SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, 2021
The question(s) which won't be asked: This morning, the fascinating case of Donald McNeil in Peru has finally appeared in print editions of the Washington Post.
In our view, the case is instructive beyond all belief. In large part, it's instructive about modern upper-end journalism as practiced right here in Our Town.
Just to be clear, we're speaking about the reporting of this absurdly fuzzy affair, not about whatever it is McNeil may have actually said. We'd especially point to the pitiful, gong-show reporting in The Daily Beast.
The case of McNeil and the Middle School Gaggle strikes us as highly instructive. That said, we'll deal with that matter next week, as we start to discuss Woke and Race.
For today, the most instructive news report appears on the front page of the New York Times. The report involves a array of wildly improbable claims a certain congresswoman has made—claims she may even believe.
The House member of whom we speak is Congresswoman QAnon—Marjorie Taylor Greene. Catie Edmondson wrote the front-page report. Her report begins as shown:
EDMONDSON (1/30/21): Marjorie Taylor Greene had just finished questioning whether a plane really flew into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and flatly stating that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim when she paused to offer an aside implicating another former president in a crime.
“That’s another one of those Clinton murders,” Ms. Greene said, referring to John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death in a 1999 plane crash, suggesting that he had been assassinated because he was a potential rival to Hillary Clinton for a New York Senate seat.
Ms. Greene casually unfurled the cascade of dangerous and patently untrue conspiracy theories in a previously unreported 40-minute video that was originally posted to YouTube in 2018...
So begins today's report about Congresswoman Q. We decided to check Edmondson's claims—and by God, sure enough:
At the 25-minute mark of the tape, you can see Greene referring to "the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon,"
("It's odd, there's never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon," she says as she continues. In fairness, she does seem to say that there actually was a "terrorist attack in New York" on 9/11.)
Other unsupported claims are made on that videotape. We wouldn't say that Greene "flatly declares" that Obama "was secretly Muslim." Still and all, at minute 30, she does say this:
"Yes, I do believe that he is a Muslim, and Valerie Jarrett is too."
No evidence is offered in support of these claims. But Greene seems highly assured.
Meanwhile, was John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death "another one of those Clinton murders?" You can see Greene making that suggestion at the 36-minute mark, as she (falsely) says that Kennedy had announced he was going to run for Senate "just before he died."
Please note that key word: "falsely." Kennedy Jr. made no such announcement. There seems to be zero evidence that was planning to make such a run.
That said, according to Greene, John Kennedy Jr.'s death was "another one of those Clinton murders!" In this way, we see the crazy claims of the future Congresswoman Q drawing on the earlier crazy claims of the 1990s.
As of 1999, Gennifer Flowers was making money off those murder claims—but so what? In August of that year, she appeared for a full half-hour on the crazy cable program Hardball, where her crazy host insisted on telling her how smokin' hot she was.
As for Flowers herself, her performance on Hardball was so absurd that she was invited to do a full hour on Hannity & Colmes the next week. This is the way the lunacy spread during that earlier age, when there was no social media.
By then, the lovesick boys of the mainstream press had declared Flowers to be the most honest person ever encountered on earth. The flaccid stars of the mainstream guild never challenged this ludicrous claim, this obvious propaganda.
By that time, the children were pimping their stupid claims all around the town. Years later, this type of crazy behavior would be perfected by President Donald J. Trump.
In fairness, Trump didn't invent the crazy practice—the crazy practice which has now taken us to this crazy place.
In the tape from 2018, you can see Greene reaching back to link that era's murder claims to the never-ending drive to slander Clinton and Clinton.
On that same tape, you can see her saying that Seth Rich "was murdered by two MS-13 gang members." It's one of three million invented claims about that tragic killing.
At the end of the tape, you can see her toying with the puzzling claim that Hillary Clinton is married to George Soros' nephew. Also, with the claim that Adam Schiff is married to Soros' daughter.
("I don't know about that one. I don't know," she says with respect to the latter claim. Variants of the Schiff/Soros nuptial claim have been shot down by various fact-check sites.)
Don't miss the suggestion that the Clinton Foundation was involved in a plot to smuggle children out of Haiti for the obvious purpose. It's all there in the videotape—but there's something else on that tape we think you ought to notice:
Watching the tape, we were surprised by the genial way Greene comes across. She makes one unsupported claim after another, but she seems to believe every word she says, and her thoroughly genial manner, in which she constantly dumbs it all down, would make it easy for others to climb aboard her train.
We were surprised to see how good she was at the practice known as "selling the car." She doesn't come across as crazy—until you consider her claims.
Later in Edmondson's report, other claims are mentioned. Whenever we read about such claims, a few questions pop into our minds:
EDMONDSON: Ms. Greene suggested in 2018 that a devastating wildfire that ravaged California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats. She endorsed executing Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She served as a prolific writer for a now-defunct conspiracy blog called “American Truth Seekers,” writing posts with headlines including “MUST READ—Democratic Party Involved With Child Sex, Satanism, and The Occult.” And she argued that the 2018 midterm elections—in which the first two Muslim women were elected to the House—were part of “an Islamic invasion of our government.”
Say what? In 2018, did Greene really suggest that the devastating Camp Fire was deliberately started by a laser beam from space?
So it seems! At Edmondson's link, you can see a screen shot of a long, rambling Facebook post to that effect. Meanwhile, there seems to have been a crazy train loaded with other claims and suggestions! The questions we're left with are these:
Does this congresswoman really believe the various things she says? (We'd say she very much seems to.) And if she does, does this possibly tell us something about some aspect of her "mental health?"
Beyond that, can this help us understand a newly dominant question? That significant question is this:
How can it be that so many people believe so many crazy claims? Remember, this epidemic of crackpot belief started in the Clinton/Gore years, often emanating from elite mainstream press sources.
Does Congresswoman QAnon really believe the various things she says? Watching that rather genial tape, we began to see her as a type of person to whom humorists sometimes refer—the type of person who's "always wrong but never in doubt."
Is a screw loose in this person's head? Are we dealing here with some sort of psychiatric or cognitive problem?
The press corps refused to ask such questions in the case of Trump. They're also refusing to raise such questions in the case of Greene.
In our view, we build such people up by assailing them as liars, rather than by suggesting that something seems to be wrong in their heads. Ignoring the question of political strategy, we're amazed by the lack of curiosity about such questions—by the lack of curiosity here in the streets of Our Town.
With respect to Greene, we were surprised by that genial tape—by the friendly way she was selling the car. We've seen that same smiling approach on cable.
It's widely loved here in Our Town.
For extra credit only: Along the way, Greene says some things on that tape with which many liberals would be inclined agree.
She seems convincing at such junctures. See if you can find them.