Why won’t the Times report Beastie Boy’s age!

SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2013

Overworked editor backslides: In late May, we swung into action. As always, we got you results!

At the New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan was turning into a cheerleader. When we noted this obvious fact, she authored two consecutive columns about substantive topics.

Sullivan’s hard-copy column only appears twice a month. But on June 2 and June 16, she tackled actual topics.

This morning, Sullivan backslides. Exhausted by two weeks of work, she seems to be saying, “No mas!”

Last Sunday, Sullivan offered no column. This week, she says she’s on a seasonal break.

Here’s how her column begins:
SULLIVAN (6/30/13): Taking a summertime break from the weighty issues of leaks, false balance and anonymous sources—to which I’m sure to return—I am again hanging out the public editor’s shingle. I will do my best here to answer what I call Perfectly Reasonable Questions from those who read The Times closely and with a critical eye.
Is Sullivan taking “a summertime break?” We can’t say her statement is wrong.

Here’s the first of the Perfectly Reasonable Questions the public editor tackles today. She addresses three questions in all:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): Ira Stoll of Newton, Mass., a journalist who is a frequent Times critic, was one of many who wrote concerning an article in the Home section about a Brooklyn house owned by the musician Mike D of the Beastie Boys. The article included this sentence: “Mr. Diamond, who prefers not to give his age, now has two boys of his own, Davis, 10, and Skyler, 8, with his wife Tamra Davis, a filmmaker, who also prefers not to give her age.” Mr. Stoll noted: “Plenty of other people The Times writes about would prefer not to give their ages, but The Times either figures them out using public records and puts them in anyway, or just leaves them out rather than making a big fuss about it.” He wondered if this was a deal cut in exchange for being allowed in the house.
How old is the musician Mike D? And why did the New York Times let him dodge the question?

We’ll have to agree with Sullivan’s assessment—this isn’t a weighty issue. She wastes our time with two paragraphs on this lighter-than-air concern, then addresses another Perfectly Reasonable Question.

This question concerns the rules for talking to baseball players:
SULLIVAN: Steven Schechter of Brooklyn complained about an article on Ryan Braun, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers. “I was dismayed to see that the reporter, Tyler Kepner, discloses that he agreed to an interview that would only address baseball issues. Given that much of the article focuses on Braun’s alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, and a prior disputed test, it would have been enlightening to see questions directed at Braun. Is it typical or appropriate to agree to interviews where the interviewee sets conditions? That may be the norm with celebrities, but seems out of place in a news article, even one in the Sports section.”
In our view, Sullivan's answer, via sports editor Stallman, makes perfect sense. That said, did we mention the fact that Braun is a baseball player?

In her final Q-and-A, Sullivan tackles a rumor a reader heard about a restaurant review:
SULLIVAN: Tom Mehnert of Somers, N.Y., wrote to ask about the practices for Times restaurant reviews: “I had always assumed that the reviewer went in unannounced, quietly had several meals over a few nights and then did a review.” But recently, he said, he wondered about the review of a restaurant in Westchester after hearing discussion in the community that the staff might have known of the reviewer’s plan to come. “Is the process to give the restaurant advance notice, thus giving them the opportunity to ‘show their best,’ or was this an aberration?”
This reader heard a troubling rumor—we’re sorry, “a discussion in the community”—about a restaurant review. Sullivan answers his question this way—or rather, she fails to respond:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): Amy Virshup, who edits the Metropolitan section in which the review appeared, responded: “Just as with the reviews in the Dining section, our reviewers take pains not to identify themselves when they are reviewing.” A writer might call a chef or a restaurant for a feature article—“but never for a review.” Restaurants do get called to set up the photo shoot for the reviews, she said, but that doesn’t happen until after the reviewer has visited and formed his or her opinion.

I also asked the restaurant critic Pete Wells about his practices. He responded: “In a perfect world, restaurant critics would never be recognized and we’d get the same treatment as any other customer. In this world, that’s not always the case, but by reserving under another name we can at least keep the element of surprise on our side.”

Mr. Wells told me that this practice becomes habit after a while. “I’m never going to review my corner pizzeria, but I’ve given them a fake name when I’ve ordered a pie for my kids.”
How about it? Did the staff of the restaurant in Westchester know of the critic’s plan to come?

The public editor doesn’t quite say. But then, she framed the reader’s question to concern policy only.

It’s reassuring to see that some Times readers have little of consequence on their minds. It’s disappointing when summer breezes affect Sullivan the same way.

Special bonus submission: If Mike D really is 48, isn’t it time to adapt the old Carol Leifer “Beach Boys” joke?

At the Times, when will the Beastie Boys finally become the Beastie Men? Inquiring minds among Times readers have a right to know.

A massive improvement over last year!


Charles Blow outlines the case: We wouldn’t want to be on the Zimmerman jury.

That jury faces a hard decision about events which were poorly observed. The jurors know that considerable feeling surrounds the case.

As part of that considerable feeling, many frameworks are being offered which may or may not make sense. We were struck by some of Charles Blow’s frameworks in this morning’s New York Times column.

We thought quite a few of those frameworks made sense and were quite fair. Sometimes, we thought they maybe didn’t and weren’t.

This is one of Blow’s frameworks. To us, this seems a bit odd:
BLOW (6/29/13): There has been testimony establishing that there was some sort of verbal interaction between Zimmerman and Martin before a physical one. Who struck the first blow and why? If Martin struck the first blow, as the defense contends, could that be considered an act of self-defense?

Regardless of who struck the first blow, some testimony suggests that Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. In that scenario, could the right to self-defense switch personage?
We think that framework is somewhat strange. In that passage, Blow imagines a scenario in which Martin strikes the first blow, then starts getting the best of Zimmerman—and that this has all been done as part of Martin’s right to self-defense!

That framework strikes us as odd. In what way is a person who strikes the first blow acting in self-defense? There may be an answer to that question, but Blow rushes right past the oddness in that framework.

As he continues, Blow tilts the scales back the other way. To his vast credit, he starts being fair to the party he doesn't favor:
BLOW: Regardless of who struck the first blow, some testimony suggests that Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. In that scenario, could the right to self-defense switch personage? Florida law seems to suggest it can. The law states that the use of force is not justified when a person “initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant.”
As he quotes Florida law, Blow offers the following framework:

Even if Zimmerman initially provoked the use of force against himself (perhaps by striking the first blow), he may still have been entitled to the later use of grievous force.

This second framework, in which Blow quotes Florida law, tilts things more strongly in Zimmerman’s direction than we have heard from TV pundits this week. As he continues, Blow is once again quite fair to Zimmerman, the party he doesn’t favor:
BLOW (continuing directly): Even assuming that Martin was winning a physical fight with Zimmerman, did Zimmerman “reasonably” believe that he was in “imminent danger of death or great bodily harm”? Zimmerman was injured, but how do you evaluate the degree of those injuries? Independent assessments may or may not deem Zimmerman’s injuries severe, but did Zimmerman, in the middle of the fight, believe them to be? Had Zimmerman “exhausted every reasonable means to escape”?
Cable pundits have often complained that Zimmerman didn’t sustain “great bodily harm.” But, as Blow comprehends in this passage, the law doesn’t require a person to sustain such harm. The person just has to have a reasonable belief that he is in danger of doing so.

For better or worse, a person doesn’t have to wait until he’s been grievously injured. Or so Blow says in that framework, once again being quite fair to the party he doesn’t much favor.

Blow’s fairness is impressive. Last year, he often played a different role. He played a key role in the very bad conduct displayed on MSNBC in the first few months after Trayvon Martin’s death.

In a truly horrendous display, Al Sharpton and Lawrence O’Donnell invented a lot of phony facts and bogus understandings. When it came to irresponsible conduct, Ed Schultz wasn’t far behind.

This was a terrible, months-long performance by this “liberal” cable channel. Blow often served as the guest who helped promote the fake facts and bogus understandings.

This morning, Blow is largely behaving the way a journalist should. As he lists basic questions about the case, he even advances a possibility which has been obscured wherever our own liberal tribe’s distortions have been sold:
BLOW: The case, it seems to me, spins on some crucial questions, some of which we may never completely know the answers to.

What was it about Martin in particular that Zimmerman found “suspicious” in the first place? So far, there has been no testimony that Martin was doing anything other than walking slowly and talking on a phone to a girl, as teenage boys are wont to do. Did Zimmerman consider every person walking thusly in the neighborhood to be suspicious? If not, what made Martin different? Was some sort of bias at play, whether an explicit one or an implicit one?

Why did Zimmerman leave his car, armed with his gun, and follow Martin? When the dispatcher realized that Zimmerman was in pursuit and told him, “We don’t need you to do that,” did Zimmerman stop?
In our view, Blow takes a few liberties in this passage. “So far, there has been no testimony that Martin was doing anything other than walking slowly and talking on a phone to a girl?”

So far, there has been no testimony from the defense at all!

It may be there will never be any testimony of the type described. It’s entirely possible that Martin didn’t doing anything that night, in any way, which should have been regarded as “suspicious.” But Blow had his thumb on the scale a wee bit in that passage, which makes it all the more impressive when he finally imagines the liberally unimaginable:

When the dispatcher told Zimmerman, “We don’t need you to do that,” did Zimmerman stop following Martin (and start walking back to his truck)?

Did Zimmerman stop following Martin? That has always been Zimmerman’s story, and some of the evidence seems to support it. Despite this, many liberals seem to think that this question was answered long ago in a way which condemns Zimmerman.

These liberals have been propagandized, in the ways we used to deride when they were performed on the right. In this column, Blow acknowledges the possibility that Zimmerman had stopped following Martin before the confrontation.

He doesn't shout it to the skies. But Blow acknowledges the fact that this basic question still has not been settled. Given Blow’s performance last year, that is a large concession and a massive improvement.

Some major journalists behaved very badly in the aftermath of Martin’s death. A lot of liberals allowed themselves to cast in the role of prejudgers.

In our view, Blow played a disappointing role on cable last year. We don’t think his whole column makes sense today, but it’s a massive improvement over last year. We salute him for his effort.

We’ll offer two bromides as we close:

By definition, progressives can’t invent fake facts, thereby misleading average people. And by definition, progressives have to be fair.

Last year, MSNBC failed those basic tests badly. This morning, columnist Blow is back on a truer course.

Let the testimony continue. We’d still like to know what happened.

Daring to struggle, daring to win!

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013

Wendy Davis and Jeremy Bird set out to fight for Texas: Yesterday, we suggested that liberals and progressives stop begging the Court to protect them.

We suggested that we liberals and progressives should get off our keisters and go out and fight for the state of Texas in standard political ways.

We can’t do that with our world-famous snark, which is mainly designed to entertain and convince us of our own greatness. Last night, however, Rachel Maddow interviewed Jeremy Bird, a senior adviser from Battleground Texas.

It isn’t easy, and nothing is guaranteed. But what follows is the type of thing we had in mind in yesterday’s post.

As we start, Bird is discussing what he saw in the Texas Capitol this week as Wendy Davis stood up and fought, leaving all that snark behind.

Davis and Bird seem to be singing us the law of the Ranger's Command:
BIRD (6/27/13): I think what we saw this week was three things that have been really going on in Texas for a long time.

One, if you look at that gallery, if you look at those people that are there, you see a groundswell of support.
And these folks are all across the state, 254 counties. And they have been organizing for a long time. And I think you see a huge group of folks that are ready to go.

The second thing that you saw is there’s a great bench of Democratic folks, Wendy Davis, obviously, Senator Davis, her colleagues in the Senate. When you look at some of the mayors across the state of Texas, when you look at some of the congressmen and women you had on your show earlier tonight, you see a bench of truly inspiring leaders down there.

And the third thing you see is Republican extremism. They have gone so far to the right. They have continued to alienate women voters, Hispanic voters, African-American voters, Asian voters, voters all across the state of Texas.

And you see that on the national scale which you’ve talked about today, but you see it in Texas I think in more stark terms than you see anywhere else.
Bird knows Texas, we do not. In his second statement, he discussed an obvious angle of attack:
BIRD: You look at the 2012 election, for example, you have three million Latinos in Texas who didn’t vote. You have barely half of the population voting—the eligible population voting. And that doesn’t just happen overnight. It happens with a systemic attempt to make people think that their vote doesn’t matter. To continue to gerrymander, to continue to try to make districts that aren’t competitive and they’ve done that systemically over time.

And what we have to do is go back to those voters all across the valley, in Harris County, in Dallas, all across this state. And talk to people about why their vote does matter. And there are specific races that they can’t gerrymander, at the county level, at the mayoral level. We need to win those local elections. Continue to turn more and more of those counties blue.

And over time we can actually have an impact statewide and have some elections that we can win and start to change the state.
For the most part, Maddow would rather invent silly tales to prove that the Court should do our work for us until the end of time. That way, we could stop Texas from doing what all those other states are going to do, unless we know how to stop them.

As Maddow continued with Bird, she almost seemed gobsmacked by the idea of “talking pork to the people.” Bird continued to note the obvious approaches people who care will take:
MADDOW: When you say, “Go talk to those voters,” what does that mean in terms of investments, in terms of resources, in terms of the kind of operation that you’re trying to mount?

BIRD: Yes. So it needs to be Texas-sized. And we have to go everywhere. We have to go to rural areas, we have to go to the suburbs.

MADDOW: Go how, though? Go in what way? Holding meetings? Knocking on people’s doors? I mean, what’s your effort?

BIRD: All of it, organizing. So basically we have to go to a couple of key things. One is registration. There are at least 2.2 million unregistered Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans in Texas today that we need to put on the voter rolls. Put a registration form in front of them and say, “Get out there and vote.”

Over the last couple of weeks, couple of months actually, Battleground Texas, our folks on the ground have trained about 2,000 folks. In Texas they make you go to the county clerk, the county registrar to get trained before you can go register somebody in Texas.

We’ve been starting to train those folks. We’ve got to go talk to people about that, get them on the rolls. Then once they’re on the rolls, we’ve got to get them to turn out. We’ve got to go to their doors, we’ve got to call them on the phone, we have to have a digital outreach program. We’ve got to find them wherever they are, talk about the importance of the election.

And do exactly what we saw this week, when people how important their vote is, and what it means for issues that matter to them, they’ll start turning out.
Two suggestions: When we talk to those unregistered voters, let’s not insult them with a string of dick jokes about how stupid they are.

Final suggestion: Let’s learn how to talk to registered voters, to convince them to vote for Dems and liberals. Liberals have to learn how to talk to regular people, a process which has to begin with genuine respect for people who aren't exactly like we are.

Let’s hope that people like Bird can get out there and make it happen. In the long run, the Snark Generation will almost surely be a disaster for progressive interests.

It’s lots of fun to waste our time yelling at people like Serena Williams and Paula Deen because they aren’t as perfectly scripted as we are. It’s fun to make up stupid shit about people like Howard Kurtz.

It’s fun to parade around declaring our greatness, but does it ever get anything done? Maybe we can pay the gang from Salon to go away and snark in private. Jeremy Bird made it sound like he comes from a more serious place.

To watch last night’s segment, click here. Try to ignore the way it starts.

“I love this state,” Wendy Davis said. You have to know how to say that.

Public schools: You’ve been told a false story again and again!

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013

This morning, the Post has recanted: Here’s a basic news report we thought we’d never see.

In this morning’s Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton reports the latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP). After all these years of rank deception, Layton and the Washington Post are finally reporting a basic fact:

The mainstream press corps’ Standard Story about the public schools has been wrong!

The Post has endlessly pushed that false tale. This morning, the Post is recanting:
LAYTON (6/28/13): The nation's 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds are posting better scores in math and reading tests than their counterparts did 40 years ago, and the achievement gap between white students and those of color still persists but is narrowing, according to new federal government data released Thursday.

The scores—collected regularly since the 1970s from federal tests administered to public and private school students age 9, 13 and 17—paint a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.

"When you break out the data over the long term and ask who is improving, the answer is . . . everyone," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to close the achievement gap between poor and privileged children. "And the good news, given where they started, is that black and Latino children have racked up some of the biggest gains of all."

The data, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend study, come from tests given every four years in math and reading. The most recent results, from 2012, show that 9- and 13-year-olds did better in math and reading than students who took the first reading test in 1971 and the first math test in 1973.
Rather quickly, Layton starts to bungle the data. The problems have already started in the fourth paragraph we’ve posted.

But in the highlighted passages, the Washington Post has finally confessed. At long last, it is reporting the basic story that it has obscured for so long:

The nation’s students are doing better in reading and math! NAEP data “paint a picture of steady student achievement that contradicts the popular notion that U.S. educational progress has stalled.”

Let’s say that again: The actual data contradict the popular notion that educational progress has stalled.

In truth, the popular notion has really been that educational achievement is in decline. But let’s not quibble on the day when the Post at long last tells the truth.

Meanwhile, don’t be fooled! The latest data are new, but the picture Layton describes is not. Scores have been rising all along, even as newspapers like the Post kept saying and implying the opposite.

For unknown reasons, the Post has finally broken down and admitted the truth: Test scores have been steadily rising.

Next week, we’ll look at Layton’s reporting in more detail. In many ways, the actual story is still much better than the Post is admitting.

But in that second highlighted passage, you see the crumbling of a stone wall. The actual data contradict the popular notion about our hopeless decline.

You’ve been told a false story again and again. This morning, the Post has recanted.

INVENTING THE OTHER: You may have a bias against rednecks if!

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2013

Part 5—The Heathers are winning: It’s one of our favorite moments of the past few years.

By favorite, we mean “most instructive.” In Chicago, Gail Collins was addressing a group of finer people about the brown peril below.

Horrified onlookers clutched their pearls as Collins detailed the ways of Those People down South—more specifically, Those People in Texas:
COLLINS (6/10/12): [Texas] has not integrated its Hispanic residents into its political and business power structure in the way you would expect by now. And two, it’s not doing the job of educating young Hispanic children that it needs to do if they’re going to become critical skilled workers for the next generation.

Right now, Texas imports college graduates. It imports as many as it creates on its own. So when you are paying to help make the universities in Illinois top-tier universities, you are paying to help staff businesses in Texas because a lot of your graduates are going to wind up down there.

Now, unless Texas antes up and really, really, really steps up to the education plate—

In the future, ten percent of the work force of America is going to be Texas born, bred and educated. And unless they do a better job than they’re doing now, that’s when we all go south.
Damn Texans! According to Collins, Those People just aren’t “doing their job of educating young Hispanic children.”

And not only that! According to Collins, Texans were making the finer people subsidize their lethargy! When finer people in Illinois fund that state’s top-tier universities, they are simply “paying to help staff businesses in Texas!”

A few people moved to the back of the room. As they started lighting their torches, Collins brought the regional history in.

If those people down in Texas don’t do a better job with their Hispanic children, “that’s when we all go South,” the Gotham flyweight warned her horrified Yankee onlookers. We might all be like Those People down in Texas some day!

Why is that one of our favorite moments from the past few years? Because of the cosmic stupidity involved in that regional rant.

In fact, Hispanic kids in Texas vastly outscore their counterparts in Illinois on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the widely-praised “gold standard” of domestic educational testing.

On this occasion, Collins was pimping her foolish new book about Texas. In the book's long chunks about Texas schools, she had specifically cited and praised the NAEP.

But as we told you yesterday, high-ranking “journalists”—flyweights like Collins—rarely do background reading. Collins praised the wonders of “disaggregation” in her book. But uh-oh! There was no sign that she had ever bothered to disaggregate those Texas test scores! If she had done so, she would have seen that Texas students, in all major categories, outscore their counterparts in Illinois—and in the state of New York.

In standard “journalistic” fashion, Collins hadn’t bothered with that! Instead, she stirred fear in Yankee breasts about the brown peril found to the south—about all the Hispanic kids Those People were failing to educate.

If Texans can’t get their act together, we’re all going south, she said.

This wonderful moment illustrates several aspects of modern press culture. It illustrates the cluelessness of high-ranking flyweights like Collins.

It illustrates their pathological disregard for the truth. It illustrates their superhuman laziness—their studied refusal to perform even the simplest background work.

It illustrates the core belief of their guild: They feel they get to invent fake facts in service to Standard Group Stories.

That said, this wonderful moment illustrated another part of our journalistic culture. It illustrated the counterproductive regional bias which lies at the heart of some of its dumbest work.

People, consider a possibility, with a hat tip to Foxworthy:

You may have a bias against rednecks if you swallowed Collins’ story! You may have a bias against rednecks if her story seemed to make perfect sense on its face—if it seemed manifestly true that (white) Texans would throw away their Hispanic kids, while finer people in Illinois would perform wonders with theirs.

You may have an unconscious bias if Collins' sad tale seemed to make perfect sense. Or if you thrilled to the latest gong-show from Rachel Maddow, in which she wasted your time for two straight nights with very scary campfire stories about a proposed community college bond election in parts of greater Houston in 2006.

You may have an unconscious bias if these campfire stories, told by flyweights, warm your Yankee hearts.

Make no mistake—there’s plenty to criticize in the sprawling political culture of modern-day Texas! But if you reflexively swallow this crap from the likes of these journalists, you may be a redneck yourself! Of the Yankee variety!

You may be the kind of hayseed who swallows whatever the ruling elites have decreed. And isn’t that one of the ways we finer folk have always pictured Those People?

You may be a bit of a redneck if you thrill to this regional twaddle. That said, large amounts of our journalism are built out of this regional bias, especially at the flyweight-ridden New York Times.

Can we talk? This week’s shark attack against Paula Deen has been part of this time-honored tradition. In this famous American practice, the finer people run through the streets, inventing fake facts about Those People as they go.

We know, we know! Bias being what it is, it’s very hard for us the biased to discern the outlines of our own bias. But as people like Collins parade around pimping fake claims about children in Texas, you see the clownishness of “journalistic” culture as it now exists.

Sadly enough, though, The Heathers are winning—have been winning for some time! Having offered that gendered remark, let’s explain its origin:

In the late 1990s, the press corps’ legion of worthless buffoons were very upset with Bill Clinton. The noxious culture of pseudoscandal which had grown around this fellow had an obvious regional air, as Gene Lyons explained early on.

When the animus was transferred to Candidate Gore, he was a southerner too!

We know, we know! You can’t believe that regional bias was any part of this story! But whatever explains the ludicrous coverage of President Clinton, then Candidate Gore, the “Heathers” were plainly in charge by the fall of 1999.

That was the name one major journalist gave to the rest of his crew. At Time magazine, Eric Pooley described the way the “journalists” behaved, behind closed doors, at the first Gore-Bradley debate, although he didn't seem to realize that he was describing misconduct:
POOLEY (11/8/99): [T]he 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by [Gore’s approach]. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.

Poor Gore. For months the press has been hammering him for taking the nomination for granted and not showing emotion. Now it's hammering him for trying too hard and showing too much...
Presumably, most of these “Heathers” were male. But there’s little doubt about how they behaved, except within the American discourse, where such behavior by the press corps simply cannot be discussed.

This weird misconduct was never discussed, even though two other journalists described this same behavior within the press room. Every journalist knows the key rule: We do not discuss our own conduct!

According to the Hotline’s Howard Mortman, “the media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something” that night. (Clairvoyantly, we dragged the statement out of the gent on a Hotline cable program.) Six weeks later, Jake Tapper, who worked for Salon at the time, described the same darn thing:
TAPPER (12/13/99): I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that's the only time I've ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.
Speaking on C-Span’s Washington Journal, Tapper said he was surprised by the conduct of the “Heathers.” He’d never seen it before, he said.

Presumably, most of these “Heathers” were male. That said, Pooley nailed the behavior of his colleagues, using a cultural reference which was gendered but apt.

By the fall of 1999, the “Heathers” were plainly in charge, and they’ve never retreated. In the past week, they have paraded through the streets, killing a rather insignificant pig in service to a regional bias which they enjoy dressing up as High Principle. And as they've staged this shark attack, they have displayed the familiar rules they observe as redneck “journalists:”

In the course of killing the pig this past week, they invented a string of fake facts. And everybody else has agreed that this fact will not be discussed.

Yesterday, our heart went out to a guest of Tapper’s on his CNN program. Should Deen be made a scapegoat, Tapper asked.

Tapper spoke with Clinton Yates of the Washington Post:
TAPPER (6/27/13): Clinton, Jesse Jackson told Erin Burnett on CNN that we cannot use Paula Deen as scapegoat for the errors of our culture. Are we?

YATES: Partially. But I would have loved to see Paula Deen step up and simply say, “You know what, this is who I was, this is what I knew and I'm willing to change that.” I think we cast people out to the countryside when they've been outed as racists and there's no path towards getting back to some level of understanding.

I think that's something as a society we need to work on just because—not just because. It is not OK to think that things she said and did were reasonable. But why can't we show her and everybody who believes such racist things a path back to what we need to do to come back together as people? It seems to be we just want to throw people away and never let them back.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Thank you so much, Clarence Page and Clinton Yates. Appreciate it. We'll have you guys back soon.
We agree with Yates’ values. But how good were his facts? This was Tapper’s sole attempt to explain the facts of the case:

“Another big story about that word. Paula Deen admitting she used it.”

Tapper’s statement was accurate, of course. In a recent deposition, Deen did admit that she used that word—on one occasion, in 1986.

But once the Heathers started to run, a wide range of bogus facts were invented. We wondered as we watched Tapper’s show: Did Clinton Yates know that?

Regarding Yates himself, which “racist things” does Deen believe? He made no attempt to explain. Tapper didn’t ask.

Whatever! When the Heathers run in the streets, they play by their own set of rules. They tend to make up lots of fake facts. And the other Heathers all know the key rule:

No one must ever discuss the role played by those fake facts.

In 1999, Tapper was shocked to see his colleagues behave as they did, though he only said so in response to a question seven weeks later.

Yesterday, he could have discussed the list of fake claims which have spilled forth about Deen. He could have cited the lunatic claim which was presented at Slate.

Our major “journalists” never do that. Elsewhere, they’ve been called “Heathers.”

Large amounts of modern journalism are driven by regional bias. This obvious pattern is especially strong at the New York Times.

In the last week, a scapegoat was slain as people pretended to act from high principle. That said, let’s return to the high lady Collins, playing the fool in Chicago.

Collins’ behavior was especially noxious that day. In her speech, as in her book, she was promoting gross confusion about the state of our public schools—and about our nation’s supposedly precious low-income kids.

As liberals, we pretend that we care about these kids. Our actions show something quite different.

Collins made egregious mistakes about this very serious topic. Here at this incomparable site, we described these mistakes in detail.

But you know how The Heathers are! No one ever corrected Collins in the “professional” “press corps.” Dearest darlings, it just isn't done! Her regional tale was permitted to stand, along with her gong-show assertions.

This has been an excellent week to watch the “press corps” at work. We’ve had the chance to watch these people as they invent their fake facts. We’ve had a chance to observe them agree—these fake facts will not get discussed.

Our advice? In the future, continue to look for their regional bias. This is one part of the unhelpful stew these rednecks dump on our heads.

Yet to come: How this flyweight regional crap hurts progressive interests.

Also, the words of Anne Frank.

Diogenes seeks a cable analyst!


While watching the Zimmerman trial: We’ve watched large chunks of the Zimmerman trial in the past two days. On the whole, the cable punditry has been strikingly bad.

The challenges of the prosecution’s “star witness” have played a large role in this matter. This morning, we just had to put down our bagel and laugh when we read the passage which follows in the New York Times.

All in all, Lizette Alvarez has been sensible and fair. In this case, she simply gave up:
ALVAREZ (6/27/13): [Jeantel’s] account on Wednesday of that final call captivated the courtroom.

“He say, ‘Why are you following me for?’ ” Ms. Jeantel recounted, quoting Mr. Martin. “I heard him, a hard-breathing man, saying, ‘What you doing around here?’ ”

Then she said she heard a bump—the headset—and “the sound of wet grass.” “I calling, ‘Trayvon, Trayvon,’ ” Ms. Jeantel said. “I kind of heard Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off.’ Suddenly the phone hung up, shut off.”
It’s true! The witness in question did say that she heard “the sound of wet grass.” But do you have any idea what that means?

Alvarez just typed it up!

We’ve heard the sound of one hand clapping, but we’ve never heard the sound of wet grass. This witness produced a towering challenge.

None of the cable analysts, not one, seemed willing to speak to this matter. As a standard fallback position, they praised her for being “authentic.”

It was 1999 once again.

How crazy was the court’s Voting Rights decision?


Featuring Rachel Maddow’s “creepy” regional jones: Did the Supreme Court make a crazy decision regarding the “preclearance” portion of the Voting Rights Act?

We’d have to say, not entirely so. Here’s why we say that:

Several or all of the states released from preclearance may proceed to make it harder for people to vote. For example, several of the affected states are already proceeding towards tougher “voter ID” requirements.

We don’t favor such policies. But then, such policies are being proposed in states all over the nation, wherever Republicans are in charge. These policies aren't restricted to the former “preclearance” states.

Why should a state like Pennsylvania be able to initiate such a policy on its own, while a state like Texas is not? On Monday and Tuesday nights, Rachel Maddow provided a type of answer.

On each of those nights, Maddow discussed the type of “creepy” trick Texas is likely to pull if released from preclearance. On each night, she discussed a particular proposed election from the state's past.

On Tuesday night, the second night, her discussion started like this. To watch the whole segment, click here:
MADDOW (6/25/13): Last night on this show we highlighted one example of how the Voting Rights Act works. This is a community college district in the greater Houston area. They tried to change the way they conduct elections in this district.

They tried to cut the number of polling places in this district from 84 polling places down to 12. And the list of 12 proposed new polling places had one very notable feature. The new list made if really easy to vote if you were a white person and really hard to vote if you were not a white person.

Look, the site with the smallest proportion of minority voters, so the whitest voting site was set up to serve 6,500 voters. The most heavily minority site serves over 67,000 voters. The big new election idea in this election district in Texas was that the most heavily minority polling place should serve 10 times as many voters as the whitest polling place.

The Justice Department told that election district in Texas that they could not do that. They could not make that change. The Justice Department looked at that plan and told them to try again, to try to find a way that was more fair.

That happened because Texas officials have to get an advanced OK from the Justice Department before they change their election laws, because of Texas` history of racial discrimination in elections. Discrimination like, oh, say, making the polling places for black and brown people handle 10 times as many voters as the polling places for white people.

Because Texas has done and has kept doing stuff like that, Texas needs preclearance when they make changes. If they think they should not be on that preclearance list anymore, Texas could apply to opt out. They could try to prove that they are not trying to discriminate anymore. Texas has not been able to opt out.
We can't find tape of Monday's report at the Maddow web site.

On two straight nights, Maddow presented that proposed election to show why Texas shouldn’t be allowed to conduct its own elections absent federal approval. We think that example is remarkably silly.

Here’s why:

Each night, Maddowblog offered this link for those who wanted to know what Maddow was talking about. In fact, she was discussing a bond election proposed for May 13, 2006 by the North Harris Montgomery Community College District.

At the time, North Harris Montgomery Community College was a sprawling community college system in the Houston area. The system is now known as the Lone Star College System.

Perhaps you can already see the first part of the journalistic semi-foolishness. To show why Texas can’t have its constitutional authority restored, Maddow was citing a proposed election by a local community college system seeking a bond. By now, this outrageous proposed election is seven years old. The system also would have been electing three board members.

(For what it's worth: For its previous bond election, in 2000, the district had operated only eight polling places.)

This was a local bond election from 2006. And yet, for two straight nights, Maddow offered this “creepy” state of affairs to explain why Texas should be treated differently from the bulk of the other states concerning elections, which normally belong to the states by dint of the constitution.

This was a very minor election, proposed by a bunch of college board members. We know of no giant reason to think that they were trying to reduce minority participation. Nor do we have any great confidence that Maddow actually knew what she was talking about.

In all candor, she rarely does.

This bond election was so minor that, even with its Voting Rights component, it received little coverage in the Houston press. But please:

The fact that the twelve polling places were designed to accommodate different numbers of voters doesn’t necessarily mean that voters at the smaller location would have received better service than voters at the larger locations. The Justice Department didn’t like this proposed arrangement. But the Justice Department isn’t always right, and Maddow’s typically demonized account of this matter is in no way obvious.

As Maddow noted, the largest polling place was going to “handle ten times as many voters” as the smallest polling place. This does not necessarily mean that voters would have gotten worse service at the larger polling place. It certainly doesn’t mean that the trustees of the community college were thinking “you can’t have white people waiting in line,” as Maddow imagined on Monday night, displaying her trademark casual contempt for those people not from her region.

Suppose the larger of the two locations had twelve times as many voting machines? Truth to tell, Maddow was simply guessing about this matter. And by the way:

This was a large, sprawling district. Why would one location handle many more voters than another? We’ll take a guess: Quite probably, the smallest location covered a larger, more rural part of the district. The largest location may have covered a denser, more urbanized area.

That wouldn’t mean that the urban voters were going to get worse service, although that would of course be possible. Most likely, Maddow simply didn’t know how these polling locations would have worked doesn’t know. (She provided links to no information.) And she was discussing a very small, local proposed election that was seven years old.

Would the logistics of this election have reduced the participation of minority voters? Possibly, but it’s unlikely that a small bond election for a community college system represents the worst that Texas has to offer. For ourselves, we wouldn’t assume that this planned election represented an attempt to lower minority turn-out at all.

Maddow would very much make that assumption. Increasingly, that is the way our Brave New Liberal World plays.

Now, let’s make a comparison:

Compare that tiny local election with a genuine gong-show northern election which will take place this October—the gong-show, statewide Senate election New Jersey is going to suffer.

Plainly, that election was deliberately designed to reduce Democratic participation in the November election for governor. Almost surely, it will also lower Democratic participation in the October Senate election. And it will cost the state an unnecessary $12 million.

Democratic voters in New Jersey are often black and Hispanic. This ridiculous, gimmicked-up statewide election will muck around with minority participation much more than that tiny 2006 bond election ever would have done.

But so what? Maddow spent two nights worrying about that seven-year-old, local bond measure. Did it even cross her mind that the coming election in New Jersey is vastly worse? We’ll guess that the answer is no.

This is what it means to have a regional jones—if you will, to have a regional bias. Many, many northern liberals have a regional jones concerning the South. Their jones may make them fixate on a minor, seven-year-old bond election, even as a much larger scam is happening right under their nose.

We don’t think it was all that crazy to free Texas and those other states from the requirements of preclearance. They’re going to pursue undesirable measures—but so are many other states.

Maybe it’s time for us pseudo-liberals to stop hiding behind the skirts of the Court and do some real politics in the South! Maddow could never succeed at that task, of course, with her buckets of rube-pleasing Yankee snark.

Much more on this matter tomorrow. Why can’t it be time for one, two, many Wendy Davises? For talented, successful progressives armed with more than an air of cultural greatness and an endless supply of snark?

Claims you can hear while watching Fox!


Claim: Paula Deen is a Democrat who supported Obama: You can hear the darndest things while watching Fox.

Last night, watching The Five, we heard a fellow San Matean make an intriguing remark:
GUILFOYLE (6/26/13): There's never enough time that passes to make up for something like that. Or you can say, I'm looking at my own life, there's things I have done or said I would like to take back—maybe not that bad, but nevertheless, you have to also look at the other things she's done in life, and try to balance it out. I mean, she's done a lot of things for charity as well.

GUTFELD: She supported Candidate Obama. I mean—

GUILFOYLE: That should be enough.
Gutfeld said it, but is it true? Most of his statements are larded with bunk.

Is Paula Deen a Democrat who campaigned for Obama?

This compound claim is now widespread on the right, driven along by The Daily Caller. The Caller rarely gets anything right. But in this instance, it can link to this post by Us Weekly.

We find no evidence that Deen actually campaigned for Obama, despite what Us Weekly reported. In September 2008, she had Michelle Obama on her show, and she gushed effusively, comparing her to Jackie Kennedy.

To watch excerpts from Extra, click here.

But she also seems to have hosted Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain. We find her saying in 2008 that she wants to keep herself out of politics.

That said, Deen has been identified as a Democrat in several lists of celebrity affiliations, including this list from 2010 by the infallible Buzzfeed.

Could Paula Deen be a Dem?

Everything is possible! In her recent deposition, she complains rather effusively know about people who discriminate against gays. She frequently prays for the end of racial discrimination, for which we Yankee liberals know we should harshly attack her.

One thing is clear. Deen is a vaudevillian southern clown, as we noticed last night while we sampled her entire session with the New York Times from last fall.

She didn’t just make those weird remarks about her assistant’s very dark skin. She also introduced her husband, saying he looks like Santa Claus. She said she may have peed on the floor due to her bad bladder. (This was a way of absolving Lulu, her dog.)

Near the end, she accepted the compliments of a black female fan, who told Deen that she is one of “my four vanilla mamas.”

Could Paula Deen be a Democrat? We don’t know, and she isn’t our cup of tea. Beyond that, we're fairly sure that she isn't as perfect as we are.

But we would be inclined to accept her pleas on behalf of acceptance and equality, especially when those pleas are voiced from way down deep inside the South.

At Salon, they know this instinct is crap. But then, the folk at Salon are at war, as we'll discuss more tomorrow.

INVENTING THE OTHER: Paula Deen said she invented the Internet!


Part 4—The Times pretends to correct: This morning, the correction appears, no thanks to Professor Coates.

Two days ago, his fellow Timesman, Kim Severson, made a flat misstatement in her news report about Paula Deen. We petitioned Coates to alert his readers to the growth of these bogus facts, carefully warning him that such conduct may cost him his spot at the Times.

Coated played clam, accepting the fact that the Times is allowed to invent bogus facts when it’s busy killing the pig. This morning, though, the Times steps forward, offering this deceptive correction, which no one on earth will see:
NEW YORK TIMES CORRECTION (6/27/13): An article on Tuesday about the controversy surrounding Paula Deen's admission during a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit that she used racist language paraphrased incorrectly from her testimony. While she admitted to making off-color jokes, she did not say that she told jokes that denigrate blacks.
Severson “paraphrased incorrectly from Deen’s testimony!” This is, of course, a “Clintonian” account of what actually happened. And please note: Even as it semi-corrects its reporter’s incorrect paraphrase, the Times refuses to tell its readers what Severson knows if she read the deposition in question:

Deen specifically says, at two separate places, that she doesn’t tell racial jokes. If Severson read the deposition, she knew that all along.

Whatever! The Times has pretended to correct, and Coates’ position stays strong. All truly important interests have thereby been protected.

But once again, we’ll have to say it: This has been a remarkable week for those who would study the culture, the procedures and ethics of the upper-end “mainstream press corps.”

In part, the week has shown the guild’s tolerance for the (relatively) trivial in service to preferred narratives. In this morning’s New York Times, a high-profile TV review and yet another news report add to the paper’s body of work concerning what a vaudevillian southern celebrity chef apparently said to her former husband on one occasion in 1986.

Including this morning’s pile of piffle, the Times has devoted five news reports to this topic, along with today’s TV review and one full op-ed column. Another column began with another “incorrect paraphrase,” a bit of over-salted home cooking the Times hasn’t stooped to correct.

Why has the Times devoted so much space to this rather pointless topic? Don’t ask Jesse Jackson! Yesterday, Jackson seemed to tell the Associated Press that there are topics he cares about more than this:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (6/26/13): Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that he has agreed to help Paula Deen try to make amends for her use of a racial slur, saying she should not become a "sacrificial lamb" over the issue of racial intolerance.

Jackson told The Associated Press that the celebrity chef called him this week, and they discussed how she might recover from her admission that she had in the past used a slur considered demeaning to black people, which cost her job with the Food Network and an endorsement deal with Smithfield Foods.

If she is willing to acknowledge mistakes and make changes, "she should be reclaimed rather than destroyed," said Jackson, adding that he's more troubled by ongoing racial disparities in jobs, lending, health care, business opportunities and the criminal justice system.

"She may be a symbol of intolerance but she should not be a sacrificial lamb," he said.
Poor Jackson! He still doesn’t grasp the role of such lambs in press corps shark attacks! Meanwhile, let’s see if we’re able to follow his puzzling logic:

According to Jackson, he cares more about health care and criminal justice than about what Paula Deen said to her former husband, in private, on one occasion in 1986?

Did we read that correctly?

Reading a statement like that by Jackson, we can see why he never gained purchase with our celebrity pundits. Of one thing you can be quite sure: They care much more about Deen’s past statements (real and invented) than about such tedious topics. Long ago, Maureen Dowd defined their world in that anecdote told by Joe Klein.

“You mean I should write about welfare reform?” she said to Klein, rolling her eyes.

Your celebrity pundits don’t care about that, or about Jackson’s priorities. They do care about their Standard Group Narratives, most of which come from their cultural wars—and this has been a remarkable week for observing the way they advance them.

In the past week, these empty beings made Deen, a vaudevillian chef, their latest Group Target. And when they launch such shark attacks, these are the rules to which they adhere as they are killing the pig, even a pig which doesn’t gigantically matter:
Three basic practices of “the press” when its members pursue their Group Targets:
(1) They will invent false and bogus facts in their pursuit of the pig. This includes bogus paraphrase and non-existent quotations.

(2) When they invent their facts, other guild members agree not to notice. This is now called The Coates Doctrine.

(3) They don’t do background reading.
Reading those documents may kill the fun! Consider the latest example.

Atop the front page of this morning’s Arts section, Alessandra Stanley reviews Deen’s appearance on yesterday’s Today show. In established fashion, Stanley manages to cite the meltdown concerning Miss Lewinsky at two separate points in her treatment.

That’s right—the Lewinsky matter! When new shark attacks begin, old shark attacks get remembered.

Dowd’s friend displays all the skills by which these group attacks are advanced. But right at the start, we couldn’t help noting a likely instance of Rule 3:

Just a guess. Stanley still doesn’t seem to have read the basic documents:
STANLEY (6/27/13): Paula Deen is a two-way victim.

On Wednesday the tarnished cooking-show queen tearfully told Matt Lauer on NBC's ''Today'' that she was provoked into using a racist epithet only once, when an African-American robber held a gun to her head, as she put it, ''a world ago.'' (Actually, it was 1986.)

And now she says unnamed enemies are using her word—the one she alluded to using more than once in a legal deposition in May—against her. ''Someone evil out there saw what I worked for and they wanted it,'' she said.
You almost have to admire the practiced evil of a slick being like that.

That highlighted statement barely makes sense, but our “journalists” happily sacrifice clarity for the thrill of extending a group attack. But truly, it takes an evil person to toy with race in that manner.

Did Deen “allude to using [her word] more than once” in that deposition? Yes she did, but that odd construction has been assembled to keep you from knowing that she only alluded to using her word once as a racial epithet.

In her other allusions, Deen alluded to using her word in conversations where she repeated what black employees had said to each other in disputes. Presumably, Stanley understands that fact, which explains the convoluted construction she creates on her way to her joyous recollections of that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

That is a very slick construction. Masterfully, Stanley toys with race, the way these horrible people will do.

Beyond that, though, we note that Stanley still may not have read that deposition. Here’s why we say that:

“And now” Deen says that ''someone evil out there saw what I worked for and they wanted it?” If Stanley had read the deposition, she would have seen that same general claim being made last month, although it doesn’t involve Deen’s use of “her word.”

In the deposition, Deen seems to make this claim about Lisa Jackson, the former employee who is suing her for a very large sum, claiming racial and sexual harassment by Deen’s brother. Among other things, Jackson accuses Deen’s brother of liberal use of the N-word.

In Jackson's deposition, she never accuses Deen of same, and she says she considers Deen to be a good person.

Deen seems to claim that Jackson got greedy along the way. Because we’ve read the deposition, we assumed that we probably knew what Deen meant by her statement to Lauer.

We also wondered, reading today's Times, if Stanley has ever gotten around to doing her background reading. The higher up the shark chain you go, the less likely such background work is.

Whatever! We strongly recommend Stanley’s piece, which helps you see how Salem Villagers can interpret all statements and actions in ways which comport with a preapproved narrative. Stanley doesn’t need to invent fake facts, so skilled is she at interpreting everything in a prearranged manner.

The “press corps” has behaved this way for decades, of course. After they flipped about Miss Lewinsky, they transferred their giant sense of disturbance on to Candidate Gore.

For the next twenty months, they engaged in conduct which changed world history. People are dead all over the world because of the things they did as a group—and because of the silence of other guild members, who were behaving in the manner which is now named for Coates.

This latest summertime shark attack is aimed at a much less significant target. The relatively trivial nature of this pursuit helps us see how inane these horrible people are.

Why are these sharks attacking this pig? As we’ve told you for many years, the New York Times is deeply involved in racial themes involving the South—in a way the Washington Post is not, to cite one example. The Post has given minor play to this latest attack, which doesn’t mean that the famous news paper bothers to get its facts right.

This is the start of yesterday’s item in the hard-copy Reliable Source. Can you spot a clever practice, one we first named years ago?
ROBERTS AND ARGETSINGER (6/26/13): Paula Deen's appearance on the "Today" show Wednesday might not save her career—but it may be her best move after a disastrous few days.

"If I hear one more nitwit say, 'She needs to get ahead of the story,' " said D.C. crisis manager Eric Dezenhall. "It's called damage control, not damage-never-happened. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube."

The celebrity chef, reeling from revelations that she used racist slurs, has already been dropped by the Food Network and Smithfield Foods. Now, Deen is struggling to protect the rest of her Southern-fried empire...
Of course! It’s the power of pluralization! What exactly are the racist “slurs” to which these vile people refer?

This has been a remarkable week for watching the upper-end “press corps” at play. The most remarkable fact of all involves our past city-mate, Coates:

The bogus facts have been general this week, including that remarkable fake fact is Slate, which remains uncorrected. But bogus facts have been common at the Times, as is quite traditional.

This has gone on for a very long time. In its more grievous manifestations, this old-world cultural practice has produced death and destruction all over the world.

Cash and fame to the side, why are intelligent people like Coates willing to accept this old-world tradition?

Coates does wonderful work on the history of race. Cash and fame to the side, why does he sit still for this?

What stops a sharp observer like Coates from rising to denounce this highly genteel old-world practice?

Tomorrow: Varieties of American historical loathing

Timesman mourns the decline in English majors!


Fails to review their past efforts: This Sunday, we were struck by Verlyn Klinkenborg’s lament for the English major.

Klinkenborg teaches non-fiction writing. He seems like a good, genial person. Despite these facts, he has been part of the New York Times editorial board since 1997.

In a way, that affiliation was the source of our puzzlement.

In this weekend’s Sunday Review, Klinkenborg offered a well-written lament for the dwindling English major. As it turns out, the English major is going the way of all flesh:
KLINKENBORG (6/23/13): The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. So says a new report on the state of the humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and so says the experience of nearly everyone who teaches at a college or university.

Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure—from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large—to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.

In other words, there is a new and narrowing vocational emphasis in the way students and their parents think about what to study in college. As the American Academy report notes, this is the consequence of a number of things, including an overall decline in the experience of literacy, the kind of thing you absorbed, for instance, if your parents read aloud to you as a child. The result is that the number of students graduating in the humanities has fallen sharply. At Pomona College (my alma mater) this spring, 16 students graduated with an English major out of a student body of 1,560, a terribly small number.

In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics.
Today, there are fewer English majors. For ourselves, we majored in philosophy, with an emphasis on reading the same three pages over and over and over.

The English major is going away. As Klinkenborg lamented the loss, we asked ourselves where he has been as a New York Timesman over the past twenty years:
KLINKENBORG: What many undergraduates do not know—and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them—is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.

Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. Whenever I teach older students, whether they’re undergraduates, graduate students or junior faculty, I find a vivid, pressing sense of how much they need the skill they didn’t acquire earlier in life. They don’t call that skill the humanities. They don’t call it literature. They call it writing—the ability to distribute their thinking in the kinds of sentences that have a merit, even a literary merit, of their own.

Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.

No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it—no matter how or when it was acquired—knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.
In theory, these comments make sense. Then we remembered the world.

Klinkenborg! When you review our degraded press culture, you are looking at the work of the English majors! To cite one prominent example, the “Creeping Dowdism” against which we were warned came to us straight outta the English department.

Every four years, the Democratic nominee reminds its inventor of Mr. Darcy. Other than that, she makes her shit up. And the school of “thought” this person invented has helped change the press corps world.

This week, we are observing a startling expression of modern press corps culture. As the pundit corps wastes its time on the sayings of a celebrity chef, the press corps has been driving its themes by simply inventing false facts.

This has gone on at the New York Times, in op-ed columns and news reports. And Klinkenborg and the English majors will say nothing about it.

The open invention of bogus facts is a basic part of modern press culture. Klinkenborg didn’t complain about this practice in the horrible year of 1999. He won’t complain about it today, nor is he likely to notice the fact that facts are being invented.

Klinkenborg seems like a genial person. Beyond that, he knows the right things to say. But what does he tell his eager young students when they ask him, citing examples, about the way he and his guild simply invent bogus facts?

Is that how a true English major would act? Given their well-known high regard for their precious inheritance?

Who is the horrible Prachi Gupta?


Bearing a family resemblance to an earlier unpleasant group: Prachi Gupta graduated from college (Pitt) in 2009.

For two years, she worked for Deloitte Consulting. After a year as a freelance writer, she hired on at Salon last August as an “entertainment news blogger.”

Along the way, she seems to have given birth to the world, judging from the high self-regard at several spots over which she holds sway.

Today, this surprisingly worthless young person spends her time degrading the world, typing up manifest bullshit like the excerpt offered below. In other forums, she and her set throw their R-bombs around as other degraded folk once enjoyed their use of the N-word.

Can this work well for progressive interests? This is the snark-ridden Prachi Gupta pretending to tell you the truth:
GUPTA (6/26/13): When Lauer pushed Deen to talk about her use of the N-word, Deen maintained she used it only “once,” 30 years ago. “The day I used that word was a world ago,” she said.

“So reports that you were asked in that deposition, whether you had used the N-Word on other occasions and said ‘probably’ or ‘of course,’ are inaccurate?” asked Lauer.

However, Deen then said, “No. I answered the question truthfully.”

You’re right! As written, that passage doesn’t exactly make sense. But that is Gupta, pretending to report on this morning’s Today show.

Please note:

Deen’s deposition is a matter of public record. Presumably, Gupta knows how to find it on-line.

Having done so, she could report what Deen actually said about the topic with which Lauer fumbled a bit in that Q-and-A.

Gupta could have reported the facts, which Lauer should have known and understood. Instead, she handed you that scripted bullshit, which follows the company line in its insinuations, to the extent that it even seems to make sense.

At one of this empty young person’s creations, you can see her and her guild tossing their R-bombs all about. Other empty, fallen people used to toy with the N-word this way. Gupta seems to be good with a bomb, a bit less skilled at laying out facts.

Can this work well for progressive interests? Hash tag extremely unlikely.

Tanner Colby wins the prize!


There is no end to this process: Make no mistake! Tanner Colby had it rough back in the day.

At Slate, the ugly fellow helps us picture life in Houston with Grandma:
COLBY (6/15/13): There was this Thanksgiving dinner once, at my aunt’s house in Houston. That morning we’d read an op-ed in the local paper about a school that still used corporal punishment. A white teacher had paddled a black student. People were up in arms about the obvious racial overtones, and my grandmother, my sweet little 70-year-old Nanny, offered that she, too, didn’t think the white teacher should have paddled that black student, because she “wouldn’t want no niggers beatin’ on her kids, neither.” This occasioned lots of eye-rolling from the grandchildren and some gentle rebukes from our parents. Then someone passed the gravy.

As a typical Southern white family, we didn’t talk much about race. But whenever the older generation hauled it indelicately to the surface, it was an opportunity for us grandkids to see the ugliness our country would rather forget. For our parents it was a teachable moment, a chance to show us just how ugly prejudice is. In this way it was useful, instructive even, to have an old racist grandma at the dinner table.
Grandma was a piece of work! But then, so is Colby himself.

As he continued, he won the prize in the ongoing Paula Deen Sweepstakes:
COLBY (continuing directly): Which brings us to Paula Deen. By now Deen’s crimes are well known. Among other offenses, she’s confessed to saying she wanted “a bunch of little niggers” to dress up in antebellum finery for an Old South-style wedding feast she was throwing. As punishment, she has been stripped of her Food Network show and her endorsement deal with Smithfield Ham. In other words, polite society has tried to sweep her ugliness under the carpet where we can safely ignore it.
From that, a reader might think that Deen has somewhere “confessed” to “saying she wanted ‘a bunch of little n*ggers’ to dress up in antebellum finery for an Old South-style wedding feast she was throwing.”

You’d think the unpleasant words in quotes were a direct quotation from Deen, a quotation to which she’s confessed.

Deen hasn’t confessed to that, of course. This explains why you haven’t seen that confession described by anyone other than Colby.

Each day this week, we’ve shown you what happens when the press and pundit corps selects a Group Target.

In the past twenty years, the targets have sometimes been very powerful figures, like Candidate Gore or The Long-Running She-Witch Clinton. In this case, the new Group Target is a symbol of regional war—the kind of war found around the world, the kind of war which may end up producing those “Buddhist lynch mobs.”

This is the wildest claim yet concerning the latest Group Target. Concerning Colby’s family, we’ll only say this:

Back then, the grandkids got to see “the ugliness our country would rather forget.” Decades later, all grown up, Colby is producing it.

INVENTING THE OTHER: Serena's all wrong!


Part 3—Our Own Salem Village: At one time, we Americans really knew how to invent The Other.

Back in Salem Village, we’d simply dunk those presumed to be witches. We’d let nature take over from there.

Today, we no longer do that. As a bit of a replacement procedure, we have the pronouncements of Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.

Williams was busy last week, inventing The Other in two major cases. On Friday, she gave celebrity chef Paula Deen a good sound dunking for her racial errors.

First, Williams misstated the contents of Deen’s deposition, as has become the norm. As she continued, she helped us see exactly how Deen should have apologized.

(To cite one example, a statement from Deen’s office should not have said this: “To be clear, Ms. Deen does not find acceptable the use of this term under any circumstance by anyone nor condone any form of racism or discrimination.” In best Salem Village style, Williams condemned this utterance as “half-assed” and “mealy-mouthed.” It was “pure useless gibberish.”)

Williams might have been a good fit for Salem Village. In those days, they checked the witches for bodily marks. Today, like-minded folk go into a rage as they deconstruct the sentence parts which they find unacceptable.

Let’s put that another way: As they deconstruct the sentences they themselves would not have uttered in exactly that form. As they punish those who are less pure and less sublime than they are.

Different people will have different views about the efforts of people like Williams. For ourselves, we think last week’s dunkings help us see the moral and intellectual poverty of the modern pseudo-liberal world.

Your results may differ! But let’s consider what Williams said last Wednesday concerning tennis star Serena Williams, who was quoted by Rolling Stone about the Steubenville, Ohio rape case.

Serena Williams was quoted saying some things we ourselves wouldn’t have said. Then too, she was quoted saying some things we ourselves already have said, in part because the statements in question are just blindingly obvious.

That said, to Mary Elizabeth Williams, everything Serena Williams said was unspeakably vile. The headline atop her piece successfully captured her drift:

“Serena’s rape victim-blaming got everything wrong.”

But did Serena Williams really get everything wrong? Before we review this particular dunking, let’s get a sense of how clueless people like Mary Elizabeth Williams will sometimes be, even about the way their own profession works.

After condemning Serena Williams for her “incendiary, idiotic statements,” Mary Elizabeth Williams zeroed in on her “nauseating, half-assed apologies.” Concerning the latter, Salon’s witch-watcher said this:
WILLIAMS (6/21/13): In her quasi-mea culpa, Williams goes on to say she is reaching out to the girl’s family, and that “I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written–what I supposedly said–is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.” Side note No. 3: Speaking of blame, Williams implies that her remarks, for which she says she is sorry, are only what she “supposedly” said. That’s a cheap and cowardly move. Rolling Stone’s Stephen Rodrick, speaking to Poynter Wednesday, said, “The interview is on tape. Other than that, I’ll let the story speak for itself.”
In this first of several apologies, Serena Williams implied that she may not have said what she was quoted saying. (Or something!) She said she “by no means would say or insinuate that [the victim] was at all to blame.” And she referred, without explanation, to “what was written–what I supposedly said.”

Predictably, this sent Mary Elizabeth Williams into a fury. She failed to note that Rodrick, the Rolling Stone journalist, had offered a bit of non-rebuttal rebuttal in the statement she quoted. It didn’t seem to enter her head that Serena Williams might have been quoted accurately but misleadingly.

Accurately but misleadingly? People get quoted that way all the time, although we have no way of knowing what happened in this instance. Here’s what that means:

When a public figure is quoted accurately but misleadingly, part of what she said is quoted, and her actual words are used. But other parts of her statement get dropped, perhaps changing her overall meaning.

People get quoted that way all the time, as any journalist ought to know. Did something like that happen here? We have no idea, nor do we make such a claim.

Our point here is different: It’s amazing that this possibility didn’t even seem to occur to Mary Elizabeth Williams, who works in journalism as a profession and must know that this can occur, unless she knows nothing at all.

We’re not saying this did occur. It’s just that, because we’re alive in the world, the possibility entered our mind as we read Serena Williams’ insinuation and Rodrick’s fuzzy response.

(He’ll let the story speak for itself! A journalist who has been challenged will always offer that deal!)

Williams went on to improve her apology, responding to pleas from the tennis suits. Quickly, though, let’s consider Salon’s treatment of her original statement, the statement which appeared in Rolling Stone:

As quoted in Rolling Stone, Serena Williams said several things we ourselves wouldn’t have said. As quoted, her statements were imperfect in several ways.

But should the pseudo-liberal world adopt perfection as our standard of judgment? Should we go crazy if someone makes a statement which may be imperfect?

We think that’s a very unwise standard. That said, you yourself will have to decide if Salon’s dunking was justified by the imperfections involved in the tennis star’s quoted remarks.

In our view, Mary Elizabeth Williams went several arcing lobs over the top in her reaction to her namesake. Indeed, she even seems to trash Serena Williams for saying the events of that evening in Steubenville “could have been much worse.”

Please. The events of that evening could have been disastrously worse. In some ways, that observation turns on the basic facts of this case, basic facts which many commenters at Salon didn’t seem aware of.

To cite the most awful possibility, the victim could have been killed that night, as anyone can understand. Beyond that, the two young men who were later convicted of rape could have had intercourse with the victim—they didn’t do so—and young women can get pregnant that way. We’ll guess that outcome could have been worse for the victim.

In Ohio, what those young men did is prosecuted as rape, although they didn’t have intercourse with the victim. Many commenters seemed unaware of this latter fact. But then, our most pleasing narratives routinely involve bogus or misunderstood facts.

Serena Williams was quoted saying several things we wouldn’t have said. She also dared to wonder if the young men who committed the crime may have received too harsh a sentence.

Unless we’re deep inside Salem Village, people get to think things like that. But the tennis star got her ascot handed to her for daring to wonder about that.

Whatever! We will suggest that you read the piece in Salon to see if you understand the form of this increasingly familiar type of narrative, in which we turn people into The Other by dint of our attacks on their imperfect statements.

Two days later, Mary Elizabeth Williams went off again. In this instance, she misstated what Paula Deen said in her deposition. She then massacred every word out of Deen’s mouth, including those Deen hadn’t said.

In this instance, Williams staged a diatribe about race. So we’ll offer this reaction:

In matters involving race, we don’t think a great deal of people like Mary Elizabeth Williams, although we’ll assume her intentions are good. Our liberal world now seems to be deeply involved in the pleasure of dropping our R-bombs. But we rarely see pundits like Williams display even the tiniest interest in pursuing the major issues and major topics that affect the lives and the interests of, let's say, black kids.

On occasion, people like Williams make us think of life in Salem Village. They live to drop bombs on those who speak in imperfect ways, even as they themselves misstate what such people have said.

To us, this seems like very bad politics. First we invent The Other, often through use of bogus facts. After that, we get upset when these very bad people won’t vote in the ways we direct them!

That is the politics. This is the substance:

In the area of race, we do love to toss our R-bombs around. (At Salon, Paula Deen got handed her ass for saying she “doesn’t condone any form of racism or discrimination.”) But you couldn’t get us to discuss actual issues involving race if you held a gun to our heads.

R-bombs yes, black kids no! Often, we modern pseudo-liberals may seem extremely false.

As we have watched our liberal world emerge from its very long nap, we have been amazed by the joy with which we deploy our race bombs. Even given her lack of perfection, how different was the Salem-style fury which got dropped on that tennis star’s head?

Tomorrow: One nation or many?

Where do phony “hero tales” come from!

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013

A common part of our discourse: It’s hard for people to understand how much of our discourse is simply made up—invented by pseudo-journalists.

Our press corps routinely repeats bogus facts to punish outcasts or reward friends. In such situations, they also know which facts they must, as a group, withhold.

In the process, utterly bogus “demon tales” get invented about the guild's targets. Utterly phony “hero tales” may also be widely pimped.

Last Thursday, the New York Times debunked a well-known “hero tale” dating from the Holocaust.

On the front page of Thursday's paper, Patricia Cohen debunked a remarkable but bogus hero tale. As it turns out, an Italian long praised for saving Jews was in fact an executioner:
COHEN (6/20/13): Italian Praised for Saving Jews Is Now Seen as Nazi Collaborator

He has been called the Italian Schindler, credited with helping to save 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Giovanni Palatucci, a wartime police official, has been honored in Israel, in New York and in Italy, where squares and promenades have been named in his honor, and in the Vatican, where Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr, a step toward potential sainthood.

But at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the tale of his heroic exploits is being removed from an exhibition after officials there learned of new evidence suggesting that, far from being a hero, he was an enthusiastic Nazi collaborator involved in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz.

A letter sent this month to the museum’s director by the Centro Primo Levi at the Center for Jewish History in New York stated that a research panel of more than a dozen scholars who reviewed nearly 700 documents concluded that for six years, Palatucci was “a willing executor of the racial legislation and—after taking the oath to Mussolini’s Social Republic, collaborated with the Nazis.”

The letter said that Italian and German records provided no evidence that he had helped Jews during the war and that the first mention only surfaced years later, in 1952. Researchers also found documents that showed Palatucci had helped the Germans identify Jews to round up.
We recommend the whole report. We also suggest that you consider how this sort of thing happens.

How did this bogus “hero tale” manage to gain so much purchase? Basically, Cohen cites three reasons:

First, the phony story “seemed to bolster the reputation of Pope Pius XII, whom Jewish groups have described as being indifferent to genocide.” Powerful interests thus had a motive to push this bullshit along.

Also, the phony story helped advance “the belated claims of some Italians that they went out of their way to save Jews as part of an attempt to recast Italy’s Fascist past.” When the wider world purchased this phony tale, Italy itself looked better.

Finally, the phony story helped the family in question gain a postwar pension. According to Cohen, that is how this “hero tale” got started.

In short, various groups had an interest in pushing the phony “hero tale.” Result: Palatucci, who helped assemble Jews for death, has been hailed as a hero for lo, these fifty years.

In the past twenty years, of course, America’s Potemkin “press corps” has crafted quite a few demon and hero tales of its own. This week, it’s using phony facts to help create a demon tale about Paula Deen, a cultural outcast.

In 1999 and 2000, some of the very same people invented a string of “demon tales” about Candidate Gore. Purpose: Punishing Clinton!

In the end, Mission Accomplished!

That said, we've also suffered our fair share of phony “hero tales.” During the Clinton-Gore era, the fakers and frauds still known as a “press corps” created silly hero tales about a string of secular saints named Bradley, McCain and Powell. Beyond that, hero tales have been invented about pleasing corporate favorites like Michelle Rhee and Wendy Kopp.

As the New York Times invents and withholds basic facts about Deen, a familiar pattern is playing out. This sort of thing rarely ends well.

This sort of practiced group deception rarely ends real well. As your heroes know but won’t say, it’s how George Bush reached the White House!

Gregory asked a peculiar question!

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013

Then he attempted a dodge: David Gregory asked a strange question on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

He was speaking with Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden’s man at the Guardian. This is what Gregory asked:
GREGORY (6/23/13): A final question before you go, but I'd like you to hang around. I just want to get Pete Williams in here as well.

To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?
That was a very strange question. In our view, Snowden is looking less savvy with each passing day. We haven’t followed this issue closely, but we wouldn’t be shocked if someone suggested that Greenwald has overstated some matters at times.

But in what way has Greenwald “aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements?” Gregory made no attempt to say, even as he suggested that Greenwald may have committed a crime.

Gregory’s question was very strange—and Greenwald scolded him for it. In his subsequent response, Gregory dug the hole a bit deeper, then attempted a dodge:
GREENWALD (continuing directly): I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies.

The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence—the idea that I've “aided and abetted” him in any way.
The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced -- being a co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources.

If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why The New Yorker's Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a "standstill,” her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.

GREGORY: Well, the question of who is a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you are doing. And of course, anybody who is watching this understands I was asking a question. That question has been raised by lawmakers as well. I'm not embracing anything, but, obviously, I take your point.
Gregory’s response was puzzling. In the most obvious sense, Greenwald plainly is a journalist. In raising “the question of who is a journalist” without explaining his point of concern, Gregory dug the hole deeper.

Then, he attempted a dodge: “And of course, anybody who is watching this understands I was asking a question...I was not embracing anything.”

Please. We were watching Meet the Press, and we did not understand that.

Plainly, Gregory suggested that Greenwald may have “aided and abetted” Snowden in some unspecified manner, in a way which might even be criminal. He then suggested that Greenwald’s (unspecified) conduct raises the question of whether he’s even a journalist.

It’s true, as Gregory also said, that some “lawmakers” have raised these suggestions. But if that was the basis for Gregory’s question, his question would have gone something like this:
GREGORY REWRITTEN: Some lawmakers have suggested that you yourself may have engaged in criminal conduct—that you may have “aided and abetted” Snowden, even in his current movements. What is your reply to these accusations?
Gregory voiced the suggestions in his own voice. He offered no basis for his suggestions.

He asked a very peculiar question. Then he attempted a dodge.

We invite Coates to take The Challenge!

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013

New York Times baldly misstates: Wow. In its current invention of The Other, there seems to be little the New York Times isn’t willing to say and do.

Yesterday, it was a columnist. Today, it is reporter Kim Severson, in the newspaper’s news report about Paula Deen, who is being invented.

As she starts her news report, Severson makes the highlighted claim you see below—but her claim is just blatantly wrong. So it always has gone when we invent The Other:
SEVERSON (6/25/13): Paula Deen’s troubles intensified on Monday as she scrambled to cope with allegations that she and people in her restaurants have been insensitive or worse to blacks, women and other groups.

Smithfield Foods, whose hams and other products Ms. Deen has endorsed since 2006, severed its relationship with her Monday. Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, has been the flagship in Ms. Deen’s collection of at least 17 licensing and endorsement partnerships.

At issue is Ms. Deen’s admission in a court deposition that she has used racial slurs and jokes that denigrate blacks.

“Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind,” Keira Lombardo, a Smithfield spokeswoman, said in a statement Monday. “Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly aligned."
Those are Severson’s first four grafs. The highlighted statement strikes us as blatantly false.

Is there any way Severson doesn’t know that? Is there any possible way her editors don’t know?

Did Deen really admit in that deposition that she “has used racial slurs and jokes that denigrate blacks?”

Regarding the racial slurs, we’d call that statement grossly misleading. Like Severson, we don’t know how Deen actually talks. But in her deposition, she describes using a racial slur, the N-word, on one occasion, apparently in 1986.

She says she may have used the N-word on other occasions in repeating disputes between employees. At some length, she advances the claim that she, and others in the South, have rejected use of that word since the 1960s.

We don't know how Paula Deen talks—but that is all to which she “admits” in her deposition. Meanwhile, Severson quotes Smithfield as it “condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language,” but she fails to note that Deen does the same in her deposition.

If we were country folk ourselves, we’d say she’s a-pickin’ and a-choosin’.

Regarding “jokes that denigrate blacks,” we’d have to say that Severson’s statement is just blatantly false.

Like Severson, we don’t know if Deen actually “uses” such jokes. But in her deposition, Deen explicitly says that she doesn’t tell racial jokes, although she wearily says at one point, “Every man I’ve ever come in contact with has one.”

For what it’s worth, it’s also true that the person who is suing Deen and her brother said, in her own deposition, that she has never heard Deen “make a racist remark.”

You’re allowed to know that if you live in the South. Not so if you read the Times.

We think Severson’s passage is quite amazing, even as the Times pleases its self-impressed readers by inventing The Other. For that reason, we are asking Ta-Nehisi Coates to take The Kim Severson Challenge!

For ourselves, we’re fans of Coates, although we thought there were some odd aspects to his post about Deen. In our view, it’s somewhat odd to write just eight paragraphs about someone, but to start like this:
COATES (6/24/13): Paula Deen was born in Southwest Georgia, a portion of our country known for its rabid resistance to the civil rights advancements of the mid-20th century. It was in Southwest Georgia that Martin Luther King joined the Albany Movement. It was in Southwest Georgia that Shirley and Charles Sherrod fought nonviolently for the voting rights that were theirs by law. It was in Southwest Georgia that Shirley Sherrod's cousin, Bobby Hall, was lynched. It was in Southwest Georgia that Shirley Sherrod's father was shot down by a white man. This man was never punished.

A few months ago I was interviewing a gentleman who'd migrated up from the South in the 1930s. When I asked him why he'd left, he said he was looking for "protection of the law." It is crucial that we remember that the South, for black people, was not just the home of "Colored Only" water-fountains, but was a kind of perpetual anarchic terrorist state. There was no law.
Do we normally form our judgments of people by describing the bad behavior, even the murderous behavior, of other people, long ago, in the area where they were born? Or is this the sort of thing we find ourselves doing when we’re inventing The Other?

Since Dr. King was mentioned there, does this seem like the way he said we should form judgments of people?

We also thought it was somewhat odd to see Deen flayed for a (highly edited) clip in which she is essentially praying for the day when racial prejudice is gone.

Granted, she seems extremely clueless in her interaction with the young black man she introduces as her “son by another father.” Beyond that, we wouldn't want to live in a world where every man we knew had a racial joke.

But the country is full of people who are, or seem to be, deeply clueless in various ways. Many of these clueless people work for the New York Times, where they are guaranteed immunity from criticism by other professionals.

People like Deen will be torn limb from limb. Folk at the Times get a pass.

Whatever! For those two reasons, and for one more, we invite Coates to take The Kim Severson Challenge.

Our third reason is this: Reading the comments to Coates’ piece, we saw quite a few commenters repeating facts not in evidence. Presumably, they had read bogus accounts of the Deen deposition, and they were repeating those bogus facts.

For all these reasons, we urge Coates to take The Severson Challenge. However odd Deen’s conduct may seem on that tape, that passage by Severson strikes us as stranger. Our challenge would be this:

Write a post in which readers are told about the way the New York Times functions.

Granted, this is a dangerous challenge. Coates is published by the Times. Trust us: This can end quite fast.

That said, Coates’ readers deserve to be told about the way this horrible newspaper functions. It has functioned this way for a very long time, as Frank Bruni reminds us this morning.

Bruni toys with his facts a bit too, though not as crazily as Severson. We remember his conduct in 1999 and 2000, when he was appointed to serve as Candidate Bush's puppy.

He toyed with facts all through that campaign, including the major facts he withheld. (They turned up later in his book.) Today, he's upset by Deen's imperfections.

In each case, he was and is accepting the drift of his guild.

So go ahead, Coates! Take the Severson Challenge! Your readers deserve to hear the truth about what Kim Severson said.

Severson is inventing The Other. This sort of thing rarely ends well. In this instance, the process of inventing The Other carries the unmistakable look of a blatant misstatement.

Is that sort of behavior OK? It has been for a long time!

Final point about guild courage: According to Bruni, Severson, the brave truth-teller, is the person who interviewed Deen on that tape that day. She said nothing about Deen's remarks in real time. She said nothing later on.

Today, with her guild on a tear, Severson seems to be lying. We would say she's inventing The Other, a process which rarely ends well.