Murdoch confesses, Morning Joe clams!


The topic was never discussed: It seemed to us that Tucker Carlson was especially demagogic / disordered last night. 

He has truly become a master of the leap in logic and the unfounded factual claim mixed with the smirk and the sneer, along with his very strange laugh.  On evenings like last night, the dissembling comes so thick and so fast, and in so many variations, that it's quite hard to keep up. 

Apparently, the millions of people who watch his show don't realize that they're being misled. For that reason, one part of Rupert Murdoch's newly released testimony is truly stomach-churning. 

(It was "like a fire bell in the night," one well-known American citizen once said.)

We refer to Murdoch's testimony in the lawsuit being brought against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems. Headline included, the start of the New York Times' front-page report captures that part of the testimony:

Murdoch Acknowledges Fox News Hosts Endorsed Election Fraud Falsehoods

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed.

“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

That's the start of today's front-page report about Murdoch's testimony. That passage is a bit imprecise about the nature of the "false narrative" which several Fox hosts endorsed—but that being said, good God! 

Disordered as Carlson so commonly is, four Fox hosts were more at fault in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election! Specifically, we refer to their now-acknowledged "endorsement" of the crazy claim about the way Dominion's voting machines had supposedly taken millions of votes for Donald J. Trump and scored them as votes for Joe Biden. 

By now, Carlson's dissembling is truly shocking in its degree of moral and mental disorder. Just a bit more than two years ago, four Fox hosts were worse!

Four Fox hosts were worse—and Murdoch himself let it go! The financial rewards are too damn high— and just for the record, things aren't necessarily all that great Over Here.

Last night, Carlson's scattershot dissembling went on and on and on. We may review the particulars tomorrow—but for right now, we're puzzled by what we saw, or by what we didn't see, on today's Morning Joe.

There it sat, on the Times' front page, the report about what Murdoch had said under oath! By any measure, it was major news—but when the Morning Joe carnival came on the air, the children completely ignored it.

As this morning's show began, Joe and Mika were joined by two sidekicks and three guests. Or they may have been joined by three sidekicks and only two guests. It all depends on the way you conduct your census.

Whatever! Major news about Fox and Trump was sitting right there on the Times' front page—and in the first minute of the program, Mika teased it as an upcoming topic.

That's when the weirdness started. From that point on, Morning Joe's gashouse gang just pattered on, completely ignoring this very high-profile topic. 

We kept checking in through the first two hours, and we never saw the topic being discussed. Right on up through 8 A.M., this morning's discussions were a notably weird Grade A tapioca, as you can see for yourself.

As you can see by searching on the Internet Archive's recording of the four-hour show, Murdoch's testimony was completely ignored until 9:15 A.M. 

At that point, Mika read an extremely brief "hostage statement"-style account of the matter, then instantly moved ahead to what she called "other news." Joe was present until at least 8:30 A.M., but this rather obvious topic was simply never discussed. 

The program was playing some sort of a game. The Fox News Channel is very powerful, and we the people seem to get conned in a wide assortment of ways.

Mika taken hostage: Again, to see Mika's hostage statement, just click on the Internet Archive's recording of the four-hour show, then search on the key word "Murdoch."

Judging from appearances, someone must have been holding a paycheck to her head! But as you can see through your "Murdoch" search, the topic was never discussed.

HOW TO TEACH IT: "How Should We Teach the Story of Our Country?"


We can't have such discussions now: Long ago and far away, we had a delusional moment.

In fact, it happened over the weekend. We saw this headline in The Atlantic and we dreamed of a better day:

How Should We Teach the Story of Our Country?

At least in theory, that headline was asking an excellent question. It sat atop a brief essay by Kate Cray, an associate editor for the Culture and Family sections at The Atlantic. 

Cray is three years out of college (Yale, class of 2019). Her headline was asking an excellent question—though we'll have to admit that we weren't blown away by the way her short essay began:

CRAY (2/24/23): The past few years have seen an intensifying of the ways politics can intervene in education, including the censorship of books. Lawmakers in Texas have made repeated pushes to restrict the books that kids can access in schools. Leaders in other states across the country have done the same, including in Tennessee, where one local school board infamously banned Maus, a graphic novel that brutally—but honestly—depicts the Holocaust. Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has passed sweeping laws that limit what schools can teach about topics such as gender, sexuality, and race. In January, the state even opposed a whole course, AP African American Studies. (The class’s curriculum has since been revised; Florida has not yet said whether it will actually impose the ban.)

The central issue in many of the recent restrictions is how to teach our country’s history. Although memorizing dates and names can lead students to believe that the subject comprises a series of simple facts about clear-cut events, the truth about the past is much more tangled. Textbooks have long been skewed or have contained errors...

In fact, Cray's short essay was the magazine's weekly submission concerning "The Best in Books." Cray went on to recommend a set of readings which tended to reinforce the view presented in the passage we've posted—a set of readings which tend to comport to the general view of this current topic which obtains within our blue tribe.

Briefly, can we talk? It seemed to us that Cray might have had her thumb on the scale a tiny tad at several points in the passage we have posted. 

For example, is it true that "one local school board infamously banned Maus, a graphic novel that brutally—but honestly—depicts the Holocaust?" Is that a reasonable and fair account of what that one (1) local school board did?

Let's start by setting the loaded term "infamously" to the side. Cray's presentation may otherwise be defended as technically accurate, but technical accuracy is a very low bar for a discussion of this importance.

Our question:

Has Cray offered a reasonably "unbiased" depiction the event in question? Or could that be the type of "skewed" presentation which Cray correctly wants to remove from our history textbooks?

For starters, that one local school board didn't exactly "ban" Maus. Instead, it voted to replace Maus with another book as a required text in its two-month-long, eighth-grade unit ("module") on the Holocaust. 

Such decisions are made all the time. A small number of books become required texts. The ten million other books haven't all been "censored" or "banned."

(To read the minutes of the school board meeting, you can just click here.)

In Cray's view, Maus depicts the Holocaust in a "brutal" manner. If so, should it necessarily be shocking to learn that one (1) school board in one (1) location decided that this "brutal" depiction might be inappropriate for the district's eighth graders?

For ourselves, we aren't familiar with Maus, or with the degree of "brutality" involved in its depictions. We're not sure that we'd be inclined to use that term in describing Maus at all.

But in her list of recommended readings, Cray instantly links to an earlier essay in The Atlantic. Dual headlines included, that essay starts as shown:

Book Bans Are Targeting the History of Oppression
The possibility of a more just future is at stake when young people are denied access to knowledge of the past.

The instinct to ban books in schools seems to come from a desire to protect children from things that the adults doing the banning find upsetting or offensive. These adults often seem unable to see beyond harsh language or gruesome imagery to the books’ educational and artistic value, or to recognize that language and imagery may be integral to showing the harsh, gruesome truths of the books’ subjects. That appears to be what’s happening with Art Spiegelman’s Maus—a Pulitzer Prize–winning graphic-novel series about the author’s father’s experience of the Holocaust that a Tennessee school board recently pulled from an eighth-grade language-arts curriculum, citing the books’ inappropriate language and nudity.

The Maus case is one of the latest in a series of school book bans targeting books that teach the history of oppression...

These Adults Today! The instinct to "ban" books like Maus seems to come from their desire to protect children from things that the adults find upsetting or offensive. 

Also, when Maus was "banned," it was one of the latest in a series of such bans "targeting books that teach the history of oppression!" 

Surprising! Even as that local school district maintained a two-month unit on the Holocaust, followed by a two-month unit of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, it was conspiring to keep its students in the dark about such acts of oppression!

Surprising! But our tribe seems to need such dramatic claims the way plants need the light.

The last assertion in that passage can perhaps be defended as technically accurate. But should readers have been told that the local school district in question teaches a two-month unit about the Holocaust in eighth grade? That the board voted to replace Maus with a different book which teaches the history of the Holocaust?

Cray's original headline was asking an excellent question. On the other hand, it seemed to us that her short essay came to us, live and direct, from the realm of blue tribe script. 

Within that realm, we're always right. Also, the Others are always quite plainly wrong, in familiar stereotypical ways wherever possible.

Foolishly, we had imagined that we might spend this week discussing some of the questions which might arise in the course of devising a high school American history course. Such questions come especially thick and fast when we're devising the way to teach our brutal history concerning matters of race.

Our thoughts especially turned that way as we read Hannah Dreier's front-page report in Sunday's New York Times. More than a hundred years later, Dreier was rewriting The Jungle, a famous novel which described one part of our nation's exploitive past.

We were foolish to think that we could conduct some such discussion. Very frankly, and as we've noted, it's all anthropology now!

Our discourse has descended into dueling talking points from dueling political tribes. The conduct is quite often crazy among the red tribe, but it's also quite bad Over Here.

Last night, we watched Tucker Carlson stage his latest astonishing rant. No sane society can conduct leisurely discussions of the philosophy of history while such disordered behavior is taking place, night after night after night after night, with little effort being made to comment or intervene.

We also watched to see if our own blue tribe would discuss the brutal conduct which Dreier described in the Times. Needless to say, we saw no such discussion take place. 

Simply put, we don't care about matters like that. On balance, our tribunes care about this comfort food:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!

and about little else.

(Stephanie had time for the Murdaugh trial. She didn't have time for 12-year-olds working the midnight shift.)

Long ago, we told you that it's too late to expect some sort of solution to our current societal problem. Too much money is being made, by too many people, as the soundbite wars roll on.

It's all over now but the anthropology! It's all over but the explanation of how it all ended this way, with one tribe substantially sunk in The Crazy and our own tribe clinging to memorized denigrations of what the Others just have to be like.

We still plan to take a look at Maureen Dowd's column from last Sunday. In our view, it involves a familiar picture to which our tribe religiously clings, much as a group of drowning people might cling to a flimsy raft.

Cray was asking a very good question in the headline we've posted. It sent us drifting back in time to the days, long ago, when we were given The Jungle as a high school reading assignment.

Cray was asking a very good question! But one of our tribes has gone insane, and our own deeply parochial, landlocked tribe is clinging to treasured script from the deep dark historical past.

Tomorrow: What Tucker Carlson said this time? And how about Morning Joe?

"Down with objectivity," Downie says!


How humans deal with ideas: At the end of last month, Leonard Downie attempted to detonate a bit of a bombshell at the Washington Post.

Downie is a former executive editor of The Washington Post. Today, he's a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Through his long tenure at the Post, Downie was very big deal in the world of mainstream American journalism. He's also a good, decent person.

That said, how well does he work in the general realm of ideas? For us, this question came to mind as we reread the essay he wrote for the Post. It appeared on January 30 under this bombshell-adjacent headline:

Newsrooms that move beyond ‘objectivity’ can build trust

Newsrooms should move beyond objectivity! There one of our journalists went again, with another attempt to negotiate the difficult conceptual waters surrounding that now-despised term.

Downie is a good decent person. He's also highly experienced, at the highest levels of mainstream journalism.

That said, how well does he work in the general realm of concepts and ideas? That strikes us as an anthropological question—a question about the basic capabilities of our faltering species. 

Even on the highest levels, how well do we humans deal with abstract ideas? Downie is a good and highly experienced person. Headlime included, his essay started like this:

DOWNIE (1/30/23): Newsrooms that move beyond ‘objectivity’ can build trust

Amid all the profound challenges and changes roiling the American news media today, newsrooms are debating whether traditional objectivity should still be the standard for news reporting. “Objectivity” is defined by most dictionaries as expressing or using facts without distortion by personal beliefs, bias, feelings or prejudice. Journalistic objectivity has been generally understood to mean much the same thing.

So the essay began. Our puzzlement starts with this:

According to Downie, objectivity is the attempt to express or use facts without distortion. If that's what we mean by objectivity, we have no idea why a newsroom would want to move "beyond objectivity" as a journalistic standard.

What could be wrong with the goal of reporting, citing or referring to facts without distortion? After reading Downie's essay, we have no earthly idea.

In fairness, let's see where his presentation went. He continued as shown:

DOWNIE (continuing directly): But increasingly, reporters, editors and media critics argue that the concept of journalistic objectivity is a distortion of reality. They point out that the standard was dictated over decades by male editors in predominantly White newsrooms and reinforced their own view of the world. They believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading “bothsidesism” in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects. And, in today’s diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work. 

Make no mistake! As with every other pursuit, the pursuit of objectivity can yield imperfect, even horrible, results. 

For example, a person can attempt to present all the relevant facts without realizing how many relevant facts he or she may be unaware of. The fact that such mistakes can be made doesn't mean that the overriding standard was somehow wrong.

This seems like a fairly obvious point. The fact that people can make mistakes doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the objective of "expressing or using facts without distortion," whether "by personal beliefs, bias, feelings or prejudice" or by anything else.

From this point on, Downie presents an array of journalists who seem to feel that the goal of "objectivity" should be replaced by the practice of "diversity." In a large nation which is demographically diverse, it's almost surely a good idea for a major news org to have a demographically diverse staff, whose members may understand a given issue in a wide array of ways.

That said, how does this perfectly sensible objective undermine the value of "objectivity," at least as Downie has defined it? How does it undermine the goal of reporting and discussing facts "without distortion?" Why doesn't this type of newsroom diversity simply make it more likely, at least in theory, that a news org will be able to meet that original goal?

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but the human mind is often remarkably muddy. By the time his essay is done, Downie is quoting major newspeople making such fiery statements as this:

“The consensus among younger journalists is that we got it all wrong. Objectivity has got to go.” 

Given the way Downie has defined the term, it's hard to see how that fiery declaration makes any sense. In a similar vein, Downie describes how he viewed this matter, during his tenure at the Post, in the following murky passage:

DOWNIE: Throughout the time, beginning in 1984, when I worked as [Ben] Bradlee’s managing editor and then, from 1991 to 2008, succeeded him as executive editor, I never understood what “objectivity” meant. I didn’t consider it a standard for our newsroom. My goals for our journalism were instead accuracy, fairness, nonpartisanship, accountability and the pursuit of truth. 

Nonpartisanship was particularly important for a paper that was a national leader in covering politics and government. As the final gatekeeper for Post journalism, I stopped voting or making up my own mind about issues. As Bradlee had, I insisted on noninvolvement of Post journalists in political activity or advocacy of any kind, except voting. I also worked to make The Post newsroom more diverse, and encouraged everyone to have a voice in our decision-making.

According to Downie, he never considered "objectivity" to be a standard for the Post's newsroom. 

Instead, he considered the goals of Post journalism to be "accuracy, fairness, nonpartisanship, accountability and the pursuit of truth." But how does that differ from the goal of "objectivity" as he defined the allegedly controversial term in his opening paragraph?

He also says that he made the newsroom more diverse. Almost surely, that was a good idea—but why isn't that simply a way to move toward the goal of objectivity as he first defined it?

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is famously said to have said.

In truth, we humans tend to work quite poorly with ideas. We prefer to work ourselves into a snit as we pretend that we've come up with exciting new ideas.

Down with objectivity, Downie seems to be saying. Down with the goal of reporting and discussing facts "without distortion!"

The woods are lovely, etc. That said, we human beings are strongly inclined to live inside conceptual muddles—or at least, so we're told by despondent top anthropologists!

Professor Downie is a good, decent person. His essay came from the very top of the mainstream press corps pile. 

His essay presents a stirring new idea. In closing, our question today would be this:

Did it really make sense?

HOW TO TEACH IT: A stunning report in the New York Times!


How should our history be taught? Long ago and far away, as mere juniors in high school, we read The Jungle. It was a required text in a high school literature course.

At the time, The Jungle was a sixty-year-old novel—a "muckraking" novel at that! Today, the leading authority on the book offers this thumbnail account:

The Jungle is a 1906 work of narrative fiction by American muckraker novelist Upton Sinclair. ... Several passages expos[ed] health violations and unsanitary practices in the American meat packing industry during the early 20th century, which greatly contributed to a public outcry that led to reforms including the Meat Inspection Act.

The book depicts working-class poverty, lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness among many workers. These elements are contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power. A review by the writer Jack London called it "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery."

Sinclair was considered a muckraker, a journalist who exposed corruption in government and business. In 1904, Sinclair had spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards for the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. He first published the novel in serial form in 1905 in the newspaper, and it was published as a book by Doubleday in 1906.

We can't recall what we thought about The Jungle when we read it as part of that high school class.

Yesterday, though, we recalled the muckraking book. We did so thanks to a remarkable piece of muckraking journalism which appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.

The report went on and on and on, at considerable length. At considerable length, the report describes many of the conditions mentioned above—"working-class poverty, lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness."

It was The Jungle all over again! This time, though, these conditions were being described "among many [underage children]" all across the United States—among many underage children, many of whom were working dangerous midnight shifts. 

It was The Jungle all over again! Principle headline included, the lengthy report starts like this:

Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the Southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos—all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

"These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation," the Times report says at that point. As noted, the grueling work described in this lengthy report is being done "in violation of child labor laws." 

Different people will react to this report in different ways. That said, the report continues as shown:

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation. Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

"Twelve-year-old roofers" in several states—and the list goes on from there!

From there, the report goes into prodigious detail about an array of such children and teens. We read The Jungle long ago, and now we've read it again.

The report goes on and on and on, then on and on some more. After we'd read the entire report, we scrolled back up to the top of the page to see who the writers were.

We assumed it must have taken a large team of reporters to assemble such a voluminous "New York Times investigation." Headline included once again, we were surprised by what we saw when we scrolled back to the top of the page:

Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.

By Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce 
Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

In its byline, the voluminous report was credited to one (1) lone reporter! She had traveled to seven states in the course of researching this topic. She had spoken to migrant child workers in twenty different states.

Who the heck is Hannah Dreier? You're asking an excellent question! 

For starters, she's fourteen years out of college (Wesleyan, class of 2008). Back in 2019, after winning a Pulitzer Prize at ProPublica, she described her journalistic method to a campus audience:

“My approach has been to try to focus on telling concrete personal stories and trying to just pile enough detail that people can decide for themselves what they think is happening and how they feel about it.” 

Dreier wants to let people decide what they think about the situations she reports. She tries to tell "concrete personal stories," and she tries to pile a whole lot of detail on.

In yesterday's report, Dreier told a long list of concrete personal stories. She offered a wealth of detail about the current plight of many underage migrant children.

You rarely see a piece of journalism like the one which appeared in yesterday's Times. As of yesterday afternoon, we'd already seen it cited on Fox, with an anti-Biden cast to the discussion. We can't help wondering if the cable stars of our own blue tribe will stop flogging their favorite topic:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!

for long enough to let them comment on Dreier's report.

Almost surely, different people will have different reactions to Dreier's report. If our own tribe discusses this topic at all, we hope our tribunes will avoid adopting the kind of framework which dominated a different high-profile item in yesterday's New York Times.

We refer to Maureen Dowd's column, a column about congressional apparent nutcase Marjorie Taylor Greene. We'll review that column tomorrow. In our view, it tended to display one desperate type of novelization which now afflicts our blue tribe.

We read The Jungle in an American literature class, but it famously chronicled an ugly part of our frequently brutal American history. 

According to the leading authority, Sinclair's book led to reforms in the meat packing industry. Yesterday, Dreier's astounding report in the Times offered an echo of Sinclair's work. 

Will her report affect anything at all? The chances may not be good.

Earlier in the weekend, we'd been fascinated by the headline which topped a short piece at The Atlantic. 

The headline asked a very good question. That question went like this:

How Should We Teach the Story of Our Country?

Our frequently brutal American history can be taught, and understood, a thousand different ways. At present, we're engaged in a great tribal war about the contents of one Advanced Placement course. 

As the soundbites have flown around, we've seen little serious discussion of that larger topic:

How should we teach our American history? How should we understand that history, just within our own heads?

We're inclined to throw our tribal soundbites around, but we rarely get to that larger question. In the course of our rambles this week, we'll try to get to the larger question that one lonely headline asked.

History typically comes with a framework. How should our history be taught?

Tomorrow: Prisoners of script

The New York Times tries to paraphrase Fox!


Can anyone here play this game?: Will Dominion Voting Systems win its lawsuit against Fox?

We can't answer that question. Reviewing a report in today's New York Times, a different question came to mind:

Can anyone here play this game?

This new report attempts to supplement prior reporting about Sidney Powell's unsupported claim—the unsupported, crackpot claim that Dominion's voting machines had been used to steal the 2020 election.

More specifically, the new report attempts to supplement prior reporting about what was being said on the air at Fox about this matter, as opposed to what Fox personnel were saying about Powell in private. The new report appears beneath this headline:

What Fox News Hosts Said Privately vs. Publicly About Voter Fraud

The new report supplements prior reporting on this topic through the use of eleven brief video clips. For that reason, it only appears online. 

That said, can anyone here play this game? The basic journalistic blocking and tackling in this new report is very poor. This includes the short accounts of what various Fox players said at various points in time—short accounts which appear beneath the relevant video clips.

In our view, the basic journalistic blocking and tackling is very poor. For today, we'll call attention to just one matter—to the report's account of what Tucker Carlson said on the air on November 19, 2020 as part of his nightly program.

As a matter of fairness, it should be said—Carlson wasn't endorsing Powell's claim on the air that night. Here's the first part of the New York Times' account of what he said:

THOMPSON ET AL (2/25/23): [On November 19], Mr. Carlson eviscerated Ms. Powell in a brutal 10-minute monologue, dissecting her claims as unreliable and unproven. He said the show had repeatedly asked her for evidence and, “when we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

At that point, the Times report offers a 32-second clip from Carlson's ten-minute evisceration of Powell. That was a tiny sample of what Carlson had said—and the report then says this:

THOMPSON ET AL (continuing directly): In the same monologue, however, Mr. Carlson also gave some credence to Ms. Powell’s claims, saying that “we don’t dismiss anything anymore” and that he is “hopeful” she will come forward with evidence.

At that point, the Times offers a second, 27-second clip of what Carlson said that night.

Did Carlson actually "give some credence to Powell's claims" during his ten-minute monologue?  We'd call that a fairly large stretch. 

The Times does include a link to the full transcript and videotape of Carlson's "brutal 10-miniute monologue." Below, you see a substantial chunk of what Carlson said that night:

CARLSON (11/19/20): For more than a week, Powell has been all over conservative media with the following story: This election was stolen by a collection of international leftists who manipulated vote tabulating software in order to flip millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The other day on television, Powell said of Trump that when the fraud is finally uncovered, "I think we'll find he had at least 80 million votes." In other words, rigged software stole about seven million votes in this election. 

On Sunday night, "Tucker Carlson Tonight" texted her after watching one of her segments. What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history. Millions of votes stolen in a day, democracy destroyed, the end of our centuries-old system of self-government. Not a small thing.

Now, to be perfectly clear, we did not dismiss any of it. We don't dismiss anything anymore, particularly when it's related to technology. We've talked to too many Silicon Valley whistleblowers and we've seen too much after four years on the air.  We literally do UFO segments, not because we're crazy or even interested in the subject, but because there is evidence that UFOs are real and everyone lies about it.

There's evidence that a lot of things that responsible people dismiss out of hand as ridiculous are, in fact, real. The louder the Yale political science department and the staff of The Atlantic magazine scream "conspiracy theory," the more interested we tend to be. That's usually a sign you're over the target. A lot of people with impressive-sounding credentials in this country are frauds who have no idea what they're doing. They're children posing as authorities. And when they're caught, they lie and then they blame you for it. We see that every day. It's the central theme of our show and will continue to be.

That's a long way of saying we took Sidney Powell seriously, with no intention of fighting with her. We've always respected her work and we simply wanted to see the details. How could you not want to see them? So we invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week, actually, and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention.

But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her. When we checked with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they also told us Powell had never given them any evidence to prove anything she claimed at the press conference.

Powell did say that electronic voting is dangerous, and she's right, but she never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.

Oof! Online, this commentary appears beneath these headlines:

Tucker Carlson: Time for Sidney Powell to show us her evidence
We asked the Trump campaign attorney for proof of her bombshell claims. She gave us nothing.

In our view, the original reporting on this matter may have been somewhat misleading. Readers may have come away with the impression that Carlson was calling Powell crazy in private while endorsing her claims on the air.

In point of fact, Dominion is suing Fox News; it isn't suing Carlson. In the legal filings which have been released to date, most of its complaints concern the attacks on Dominion which were broadcast on programs hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeannine Pirro. 

Carlson did blast Powell that night. Given the way the original reporting on this matter has been understood, we thought it was worth noting what Carlson actually said in that broadcast.

And no, Fox viewers didn't like it! The Times report continues as shown:

THOMPSON ET AL (continuing directly from above): Viewers expressed outrage at Mr. Carlson for challenging a prominent Trump ally. And Mr. Trump’s associates quickly jumped to her defense.

A link led to this real-time report in the Times about the outrage among Fox viewers.

We aren't mentioning the parts of today's report where we thought the blocking and tackling were least impressive. Nor are we attempting to tell you how well, or how poorly, Carlson performed in the months and years which followed with respect to claims that the election was stolen.

Our very strong assumption would be that he performed very poorly.

That said, Dominion's lawsuit only concerns claims which were made about Dominion. The lawsuit doesn't attempt to evaluate the work of major Fox players like Carlson in a more general sense.

In our view, Carlson's work is routinely disgraceful (though not always). That said, we were surprised to go back and read the transcript of that monologue. We thought that you might be surprised by it too.

Meanwhile, can anyone here play this game? We just watched the part of last night's program, The Beat, which focused on library books in Florida's schools.

Can anyone here play this game? After watching that report, we came up with a quick answer: 


Reports on Fox are routinely a clown show. So was that effort last night. 

More and more and more and more, it seems to us that almost everything we read or see comes to us Straight Outta Script. Can a major nation function this way? Experts all seem to say no!

ENEMIES OR FRIENDS: "He may be right," McWhorter said!


Professor Gates may be wrong: Yesterday afternoon, we returned to a news report we'd looked at once before.

It appeared last week in the Washington Post. Headline included, the news report started like this:

As red states target Black history lessons, blue states embrace them

Even as lessons on Black history draw complaints from Republican governors, who argue the instruction is ideological, several blue states are moving in the opposite direction—mandating classes in African American, Latino and Puerto Rican studies—and setting up a uniquely American division over how we teach our past.

Since 2019, partly in response to the murder of George Floyd, at least four reliably Democratic states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island—have passed laws requiring instruction on Black history...Connecticut’s law says African American, Puerto Rican and Latino studies must be included in the social studies component of all public school curriculums. Delaware’s mandates that school districts offer instruction on Black history. Maine’s says that African American studies and the history of genocide must be included in state testing standards. And Rhode Island’s orders schools to include a unit on African History and Heritage.

Three cheers for the four blue states which "have [now] passed laws requiring instruction on Black history!"

According to this news report, "lessons on Black history" have been "draw[ing] complaints from Republican governors." Those blue states had been "moving in the opposite direction," at least partly in response to the murder of George Floyd.

It seemed to us that a bit of cheerleading might lurk in that formulation. Like much of what we read and hear in the current journalistic environment, this slightly slanted formulation seemed to be directing side-eye at our blue tribe's political enemies while showering praise on our friends.

Large amounts of our current discourse are fashioned from this ancient construct. We may not stop to wonder why the four heroic states in question had to wait until 2020—had to wait for Goerge Floyd's brutal murder!—to come up with the amazing idea of teaching black history statewide, in all their public schools.

Is it possible that these late arrivals were engaged in a bit of showboating—were engaging in acts of moral performance? At times like these, such questions will rarely be asked about our favorite friends.

Long ago and far away, a famous president—Abraham Lincoln—spoke out against the culture of enemies and friends. 

"We must not be enemies," Lincoln said. "We are not enemies, but friends." 

He said these things in his first inaugural address. Four years later, President Lincoln was shot and killed by one of his murderous friends.

Why did Delaware belatedly mandate that its school districts have to offer instruction on Black history? We have no idea.

We also can't tell you, with any certainty, what Ron DeSantis actually thinks about the teaching of such subjects.  

We're inclined to view DeSantis as a demagogue and a bully. Based on his recent essay for the New York Times, it sounds like Professor McWhorter views DeSantis in a roughly similar way.

Professor McWhorter was discussing the decision by the College Board to eliminate certain parts of its proposed Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. That included parts of the course DeSantis had opposed.

Had the Board amended its course because of DeSantis? It's hard to know the answer to that. But concerning the role that Desantis may have played, McWhorter offered this:

MCWHORTER (2/16/23): I’d like to make clear that I disapprove of the vast majority of DeSantis’s culture warrior agenda, a ham-handed set of plans designed to stir up a G.O.P. base in thrall to unreflective figures such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. If DeSantis runs for president, he will not get my vote.

However, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and in terms of how we tell the story of Black America, the board did the right thing, whether because of DeSantis’s threat or for more high-minded reasons...

Dear God! The horrible headline even said this:

DeSantis May Have Been Right

Professor McWhorter isn't a fan of Governor DeSantis. Even so, he allowed for a possibility which has gone way out of date:

He allowed for the possibility that DeSantis, a ham-handed culture warrior, may have been right this time, on this particular matter.

For this one brief shining moment, McWhorter left cartooning behind. He allowed for an antique possibility: on occasion, a person he doesn't widely admire may get something right.

Was DeSantis right in his complaints about the Advanced Placement course? In our view, DeSantis is so inarticulate in the way he has voiced his complaints that the question may not be worth asking.

That said, we don't think it's obvious that DeSantis wasn't basically right in some ways. We're happy to share McWhorter's belief in the occasional wisdom of clocks.

McWhorter turned away from a modern practice when he penned this piece. According to that modern practice, the Other has to be wrong every time, preferably after our tribunes have embellished or "improved" whatever he actually said. 

This doesn't make DeSantis a friend. It simply means that there's a chance that he won't always be wrong.

Our modern discourse tends to run on a different fuel, and even the best among us may be swept away by its power. Just consider what Professor Gates said!

A few years ago, we skillfully credited Professor Gates with "the greatest question ever asked." ("What difference does it make?" he said to Ava DuVernay.)

For our money, it was the greatest ever! On the other hand, he drives us crazy on Finding Your Roots when he gives his guests the impression that (for example) they have only one "fourth great grandfather," even though the professor knows that his guest very likely has a full complement of 32.

(Just this week, the professor told Angela Davis that William Brewster, of Mayflower fame, is "your tenth great grandfather," full stop. In fact, a person may have as many as 2,048 tenth great grandfathers! In fairness, withholding such facts makes for "good [or much better] TV.")

We wish the professor wouldn't do that! On the other hand, his show develops a wealth of historical insight, with just this one particular thumb on this one particular scale.

Professor Gates is, quite plainly, a plainly good, decent person. He's also very smart and extremely learned. 

That said, even people of the highest caliber can get swept up in the culture of enemies / friends. Just consider the column the professor wrote about DeSantis for Sunday's New York Times.

Is it possible that DeSantis got something right about the Advanced Placement course? There's no reason why Professor Gates has to think that—and if he actually thinks some such thing, no rule says that he has to say so.

What he surely shouldn't do is what he actually did. 

Good lord! Professor Gates is a good, decent person, but in his column about DeSantis, he went on and on and on and on, discussing a 19th century, slavery-loving figure. It was all part of giving DeSantis "the benefit of the doubt!"

GATES (2/19/23): Even if we give the governor the benefit of the doubt about the motivations behind his recent statements about the content of the original version of the College Board’s A.P. curriculum in African American studies, his intervention falls squarely in line with a long tradition of bitter, politically suspect battles over the interpretation of three seminal periods in the history of American racial relations: the Civil War; the 12 years following the war, known as Reconstruction; and Reconstruction’s brutal rollback, characterized by its adherents as the former Confederacy’s “Redemption,” which saw the imposition of Jim Crow segregation, the reimposition of white supremacy and their justification through a masterfully executed propaganda effort.

Undertaken by apologists for the former Confederacy with an energy and alacrity that was astonishing in its vehemence and reach, in an era defined by print culture, politicians and amateur historians joined forces to police the historical profession. The so-called Lost Cause movement was, in effect, a take-no-prisoners social media war. And no single group or person was more pivotal to “the dissemination of the truths of Confederate history, earnestly and fully and officially,” than the historian general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, of Athens, Ga. Rutherford was a descendant of a long line of slave owners; her maternal grandfather owned slaves as early as 1820, and her maternal uncle, Howell Cobb, secretary of the Treasury under President James Buchanan, owned some 200 enslaved women and men in 1840. Rutherford served as the principal of the Lucy Cobb Institute (a school for girls in Athens) and vice president of the Stone Mountain Memorial project, the former Confederacy’s version of Mount Rushmore.

In a column about DeSantis, Professor Gates went on and on, then on and on, about Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1851-1928), "a prominent white supremacist speaker" and an old world "historian general." For the record, this was all part of giving DeSantis the benefit of the doubt!

For the record, when we say that Gates went on and on, we mean he really went on and on. Given the passions of the age, this was a good person's idea of giving DeSantis "the benefit of the doubt:"

GATES (continuing directly): As the historian David Blight notes, “Rutherford gave new meaning to the term ‘die-hard.’” Indeed, she “considered the Confederacy ‘acquitted as blameless’ at the bar of history, and sought its vindication with a political fervor that would rival the ministry of propaganda in any twentieth-century dictatorship.” And she felt that the crimes of Reconstruction “made the Ku Klux Klan a necessity.” As I pointed out in a PBS documentary on the rise and fall of Reconstruction, Rutherford intuitively understood the direct connection between history lessons taught in the classroom and the Lost Cause racial order being imposed outside it, and she sought to cement that relationship with zeal and efficacy. She understood that what is inscribed on the blackboard translates directly to social practices unfolding on the street.

“Realizing that the textbooks in history and literature which the children of the South are now studying, and even the ones from which many of their parents studied before them,” she wrote in “A Measuring Rod to Test Text Books, and Reference Books in Schools, Colleges and Libraries,” “are in many respects unjust to the South and her institutions, and that a far greater injustice and danger is threatening the South today from the late histories which are being published, guilty not only of misrepresentations but of gross omissions, refusing to give the South credit for what she has accomplished … I have prepared, as it were, a testing or measuring rod.” And Rutherford used that measuring rod to wage a systematic campaign to redefine the Civil War not as our nation’s war to end the evils of slavery but as “the War Between the States,” since as she wrote elsewhere, “the negroes of the South were never called slaves.” And they were “well fed, well clothed and well housed.

Of the more than 25 books and pamphlets that Rutherford published, none were more important than “A Measuring Rod.” Published in 1920, her user-friendly pamphlet was meant to be the index “by which every textbook on history and literature in Southern schools should be tested by those desiring the truth.” The pamphlet was designed to make it easy for “all authorities charged with the selection of textbooks for colleges, schools and all scholastic institutions to measure all books offered for adoption by this ‘Measuring Rod,’ and adopt none which do not accord full justice to the South.” What’s more, her campaign was retroactive. As the historian Donald Yacovone tells us in his recent book, “Teaching White Supremacy,” Rutherford insisted that librarians “should scrawl ‘unjust to the South’ on the title pages” of any “unacceptable” books “already in their collections.”

On a page headed ominously by the word “Warning,” Rutherford provides a handy list of what a teacher or a librarian should “reject” or “not reject.”

“Reject a book that speaks of the Constitution other than a compact between sovereign states.”

“Reject a textbook that does not give the principles for which the South fought in 1861, and does not clearly outline the interferences with the rights guaranteed to the South by the Constitution, and which caused secession.”

“Reject a book that calls the Confederate soldier a traitor or rebel, and the war a rebellion.”

“Reject a book that says the South fought to hold her slaves.”

“Reject a book that speaks of the slaveholder of the South as cruel and unjust to his slaves.”

And my absolute favorite, “Reject a textbook that glorified Abraham Lincoln and vilifies Jefferson Davis, unless,” she adds graciously, “a truthful cause can be found for such glorification and vilification before 1865.”

And what of slavery? “This was an education that taught the negro self-control, obedience and perseverance—yes, taught him to realize his weaknesses and how to grow stronger for the battle of life,” Rutherford writes in 1923 in “The South Must Have Her Rightful Place.” “The institution of slavery as it was in the South, far from degrading the negro, was fast elevating him above his nature and race.” For Rutherford, who lectured wearing antebellum hoop gowns, the war over the interpretation of the meaning of the recent past was all about establishing the racial order of the present: “The truth must be told, and you must read it, and be ready to answer it.” Unless this is done, “in a few years there will be no South about which to write history.”

In other words, Rutherford’s common core was the Lost Cause. And it will come as no surprise that this vigorous propaganda effort was accompanied by the construction of many of the Confederate monuments that have dotted the Southern landscape since.

While it’s safe to assume that most contemporary historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction are of similar minds about Rutherford and the Lost Cause, it’s also true that one of the most fascinating aspects of African American studies is the rich history of debate over issues like this, and especially over what it has meant—and continues to mean—to be “Black” in a nation with such a long and troubled history of human slavery at the core of its economic system for two and a half centuries.

Gates spent little time discussing anything DeSantis has actually said about the AP course. Instead, he went on and on, then on and on, about a turn of the (last) century pro-slavery figure—all this as part of giving DeSantis the benefit of the doubt!

The analysts were crying and tearing their hair as they read the column. Sadly, we're forced to say that we understood. 

Professor Gates is plainly a good, decent person, but we're not sure we've ever seen such an obvious application of McCarthyism in the past many years. Eventually, a very good person offered this undisguised tribute to that famous tactic:

GATES: Is it fair to see Governor DeSantis’s attempts to police the contents of the College Board’s A.P. curriculum in African American studies in classrooms in Florida solely as little more than a contemporary version of Mildred Rutherford’s Lost Cause textbook campaign? No. But the governor would do well to consider the company that he is keeping. And let’s just say that he, no expert in African American history, seems to be gleefully embarked on an effort to censor scholarship about the complexities of the Black past with a determination reminiscent of Rutherford’s. While most certainly not embracing her cause, Mr. DeSantis is complicitous in perpetuating her agenda.

Is it fair to fashion DeSantis this way? No, the professor sad. 

Still, "the governor would do well to consider [the things we're going to say]."  At deeply fraught times like these, that's what the good people say!

For ourselves, we wish the professor would cut it out with his "your [one] tenth great grandfather" framework. That said, Professor Gates is a very high-caliber person. For that reason, we'd have to say that a lesson lurks in the essay he wrote.

According to experts, we tend to turn, at times of extreme polarization, to the model of enemies / friends. We praise blue states for vastly belated performative acts in the wake of George Floyd's brutal death, and we offer accounts of what the Others are doing which may be somewhat slanted.

We may even seem to suggest that lesser beings like the nation's governors have no business "policing [us] historians." Let us experts serve as your philosopher kings, such experts have sometimes said.

"We must not be enemies," Lincoln said. Dr. King, but also Mandela, later said much the same thing.

Respect for Others is a culture. Back in 1865, a vicious lack of respect came along and stole one life away.

BREAKING: A minor delay is afoot!


For that reason: A bit of a delay is afoot. For that reason, we won't be posting until this afternoon.

The Florida gang that can't blunderbuss straight!


In search of The Stop WOKE Act: We sometimes think of the Ron DeSantis administration as the gang that can't blunderbuss straight.

The bluster is general; the clarity is quite hard to find. Some will say that the incoherence is a political strategy. We'd quickly add that the mainstream press corps doesn't seem to notice the incoherence, or perhaps doesn't seem to mind.

For a maddening example of what we mean, return with us to Hannah Natanson's recent report in the Washington Post about the four heroic blue states which "have [recently] passed laws requiring instruction on Black history." 

The report appeared last Monday. Natanson started like this:

NATANSON (2/13/23): Even as lessons on Black history draw complaints from Republican governors, who argue the instruction is ideological, several blue states are moving in the opposite direction—mandating classes in African American, Latino and Puerto Rican studies—and setting up a uniquely American division over how we teach our past.

Since 2019, partly in response to the murder of George Floyd, at least four reliably Democratic states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and Rhode Island—have passed laws requiring instruction on Black history...Connecticut’s law says African American, Puerto Rican and Latino studies must be included in the social studies component of all public school curriculums. Delaware’s mandates that school districts offer instruction on Black history. Maine’s says that African American studies and the history of genocide must be included in state testing standards. And Rhode Island’s orders schools to include a unit on African History and Heritage.

So began the news report. Three cheers for The Blue State Four!

When we read the report in real time, we thought that opening passage was perhaps a bit over the top. We had that reaction because the well-known state of Florida also has "passed laws requiring instruction on Black history," including one widely-ridiculed law which passed just last year.

Briefly, let's be clear! States can pass such laws all they like. It isn't automatically clear that such laws will be scrupulously observed within that state's public school districts.

Still and all, the state of Florida does have such laws on the books. Part of the text of last year's law reads exactly like this (link provided below):

Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:


(f) The history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present....

(g) The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society...

(h) The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of African Americans to American society.

That's right! According to this rarely quoted Florida law, educators in Florida's schools shall teach "the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society."

Also, "the civil rights movement to the present"—educators shall teach that too! 

Also, the history of the Holocaust, "taught in a manner that leads understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping." 

According to last year's law, these are some of the topics which shall be taught in the Florida public schools. For the record, there's more in last year's law where that type of material came from!

Did someone arrange to pass last year's law when DeSantis wasn't looking? Actually, no.

Actually, we're quoting from last year's "Stop WOKE Act," the childishly named Florida law which is often criticized but much less frequently quoted. In fairness to Natanson, she got around to mentioning Florida's (several) laws about teaching black history before her report was finished:

NATANSON: DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement that “it is both dishonest and incorrect for anyone to say Florida limits or prohibits the teaching of African American history”—but added that “Governor DeSantis will not allow ideologues to utilize black history as a vehicle for a political agenda in Florida’s classrooms.”

Griffin pointed out in an email that Florida teachers are already required by law to teach African American history, a requirement reinforced by one of the education bills the governor signed last year, called the “Stop WOKE Act.” In addition to prohibiting instruction that could make students feel “responsibility for ... actions committed in the past by other members of the same race," the act says teachers must discuss “the history of African Americans” and “the contributions of African Americans to American society.”

In the first part of that second paragraph, Natanson cites the Stop WOKE Act, saying it reinforces the pre-existing requirement to teach African American history. By our lights, she then goes on to misquote the Stop WOKE Act—though that's where the pair of problems with which we started this report come back into the story.

In the online version of her report, Natanson offers a link to the Stop WOKE Act. If you actually click the link—we'll assume that no Post reader ever did—it takes you live and direct to the remarkably mangled, unproofread legislative mess which you can peruse right here.

Readers, please understand! The Stop WOKE Act has been kicked around in blue tribe circles ever since it was passed last year. 

Given the notoriety of the Stop WOKE Act, you'd almost think that a clear and clean and proofread version of the law would exist somewhere. But as you can see if you click that link, the version to which Natanson links is an ungodly mangled and muddled mess—and we've never been able to find a cleaner version of the famous state law.

Perhaps in part because the document to which Natanson was forced to link is such a remarkable mess, she seems to have misquoted what the bill actually says. For today, we'll leave you with this clue:

The ellipsis which appears in Natanson's quotation is offered here as your clue. If you want to see the way these things work, it can guide you on your "quoted from the wrong section of the bill" treasure hunt.

The Stop WOKE Act has been discussed and discussed and discussed. For our money, we've routinely seen reporters and pundits seem to misdescribe its (admittedly murky) contents.

That said, we've never been able to find a clean version of the bill's text—and we've never seen a mainstream journalist call attention to this ridiculous state of affairs.

Can anyone here play this freaking game? Casey Stengel asked the question first, back when he was managing the hapless New York Mets.

Today, we ask his question again. We ask the question of the state of Florida's blunderbuss state government, but also of the mainstream reporters who seem to be perfectly willing to stumble their way through this partially novelized stew.

Full disclosure: Stengel once told our mother that he liked her because his wife's name was Edna too!

Also, Natanson went to Harvard. Come on, kid! Put it to use!

ENEMIES OR FRIENDS: Professor Lloyd has changed his view!


Tomorrow, Gates gone wrong: What are public school students being taught about our American history?

What are public school students in Florida being taught? How about in other states? What are they being taught in honors classes? What are the other kids being taught?

What are they taught about the history of the Americas before 1619, including the history of the Americas before European contact?  What are they taught about the brutal American history which was launched in the seminal year we just mentioned—"before the Mayflower," as a well-known book instructively fashioned it way back in 1962?

So many questions, so little time! Also, so little interest in anything but current tribal warfare! 

That said, we're going to make an admission! When we watched Joy Reid interview three Florida high chool students last week, we wondered how much they already know about American history.

Good God, that first kid was impressive! The transcript of her remarks on that day can't even begin to convey her seriousness, her impressive sense of purpose:

REID (2/15/23): So talk to me, Victoria, about the importance of taking AP classes and why you would want to take this AP African American Studies class.

MCQUEEN: AP [classes] have opened my eyes to an array of new information. When I took honors in middle school, and the friends I have in honors classes now, we go farther back in history, we go deeper into history. And if we had the option to take African American history at the AP level, we also would get that deeper knowledge that you don't get baseline, and that you have to find deep in the Internet to get that knowledge, because it's not easily accessible at our schools.

We were struck by Victoria McQueen's composure, by her seriousness of purpose. To see this exchange as it actually happened, you can just click here, then search on this student's name.

Still and all, we wondered how much McQueen and the other two students already knew about the frequently brutal history of our floundering nation. 

They want to take the College Board's new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies. We wondered about the amount of knowledge to which the contents of that AP course would be added. 

Along the way, we've also occasionally thought about the kinds of things, major and minor, which can (and sometimes do) go wrong at such well-intentioned moments like the moment we're currently in. 

It's true! Sometimes, things can (and do) go sideways at deeply fraught junctures like this. Below, we'll link you to an interesting account of one recent (and extreme) such episode. 

First, though, let's tip our cap to the College Borad once again, and let's look at an overview of their new AP course.

Once again, we offer three cheers—or possibly just two and a half—to the College Board. In the recent statement reported below, they wisely said that they have no intention of telling high school kids what they should think about the history in question:

MECKLER (1/19/23): Revisions [to the AP course] will be made based on early experience, and the course frameworks “often change significantly,” the College Board said...

The College Board statement said that the class does not aim to push any point of view and depends on students immersing themselves in primary sources.

“The course is designed to encourage students to examine each theme from a variety of perspectives, without ideology, in line with the field’s tradition of debates,” the College Board said. “Students will encounter evidence, weigh competing viewpoints and come to their own conclusions. AP students are never required to agree with a particular opinion or adopt a particular ideology, but they are expected to analyze different perspectives.”

More than two cheers for the College Board for advancing this basic notion. For the record, this is the current outline of the course's five segments, with much more detail available here:

Unit 1: Origins of the African Diaspora / ~8th century CE – 16th century CE
Unit 2: Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance / ~16th century CE to 1865 CE
Unit 3: The Practice of Freedom / 1865 – 1960s CE
Unit 4: Movements and Debates / 1960s – present
Course Project

A lot of ground will be covered, presumably including the meaning of the term "CE." That said, the outline suggests how much time should be spent on each of those five components, and the recommended allotments add up to 28 weeks.

That's much less than a full school year. People, we're just saying!

At any rate, a great deal of brutal and ugly behavior takes place in the history under review—certainly so from the start of the African Diaspora onward. These events can be fashioned a hundred different ways, depending on the wider contexts into which such events are placed.

(We well recall our fifth-grade students asking us the following question when the TV show Roots first appeared: How could people have been willing to treat other people that way? There's no perfect answer to such questions. That particular question can be answered in a variety of ways.)

As our current tribal warfare unfolds, we often see highly simplistic statements about the way such history should be taught, even to grade school students. Instead, we may be inclined to turn to the weapons of war, and those weapons include the rampant use of dumbnified talking points.

How should this brutal American history be taught to Advanced Placement students? Also, here's a question you'll never see asked:

How should this brutal history be taught to the vast bulk of our public school students—to the many good, decent kids who won't be in the honors or AP courses?

How should this history be taught in third grade, or to today's fifth grade students? Also, how should this brutal history be taught in line with the College Board's professed ambition—in line with its stated desire to let American high school students "come to their own conclusions" about the material involved in its new AP course?

We hope that kids, from the early grades on, are learning about the history of the Americas before 1492. From the early 1600s on, the project of presenting this history becomes a great deal more challenging—and yes, given the brutality of the history, things certainly can go wrong.

Things can go wrong in major ways. More commonly, things can perhaps go wrong in ways which may be more minor—but when we're engaged in a great tribal war, we may tend to rush past such matters. 

What can go wrong when we teach the truth? For one example of what we mean, consider the experience Professor Lloyd recently described in this essay for the online journal, Compact.

Who the heck is Professor Lloyd? You're asking an excellent question! In a recent interview with Lloyd for The Atlantic, Conor Friederdorf introduced him in the manner shown:

FRIEDERSDORF (2/17/23): Vincent Lloyd is a Black professor at Villanova University, where he directed the Black-studies program, leads workshops on anti-racism and transformative justice, and has published books on anti-Black racism, including Black Dignity: The Struggle Against Domination. Until recently, he was dismissive of criticism of the way that the left talks about race in America. Then he had an unsettling experience while teaching a group of high-school students as part of a highly selective summer program that is convened and sponsored annually by the Telluride Association.


Before, he had quickly rejected the linguist and social commentator John McWhorter’s argument that anti-racism is a new religion. “Last summer,” Lloyd wrote, “I found anti-racism to be a perversion of religion: I found a cult.”

For ourselves, we think McWhorter goes wildly wrong when he insists that "anti-racism" doesn't resemble a religion—when he says it literally is one. 

That said, Professor Lloyd may have gone McWhorter one better with his reference to a cult.

Friedersdorf didn't pull his capsule bio of Lloyd out of thin air. Here's the way Lloyd describes himself as he starts to present his account of a seminar he recently taught, or tried to teach, to some extremely high-powered high school students:

LLOYD (2/10/23): This might be just another lament about “woke” campus culture, and the loss of traditional educational virtues. But the seminar topic was “Race and the Limits of Law in America.” Four of the 6 weeks were focused on anti-black racism (the other two were on anti-immigrant and anti-indigenous racism). I am a black professor, I directed my university’s black-studies program, I lead anti-racism and transformative-justice workshops, and I have published books on anti-black racism and prison abolition. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood of Philadelphia, my daughter went to an Afrocentric school, and I am on the board of our local black cultural organization.

Like others on the left, I had been dismissive of criticisms of the current discourse on race in the United States. But now my thoughts turned to that moment in the 1970s when leftist organizations imploded, the need to match and raise the militancy of one’s comrades leading to a toxic culture filled with dogmatism and disillusion. How did this happen to a group of bright-eyed high school students?

In his lengthy essay, Lloyd describes the intervention of a charismatic young woman with very strong political views. She too was involved in this high-powered instructional program, and the role she played led Lloyd to revise his prevailing views:

LLOYD: The feature of a cult that seems to be missing from this story is a charismatic leader, enforcing the separation of followers from the world, creating emotional vulnerability, and implanting dogma. Enter Keisha. A recent graduate of an Ivy League university, mentored by a television-celebrity black intellectual, Keisha introduced herself as a black woman who grew up poor and “housing vulnerable,” whose grandmother’s limbs had been broken by white supremacists, and who had just spent four years of college teaching in prisons and advocating for prison abolition. She told the class that she had majored in black studies, had been nurtured by black feminists (though her famous mentor is a man), and she was planning to devote her life to transforming the academy in the direction of black justice.

According to Lloyd's account, things went aggressively sideways from there. The experience led him to think of that moment in the 1970s "when leftist organizations imploded."

Very few students who take the AP history course will have the kind of extreme experience Lloyd describes in his essay. Quite possibly, no one will!

That said, the current discussion of the new AP course pays little attention to the various ways instruction in such difficult historical material can perhaps go slightly sideways, or can even go somewhat wrong. 

Instead, the discussion tends to go sideways itself, condemning our adult citizens—and our high school students—to barrages of tribal talking points and to reams of name-calling and insults. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our current discussion of this topic is nothing to write home about. And now, they've even got Professors Gates! We'll examine that improbable statement tomorrow.

"We must not be enemies," one president said. Also, and to state the obvious, Professor Gates is a good and decent person. In what possible way could a person like him have gone wrong?

Tomorrow: Gates discusses DeSantis

Carville cancels the concept of woke!


Renounces past use of the N-word: Parker and Goodwin begin their report with a germ of a semi-valid point.

In print editions, their report appears on the front page of this morning's Washington Post. Within the sprawling online Washington Post, their report is quite hard to find.

The scribes begin with the germ of a valid complaint. They start with Ron DeSantis, then continue from there:

PARKER AND GOODWIN (2/22/23): Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a likely 2024 presidential candidate, used his January inaugural address to warn of “the woke mob” and its “woke ideology.”

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, recently released a statement blaming the military’s recruitment challenges on “the Left’s culture wars” and a “woke agenda.”


...Republicans have alighted on a strategy of decrying the dangers of “wokeism” and all things “woke”—catchall terms they have weaponized to include a host of liberal policies and positions they don’t like.

The concept has already enmeshed itself in the 2024 presidential race, with declared and potential Republican candidates deploying the phrase to attack what they view as wayward leftist ideology.

Republican politicians and voters alike have differing definitions of wokeism—and some struggle to define it at all. 

The headline on the analysis piece helps define the reporters' claim:

Republicans use ‘wokeism’ to attack left—but struggle to define it

Is that true? Do major Republicans have a hard time defining such terms as "woke" and "wokeism?" 

We'd have to say that the claim is less than completely convincing. In fairness, the reporters do manage to quote a bunch of Republicans denouncing "wokeness," "wokeism" and "woke agendas."

It's much less clear that major figures don't know how to define such terms—and rather quickly, the reporters stoop to the level of offering such tribal tapioca as this:

PARKER AND GOODWIN: “What we’re seeing is a kind of standard practice of conservatives and conservative reactions to Black political movements—to weaponize the words and concepts they’ve used to undermine efforts of social movements,” said Candis Watts Smith, an associate professor of political science at Duke University and co-author of “Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter.” “History shows that you can rally voters around issues of difference, issues that suggest that people are losing power, issues where their values are being challenged.”

Much like the “cancel” of “cancel culture,” “woke” is another word that originated in Black culture before being co-opted by White people. Some credit blues singer Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter for helping to popularize the term in his 1938 protest song, “The Scottsboro Boys,” in which he urges Black America to “stay woke” to social and political injustice as well as physical violence.

More recently, when conservatives began using “woke” in pejorative terms to undermine Black and liberal ideals, it was not an accidental choice, Smith said. “It’s important for us to remember that woke initially became a way to mean Black and to derisively refer to Blackness, and so to use this word that evokes Black folks or Blackness on other things kind of spills over,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a mistake.”

As it turns out, "woke" is just another word which has been "co-opted" by These White People Today! This is the kind of claim our tribunes are now prepared to recite as our tribe, and our struggling nation, slide toward the sea.

According to Professor Smith, "woke initially became a way to mean Black and to derisively refer to Blackness." Now, that derision has "spilled over," the professor says.

Truly, there's nothing our associate professors can say today that our journalists won't align with! Meanwhile, down in Florida, state senator Shevrin Jones—he's a good, decent person—has even taken to saying, to blue tribe acclaim, that "woke" is just "the new N-word."

They won't quote or repeat or affirm claims like that at the Washington Post! On "cable news," though, standards are different. Here is Jones, just last week, reporting this claim to Joy Reid:

JONES (2/15/23): I think we also got to be very clear that these words they're using—"woke," "indoctrination." And because they have dehumanized the word "woke," I have said that woke is the new N-word. 

REID: Yeah.

JONES: Because how they want us to look at it.

REID: Yeah.

 Senator Jones is a good, decent person. He's also fully sincere.

That said, the devolving Post is still too upscale to run with claims like that. The Post restricts itself to echoing the softer version of such emerging tribal scripts.

If a person says that someone is "woke," is that person simply using a new form of the N-word? Our tribe is now inventing such claims, in a way which starts to rival the conduct of red tribe leaders. 

BREAKING! The use of language evolves over time, and the use and meaning of the term "woke" have changed since the days when Leadbelly used it.

No, Virginia (and also, goodnight, Irene)! Wokeism isn't that hard to define, and it isn't a new version of the N-word. We know that because Parker and Goodwin eventually mentioned this:

PARKER AND GOODWIN: Some political operatives are skeptical that anti-wokeism will ultimately prove a successful messaging strategy for Republicans. James Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist, generated buzz early in Biden’s first year when, in an interview with Vox, he criticized Democrats for their “faculty lounge” politics and declared, “Wokeness is a problem, and we all know it.”

Now, however, he said an interview that “I don’t use the w-word anymore” — because it originated with Black Americans “and then overeducated White people ruined the word.”

Carville is one of the most important Democratic strategists of the modern era. As recently as 2021, he was declaring that “Wokeness is a problem [for Democrats], and we all know it.”

No, he wasn't subbing in for the N-word. Also, everyone knew what types of behaviors and policies he was talking about. 

Now, though, Carville has canceled the concept of "woke!" Even the Ragin' Cajun has decided to defer to new tribal talking points. He's now blaming this whole thing on These Overeducated White People Today.

Will anti-wokeism prove to be a successful strategy for Republican pols? We have no idea.

That said, everyone knows what people mean when they talk about "woke" behaviors. Whatever the term may have meant to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, today the term is a reference to certain types of overwrought and / or denunciatory conduct, generally in the realms of gender and race. 

Whatever your ultimate judgments might be, complaints about "woke" behavior do not automatically come straight outta Crazyland. Also, when Professor McWhorter complains about woke behavior, he isn't slickly employing an alternate form of the N-word.

Everyone knew what Carville meant when he criticized his party's growing "wokeness." Some people agreed with his critique, other people didn't—but that all happened as recently as the year 2021!

By now, the die has been recast, and "woke" is even being peddled as the new N-word. Its current usage isn't what Leadbelly meant by the term, and the Washington Post is willing to go along with such silly critiques.

We call them racists, they call us woke. This is the way a nation behaves when it's preparing for war.

Their tribe increasingly runs on Crazy. Has our tribe decided to run on Basically Just Kinda Dumb?

ENEMIES OR FRIENDS: Three cheers for what the College Board said!


At best, one cheer for Joy Reid: What should high school students be taught in our public school? What skills / attitudes / points of view should they be encouraged to develop?

You're asking an excellent question! At one point in the current scrum about its new Advanced Placement course, the College Board offered some good sound and excellent advice.

Three cheers for the College Board! In a news report in mid-January, the Washington Post's Laura Meckler reported something the Board had said:

MECKLER (1/19/23): Revisions [to the AP course] will be made based on early experience, and the course frameworks “often change significantly,” the College Board said. Details of the class will be posted for interested parties to see in spring 2024. It will be available to all interested schools beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.

The College Board statement said that the class does not aim to push any point of view and depends on students immersing themselves in primary sources.

“The course is designed to encourage students to examine each theme from a variety of perspectives, without ideology, in line with the field’s tradition of debates,” the College Board said. “Students will encounter evidence, weigh competing viewpoints and come to their own conclusions. AP students are never required to agree with a particular opinion or adopt a particular ideology, but they are expected to analyze different perspectives.”

Meckler provided no link to the text of that "College Board statement." She didn't explain the form in which the statement was made. 

That said, a similar outlook is described right at the start of the College Board's outline of its new course. You can find the relevant statements in the College Board's "What AP Stands For" section.

At any rate, three cheers for that College Board statement! 

The Board's new course is a yearlong course in African American Studies—a realm which will inevitably give rise to a wide array of competing opinions, judgments and outlooks.

In the statement Meckler quoted, the Board said that its AP course was not intended "to push any [particular] point of view" on any particular topic. Students would end up reaching "their own conclusions," based on the examinations the course had encouraged them to conduct.

Three cheers for the College Board for articulating that point of view! We human beings are strongly inclined to push our own points of view on others. This can be especially true when adults encounter younger people.

We Adults Today! Consider what happened when Joy Reid interviewed three Florida high school students last week.

On February 15, Reid was broadcasting her program, The Reid Out, live and direct from Florida. On that day, she devoted her entire hour to the raging debate about the Board's new AP course.

Early in the hour, she spoke with three Florida high school honors students. According to Reid, the students had been selected to be lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Governor DeSantis, if the current dispute within their state should end up coming to that.

Below, you see the first Q-and-A in this interview segment. As we watched Victoria McQueen speak, we marveled, as we often do, about where such impressive young people can possibly come from:

REID (2/15/23): So talk to me, Victoria, about the importance of taking AP classes and why you would want to take this AP African American Studies class.

MCQUEEN: AP's have opened my eyes to an array of new information. When I took honors in middle school, and the friends I have in honors classes now, we go farther back in history, we go deeper into history. And if we had the option to take African American history at the AP level, we also would get that deeper knowledge that you don't get baseline, and that you have to find deep in the Internet to get that knowledge, because it's not easily accessible at our schools.

We were impressed by this young person's composure and sense of purpose. You can watch this exchange, and those that followed, just by clicking here.

At this point, Reid turned to Juliette Heckman, the second student on her panel. Reid is a good, decent person, but this is what she said:

REID (continuing directly): And Juliette, you know, Governor Ron DeSantis ostensibly is trying to protect you from that class. (Reid's emphasis.) Because he is concerned that if you, as a, you know, young white woman in America, were to learn about the horrors of slavery, for instance, or sort of, you know, the horrors of redemption after Reconstruction, that somehow that would make you uncomfortable, and he has decreed that to be illegal. 

How do you feel about that? Does it make you uncomfortable to learn the sort of difficult parts of American history?

Reid wasn't cast in the role of a teacher here. She was working in the more familiar role of a "cable news" provider of scripted talking points.

That said, that was exactly the way we wouldn't want a history teacher to interact with a high school student:

Reid started by telling Heckman what her relevant identity is. She then churned a bunch of debatable and / or inaccurate talking points. After describing the state of the world, she finally gave Heckman a chance to speak.

We're sorry, but no. In our view, it's hard to justify the (very familiar) claim that DeSantis has decreed it illegal to discuss something in public schools which might make a young white woman uncomfortable. 

That's a standard talking point, one which makes our blue tribe cable crowd glad. But according to the College Board, that is exactly the sort of claim which AP students should be led to evaluate on their own, without some adult telling them what they're expected, required or instructed to think.

Reid went straight to the role of telling a teenager "who she is" and what she's expected to think. This is what teachers shouldn't be doing, according to the College Board and according to everyone here.

Where do these questing young students come from? Also, how do they turn into the adult reciters of standardized points we see within our current warring tribes?

In part, the transition is caused when an endless succession of cable town criers bark out the requisite talking points of one of our warring tribes. With that in mind, we wish the College Boatd went farther than it currently does as it says that AP students shouldn't be told what they should think about particular issues.

(We wish the Board would even say something like this: Students will be encouraged to understand there will always be competing points of view, even within their own age cohort and perhaps within their own circle of friends, about the topics they will examine during their AP courses.)

By just her second exchange with these students, Reid was churning standardized points. In fairness, she's paid to do that every night when she speaks with other adepts on our blue tribe's cable channel. 

It may not have occurred to her that she ought to have a bit more respect when she speaks with high school students—that the nation's sons and daughters should be beyond her command.

Joy Reid is a good decent person, but she's also a person person. According to experts, we humans are strongly inclined to divide into tribes, then to develop and recite strings of approved tribal dogmas and scripts.

Sure enough! Confronted with a trio of honors students, Reid couldn't get through her second question before she reverted to standard corporate "cable news" form.

It's often (not always) horrible on the red tribe's cable news channel, but it's often quite bad on our own. On our blue tribe cable channel, you'll never hear a dissenting voice or discouraging word from "our favorite reporters and friends!"

We wondered if those high school students actually know each other. Two were "black" and one was 'white." We wondered what relations were like between These Black and White High School Students Today in Florida's AP courses.

We also wondered what things were like among the larger number of kids, black and white and everyone else, who aren't enrolled in Advanced Placement or honors classes. There are a million things we'd like to hear from These Honor Students Today, but Reid ran straight to her mandated points, after telling Heckman how she fit into the picture based on her "identity" as Reid was prepared to define it.

So it goes in the human world as our current war drags on. And by the way:

Concerning that one talking point, three cheers for Laura Meckler! We cheer her for an extremely unusual thing she did in that Washington Post report.

Good lord! She actually quoted part of the law concerning the alleged fear that These Young White Women might feel uncomfortable in their history classes. Instead of churning a paraphrase, she quoted part of the Florida law:

MECKLER: Florida’s legislature has enacted laws limiting how teachers can talk about subjects including race. A measure signed last spring, for instance, seeks to ensure that students are not made to feel guilty for racist acts carried out by others. “A person should not be instructed that he or she must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part,” the law states.

As you can see, that highlighted statement differs from Reid's pleasing paraphrase of the relevant law. The difference extends on from there.

That said, cable news is designed to bring viewers back for more, and our blue tribe is happy with the paraphrase we have chosen.

"We must not be enemies," one president said. "We are not enemies, but friends." 

Do those Florida high school students have friends who may hold different beliefs? Among their rising generation, is that sort of thing possible? 

We would have liked to see Reid ask. Instead, it seemed to us that she stayed in a familiar lane.

Tomorrow: Skip Gates and Ron DeSantis!