playing as a backdrop to everything they do. When people hear loud music, the physiological and emotional response transfers to whatever else they may be doing, such as listening to a candidate rally. It is a form of manipulation that occurs outside awareness.

    The music Somerby mentions tends to skew even younger, suggesting that candidates are after the youth vote. If they wanted to attract boomers, they'd play something contemporaneous with Somerby's young adulthood. They didn't, so he is throwing a Denmark-hating hissy fit. Just like you-know-who. That article may be "unhelpful" but Somerby's own reaction to it is "unattractive," bordering on ignorant.

  6. Reading that interview with Baquet, his views on when to use the word "racist" seem to me to be something Somerby might support. He is saying that he sees little benefit to overusing a label that should have strong emotional impact but won't if it is applied too frequently and in less than extreme situations.

    Beyond that, he says his staff shouldn't be tweeting bad stuff about each other and damaging the newspaper.

    Hard to see why Somerby would get worked up about that.

  7. "yes they do, especially if you're seven years old, or you have an I.Q. of 11."

    If you zombie cult members had an I.Q. of 11, that would been a UGE improvement. Your comrades' IQ is, in fact, well below zero.

    Also, as much as re-educating you zombies would feel like a worthy humanistic goal, I'm afraid there is no hope at all. Most scientific studies find that liberal zombie will remain a zombie.

    1. You’re late.

    2. The Establishment keep you out late last night, Mao?

  8. Trump has a fantasy that gays love him. This was supported by the recent Log Cabin Republican endorsement of his 2020 run. Playing YMCA is a nod to gays and part of the pretense that he is not bigoted, much like having a black supporter in the front row.

    Here is Trump's actual behavior toward gays:

    1. Why does Somerby consider Trump's efforts to woo gays to be trivial?

  9. Hello my friends,

    I have a message to deliver.

    For wonderfully magical experience, meet at the gas station across the street from the Target store in Rosslyn, VA on 8/24 at 1 am.

    Go inside to the counter and ask to see The Butt Cracker.

  10. "as if the paper's subscribers were the dumbest known people on earth. "

    Don't judge all people by yourself, Bob.


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