Maddow in the "killing" fields!

SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 2017

We have no fish today:
Initially, we planned to return today to Monday evening's Maddow Show—specifically, to the remarkable way the program doctored a statement by Jeff Sessions.

Last Thursday, April 13, the program had played the same game. We discussed this rather obvious con in last Saturday's post.

This Monday, April 17, the program did it again. We'd have to say that Session's statement was doctored even more aggressively on this second occasion.

We'd even have to say that Monday's program introduced a striking new form of the "Maddow edit!" Also, and alas, the con was delivered this time around by guest host Joy Reid.

Reid is much, much smarter than this. But as we've long suggested, everyone who draws outsized pay from "cable news" ends up playing these cable news games.

Watching Maddow's show last night, we decided to change today's topic. We decided to discuss Maddow's propagandistic, uninformative trip to the "killing" fields.

Sadly, MSNBC hasn't produced a transcript for last night's program. And we don't plan to depress ourselves, at this time, by returning to Monday night's con.

That said, the Maddow Show is an endlessly devolving con which feeds on liberal brain cells. Watching its host perform last night, we thought again of the description she gave, a few years back, of her own emotional problems.

To our eye, Maddow seemed to be struggling last night, in a way you never want a person to struggle. But her work this week has been very poor. Liberal brain cells die each time this car salesman goes on the air.

We promise! We'll take you to the "killing" fields at some future date. We'll show you what this program's writers made Reid say Monday night.

We just don't want to do those things today. Our culture is in a downward spiral, and it seems to us that Maddow is central to this dangerous state of affairs.

On Monday, we plan to start an award-winning series, "The Music Men." Maddow is part of this upscale assemblage, but we plan to start somewhere else.

Finally, a chance for a last bit of fun as we all await you-know-who's war!

To us, these critiques seem fair: This morning, we stumbled across this Heat Street report, and on this Hot Air comment about it.

It seem to us that these critiques are probably on-target. Maddow strikes us as a struggling soul. Her program strikes us as a highly unhelpful, uninformative pseudo-progressive mess.

EMBRACE OF HATE: Loss of empathy for Those People!

FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

Part 5—Loss of our brains and our souls:
In her column in last Friday's New York Times, Professor Fels described the varied effects of political hate.

What are the motives of "people who hate?" How are such people affected by their loathing of The Others? Today, we'll think about one possible motive, and about one effect:
FELS (4/14/17): The point is to hurt and humiliate. Those who hate want to make the objects of their hate suffer as they have. It is this that makes the attacks so personal and lends them their crude, violent and often sexual nature. The intent is not to challenge opposing beliefs but to destroy those who hold them.

[...]

People who hate can blame others for their losses, reducing doubts about their own inadequacies.

Hate converts a sense of helplessness into one of action. It can even be the impetus for the formation of new communities in which people share grievances and plans for retribution, relieving their sense of isolation or powerlessness. As a consequence, though, there’s a loss of empathy, and beliefs become simplified and rigid.
When we liberals swallow the type of stew served by Amanda Marcotte this week, we're being taught to hate. For background, see yesterday's award-winning report.

Let's start with that one possible motive. Does our gulping of this stew allow us to "blame others for [our] losses, reducing doubts about [our] own inadequacies?"

It's hard to know how to answer. On the whole, we'd say that we liberals are too clueless, at this point in time, even to consider the possibility that Candidate Trump's win last year reflects in some way on Us—on "our own [massive] inadequacies."

We're just too dumb to see things that way. But good God! Our tribal inadequacies are comically endless. Consider another recent piece which appeared in the new, improved tribal Salon.

In the piece, David Masciotra reviewed an embarrassing new book. Masciotra's review appeared beneath these thrilling headlines:
Hillary hatred, exposed: What drives America’s never-ending case against Clinton
Susan Bordo's "The Destruction of Hillary Clinton" is a vital but incomplete look at her strange political life
Could the ineptitude of our tribe be put on more vivid display?

Hillary Clinton has been demonized, in ludicrous ways, over the course of the past twenty-five years. Now that it's officially too late, our pitiful tribe has somehow managed to cough up a book which explores, or pretends to explore, these decades of demonization.

Could any political group or tribe be more hapless than this? Our biggest corporate stars—think TV's Rachel Maddow—have repeatedly run and hid in the woods rather than confront this phenomenon. Our biggest stars—think Rachel Maddow—report their admiration for their "dear friend," Chris Matthews, one the greatest and most misogynistic demonizers of Hillary Clinton over those many long years.

We liberals just sit there and take it! And now that it no longer matters, as if to amuse the gods on Olympus, a book has appeared which claims to discuss this phenomenon. In a similar vein, we liberals started our "resistance" against Trump on January 21, 2017—exactly one day too late.

We had twenty-five years to get off our ascots, stand on our hind legs and fight. We rose in opposition, and staged our march, exactly one day after Trump took office! (Because we can't stop praising ourselves, we've dubbed our pushback "the resistance.")

Truly, we must be the least competent bunch that ever drew breath on the earth. Despite this rather obvious fact, our tribal propaganda is replete with the claim—see Marcotte's report—that We are the very smart people, while The Others, the ones Over There, are "low information voters." Has any group, of any type, ever been more obnoxious than We?

On balance, The Others are low-information, of course—but We Over Here are worse. We're stupid and venal and nobody likes Us. We're also too dumb to understand these patterns. For that reason, there's no obvious way in which, in our gulping of hate, we're trying to cover the fact of our own inadequacies.

We liberals are tremendously dumb. But we're too dumb to know it.

On balance, how dumb are We in the end? Let's consider what Fels said about the "loss of empathy" which obtains among "people who hate."

At this point, lack of empathy for The Others is virtually our tribal calling card. We can't "feel the pain" of a 59-year-old woman who can't afford to go to the doctor. (Reason: she's rural, Southern and white.)

In a similar vein, consider a second book review, a piece by Jennifer Senior in yesterday's New York Times.

In our view, Senior has done tremendous work in this new role at the Times. In her review, she praises Amy Goldstein's new book, Janesville: An American Story.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Goldstein's book concerns Janesville, Wisconsin, Speaker Ryan's home town. As every good pseudo-liberal will know, this will likely let us smirk and snark about the ways of Those People, whose votes for Candidate Trump last November Marcotte so deftly "explained."

As we noted yesterday, Wisconsin was one of the midwestern states Marcotte sought to explain. Why did voters turn to Trump last fall, flipping these states from blue to red and sending Trump to the White House?

According to Marcotte, it was their "blatant racism" which led them to do it, full freaking tribal stop. When we liberals indulge our hate, this is the only answer we currently know. It's our answer to every question!

Before we look at Senior's review, a word about Janesville, Wisconsin. According to the leading authority, Janesville is "the county seat and largest city of Rock County and the principal municipality of the Janesville, Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area."

As of 2010, Janesville's population (63,575) constituted about 40 percent of Rock County's population. And good lord! Rock County supported Clinton over Trump by a significant margin last year:
Rock County, Wisconsin, 2016 election
Clinton: 51.7 percent
Trump: 41.4 percent
By Marcottian analytical standards, this might mean that we can't blame Rock County, or presumably Janesville, for what happened last year. Except uh-oh! Clinton ran five points behind Senate candidate Russ Feingold in Rock County last November—and this is the way the county voted in 2012:
Rock County, Wisconsin, 2012 election
Obama: 61.0 percent
Romney: 37.8 percent
Oof! Clinton ran more than nine points behind Obama. As such, Janesville seems to have been part of the general pattern across Wisconsin in which Clinton significantly underperformed Obama, producing a narrow statewide loss.

According to Marcotte, voters supported the black Democrat in 2012, then dumped the white Democrat in 2016, because of their "blatant racism." As noted above, this has become the only story our own tribe knows how to tell.

This brings us back to Senior's review of Goldstein's new book. Why might people in Janesville have flipped to Trump last year?

In our view, a vote for Trump represented an act of bad political judgment. But why might other people have judged it differently, as they're allowed to do?

Goldstein's book examines what happened in Janesville after General Motors closed a plant in 2008. Massive dislocation ensued. We'll let Senior tell it:
SENIOR (4/20/17): “Janesville” joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis.

The characters are especially memorable. This may be the first time since I began this job that I’ve wanted to send notes of admiration to three people in a work of nonfiction.

[...]

[P]erhaps the most powerful aspect of “Janesville” is its simple chronological structure, which allows Goldstein to show the chain reaction that something so calamitous as a plant closing can effect. Each falling domino becomes a headstone, signifying the death of the next thing.

Because the G.M. plant closes, so does the plant at the Lear Corporation, which supplied it with car seats and interiors. Because so many in Janesville are now out of work, nonprofits lose board members and contributions to local charities shrivel. Because their parents are out of work, students at Parker High start showing up for school both hungry and dirty. A social studies teacher starts the “Parker Closet,” which provides them with food and supplies. (Deri Wahlert: She’s one of the people to whom I’d like to write a fan note.)

The fabric of hundreds of families unravels, as an itinerant class of fathers—“Janesville Gypsies,” they call themselves—start commuting to G.M. factories in Texas, Indiana and Kansas, just so they can maintain their wage of $28 an hour. Those who stay home invariably see their paychecks shrink drastically. One of the men Goldstein follows, Jerad Whiteaker, cycles through a series of unsatisfying, low-paying jobs, finally settling in one that pays less than half his former wage and offers no health insurance. His twin teenage girls—to whom I’d also like to send awed notes—share five jobs between them, earning so much money for their family that they compromise their eligibility for student loans.

You will learn a lot about the arbitrary rules and idiosyncrasies of our government programs from this book. They have as many treacherous cracks and crevices as a glacier—and offer about as much warmth.
As has been widely noted, Candidate Clinton never campaigned in Wisconsin. Candidate Trump kept telling the victims of such dislocations that he was aware of their plight, and that he would be able to help them as president.

In our view, people who believed Trump's representations likely made a bad judgment. That said, they're nowhere near as dumb as we liberals are when we swallow ridiculous hate-driven essays such as Marcotte's latest.

Senior's review lets us examine our values. Are we able to empathize with people affected in the manner described? Are we able to understand that people can make judgments we consider faulty without necessarily being the most evil persons on earth?

Are we able to consider the lives of real people? Are we more than four years old?

We liberals get conned by our own big corporate stars every day. Are we able to live in a world where other people may get fooled by con men in different ways?

More and more, we liberals are unable to so such things. We're stupid and ugly and nobody likes us. But we're so sure of our manifest brilliance that we just keep pouring it on.

Tomorrow: The Maddow Show plays us again!

EMBRACE OF HATE: Amanda Marcotte explains The Others!

THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2017

Part 4—"Blatant racism" decried:
Near the end of last Friday's op-ed column, Anna Fels described the type of world which gets created by "people who hate."

In our view, there's a lot to ponder in her portrait. The professor says, correctly we think, that such conduct is "on the rise:"
FELS (4/14/17): The point is to hurt and humiliate. Those who hate want to make the objects of their hate suffer as they have. It is this that makes the attacks so personal and lends them their crude, violent and often sexual nature. The intent is not to challenge opposing beliefs but to destroy those who hold them.

[...]

People who hate can blame others for their losses, reducing doubts about their own inadequacies.

Hate converts a sense of helplessness into one of action. It can even be the impetus for the formation of new communities in which people share grievances and plans for retribution, relieving their sense of isolation or powerlessness. As a consequence, though, there’s a loss of empathy, and beliefs become simplified and rigid.

All this may help to explain why hate and its retributive punishments are on the rise. In a way, hate functions like a Geiger counter, signaling where there are serious disruptions of the social fabric or where cultural beliefs are under the most stress—whether it be from a new awareness of inequality, diversity or the radical redefining of gender.
Fels' portrait is well worth considering. First, though, let's consider two weaknesses in that passage.

Fels says her portrait "may help to explain why hate and its retributive punishments are on the rise." We don't know why she says that. We see Fels make no attempt to explain why political hate would be more attractive now than at some earlier point.

That strikes us as an obvious weakness in Fels' passage. For a second weakness, consider her examples of the places where "cultural beliefs are under the most stress," thus giving rise to political hate.

According to Fels, cultural beliefs are under the most stress in three areas. Cultural beliefs are being put under most stress by "a new awareness of inequality," by "diversity" and by "the radical redefining of gender."

Presumably, culturally beliefs are being put under stress in all three ways. But let's note an obvious point: in all three instances, Fels describes types of cultural stress which are being felt "on the right."

In all three instances, Fels thereby suggests that political hate is on the rise among Those People, the conservative folk Over There. She imagines no ways in which political hate might be on the rise among Us, the intelligent, well-meaning, wonderfully nuanced liberal folk Over Here.

Does this reflect a "bias" on Fels' part? It's hard to answer such questions. For today, let's restrict oursleves to a thought experiment, in which we ask such questions as these:

Is it possible that political hate is on the rise Over Here? Is it possible that we liberals have been identifying "objects of hate" against whom we launch "crude attacks?"

Is it possible that we've been involved in "the formation of new communities" in which we "share grievances" about our objects of hate? In which we experience "a loss of empathy" for such targets? In which our beliefes "become simplified and rigid?" In which we get to blame The Others for our political losses?

Could that be happening Over Here? Consider yesterday's piece by Amanda Marcotte at the new and improved Salon.

Marcotte's piece appeared beneath a punishing headline. Even as it cited a "new analysis," it told a tribally pleasing story—a story we liberals get served every day:

"New election analysis: Yes, it really was blatant racism that gave us President Donald Trump"

It wasn't just racism which gave us President Trump. It was blatant racism, the pleasing Salon headline said.

Briefly, let's be fair. Marcotte never refers to blatant racism in her actual text. We'll assume the extra word was added by an editor at the new Salon, making Marcotte's essay more "simplified" and more "crude."

That said, it would be hard to simplify Marcotte's text more than Marcotte did. And since everyone who writes for Salon will know that its headlines are tricked up this way, we'll have to grant Marcotte an authorship share in the exciting headline which sat atop her text.

That said, let's turn to that text-in-itself. Is it true? Did "blatant racism" give us President Donald J. Trump in some definable way? To what extent can racism be blamed for his status at all?

Asking Marcotte to address such questions is a bit like asking Donald J. Trump to analyze the Bolshoi Ballet. At one time, Marcotte specialized in issues involving gender. In the past few years, she has begun to wrote about pure politics.

Her work tends to be extremely poor. Consider the way she starts this latest pleasing piece:
MARCOTTE (4/19/17): It’s worth remembering, particularly when the Hillary Clinton recrimination news cycle is in full swing, that Donald Trump is president today because of a margin of fewer than 80,000 votes spread across three states.

“The most important states, though, were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,”
Philip Bump in The Washington Post wrote in December. “Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively—and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes.”

Those three states, however, had been comfortably won by Democrat Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Much of the recent shift, however tiny, was due to slightly more white working-class voters voting Republican than before. This, in turn, has prompted an ugly and ongoing fight between two progressive factions: those who believe those voters were primarily motivated by a sense of economic insecurity and people who think the shift occurred because racist appeals are prompting more white people to vote for Republicans.
As is often the case with Marcotte's work, she starts with a bit of puzzling logic. She says, correctly, that Obama won the three midwestern states in question by "comfortable" margins in 2012. She then says that Clinton's loss of these three states was occasioned by a "tiny shift" in votes, "due to slightly more white working-class voters voting Republican."

As almost anyone can see, those conjoined claims don't exactly seem to make sense. It's true that Candidate Clinton lost those three states by narrow margins. (She lost Ohio by 8.1 points.)

But though the margins were tiny, the shifts in votes were not, given the size of Obama's wins in 2012. Here's the breakdown on Michigan in those two elections:
Michigan 2012:
Obama 2,564,569 (54.2 percent)
Romney 2,115,256 (44.7 percent)

Obama won by 9.50 points
(4.731 million votes cast)

Michigan 2016:
Trump 2,279,543 (47.5 percent)
Clinton 2,268,839 (47.3 percent)

Clinton lost by 0.2 points
(4.799 million votes cast)
Where Obama won by almost ten points, Clinton narrowly lost. This involved substantial shifts in votes, whatever the explanation for those shifts may be.

As with Michigan, so too with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Candidate Clinton lost those states by narrow margins, but she lost a lot of votes as compared to Obama's comfortable wins four years before. Meanwhile, here's how Ohio went down:
Ohio 2012 versus Ohio 2016:
Obama 2012: 2,827,709 (50.7 percent)
Clinton 2016: 2,394,164 (43.6 percent)
Obama won Ohio by 3.0 points in 2012. Four years later, Clinton lost the state by 8.1 points.

Candidate Clinton lost a lot of votes in these midwestern states in 2016 as compared to Candidate Obama in 2012. This leads us to our second question: how did those votes get lost?

This is where the "blatant racism" theory comes in. The "new analysis" to which Marcotte refers belongs to Sean McElwee, a scrub-faced recent college grad (Kings College, 2013) who is becoming the liberal world's go-to guy for "blatant racism" analyses.

For ourselves, we would be slow to assume the competence of McElwee's analyses. That said, here's how he analyzed the vote changes in these decisive states, at least according to Marcotte:
MARCOTTE: For people who pay close attention to politics, McElwee argued, it’s been clear for decades that Democrats have been more progressive than Republicans on the issue of racial justice. But for the less informed voters, the “election of a black president, the reaction to that and then the Trump campaign” made race and racism more salient as electoral issues than they have been in recent political memory. The result is that people with racist attitudes are rapidly shifting toward becoming Republicans, and people with more progressive views on race are flocking to the Democrats.

This, in turn, helps explain the small number of voters who voted for Obama once and maybe even twice but then turned to Trump. They may have initially perceived Obama to be “post-racial” candidate whose color was not important. But after years of racist vitriol aimed at Obama, as well as the increase in racial justice movements like Black Lives Matter, those voters have turned to more racialized thinking and flocked to Trump. The constant complaining of Trump supporters about the pernicious influence of “political correctness” also suggests this reading.
Inevitably, we're told that the decisive changes in votes came from "less informed voters." According to Marcotte's account, McElwee attributes the changed votes of these dunderheads to "race and racism," to their "more racialized [current] thinking."

Please note the apparent oddness of this one-size-fits-all analysis:

In 2012, the Democratic candidate was socially defined as "black." In 2016, the Democratic candidate was socially defined as "white." Why did the white candidate get substantially fewer votes than the black candidate had? Because of race and racism—indeed, because of blatant racism—we are now being told!

On its face, that analysis doesn't quite seem to make sense. Remembering that this is Marcotte's account of McElwee's position, let's consider the factors which are said to have accounted for the switches in votes:
Factors causing Clinton to lose votes in 2016, as compared to Obama in 2012:
1) The election of a black president
2) These voters' reaction to the election of this black president
3) The Trump campaign, approval of which seems to be read as racism, no explanation required
Does this analysis make sense? Remember, that "election of a black president" actually happened in 2008. We're now told that it explains the switch of votes away from a white Democratic candidate in 2016.

We're even told that the election of that black president, and the reaction to it, explains the anti-Clinton votes of people who voted for the black president in 2012! Does this highly simplistic theory actually make good sense?

Has Marcotte discovered that all those votes were lost because of "blatant racism?" Has she discovered that the white candidate did substantially worse than the previous black candidate due to that "blatant" cause?

Forgive us for making an unpleasant suggestion. Forgive us for suggesting that this may be the "crude" and "simplified" way we humans tend to reason when we launch campaigns against objects of hate.

Is Marcote's explanation "crudely simplified?" Consider all the possible reasons for Candidate Clinton's loss of votes she doesn't even seem to consider:
Possible factors unmentioned by Marcotte:
1) The fact that Clinton ran a lousy campaign
2) Twenty-five years of demonization aimed at Clinton, both by the "right-wing noise machine" and by the upper-end mainstream press
3) The intervention of James B. Comey (starting in July 2016, not just in October)
4) The intervention of Vladimir Putin
5) The ridiculous assurances of the Professor Wangs and their pundit enablers (i.e., the claim that Candidate Clinton couldn't possibly lose)
6) The possible role of sexism/misogyny!
Amazing, isn't it? Marcotte is so eager to push the "blatant racism" line that she doesn't even mention the possibility that the female candidate did worse than the previous male candidate because of sexism/misogyny, the topic she rode in on.

(We're instructed in Marcotte's opening sentence that we mustn't even consider the "Clinton ran a lousy campaign" explanation. See text above. You're looking at pure propaganda.)

Let's return to Professor Fels' presentation. Is it possible that Marcotte's piece can be seen as an example of the way political hate is "on the rise" in this country? Can it be seen as an example of the way political groups offer "crude" and "simplified" story-lines to attack the people they loathe?

Ever since November, this crude attack about "blatant racism" has been peddled wherever liberal story-lines are sold. Is it possible that this simplified account represents an attempt by our own liberal tribe to "blame others for [our] losses, reducing doubts about [our] own inadequacies?"

Could it be that this rather crude story-line "converts a sense of helplessness into one of action"—that it "can even be the impetus for the formation of new communities in which people share grievances and plans for retribution?" Is it even possible that this crude story about "blatant racism" involves our tribe is a "loss of empathy" for the people we're sliming in such crude, reductionist ways?

We'd say that all those things are possible—indeed, that they're happening every day. This helps explain why we swallow the idea that the white candidate underperformed as compared to the black candidate because of the "blatant racism" found Over There among The Others. Full and complete freaking stop!

In a fairly typical way, Fels could only see hate on the rise Over There, on the right. That said, we liberals are human too—human, if only just barely.

Tomorrow: The loss of empathy, combined with the rise of our own music men