FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2023
Home, home on the range: On Valentine's Day—this past Tuesday—one of our tribe's "most favorite" stars made an extremely dumb comment.
In fairness, her comment came in the form of a love letter to tribal belief. Speaking of the state of Florida's pushback against the College Board's original Advanced Placement course, the big star who once worked to outlaw same-sex marriage now piously told viewers this:
WALLACE (2/14/23): [DeSantis has] put out a narrative. So to counter a narrative, you have to aggressively put the facts out there.
But there's only one set of facts. There's only one history, and I wonder what you think threatens him about the one set of facts and the true history.
Presumably, Wallace is a good, decent person, but she's also perhaps been slightly "demagogue adjacent" throughout her substantial career. At present, she's loved by cable viewers of the blue kind because she's constantly sending us Valentines of that extremely dumb type.
Speaking of American history, or perhaps of African American history, Wallace said that "there's only one set of facts," and that "there's only one history!" The statement is amazingly dumb, but it helped drive the simple-minded approach to the world which tends to please cable news viewers.
Briefly, let's be fair. On the one hand, and in one sense, it could perhaps be said to be true that "there's only one set of facts."
That said, there exists an infinite number of ways you can select the set of facts you choose to report, or to include in a textbook. Similarly, there's an infinite number of ways you can shape your account of our (frequently brutal) American history.
The idea that there's "only one history" is just amazingly dumb. But so is much of the cable food product we blues get fed on our tribe's "cable news" channel—a channel whose organization recalls the old American song:
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
The lyrics track to Dr. Brewster Higley, a 19th century otolaryngologist. As a portrait of basic American culture, they remain apt today.
Sure enough! Across our blue tribe's cable prairies, discouraging words are seldom heard as our favorite (corporate) TV stars tell us the stories we like.
Carefully selected groups of "our favorite reporters and friends" rarely offer a contradictory word in the face of preferred Storyline supplied by their cable news hosts.
The skies are not cloudy all day long on our blue tribe's cable news channel! We get to hear the stories we like from our favorite multimillionaire stars.
No reporter or friend will ever suggest that the Others may possibly have some small/tiny, semi-valid point concerning some topic under review. Around the campfires of the Fox News Channel, the lunacy may during prime time be even worse.
Seldom is heard a discouraging word from our favorite reporters and friends! That said, uh-oh!
Yesterday afternoon, a storm cloud blew down from the mountains and began heading our way. Over at the New York Times, a new opinion column—by a self-described liberal, no less!—appeared beneath this puzzling headline:
DeSantis May Have Been Right
The column was written by John McWhorter, a Times "Opinion Writer."
McWhorter is an associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University. He's also the kind of professor you'll never see or hear on our blue tribe cable channel.
Professor McWhorter plainly isn't one of our favorite reporters and friends! Just for the record, he also isn't a fan of the Florida official whose name appears in that headline.
McWhorter isn't a fan of DeSantis. His thoroughly puzzling column started exactly like this:
MCWHORTER (2/16/23): In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced he would ban a draft curriculum proposed by the College Board for a new Advanced Placement course in African American studies, criticizing the educational merit of the course. This month the College Board released an official curriculum that revised the course by designating some of the writers and ideas in the draft curriculum as optional topics of study rather than core lessons.
The board claimed that the changes were responses to “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.” I am unconvinced, to say the least, especially given the degree to which the counsel of these “professors” was mysteriously consonant with DeSantis’s.
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...
Is John McWhorter allowed to say that? On blue cable, the answer is no!
For the record, McWhorter disapproves of the vast majority of DeSantis' culture war bombast. If we can believe a word McWhorter says, Ron DeSantis reminds him of a stopped clock!
That said, we'll guess that McWhorter would have snorted at Wallace's silly claim that "there is only one history."
Like everyone else, McWhorter isn't infallible, but he's a thousand times smarter than that. That is why you'll never see him on your favorite shows.
We're going to wrap it up quickly today, looking ahead to next week. But before we do, we'll make two important points.
First, we don't mean to denigrate all of the "favorite reporters and friends" you'll see on our tribe's cable shows.
In its endless dissection of the one theme it truly adores—Trump Trump Trump Trump, Trump Trump Trump Trump, Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail! —our cable channel has introduced some very sound legal analysts into the public discourse.
That includes some people who have vast experience and yet manage to be extremely disciplined in the things they say about our tribe's simple-minded desire to see Trump frog-marched to jail.
Some of our favorite friends are in fact very sound, but quite a few others are hacks. Seldom is said a discouraging word—and the skies are not cloudy all day!
John McWhorter isn't necessarily right in all his views and assessments. In our view, his writing isn't always perfectly clear, as we would like it to be.
That said, we think he offers some good sound advice in this latest column. His advice concerns a rather simple-minded distinction—the age-old, frequently overlooked distinction between opinion and fact.
We think McWhorter's column offers some good advice. Everywhere else we look, we see an American rampage as our antelope-denuded prairies fill with warring groups.
Those warring groups are inclined to behave as warring groups always have. In a column in Sunday's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof went anecdotal with an account of ridiculous tribal behavior from a less polarized time:
KRISTOF (2/12/23): I spent much of the 1980s and 1990s as a New York Times correspondent in East Asia, and children there (including mine) learned to read through phonics and phonetic alphabets: hiragana in Japan, bopomofo in Taiwan, pinyin in China and hangul in South Korea. Then I returned with my family to the United States in 1999, and I found that even reading was political: Republicans endorsed phonics, so I was expected as a good liberal to roll my eyes.
The early critique of phonics in part was rooted in social justice, trying to address inadequate education in inner cities by offering more engaging reading materials. The issue became more political when the 2000 Republican Party platform called for “an early start in phonics,” and when President George W. Bush embraced phonics with a major initiative called Reading First.
For liberals, Bush’s support for phonics made it suspect...
Did we liberals really behave in so foolish a way? If you think that can't be true, "Who's being naïve now, Kay?"
Next to Kristof's column that day, a second column appeared. This column was written by Jamelle Bouie, and as with Kristof, so too here:
In our view, Bouie is sharper than the average mainstream press bear. We base this assessment on TV viewing and newspaper reading, and on things that the gods have said.
Bouie is a good, decent person; he's also perfectly sharp. That said, we thought we saw a tribal Otherization forming at the start of his piece. We thought we saw an ancient impulse—the tendency to believe that only Our Tribe can ever have a valid point of view on a matter where feelings are strong.
According to this ancient impulse, almost as if by definition, the Others are plainly all wrong, and this means that they're very bad people.
In yesterday's thoroughly puzzling column, McWhorter says that a certain stopped clock may have gotten the Advanced Placement matter right. He even goes so far as to suggest that our tribe's highest ranking, official savants can sometimes be thoroughly human, just like everyone else:
MCWHORTER: Certain takes on race are thought of by an influential portion of progressive Americans—Black, white and otherwise—as incarnations of social justice. To them, our nation remains an incomplete project that will remain mired in denial until these ways of seeing race are universally accepted and determine the bulk of public policy...
I imagine that to people of this mind-set, incorporating these views into an A.P. course on African American studies is seen as a natural step, via which we help get America woken by appealing to its brightest young minds. But for all the emotional resonance, the savory intonation of key buzzwords and phrases and the impassioned support of people with advanced degrees and prize-awarded media status, views of this kind remain views.
To dismiss those in disagreement as either naïve or malevolent is unsophisticated, suggesting that racial enlightenment requires comfort with a take-no-prisoners approach and facile reasoning. Not even the tragedies of America’s record on race justify saying “I’m just right, dammit!” as if the matter were as settled as the operations of gravity.
Can it be—can it possibly be—that our tribe's most lauded professors can possibly be wrong, to some extent or in some way, in one of their Group Beliefs? Could they even be "unsophisticated" in their approach to some matter?
Dear reader! If you don't know that the professors can be wrong, we don't know where the heck you've been over the past few hundred years.
At any rate: Virginia, sadly no! There isn't "only one history," despite what Wallace said.
Everyone knows how silly that statement is, but no one said so on last Tuesday's show. It was Valentine's Day, after all! No discouraging words were allowed!
Our favorite reporters and friends seem to know the shape of the rules under which they're allowed to perform—how they're expected to show their love for the gigantic TV stars who just keep dumbing us down.
Coming next week: So much history, so little time!