WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2022
The Post slides toward the sea: Let the word go forth to the nations. Your incomparable Daily Howler keeps banging out those results!
So we said, for the second straight day, as we noted the new arrangements on the all-new (but perhaps not improved) Morning Joe TV program.
That said, we cringed at the egregiously divisive remarks by the program's first guest—and then, we turned to the on-line version of the Washington Post, a famous newspaper which is rapidly sliding toward the sea.
We've mentioned the problem in the past. The problem goes like this:
In its print editions, the Washington Post is still a traditional high-end newspaper. Online, the Post is becoming an increasingly dumbnified tabloid entity.
The next step after this is Slate. From there, the road downhill leads straight to The Daily Beast.
What do we mean when we say that the online version of the Post is becoming dumbnified, tabloid? Consider the high degree of dumbnification near the top of this morning's front page.
As we typed at 8 A.M., the front page of the online Post was topped by an unnamed section featuring seven reports.
Five of the seven reports involved actual news events. That said, the section also featured these lesser entries:
WP Exclusive: During Watergate, John Mitchell Left His Wife. She Called Bob Woodward.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are finally back on the road together
So far, perhaps not so great.
Just so you'll know, that "WP Exclusive" about Martha Mitchell's revenge was first posted yesterday morning. This is the second day on which the Post has been featuring it online.
At any rate, so it went at the very top of the online Post's front page. The site then offered links to six Opinion pieces. There followed a section called MORE TOP STORIES, one of which was this:
‘Chrisley Knows Best’ reality TV stars convicted of fraud, tax evasion
The news report which tops the front page of the print edition still hadn't been cited or linked. Neither had the other two reports which appear above the fold on the front page of today's print edition.
All this we could have ignored! But as we continued down the website's front page, we now encountered the online Post's daily DON'T MISS section.
The DON'T MISS section appeared before the paper's WORLD or NATIONAL sections. As always, the section featured four DON'T MISS reports.
Below, you see the four reports you shouldn't miss today! At 8 A.M., the four DON'T MISS reports were these:
Chelsea Handler stopped yelling at Republicans. She still has opinions.
After it became a crime, Watergate became a cake
A hotel robot may bring you those extra towels on your next trip
‘Ms. Marvel’ offers up a fresh new hero—and more Disney marketing
After it finished with all that dumbnification, the online Post finally got around to offering links to the three (3) hard news reports which top the front page of today's print edition.
In fairness, let's be fair! No one wants to miss the chance to learn who Chelsea Handler has been yelling at lately.
Also, that "Watergate cake" is surely quite tasty. And some of the Post's higher-end readers may live to get those extra towels from those roboticized hotel workers.
That said, if it's roboticized conduct you enjoy, you can now observe such behavior in spades within our upper-end "press corps." And yet, there seem to have been some major changes within the Morning Joe franchise.
As of this week, Joe and Mika are encased in a studio all by themselves. Their "yes men" all appear by remote, from other studios, largely one at a time.
Even Willie and Jonathan appear by remote from separate studios. No clubhouse dynamics allowed!
After taking last week off, a more mature Joe seems to have new patches of grey at his temples. He even seems to shouting less as he offers the standard spiel at the start of each show.
Two weeks ago, we mentioned the way Joe's red-faced ranting had gone crazily over the top. Rather plainly, our thoughtful observations have occasioned these reforms.
That said, the comments by this morning's first guest were almost guaranteed to produce a bad political outcome. Then too, we have the online Washington Post, letting us know about Watergate cake and—in a WP Exclusive!—about the way Martha Mitchell placed that phone call to Bob Woodward, way way way back when.
As a general matter, we liberals aren't able to see how dumb and inept our own corporate tribunes are. We're instructed to focus on Tucker Carlson, and to ignore the incompetence of the upper-class stars who get sold to us as our own.
In the process, the descent continues at places like the Washington Post.
Back out of all this now too much for us, we ourselves have returned to loftier realms—for example, to Einstein's explanation of "the relativity of simultaneity." Last week, we showed you Walter Isaacson's explanation of that central concept, and we noted an instructive fact:
The explanation comes straight from Einstein himself. Yet it makes no apparent sense.
Yesterday, we looked at the way Isaacson started his chapter on Special Relativity in his well-received bio of Einstein. We showed you his first disarming paragraph—but even at that disarmingly simple point, can you really explain what he said?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our society is in enormous trouble. As it turns out, we aren't "the rational animal" at all, and we pretty much never were.
According to major anthropologists, we humans are wired for tribal war, much less so for ratiocination. Also, there's big bucks to be made in American media at this point in time.
The red tribe is gifted with gruesome "thought leaders." How much better equipped are we Over Here, within our own blue tribe?
Tomorrow: We return to Walter Isaacson, a highly accomplished mainstream journalist and a very good writer
"we cringed at the egregiously divisive remarks by the program's first guest"ReplyDelete
I find myself cringing at Somerby's apparent criterion for reporting -- that the guest not be divisive. What about truth, informativeness, importance?
If all you want to do is get along with others, Dale Carnegie laid down the rules for that a long time ago. In my opinion, news shows should discuss news. Maybe this is why Maddow irritate Somerby so much -- her slogan is "without fear or favor," which means without consideration of divisiveness -- which essentially means there are some people who will not like what is said. Bending news to suit such people is "favor." Attempts to placate or please constitute "currying favor."
Somerby often criticizes cable hosts by claiming they are seeking money or fame or power. What about approval? There are people whose need for approval is so strong that they will say and do whatever is needed to please others, to be reflected positively in their eyes. Is this a motive for Somerby? Does he think it should be one for cable news hosts? I see as much danger there as in the other motives he cites. Being pleasant to others, bending the truth in order to avoid offense, is not doing a good job as a journalist. Somerby should know that, but he seems to be advocating for something else today, something that will undermine the main functions of journalism.
"The red tribe is gifted with gruesome "thought leaders.""ReplyDelete
Meh. Thank god, people relying on traditions don't need a tribe or any "thought leaders".
"How much better equipped are we Over Here, within our own blue tribe?"
Well, dear Bob, if we're to believe one Elon Musk, your tribe shamans are a "party of 'division & hate'".
Tsk. 'nuff said...
Bob, I've been following you for 20 years after hearing you as an occasional guest on Baltimore radio. Just want you to know that while I have sometimes disagreed with you, for the most part you have enlightened me. Be well, friend.ReplyDelete
If you have been here for a long time, you should know that Somerby never reads his comments, so he won't receive your best wishes. If you and he are friends, it might be better to just give him a phone call or text.Delete
"In its print editions, the Washington Post is still a traditional high-end newspaper. Online, the Post is becoming an increasingly dumbnified tabloid entity."ReplyDelete
In the past, I've posted articles about the struggle of media to find a solid financial footing in our digital age, and the impact on media of this change. Somerby has always ignored that kind of analysis, readily available among actual media critics. But it seems likely this provides an explanation for why the print version is a traditional newspaper while the online version appeals to broader interests (Somerby equates anything that is not news or sports with tabloid, even though there are traditional high end fashion magazines, stuffier high end celebrity magazines, home decorating and improvement magazines, high end travel magazines, that bear no resemblance to tabloids.)
Print newspapers have limited space because of the costs associated with printing. Online publicans do not -- their space is unlimited, constrained only by their own format and choices. A hard-copy paper probably requires a monthly subscription and delivery fee. An online paper need not charge a subscription if it can monetize itself in other ways (via ads, clicks). A traditional paper's subscription base is limited to what it can service physically. That is not true for an online paper.
One important consequence is that you can include far more content, attracting a broader audience online, and that is what ALL papers have been doing. But, as I have pointed out before, Somerby denigrates content that might appeal to women and he considers it deterioration when a paper talks about recipes or advice (as papers have always done locally to attract readership). This dislike of gendered news is an aspect of his misogyny because he scorns the child-raising and wellness articles but not the sports and finance.
Because of these self-imposed blinders, Somerby is unprepared to discuss how the Republicans have used the Depp-Heard trial to distract from negative news about conservatives, and he is unprepared to see how something like Lia Thomas's problems related to rollback of Roe v Wade, which he hasn't mentioned at all -- women's issues are not news to him.
And he doesn't understand that without the need to hawk physical papers using breaking news headlines, there is no need to cycle through stories so quickly that they are gone before many people get to see them. Extra, Extra refers to a special edition of a newspaper put out to discuss some just-happened event in detail, which is of sufficient interest that people will buy that sheet in addition to their regularly published paper -- a way for the publisher to make more money off of a news event of widespread interest. Why on earth shouldn't online papers leave their stories up for longer periods? They can tell how many people are still reading them and take them down when stop getting clicks. That will save them the expense of generating new content on an arbitrary schedule.
Somerby sees these changes as evidence of descent. I see his complaints as evidence that he doesn't know anytyhing about modern journalism but he thinks that if news sources don't fit his preconceptions, it is their problem, not his. Who is that self-preoccupied?
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep..."ReplyDelete
Robert Frost would not necessarily endorse the way Somerby grabs his lines and uses them whenever he feels like, generally to disparage liberals. Frost was a real person with his own ideas about things. He is, unfortunately, deceased, so he cannot defend the misuse of his poems for Somerby's selfish purposes. He can't tell us what he thinks, but we have to know that he didn't write his poems to promote Somerby's agenda, whatever it is.
Somerby should make up his own phrases and stop this literary borrowing, akin to plagiarism (since he never bothers to credit Frost any more). It is lazy and disrespectful of the intent of the author, which was surely different than Somerby's bizarre ramblings.
"That said, if it's roboticized conduct you enjoy, you can now observe such behavior in spades within our upper-end "press corps."ReplyDelete
Ha, good one!
"As a general matter, we liberals aren't able to see how dumb and inept our own corporate tribunes are. We're instructed to focus on Tucker Carlson, and to ignore the incompetence of the upper-class stars who get sold to us as our own."
As long as the other side behaves worse, we are without flaws. What a lazy, sophmoric approach.
Somerby has in the last few years tried to push the narrative that certain traits of what he calls "liberal media" is of some electoral consequence; he has utterly failed, largely because there is no evidence to support his nonsense. I would note that his stance assumes a fair amount of stupidity on the part of what he calls "liberals", something he claims he is generally opposed to you, yet engages in it full force when it suits his needs.Delete
On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to suggest right wing media has an electoral impact, so much so it is generally a point assumed by all.
If anyone is "lazy" and "sophomoric" it is Somerby and his one or two fanboys.
The country is sliding into fascism, held hostage by a right wing minority, yet all Somerby sees fit to do is attack those that are working for progress. He is a sad lost soul.
"That said, the comments by this morning's first guest were almost guaranteed to produce a bad political outcome. "ReplyDelete
We aren't told who that guest was or what he/she said to piss off Somerby. We are just supposed to take his word that the comments were inflammatory. And heaven forbid that any guest anywhere should say something controversial!
Where does the divide between left and right come from? The right has its own special channels and publications and it doesn't listen to Morning Joe. The middle and left are the main consumers of mainstream media. Over on the right, disinformation, fake news, lies are spread without restraint, in order to achieve political goals of the Republican Party and appeal to its voter base (Q-Anon, MAGA). Somerby seems to think that Morning Joe's guest should similarly pander to an audience, but who? Is he complaining that there was some guest who was too right wing to appeal to mainstream audiences? I doubt it. He was most likely complaining because someone said something liberal, to an audience that includes liberals, something unsuitable for Fox News.
The episode at their webpage is for 6/7 (yesterday). Somerby's coyness makes it impossible to play this game with him. But that's how he rolls. He doesn't care if we get to decide for ourselves how divisiveness some unnamed guest was this morning. He wants to tell us how to think, and that is what conservatives do, not liberals.
"According to major anthropologists, we humans are wired for tribal war, much less so for ratiocination."ReplyDelete
According to major anthropologists, wars were uncommon before modern times. Even conflict was uncommon because people living in groups depended on each other for survival.
According to cognitive anthropologists, the purpose of thinking has been to promote survival in changing environments, to enable a flexible response to one's environment and to improve the fit between humans and their surroundings. The fact that we have flourished as a species is a testament to how well our brains enable us to adapt. The development of culture, arts, technology is a testament to what our brains have enabled us to do.
Somerby is not quoting any major anthropologists because they don't believe what he attributes to them. No one does. This is just the stick that Somerby uses to beat up on liberals and the media, in service of conservative political goals.
"Then too, we have the online Washington Post, letting us know about Watergate cake and—in a WP Exclusive!—about the way Martha Mitchell placed that phone call to Bob Woodward, way way way back when."ReplyDelete
Martha Mitchell is the subject of a new series on Netflix called "Gaslit." It is being promoted so that people will watch it. That's why these stories are appearing now. I really don't see the harm in it.
"Yesterday, we looked at the way Isaacson started his chapter on Special Relativity in his well-received bio of Einstein. We showed you his first disarming paragraph—but even at that disarmingly simple point, can you really explain what he said?"ReplyDelete
He showed us a sentence. Was that the entire first paragraph? It was this:
"Relativity is a simple concept. It asserts that the fundamental laws of physics are the same whatever your state of motion."
It seems straitforward. It isn't up to the reader to explain what it means or even what the fundamental laws of physics are. Were I to read that book, I wouldn't be doing so as a physicist. I would be doing it as a human being, interested in knowing more about a great man who thought about things like relativity and the fundamental laws of physics. I wouldn't have to be a baseball player to read about Babe Ruth. And even if such a book explained how a curve ball is thrown, I wouldn't know anything about how to do it myself. I would take the author's word for it (or Babe Ruth's, if he were being quoted).
Why does Somerby insist on creating a problem for the reader, where none exists? Does he truly expect that reading about Einstein will give him all of Einstein's understanding of physics? Why should it? Reading about Jacques Cousteau won't make me a deep sea diver.
And because of this, Somerby suggests that we should distrust all expertise and all experts, give up listening to anyone who says they know anything. Somerby's solution appears to be to re-read the same books over and over, complaining repetitiously about their failure to endow him with Einstein's brain. Somerby is seemingly stuck at a point that would never be a problem for anyone but him.
The damage done by this bizarre musing is that Somerby uses it to challenge the idea of professors, authors, expertise, knowledge, and to replace it with despair because no one really knows anything at all. This is a kind of anti-intellectualism peddled by those on the right who want to reassure their followers that stupidity is no obstacle to being a true believer and a high ranking member of the superior white race, even if you dumbly believe someone will give you a 100 ft sub sandwich for joining the People's Convoy. All we have to do is let go of the foolish notion that reading about Einstein has any value, if you cannot be Einstein yourself. And once you do that, then it is a short step to believing that masks don't work and the Buffalo shooting was a government hoax to steal your guns.
Somerby is dangerous. His guise as a weird old crank conceals the damage done by nihilism. Our world needs people who will stand up to fascism, address the challenges of global climate change, world hunger, migration and pandemic. We need people who will think and vote and run for office themselves. We don't need people who sink into Somerby's brand of despair and let themselves be led around by a Trump figure, because he indulges in mean-spirited selfishness that they want to permission to emulate. We need hope. Somerby doesn't have any to spare. He sold out to someone and is doing his job as a judas goat. His path may lead to the sea, but ours doesn't have to.
"After taking last week off, a more mature Joe seems to have new patches of grey at his temples. He even seems to shouting less as he offers the standard spiel at the start of each show."ReplyDelete
What was Joe shouting about before he took a week off? Was it perhaps the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the unwillingness of Republicans to address gun control? That has frustrated a lot of us, given us the impulse to shout, even without a pulpit like Morning Joe. Just because we are no longer shouting doesn't mean we feel any less strongly about the need for gun control.
I have been wondering what is wrong with Somerby that he doesn't shout, not even in words, when 19 children, good decent beautiful deserving children, are killed in a classroom without the police doing a thing to help them? Not shouting is suspicious in a situation where shouting should be the normal response. There is nothing good about not shouting in a situation where shouting should occur. When folks like Morning Joe shout, they are shouting on behalf of all of us viewers. If Somerby is not among us in that response, there is something majorly wrong with him.
Somerby gets tripped up when thinking about Relativity because he oddly ignores the concepts of time dilation and length contraction, which explain the oddities that he struggles with.ReplyDelete
The notion that Somerby is trying to disseminate is that some aspects of life and society are too hard to figure out and we should just figure out how to accept that and just all get along. His vision of society is one of civility and servility. Lie back and take it and be grateful. This is a dangerous notion, and a very dark one.
Has the Post done any hard or useful reportingReplyDelete
on how President Trump tried to overthrow the Government and led a riot that assaulted the Nation’s Capitol? I would assume they have. But since Bob has no interest in this, who is he to judge what is frivolous?
Re Relativity of simultaneity.ReplyDelete
There is a half-decent essay on this topic at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/Relativity-of-Simultaneity