WILLING ENABLERS: Scattershot questions, reflexive compliance!


Our upper-end press corps at work:
Let the word go forth to the nations:

Several journalists displayed something resembling actual moxie at yesterday's endless "press briefing!"

Among others, we think of Politico's Ryan Lizza and of CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Each kept asking a sensible question after receiving a classic non-answer. Such conduct has been amazingly rare in these, the endless weeks of these endless daily gong-shows.

In fairness, Lizza made one painful mistake. After questioning the president about his claim of "total power" over the nation's governors, Lizza made the fatal mistake of saying this when next he got the chance:
LIZZA (4/13/20): Mr. President, actually this is a question for Mr. Vice President. Do you agree with the president’s statement and his understanding of federalism that his power is total in a way that he described it? Is there anything you’d like to add or any context you’d like to add to the way he was discussing that?
Was there anything Pence would like to add? The analysts screamed and tore at their hair when they saw Lizza say that.

In a slightly different world, it might have made perfect sense to tease out Pence's view on this matter. (It would have been a better question if Lizza had cited Pence's previous life as governor of Indiana.)

In a different world, Lizza's question would have made perfect sense. In our world, Lizza should have known the pain his sensible question would cause:

In our world, Lizza's question triggered one of the excruciating soliloquies on the state of the president's greatness which are now Pence's trademark. As the excruciatingly pious vice president piously droned on and on, crying children across the nation sought the comfort of their parents' arms.

Pence's endless statement actually made a bit more sense than Trump's non-statements had done. In a more rational world, his statement might even have called for a follow-up question.

(One such question might have been this: What does "plenary" mean?)

That said, follow-up questions have rarely occurred in this age of the non-briefing briefing. That helps explain why crying children are still hearing murky, unexplained statements like this from their nation's president:
REPORTER (4/13/20): Yes, Mr. President. One thing that Governor Cuomo said today is that states do not have the capacity to do mass COVID-19 testing ahead of a reopening—

TRUMP: Well, they have to do it. [CROSSTALK] supposed to be [CROSSTALK]

REPORTER: They can’t purchase the diagnostic tests or equipment and need federal help. So will the states get that?

TRUMP: They may need help but—

REPORTER: Will they get it?

TRUMP: —but they’re there. They’re on the ground. They’ve got local mayors, local representatives. They have people that do it.

And what we did last time is unprecedented. We literally rebuilt tests. We rebuilt a whole industry because we inherited nothing. What we inherited from the previous administration was totally broken, which somebody should eventually say. Not only were the cupboards bare as I say, but we inherited broken testing. Now we have great testing. I just left the top executives at Abbott. Who would have thought that would have happened where they have such a great test as that?
Having delivered that memorized monologue in the place of an actual answer, Trump requested a question for Steve Mnuchin. A journalist quickly complied.

There he went again! Once again, the commander had performed the monologue about the empty cupboard and the broken testing.

As he did, he avoided the thrust of the actual question, which dealt with the ability of the states to proceed with testing from here.

Among the nation's upper-end journalists, everyone sat there and let this occur. This provided an anthropology lesson, and a sign of the times.

By now, everyone knows it! Everyone knows that the commander's endless complaints about "inheriting broken testing" or a "broken test" don't necessarily seem to make a whole lot of sense.

In the most literal sense, the current virus didn't exist when Trump entered the White House. For that reason, there couldn't have been any test for the virus at all, imperfect, broken or otherwise.

That said, Trump sometimes complains about inheriting a "broken testing system." Those complaints have been rated "Mostly False" or "Misleading" too, but these formulations swirl about, day after day after day after day, in the endless monologues Trump performs in the course of not answering questions.

No one asks him to explain what he means by his trio of claims. No one challenges the general thrust of the familiar monologue.

Instead, the monologue continues, day after day, with journalists staring into air, then agreeing to ask about something else. This is the way our upper-end press corps behaves in this, our fourth year of the lord and our first year of the pestilence.

(So too with Trump's endless recitations about his "very, very early" restrictions on travel from China. Dozens of other countries had already acted when Trump's restrictions took effect. But he repeats his self-glorying story day after day as journalists sit and watch.)

There is a spectacular dumbness to this repeated behavior. That said, it's part of the way our culture works. The dumbness has three parts:

The compliance of the cables: Cable channels have kept airing this bullroar day after day after day. This has continued long after everyone could see that these are narrative and propaganda sessions in which little information is offered.

The compliance of the reporters: High-end journalist sit and stare as Trump repeats his misleading, murky or bogus narratives. No matter how many times he repeats his tales, no one asks him to explain what he's actually talking about—to clarify and justify the murky claims he keeps pushing.

Major newspapers' lack of focus: Major newspapers channel discussion of these howlers to the ghettos of their on-line "fact checker" pages. Hard-copy editions include no "dedicated pages" discussing these repetitive stories. In truth, facts play amazingly little role in our modern journalistic culture, as we've long explained.

How dumb is our national discourse? The anthropology lessons were general during yesterday's marathon session.

At the start of the journey into night, Trump played a videotape which started with a short section from a Hannity program. That part of Trump's videotape had been titled thusly:
Did "the media" really minimize the risk of the coronavirus? The segment bearing that title included three (3) short clips from network "morning shows" on January 25, January 25 and February 6.

On the basis of these three (3) short clips, Trump presented that sweeping claim about what "the media" did. This is so stupid that it could only appear as a part of our modern upper-end discourse, with upper-end journalists looking silently on.

Yesterday, Lizza and Collins continued asking questions after receiving non-answers. This has very rarely been done over these last painful weeks.

More typically, compliant journalists sit on their hands as some colleague's question receives a non-answer answer. After that, some other journalist compliantly asks about something else.

Though it doesn't excuse the somnolence, there is no simple solution to this problem. Here's what happened yesterday when Collins tried to persist with a question about a claim Trump had made:
COLLINS: A quick question on something you just said. You said when someone is president of the United States, their authority is total. That is not true. Who told you that?

TRUMP: You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other, because ultimately, it comes with the federal government. That being said, we’re getting along very well with the governors and I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem. Yeah please, go ahead.

COLLINS (interjecting): Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their states—

TRUMP: I haven’t asked anybody because— You know why? Because I don’t have to. Go ahead, please.

COLLINS (interjecting again): But who told you the president has the total authority?

TRUMP: Enough!

{To another journalist} Please.
To her vast credit, Collins had continued pressing her question as the nettled commander tried to throw to someone else.

"Enough!" the commander finally said. Dinally, a different journalist compliantly changed the subject, asking about something else.

It would have made a lot of sense to continue with Collins' question. We think she overstepped a bit with the wording of her questions, but the basic question was clear:
On what basis are you asserting that you have that total authority?
After President Trump said "Enough," it would have made sense for the next journalist to continue with that question. But scattershot questioning has been the norm in these embarrassing daily sessions, in which very few journalists seem to see any problem with the constant refusal to answer.

Our newspaper fail to offer dedicated pages about the most basic narratives and the most basic factual questions. Our cable channels still struggle to come to terms with the sheer inanity of these prime-time TV shows.

Our upper-end journalists slumber and snore as this nonsense unfolds before them. Anthropologically speaking, this is the way upper-end discourse currently works among us rational animals.

As we've noted for decades now, the basic skills of our high-end journalists are few and far between.

Their basic skills are remarkably limited. This is a basic anthropological fact.

We liberals may find it hard to see the role the journalists play in this ongoing mess. With that in mind, we'll continue this topic all week.

Still coming: Lousy questions, poorly framed. Also, please don't speak to Dr. Fauci, and back to those very large numbers


  1. Dear Bob,
    I usually don't, but yesterday I actually watched the presser. And my impression was exactly the opposite of yours.

    The way Our Beloved Commander managed your establishment zombie media, it was just great. Very impressive. In my opinion.

    Mr Pense, on the other hand, sounds like a typical robotic politician. As soon as his lips start moving, the mind goes numb. It is amusing that you enjoined him making sounds.

    Now, a question for you, dear Bob: are you now a supporter of states' rights? Why don't you just come out and say it: I, Bob Somerby, believe in states' rights.

    Are you aware, dear Bob, that your Liberal Bible defines "states' rights" as synonymous with "I hate niggers"? Are you? Ever heard of executive order 11111, dear Bob?

    Are you rewriting Liberal Bible, dear Bob? Please advise. Thanks in advance.

    1. Everybody who watched had the impression you had and enjoyed the president's slide show followed by his massacre of the media clowns.

      Personally I most enjoyed Fauci's role in the mass murder.

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  2. I don't buy the word "inherited", but the testing system was indeed faulty and not appropriate for use in this epidemic. IMHO the FDA was the agency most responsible for this state of affairs, along with the CDC. That statement doesn't excuse Trump, because it was his FDA and CDC. He can't pass the blame to his predecessors.

    Trump does deserve credit IMHO for eventually lighting a fire under these two agencies, as well as the medical manufacturers. We now have over 100,000 tests a day and can expect to have a great many more, as new tests are developed.

    1. Trump complains Obama didn't leave him a test for a virus that didn't exist until roughly 3 years after he left office.
      The buck passing turd is scum of the earth. He disbanded the high level pandemic team just because. He relaxed nursing home regulations on infectious diseases just because.

    2. Gee. 100,000 per day. That’s, like, a pretty big number. Questions that might be appropriate: is that enough? Are we testing the right people? Why were we promised more tests, by a factor of 10 or 20, by the White House?



    3. It's Obama's fault. Trumps got his best guys in Hawaii digging up dirt for his next Klan meeting.

    4. It's rare for conservatives to take personal responsibility for their actions. They almost compulsively blame others.

    5. The CDC sent tests out on February 5th to a network of about a hundred state, city, and county public-health laboratories⁠. This was when Trump was saying heat would kill the virus and within a couple of days there would be no cases.

      These tests from the CDC were faulty and didn't work. They had to go back and be rebuilt. This is probably what Trump was referring to. It has nothing to do with Obama.

      But you know Trump - he doesn't take responsibility for his mistakes and is happy to lie about and slander others in order to con his base.

    6. It's amazing how stupid his base is.

    7. They're not anymore stupid than Democrat's base.

    8. 100,000 tests a day isn't that great. At that rate it would take 6 years to test the whole country. But I know President Trump is doing his best.

    9. It's rare for conservatives to take personal responsibility for their actions. They almost compulsively blame others.

      It's rare for any politician to admit blame. Can you find a video of Obama taking personal responsibility for actions of his that turned out badly?

    10. The whole country isn't working and antibody tests are fast and easy. There will be enough tests to bring back the work force at the right pace.

      Trump beat the biggest threat of all, bed and ventilator shortages, and could do it because he closed the borders early.

      Unfortunately we needed ventilators and beds because we relied on the corrupt WHO which has been fired as of today.

    11. Good summary of all of the talking points. Too bad they aren't true.

    12. Trump is delaying your stimulus check because he wants to put his name on the check.

      Did you ever believe we would have to endure such a petty repugnant megalomaniac whining little chickenshit who needs constant ridiculous appeasement?

      The GOP - the party of Appeasement.

    13. Obama took the blame for his idiotic debacle in Libya.


      Now David, I've proved your premise wrong. What you have written about Obama is wrong. Stop trying to rationalize Trump's failures. We all know the score. He failed his big test. Apologists will lie to themselves about it as you are, apologists will try to rationalize his clear failures. But even they know, you know, exactly what happened here as Trump let his moment in history slide through is clammy fingers crash to the floor. The Trump experiment failed. He wasn't a great president or a great leader. When we needed leadership the most, when we needed boldness and courage the most, he chose to do nothing. Our country will never be the same again because of it.

      I don't blame his supporters. Although his lack of competency was clear from the start, I don't blame them for taking a chance.

    14. They took a chance on an openly racist imbecile. The black president was born in Africa according to Trump, his plastic wife and his repulsive brood. He lied about having proof. He has never been held accountable for his racist lies.

    15. They thought he would be better than The Queen of All Warmongers and some of them were probably sending a message to the establishment about how much they have been taken for granted and shafted by the system. (No pay raise in a generation etc.) The racism claim was, is and always has been misplaced and overly simplistic. If you want to understand Trump voters, the place to start is the shortcomings of Democrats over the past thirty years, particularly their embrace of free markets and the effect that had on the middle and lower class.

    16. Right, because republicans have always been against free markets. bwahahaha

  3. "Among the nation's upper-end journalists, everyone sat there and let this occur. This provided an anthropology lesson, and a sign of the times."

    The journalists don't decide who gets to ask a question. Trump does. Somerby, several times, blames the journalists for what gets asked, for not interrupting Trump's rehearsed campaign speeches, for his evasive refusal to answer the questions. That is not the journalists' fault. It is Trump's fault. The cable pundits are certainly pointing out the failure of the president to respond to questions, just as they are fact-checking whatever he says. But no one can control who Trump calls on and whether his answers are responsive or not.

    1. Obama left Trump a broken corona virus briefing procedure. Not Trumps fault just ask Pence, Falwell, Huckabee, Hitler, Hannity, Ms. Graham, Cohn, Diamond, Silk, Mao etc.

    2. You didn't have journalists, you had screaming logorrheic women unable to control themselves who reminded every man of their batshit crazy exes.

    3. Men make women crazy, then blame it on them. If you can't see a female journalist without thinking of your exes (note the plural), the problem is with you, not them.

    4. The crazy blonde is Paula Reid of CBS. Her husband’s maiden name is Jason Kolsevich. His married name is Jason Reid.

      She keeps his balls in her generously sized chin.

    5. Trump has a symbiotic relationship with grandstanding reporters like Paula Reid and Jim Acosta. The reporters gain fame. They can write best-selling books. The President looks good in comparison to those rude individuals. And, the interchanges help Trump defend the notion that the media are biased against him.

    6. How odd that someone who writes for a living might have written a book! Reporters have never been polite because they are all competing with each other to get the president to call on them. They have only a short time to get an answer to their question, so if the President spews B.S. they won't have anything to report. Courtesy is not part of their job.

      Trump uses the media to make himself appear to be an underdog -- it is part of the right's culture of grievance or outrage.

    7. Corby, I admire many of your comments, but this one missed the boat. Perhaps you may not regularly watch Trump's press conferences. If you did, you'd see that Reid and Acosta are unusually rude, compared with most of the other reporters there.

      I do agree with your second paragraph.

    8. David, go fuck yourself. He doesn't even let them finish their questions and then he goes off on some non sequitur response to a question that was never asked.

      He claims "total authority" and then goes on to blame everyone else for this ongoing calamity which was his doing. Now it is WHO's turn.

      Trump has explicitly praised China for "transparency" related to the virus. On January 24, he tweeted that "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," and that "In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!"

      Why don't you go do you bit for King and country - trump reelection campaign would like you to die so he can get the economy rolling again.

  4. "In the most literal sense, the current virus didn't exist when Trump entered the White House. For that reason, there couldn't have been any test for the virus at all, imperfect, broken or otherwise."

    What's with mindless dembottery, dear Bob?

    Did you miss the sentence "We rebuilt a whole industry" in the quote you posted, or do you pretend not to notice it?

    We are very, very disappointed in you, dear Bob. And future anthropologists in the cave inside your head are too, without a doubt.

    But okay, let us assume, for now, that this was mere temporary insanity.

  5. Why doesn't Somerby tell us who these "compliant" journalists are? There are journalists who represent media that are supporters of Trump, and there are journalists representing liberal media or less partisan media (searching for objective information). When Trump calls for help, who responds by changing the subject? Not the liberal media and not the journalists trying to elicit information. Trump's trained monkeys respond. But Somerby pretends these are all of the journalists when it is actually a subset. This has always been true, but it is worse today because there is greater political polarization these days.

    Somerby never makes it clear what the analysts and small children on his sprawling campus are weeping and wailing about. WHICH journalists does he think are not performing their jobs?

  6. Obama is endorsing Biden today. That will make Trump's complaints about Obama's legacy more relevant. It seems to me that this will be a distraction to Biden's campaign. But there is a reason why Trump keeps blaming Obama for his own mistakes. It puts Biden on the defensive when he should be attacking Trump for those mistakes. Instead, Trump is shifting the focus back to Obama's actions.

    1. Trump, as incompetent and unpresidential as he has been on the coronavirus issue, will slaughter Biden. Biden is 80. He wasn't even an appealing candidate when he was 50.

    2. I agree that Biden is unappealing, but I don't think Trump can survive his mismanagement of the virus. It will probably come back in Fall, just in time for the election. It is hard to see how he will be any more prepared then, and people will have had it with him.

    3. Biden is super appealing, because he's the one running against Trump.

  7. Yes clearly Obama neglected pandemic setting up useless pandemic team and needlessly asking for increased funding from the GOP Congress. How bad was it? So bad that even Trumps laser intellect and tireless effort of three years was not enough to fix it.

    1. I'm still waiting for Donald J Chickenshit, Acting President, to get us our uranium back. I don't understand what's taking so long.

  8. "In truth, facts play amazingly little role in our modern journalistic culture, as we've long explained."

    Anyone who has ever tried to discuss facts with a Trump supporter knows that the facts are irrelevant to their support for Trump. You can prove whatever you want about Trump but it won't shake their support for him. We all learned that during the 2016 Republican nominating process.

    You have to appeal to Trump voters differently, perhaps through appeal to their self interest, perhaps by making Trump appear ridiculous, or perhaps there is no way to get through to them.

    When they give Trump these briefings and let him blather on, they are giving him rope to hang himself. Anyone who actually listens will be repelled. The others don't matter because there is nothing that can be said that will change their minds. Independent voters have abandoned Trump and won't be attracted back by these press conferences.

    But, attempting to stifle or suppress the President's speech will be perceived as wrong, and I think rightfully so. Cable channels are businesses and if they cut away, they are doing so because it is bad for business to continue. That strongly suggests that people don't want to watch Trump go on and on, even for the circus element. But it does seem disrespectful to the office to cut him off.

  9. They know, we know, Trump knows, Pence knows, the press knows, everyone knows the score on this one.

    In the most important moment of his presidency and his life, Trump dropped the ball hugely.

    This does not mean Democrats are good.

    It's just a fact.

    Now, let's all move past his incompetence and embarrassing ineptitude, and past his pathetic lies to try to cover it up, and let's fix this virus and our communities and move on. Let's recognize that we are all in this together. Divided we fall.

  10. When Trump was elected I said at this site that his supporters were either racist or stupid.
    Still true.

    1. anon 4:25 - you are grossly reductionist and simplistic. There are loads more reasons for Trump's win. Just a couple of other major reasons, Trump and the GOP stand for lower taxes; and Clinton for years was demonized by the press, particularly the so called liberal press (as TDH, over the years, has shown). There are all sorts of reasons why Trump won. (Another one - he emphasized bringing back the manufacturing sector and attacked NAFTA. Also, people like you claiming that racism is everywhere. By the way, I can't stand Trump, and am sorry he won, and hope he loses in November.

    2. You keep forgetting that Clinton won the popular vote. And you don't mention Russia.

    3. Corby, Russia's role in disseminating fake facebook posts, to the extent that happened, was a drop in the bucket compared to the tidal wave of crap that got sent around, Russia was less than 1 percent I would assume. It's significance has been blown way out of proportion. It seems that as a device to attack Trump, democrats and pundits in large numbers, have accepted the narrative of national security figures like Brennan and Comey, to drum up anti-Russian animus, similar to the way it was done during the Cold War - it's ironic that liberals are now the ones who support the national security apparatus narrative. By doing so, they take their eye off of more substantive issues, and lose credibility.
      The Russians may well have been the ones who hacked into the democratic national committee's emails - the effect of that might well have had an effect on the outcome of the election - but the so-called liberal press's handling of the situation was primarily at fault. The whole thing was a big nothing that was blown way out of proportion - and the fact that the emails were stolen wasn't highlighted very much. (My understanding is that an extreme screw up on the part of the committee also enabled the hacking).
      As for Clinton's electoral majority, I don't get your logic. Our system provides that it's the electoral college that governs the outcome. She didn't get a majority in enough states. What you say on that is pointless. Yes, if the winner was the one with the most votes nationwide (so that theoretically a candidate could lose by very small margins in 49 states, but in one state, for example California, receive an overwhelming majority, and thus the majority of the nationwide popular vote) Clinton would have won, also Gore, and I think Grover Cleveland when he ran for reelection after his first term.

    4. Poor misunderstood Russia? Nate Silver has quantified the effect of Comey and the emails on Hillary's results. It was substantial. My point about Hillary's popular majority is that Trump does not have a mandate because he won on a technicality. His views and actions do not represent the majority of the voters. I would have been happy to have Gore as president. Cleveland was before my time.

    5. AC/MA,
      Get used to it.
      Racism and/or stupidity.

    6. AC/MA,
      You running, and you running, and you running away.
      But you can't run away from yourself.

    7. Taxes? OK.
      I don't make shit, so I'm gonna vote republican.

  11. An individual with social communication disorder may:

    "Have difficulty staying on topic; may be distracted by associations cued by his or her own words or the dialogue of others.

    Deliver monologues, lectures, or lessons about a favorite topic rather than allow/participate in reciprocal involvement with a communication partner."


  12. Once we defeat the virus, they'll be plenty of time to put Trump's head on a like.

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