FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2021
What the Times said way back when: Several questions come to mind about our current state of rolling disintegration.
On the one hand, how can so many people believe in Pizzagate, in QAnon? How could so many people have believed in birtherism? In the long list of Clinton murders?
Those questions refer to the rise of the The Crazy which has occurred Over There. Concerning the sheer stupidity which has long been on display in Our Town, you have to consider the instant journalism which emerged about Whatever It Is That Donald McNeil May Actually Have Said.
We expect to look at that question early next week. For today, it's worth considering the stunning incompetence, mixed with devotion to Storyline, that has emerged at places like The Daily Beast.
Our team just isn't real sharp. If the nation plans to survive, we in Our Town badly need to come to terms with that fact.
We'll discuss McNeilGate next week. For today, we thought we'd venture back about twenty years, showing you where the lunacy was coming from at that time.
Our thoughts were trigged by a front-page report in today's New York Times. As far as we know, there's nothing wrong with today's report—but oh, the memories it triggered!
Hard-copy headline included, this morning's front-page report starts like this:
G.M. TO ABANDON CARS AND TRUCK USING GAS BY 2035
The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.
General Motors said Thursday that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers...
"The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered!" As we read that opening sentence, memories lit the corners of our mind.
Were they misty watercolor memories of the way we were? Not exactly, no—they weren't. But in fairness, they came fairly close.
They were memories of one of the three hundred ways the New York Times, and other news orgs like it, conducted their punishment war against President Clinton in 1999 and 2000.
During the bulk of those two years, this punishment war was directed at Clinton's chosen successor, Candidate Al Gore. That's where our memories of the end of internal combustion come in.
The story goes something like this:
In 1992, Gore had published Earth in the Balance, a detailed book about climate change. As we've documented in some detail, the book was very favorably reviewed at the time. (Links are offered below.)
Now, though, it was 1999—and Gore was running for president as Bill Clinton's chosen successor.
As you may recall, Clinton had engaged in ten acts of oral sex without getting the press corps' permission. This wanton behavior on Clinton's part had triggered a mighty war.
By now, with impeachment over and done, the war was being waged against Gore, the only target still available.
Back in 1992, Earth in the Balance had been very favorably reviewed. Now, though, a war was on—and a Great Revision took place.
We'll start with Michiko Kakutani, Maureen Dowd's good friend and the New York Times' principal book reviewer at that time.
In November 1999, Kakutani published a front-page report about several books which had been written by that year's presidential candidates. She devoted about 800 words to Earth in the Balance.
Astoundingly, inexcusably, her treatment started like this:
KAKUTANI (11/22/99): Vice President Al Gore emerges from "Earth in the Balance" (Plume), his 1992 book about the environment, as the quintessential A-student who has belatedly discovered New Age psychobabble. Like his speeches, his book veers between detailed policy assessments (predictably illustrated with lots of charts and graphs) and high-decibel outbursts of passion, between energetically researched historical disquisitions and loony asides about "inner ecology" and "spiritual triangulation"—asides that may help explain his curious affinity with his feminist consultant, Naomi Wolf.
Upon its release, Gore's book had been praised for its erudition. Now it was marked by psychobabble, high-decibel outbursts and loony asides—loony asides which might help explain the "curious affinity" he seemed to maintain for "his feminist consultant."
Just so you'll know, this month of November had become the mainstream press corps' lunatic "month of Wolf." From October 31 on, it was the month in which our punditry savaged Gore for his deeply troubling wardrobe, but especially for that one tan or olive suit—an earth toned-suit which the lunatics said had been selected by Wolf.
Wolf, of course, had played no role in the writing of Earth in the Balance. Beyond that, no one ever presented any evidence that she had told Gore to wear a suit which wasn't blue. No one ever explained why anyone was supposed to care if she, or anyone else, actually had offered any such advice.
For whatever it may be worth, Wolf had written three books of her own by that time. Two of her books had been selected as New York Times Books of the Year.
All such things were forgotten now because she was inexcusably serving as an adviser to Gore. In the ugliest, stupidest possible ways, Wolf was also being portrayed as a loon—and Kakutani was now saying that Gore's loony asides may help explain the curious affinity he seemed to feel for her.
Gore was being widely savaged for taking advice from the silly girl author—and yes, that type of language was widely used. (Only Bill Kristol complained.) More specifically, it was being widely recited that the ridiculous "man-woman" Gore had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man."
Working from this noxious, moronic framework, Kakutani managed to work three separate references to Wolf into the 800 words she wrote about Gore's once-lauded book. As we've described elsewhere in much more detail, her overall treatment of Earth in the Balance came to us straight from the loony bin. But the lunatics were now in charge, especially at the New York Times, and every good liberal either raced to play along or knew to avert their gaze.
At any rate, the gist of Kakutani's review was right there in that paragraph. With its loony asides and its psychobabble, Earth in the Balance was so strange that it could best be taken as a road map to Gore's curious affinity with a feminist fool.
Kakutani's review was a scam, but it came straight from the playbook. In conducting their punishment war against Gore, the children frequently suggested that he was possibly battling some sort of mental health issues.
Five months later, the Times returned to Earth in the Balance on the occasion of Earth Day. Disgracefully, this is the way Robin Toner decided to thumbnail the book:
TONER (4/14/00): "Earth in the Balance" has a strikingly reflective tone and is widely considered to be Mr. Gore's midlife crisis book, written when Mr. Gore was trying to recover from his disastrous 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, while coping with the serious injuries of his son, who had been hit by a car.
Once, the book had been impressive. Now, it was widely considered to be Gore's “midlife crisis book!” This assessment was designed to make Gore loonier still!
For what it's worth, Toner was merely borrowing language from Kakutani. After discussing Gore's "loony asides," Kakutani was the one who first said that Gore had discussed some sort of "midlife crisis" in his very strange earlier book.
That too was inexcusable amateur shrink-wrap. But the Times had put it in print, and Toner was now piling on.
Why did we think of this today? Because Gore had said, in Earth in the Balance, that might be possible to eliminate the internal combustion engine within the next twenty-five years.
In 1999 and 2000, this suggestion was widely hailed as a further side of just how loony Gore was. In truth, there was nothing these idiots wouldn't say, nothing they wouldn't throw out there.
In Earth in the Balance, Gore had looked ahead to the coming end of internal combustion. Seven years later, the boys and girls were using this to portray him as a loon and a fool.
We've written about this particular matter at various points along the way. Links will be offered below.
What Kakutani wrote in the Times that day came straight from the land of the loons. Over the past few years, the throne in our nation's Crazy Town was seized by Donald J. Trump. But at that time, it was the boys and the girls of our elite mainstream press who sat on that chair all day long.
In the end, Kakutani got Bush elected. People are dead all over Iraq because of what she and the others did.
Frank Rich actually kept it up right to the day when Gore was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. At that point, he did a 180.
That is who, and that is what, these idiots actually are.
Has Donald J. Trump been even nuttier? We don't feel real sure about that. We'll offer you some links below. You can consider a bit more detail about what these earlier maniacs did.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we all belong to a very strange species. In this particular instance, the guild maintained this disgraceful punishment war for years.
No one ever said a word. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It was careers in the balance!
Further reading: For more on Kakutani's front-page piece, you can just click here. You'll see excerpts from the reviews Earth in the Balance received in real time, before the war was on.
For background on the end ofinternal combustion, just consider this:
Way back in January 1998, Rebecca Blumenstein had reported for the Wall Street Journal from the Detroit Auto Show. On page one, her opening sentence said this:
"Time is starting to run out for the internal combustion engine."
In her front-page report, Blumenstein quoted the chairman of GM. She said he "predicts a 'slow phase-off' of the internal-combustion engine in 20 to 30 years."
Even then, the industry knew that Gore's prediction had basically been right. Still, the bullshit rained on Gore's head. This was largely done here in Our Town, not among the various crazies who live Over There.
We recalled the Blumenstein piece today when we read the New York Times. For our utterly useless real-time report, you can just click here.