STARTING TOMORROW: The Age of the Novel!


The start of a two-week report:
Tomorrow morning, we'll be starting an award-winning, two-week series, The Age of the Novel.

The report will describe the headlong retreat of our own liberal tribe to the comforting realm of the novelized narrative. At various times, this novelized thinking has also dominated the mainstream journalism of the past twenty-plus years.

(Among mainstream journalists, E. R. Shipp best described this novelized journalistic culture in this brief column in the Washington Post in March 2000. The column appeared during Shipp's tenure as the Post's ombudsman. Today, Shipp is an associate professor right here at Morgan State.)

Our new report will focus on Chanel Miller's new memoir, Know My Name, and on some major reviews of the intriguing new book. As noted, we expect to spend two weeks on this topic.

Top anthropologists repeatedly tell us that the highly fallible human mind is wired for the type of novelized thinking we will describe in this series. We keep thinking these experts have to be wrong, but the evidence just keeps piling up.

After that, a projected series: After that, a projected series, The Greatest Stories Never Told. Amusing tales of the mainstream press you aren't allowed to hear or wonder about!


  1. "The report will describe the headlong retreat of our own liberal tribe to the comforting realm of the novelized narrative."

    Whoa. This is quite a euphemism - and a long and convoluted one - for your zombie cult goebbelsian propaganda practices.

  2. From Perry Thorndyke, 1977, Cognitive structure in comprehension and memory of narrative discourse:

    "Comprehensibility and recall were found to be a function of the amount of inherent plot structure in the story, independent of passage content. Recall probability of individual facts from passages depended on the structural centrality of the facts: Subjects tended to recall facts corresponding to high-level organizational story elements rather than lower-level details. In addition, story summarizations from memory tended to emphasize general structural characteristics rather than specific content."

    Story structure (Somerby's "novelization") dictates ability to understand and remember facts. This is another way of saying that people use narrative structure to organize and remember information (facts, knowledge). It is the way we think about our own lives and it is the way we remember other events.

    It is not only natural for newspapers to use a narrative structure in which events are described chronologically and using a first person present grammar, but it is helpful to do this because it aids comprehension and retention of the information. Journalists do this because it is how people think, not to distort or "fictionalize" or manipulate.

    Once again, Somerby has seized on something that is a natural part of human cognition and is presenting it as if it were a flaw, something wrong, that arises from journalistic malfeasance.

    He might as well be complaining because journalists use words!

    1. Somerby has borrowed the words "novelized narrative" to describe the ascription of motives and mischaracterization of candidates, judging by the content of the Shipp article that he links to. The terms "novelized narrative" don't appear in that article and they aren't really what Shipp is talking about anyway.

      Somerby seems to have borrowed a term that has an entirely different meaning to cognitive psychologists and is using it with his own meaning to complain about Gore being maligned by the press.

      I can't wait to hear what ugliness Somerby is going to heap on Chanel Miller.

  3. Some things to read about Chanel Miller:

  4. From Political Wire:

    "Jeffrey Toobin said he regretted the role he played in amplifying the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the 2016 campaign after an investigation found “no persuasive evidence” of classified information being systematically or deliberately mishandled.

    Tweeted Toobin: “Note the mostly buried news that State Dept closed Hillary Clinton email probe with this verdict: no big deal. As a journalist, I regret my role in blowing this story out of proportion.”

  5. From Rectification of Names (Yastreblansky) with screenshot:

    "When they finally got a chance to speak one of them, one of them, Dr. Jessica Meir, noted that it wasn't actually the first spacewalk a woman has ever performed, in justice to the great women who have done it in the past, and a shadow crossed his face, and he gave that brave astronaut the finger, disguised as an innocent scratch, in a cowardly fifth-grader's attempt to slip it past the teacher's attention or maintain plausible deniability..."

  6. Of Maddow:
    “Serious topics are dumped, disappeared, in favor of these pleasing morality tales.”

    The insinuation is that the Mueller/Russia/election story was unserious, tribally “pleasing”, when it actually may be one of the most important topics of our times. Taibbi has judged it to be a worthless waste of time; he is beyond skeptical, he outright denies there’s any “there” there, so he’s hardly an unbiased reporter in this matter.

    “viewers get to hear endless accounts of all the bad things The Others have done. “

    In other words, reporting on the corruption and abuses of power in the Trump administration is primarily a political thing, and not an important, perhaps crucial, fact-based pursuit.

    There’s also a distinction to be drawn between pure “entertainism” and a serious discussion interspersed with humor in order to make a point. Not everyone can be David Brinkley, who was about as interesting as a sack of potatoes, but his approach isn’t the sole valid one for presenting newsworthy topics. As a former comedian, Somerby must realize that comedy quite often serves an effective, serious purpose.

  7. Here is some additional evidence against Gabbard, from Talking Points Memo:

    "But no one can fairly critique Clinton for pointing out one of the most bizarre dynamics afoot in the Democratic primary.

    Gabbard’s campaign has been featured in Russian outlets like RT from the beginning of her bid. Bots have been boosting her on social media, and 4chan dwellers rush instant online polls, like the Drudge Report’s, after debates to vote Gabbard the winner. Some of Trump’s most odious supporters — think Steve Bannon or former KKK leader David Duke — have given her their seal of approval.

    These contingents likely gravitate toward Gabbard due to two factors: she’s outside of the Democratic mainstream, and she holds some odd policy stances that match up with Russia’s.

    Gabbard set herself apart back during the Obama administration, when she eagerly criticized the President’s foreign policy, particularly joining with Republicans to demand that Obama use the phrase “radical Islam.”

    In 2016, she made more anti-establishment waves by very publicly resigning her seat as vice chair of the DNC to throw her support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

    Perhaps most famously, she has repeatedly refused to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, actually meeting with him in person in January 2017 on a “fact-finding mission.” The UN has found Assad overwhelmingly guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his actions against the Syrian people.

    She also had a high-profile meeting with Trump very soon after his election, one of the first lawmakers to do so."

    Gabbard's coalition includes white supremacists and Russian propaganda outlets. That's why she is not being taken seriously as a Democratic candidate and why she is suspected of being in the race for other purposes, including to damage other candidates.

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