WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2021
Nurse Ratched, attacked in Our Town: Early last night, Brian Williams fought back, as is his right, against our controversial claim that he had been striking a pose.
We claimed that he had been striking a pose with respect to Charles Blow's new book. Last night, right out of the gate, Williams implied that it just wasn't so.
More on his rebuttal below.
This morning, we watched the Morning Joe gang as they struck an array of poses. By 6:35 A.M., Joe had returned to his original stance. Once again, he said that, if the Capitol rioters had been black, they all "would have been shot in the face."
Somehow, this claim was meant to coexist with praise for the men and women of the Capitol Police. So it goes when the whole world is a pose here in the streets of Our Town.
It probably wasn't a good idea to plow ahead, this very week, with our exploration of the way we in Our Town pursue matters of gender and race.
The whole world is running on impeachment this week; it might have made sense to defer. This morning, watching Morning Joe, we were struck by the thought that our whole culture, Over Here, has long a pose.
For today, let's keep it simple. Let's recall one of the ways Donald J. Trump, the former commander, actually got to the White House in the first place.
As you may recall, the commander's opponent in 2016 was Candidate Hillary Clinton. In our view, she wasn't a very good candidate that time around, but the nationwide popular vote turned out this way all the same:
Presidential election, 2016
Hillary Clinton (D): 65,853,514 (48.2%)
Donald J. Trump (R): 62,984,828 (46.1%)
She won by 2.9 million votes. Due to the oddities of our system, Trump ended up in the Oval.
Question: How did Trump manage to keep it close enough so that he could slither by? Given Trump's status as a nightmare candidate, what held Clinton's vote down?
There are quite a few answers to that question, several of which our cable stars chose to duck in real time. Today, we'll focus on the pose we may tend to adopt in Our Town concerning issues of gender—a pose which was massively AWOL, in recent decades, here in the streets of Our Town.
Let's consider the battering Clinton took, down through the years, on basic matters of gender. In the late Clinton-Gore years, then even into 2008, it had been Chris Matthews, the cable news star, who set the most gruesome example.
As the red-faced shouter ranted and raved, Clinton was routinely mocked as Evita Peron, as Cruella de Vil, as Madame Defarge and Nurse Ratched. Other male children would sometime chime in, saying the appalling lady reminded men of their first wives.
This went on and on and on, with barely a peep of protest from anyone here in Our Town. Matthews was much more influential in the earlier years of cable news, and career players in Our Town knew they mustn't notice his conduct and they certainly mustn't complain.
In early 2008, some women's group or other finally offered a peep of complaint. Matthews sidekick David Shuster was thrown overboard; Matthews himself motored on.
Along the way, these endless gender-based denigrations had helped define the field of play surrounding the future candidate. There had been virtually no criticism of this gender-trashing from anyone here in Our Town.
Then, in June 2008, someone did speak up. It was Clark Hoyt, then the New York Times public editor.
In an amazing departure, Hoyt identified a new miscreant—the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. His column started like this:
HOYT (6/22/08): Some supporters of Hillary Clinton believe that sexism colored news coverage of her presidential campaign. The Times reported in a front-page article on June 13 that many are proposing boycotts of cable news networks and that a “Media Hall of Shame” has been created by the National Organization for Women.
The Times itself, however, was barely mentioned, even though two of its Op-Ed columnists, Maureen Dowd and William Kristol, were named in the Hall of Shame.
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.
Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman’s potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.
The Times' reporting wasn't so awful, Hoyt said. But Maureen Dowd? Good God! In his final assessment, Hoyt said this:
"By assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, [Dowd] went over the top this election season."
Given Dowd's stature at the Times, Hoyt had written a very unusual column. Needless to say, it produced exactly zero discussion in the main streets of Our Town.
Eight years later, Donald J. Trump managed to stay close enough to Candidate Clinton to slip by into the Oval. The road to perdition had been paved by people like Matthews and Dowd, ably assisted, every step of the way, by the deafening silence observed in the streets of Our Town.
(We haven't mention Keith Olbermann's obnoxious gender-trashing of Clinton and others. Or the way our leading lights discussed his "misogyny," but only did so in private.)
This is the way we played the game here in Our Town. Today, we may occasionally posture in the wake of MeToo, sometimes perhaps going overboard in our performance of virtue. As the poet once inquired:
And now the heart is filled with gold,
As if it was a purse.
But oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
This morning, we'd planned to discuss this recent New York Times report about the role of race in New York City schools. We may go there tomorrow.
We tend to regard the Times' treatment of this topic as The Greatest Pose on Earth. In the recent report in question, the paper's reporter sustains the paper's long-standing performative stance, but she also points to poses being maintained by a list of mayoral candidates.
This is the way we play in Our Town. In Their Towns, they hear all about it, often in embellished form.
The Crazy Train runs through their towns. We've played the game this way in ours. This unflattering fact helps explain how we got ourselves into the mess now being pursued in the Senate.
Tomorrow: Pose and school?
Concerning Williams: Last night, Williams pushed back hard, right out of the gate. We're sure he's a good and decent person, if perhaps a bit partial to script. Beyond that, go check the tape!