THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2021
Classic tribal deception: As you know, it has been several years since we formally threw in the towel.
"It's all anthropology now," we skillfully declared. In part at the direction of experts, we'd finally accepted a basic fact about the American discourse.
That basic fact is this:
There's essentially no information flow within the American discourse. It's basically Storyline all the way down. For the most part, our discourse is a dance of competing narratives, recited by teams of tribunes.
At long last, we conceded that basic point. All that was left was the anthropology—the explanation of how it can be that our tribalized discourse actually works that way.
We'll guess that it's been about four years since we threw in the towel. According to the experts with whom we consult, anthropology forces us humans to accept a counterintuitive proposition:
It isn't just the widely loathed Others who work from tribalized Storyline. Inevitably, one's own tribe is strongly inclined to work from Storyline too.
According to experts, that's just the way our human brains are wired. That's just the way humans work.
According to experts, it tends to be hard to accept the fact that one's own tribe behaves in this manner. On that note, we turn to the latest "news report" about the Hannity/Ingraham texts.
The news report appears above the fold on page B1 of today's New York Times.
That's the front page of the Business section. As they start, Windolf and Koblin define their topic as shown:
WINDOLF AND KOBLIN (12/16/21): The Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham vociferously defended themselves for sending text messages on Jan. 6 that urged Mark Meadows, the last White House chief of staff under Donald J. Trump, to persuade the then-president to take action to stop the Capitol attack.
The texts made vivid something that was already not a secret—that key players at the network have acted as informal advisers to Mr. Trump. It is a situation that flouts journalistic ethical norms but does not appear to dissuade Fox viewers. In November, Fox News was the most-watched network not just in cable news but in all of cable television, with an average audience of 1.5 million.
Mr. Hannity and Ms. Ingraham said on Tuesday that their texts—which were read aloud in Congress Monday night by Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming—did not differ from their public statements that day.
How strange! Why would Hannity and Ingraham have to defend themselves for trying "to persuade the then-president to take action to stop the Capitol attack?"
The answer lies in the Times' third paragraph. Instantly, it was widely alleged that the texts they sent to Meadows "differ[ed] from their public statements that day" (including their programs that night).
As we noted yesterday, Hannity and Ingraham disputed that claim on Tuesday evening's programs. In theory, today's news report is an account of the way they defended themselves.
Are you able to imagine that we liberals sometimes receive selective news coverage from our most trusted sources? This news report, from atop the New York Times' B1, strikes us as a good example of this undesirable practice.
What did Hannity and Ingraham actually say, this Tuesday night, in their own defense? At no point does the news report quote or describe the actual evidence they presented in their self-defense.
Instead, the news report paraphrases the things they are alleged to have said. Wandering afield a bit, it also tells us what the texts they sent to Meadows "suggested" about their beliefs.
It doesn't quote the actual things they actually said on January 6! For example, if you read today's news report, you'll come away with no idea that Hannity offered these remarks on that evening's program on Fox:
HANNITY (1/6/21): Let me stop here and be crystal clear. Those who truly support President Trump, those that believe they are part of the conservative movement in this country, you do not, we do not support those that commit acts of violence.
They—people, we don't believe, should be vandalizing our nation's Capitol, attacking the brave women and men that keep us safe in law enforcement. And all of today's perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
But every good and decent American we know will and must condemn what happened at the Capitol. And moving forward, we have got to do a dramatically better job protecting the innocent men and women who work there. We've got to protect our law enforcement officers. We've got to protect every single elected member of the Congress and Senate. This is not politics. They deserve to be protected.
All of today's perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law? Every good and decent American will and must condemn what happened at the Capitol?
This Tuesday night, Hannity aired the videotape of those statements—statements he made, on the air, on the evening of January 6. That said, Windolf and Koblin don't tell readers that.
As a matter of fact, they don't tell readers anything even dimly like that! Instead, they quote from a pointless gong-show exchange involving Geraldo Rivera this Tuesday evening—the kind of silly squabble involving Rivera which Fox News, for whatever reason, seems to like to air.
How informative is this morning's news report? In our view, it isn't especially informative at all, and it may be a bit deceptive!
The journalism strikes us as very poor. Consider this two-part passage:
WINDOLF AND KOBLIN: On Tuesday, after showing a clip of Ms. Cheney reading aloud the text she had sent to Mr. Meadows, Ms. Ingraham...accused “the regime media” of “somehow trying to twist this message to try to tar me as a liar, a hypocrite who privately sounded the alarm on Jan. 6, but publicly downplayed it.”
On his show, Mr. Hannity set up a confrontation between Geraldo Rivera and Dan Bongino, a right-wing polemicist who joined the channel in 2019.
“This was a riot that was unleashed, incited and inspired by the president of the United States, which targeted the heart of American democracy,” Mr. Rivera said on the program.
Mr. Hannity told Mr. Rivera to stop talking and reminded his viewers that his guest’s words represented only his opinion. He then shifted to the House inquiry, saying, “The question is, this corrupt committee. The question is, why this riot and not 574 other riots?”
Consider the journalism on display in that passage!
First, the reporters quote Ingraham on Tuesday night's program. She seems to be denying the claim that she "privately sounded the alarm on Jan. 6, but publicly downplayed it.”
They leave the whole question right there. In fact, Ingraham proceeded to display the texts of the public tweets she posted on the afternoon of January 6. In those tweets, she had publicly "sounded the alarm" in the same way she'd done in her text to Meadows.
The reporters simply left that out. Given the basic framework of their report, why would reporters do that?
Regarding the silly exchange with Rivera, the reporters quote Hannity making an unexplained reference to "574 other riots." But where the heck did that number come from? What could that number possibly mean?
Those questions were answered quite clearly on Hannity's Tuesday night program. You may not agree with Hannity's point of view, but the reference is easy to explain.
That said, the reporters didn't bother to explain it. They left it hanging in air.
The exchange with Rivera on Tuesday night was vastly less significant than Hannity's opening monologue, whose content the reporters ignored. But even as they wasted time with that utterly pointless exchange, they let it seem that Hannity had made some sort of puzzling, unexplained comment:
Why would reporters do that? Why would editors let such manifest piffle pass?
Our current news orgs are increasingly "segregated" by point of view. Depending on which news org you consult, you are almost certain to see criticism of The Others presented in selective, embellished form.
For ourselves, we aren't fans of Hannity or of Ingraham. We don't vote the way they do.
That said, anthropologists say the wiring of our human brains may lead us to reason thusly:
We liberals ,ay tend to be convinced that, since Hannity and Ingraham are wrong most of the time, they have to be wrong all the time. Result?
At times like these, our tribunes refuse to engage in normal reporting about the pair. This makes our tribal hearts glad.
That "news report" in this morning's Times is largely an imitation of a news report. It's a tribalized "news report," designed to serve tribal feeling.
This sort of service is also provided with great regularity on Fox. This is the way their tribe behaves—but increasingly, so does ours.
"All of today's perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
"Every good and decent American will and must condemn what happened at the Capitol."
The cable star who made those statements on January 6 wasn't Rachel Maddow.
It wasn't Lawrence, and it wasn't Chris Hayes. It wasn't Cooper or Lemon. It wasn't even Chris Cuomo!
Because it wasn't one of our stars, the statements were destined to be disappeared by this morning's news report. Ingraham's public tweets met the same fate. This is the way brains are wired.
Today's "news report" is tribal gruel. Experts insist that the world ends this way, with a series of tribalized simpers.
Tomorrow: As promised all week, Kevin Drum's (intelligent / helpful) distinctions!
If you're able to take it: If you want to see Hannity saying those things on January 6, you can do so by clicking here.
Scroll down to "Hannity calls out January 6th committee, addresses text message to Mark Meadows." When you get there, click again. You'll see the start to Tuesday's show, including the videotape from January 6.
Warning! He'll say some things with which you agree! Will you be able to stand it?