FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2022
Adventures in recitation: Two days ago, we made a confession:
We were surprised when Judy Woodruff said what she said.
In truth, we shouldn't have been surprised; Woodruff was merely reciting a bit of Mandated Tribal Script, something she's done in the past.
That said, Woodruff hosts the PBS NewsHour, the mainstream press corps' most respected news program. For that reason, we'll admit that we were surprised—disappointed, even!—when she launched this adventure in paraphrase on last Friday night's program:
WOODRUFF (2/11/22): Well, speaking of politics, another question I want to raise with both of you, and that is the move by the Republican National Committee last weekend, David, to censure two of its own, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, because of their role on the January 6 investigative committee, and then their statement that what happened, the assault on the Capitol January 6, was just normal political discourse.
Really? Had the RNC really said that on the previous weekend?
As everyone knows, the assault on the Capitol on January 6 involved a substantial array of vicious, violent physical assaults against members of the Capitol Police. Had the RNC really said that those criminal assaults were normal political discourse?
There was Woodruff, saying they had! And when it came his time to respond, Jonathan Capehart agreed:
WOODRUFF: What does it look like to you, Jonathan?
CAPEHART: "Wow" is all I can say. To hear that the RNC is saying that the insurrectionists were engaged in legitimate political discourse told me that the RNC had lost its mind...
Capehart didn't get where he is by disputing Guild Narrative! That said, Capehart was certainly right on one point:
If the RNC had actually said that the assault on the Capitol was "legitimate political discourse," that would mean that the RNC really had lost its mind.
Capehart was quoting from the actual resolution which was being interpreted and paraphrased by high-ranking players like Woodruff. In that February 4 resolution, the RNC had made a rather murky reference to people who had engaged in "legitimate political discourse."
But could they possibly have been referring to the people who conducted those violent assaults? Can that possibly be what the RNC said or meant?
One day before, another highly respected mainstream figure had made that very claim. Last Thursday morning, E.J. Dionne had authored this remarkable statement in the Washington Post:
DIONNE (2/10/22): [Todd Gitlin's] final public project, an “Open Letter in Defense of Democracy,” was released in October...It warned that liberal democracy faced “serious danger.”
It declared flatly: “The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism.” The Republican National Committee effectively ratified this claim this past week when it voted—the day before Gitlin died—for the already-infamous resolution describing the violent rampage at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse.”
According to Dionne, the RNC had explicitly said that the violence at the Capitol had been "legitimate political discourse." According to Dionne, the RNC had specifically defended the violence in its February 4 resolution, which by February 10 was already famous.
Dionne was certainly right on one point. By the time his column appeared, the RNC resolution was definitely famous.
By the time Dionne's column appeared every liberal pundit and his crazy uncle had engaged in this same adventure—and so had major mainstream reporters. A wide array of reporters and pundits had explicitly said, or had seemed to say, that the RNC had described the violent behavior at the Capitol as "legitimate political discourse."
The scripted stars of our own failing tribe had said it and said it and said it again. To cite one example, here was the highly excitable Lawrence O'Donnell, making the claim on the corporate "cable news" program for which he's paid untold millions:
LAWRENCE (2/7/22): Ronna McDaniel led the Republican National Community in a unanimous vote on Friday to censure Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their participation on the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and to praise the people who attacked the Capitol, to praise criminals.
The Republican National Committee unanimously agreed, quote, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.
They wanted to hang Mike Pence. They wanted to kill him. They wanted to kill others. They threatened to kill others. They threatened to kill Nancy Pelosi. They threatened to kill anyone they could get their hands on. And they are praised, praised by the Republican National Committee in a unanimous vote.
So said Lawrence, again and again and again and again, as he played videotape of the violent assaults.
In a unanimous vote, Ronna McDaniel and the RNC had praised the violent criminals! Four nights later, Woodruff was now reciting the claim, with Capehart chiming in.
Everyone and his crazy uncle had said that they actually said it. As Capehart correctly noted, you'd pretty much have to "lose your mind" to make such a crazy statement.
At this juncture, a brief point of personal privilege:
In our view, the RNC has been a joke since at least the late 1990s. In our view, McDaniel has behaved like the ultimate party hack during her excruciating tenure as head of the RNC.
That said, had the RNC actually said it? Had McDaniel actually said it? Had they actually said that those violent criminals had bene engaged in "legitimate political discourse?" Had they actually said, or meant, anything so crazy, insane, nutty, daft?
Had the RNC actually said it? We can't say that they had. Consider what the highly presentable Woodruff was failing to mention as she and Capehart rattled script on the PBS NewsHour that night.
Woodruff and Capehart performed their recitations on Friday, February 11. Four days earlier, McDaniel had published an essay which started off as shown.
Sadly, we think she made a somewhat decent point right at the start of the piece:
MCDANIEL (2/8/22): If corporate news media wants to know why Americans don’t trust it anymore, they should look no further than the shameful, outrageous, and patently false coverage of the resolution adopted by the RNC to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
Let me be abundantly clear: as Chairman of the RNC, I have repeatedly condemned the violence that occurred at the Capitol on January 6th and do so again today. On January 6, 2021, the members of the RNC released a statement that read, “These violent scenes we have witnessed do not represent acts of patriotism, but an attack on our country and its founding principles.” I tweeted that the violence was “shameful” and condemned it in the strongest possible terms.
The events of that day are deeply personal to me and our team as the FBI found a bomb outside of RNC headquarters that afternoon, and I will never forget what it felt like to know that my staff was in immediate danger. Violence has no place in our political discourse, period, and those who engaged in violence on January 6th and committed crimes should be held accountable with due process by the appropriate law enforcement authorities and prosecutors.
In our view, McDaniel started with a fairly decent point. The behavior of corporate players like Lawence, Capehart, Dionne and Woodruff can help explain why "corporate media" are no longer trusted by tens of millions of voters, though absurd dissembling by partisan hacks has played a larger role.
At any rate, by February 8, McDaniel and a host of others had insisted, over and over again, that the RNC wasn't conveying legitimacy on the rioters in its February 4 resolution.
As we noted in last week's reports, the RNC certainly didn't make any such explicit statement in the resolution itself. What Lawrence had said was pure interpretation—an adventure in highly creative paraphrase.
Now Woodruff was saying it too! And as she did, she didn't bother telling her viewers about what McDaniel had said—about the many denials she and others had lodged.
In the hands of the highly presentable Woodruff, McDaniel's denials were disappeared. This is ugly, profoundly stupid behavior, the kind which loses the world.
We'll admit that we were a bit surprised when we saw Woodruff recite. We shouldn't have been surprised, of course. Just like that, we recalled her earlier recitation—her earlier bow to the tribe.
It happened on January 26, 2000, as she moderated the final New Hampshire debate between Candidates Gore and Bradley. She was showered with praise for the recitation she staged that night—showered with praise by the rest of the guild.
Last Friday night, she did it again. What she did was ugly and dumb, and it was thoroughly human.
Our humans brains are wired that way, a wide array of experts reliably say. "Man [sic] is really the tribal animal," these disconsolate scholars all say.
Do you believe that the RNC actually "said" it or meant it? We see no evidence that they did. What we did see may have been worse:
We saw a very wide range of major journalists take a dive into the tank. And we aren't even mentioning the things that Ed Kilgore did.
If just for once you could step inside our shoes, you'd know what a drag it is to try to unpack this conduct.
Day after day after day after day, it's a drag to see us rubes as we swallow this ugly and brainless conduct from our tribe's "thought leaders."
But there's no chance this is going to change, top major experts repeatedly say. They also say that behavior like this very rarely ends well.