THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2022
We run on novelized tales: Is it possible that "the American experiment" is nearing some sort of an end?
Everything is possible, so why would you even ask? Having said that, let's move on:
The American experiment—broadly speaking, a "democratic" experiment—has been based, broadly speaking, on the belief that we humans could run our world on the basis of something resembling rationality, and also on an adherence to so-called Enlightenment values.
Have we humans ever been like that? Emerging evidence continues to tilt the answer strongly towards no. For starters, consider the first nine minutes of last night's Maddow Show.
Based on current estimates, you'll be able to read the transcript of Maddow's first nine minutes by sometime at the end of the next week. That's based on the current "sow-walk" procedures, in which MSNBC seems to be delaying transcript production by roughly one week's time.
Why would this NBC entity delay its transcripts like that? At this point, we'll take a wild guess—it's to limit discussion of the crazy things its top prime-time star says and does.
Briefly, let's be fair. Maddow isn't "crazy" in the way Mike Lindell is. She also isn't crazy in the way of Donald J. Trump.
That said, she's plenty nutty—and our tribe, the liberal tribe, is almost completely unable to see this. In this way, our functioning resembles that of the bulk of current Trump voters, who don't seem to know that they're being misled by the people they feel they can trust.
For the record, you can watch a three-minute, 43-second chunk of Maddow's opening nine minutes. You can do so by going to the Maddow site, then clicking on the video segment bearing this title:
"McCarthy facing another possible Republican indictment as Gaetz case develops"
That video segment starts in the middle of the nine-minute opening segment. For that reason, you won't be able to see the extremely strange conceptual framework Maddow built around this (largely pointless) material.
That said, Maddow routinely displays extremely strange judgment; she really shouldn't be on the air. Unfortunately, our liberal tribe is completely unable to discern such facts about her.
It works in much the same way with The Others, millions of whom still believe that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election.
Maddow shouldn't be on the air. At this point, her network seems to be covering for her as they await her impending departure.
Move with us now to today's New York Times. In print editions, this lengthy, very strange essay sits in the place traditionally occupied by the newspaper's editorials.
As with Maddow, so too here! The Times doesn't provide a record of this essay at its "Today's Paper" site. In print editions, the essay eats a large chunk of space, but its existence isn't acknowledged at that site.
That may be a simple oversight. Why do we mention this essay?
For starters, consider this. Its author is extremely young. He's part of the current class in the New York Times Fellowship program, the successor to the paper's previous intern program.
The author may be very bright, but he's also very young and he's very inexperienced. In somewhat typical fashion, this is the way the New York Times profiles him:
Duy Nguyen previously wrote articles and crunched numbers at Saigoneer, Pushkin Industries and CoinDesk. He is passionate about coding, charts and climate change. Duy is expected to graduate from New York University in May with a degree in data science. If you ever catch him in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam, chances are he’ll be too busy slurping a $2 bowl of bún chả to chat.
According to the instinctively hapless Times, Duy Nguyen "is expected to graduate from New York University in May"—but they don't say in May of what year! We're guessing they mean May 2022, but we can't say we're totally sure.
Nguyen is very, very young—very young and quite inexperienced. His essay concerns the topic of gerrymandering, and it's stunningly under-informative, possibly even misleading.
At one point, his artfully fuzzy language even reminds us of an old, great Maddow hook.
(According to Nguyen, "wonky boundaries" for congressional districts are sometimes drawn "with an eye toward giving Hispanic communities a chance to find a common electoral voice, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act." That's unassailably accurate. But what the heck does that mean?)
In what universe is this fuzzy essay, by a college student, the best the Times can do? Answer:
In the same world where NBC News still has Maddow on the air!
In that world, we liberals are generally unable to spot the foibles of our most trusted news orgs. Trump's voters can't see through Donald J. Trump, and we can't see through our own favorite stars.
We're trying to make our way to a very depressing topic. Tomorrow, we'll start with this detailed report about what happened on that unfortunate night, "the night Kenosha burned."
Our tribe invented our usual stories about that unfortunate night. We did that as part of our latest attempt to send a demonized Other to jail.
Of course, sending The Others to jail has long been the central part of Maddow's profoundly unhelpful brief. In fairness, she's isn't as crazy as Lindell seems to be on this particular topic—but she's nutty enough.
Long ago and far away, Klemko and Jaffe wrote a lengthy report for the Washington Post about what happened that night. In each of our badly dysfunctional tribes, we disappeared much of their work.
At the very start of their report, they offered a very important bit of framing. We highlight that framing below:
KLEMKO AND JAFFE (10/3/20): Anti-police-brutality demonstrators were converging on Kenosha from all over Wisconsin for a second night of marches. An armed right-wing group had put out a call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs.”
Joseph Rosenbaum—depressed, homeless and alone—didn’t belong to either side. He had spent most of his adult life in prison for sexual conduct with children when he was 18 and struggled with bipolar disorder. That day, Aug. 25, Rosenbaum was discharged from a Milwaukee hospital following his second suicide attempt in as many months and dumped on the streets of Kenosha.
His confrontation hours later with Kyle Rittenhouse, a heavily armed teenager who had answered the call for “patriots,” kicked off a chain of violence—the deadliest of the summer—that left Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, dead. A third victim, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, lost a chunk of his right biceps but survived.
Within hours, the three men and the teenager who shot them were assigned roles in the country’s churning partisan drama. ...
Had we been editing that report, we would have changed some of the language in those first three paragraphs. But in the sentence we've highlighted, the reporters described the actual way our discourse actually works.
Simply put, we modern humans don't run on information. We don't run on logic and facts.
Our discourse runs on the rocket fuel of fabulized novelization. We run on tribalized "partisan drama(s)"—on the highly selective, childish stories our childish minds, "within hours," create.
Not since E. R. Shipp, in March 2000, have we seen someone state that premise so clearly and so succinctly. Tomorrow, we'll start with Klemko and Jaffe's detailed report—a report filled with the types of nuance and tragedy our childish tribes rush to disappear as we conduct our identity wars.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live?” The late Joan Didion wrote that in The White Album. We don't know what Didion meant, but her bromide fits nicely here.
Maddow was at it again last night; they'll be holding the transcript until next week. Our tribe is almost completely unable to see how nutty this is.
Tomorrow: First Shipp, then Klemko and Jaffe