THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2022
Alex Wagner flunks: Two years ago, more than 158 million people voted in our nation's presidential election.
A smaller, though very large number of people will vote in this year's House elections. Very few of those people have a detailed understanding of any specific policy question. None of us can speak with authority on all such topics and questions.
Most of us get our understandings, and our Storylines, from journalistic / political / intellectual leaders—or perhaps from those who "play them on TV." At present, with our very large nation coming apart, it's astounding to see the degree of bad judgment some of these people are putting on display as they make their pronouncements.
Last night, we saw Tucker Carlson over a truly crazy assessment of Tiffany Cross, the anchor of a weekend show on MSNBC. In our view, Cross is a massively limited tribal intellectual leader—but no, she isn't the equivalent of Hutu radio in the days which ked up to Rwanda's 1994 genocide, as cable's top-ranking "excitable [and disordered] boy" aggressively claimed.
So it went on Fox! On a local PBS station, we rewatched a bit of a new PBS show about Michael Flynn, who continues to craft the Storylines which animate quite a few voters.
Personally, we regard Flynn as largely disordered. Our neighbors and friends who adopt his narratives take a different view.
Along the way, we also watched a remarkable presentation by one of our own blue tribe's "cable news" journalistic leaders. We refer to Alex Wagner, host of the nightly MSNBC program, Alex Wagner Tonight.
In the first four minutes of last night's program, Wagner presented a remarkable grab bag of surface non sequiturs concerning a congressional redistricting issue. We'd break it down like this:
Some of Wagner's statements simply didn't make sense. Some of her statements may have made sense, but Wagner failed to explain them.
One hour after Carlson's lunacy, Wagner was serving a basically incoherent stew to our own blue tribe's many viewers. This is the way things fall apart when a large nation's basic points of consensus have long since come undone.
We discussed the basic logic of redistricting is just the past few weeks. Wagner started with one of the surface non sequiturs we discussed at that time:
WAGNER (10/19/22): Let's start with the great state of Louisiana... White people are now less than 60% of Louisiana's population, and about a third of the population there is black. And yet, this is Louisiana's congressional delegation:
[A set of six photos appears]
Five are white Republicans, one is a black Democrat. Because even though Louisiana is one-third black, only one congressional district has a majority black population. That's how state lawmakers drew the congressional maps.
Fuller disclosure! As Wagner spoke, a visual appeared on the screen, saying this:
"Louisiana's population identified as nearly 56% white, more than 31% black."
On the basis of such data, Wagner voiced concern about the fact that only one of the state's six congressional districts is majority black. Also, about the fact that only one of the state's six House members is black.
We return to a point of basic logic:
If a state's population is roughly 31% black, there is no obvious reason to assume that any of its congressional districts will be majority black.
In the case of Louisiana, if its population is evenly spread across the state, black voters could conceivably constitute roughly one-third of all six of the state's congressional districts, depending on the way those districts are drawn.
Under that arrangement, if the state's white voters all vote Republican, there is no reason to assume that Louisiana would have any Democrats in the House, instead of the current one.
Wagner seemed to working from an implied assumption, one we've discussed in the past. She seemed to assume that, if some state is one-third black, then that state's congressional delegation should also be one-third black.
That may seem to make a type of sense as a type of basic fairness. But in a state which is one-third black, there is no reason to assume that any of its congressional districts will be majority black—unless a special effort has been made to create some such district.
In her presentation, Wagner was doing what our highly privileged "cable news" TV stars will quite typically do. "Glorying in the power of her strength," she blew right past a basic logical point—a point her presentation erased.
In fairness, it's also possible that Wagner had never thought, for even one second, about this basic matter. Cable news stars get their basic understandings from other cable news stars—from the long history of tweaked presentations which now constitute our idea of news within both our failing tribes, our own blue tribe as well as the red,
Let's return to Wagner's presentation:
As she continued, Wagner made a snarky, low-IQ claim about the way Louisiana's districts had been created. Skipping a minor irrelevant point, we'll show you what she said:
WAGNER: Louisiana's white Republican lawmakers managed to magically, once again, draw five majority white districts, and just one black majority district. Imagine that! Can you imagine that?
Louisiana's legislature had "magically" managed to create only one black majority district! Snarking very, very hard, our tribe's multimillionaire "cable news" leader then asked us if we could imagine such an outcome.
In fact, it's astoundingly easy to imagine some such outcome, for the reasons we've cited above. But the dumbness of this presentation only grew as Wagner continued to script our failing, mistreated blue tribe.
How did the dumbness of the presentation grow? It did so as Louisiana's congressional map appeared behind Wagner on the screen. It clearly showed that, for whatever reason, Louisiana's legislature had gone to something resembling heroic lengths to produce that one majority black congressional district!
As every viewer could plainly see, the oddly-shaped district snakes across the southeast section of the state in an east-to-west / west-to-east direction. It's plainly the type of weirdly-shaped congressional district which would normally be described as "gerrymandered," barring some alternate explanation.
Anyone with an ounce of sense would understand that this is a congressional district whose elongated, irregular shape reflects a basic fact about its birth—the district was deliberately constructed in such a way as to make it majority black.
There is no "magic" involved in this practice, which is of course quite common. The magic may lie in the fact that a massively privileged corporate millionaire was on the air creating a pleasing but deeply under-explained story for trusting blue tribe viewers.
As Wagner proceeded from there, her story got even dumber. She blew past one point after another, handing blue voters the type of story we very much like to hear.
(This involved a disputed part of the Voting Rights Act which no one ever tries to unpack or explain. Each tribe simply powers ahead, presenting its preferred and pleasing cartoon.)
Grading on the curve, the massively privileged graduate of Brown had offered us a D-minus presentation. If we throw the curve away, her presentation truly deserved a failing grade—and yet, this is the kind of intellectual leadership our tribe is routinely offered by the corporate entities who pay Wagner's (undisclosed) salary.
The craziest thing we saw last night came from Tucker Carlson. In fairness, he was making crazy claims about a weekend cable news player whose work is very slack.
On PBS, we saw Michael Flynn at work, among the large number of voters who think his claims make sense. And then again, there was Wagner, narrating a presentation which was crushingly dumb.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our nation has long since come undone.
In fairness, it's hard to maintain a very large nation like ours. But as people like Wagner keep cashing those checks. this basic historical fact is being played out once again.
Wagner's presentation was very dumb; Carlson is deeply disordered. We the people of the U.S. get our ideas from them!
Tomorrow: When Ezra interviewed Rachel