Wingnut Whisperers

My sister from another mister touched on the Williamson firing at the Atlantic, but I thought I would add my two cents. I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this whole discussion by asking why we need more conservative voices to begin with. Conservatives currently hold the Presidency, the House, the Senate, right wing voices are dominant on the Supreme Court and should someone drop dead, even more so. They control the overwhelming majority of state legislatures and governor’s office, control AM radio, have their own national news network on television and via Sinclair are closing in on dominating local television, and this doesn’t even get into all the wingnut welfare ventures like Red State, the Daily Caller, Breitbart, the Federalist, and so on so forth. So it’s not like anyone in this country is missing out on hearing conservative viewpoints.

At any rate, Noah Berlatsky hada good piece the other day in the Huffington Post titled “Bad Ideas Aren’t Worth Debating“:

The issue is not left intolerance. The issue is that conservative intellectuals make bad, often nonsensical arguments, and spout opinions that are hateful and harmful on their face.

Nor is this a surprise, given the last several decades of American history. Anyone looking objectively at the GOP’s record in politics over the last 30-odd years would reasonably conclude that conservatism is a bankrupt and harmful ideology, built on bigotry and a fetishization of tax cuts for the rich. The previous Republican president, George W. Bush, presided over an unnecessary and catastrophic war, a horrifyingly incompetent hurricane relief effort, and a historic, devastating financial collapse. The current Republican president is an incompetent would-be authoritarian whose main accomplishments so far have involved empowering a fascist police force to harass and deport innocent people. The Republican Congress put forth incoherent health care plan after incoherent health care plan, before ramming through a similarly incoherent tax cut for the wealthy.

Conservatism in office has brought Americans war, financial disaster, misery, and rising fascism. Conservative pundits, meanwhile, write column after column propounding ill-informed, bigoted, and cruel solutions to problems that don’t exist, while denying the existence of real injustices and misery.

This is not some sort of coincidence. Conservative governance is a disaster because conservative thinking is bankrupt. Giving more space to conservative thinkers is not going to make our polity more diverse and vibrant. It’s going to fill our public sphere with prejudice and ignorance. Ibram X. Kendi challenges and enlightens. Kevin D. Williamson does neither of those things.

So not only are we deluged with conservative ideas, they’re usually bad ideas not even worth debating. Actually, they are pretty much always bad ideas. Actually, they’re not even ideas. Modern conservatism doesn’t have actual ideas, they have self-reinforcing belief systems, and feelings, and an ever shifting concept of us vs. them. They don’t actually debate whether climate change is worth dealing with, they just deny it’s happening or claim it’s made up and then bring snowballs into the well of the Senate to prove… I have no idea what they are trying to prove. And it’s like that with EVERYTHING.

I mean, name an actual new conservative idea from a prominent conservative intellectual in the last decade. Go ahead. Alright, now try to name a new conservative idea or approach from anyone. Yeah. You can’t. And there’s a reason for that- there haven’t been any.

For all the bluster about conservative intellectualism, there just isn’t really any. Hell, look at the role of George Will, David Brooks, Bret Stephens, etc. They aren’t thought leaders, they just try to put an intellectual veneer on the same old horseshit that comes seeping out of the stupid right. They’re wingnut whisperers. Human babelfish for rightwing babble. It’s why all they talk about is liberal intolerance or why every other column by Bret Stephens and Will is a weak jab at climate change. It’s quite literally all they have.

And if you look at it that way, I guess you can give Kevin Williamson some credit for calling black people primates and for lynching women who have abortions. While not new ideas in any sense of the term, they are new to mainstream publications, so there’s that.

Late-Night Lightweights Open Thread: Five Pounds of Manure in A Ten-Pound Sack

The Atlantic has hired Kevin Williamson away from the National Review, in further display of how Trumpism has exposed the bone-deep corruption of “conservative thinking” just as Trump has exposed the rot of modern Republicanism. For all his swashbuckling words, Williamson would never personally lynch a woman who’d had an abortion (or even her doctor) — for one thing, he hasn’t the ability even if he had the guts — but he’s diligently polished his persona as A Thinker Who Is Willing to Make the Bold Arguments…

Rob Beschizza, at BoingBoing:

I had a hunch: I thought (and said as much) that Williamson was hired explicitly because of what he had written about women, black kids and the poor. To well-off center-leaning liberals,[*] Williamson is the perfect post-Trump conservative: superficially literary, ostentatiously nasty, profoundly disgusted by the weak, yet (and this is super-duper important) opposed to the current president.

Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg explained… why he hired Williamson. Nailed it! Not only was Goldberg and The Atlantic aware of Williamson’s writing, they love it: “I recognized the power, contrariness, wit, and smart construction of many of his pieces. I also found him to be ideologically interesting”. Moreover, Goldberg was party to Williamson deleting his Twitter account, to ease his transition from the reactionary right to columnist at a liberal-ish magazine.

Goldberg’s rationale also makes clear something else, though: they (rather sanctimoniously) think that Williamson has “grown” beyond his National Review persona, and that his willingless to do so is part of why they hired him…
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Late Night Pavlov’s Dogs Open Thread: They’ll Believe What They WANNA Believe

Epistemic closure down at the blunt, encrusted end of the stick…

I actually posted an earlier version of this late last night, but quickly pulled it back, deciding the topic needed more thought. Today, Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post published a piece well worth reading. Sullivan is a professional ombudsman (IIRC, the one who got fired when the NYTimes decided it no longer needed the pretense of objectivity). The sliming of Parkland students shows the spreading stain of media polarization”:

“David Hogg Is A High School Bully,” was the headline of a blog post Erickson wrote soon after the shooting, referring to one of the student survivors who has become a leader in pushing for gun-control legislation. He didn’t mean Hogg was looting the lockers of his schoolmates, but, as the sub-headline claimed, “He is using his status as victim to inappropriately and ridiculously attack people while going unchallenged.”

This week, Erickson made it worse: He tweeted to his mass following what turned out to be an utter falsehood, based on an article on the RedState website speculating that Hogg may not have even been at school the day of the shooting.

He urged his audience to believe it, writing this “isn’t a fake news Gateway Pundit story.”

When that report was thoroughly debunked and RedState recanted, Erickson deleted his original tweet and posted an “update.” He did not apologize.

“I spread misinformation from someone that was credible,” Erickson told me by phone, praising the reporting of RedState writer Sarah Rumpf.

“But I didn’t double down on it, and that’s the difference between someone responsible and someone who’s not responsible.”..

Erickson’s actions matter because, despite his often extreme views, he’s seen as relatively moderate — someone who gets to offer platitudes about “healing” in the New York Times and whose comments get picked up — not as if they were the ravings of an Alex Jones, but as if he were a legitimate conservative opinion maker.

What we’re seeing here is a spreading stain, in which conspiracy mongering from the likes of Infowars and, yes, Gateway Pundit is adopted by some elements of the formerly mainstream right and peddled to a receptive audience softened up for decades by Fox News.

That kind of thing can happen on the extreme left, too, but not as regularly and not as virulently. (And it’s a truism that corrections and “updates” everywhere fail to get the visibility of the original misinformation.)

There seems to be no floor of indecency that we agree to stay above.

As Charlie Warzel, who covers “information wars” for BuzzFeed News, put it recently: Extreme partisanship — pro-Trump media as well as parts of the far left — “is not about intellectual courage. It’s about winning.”…

For the record, the original Redstate poster did apologize, in a long tweet thread…

… And Erickson really *is* the problem here; she’s a poster on a notoriously RWNJ blog; he’s now a Semi-Very-Serious Media Figure, who’s made his name out of clambering over the bones of left-wing “victims”…
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The Apocapeachment Will Be Televised!

Earlier this year, we cut the cable cord. My husband is thrifty (cheap!), and as we considered streaming TV options, he pushed for an inexpensive Sling TV package that includes CNN but not MSNBC. I agreed, figuring I could get my Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid fix online and watch CNN on TV for breaking news, even though CNN kinda sucks since it lards its panels with raving wingnut assholes in a futile attempt to avoid “fake news” and “liberal media” criticisms.

We don’t watch that much live TV anyway, so this arrangement worked — until yesterday. It was a big news day, and we were watching CNN’s coverage of the Bolton prepocalypse. Then, right in the middle of that, CNN aired an hour of Anderson Cooper interviewing a woman who is so goddamned dumb that she admits she slept with Donald Fucking Trump for FREE! An hour of this moron! On the day the demagogue in the White House appointed a noted Reichstag arsonist as nat-sec adviser!

After enduring half an hour of that agony — which was akin to listening to a punctured blow-up girlfriend lose air in response to vapid questions — I grabbed my phone and upgraded our Sling package to include MSNBC. It’s several extra bucks a month, but, as I told the mister, if we’re going to blunder into additional wars of choice (maybe with nukes this time!) and/or (please FSM) have an opportunity to view impeachment proceedings, I’ll be damned if I’m going to look at Jason Miller’s hideous ass-face during those momentous events.

At precisely 8:59 p.m. Eastern time, our package upgrade completed, and I switched to MSNBC just in time to see Maddow start her broadcast in front of a massive wall with all the names of departed Trump administration villains. Good Christ, how I’d missed her! I know we bitch about MSNBC around here a lot, but friends, it took going cold turkey for a few months to make me realize the value of that network. In our household, at least, the apocapeachment will be televised!

Open thread!

Post Hack, Ergo Propter Hack: R. Cohen Edition

It’s no easy feat to write the worst column on an op-ed page that includes the banal burblings of Megan McArdle, but Richard Cohen manages it at The Post today. It’s not that his thesis is completely wrong — it’s that the column is marred with Cohen’s trademark conceit and moral obtuseness, reminding readers yet again that The Post should have shit-canned this worthless hack ages ago.

The column is entitled “Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom.” That’s not an absurd supposition, and personally, I’m in favor of Trump’s political doom by whatever instrument. Al Capone, tax evasion, etc. But Cohen manages to be so self-regarding and priggish about the whole thing that I felt compelled to complain about it here.

Cohen begins by informing us that he was inspired to reread “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” because Hemingway’s protagonist, Harry, who dies from a minor scratch that becomes infected, reminds him (Cohen) of Trump, with Daniels in the role of the scratch. Having reminded us that he’s a literary guy, Cohen goes on to inform us that Daniels and Trump are a pair of self-promoting publicity hounds, which is superficially true but unfair to Daniels. He writes:

Sometimes, as with the Iran-Iraq War, it is hard to take sides. Here, too, it is difficult. Daniels, after all, is a porn actress. She directs and writes screenplays as well, but she is best known for having sex in the movies — turning what used to be called a romp in the hay into a payday. But, with the inadvertent cooperation of Trump and his band of merry incompetents, she now comes across as the victim.

Iran and Iraq? For fuck’s sake. Only someone as preening and morally obtuse as Cohen would find it difficult to choose a side in the Trump-Daniels saga, and there’s more than a whiff of entitled, misogynistic priggery in Cohen’s tone about how Daniels chooses to make a buck. She’s not a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue who has indelibly stained the honor of her country abroad while stoking divisions at home.

Daniels is not even a washed-up hack who inexplicably clings to a perch at the nation’s premier newspaper, hoovering up untold dollars that might otherwise go to younger, smarter and more diverse hires. It’s near libelous for Cohen to draw a moral equivalency between Daniels and Trump, and I apologize to Daniels for mentioning her in the same sentence as Cohen.

Anyhoo, I know many of you find rants about bad newspaper columnists pointless, and you’re probably right. But this is an open thread, so don’t feel obligated to discuss Richard Fucking Cohen. I’ll try to remember in the future that the less said about that bilious windbag, the better.

They Say You’d Better Listen to the Voice of Reason

As I prepare my next Classic Rock magnum opus, The Semiotics of An American Band: Poststructuralist Dialectical Narrative in the Music of Grand Funk Railroad (10,000 words, indexed and footnoted), I have a question for you. Do you listen to any political podcasts?

I would prefer to get all of my political commentary from just hitting refresh  and bathing in the fecund sea of witty commentary here at all day, but a fella’s got to go to work eventually. Here are the ones I listen to.


Woocast’s Politics and Polls: This is Sam Wang’s podcast and it is one of my favorites. Sam has always seemed like a likely reader of the constellation of blogs we all visit in common. Of all the commentators I can think of, he seems the least likely to go all soft and centrist on us. He and Julian Zelizer are pretty academic in tone. That doesn’t bother me. I like academics.

Five Thirty Eight Politics: Another good one. Fun, knowledgeable journalists from Nate Silver’s site. They try to focus on data and numbers with varying success. Nate Silver rightly decries punditry in all its evil guises…and with the next breath engages in punditry. His employees at 538 all seem to have a genial contempt for him, which makes me think he’s not so bad.

The National Security Law Podcast: This one gets super technical as one might expect from two law professors. Only about 1/4 of it is typically of interest or even comprehensible to me. But that 1/4 is pretty good!

The Lawfare Podcast: This is a mixed bag since they range over lots of topics. Some are good! Some are quite dull. They will platform some conservative viewpoints sometimes too. Mostly having to do with national security.

Rational Security: This is DougJ favorite Ben Wittes’s podcast. When he confines himself to his bailiwick, matters of national security, he is knowledgeable and clear. Great at explaining things and why they matter. When he strays from his realm he is less useful and very much given to smug centrism. Generally very good gender parity on this podcast. Tamara Coffman Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic are excellent. WaPo journalist Shane Harris emcees the proceedings and he is well on his way to becoming another irritating villager. At its worst, this show will feel like a high school lunchroom table filled with unappealing nerds.

Stay Tuned With Preet: Supposedly Preet Bharara has no ambition for higher office. This is his ambition. To be some kind of media person. This is a slick show that sounds like it wants to be on NPR. He has a warm, daddish manner and definitely has some insight into the Mueller investigation. Will fawn obsequiously over guests at times.

Pod Save America: Did you like the Obama approach to messaging? Because this is basically it. This is also a slick, well produced show. I don’t know if I would recommend it to anyone who reads The Blogs on the reg. I feel like it is pitched for those who are taking some tentative steps out of television news. I think younger people would like it too. The live shows I find unlistenable. This is true for any podcast. There’s something particularly irritating about hearing the superfans of a thing that you only like enough not to even pay for. Like suddenly finding yourself at an Alf convention. AlfCon 2018. This show also gets a little bro-y.

Before you explain to me how I have gone all wrong in my choices, please take a moment to consider giving to the fund that’s split between all eventual
Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

ETA: How the hell did I miss this? Thanks, Betty Cracker!

Late Night [FacePalm] Open Thread: How the NYTimes Writes About Donald Trump

‘Quaint Folk Customs Among Neighborhood Banditti’. Feel like I should’ve noticed this sooner. For all its global-paper-of-record pretensions, the NYTimes can be a very parochial rag:

With apologies to Tolstoy, happy families may all be alike, but the Gotti family has long been unhappy in its own particular fashion. For nearly half a century, that has involved the serial ordeal of men in the Mafia clan being sent to federal prison.

On Wednesday, John J. Gotti, the grandson of the infamous Gambino family don who shares his name, was sentenced to five years in prison, following in the footsteps of two of his uncles, two great-uncles and both grandfathers. For three generations, members of the gangland dynasty have been imprisoned for crimes that have included shaking down construction sites, murdering a mob boss at a steakhouse and trying to extort the action-movie hero Steven Seagal.

The crimes that led this latest Gotti scion to be sent away were, according to the government, also entangled in the business that has occupied the family almost since the start of the Civil Rights era. Last June, Mr. Gotti, now 24, pleaded guilty to torching the car of an unwitting motorist who made the mistake of cutting off an aging Bonnano family figure on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach, Queens. Mr. Gotti also admitted that two weeks after the road-rage episode, he and two associates — presenting a note that said they had a bomb — robbed $6,000 from a bank in Maspeth, Queens.

His sentencing, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, had the feeling of a familiar family dinner as several Gotti parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles converged on the eighth-floor courtroom, kissing each other’s cheeks and showing their support for the defendant. John A. Gotti, the son of the former boss (who was serving a life sentence for murder when he died in prison in 2002), embraced one of the court sketch artists with genuine affection, telling his younger relatives that the woman had not only covered his trials (plural), but had also covered “grandpa’s…

As long as the Gotti clan aren’t shaking down the NYTimes newsroom, shooting up hot new hipster-Brooklyn dining spots, trying to extort Lena Dunham, or torching the Uber carrying NYTimes employees from the newsroom to the latest chic outboro restaurant, it’s all fun mobster-movie escapades to the Timesmen assigning these stories.

And while Donald Trump was just another mobbed-up Queens arriviste, descending his golden escalator to brag about his vanity candidacy, the NYTimes simply could not take him seriously.

By the time Trump had broken out of his “amusing local gangster” role, either the people running the NYTimes were incapable of noticing the change… or cowed by the possibility that they’d been mistaken all along.

Of course, this puts them in the same position as the entire Republican party, so they’ve got that consolation. For what it’s worth.