WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2021
...even when made by a royal: Frankly, we were shocked by something we saw in this morning's Washington Post.
What we saw involved an accurate journalistic assessment. Here's the first part of what we saw:
Michelle Obama addresses Meghan’s accusations
That link was proffered on the Post's web site, on the page called "Today's Print Stories."
Already, we were surprised. When we clicked that link and went to to the "story" in question, we were shocked—and pleased—all over again.
Why were we surprised and pleased? The headline stop the "story"—actually, it was a news report—actually said this:
What Michelle Obama had to say about Meghan’s claims of racism within the British royal family
Goodness gracious and holy smokes! There the Post went again!
Basically, it's unheard of! The editor or editors who composed that link and that headline actually understood an amazingly elementary fact. That amazingly elementary fact would be this:
Even if a person being interviewed is a celebrity or a royal, the fact that she has made some claim doesn't mean that her statement is accurate.
We're sorry, but no. A statement doesn't become a "revelation" just because a celebrity makes it, on TV no less! It remains a claim, or an accusation, until it's furthered explored. Amazingly, the journalists who compiled that link and that headline in today's Post understood this amazingly basic fact.
In the matter under review, the claims in question are those which were made by the former Meghan Markle, who is now a semi-royal. The claims were made during Markle's recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, who's a bit of a royal herself within the childish understanding which widely prevails in Our Town.
During the two-hour interview, Meghan made various statements and claims, all of which may be perfectly accurate. But you can't be sure that a statement is true just because a celebrity made it, on TV, as she spoke to an even larger celeb.
You can't assume that a statement is true just because a celebrity made it! In the wake of this "globe-rocking interview," very few of our major journalists seemed to be familiar with this astoundingly basic point.
Meghan made an array of claims during the two-hour session. To the extent that her claims were precise enough to be assessed, all of her claims may be true.
That said, at least one of her claim has already been contradicted, or so The Daily Beast has said. It's possible that this claim was based on a misunderstanding of some kind. As with every other claim, it's possible that this claim wasn't wholly accurate.
We don't know if that statement was inaccurate; we just know that it could have been. It's possible that the challenge to the claim is bogus. How's a rube to know?
You'd think that every journalist would understand this basic fact—a statement, claim or accusation doesn't automatically count as a "revelation." But in the wake of this globe-rocking session, very few major journalists seemed to.
Here, for example, is the way Emily Yahr described the interview in a lugubrious profile in praise of Oprah in the Washington Post. She did so with the permission of her editors, or perhaps at their active direction:
YAHR (3/12/21): The special also cemented Winfrey’s reputation as one of the best interviewers in the business—a fact that garnered renewed attention this week after Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, dropped bombshell after bombshell in an explosive interview with Winfrey on Sunday night on CBS. The next day, the Internet was abuzz with the horrifying revelations, including the royals declining to offer help to Meghan when she suffered from suicidal thoughts and Harry’s conversation with a family member who expressed concern about the darkness of his son’s skin color.
The next most-discussed topic, however, was Winfrey herself. In news articles and on social media, viewers dissected her “master class” in interviewing. They focused on her shrewd ability to zero in on the most important details, as well as ask follow-up questions that elicited shocking responses, while expressing empathy and appearing so personable that viewers felt invested.
Oprah knew how to elicit shocking responses. It was a master class!
Within the framework offered by Yahr (and her editors), the Duke and the Duchess dropped bombshell after bombshell during the lengthy session. It had been an explosive interview.
Thanks to Yahr's editors, these bombshells were instantly granted the status of "revelations." Somehow, we were supposed to assume that the bombshell statements of the celebrity royals were all true.
The statements weren't just revelations, they were also horrifying. Yahr cited two examples, omitting the bombshell in which the Duchess lodged her claim about which royal made which royal cry about the bridesmaids' dresses.
As we noted yesterday, that had bene Bombshell #2 in a listing at New York magazine. Even the rollicking gods on Olympus chose to avert their eyes.
We'll assume this framework came from Yahr's editors, not from Yahr herself. That said, it was a very common journalistic framework across the sweep of the upper-end press corps.
Journalists rushed to assume the accuracy of every word the Duke and the Duchess had said, while falling on the ground in supplication to Oprah's manifest greatness. Our upper-end press corps has functioned in such ways for decades at this point.
As Yahr continued, her editors forced her to spill with praise for Our Own Royal's manifest greatness. Such disinterested figures as Gayle King and Al Roker were quoted as they gushed on the subject, though we'll admit that we were drawn up short when we encountered this passage:
YAHR: “There’s nothing like the reach of a broadcast TV network,” said [Ted] Harbert, who stepped down as NBC Broadcasting chairman in 2016 after 40 years in the TV industry, including serving as ABC’s president of entertainment. And Winfrey is well aware of the power of the platform: Nearly 18 million people in the United States tuned in to see Meghan and Harry, making it the most-watched entertainment special since last year’s Academy Awards.
Say what? The CBS show which rocked the globe was an entertainment special? The performance which won Oprah all that praise hadn't been an attempt at journalism at all?
Citizens, can we talk? Across the spectrum, journalists reacted to this two-hour entertainment special in a way which ought to be shocking, but certainly wasn't surprising. They seemed to think that a statement achieves the status of obvious truth just because a Duke or a Duchess has made the statement to Oprah.
It really can't get dumber than that. But as our nation has slid toward the sea, our journalism has labored under such childish frameworks for a very long time now.
For those with two brain cells in their heads, the lengthy discussion of the bridesmaids' dresses should have registered as an abomination. Just for a moment, consider:
Children are drowning in the Mediterranean, with their parents, as they try to reach Europe. Low-income kids have gone without school or a year in this, our very own nation.
According to the New York Times, "The frequency of mass kidnappings of girls and boys at boarding schools in northwestern Nigeria is rising in part because abduction has become a growth industry amid the country’s economic crisis." And there sat Oprah, worrying hard, and at great length, about the crying over the bridesmaids' dresses, a royal / celebrity crisis which dates to 2018.
In a world which cared about anything at all, behavior like that would consign the entertainer in question to the lowest rungs of society. In our society, this disgraceful misplacement of royal concern was instantly scored at the latest proof of Our Own Queen's manifest greatness.
(For a film which comments on the inability of many people to care about anything at all, we'll direct you to Promising Young Woman, a film which has seemed to make some high-end journalists nervous.)
Around the dial, the children went wild, nowhere more so than at Slate. The children have little on their tiny minds except the frameworks they find in their scripts, and the children were eager to prove it.
Once again, we're going to postpone the roll call from Slate. Tomorrow, we'll plan to start right there, then move on to the claim by the Duchess, and then by the Duke, which drew the most attention.
We refer to the allegations of racism, or of something very much like it, which emerged from Oprah's master class in entertainment journalism. These are the accusations and claims to which Michelle Obama has responded in the "story" in this morning's Post.
The scribes all claimed to be upset by these horrifying revelations. As our nation continues to slide toward the sea, how much of that was mandated, scripted—performative?
To what extent were our upper-end journalist simply performing their latest scripts? And while we're at it, let's try to parse this:
What did the Duke and the Duchess actually say about this important topic? What was their actual statement? What was their actual claim?
Tomorrow: The Queen's rather obvious fail