STARTING TOMORROW: Humans v. others!


Empathy for the devil: On Saturday, we called attention to what we called "a very important post."

The piece had been posted by Kevin Drum. It sat beneath this headline:

Fox News viewers don’t deserve contempt. Save it for the folks fleecing them.

People who watch Fox News "don't deserve contempt," Drum said. As we noted, early commenters to Drum's post didn't seem to agree with that sentiment.

To some extent, neither did Drum himself! The blogger wasn't a total squish. He'd ended his post in the manner shown:

DRUM (1/22/22): We can and should treat the founders, shareholders, employees, advertisers, and boosters of Fox News with nothing but shame and contempt. They know the harm they're causing, but the money is good so they keep on doing it.

But it's a different story for the rank-and-file viewers of Fox News. They're victims as much as the rest of us. It's hard to say that they should be treated with empathy—I guess I'm just not a good enough person to go that far—but at the very least they should be recognized for what they are: marks in a con game run by Rupert Murdoch. They don't deserve the contempt that the folks helping to run the con so richly deserve.

Please understand! Drum doesn't feel empathy for those who watch Fox. They just don't deserve our contempt!

Does anyone agree with Drum's general view? We can't say that anyone does! 

As we sit here typing, Drum's web site records the fact that his post has received exactly 50 comments. By our count, that includes 20 original, "first order" comments, along with 30 responses to those original comments.

Some people posted more than once. But of the 40-something different people who posted something about Drum's post, we can't say that a single one agreed with what Drum said. 

No one really seemed to agree. The closest anyone came was this:

COMMENT 11: The reality is there's more than one type of Fox News viewer. Some are racist jerks who know, deep in their hearts, that the outcomes they want are profoundly wrong and unjust. But they support the things they do (and consume the news they consume) out of resentment and bitterness. They're like Gollum. I know one or two like these. And there are also Fox News viewers who genuinely are entirely bereft of the ability to analyze what's going on in the world. And they really do believe the stuff Murdoch pushes on them. Such people are profoundly ignorant.

The world is a complicated place.

"The world is a complicated place," this commenter said. He based his assessment on this observation:

Some Fox viewers are "racist jerks" who know what they want is wrong. The rest of the people who watch Fox are merely "profoundly ignorant."

Did this commenter feel empathy for the latter group—for the profoundly ignorant people who are getting conned? Did he feel that this subset of Fox viewers don't deserve our contempt?

The commenter didn't explicitly state his view on such points. But that's what one of Drum's commenters said—and it was the kindest remark anyone made in response to Drum's challenging post.

We also raised a question lst Saturday—a question about the "forgeries" Rachel keeps talking about on her MSNBC program. Our basic question was this:

Why does Rachel keep describing the documents in question that way, even as she keeps looking for ways to charge all the forgers with crimes?

In recent weeks, Rachel has been calling those documents "forgeries" again and again and again. She uses the term over and over and over and over, and then she says it some more.

To our ear, this is clownish proselytization—but "rank-and-file viewers" of MSNBC love her for conduct like this! A judgmental person could almost argue that we over here in our self-impressed tribe are "marks in a con game" too.

For ourselves, we don't necessarily think that Rachel is trying to run a con. Our guess would be that she's mainly a true believer. We'll guess she truly believes that good would be done by charging a whole lot of Others with serious crimes.

For the record, Rachel wants to charge Giuliani and Trump and Sidney Powell with crimes. (We're inclined to think that these people—Sidney Powell, let's say—possibly seem to be mentally ill in some unexplored way.)

Rather plainly, Rachel wants to see those high-profile figures charged with serious crimes. But she apparently wants to do the same for a whole lot of lesser figures—for people who may just be "marks."

A basic piece of anthropology is involved in each of these theaters. It involves the way we human beings tend to divide into tribes.

It involves the way we're inclined to view Others once we've split into such groups. It leads us toward a basic question, one each person might seek to answer:

In the end, do we actually like other people? Do we like and respect other people in some fundamental way? Or can we only like and respect those with whom we're aligned?

Again and again, then again and again, the answer seems fairly clear. This is especially true at times like these—at times of strong partisan conflict.

All week long, we'll sift through the twin phenomena we've mentioned above. We'll look at what Drum's commenters said—and we'll look at Rachel Maddow's recent ridiculous transcripts.

In our view, Rachel tends to have very unhelpful impulses and instincts. We'd say she strongly tilts toward true belief—toward being a dedicated adept of the one infallible tribe.

Absent strong supervision, she never should have been put on the air to begin with. But in our tribe, we love her most of all our stars—and we thrill to her repeated constructs, in which so many of The Others seem to be guilty of crimes.

Some Fox viewers "are profoundly ignorant." The other Fox viewers are worse!

That's what one of Drum's commenters said—and that was the kindest comment anyone appended to Drum's surprising post.

Those reactions by Drum's readers constitute an anthropology lesson. As our society slides toward the sea, it tells us something about the basic wiring of our highly imperfect species. 

According to leading experts, Rachel's impulse toward criminalization conveys the same sobering  lesson.  Our species is strongly war-inclined, these disconsolate experts all say. 

We're heavily wired for tribal vision—for the war of the Us against Them. Empathy for the devil is out. So is the simplest kind of nuance, along with the tragic vision and basic human respect.

Tomorrow: The 37 blows


  1. One of the main traits of your, dear Bob, liberal comrades is blatant arrogance. Your friend Mr Drum is among the worst.

    We're happy that you, at least, concentrate (as indeed you should) on your own liberal-hitlerian media, rather than lecturing Others on the (alleged) shortcomings of their (allegedly) favorite channels.

    Keep on doing it, dear Bob.

  2. Somerby insists that Maddow is incorrect when she calls those elector lists submitted by Trump supporters "forgeries." He objects to that word today and previously without explaining what makes them not forgeries. As near as I can see, everyone except Fox News considers them forgeries and the process by which those documents were created and submitted is consistent with the definition of forgery. Under these circumstances, it is incumbent on Somerby to explain why they are not forgeries in his opinion.

    There is a larger point. It is not consistent with reality for Fox News or an individual such as Somerby to decide whether these documents are forgeries or not. There are public officials who do that. The relevant public officials in each state DID NOT submit these documents. They did not authorize the use of the state seal on them. That makes these NOT official documents. They are fakes and Maddow is correct to call them that. Moreover, emails and other evidence suggests that they were deliberately created and submitted in serve of Trump's attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election. That makes them part of a coup attempt.

    Somerby's insistence that these are not forgeries is much like Trump's insistence that the election was stolen from him. It is fabricated out of wishful thinking and does not agree with reality. Somerby is no more entitled to his own version of reality than Trump is or anyone else watching Fox tell its lies.

    I don't know what kind of stunt Somerby is pulling with this horseshit, but I have no hesitation about feeling contempt for what Somerby has written here today.

  3. "According to leading experts, Rachel's impulse toward criminalization conveys the same sobering lesson."

    And yet we have Newt Gingrich, returned from the dead, asserting that those participating in the 1/6 investigation will be put in jail once the Republicans are back in power again. There is no authority by which Congress could do that, but that doesn't stop Gingrich in his attempt to intimidate an ongoing investigation by threatening jail time.

    And yet Somerby is accusing the Democrats of wanting to lock people up! And he seems to have missed the distinction -- Democrats are investigating crimes. A duly authorized congressional investigation is not a crime. Referrals to the DOJ arising from that investigation still go through authorities who prosecute based on the evidence of crimes committed. No one is just being locked up without due process.

    Newt's statement makes Somerby look like an ass. Rachel Maddow is not inventing crimes in order to lock people up. She is calling for those who have broken the law to be tried, calling for justice. Newt (R) is the one making up nonexistent crimes to persecute political enemies.

    Somerby pretends that all people are the same. That both sides behave badly. That is contrary to reality. The left is not like the right, and it is the right that is misusing government authority to engage in wrongdoing. That is why THEY need to be stopped.

    In other news, Roy Moore is appearing in court this week, as part of the defamation suit filed against him by one of his teenage accusers. He has counter-sued, so the charges against him and his defense will receive a public airing. Looking forward to hearing what Somerby has to say about the testimony that emerges in that trial.

  4. Replies
    1. FDR speech in 1936:

      "They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."

      Three days later he won in a landslide.

      Progressives do not fear criticism, largely because their positions are rooted in maximizing the health of society, whereas right wingers try to hoard wealth and power, divide us into RICH and everyone else, WHITE and everyone else, MALE and everyone else.

  5. "In the end, do we actually like other people? Do we like and respect other people in some fundamental way? Or can we only like and respect those with whom we're aligned?"

    It is one thing to talk about liking and respecting people as people, and an entirely different thing to talk about liking and respecting their opinions, their actions, their beliefs.

    Most people are polite to others they don't know. They remain polite to family members and coworkers, who they know and may or may not like much. But we all choose our friends and treat our friends differently. Basic courtesy and cooperation in shared activities is the most we owe to those who are not friends, relatives or romantic partners. We don't have to like everyone we meet.

    Somerby should understand this, as someone who has walked on this earth for 70+ years. His constant complaints that we don't like The Others is attempt to guilt liberals (who generally have some social conscience) into tolerating or even abetting the politically wayward people who are damaging our country with their wrong beliefs and bad behavior. We do not have to tolerate or like what the right wing has been doing to this country. We have every right to fight their actions and oppose them strongly. It does not weaken our love of humanity or our civility to do this.

    As time has gone by, I have liked Somerby less and less. I don't know what happened to him, but he has turned into someone I dislike intensely. I feel no guilt about this and neither should anyone else here, nor should we feel guilty for arguing with and politically opposing the misguided souls who think Fox is the Bible and Trump is the messiah (instead of the Anti-Christ).

  6. "In the end, do we actually like other people?"

    It seems pretty obvious that Somerby dislikes Maddow.

  7. Replies
    1. You should perhaps rethink that.

  8. "But in our tribe, we love her most of all our stars—and we thrill to her repeated constructs, in which so many of The Others seem to be guilty of crimes."

    Is Somerby unaware that most of the people whom Maddow has discussed committing crimes have actually been charged with crimes and convicted? That is true in Flint. It was true with Manafort and Michael Cohen. It has been true of the Oath Keepers. It was true of the Bridgegaters. It was true of several of Trump's helpers in the Ukraine scandal, some of whom were convicted and others who were pardoned by Trump (being pardoned doesn't make Maddow's charges less true). It is true of the officers who killed George Floyd.

    Maddow has no ability herself to try or convict anyone. She does have a pretty good track record of discussing people who are later tried and convicted by the relevant authorities. That makes this not so much a matter of Maddow's blood lust, but of her ability to be on the side of justice when the process is played out to its conclusion.

    Who sides with the criminal against society? Somerby, but who else? Does Somerby see no irony in accusing liberals of being more for law and order than conservatives? It seems likely that Somerby is projecting that rigidity onto Maddow in order to turn liberal sentiment against her. But Maddow is not trying to get black people locked up, or arguing in support of cops who abuse their authority. She is trying to curb the excesses of Republicans such as Trump and his minions, who have been using their offices to loot our country. Democrats can differentiate between types of criminals. Somerby apparently cannot. He defends people such as Roy Moore and Brock Turner but won't say that 1/6 was an insurrection in which a great deal of harm was done to both people and property. Somerby is messed up when he won't join Rachel in condemning serious crimes against the people of this country.

    1. I would add as a longtime follower Bob has gotten these matters right occasionally, but has been more often wrong when things play out. In latter cases, also, he never admits or acknowledges, he just moves on (just like the Press he despises)

    2. Yes, Somerby claimed he was going to discuss the Rittenhouse case further, but then last week someone proved him wrong by posting a video showing Rittenhouse chasing and taunting Rosenbaum first; Somerby abruptly dropped the subject and even deleted the comment that linked to the video.

  9. I guess Bob thought what he said at the end of last week, and which was very effectively debunked by his own posters, was so important he had to say it all again. So let’s note that view of us have time to lavish the contempt on Fox viewers that Bob dumps on MSNBC viewers. Mao’s thanking Bob for concentrating on Hitler liberals throws the right shade on Bob, far beyond what any detractor could do.

  10. In a display of Republican blood lust, Matt Gaetz apparently thinks previous investigations have been going too easy on those they uncover. During an interview with Steve Bannon, reported by David Badash (New Civil Rights Movement) Gaetz said:

    "Gingrich promised Republicans will throw members of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack in jail, after a week of multiple bombshell revelations culminating with House investigators receiving a massive number of Trump White House documents the former president tried for months to block.

    “Newt’s right, we are going to take power,” said Gaetz, who reportedly is under DOJ investigation for alleged child sex trafficking, having sex with an under-aged teen, and obstruction of justice.

    “And when we do, it’s not going to be the days of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy, where the Republicans go limp-wristed where they lose their backbone and fail to send a single subpoena,” the Florida Republican Congressman said, throwing in a homophobic slur that is used to depict weakness."

    Republicans love Trump for his bravado and tough talk. Trump's wannabees mimic it. Yet Somerby focuses his ire on Rachel Maddow, who is discussing legitimate prosecution of wrongdoers based on recently revealed evidence. Maddow's discussion is not swagger, because there is reality to her claims. That is not true of Trump and his minions, who arguably have no basis for attacking those they target -- in this case, a duly constituted congressional investigation. Can obstruction of justice be any more obvious than Newt and Gaetz's threats?

    1. You can imagine Bob picking this up on some outlet, turning it off, covering his ears, and starting to scream.

    2. Reasonable viewers don't take Maddow's statements as facts. Actually, they expect and desire she will not provide the news in factual form but will exaggerate and even distort reality. It's comedy some of the time. This is why her viewers are so well informed. What she says cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of facts.

    3. That's incorrect. She is still a journalist and I believe she tries to stay close to the facts. Your interpretation of Maddow is no better than Somerby's. The intent to deny facts stated on her show also appears to be the same for both of you. The things Maddow says can be verified by consulting other sources, which is NOT true for Fox, where the only consistency comes from different members of the right wing noise machine, not from respected sources with no political POV.

      Somerby has still not identified anything that Maddow has said that is misleading or misinformation. Until he does, he is just defaming her. You too.

    4. I am on the same side as you. Maddow viewers expect and want her to exaggerate and distort reality. Her show is different than a typical news segment where anchors inform viewers about the daily news. The point of Maddow’s show is for her to provide the news but also to offer her opinions as to that news. In doing so, she exaggerates and distorts reality. You and I both know this and expect and like it. Right? That's the whole appeal of her show. I'm not getting what you are trying to say.

    5. You don't expect what she is saying is an assertion of objective fact if she is joking. Her show is different. It's more like comedy. She offers news and opinions (jokes) as to that news. Therefore, viewers don't take what she says as factual when she is joking and giving her opinion. That's all I'm trying to say. It's not a news show. It's an opinion/joke comedy show based on news. Not objective truth and neutral news.

    6. Yes, she has said many times that her show is a comedy show. Many people like Somerby don't get it and look at her show as a place to get objective news and facts. Facts are presented but then she offers jokes based on them. Her viewers don't expect all of her statements to be facts because then it wouldn't be as funny as it is.

    7. Case in point - no one took this as reality:

  11. "According to leading experts, Rachel's impulse toward criminalization conveys the same sobering lesson. "

    Leading experts are never actually cited or named by Somerby. In the past he has argued in defense of those who allowed polluted water to be sent to homes in Flint, those who have "dated" and stalked 14 year old girls, a man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman, and of course, Rittenhouse, who killed two unarmed men and shot another man who was trying to prevent him from killing more people.

    Somerby's impulse to decriminalize bad behavior makes no sense at all and make him the last person who should be criticizing Maddow.

    1. Somerby sounds like Dershowitz trying to defend Jeffrey Epstein.

    2. Ralph Nader pointed out this week that having the Republican Convention at the White House, which passed with zero criticism, was after all, illegal.
      We await Bob’s rationalization of the phone call to Georgia, “perfect” by Trump’s own estimation. You know he’s working on it.

  12. I partly agree with Kevin Drum. I think Fox News presents a distorted picture of reality> It's a picture that appeals to a large number of people. These people are happy to watch that station. However, I think the same is true of just about all the other media outlets, including the NY Times, NBC News, CNN, etc.

    Given the lack of reliable, unbiased news outlets, everyone should follow news sources on both sides IMO.

    1. If the same is true of MSNBC, CNN etc., it is because the people who watch such shows prefer reality to the fables told at Fox. Numerous studies have shown that the news presented at mainstream outlets (compared to Fox News) are more accurate, less biased and present stories more even-handedly, objectively. They also show that the people who watch such stations know more about current events than those who watch Fox.

      I think that watching a networks such as Fox, which spreads a great deal of disinformation (lies) and misinformation and slants its stories, is going to be confusing to those who watch both Fox and other news sources from the mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC). There is no reason to continue to watch a station that presents lies, that permits someone like Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity to have a show.

      Distorting news just because viewers like it, is no excuse. It violates the ethics of the field of journalism and makes such a station into nothing more than a propaganda outlet. In this case, it is also appropriate to ask who runs that station, and for what purpose. The same is NOT true of MSNBC or CNN.

    2. LOL Sorry to break it you, Anon 4:10, but all "news" is propaganda for something. MSNBC and CNN have been caught over and over peddling one falsehood after another.

    3. It would be nice to believe that fairytale @5:09, but it just isn't true.

  13. Here is a study that shows that Democratic voters have greater cognitive flexibility and emotional warmth than Republican voters, even those at the extreme of either party.

    That means that when Somerby exhorts liberals to have empathy for The Other, he is preaching to the wrong people. We already have more empathy than conservatives. Similarly, when he tries to get liberals to understand the views of The Other, he is preaching to those with the cognitive flexibility to have already considered other viewpoints. The same is less true of conservatives.

    That study, from real experts (not the fake ones Somerby keeps mentioning), suggests that Somerby is addressing the wrong people here. He needs to visit conservative websites and try to get The Others to be more cognitively flexible and more empathetic. We here, we liberals, are already doing that.

    Interestingly, these findings suggestion why it is so hard to discuss anything with Trump supporters. They also explain why conservatives are OK with inhumane policies and why conservatives like Cecelia make unfunny jokes that show a lack of feeling toward others. This suggests that these aspects of being a conservative are a feature of that perspective, not a bug that can be eliminated. This is what kind of people they are.

    And no, Bob, people are not all alike, except some watch Fox News. People are different and their differences are important to their political views and behavior.

    1. We are the Master Party. Not at all like the others.

    2. If it is true, should we pretend to be something else just to make conservatives feel better about themselves? I don't think that does anyone any favors.

    3. We should assert our rights as the Master Party. After all, studies show we are not alike. We are better.

    4. 6:10 The Left is not saying "We are the Master Party", this is the language of right wingers, so your strawmaning comes across as clownish, and involving a sad type of projection.

      Same goes for "We are better"; however, Leftist prescriptions are demonstrably better for an egalitarian, and thus healthy, society, requiring an explanation for Reactionary right wing values. In reality, the Left are fighting against the right wing claim that they are superior - supreme even, as that is what underpins their actions.

      Other studies suggest that those on the right have differences in brain structure that develop during formative years. This strongly suggests that right wing values and actions are largely determined by unresolved childhood trauma. Ironically, it is only the Left that offers solutions for issues like childhood trauma.

      Considering what is at stake, weaponizing the sincerity of the Left is worse than mere clowning, it is dangerous and corrupt.

    5. I think we agree. We are superior in our values, actions, cognitive flexibility, empathy etc. I don't see why it is wrong to say "better" (let's face it, it's true.). But we can say superior if that makes you feel more comfortable. According to scientists, we are the Superior Party. That is what you are claiming. It is our job assert our superiority over the inferiors. Think of all the resolved childhood trauma that will result!

  14. Here is some actual media criticism. It is Eric Boehlert asking why the mainstream media keeps enabling the worst elements of the right wing, which support white supremacist activities and behavior such as the 1/6 insurrection:

    Why are we encouraging bad behavior among white people on the right by giving it so much positive attention? I think this is a fair question.

    1. Florida even wants to pass a law against making white people feel bad about their race:

      Why hasn't Somerby said anything about this?

    2. Boehlert is sort of the last advocate for the common sense Bob forgot all about.