FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2021
Putin, Xi get their wings: Despite questions about whether he plans to run for re-election, who he thinks he'll be running against, and whether he plans to make Vice President Harris his running-mate again:
Despite those astonishing questions, President Biden made some significant statements at yesterday's press conference.
His most striking statement involved the battle over the emerging world order. It's rare that you hear an American office holder speak as clearly as this:
BIDEN (3/25/21): I’ve known Xi Jinping for a long time. Allegedly by the time I left office as Vice President, I had spent more time with Xi Jinping than any world leader had...
I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter, my interpreter and his, going into great detail. [inaudible] very, very straightforward. He doesn’t have a democratic, with a small d, bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy.
He’s one of the guys, like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function in an ever-complex world.
That was an unusually straightforward account of the emerging battle for the future world order. As Biden explained, Putin and Xi are placing a bet:
They're betting that a messy system like ours can't prevail in an increasingly complex world.
"The future lies in who can, in fact, own the future as it relates to technology, quantum computing, a whole range of things, including the medical fields," Biden said a moment later. That said, the future also lies in this:
The future lies in whether a country like ours can conduct a presidential press conference, sixty days into a term, without a major journalist asking a series of astonishing questions about a presidential campaign which won't take place for four years. Less politely, the question is this:
Are we simply too stupid at this point to compete with determined autocrats?
Are we too stupid to compete? Experts say we quite possibly are. Yesterday's questions are one example. Then too, we have the endless tribal meltdowns which now consume our polarized world, even here in Our Town.
We're extremely self-impressed in Our Town, but we're also strikingly dumb. As our nation succumbs to a growing tribal divide, we engage in a rapidly-shifting series of performative episodes designed to display our allegiance to tribal verities.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but these episodes are very dumb. Two weeks ago, it was all about Oprah and a pair of multimillionaire royals.
By now, that jaw-dropping foolishness has disappeared. It will never be heard from again!
According to major anthropologists, our species' repetitive descent into tribal war has always operated in this manner:
As tribal division seems to grow, members of respective tribes become more and more unsettled. These individuals keep looking for ways to affirm their membership in the tribal group and their allegiance to hard tribal verities.
In effect, these episodes are a series of "tulip crazes," each one less intelligent than the last. In an ideal world, a nation's thought leaders—its professors and its journalists—help extricate these tribal groups from their descent into polarized madness.
Here in Our Town, an awkward fact obtains. Our upper end journalists are simply too dumb to serve this essential purpose.
They've proven this fact again and again and again over at least the past three or four decades.. According to experts, there's no clear way out of this ongoing mess.
Consider what happened last week when a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian-American women.
Here in Our Town, journalists quickly turned to preapproved tribal script. These killings were an expression of anti-Asian racism, a wide range of pundits said.
At the Washington Post, columnists took numbers and stood in line, awaiting the chance to give voice to this preapproved conclusion. In truth, these people just aren't very sharp. They and their colleagues have been proving this point for three or four decades by now.
How weak were the analytical skills put on display at this time? How under-endowed are these people? On Friday, March 19, Monica Hesse, the Washington Post's gender columnist, started her column with this:
HESSE (3/19/21): Here is how local law enforcement on Tuesday bafflingly explained its thinking about the Atlanta-area shooting suspect who had confessed to killing eight people, including six Asian women, at three local spas: “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction,” a captain from Cherokee County said at a Wednesday news conference. It was too early to tell, officers said, if the incident was a “hate crime.”
The major columnist said she was baffled by what "local law enforcement" had said.
Within one paragraph, the major journalist had contradicted herself about the day on which the baffling comments in question were made. Were the baffling statements made on Tuesday or on Wednesday?
The columnist let you decide. That said, the baffling statement in question was this:
On the first day after these killings, "local law enforcement" had said it was too early to tell if the incident was a "hate crime." (Comments by the head of the FBI were excluded from Hesse's column.)
In what world does a major journalist find such conduct baffling? In what world does a major journalist think that local law enforcement should voice instant judgments about technical legal matters?
Alas! The world in which journalists find that baffling is the world in which we all live. And, as she continued directly, here's what the journalist said:
HESSE (continuing directly): Here is what Christine Liwag Dixon, a Filipino American writer and musician, thought about after she heard that clip. She thought about how she was once offered money for a “happy-ending massage,” even though she is not a massage therapist and never has been. She thought about all the men who have told her they’re “into Asian women” and expected her to take it as a compliment. She thought about the time she went outside to call an Uber while her husband paid a restaurant bill and a group of men cornered her, one of them chanting “Me love you long time” while standing so close she could feel his breath on her neck.
Of course the shootings were racially motivated, she thought. Of course they were motivated by gender. They were both.
Thar is the way this journalist reasons. A writer/musician had a certain thought. And so, for some unstated reason, that thought had to be correct!
Of course, it wasn't just any writer/musician who had the thought in question; the writer/musician was Filipino American. To the major American journalist, this seemed to mean that her thoughts on this particular matter must be accurate.
The writer/musician had quickly judged that the killings were racially motivated and motivated by gender. And of course, it was entirely possible that each of those claims—fuzzy as they were—might be true in this matter.
The claims in question might be true, and so might the claim about "hate crimes." To the journalist, it was baffling when local law enforcement didn't skip attempts at investigation and say so right away!
The journalist said she was baffled that law enforcement didn't instantly use the legal term "hate crime." Below, you see the astonishing way she argued for the first of the writer/musician's slightly different claims.
We'll start you off with this:
HESSE: Of course the Atlanta shootings represented gender-based violence. Asian Americans of all genders reported an increase in harassment in 2020—racist responses to coronavirus misinformation, which was amplified by the previous White House. But in new research from Stop AAPI Hate, Asian American women reported harassment incidents 2.3 times as often as male counterparts.
"Of course the Atlanta shootings represented gender-based violence," the confident journalist wrote. And in some ways, that statement is plainly true!
When eight people are shot and killed, we're plainly talking about violence. But was the violence "gender-based?" In all depend on what you mean by the term, and the journalist didn't stop to explain. Nor, in any rational world, did those harassment data help.
Meanwhile, were the killings based on race? Here's how the journalist nailed down that (murky) claim:
HESSE (continuing directly): And as for race-based violence: A law enforcement official said the shooter was attempting to remove the “temptation” that “these places” presented him—a victim-blaming notion on its face.
But the shooter’s route between Young’s Asian Massage—where Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels were killed—and his second destination took him past several adult businesses.
He could have stopped at strip clubs, pornographic video stores or multiple shops lined with wall-to-wall dildoes. But he didn’t. He drove 27 miles to Gold Spa, where he allegedly killed three Asian women, and then crossed the street to Aromatherapy Spa, where he allegedly killed one more (the names of the victims at the final two establishments have not been released).
He chose businesses where the employees were not just women but Asian women, not just Asian women but lower-wage Asian women in a fetishized profession.
The journalist entered am extraneous point about "victim-blaming," then moved ahead to her proof. She said the killer could have stopped at various sex establishments which weren't primarily run by people of Asian descent.
She chose to omit an obvious fact—the killer said he went to these particular places because he (and others) said that he had long been a customer of those establishments. As with the FBI director's remarks, these facts disappeared.
This pitiful bit of information suppression—of journalistic legerdemain—was widely performed at the Washington Post and everywhere else script is sold. Our journalists had a preferred Storyline. Discordant facts had to go.
Was did Robert Long kill those people? Were the killings driven by some sort of anti-Asian "racial" animus?
At this point, we don't know how to answer that question. Unlike the journalist, we're grateful when local police don't rush to state such conclusions.
This columnist found their professional reticence baffling. All around Our Town's upper-end press, other work was equally bad. (We wish we could work Capehart in.)
All hints of journalistic or analytical skill were AWOL from that column. Concerning what Joseph Biden said, the moral we draw would be this:
Every time a bell rings, some angel reportedly gets his wings. And every time a columnist speaks, Vladimir Putin racks up his next win.
These columnists drive us toward tribal war through the use of approved Storyline. It's very, very dumb at Fox, but also quite dumb Over Here.
The spirit of mandated Storyline is spreading all through Our Town. Why are we sliding toward the sea, making seers of Xi and Putin?
Why are we sliding toward the sea? At long last—not that it will help—experts explain next week.
This afternoon: Those astonishing press conference questions
Tomorrow: For the sake of establishing the historical record, the text of what Maddow said