THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2022
Does this rhetoric help? Early this morning, we recalled the original red-faced ranter in NBC's "cable news" stable.
Back then, his name was Chris Matthews. He was the number-one red-faced ranter of NBC's cable arm.
For whatever reason, we recalled the ranting he unloosed in March 2000—his several nights of ranting about the so-called "Buddhist temple" incident.
Over the course of those several nights, he spouted one factual falsehood after another. No one in the rest of the mainstream press corps had a word to say about his red-faced ranting, or about the falsehoods he produced.
That's the way the tribal game was being played back then. Starting abruptly in March 1999, this major cable star's nonstop ranting helped send George W. Bush to the White House.
In that way, his twenty months of scripted ranting helped send the U.S. Army into Iraq. In that theater, weapons of war took the lives of many children—children our corporate red-faced ranters weren't inclined to rant about.
This morning, we watched the new ranter-in-chief, Joe Scarborough, as he extended his red-faced ranting and that of his gang of enablers.
They name-called Others, though rarely by name, all through the 6 A.M. hour. These unspecified people were said to be "sick" and "evil," and "jackasses" too. They were "baby-killers," "sick son-of-a-bitches." They were also "freaks."
(During that entire hour, the NRA was never mentioned. The NRA was finally mentioned, though only once, at 7:05 A.M.)
So it is with this new cable ranter and his band of enablers. At present, they're spewing the rhetoric which tends to please the members of our own flailing tribe. But is there any reason to think that their ranting leads to good ends?
We know of no reason to think so. We had a similar reaction to the (well-intentioned) column by Roxanne Gay in this morning's New York Times.
Roxanne Gay is a good, decent person. She isn't a multimillionaire corporate ranter—one who continued to kiss the ascot of Candidate Trump all through 2015.
Roxanne Gay isn't Joe and Mika. That said, her reaction to the current moment is this:
She's had it with the endless calls for civility! Also, she's making little effort to say who's been making those endless calls.
Below, you see the way her column starts. Her column starts as these columns all do, with the columnist restating, for the ten millionth time, the various things her readers already know and believe:
GAY (5/26/22): There is a cultural obsession nowadays with civility, with the idea that if everyone is mannered enough, any impasse or difference of opinion can be bridged. But these are desperately uncivil times. And there is nothing more uncivilized than the political establishment’s inurement to the constancy of mass shootings in the United States: 60 deaths in Las Vegas, 49 deaths in Orlando, 26 deaths at Sandy Hook, 13 deaths in Columbine, 10 deaths in Buffalo. Adults, schoolchildren, concertgoers, nightclub revelers, grocery shoppers, teachers.
The scale of death in Uvalde, Texas, is unfathomable. At least 19 children and two teachers are dead. These staggering numbers will not change one single thing.
Time and again we are told, both implicitly and explicitly, that all we can do is endure this constancy of violence. All we can do is hope these bullets don’t hit our children or us. Or our families. Or our friends and neighbors. And if we dare to protest, if we dare to express our rage, if we dare to say enough, we are lectured about the importance of civility. We are told to stay calm and vote as an outlet for our anger.
According to Gay, the scale of death in Uvalde was extremely bad. Also according to Gay, we've been told, "time and again," that we shouldn't "express our rage," or pretty much even complain, about what happened there.
If we dare to protest, "we are lectured about the importance of civility." Or at least, so says Gay—and with respect to what she says, we're willing to make this request:
Could someone buy Gay a TV set and get it hooked up to cable? Gay is not a corporate clown, but someone should tell her this:
A giant amount of rage is being expressed by the tribunes of our own failing tribe.
Within the borders of our tribe, we see no one coming forward to tell Joe, and all his pals, to put a lid on their rage. Within the borders of our tribe, it's ragescript all the way down.
Gay seems to be unaware of the constant ranting. She seems to feel that she and others are being stifled by a bevy of unnamed Others.
Along the way, she finally offers a single example of who is lecturing her. She finally names one specific name, going back several weeks:
GAY: When asked for solutions, Republicans talk about arming teachers and training them to defend their classrooms. We hear about how good guys with guns will valiantly stop mass shootings, even though there have been good guys with guns at several mass shootings and they have not prevented these tragedies.
These politicians offer platitudes and prayers and Bible verses. But they do not care to do what must be done to stop the next gun massacre or the average of 321 people shot a day in the United States—including 42 murders and 65 suicides. It is critical that we state this truth clearly and repeatedly and loudly. That we don’t let them hide behind empty rhetoric. That they know we see through their lies. They must know that we know who they truly are.
They called for civility again and again, as they did during protests after Black people were shot or killed by the police in Ferguson and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville. They called for civility when a draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked this month. The draft decision tells people of childbearing age that they have no bodily autonomy. It is barbaric.
In the wake of the leak, there were lawful, peaceful protests outside some of the justices’ homes. Journalists and politicians proceeded to fall all over themselves to condemn these protests as incivility—as if the protests were the problem. The Washington Post editorial board wrote that justices have a right to private lives, that public protests should never breach certain boundaries.
They call for civility, but the definition of civility is malleable and ever-changing. Civility is whatever enables them to wield power without question or challenge.
Who has been lecturing Gay, "time and again," in the manner described? Get ready for a surprise!
In the end, she doesn't name any Republican pols. She doesn't even reference the recent events in Uvalde.
In the end, she names only the Washington Post! She cites an editorial in which the Post criticized a particular brand of protest which, it seems to us, was likely to be counter-productive in the political realm.
Do people like Gay want to hear their own greatness shouted out loud, or do they want to win? Roxanne Gay is a good, decent person, but it seems to us that her judgment is weirdly fallible here.
In our view, our country's systems, such as they were, have already fallen apart in a way which quite possibly can't be repaired. As we've often said, we see no obvious way out of our current mess.
That said, we don't recommend howling into the wind—and we've often mentioned a pair of scenes from a famous film.
The movie in question is Gone With the Wind. In an early scene, a bunch of silly Southern boys woo Miss Scarlett with boastful talk about how they can't wait to go to war with the Yankees.
Midway through this famous film, the camera pulls back to show us a scene from a devastated Atlanta. A giant, otherwise empty field is filled with the dead and the dying.
Those silly boys had longed for war, and now they lay dead and defeated.
The recent events in Uvalde have largely served to wipe away the recent events in Buffalo. Tomorrow, we'll visit the rhetoric which emerged from our own blue tribe in the wake of that first disastrous event.
In our view, our cable stars produced the dumbest possible rhetoric in the aftermath of the Buffalo murders. That said, it's largely been that way for maybe three decades now.
If you're a liberal—if you're a progressive—then you must promise us this:
You mustn't assume that you get good advice from our corporate-selected "thought leaders." Simply put, it isn't as simple as that.
Chris Matthews was a red-faced agent of deception and destruction. Widespread destruction followed.
Matthews was a red-faced ranter. On balance, so are the corporate-selected tribunes who have taken his place.
With respect to our current thought leaders, you must promise us this:
You must promise that you won't assume that these players are acting in full good faith. You must promise that you won't assume that they possess good judgment.
Personally, we would favor massive restrictions on the ability of certain types of people to buy certain type of guns. That said, the question is this:
Do Joe and Mika know how to accomplish that policy goal? Is their stupid, braindead rhetoric—is Joe's nonstop screaming and yelling—really the way we might get there?
Is their rhetoric really helpful? Or are these corporate-paid multimillionaires self-involved and self-impressed—unhelpful, feckless and dumb?
Tomorrow: Mike Barnicle / Stephanie Ruhle