FUNDAMENTAL DISCOURSE: On its face, it seems quite simple!


But do you understand what it says? Every so often, down through the years, we've felt the need to absent ourselves from the sheer absurdity of our contemporary, upper-end (imitation of) discourse.

Last week, it was Lawrence who sent us around the bend with several nights of brainless ranting on his "cable news" show, The Last Word. We still can't show you what Lawrence said because MSNBC, for what would seem to be obvious reasons, has been slow-walking its production of transcripts for a period of quite a few months.

As we sit here typing, it's Tuesday morning, June 7—but so what? MSNBC's most recent (error-riddled) transcripts are from the network's TV shows on Friday, May 27.

Anyone with an ounce of sense would suspect he probably knew why the network is behaving this way. We think of Frost's difficult poem, Directive, which starts exactly like this:

"Back out of all this now too much for us..."

Last week, Lawrence (and his corporate enablers) sent us tumbling back. We returned to a few of our favorite books—to Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, and to Walter Isaacson's 2007 biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe.

Over the weekend, we even went back to Professor Goldstein's ecstatically-blurbed general interest book from 2005, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. The book provides a "detailed yet remarkably accessible account of [Gödel's] most stunning breakthrough," Brian Greene instructively said.

Just as it ever has been, we couldn't take it from people like Lawrence any more. Heading back out of all this, we returned to the pleasures of "fundamental discourse" on our culture's highest end!

We'd had our fill from players like Lawrence—from Joe Scarborough and his hour-long, red-faced rants.  We returned to the passage which opens Chapter 6 of Isaacson's well-received book. 

Sure enough! Right there on page 107, the chapter still starts like this:

The Background 
Relativity is a simple concept. It asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion.

That's the way the chapter starts. We include its full opening paragraph. 

As he starts, Isaacson says he's outlining "a simple concept"—and it can almost seem that he's done exactly that! But could you answer even the simplest questions about what Isaacson has just said? However simple his statement might seem, can you explain / understand what has just been said?

Here's a bit of the background behind our own role at this site. The gods have told us these things, even as they instruct us:

At this site, we're writing for some unnamed 12-year-old kid. At some later date, he or she is going to take our award-winning work and give it wider currency. 

We don't know who that kid is. The gods insist that she's out there.

Along the way, the heart and soul of our ministry involves Wittgenstein, Einstein, Gödel. We're looking at what is taken to be the highest level of western discourse, and we're asking a simple question:

Do you actually understand the fundamentals you're handed? You can always repeat what you've been told, but do you actually understand the things you'll be reciting?

The later Wittgenstein seemed to be saying that the bulk of western philosophy was a collection of incoherent statements built upon a foundation of conceptual confusion. We thank the gods for inspiring Professor Horwich to have published this brief overview in 2013 for the New York Times.

At a certain point, the sensible person can no longer stand to waste his time with players like Lawrence and Joe. That person will head "back out of all that." He'll return to the fundamentals of discourse, of human communication.

For the record, Walter Isaacson is an extremely good writer. "Relativity is a simple concept," he said. But do you understand what came next?

Tomorrow: This comes next 


  1. Somerby is phoning it in today -- busy with his medical appts. We wish him well, but there is no sense in responding to this rehashed tripe.

    Meanwhile, he continues to complain because MSNBC does not produce transcripts for him on demand. Why would any network hire a staff member to produce transcripts so that its Baltimore crank can quote his slurs of its cable stars more accurately? Any of us could produce our own transcript of relevant passages, but not Somerby for some reason. Same old, same old Bob.

  2. "The later Wittgenstein seemed to be saying that the bulk of western philosophy was a collection of incoherent statements built upon a foundation of conceptual confusion. "

    Has it escaped Somerby's notice that no one agreed with Wittgenstein about this?

  3. Einstein, Godel, Wittgenstein are not "fundamentals of discourse". Somerby has gone around the bend.

    Why would these be his favorite books when he, by his own admission, cannot understand them when he reads them? Does he giggle over the drivel he writes here about them?

  4. "For the record, Walter Isaacson is an extremely good writer. "Relativity is a simple concept," he said. But do you understand what came next?"

    I don't have to understand a single thing about relativity in order to understand about Einstein's life. Neither does Isaacson. If Isaacson were writing a biography about Somerby, he might tell us why Somerby keeps shoving these few books in our faces, but he isn't around to explain. Short of that, the best explanations seem to be that (1) Somerby is schizophrenic, (2) Somerby is senile, (3) Somerby considers himself a "performance artist" and is having a laugh, (4) Somerby hates his own college professors so much that this is some form of revenge on them, even though they are unaware he is doing it, (5) Somerby has made a bet with Al Gore that he can keep this going indefinitely without ever talking about anything relevant, (6) Somerby dislikes his readers and wants to see how much they will take before departing, (7) Somerby isn't writing this at all, but has delegated it to a young relative, who is having a laugh, (8) Somerby is trying to prove to himself that life is absurd, (9) there is no Somerby, (10) Somerby is being paid by Russia/RNC (by the word) and he needs the income, but they don't care what he writes as long as it denigrates the mainstream media and press. So today's entry about no transcripts qualifies, and the rest of the words are simply to meet his quota.

    Name dropping famous people may make Somerby feel consequential, but it also matters what you say about them. Maybe Somerby will tell us again about the time he met Roseanne Barr?

    1. With respect to Relativity, Somerby weirdly ignores the concepts of time dilation and length contraction, which play a large role in his confusion.

  5. Here are some things that Somerby could discuss about the mainstream press corp:

    1. Fox News will not be covering the 1/6 hearings.

    2. "Out-of-town police have descended in Uvalde, TX, and are blocking journalists from covering the aftermath of the mass shooting."

    3. "Rep. Stefanik and others knew that some of these hearings would be in primetime. It was not a surprise. However, the Republicans could not have anticipated that virtually every network would show them live.

    The Republicans can’t break through to the mainstream with their attacks, so they are on Fox News and Breitbart trying to poison the well and keep their own supporters blind."

    4. "Fox News host Pete Hegseth mocked a colleague who speaks two languages, and he suggested that patriots only know the "American" language."

    Lots of things Somerby could talk about if he were actually any kind of media critic, but he is plainly not.

  6. Here is some important media news:

    "Some heartening media news on Friday was the story that TelevisaUnivision has sold 18 Spanish-language radio stations in 10 major markets including Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Las Vegas as well as New York and Los Angeles to a new organization, the Latino Media Network, which seems to be led by Democrats Stephanie Valencia (who served as Obama's Latin outreach director) and Jess Morales Rocketto,"

    "...Maybe it's because one of the Miami Radio Mambí, famous for pushing the worst disinformation through the Spanish-speaking community in the Miami—that Black Lives Matter is a "Satanic cult" and that BLM and "antifa" warriors masterminded the January 6 2021 invasion of the US Capitol, and hoped to kidnap Trump from the White House, and also pushing Replacement Theory:

    In March, "Cada Tarde" hosted Miami Congressman Carlos Gimenez to talk about the border crisis. The hosts claimed President Biden is letting thousands of undocumented immigrants in as part of a “Machiavellian plan," as Acosta put it, to make them Democratic voters. To which Gimenez replied:

    "No te dudo." I don't doubt it.

    and that's a voice Marco [Rubio] especially values, because he doesn't like to openly tell the Big Lies himself (for his own use he prefers the sophomoric style of inviting Black Lives Matter to emigrate to Cuba if they love socialism so much).

    Not that it's the plan to turn the new stations into a Democratic juggernaut, unfortunately:

    Valencia said [the disinformation] will change, but insisted Mambí will not adopt a left-wing bent under LMN.

    “There are elements of Radio Mambí that are really important to preserve," Valencia said. "It has been an important part of the community and experience in Miami.

    But we do believe in...balanced journalism.”

    And the other not-so-great news is that the paperwork for the project probably won't be done until 2023, so it's not of any value in the upcoming elections. "


    But this should have some influence on those who are claiming that Hispanics are leaving Democratic Party in droves. With a chance to hear balanced reporting, that should be less likely.

  7. Trolling in comments about how Hispanics are joining the Republicans leads to reports like this:

    "Lauren Witzke—a Russia-loving white nationalist and conspiracy theorist who was the Delaware Republican Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2020—claimed that the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 21 teachers and children were killed was “a federal operation” to prevent Hispanic voters from supporting Republican candidates in the midterm elections.

    During Tuesday’s “CrossTalk News” program, Witzke and her bigoted and racist co-host Edward Szall discussed the mass shooting in Uvalde, with Witzke declaring that it had been “organized and operated” by the government.

    “So, of course I think about the conspiracy behind all of it,” Witzke said. “What do they gain from this, besides the gun control push? Hispanics are starting to vote Republican and conservative. They specifically targeted a school in an area that is majority Hispanic—it’s essentially Mexico is what it is—and they went specifically for a Hispanic district. Murdered 19 [children]. Of course, if this was a false flag or [the shooter] was an MKUltra, there was a reason behind this because they’re watching as the Hispanics are starting to lean more conservative.”

    “These people are crazy,” she continued. “The midterms are coming up, and there’s no limit to how far they’ll go. There’s no limit to how far they’ll go to change the public narrative on things. I think it was multifaceted. Of course, it was a federal operation in order to implement gun control; now even the GOP is fighting for it, Fox News is calling for it. Not one inch. Do not give them one inch because they’ll take the whole thing. It is a warning now, and I know it’s very sad, and I know it’s awful, but also all this stuff is organized and operated.”

  8. This is what is happening in the conservative media:

    "At Turning Point USA’s recent “Young Women’s Leadership Summit” in Dallas, Texas, speakers repeatedly dispensed advice to the audience of high school and college-age women on how to find a “dude-servative,” create a “godly foundation for your relationship,” get married, and have children.

    The event, which was billed as a “celebration of freedom and femininity” for “cuteservatives,” included appearances from TPUSA personalities, including founder Charlie Kirk and Alex Clark, host of the “Poplitics” Instagram show that covers “pop culture without the propaganda,” as well as media denizens from the Trumpworld extended universe such as The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens, right-wing radio host Dana Loesch, Lara Trump, Fox’s Kayleigh McEnany, and more. The glitzy images promoting the event were all over TPUSA's social media accounts, encouraging attendance and sharing content from the speeches.

    The consistent message was simple and clear: Young women ought to aspire to find a man who will marry them and shepherd them through life, followed by having babies and dedicating themselves to domestic responsibilities."

    What do you suppose will happen to the US economy if young conservative women decide to stay home and have kids? `Here we see a two-pronged push to deny women abortion and family planning, while encouraging them to stop working, get married and have lots of kids.

    Crickets from Somerby about this stuff.

  9. Worst tease ever: "Tomorrow: This comes next "

    Of course it does.

  10. Do us all a favor and get your own blog, doofus.

    1. My point today is that Somerby doesn't have a blog either.

    2. Get your own comment section, Trumpscum.

    3. Anyone that disagrees with me, or even doesn't actively endorse my opinion to a degree I find satisfactory, in is all in the same category: Trumpscum.

    4. 2:20 sorry to burst your bubble, but we generally enjoy that commenter.

  11. Michelle Wolf’s hilarious take down of Kellyanne Conway was great and not just for what She did to Conway, but to the entire media who had normalized this degenerate personality., Including Trevor Noah who also floundered is his own attempt to bring down this creep.
    This was the sort of thing that once interested Bob, but others here have well
    stated the obvious point: Lawrence’s
    overreach is not what is bugging Bob.
    These hearings are going to highlight
    what Bob has licensed all these Terrible

  12. Coming up next…But did Trump BELIEVE
    Is was OK to hang Mike Pence?

  13. "which starts exactly like this"

    Unfortunately, this doesn't lead to a poem but is a broken link.

    1. Add an "e" to the end: directive

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. I read The Lady with the Lap Dog because Somerby mentioned it in an essay. I re-read My Antonia because Somerby discussed it. I bought the bio of Godel for the same reason, and read Joan Didion too, and Wilfred Owen. Based on Somerby's excerpt, I refuse to read Sandburg's Lincoln. Now it is Frost's poem Directive. Ultimately, upon reading these various works, they shed little light on what Somerby means because Somerby doesn't care about the author's meanings, but only his own private references, grabbing a line here and there because he likes the sound of it, without thinking about the context or the whole work. This is an autistic way of reading literature, but instructive about Somerby's process.

    Directive is thought by literary critics to be: "Written when Frost was in his seventies, the poem is a reflective, typically ambiguous work that contains references to past poems, geographical places and biblical passages related to the worthiness of the individual - Frost and his poetry set before the divine." But this is not what Somerby takes from it, not how he reads it. He uses the line because it says "go back" and Somerby takes that literally as an excuse to talk about the past -- not to reflect on his own life or his own contributions, as Frost did, but to chide the press over Muskie's aborted presidential campaign.

    Not only is this something of an abuse of Frost's work, but it is a missed opportunity for Somerby, who is himself in his 70s. He doesn't seem to have learned anything from his time on this planet, at least nothing he will share. I find it sad that he won't learn from his commenters (not just me, but many others here, who have said wise things over the years). Freud talks about repetition compulsion, but how sad to repeat the same acts guided by the same motives until stopped by senility, instead of introspecting and bringings one's life to some sort of conclusion, finding peace and satisfaction in the past. To do that, you have to do the work of understanding, but Somerby grasps only a surface meaning, so that is beyond him. And that leaves him with nothing much to say to anyone here either. Frost has never been my favorite poet, but he might have said something helpful to Somerby, had he the capacity to listen.