One last time, The Dumbnification!


The Dumbnification, it burns: We lost a chunk of time this morning. We thought we'd show you what the Washington Post looked like when we returned to our sprawling campus at roughly 10:45 A.M.

We refer to the online Washington Post. At the top of the site's front page, three news reports were bannered. Those news reports bore these headlines:

How McCarthy’s political machine worked to sway GOP field for midterms

Ian makes landfall in Cuba as Category 3 hurricane; Fla. on alert

Meet the National Zoo’s new arrivals, from a Komodo dragon to a sand cat

It seemed to us that the Post was directing us to those new arrivals at the zoo in rather short order.

Two more news report got bannered billing. These were the headlines they carried: 

Mississippi’s welfare scandal goes much deeper than Brett Favre

She was an only child. Now she has 101 great-grandchildren.

Celebrity was selling that first report. (In today's print editions, it appears below the fold of the first page of the Post's SPORTS section. Online, it's one of the day five most important items.) 

The second report was being sold by the great-grand 101!

At any rate, within the newspaper's top five reports, we had the dragon and the cat—and we had the 101 great-grandchildren! There followed two reports from the WELL + BEING section:

Ultra-processed foods linked to early death, disease, weight gain

Five covid questions scientists still can’t answer—and why it matters

Not that such things may not matter! But after that, we were offered these four articles from the section called ADVICE:

Carolyn Hax: Husband ‘really upset’ that he can’t pick out spouse’s new car

Ask Elaine: I’m turning 30. Are my best days behind me?

Miss Manners: How do I pass co-workers chatting across the hallway?

Ask Amy: My neighbor’s daycare kids play outside unsupervised

Soon, we were offered these additional reports from the WELL + BEING section:

Syphilis cases are surging. Should I be worried?

Short menstrual cycle could be linked to early menopause

Ask a Doctor: Why do I get sleepy in the afternoon after eating lunch?

Struggling with mental health, I began to shoplift

Normal marital hatred is real. Here’s what to do about it.

Yesterday, some of this very same dreck was featured. Not that there's anything wrong with it—until such time as there is.

By now, we'd been offered links to quite a few reports—but few of them seemed to fit traditional notions of actual "front-page news."

At last, we hit a hard-news section:  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT. But then it was back to a pair of non-traditional sections—HELP DESK, followed by LIFESTYLE.

Just so you'll know, the LIFESTYLE section offered these five reports:

Renovation with a purpose: A D.C. home gets a big eco-friendly overhaul

Iman makes the case for fashion’s humanity

Woke is now a dog whistle for Black. What’s next?

Most don’t read the fine print. Here’s what to look for before buying.

Ghent is Belgium’s unsung capital of cool

At this point, it finally happened! We hit the section marked NATIONAL—the section the online Post reserves for national news.

Our view? In its online edition, the Washington Post seems to be publishing the quiet part out loud. The discourse is being overtly dumbnified, with no real attempt to hide it.

As a nation, we've never had anything resembling a genius national discourse. That said, to borrow from Joyce:

The dumbnification is increasingly general across the great tribal divide. 

On the brighter side, and in various manifestations, this dumbnification seems to be good for the various bottom lines.

Today's discussion question: Do you believe that former Republican hitman Tim Miller is Stephanie Ruhle's "dear friend?"

That's what the cable star called him last night. Should viewers believe such words?


  1. Here's what Matt Taibbi writes about Bezos Post today:
    In scrubbed piece about Edward Snowden, the Bezos Post offers a preview of how history will be re-written.

    ...would you perhaps agree, dear Bob, that it's a bit more interesting -- and relevant -- than old-man's-rants you tend to produce?

    1. Now that Snowden is a citizen, is he eligible to serve in the special military operation?

  2. Simple answer? Stop reading the Post. Stop watching cable news. By reading and viewing, you are endorsing the content.

    Vote with your time and money, it's the only sure-fire way to create change.

  3. Apparently from the online post, all the
    reporting Bob admits is worthwhile is a
    click away, so this is all about as
    disturbing as Bob not getting his
    Bob is afraid of having to confront
    Trump, Trump and Trump.
    He’s not going to like what
    comes up tomorrow.

  4. "Yesterday, some of this very same dreck was featured. Not that there's anything wrong with it—until such time as there is."

    People who are better educated and have the habit of reading the newspaper tend to be healthier, better off financially, less likely to have drug or crime or other social problems, stay married longer, and so on. They have better lives on any number of social indicators. Why?

    Because they read dreck and use the info gleaned that way to avoid mistakes and improve their lives. Somerby dismisses this as garbage, but these articles do help people in their daily lives. And because these readers do better, we spend less in taxes to rescue them and support them, and that makes ALL over our lives better. In fact, one of the main purposes of schooling is to enable people to learn by reading.

    Somerby, a former teacher, calls this dreck. I am SO glad he stopped teaching. Who would want a man who does not understand the purpose of his work to spend time around children. He might calls the news "dreck" snd his kids would giggle, but would that be helpful to them later on? Probably not, and why should black inner city kids have a greater handicap than they might already experience?

  5. "Do you believe that former Republican hitman Tim Miller is Stephanie Ruhle's "dear friend?"

    Here we have Somerby taking civilities of hosting literally. No one thinks that when Ruhle, or anyone else for that matter, calls an onscreen person appearing with her a "dear friend" that she has them over for dinner at her house or confides secrets, or even that they braid each other's hair. It is a manner of speaking, as when a form letter addresses the recipient as "dear consumer" or "dear resident at this address" or "dear support of our former president". This is the social grease that keeps our culture humming and it is not meant to say anything specific about the relationship between Ruhle and anyone else, even if they smile at each other and make nice before the interview begins.

    What does Somerby gain by pretending to be a social cretin? Is he implying that Ruhle loves Miller? On what basis? If he dislikes Ruhle and links her closely with Miller, does that denigrate her? Maybe that is what he intends, but lacking any actual complaint, he manufactures one by suggesting she is too close to someone he knows liberals may dislike. That way he takes a substance-less potshot at Ruhle, without having to do any work at all.

    Instead of asking whether viewers SHOULD believe it when she calls him a friend, Somerby should ask whether anyone on earth actually DOES believe it.

    But mostly, Somerby sounds like a moron when he raises this complaint. He has done it with Maddow, upset because she called another cable host on her own network a dear friend. She has to do that. They work together as colleagues. It says nothing at all about who Maddow might socialize with in her off-screen life. And everyone understands that, except Somerby apparently.

    Look how nice Bill Maher is to the various conservative miscreants he invites on his show. He is nice because if he weren't, they wouldn't come and then he couldn't pander to them and pretend to be a free thinker. And yet Somerby has never said word one about Maher's sucking up to them. Maybe Somerby believes Maher does luv those conservatives, and perhaps that is part of Maher's appeal for Somerby. Anything is possible -- except that anyone believe Stephanie Ruhle is a dear friend of Tim Miller, or anyone else she is nice to for the sake of on-screen civility.

    1. He is trying to make Ruhle seem like a phony person or even a liar, instead of a polite person (in celebrity terms). Clearly Somerby dislikes Ruhle and intends to damage her credibility. It seems pretty petty to me.

  6. Somerby must find this a bewildering world. He thinks the Wapo cannot tell the difference between hard and soft news and he thinks Stephanie Ruhle cannot tell her friends from her not-friends. Is there truly anyone as naive as Somerby out there walking around? He probably think people mean it when they say they are glad to see him! Or is he being a tad disingenuous with the crap he has filled today's essay with?

  7. Meanwhile, the grifting continues. Rawstory says:

    "Federal law prohibits candidates from shelling out campaign funds for personal purposes, defined as expenses that 'would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign or individual's duties as a holder of federal office. 'On or before May 5, Boebert’s campaign began running an ad for her new book, “My American Life,” on WinRed, the Republican’s online fundraising platform that is typically used to solicit campaign donations. While a disclaimer at the bottom says that WinRed paid for the ad, the URL includes lauren-boebert-for-congress, and the ad has an option to sign up for updates from Lauren Boebert for Congress," Zach Everson reported.

    Boebert previously received gas reimbursements from her campaign claiming she drove 38,712 miles.

    Everson noted Boebert's ad, "directs supporters to buy her books from retailers, like Amazon and Books-a-Million, which could theoretically lead to royalties. (Boebert’s book deal has yet to appear on one of her annual financial disclosures.)"

  8. Somerby is just upset because he doesn't have 101 grandchildren.

  9. Here is the antidote to dumnification:

    Profiles in Ignorance -- How American Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber (2022) by Andy Borowitz

    "Andy Borowitz, “one of the funniest people in America” (CBS Sunday Morning), brilliantly examines the intellectual deterioration of American politics, from Ronald Reagan to Dan Quayle, from George W. Bush to Sarah Palin, to its apotheosis in Donald J. Trump.

    The winner of the first-ever National Press Club award for humor, Andy Borowitz has been called a “Swiftian satirist” (The Wall Street Journal) and “one of the country’s finest satirists” (The New York Times). Millions of fans and New Yorker readers enjoy his satirical news column “The Borowitz Report.” Now, in Profiles in Ignorance, he offers a witty, spot-on diagnosis of our country’s political troubles by showing how ignorant leaders are degrading, embarrassing, and endangering our nation.

    Borowitz argues that over the past fifty years, American politicians have grown increasingly allergic to knowledge, and mass media have encouraged the election of ignoramuses by elevating candidates who are better at performing than thinking. Starting with Ronald Reagan’s first campaign for governor of California in 1966 and culminating with the election of Donald J. Trump to the White House, Borowitz shows how, during the age of twenty-four-hour news and social media, the US has elected politicians to positions of great power whose lack of the most basic information is terrifying. In addition to Reagan, Quayle, Bush, Palin, and Trump, Borowitz covers a host of congresspersons, senators, and governors who have helped lower the bar over the past five decades.

    Profiles in Ignorance aims to make us both laugh and cry: laugh at the idiotic antics of these public figures, and cry at the cataclysms these icons of ignorance have caused. But most importantly, the book delivers a call to action and a cause for optimism: History doesn’t move in a straight line, and we can change course if we act now."

    Of course, Somerby has never been much of a fan of knowledge. Mostly he just likes to call other people dumb.

  10. Who decided that Climate and Environment are hard news? They don't have that status in print editions.

  11. Somerby is spot-on as usual, while the usual ignoramuses that litter the comments take contrary positions just out of personal animus (Anonymous, aka "Ivan") and various forms of bias (Dimbot Mao). It's well-known that journalistic outlets have been struggling financially for many years. And it was recently reported that the WaPo had seen subscriptions decline significantly and there was an effort underway to get subscriptions back up. The "dumbnification" that Somerby points out is undoubtedly part of this effort.

    1. “It's well-known that journalistic outlets have been struggling financially for many years.”

      And? It’s perverse to criticize them for trying to stay afloat by offering stories that Somerby characterizes as “dumbnification”, even if that is a matter of opinion. He himself wrote a post about sports trivia the other day. Is that “dumbnification”? Of course not, because Somerby cares about sports. Some of us find sports a great waste of newspaper space and a kind of dumbnification. But YMMV, right???

    2. Doesn't seem "perverse" to me at all. But YMMV, right???????????????????
      If their coverage of issues of national and global import suffers in pursuit of profits, maybe they should consider a different business model, possibly more along the lines of NPR. Petition individuals and other entities for donations. There are lots of wealthy people and institutions who value what the Post has traditionally done. The pursuit of money is in large part responsible for bringing the U.S. to the brink of collapse.

    3. The commenter you denigrate explained those financial realities last time Somerby made this same complaint.

      You also shouldn’t assume that every anonymous is the same person. Ivan logged in as Anonymous but there are others who have not.

      Not even Somerby said the hard news has suffered. He doesn’t like the “soft news”, even though he could easily bypass it and go directly to the news he prefers. What kind of person insists everyone must share his own interests or else they are dumb? No one serious.

    4. Denigrate? What are you talking about?
      And I didn't assume that every Anonymous is the same. But the same Anonymous usually posts the MAJORITY of anonymous comments, deliberately misreading Somerby's posts because he dared to criticize Rachel Maddow. They started posting so many that another Anonymous started counting them at one point. I suspect it's you, because this is typical of their misconstrual: "What kind of person insists everyone must share his own interests or else they are dumb? No one serious." Somerby said nothing of the sort. He's talking about one of the two most storied, most important, most influential journalistic bodies in the U.S. He reasonably expects such an entity to continue its important work of informing the body politic. He said nothing about what everyone must be interested in.

    5. You said Ivan took contrary positions just out of animus. That is denigrating him. Somerby calls soft news dumbnification. That is disparaging what others may find interesting. I don’t think you should be accusing others of misreading.

      Newspapers have always had sports pages, fashion, arts, society pages (now called lifestyle), comics and crosswords, bridge columns and advice. That is what a newspaper is, going back to previous centuries. Somerby is being ridiculous and you are showing a lot of ignorance. Go to a public library and look up the NY Times from the 1920s.

    6. Oh, it is you. Hi, church lady/Ivan. It's not denigration if it's true and the "denigrated" person is simply being called out on her lies and ugly, baseless insinuations (for example about Somerby's supposed sexuality). It doesn't matter if someone finds something interesting. Certain things simply don't belong in a major national/global newspaper. I'm sure you could think of countless examples, since you're so superior in knowledge and ethics to me and Somerby, but I'll give you one for starters: the hottest porn videos. See, that wouldn't belong in a major newspaper.

    7. Ok, so you’re a troll.

    8. Only towards you and Mao. You, because your personal animus towards Somerby results in endless distortions of his words. Mao, because he's a Dimbot.

    9. “Mike L”, if the “national/global” newspaper goes bankrupt, there will be nothing at all printed. Is that preferable? The Times and Post don’t get to produce their content free of charge on, say, Google Blogger.

      Maybe you and Somerby should take a look at the history of newspaper publishing in the US. Here’s a random story from 1920 in the New York Times:

      “Teaching seniors how to dress well; fashion shows are being given by school of practical arts at teachers college”

      Sounds like something Somerby would mock. But does it qualify as “dumbnified?”

      You also might be aware that newspapers used to be filled with ads. It was a major source of revenue.

      And your list of porn films? If such a thing were going to be printed, it would be in the entertainment section. There is such a section, you know. Has been for a long time. Entertainment is big business, and lots of people follow it. There’s also a sports section. I’m not objecting, but an awful lot of manpower and space (in printed editions) has been devoted to this historically.

    10. That's right Mike L, the points you articulated regarding "coverage of issues of national and global import" are completely destroyed by the facts that there is an entertainment section, and there was a 1920 NYT article that discussed how seniors dress. Game, set, match!

    11. Glad you found that amusing... I try