CULTURE AND TOWN: "Muskie wept," the journalists said!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Also, let's hide in the bushes: To tell you the truth, we don't exactly know what we're doing today. Here's the reason for our uncertainty:

Somewhat amazingly, Donald J. Trump has left town!

After he left, we kept him around long enough for us to conduct his Senate "trial."  But he himself is no longer around. He's been gone for more than a month!

It feels to us like the end of an era—the end of a very long era. We'd be inclined to date the start of the era to the night when major journalists hid in the bushes, hoping to see if Candidate Hart actually had a girl friend.

Five years later, they started in on Candidate Clinton. In the fall of 1997, we started trying to design this site. (It wasn't easy to start a web site back in 1997.)

This site went up in March 1998. Almost exactly one year later, they started on Candidate Gore. 

In truth, the foundations of that two-year war had been established in 1997, when Gore made an utterly pointless, unrecorded remark about the treacly film, Love Story. In the Oscar-nominated film, Gore's Harvard roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, had been cast in the role of the Harvard roommate. 

(Only two journalists had heard the offhand remark in question. Back in 1997, one of the two, Karen Tumulty, did what journalists never do. She aggressively criticized her colleagues when they began  aggressively criticizing Gore for whatever it was he had or hadn't said. Needless to say, Maureen Dowd played a leadership role in this initial onslaught. Dowd has been extremely influential during the era in question. )

At moments like these, we're defining the era in terms of the coverage of presidential politics. We'd be inclined to say that the era began in the bushes with the stakeout of Candidate Hart. 

In truth, the more remarkable episode may have involved Candidate Muskie in 1972. That episode  produced the press corps' ultimate Biblical claim:

Muskie wept. 

Muskie wept! And not only that, he wept in the snow! Or so the journalists said. It was a very big deal at the time.

As  reported much later (then disappeared), a few of the journalists had decided that Muskie had a character problem. They'd based their assessment on the way the candidate would behave when they all played poker together.

(No, we aren't making this up. You've never seen this lunacy discussed for perfectly obvious reasons)

Soon, they were reporting that Muskie had wept. He'd wept in the snow—about his wife, no less! This changed the shape of the 1972 race, in which Nixon swept to a massive re-election.

Years later, the dean of Washington journalists—the fellow who first reported the weeping, on the front page of the Washington Post—said the crying had probably maybe never happened. For obvious reasons, you've never seen this lunacy discussed. It simply isn't done.

This is the history of the era through the year 2001. We're omitting the 1988 presidential debate when Bernie Shaw asked Candidate Dukakis what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered, after which the pundits all agreed to agree that Dukakis had answered wrong.

(Years later, some background information emerged. Several female journalists on the panel for that debate had begged Bernie not to ask that inappropriate question. Bernie went ahead anyway, with Dukakis answering wrong.)

Along the way, we ourselves received phone calls, in 1987, from journalists who wanted to know if then-candidate Gore had smoked marijuana when he was a college student. In short, we're dealing with an era of undisguised human stupidity—a story involved the dumbest mother-frumpers who ever drew breath on Earth.

This is the history of the era through the year 2001. During this same period, Diane Sawyer, on network TV, sat with Marla Maples one night and asked her if sex with The Donald was the best sex she ever had.

Last November, in an utterly silly space-filler, the New York Times' two top film critics listed Keanu Reeves as the third greatest actor of the 21st century so far. They cited and linked to the John Wick films—the ugly, stupid, murder-drenched films around which they based their peculiar assessment of Reeve's manifest greatness.

In short, this is the history of an era defined by the vision, the values and the understandings of a group of human life forms who aren't always recognizably human. At the direction of major anthropologists, we've often compared the behavior of these life forms to the story long told in the west, a story in which we humans keep telling ourselves, with straight faces, that we are "the rational animal."

Donald J. Trump has left the building! That said, there's no obvious reason to believe that the culture we're describing will right itself in the years ahead.

For the record, we're describing part of the gonzo culture which prevails in Our Town. There's no sign that Our Town has any plan to reform itself. Indeed,  we cling to our fond beliefs about ourselves, in a way which makes our gonzo culture very hard to challenge.

Last night, on our favorite cable news show, we were hoping to lock him up. We were back with Stormy Daniels and her request for money during Campaign 2016—a request for cash which was met.

For ourselves, we've always wondered why Daniels wasn't charged with extortion. Such questions don't get asked in Our Town, though people who live in Other Towns hear questions like that all the time.

For what it's worth, we're so dumb in Our Town that we decided that Daniels' demand for cash made her a "feminist icon" and also a "feminist hero." We loved her visibly disordered lawyer so much that he became a Democratic White House contender.

How good are our assessments of character here in Our Town? For Daniels' visibly disordered lawyer—we'll recommend pity more than scorn—things went downhill from there:

On several occasions starting in March 2019, Avenatti was indicted in California and New York on federal counts including tax evasion, extortion, fraud, and embezzlement. He has been ineligible to practice law since May 4, 2020. On February 14, 2020, Avenatti was convicted of all charges against him in the New York court. Avenatti was held in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center while he awaited sentencing for his extortion conviction in the New York case. He potentially faces more than 40 years in prison. Amid healthcare concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Avenatti was temporarily released from prison in April 2020 under orders to return within 90 days. He is currently under house arrest at a friend's house in California. His sentencing is set for May 2021.

We rarely miss here in Our Town!

Over Here, we want to see Trump locked up. Over There, they think his "sacred landslide" election was stolen. This is the story of life as it's currently lived in the dueling towns of the shining city upon the hill.

The truth about us and our somewhat peculiar culture can be found all across the mainstream press. In fairness, as with Chekhov's Gurov, we just "want to enjoy life so badly and it all seems so simple and amusing.”

In The Lady With the Lapdog, Chekhov makes Gurov a sympathetic figure. So too with us in Our Town. 

There's nothing evil about our human desires. But in the pursuit of such simple desires, things can sometimes possibly get a bit stupid.

They hid in the bushes as they chased Gary Hart. Meanwhile, sex with The Donald was the she ever had! 

At the Times, to believe Joe Klein, the honchos thought that Maureen Dowd was possessed of revolutionary insights. (At the 1984 convention, Mondale didn't know who to hug first—Ferraro or his wife!)

This is the history of the era as performed in our frequently ludicrous town.

We aren't bad people here in Our Town. But given the ways we play the game, will our life as a nation be ending?

Tomorrow: Dumb and town? 

Regarding The Lady With the Lapdog: Nabokov described Chekhov's story as one of the greatest ever written. We've seen Cornel West quoted to the same effect.

We think the story offers a beautiful portrait of a lost soul finding his soul. The leading authority on the story quotes Nabokov in this manner:

"All the traditional rules...have been broken in this wonderful short story....no problem, no regular climax, no point at the end. And it is one of the greatest stories ever written."

In fairness, he'd never seen the first John Wick film, in which we see a dog get killed, then about ten million people. With such magnificent acting!

In closing, we think there is a point at the end of Chekhov's story. In translation, we'll let Chekhov speak:

And it seemed to them that in only a few more minutes a solution would be found and a new, beautiful life would begin; but both of them knew very well that the end was still a long, long way away and that the most complicated and difficult part was only just beginning.

The most difficult part was just beginning! Or at least, so Chekhov said.


27 comments:

  1. No one cares about any of this shit, dear Bob.

    May we suggest that, regrettably, your obsession with pop-culture bullshit that normal humyns simply ignore could indicate mental issues?

    ReplyDelete
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  2. "We'd be inclined to date the start of the era to the night when major journalists hid in the bushes, hoping to see if Candidate Hart actually had a girl friend."

    Somerby appears to want to declare a candidate's personal life out of bounds to reporters. In Hart's case, he lied to reporters and that is why they investigated him further, to catch him in the baldfaced lie he told to the press. It may mean nothing to voters or reporters that a candidate engages in extramarital sex, but it should mean something to voters and reporters that a candidate tells lies when asked questions.

    Trump lied without restraint. Reporters showed that Hart had lied and that ended his political aspirations. Clinton lied and was impeached for it.

    Somerby is inclined to excuse Trump's lies. How is that excusing of Trump's blatant and continued lying the same as what happened when these Democrats lied?

    Somerby seems to say that reporters should not attempt to catch politicians in their lies. How will that help voters make good decisions? If more people cared about Trump's lies, it might have prevented the last horrible term and 40% of those who died of covid might still be alive.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are falling into the corporate media's trap by pretending Trump is some outlier, rather than some standard-issue piece of shit Reagan Republican we have seen since the 1980s.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "In truth, the foundations of that two-year war had been established in 1997, when Gore made an utterly pointless, unrecorded remark about the treacly film, Love Story. In the Oscar-nominated film, Gore's Harvard roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, had been cast in the role of the Harvard roommate. "

    This makes no sense at all. Gore was criticized for saying that he and Tipper were the model for Love Story, not that Tommy Lee Jones was cast in the role. Tommy Lee Jones is from Midland Texas and wouldn't be able to pass for the scion of a wealthy New England family being ostracized for falling in love with an Italian immigrant girl at Harvard.

    I don't know whether Somerby has forgotten or whether he is himself confused or whether he is trying to confuse all of us, but Tommy Lee Jones wasn't included in that story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Muskie wept! And not only that, he wept in the snow! Or so the journalists said. It was a very big deal at the time."

    Muskie did weep. This was a big deal because it was provoked by one of Nixon's ratfucking team and successful eliminated Muskie from the nomination. Voter perceptions eliminated him, not the press. Obama tried to eliminate Hillary the same way, when she teared up over the good she might have done had she gotten the nomination in 2008, but that emotion made her more appealing to voters, being gender-congruent. For Muskie, it was gender-noncongruent, since men are not supposed to openly weep. The voter's insistence on gender norms is part of why Dowd's portrayal of Gore as having feminine traits was harmful to him.

    The press didn't invent this aspect of our society, but political operatives certainly use it and reporters tell the public about it. Instead of attacking ridiculous gender norms, Somerby focuses on the press, but they didn't cause voters to react as they do.

    Muskie's crying did happen. People saw it and Nixon's ratfucker admitted that his prank worked better than they had hoped.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "During this same period, Diane Sawyer, on network TV, sat with Marla Maples one night and asked her if sex with The Donald was the best sex she ever had."

    This was long before anyone ever thought that Trump would run for office, back when Trump was a wealthy playboy in the midst of a high-profile divorce involving Maples. Somerby omits that context, so we are supposed to think that Sawyer is interviewing a politician's girlfriend about their sex life? Donald Trump went out of his way to seek such opportunities for exposure. He even made up affairs with movie stars who he had never been with. Because that's the kind of guy he is.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "For ourselves, we've always wondered why Daniels wasn't charged with extortion."

    The answer to this is obvious. She didn't commit extortion. Her side of things was true whereas Donald Trump lied to smear her. Somerby, characteristically, believes Trump not Daniels, because he thinks women lie habitually, whereas it is OK when our President lies, since he is mentally ill (or something).

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Over Here, we want to see Trump locked up. Over There, they think his "sacred landslide" election was stolen. "

    Obviously, there are two versions of reality. Our side "over here" (which Somerby is not part of) believes Trump will be locked up because he has committed fraud, tax evasion, and other crimes that are being pursued and will lead to charges. Whether he can be convicted or not remains to be seen, since jury nullification by Trump supporters is as likely as what happened in the Senate when he was acquitted. Over there, people believe something that has no factual support whatsoever, simply because the President and other Republicans repeated lies over and over, misleading their supporters. If there were any factual support for what they believe over there, it would have been made broadly available and we would all know about it. There is none.

    Somerby thinks that it is our fault for believing things that are true and he exhorts us to do something, what? He blames the press for telling us the truth? It is unclear what Somerby thinks we should be doing differently. The answer cannot be that we should believe what the others do, since that is false, untrue info. And it cannot be that the press should stop telling liberals the truth about Trump and his lies. So what is the point of all this?

    ReplyDelete
  9. The Lady and the Lapdog, which I read because Somerby has talked about it here, is not about someone finding his lost soul. It is about a womanizer getting his comeuppance when he falls deeply in love with an unattainable woman. It is odd that Somerby sees the story so differently.

    Nabokov comments on the stylistic elements of the story, not its plot or what it is about. Somerby's quote of him is irrelevant, except he seems to think it validates his taste.

    ReplyDelete
  10. “we've always wondered why Daniels wasn't charged with extortion.”

    You’ll have to ask Donald Trump, Bob. She wasn’t guilty of any federal offense under any conceivable circumstance, so the DOJ wouldn’t have had any reason to press charges. Trump would need to press charges.

    And by the way, the correct charge would be “blackmail”, not extortion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Daniels has always maintained that she was approached by Trump's representative who offered her money for non-disclosure, not vice versa.

      Delete
  11. “Over Here, we want to see Trump locked up. Over There, they think his "sacred landslide" election was stolen.”

    In other words, “we” want Trump held accountable for the crimes he committed, including incitement of insurrection. As McConnell said.

    “They” believe an abject lie.

    How are these two things in the same universe, much less comparable at all?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dag-on and shit, Bob! Your polemic has gone beyond media criticism, lo these many years, but enjoyed the essay. I certainly share your pessimism. We might end up dystopian, as all major films show us, or we may overcome our folly. As a friend of mine perceived it 30 years ago: “We will probably enter into a new Dark Ages, and possibly emerge into a new Golden Age.” That’s kind of the way I see it.

    That’s as optimistic as I can get.

    Leroy

    ReplyDelete
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