The source of a certain fourth button: It has been depressing of late to peruse the national news.
Many people are depressed by the videotape they see, and by the incidents they hear described. There's no obvious reason why they shouldn't be.
Around here, we're more depressed by the way such videotape tends to be reported, framed and explained. So too with those other events. (This is a syndrome we expect to start exploring next week.)
For today, we're going to take a quick break from our review of the way the New York Times handled and reacted to Tom Cotton's fascistic June 3 column.
Tomorrow, we'll review the contents of the June 5 Editors' Note which sought to explain why the column shouldn't have been published. We'll also review some of the "fact-checking" which quickly emerged from angry New York Times staffers, and even from some better-known people in the world beyond.
For today, we'll only direct you to a paragraph we came across late yesterday, as we noted here. It was the first paragraph in an essay at Slate. The paragraph reads like this:
SLATE (6/10/20): As protests over racist policing in America continue to play out in the nation’s streets, a concurrent reckoning with race and inequality is taking shape inside the country’s notoriously white media companies, signaled in part by the sudden departures of high-profile executives. The most notable exit so far is James Bennet, whose tenure as the editorial page editor of the New York Times ended after a furor over an op-ed by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton that called for deploying the military against peaceful protesters.We're omitting the young writer's name because we don't regard this as the young writer's fault.
We regard this as the way it's played. As anthropologists keep insisting, this is our (tribal) species in action, pretty much all the way down.
Our point here is simple. The writer's description of Cotton's column strikes us as highly inaccurate.
No doubt, the progressive mind will quickly insist that the writer has captured what Tom Cotton meant. Cotton, after all, is the other. And, as human history has always shown, the others are vicious and bad.
We may feel sure that the writer had captured what Cotton meant. But the writer has baldly misstated what Tom Cotton actually said—or at least. that what various major experts have told us.
Rather explicitly, Cotton called for deploying military troops against "rioters" and "bands of looters"—against people who were engaged in the "orgy of violence" which was, in fact, rather widespread when his column was written.
(He didn't mention "arsonists." Quite a bit of that activity also seemed to be going on.)
Cotton explicitly said that these "bands of miscreants" shouldn't be confused with "a majority who seek to protest peacefully." He explicitly said that we shouldn't create a "moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters."
That's what Cotton actually said, but Cotton is very much other. Within our tents, we may tend to feel that we surely know what he plainly meant.
Armed with this impulse, We'll inch away from what he actually said, eventually reaching the formulation which opened an essay in Slate. But this is very much the way our species performs.
Consider an earlier episode. We refer to the crackpot story-telling which created The Hopeful's Fourth Button.
The incident to which we refer happened long ago. It helped produce deaths all over Iraq, but who ever cared about them?
The hopeful in question was Candidate Gore. It was the fall of 1999, and the people we most admire were conducting a war on his wardrobe.
(Our tribal minds will quickly say that this is only done to female candidates. Tribal minds of whatever stripe are quite persistently wrong.)
As the people we admire most conducted their war on this candidate's clothes, the rest of the people we admire most sat around and watched. You see, this war was being conducted by the upper-end mainstream press, and that's where careers are made.
All through November 1999, the war on Gore's wardrobe unfolded. The candidate was attacked for his suits and for his boots. Also, for the height at which he hemmed his pants, the better to showcase his boots.
We was attacked for wearing polo shirts, and for wearing earth tones. Along the way, he was also condemned for wearing three-button suit jackets.
You're right! This sounds like the report of an episode inside a madhouse. In fact, it happened inside the madhouse of upper-end cable news—and no, we don't mean on Fox, which wasn't real big at that time.
It also happened in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. The people we admire most all said nothing about this. Careers are made at and through the Times, and also on so-called "cable news." In this early forever war, the careers of this particular "band of miscreants" very much seemed to come first.
For the record, what was supposed to be wrong with wearing three-button suits? None of this ever made any sense, but it somehow got into some peoples' heads—or at least, it got onto their lips—that this represented the candidate's play for those impressionable, dumb female voters.
In one of his endless meltdowns during those many long years, Chris Matthews pimped this lunacy hard. Brian Williams was still discussing Gore's three buttons as late as February 2000.
(Today, Williams is presenting as a carefully scripted, beautifully manicured "corporate progressive" star.)
What was supposed to be wrong with three-button suits? None of this ever made sense. Three-button suit jackets were quite conventional at the time. As we noted in real time, the Wall Street Journal was running full-size display ads for such costuming, even as these attacks dragged on.
At any rate, bands of rioters took turns denouncing Gore's troubling habillement. Eventually, it had to happen! A fourth button was sewn on his suit!
She appeared on Geraldo's nightly CNBC show, along with a fellow named Franken. (At that time, Geraldo was pre-Fox and liberal.) Believe it or not, this was said:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.For a fuller transcript, click here.
For the record, Candidate Gore wore no four-button suits. In the swelling tribal excitement, Arianna had sewn a fourth button on.
She also said that Gore's troubling suits were making "people feel disconnected from him," especially perhaps in New Hampshire.
"It's just not the way most American males dress," she said, echoing Matthews' sliming of Gore as "today's man-woman."
(There was no gender politics then. Today, they all deeply care. Also, they never heard a single word about Lauer, Rose, Halperin or Weinstein. They would have pushed back if they had!)
Matthews kept it up for years, crazily sliming Hillary Clinton along with Candidate Gore. (She ended up losing to Trump.) Until 2008, no one said a word about this. Careers get made on cable TV, and there wasn't much cable back then.
The people we've been trained to admire kept this up forever. None of the people we're trained to admire opened their traps to complain, the way a rookie cop should do in his fourth day on the job, even as his chief seeks escape.
People are dead all over Iraq because they behaved this way. Today, they continue to simper and smile. Today, they're posing, and pleasuring us. They're saying how deeply they care.
According to anthropologists:
When the mob starts to run in the streets, the story gets better and better. A fourth button may get sewn on a suit. Slate may misstate what was said.
Tomorrow: The Editors' Note and beyond
Next week: What's goin' on