FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2021
But then, so did everyone else: Yesterday afternoon, shortly after 5 P.M. Eastern, Nicolle Wallace decided to pleasure the tribe.
In the old days, Wallace pleasured the other tribe, supporting such undertakings as the war in Iraq and statewide referendums banning same-sex marriage. In her contemporary incarnation, she services our tribe—Us.
On several occasions, Wallace has explicitly said that, in her role as a "political communicator," she says things she knows are untrue. (For one example, click here.) Experts say this is a large part of what we the humans are.
Wallace is very good at her job. As a downside, her statements and presentations aren't always perfectly accurate. Yesterday, she offered a rather shaky account of a recent dispute in Virginia.
She spoke to Maya Wiley. Like the famous werewolf's hair, her talking-points were perfect:
WALLACE (10/28/21): Maya, I want to read you some more about this Virginia governor's race from the New York Times:
"A new online ad released this week by Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate, features a mother who pushed to have Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” banned from her son’s English curriculum eight years ago. To Democrats, the Youngkin ad was both a throwback to the days of book banning and a coded insult to one of America’s most celebrated Black authors, after months of frantic Republican alarms, in Virginia and nationwide, about how schoolchildren are being educated about racism."
I watched Field of Dreams during the pandemic with my third grader, and there's a scene at the beginning about banning books. And he said, "What are they doing? I mean, with the Internet, why would you ban anything?" And I thought that was such an insightful thing for a third grader to ask.
This whole debate is so phony, is so bogus. It's exactly what Matt [Miller] said—it's all about white grievance. How do we engage at a substantive level with something that 1) is rooted in disinformation, and 2) is rooted in racism?
(We show you the quote from the New York Times exactly as Wiley read it. As we'll note below, it includes an edit which could be viewed as strategic.)
That was Wallace's presentation. Concerning the matter at hand, it included all the mandated points. According to Wallace's presentation:
1) The woman in the Youngkin ad had tried to get a book banned. She'd been engaged in "book banning."
2) The woman's concern stemmed from her racism. It was the work of "white grievance."
3) The book in question had been written by one of our most celebrated authors.
That was the heart of Wallace's brief. It hit most of the mandated points.
As we've noted in the past few days, the woman in question hadn't been trying to get the book in question banned. Nor had she questioned the literary merit of the book in question.
In her comments about the book, the woman had cited a certain aspect of its sexual content. She had also seemed to say that she expected her son to be taught about slavery in his public school.
Different people will have different ideas about the woman's complaint, and about her proposal. That said, it's hard to find something good to say about what Wallace did yesterday, or about what the rest of our fragile, flailing, failing tribe has done in the past week with respect to this suddenly high-profile matter.
What has our failing tribe done? In typical tribal fashion, we've rewritten this story to involve certain mandated tribalized points:
The woman's complaint had to be about race. It had to be an artefact of her racism, of her white grievance.
The woman had to be trying to get the book banned. She had to be involved in "book banning."
The uglier strain of our ugly minds quickly adopted those mandates. Along the way, we added various irrelevant elements to our pathetic but Standard Group Tale.
Wallace was reading from a news report in yesterday's New York Times. Below, you see the unedited text as the report began:
LERER AND EPSTEIN (10/27/21): In the final days of the tight race for Virginia governor, the candidates are turning to the unlikeliest of campaign props: a novel from 1987.
A new online advertisement released this week by Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate, features a mother who pushed to have Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” banned from her son’s English curriculum eight years ago, citing the book’s graphic scenes. When that failed, she started an effort that eventually became a bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but that was rejected by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat now running to win back his old job.
“It gave parents a say—the option to choose an alternative for my children,” the Northern Virginia mother, Laura Murphy, says in the ad. “But then Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed it twice. He doesn’t think parents should have a say. He said that. He shut us out.”
Left unsaid in the ad was that the mother and her husband are Republican activists, that their son was a high school senior taking advanced placement English when he read the passages that supposedly gave him nightmares, or that he later went on to work briefly in the White House under former President Donald J. Trump and now works for the G.O.P.’s congressional campaign committee. Also unmentioned was the novel in question: a Pulitzer Prize-winning fixture of the American literary canon—by a Nobel Prize-winner, no less—whose harrowing scenes conveyed the horrors of slavery, a subject with obvious historical resonance in Virginia.
To Democrats, the Youngkin ad was both a throwback to the days of book banning and a coded insult to one of America’s most celebrated Black authors, after months of frantic Republican alarms, in Virginia and nationwide, about how schoolchildren are being educated about racism.
That's how the news report began. Concerning that report:
It included a wholly irrelevant fact—a fact which quickly became a part of our tribe's Standard Narration. (The woman's son "later went on to work briefly in the White House under former President Donald J. Trump and now works for the G.O.P.’s congressional campaign committee.")
It stressed the literary prominence of Morrison, which was never an issue in the woman's complaint or proposal.
It went out of its way to note that the book in question dealt with "the horrors of slavery." It didn't note that the woman's point of concern involved "harrowing scenes" in the book involving bestiality.
It strongly stressed the "book banning" theme, without attempting to explain what the woman had actually sought.
In fairness, Lerer and Epstein did include a passage providing a tiny glimmer of what the woman in question had sought. ("The option to choose an alternative for my children.”) This glimmer was very vague.
It also included a tiny possible glimmer of the nature of the woman's objection to the book. (She had cited "the book's graphic scenes." Perhaps not taking any chances, Wallace edited that short phrase out.)
Lerer and Epstein never reported that the woman's objection to the novel's assignment in high school involved a matters of sexuality rather than a matter of race. To some extent, we'd have to say that they went out of their way to avoid noting this fact.
They never reported, in a clear way, that the woman had sought the right to have her son assigned some other assignment. Instead, they pushed the "book banning" theme.
Wallace took it and ran. The woman's objection had been grounded in "racism," the old-school homophobe pleasingly told us. This is The Story our tribe widely tells as we hurtle along the road toward moral and political perdition.
Yesterday, the Washington Post and the New York Times were full of the "disinformation" Wallace pretends to abhor. One journalist after another providing our rapidly failing tribe with the story we childishly long to hear about The Racist Book Banner.
Perhaps the most appalling performance came from Ron Charles, a thoroughly intelligent book critic for the Washington Post. But there was also Charles Blow and Philip Bump and Alexandra Petri, oh my! The tribe was rampaging through the pea patch reciting Our Novelized Tale.
Morrison is widely hailed as a great novelist. (We haven't read her books.) However great she may be, she has nothing on the instant novelists who populate our own hapless tribe.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but Our Tribe is perhaps a bit dishonest. "It's the nature of all human tribes," despondent top experts all say.
Wallace has said that she plays it this way. We'd show you Wiley's reply, but what she said went on and on, and because Wiley is sharper than the average bear, it's depressing to think about what she said.
This is the way our tribe behaves. Our tribe is a great deal like theirs.
We humans are wired to loathe The Others. Disconsolate experts glumly suggest that there's no way out of this mess.
Drum's post dealt with a different topic. Eventually, one commenter offered this:
COMMENTER: ...For Republicans, the truth of a matter is not important, all that matters is if they can get a few more of the faithful out to vote by scaring the bejeebus out of them.
To see this, all you have to do is look at the current Youngkin broadside aimed at a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by a Nobel Prize winning author. Because of course we have to protect college bound high school seniors from reading such a work, they might get a realistic idea of what slavery was all about.
They don't care about the truth, he declared. At that point, he followed them down.