But did she report what he said?: In this morning's Washington Post, Kathleen Parker says she didn't and doesn't agree with Tom Cotton's basic idea.
As a general matter, Parker writes from the center right, in a way which is thoroughly sane. In the main thrust of her column today, she ridicules the New York Times for the recent upheaval in response to the Cotton column.
Parker rolls her eyes at the Times. But she also says this:
PARKER (6/10/20): Cotton’s essential argument was that an “overwhelming show of force” was needed as the protests unfolded and that President Trump should invoke the 200-year-old Insurrection Act to “restore order to our streets.” Bad idea, Tom. See how easy that was? I for one am glad to know what’s inside Cotton’s cerebral cavity. I disagree with his thinking for the same reasons raised by others, including former defense secretary and retired Marine general Jim Mattis. As a member of the Kent State generation, it’s against my remaining liberal sensibilities, not to mention American values, to turn our military on our own people.For the record, Cotton's column never appeared in print editions of the Times. For ourselves, we had no particular reaction to the column, in part because no one pays a bit of attention to anything published in the Opinion section of the New York Times.
In part, no one pays any attention because the Opinion section publishes reams of material which blend bafflegab with bilgewater. Also, no one ever pays any attention because no one in the upper-end press corps actually cares about anything much at all.
No one pays any attention to Times opinion columns? Dating to the fall of 2000, this has been proven by the lack of reaction to Paul Krugman's columns—most strikingly, perhaps, by the lack of attention to his endless columns in support of the claim that Paul Ryan, the mainstream press corps darling, was really a "flim-flam man."
(Also, to his string of columns, long ago, about the massive overspending involved in American health care. To this day, no major news org has ever asked where all that missing money goes. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!)
No one pays a lick of attention to this floundering newspaper's Opinion columns—until such columns offend against some prevailing tribal shibboleth.
As it turned out, Cotton's column did just that, in a major way. It did so to such an extent that, we're forced to notice, Parker has joined a cast of thousands in perhaps misstating the "essential argument" with which she doesn't agree.
Did Cotton argue that an “overwhelming show of force” was needed "as the protests unfolded?" We're forced to call Parker's statement misleading! Here's why:
In the column under review, Cotton complained about "a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters." Whatever you think of Cotton's proposal, it was rather plainly those "rioters and looters" the senator sought to subdue.
"A majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants," he rather explicitly wrote. Even as he drew that distinction, the gentleman touched off an orgy in which everyone from Parker on down has seemed to fudge what he had said.
Whatever you think of Cotton's proposal, he wasn't suggesting that federal troops should be subduing those "peaceful, law-abiding protesters." From his opening paragraph on, he aimed his remarks at the "rioters" and "bands of looters" who were engaged in an "orgy of violence."
The column appeared on June 3. At that time, a large amount of looting and arson were in fact on full display.
It was the "miscreants" involved in that rioting Cotton sought to "subdue," not the "peaceful, law-abiding protesters" with whom, he explicitly said, those elements should not be confused.
This doesn't mean that Cotton's proposal was a good idea. This doesn't mean that Parker—or anyone else, from Mattis on down—should have agreed with his proposal, to the extent that anyone had even bothered to read it.
That said, you'd almost think that professional journalists would be able to pen an accurate description of a proposal. You'd almost think that an upper-end journalist would be able to offer a crisp and accurate account of what some public figure has actually said.
Long ago and far away, we may have believed such things ourselves! Based on long experience at this site, we no longer do so.
On occasion, we marvel at our prior innocence. Consider an earlier topic:
Way back when, we would have thought that upper-end journalists had the intellectual ability to produce sensible paraphrase of remarks by major figures. This came into play during Campaign 2000, a twenty-month orgy of bad paraphrase aimed at Candidate Gore.
At that time, we probably would have assumed that professional journalists—many "went to the finest schools"—had the ability to produce sensible paraphrase of a major candidate's remarks. To cite one enormously consequential example, we would have thought that upper-end scribes had the ability to decide whether that particular candidate had actually said that he "invented the Internet," a claim this gang of script-reading baboons kept making down through the years.
We no longer assume that our upper-end journalists have any such capability! At this point, we're inclined to think that such basic tasks lie beyond the capabilities of these high-ranking fellow humans.
In this morning's column, does Parker give an accurate account of what Cotton proposed in his column? We'd have to say that she does not. Consider her three attempts:
In her first attempt to describe his proposal, Parker refers to "Cotton’s op-ed endorsing military intervention to quell unrest."
We'd say that account could perhaps be scored as "technically accurate," but it's also stupendously vague. How hard is it to use the words which Cotton used—to say that his column endorsed military intervention to quell "bands of looters" engaged in an "orgy of violence?"
Those are the actual terms Cotton used. How hard is it to repeat them?
In her second bite at the apple, Parker offers the formulation quoted above. She says this: "Cotton’s essential argument was that an 'overwhelming show of force' was needed as the protests unfolded."
We'd have to rate that account as baldly misleading. Cotton explicitly said that he wasn't talking about "the peaceful, law-abiding protesters." He specifically said that they shouldn't be confused with the looters.
Our view? In these initial bites at the apple, Parker didn't manage to describe what Cotton proposed. Continuing directly from above, she finally offered this:
PARKER (continuing directly): The angry Times staffers also claimed that the op-ed was inflammatory and “contained assertions debunked as misinformation by the Times’s own reporting.” They pointed to Cotton’s claim that antifa, a self-described anti-fascism movement opposed to the far right that can seem sort of fascist in its disruptive tactics, was behind the unrest. The piece should have been more carefully edited to make it clear that the evidence behind Cotton’s claim about antifa’s role was not very convincing. While his piece was far from perfect, Cotton tried to draw a distinction between violent actors and peaceful protesters.Cotton tried to draw that distinction? Cotton explicitly drew that distinction! A cynic might say that, in this final bit of weak tea, Parker was simply covering her aspic—was giving herself a way to claim that her account had been accurate, fair.
In these revolutionary times, a tribunal of judges might cite that passage as final proof that Parker must be frogmarched away along with the many others. That passage tells us that Parker knew what Cotton proposed, these revolutionary Maoists might say.
Parker knew what Cotton had said; she just wasn't willing to tell her readers, this tribunal might say. Instead, she chose to muddy the waters. It's what her ilk did, for twenty months, with respect to every word that came out of that previous candidate's mouth, though they still won't admit that today.
We acknowledge the fact that we know these things because of the insights we've gained from a group of major top anthropologists. They've helped us peel back the ancient veil of Maya—"the veil that hides truth from our eyes"—concerning the instincts of Homo sapiens, our tribal and war-inclined species.
Our species is strongly inclined to invent "others," these disconsolate experts have said. In the course of inventing these monsters, we're strongly inclined to misstate the things these others have thought, done or said.
This is the way our species is wired, these despondent top experts have said. In these ways, we pave the way toward our endless military, political or cultural wars. It's always been like this, they've said.
Tomorrow, we plan to look at the New York Times "Editors' Note" which sits atop Cotton's column. We only have two days left this week, and we have a lot of embarrassing but instructive ground to cover.
We want to look at that Editors' Note. It helps establish the unfortunate point we've long made about the Times.
We also want to examine the cries which arose from New York Times staffers. Many went to the finest schools! The gods laugh as they note this.
Tomorrow: All the editors' bungles
Cotton goes there again: Yesterday, Senator Cotton was at it again.
According to a tweet by Jake Sherman, Cotton said the following in a meeting of Republican senators:
"Young black men have a very different experience with law enforcement in this nation than white people and that’s their impression and experience and we need to be sensitive to that and do all we can to change it."So the senator is said to have said. Needless to say, the very first comment beneath Sherman's tweet goes exactly like this:
Is his idea to "change it" to have soldiers shooting Black people in the streets?Amending Don Corleone's sad remarks, this is the tribe and the species we're stuck with.
Nothing is ever going to change this, major top experts have said.