Bill recaps the top stories of the week, including stock market jitters and Jeffrey Epstein’s suspicious suicide.
Developing now, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
RUSH TO JUDGMENT – AND ITS LESSONS: The much-discredited BuzzFeed story alleging that President Trump urged former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and the viral video of the encounter between Covington High School students and Native American protestors in Washington, D.C. last weekend have two things in common and one very important lesson… Both were examples of the media’s rush to judgment before the facts surfaced. And both illustrate the media’s hatred of Trump and shows how that anti-Trump bias infects the way they cover the news.
BuzzFeed still stands by its report, even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller has said it was “not accurate.” But as “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz points out, the damage had already been done, with several media outlets repeating the erroneous report, drumming the impeachment alarm, seemingly on loop, with the somewhat flimsy caveat “if true.” Pundits and Democratic lawmakers followed in tow, on the airwaves and on social media.
Coverage of the encounter between the Covington students and Native American group – specifically student Nick Sandmann and activist Nathan Phillips – was arguably much worse. Initial coverage, fed by an abbreviated video of the encounter and a rabid social media mob, portrayed Sandmann, a junior, and his classmates as young “MAGA” hat wearing, Trump-supporting racists who were taunting Native Americans and people of color. And people on both the left and the right jumped to condemn the students before a longer video told a different, more nuanced story.
Kneejerk pundits rushed to delete their kneejerk tweets. Some journalists, pundits and celebrities, like actress Jamie Lee Curtis, owned up to their own mistakes in rushing to judgment. But not everyone did. The lesson learned here, as Kurtz writes, is this: “There’s no harm in waiting for more details before denouncing people based on fragmentary information, even if you have to restrain yourself from joining the hot-take crowd.”
a variety of powerful forces are coalescing now to raise and to concentrate white racial consciousness. Among them is a sense among a certain class of whites that they have no roots — a conviction that leads them to find identity in victimization.
.. The problem is not the persistence of the graven image of Robert E. Lee in American life. The problem is the profound lack of Lee’s character traits in American life.
After President Trump’s foul, self-aggrandizing tirade the other night in Phoenix, I thought about how in the hell it was that a culture — Southern culture — that professes to honor the character traits embodied in Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the rest, can embrace as its champion a vain, fat-mouthing Yankee con man who is a respecter of nothing. Trump has exactly one classic Southern character trait: a willingness to fight. But then, absent the rest of them, that makes him no different than a trashy barroom brawler.
.. But the escapism that permeates country’s recent hit-making formula reveals the depth of the problems that plague the regions traditionally composing country music’s fanbase, and offers a unique glimpse into the motivations behind the Trump phenomenon. After all, vague rallying cries like “Make America Great Again” speak to a sense of loss, without actually requiring the painful introspection necessary to identify that which has been lost.
.. they can’t steal from you what you already threw away. That’s something none of us in this country — white or black, rich or poor, North or South or East or West — want to talk about. It’s so much easier, and so much more politically useful, to complain about what They are doing to us.
.. And you monument iconoclasts, you think to about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Yes, it’s so much easier to tell yourself that as soon as a statue comes down, your life will improve, and America will be greater for it. Your life won’t improve one bit, and because you will have made some of the most hard-up-against-it people in the country hate you, and our common problems that much more difficult to solve, you will have made America worse.
.. Civil Rights leader Andrew Young understands this, telling NPR the other day:
I’m saying these [Black Lives Matter activists] are kids who grew up free, and they don’t realize what still enslaves them — and it’s not those monuments.
.. And I’m saying that a minority can’t be provoking a racist majority that is still underemployed, undereducated and dying faster than we are — that the issue is life and death – not some stupid monument.
.. I had always assumed that the French revolutionaries were basically decent, though they went too far in some cases. And then I went to France and studied the Revolution, which disabused me of that naive thought. But I could not with an easy conscience sympathize with the ancien regime, whose cruelties and injustices were impossible to deny. It seems to me that to enter history with open eyes is to cease to be a fundamentalist about such things.
O’Reilly was the master of making his long and often well-crafted statements in the form of a question. “Now, I think . . .” “This is the way I see it . . .” “This is where I come down on this . . .” often preceded a jeremiad that concluded with, “Do you agree?” The answer was merely punctuation for the next “question.”
.. for the most part guests were there either to serve as a Greek chorus or as ritual human sacrifice for his smartest-guy-at-the-bar routine.
.. O’Reilly’s talent is impossible to dispute on objective grounds. There are lots of acts I don’t like but I can respect for the skill behind them. I don’t like hip-hop, or opera for that matter, but I can still see the difference between people who are really good at it and people who aren’t.
.. There exists in some quarters an assumption that if you’re truly going to “fight,” then you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. You can’t be squeamish about details like truth or civility or decency. When searching for ideological gladiators, we emphasize their knifework, not their character or integrity.
.. “Watch [Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, etc.] DESTROY” this or that Republican is just one facet of the riot of confirmation bias and tribalism that defines our times. And conservatives play the same game. My friend Tucker Carlson has had a meteoric run of late in part because he is so good at bringing fresh lambs to the slaughter every night, first at 7 p.m., then 9:00 p.m., and now in O’Reilly’s spot.
.. Even the sainted William F. Buckley derived no small part of his appeal from the fact that he could always one-up any condescending liberal egghead. That was a big part of his legacy.
At a time when the media wanted desperately to paint conservatives as paranoid, anti-intellectual bigots in the George Wallace mode, Buckley’s sesquipedalian erudition served as a kind of reassurance.
.. But Buckley brought something else to the table: civility, self-deprecation, and a playful wit that could be intellectually devastating without being humiliating.
.. Over the last decade, conservatives have developed a severe case of Alinsky envy.
.. It is one of the oldest insights into human nature that envy corrupts the soul. (Aquinas defined envy as sadness for the good of others.) But Alinsky envy is corrupting in a different way. For years now conservatism has convinced itself that the Left wins by, in effect, cheating. They lie. They only care about power.
.. My objection is the conclusion conservatives draw from it: We’ve got to take the gloves off and play by the same rules! Alinsky’s rules!
.. You cannot argue that your enemy is evil and uses evil means and at the same time argue, “We should do it too!”
.. Our ideology has a monopoly on virtue, but in order for virtue to triumph we must act like people we claim are virtueless.
.. “Winning” gets redefined before our eyes into anything that fuels our ecstatic schadenfreude over the suffering of our opponents. Whenever Trump did something indefensible the “defense” “But he fights!” would pour forth.
.. there was a sense that liberalism, broadly defined, was destroying the city.
.. Rudy Giuliani transformed New York, literally saving the city. But he wasn’t really that conservative. He was pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-immigration.
.. Giuliani’s promise was, in effect, to Make New York Great Again. And, again, he largely succeeded. Just as important, he humiliated his enemies in the process.
.. Bill O’Reilly grew up in Long Island before the city started to decline, but he is incontestably a product of the nostalgia-besotted working-class worldview that Giuliani tapped into.
.. Sean Hannity, born in New York City but raised in Long Island, is another who largely fits that mold. More broadly, as I’ve written dozens of times, Fox News was always more populist than conservative, but its populism is often infused with a New York sensibility.
.. This was always the core of Donald Trump’s act
.. he always had a chip on his shoulder about New York elites.
.. O’Reilly’s intellectual insecurity drives him to churn out gimmicky histories, written by someone else. Trump’s spills out in boasts about his grades and his superior brain. They both insist they’re the smartest man in the room and that people who disagree with their meniscus-thin judgments are not just wrong, but bad or stupid.
.. using common sense to defeat the pinhead elites combined with his implied promise to humiliate his enemies with his strength and will was simply a variant of O’Reillyism. Indeed, Bill O’Reilly was the John the Baptist of Trumpism long before Donald Trump appeared on the political scene.