WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2021
Complete total absence of skill: CNN's report about the price of milk defines a failing age.
The sheer stupidity of the report was its "distinguishing characteristic." CNN spoke with exactly one (1) family, in exactly one (1) highly unusual location.
Then channel then proceeded to say, in Cronkite fashion, that that's the way it is. For more detail, see yesterday's report.
It didn't seem to occur to Keilar or McMorris-Santoro, or to their CNN overlords, that the various dramatic claims made by one (1) family might be checked against official data concerning the matter at hand.
Dearest darlings, use your heads! That would involve the use of statistics—and statistics are boring and hard!
And so it actually happened! The CNN stars settled for an "N" of 1, then acted as if they had defined the state of affairs across the nation. CNN stuck with human interest—and with misleading, unfounded claims.
You'd think it can't get dumber than that, but it routinely does. It does so every day of the week, across all journalistic platforms.
This is what we the people are actually like; this is the way we actually function. For today, we'll offer one small example, from Sunday's Meet the Press.
Meet the Press is our longest-running, most prestigious mainstream news program. Sunday's episode included guests from the PBS NewsHour and the New York Times, entities which are branded as our brightest mainstream news orgs.
And yet! During the panel discussion, our old pal Chuck Todd threw to Amna Nawaz. When he did, the PBS rep said this:
NAWAZ (11/7/21): I think even if you look just at Virginia, yes, Youngkin was able to drive up the rural vote, got even bigger margins than 2020 among rural and white voters. Also flipped a couple of those key districts in the suburbs and exurbs, right? Chesterfield County outside of Richmond, Stafford County outside of D.C. And then Democrats weren’t able to, even though they increased turnout, weren't able to keep apace with the GOP increase in turnout. That's the trifecta for Republicans. It's a triple whammy for Democrats.
Our youthful analysts looked up in surprise. Skillfully, we were able to feel their pain.
Democrats had "increased turnout" in Virginia last week, Nawaz unmistakably said. On the other hand, Republicans had produced an "increase in turnout" too.
Based upon the first part of her statement, Nawaz seemed to be comparing the turnout from last week's election to the turnout in 2020. But here are the number of votes in Virginia from those two elections:
Votes received in Virginia:
Joe Biden, 2020: 2,413,568
Donald J. Trump, 2020: 1,962,430
Glenn Youngkin, 2021: 1,663,558
Terry McAuliffe, 2021: 1,600,056
People, tell the truth! Does it look like either party produced an "increase in turnout?" As is routinely the case when major journalists speak in groups, Nawaz's meaning was wholly unclear.
In a slightly rational world, clarification would follow, but we don't live in that world. Moments later, New York Times rep Peter Baker followed up with this:
BAKER: ...Just because Donald Trump lost doesn't mean the Republicans have suddenly lost their traction. In fact, Republicans have done pretty well in the last 13 months, right? They won House seats last year even as Donald Trump was losing.
What Virginia voters showed, and I think other voters around the country showed, is they're willing to vote for Republicans, just not Trump. They didn't want to vote for Trump. Youngkin not only outpaced Trump in terms of winning the state, which Trump lost, he outpaced him across the board. And through almost every city and county in Virginia, he got better, more votes than Trump did last year, even though it was an off-year election.
Say what? According to the voice of the Times, Youngkin got more votes than Trump did through almost every city and county in Virginia! Youngkin had somehow managed to do this "even though it was an off-year election!"
Absolutely nothing will turn on this one (1) bungled conversation. We offer it to illustrate a basic point:
Coherence and clarity are virtually non-existent within our upper-end press corps. No one seems to expect anything different, and this will almost always be true where statistics are involved.
There are a million ways to misuse or misstate statistics. By now, our journalists have mastered every one of these techniques.
They're happy to run with an N of one. They make incoherent comparisons.
They eliminate basic data. They don't know how to handle test scores. They refuse to report basic data concerning our nation's astronomical per capita spending on health care. They forget to adjust for inflation.
There is no way to bungle discussions in which they aren't prepared to excel—and they routinely serve as toadies, as mouthpieces, for favored pols or groups. For example, Todd later challenged Nawaz concerning a highly significant point:
TODD: All right, look, let’s quickly—I'm going to get to the Trump stuff, and we're going to have another conversation about that, but let's talk about what happened on Friday quickly, Amna. Because I'm trying to figure out, they spent months saying, "We're never decoupling these bills."
TODD: They decoupled the bill.
TODD: And I have no idea what the heck's going to happen to Build Back Better.
Despite the endless mandate to proceed "quickly," Todd seemed to be saying this:
All along, House progressives had seemed to say that they weren't willing to vote for the smaller "infrastructure" bill unless the larger "Build Back Better" bill was voted on at the same time.
Presumably, they wanted to see Manchin and Sinema vote for the larger bill before they would agree to vote for the smaller bill. But last week, the House progressives dropped this demand. They voted for the smaller bill, with the fate of Build Back Better still totally up in the air.
"I have no idea what the heck's going to happen to Build Back Better," Todd quite sensibly said. In reply, Nawaz disappointingly cast herself in the role of mouthpiece / press agent:
NAWAZ (continuing directly): Correct. Yes. But look, here's what the progressives say and this is why they're calling it a win. I spoke with Congressman Pramila Jayapal yesterday and she says, "Look, the six Democrats, the moderates who are holding up the bill, I have a personal commitment from them that they're going to support it. They made a commitment in paper to me personally and to the president."
This trust deficit they've been talking about right? They are now talking to each other, the progressives and the six moderates in particular. So, she has every confidence this is going to move forward. The bigger issue they have here though, does go back to the Virginia election, too, which is messaging what is in this thing. I think most people don't even know how it impacts them. The majority of Americans don't know what's in it.
In that presentation, Nawaz was simply taking dictation from Jayapal. She completely skipped the most important question—what makes House progressives think that Sinema and Manchin will ever vote for any form of the Build Back Better bill? What makes them think the bill will pass when it "moves forward" to the Senate?
What makes House progressives believe that Sinema and Manchin will vote for some form of that bill? Nawaz completely skipped that question in her response to Todd, and Todd simply moved on.
(Last night, Rachel Maddow rolled over and died concerning that question during a full interview with Jayapal. But them, what else is new?)
Nawaz and Maddow were acting as press agents, mouthpieces, stenographers, toadies. Todd, of course, made no attempt to push Nawaz concerning his original question. Sunday's panel discussion "quickly" skipped from point to point, as these imitations of discourse typically do.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but in truth, we have no "press corps."
They settle for an N of 1. They stumble about in the darkness. Their pseudo-discussions must move along "quickly." There's no way to confuse a discussion at which they don't excel.
Those are the traits of our failing nation's mainstream press corps. Then too, we have the gruesome excesses of Our Own Blue Tribe's major tribunes and screamers.
These people are a major embarrassment, but our tribe is unable to see or say this. In the next two days, we'll look at some of Maddow's recent work—and then we'll move to the shouters and name-callers.
Our tribe's screamers and shouters are nasty and dumb. We alone are unable to see this.
Tomorrow: Lock them up all the way down