TIME FOR A CHANGE: Columnist Krugman, meet essayist Rich!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

Part 4—Our own music men, Over Here:
Last Friday night, Carl Bernstein said it was time for a change in the way cable news covers Trump.

It's hard to argue with that! Could it also be time for a change Over Here, in our own liberal world?

We actually think it is! In our view, the liberal world hit rock bottom last year when Donald J. Trump pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House. When you lose to a ludicrous candidate like that, it's almost surely time for a change in your own tribe's pitiful practices.

In what way should our liberal world change? For one suggestion, let's return to Paul Krugman's column this Monday.

Krugman's column ended as shown below, with a question about Trump voters. For background, see Part 2 in this award-winning series.

Krugman ended as shown below. To us, this passage seemed illustrative, and it seemed somewhat peculiar:
KRUGMAN (3/20/17): [W]hy did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience—not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic...
Krugman has long been the journalistic MVP of our liberal world. We were saddened by that passage.

In part, we were saddened because Krugman almost seemed to be searching for "the reason" which would explain 63 million different votes, cast by 63 million different people.

That would be an extremely dumb thing to do. Technically, Krugman doesn't do it in that passage. But he almost seemed to drifting in that deeply tribal direction.

Krugman did something else in that passage. He said that "many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like." He seemed to offer that as a major explanation for all those votes for Trump.

As he cast this aspersion, Krugman seemed to say that the "many Americans" to whom he referred can all be found Over There.
The dumbbells were all Over There, in the tents of Those People, The Others.

He said he doesn't know how they got so dumb, but the dumb ones are all Over There.

We would very strongly dispute each of Krugman's points. We don't think it's gigantically hard to understand why people would vote for Trump. More significantly, the specific dumbness Krugman describes has also been on wide display Over Here, within our liberal tribe.

In our view, it's true! In our view, many conservative-leaning voters have, in fact, unwisely trusted a succession of con men over the past thirty years.

They've trusted Rush Limbaugh; they've trusted Trump. In our view, these assessments were unwise.

That said, we the people have always been inclined to fall for the blandishments of con men. And uh-oh:

Over the course of the past thirty years, we liberals have repeatedly been conned by such types Over Here. In the process, we've tolerated the rise of a world which inexorably led us to Trump.

We failed to see through our own music men, and own music men have been many. We in the liberal rank-and-file have tolerated horrendous leadership.

These leaders have routinely sold our interests away. Just as it has ever been, we haven't been able to see this.

What types of music men have we accepted? Let's start with the behavior of mainstream and liberal journalism during the Clinton-Gore years.

During that period, the crazy claims which constituted "Trump-before-Trump" sometimes came from the right. Jerry Falwell paraded around selling a film about the Clintons' many murders.

The mainstream press corps gave Falwell a pass. As this sick arrangement developed, we in the liberal rank-and-file peacefully napped in the woods.

Jerry Falwell was selling his ludicrous film in the mid-1990s. By that time, the more consequential wars against the Clintons and Gore had taken shape within the upper-end mainstream press.

We've recited this history a million times. Nothing will ever make career liberal con men discuss it.

Whatever! For reasons which are rarely discussed, the most consequential wars against both Clintons and Gore largely came from the elite mainstream press, not from the hard right. These wars were driven and enabled by figures admired by Us.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Trump? We liberals couldn't see through the figures to whom we refer!

The great turning-point in modern political history came when Candidate Bush nosed past Candidate Gore. People are dead all over the world, though it has become blindingly obvious that we liberals don't actually care.

The war which permitted Bush to squeak past Gore was conducted by mainstream and liberal figures. Unfortunately, "many Americans" in our own liberal tends were unable to see what was being done by the high-profile figures to whom we refer, including those who were being made rich by the near-billionaire Jack Welch, conservative CEO of NBC News and its cable arms.

Even when told, we liberals weren't able to see what was happening. To make a fascinating story short, consider two astonishing facts:

To this very day, no one has ever written a profile of Chris Matthews' astonishing conduct during Campaign 2000, in which he waged war against Candidate Gore and against Candidate Clinton, and in the years which followed, during which time he continued his misogynistic attacks on Candidate Clinton.

Equally astonishing:

To this very day, no one has ever written a serious profile of Maureen Dowd's astonishing journalism—no one except Clark Hoyt, her own newspaper's public editor, whose blistering profile of Dowd's treatment of Candidate Clinton was widely ignored back in 2008.

Simple story: Within the guild, Matthews and Dowd were each too powerful to be discussed by their unprincipled colleagues. In these ways, we liberals were sold down the river by a full battalion of mainstream journalists, many of whom we foolishly regard as our liberal leaders.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Candidate Trump? As a general matter, we would be inclined to agree with that judgment.

But "many Americans" Over Here have been unable to see through the vast assortment of gong-show artists who have been loosed upon us by various corporate suits. We can't even see through the clowning of Maddow! Why should The Others see through the nonsense of Candidate Trump?

Krugman's lament about Those People's blindness came at a propitious time. In this very same week, one of our dumbest music men would peddle his latest trombone.

We refer to head buffoon Frank Rich, who is known as "the great Frank Rich" when he's dragged out for musical purposes on the Maddow Show. Consider this blowhard's track record:

Start with the headlong chase after Bill Clinton's ten blow jobs. During that period, Rich authored the definitive dumbest remark in support of the greatness of Gennifer Flowers, a disordered person whose credibility ought to rated at zero.

Jump ahead to Campaign 2000. Once the primaries were over, Rich spent the whole of 2000 insisting that Bush and Gore were two peas in a pod. From a very high platform, he kept telling the liberal world that there was no difference between them.

Let's move to September 2002. As war with Iraq was being sold, Al Gore delivered a major speech warning against this move. (Almost no one else did.)

Rather than hail the most prominent liberal to make such a speech, Rich savaged Gore's for his unsightly motives, which Rich had somehow divined.

As for Rich himself, he never made a clear declaration concerning the proposed war; he then went on sabbatical as decision day drew nearer. A few years later, after the war had gone bad, Rich ran around to the front of the line. He wrote a best-selling book about the war which made him a larger lib hero.

In 2006, Gore starred in the film about climate change which went on to win an Oscar. Speaking to his brilliant friend Don Imus, Rich trashed Gore's motives all over again. He compared the Oscar-winning documentary to a high school instructional film.

Even the film's commercial success, and the eventual Oscar, didn't alter Rich's perspective. Finally, when Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Rich executed an instant 180. Overnight, he went from unrelenting ridicule to silly ridiculous fawning, as is the way of his ridiculous kind.

Frankly, "many Americans" in our own liberal tents haven't been able to see through ridiculous figures like Rich. Perhaps we ought to consider such facts before we puzzle over the failure of Those People, Over There, to see through a figure like Trump.

This week, of course, our biggest buffoon continued to give us liberals his trademark bad advice.

In a pitiful essay for New York magazine, Rich implored the liberal world to continue loathing and trashing Those People. This is terrible, ugly, stupid advice, advice which comes to us live and direct from the man who started out as the famous "Butcher of Broadway."

Rich went to Harvard, of course. Given that opportunity, he seems to have learned little except the best ways to kick down. Our Harvard man's pitiful headline is this:

"No Sympathy for the Hillbilly"

Sad! Over Here in our liberal tents, we haven't been able to see him for the false prophet he is.

Alas! We live in a time when a vast array of corporate entities teach us to loathe The Others. In case you haven't noticed, this is a very good way to make money on line, or in cable.

Rush Limbaugh has long been one such major corporate entity. Over Here, we're now creating our own.

It's true! Regular good and decent people will frequently be influenced, in harmful ways, by persuasive music men with prehistoric tribal pleadings.

That said, our tents are full of such music men Over Here. Krugman's column notwithstanding, this phenomenon isn't restricted to the judgments reached Over There, by Those People, The Others, hillbillies.

Krugman's new column moves in a much wiser direction today. He correctly describes the flow of this destructive game, noting the way "the media" have misled the wider world about the works of Paul Ryan.

Regular people, decent and good, have always believed music men. This morning, Krugman's aim is true. On Monday, he was kicking down—and forgetting to kick Over There.

Christopher Matthews was Trump before Trump. He got very rich in the process. He was working for Jack Welch at that time. This couldn't be mentioned because the rest of our liberal heroes wanted those Welch paydays too.

No one has ever told the liberal rank-and-file about that noxious history. On the leadership level, our own moral squalor is rank, epidemic—our own squalor, that of our own music men, the ones who got rich Over Here.

Next week: Who are Those People?

Savaging Donald J. Trump for his claims!


The Journal uses its words:
The Wall Street Journal hit Trump so hard the New York Times took notice.

In this morning's editions, Sydney Ember reported what the Journal said. We were struck by the way the Journal used its words:
EMBER (3/23/17): The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is known for its conservative tone, but an editorial the newspaper published online Tuesday night would stand out even in the pages of its left-leaning peers.

The editorial was an extraordinarily harsh rebuke of President Trump, calling him “his own worst political enemy” and asserting that he was damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

In particular, the editorial board pointed to Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones. “The President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the editorial said...
For ourselves, we would have added one word to the Journal's list of crimes. Below, you see what the Journal said, and you can see our one-word addition:
THE JOURNAL: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

THE JOURNAL EDITED: Trump is damaging his presidency “with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other ridiculous falsehoods.”
We would have stuck "ridiculous" in. That said, did you notice the word the Journal eschewed?

The Journal didn't say "lies!"

You can hammer Donald J. Trump without alleging "lies." The Journal, using its many words, did so rather capably.

Why shouldn't the Journal have used the word "lies?" Unless you're seven years old, there are various reasons.

In certain contexts, the word is perfectly sensible. In many others, it creates a pointless distraction—and an instant secondary debate the accuser is likely to lose.

Second-graders can't understand that. Is that the source of our problem?

Time magazine rolls over and dies!


Sympathy for the birther:
Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a report on the subject of false belief.

Many, many people have said that Brendan Nyhan learned everything he knows from us. Modestly, we don't make an opinion on that.

That said, Nyhan teamed with Amanda Taub for a news analysis piece which bore this headline:

"Why People Continue to Believe Objectively False Things"

Given the lunacy of our discourse, this topic would seem important. At one point, the reporters discussed the granddaddy of them all—the objectively false belief that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

The writers described the way false beliefs tend to regain their strength in the months and years after they've been refuted. Mainly, we were struck by the overall numbers in this passage:
TAUB AND NYHAN (3/22/17): Mr. Trump disavowed the “birther” myth in September 2016, conceding that Mr. Obama was in fact born in Hawaii. There was an increase afterward in the number of voters who said they believed Mr. Obama was born in the United States, but polling by Morning Consult suggests that part of that effect has already faded. In September, it found that 62 percent of registered voters said they believed Mr. Obama had been born in the United States, but in a follow-up poll early this month, that number had dropped to 57 percent.

This decline cannot be attributed simply to partisan bias; it occurred among both Democrats (who went to 77 percent from 82 percent) and Republicans (down to 36 percent from 44 percent).
In the survey taken this month, 57 percent of respondents said Obama was born in the United States.

In that same survey, 26 percent of respondents said he wasn't born in the U.S. An additional 17 percent said they didn't know.

(Is this an artefact of slobbering racism? Eighteen percent of black respondents said Obama wasn't born in the U.S.; 13 percent said they didn't know.)

Objectively, the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii has been settled. As such, this looks like the granddaddy of them all when it comes to contemporary false beliefs.

That makes Time magazine's interview with Donald J. Trump the latest remarkable bit of avoidance concerning the gentleman's history as king of the birthers.

Time's interview focuses on Trump's assortment of bogus claims. The magazine bills its lengthy report on Trump as "a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career."

The way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career? Strikingly, Michael Scherer never asked about Trump's birther claims during his interview. Trump's birtherism was only fleetingly mentioned in Scherer's cover report.

During the interview, Scherer never asked about the investigators Trump said he sent to Hawaii. He never asked about the mind-boggling, undisclosed facts Trump said his gumshoes had found.

He never asked if there had been such gumshoes, or if it had all been a lie.

Politely, Scherer ducked this topic in his interview, as many before him had done. Once again, it's stunning to see the way our upper-end "press corps" actually handles such tasks.

Before this, the biggest act of "birther avoidance" may have belonged to the New York Times. Last July, the paper did a lengthy, front-page Sunday report about Trump's birtherism. But they never asked Trump or his associates if he had simply been lying when he said he sent those investigators to Hawaii.

In the summer of 2015, the entire press corps took a dive. After Trump announced his presidential campaign, he told a few interviewers that he was no longer willing to discuss birtherism.

The entire press corps crawled away and took a nap in the woods. Basically, Trump was never asked about this topic again until the campaign was almost done.

Our upper-end, mainstream "press corps" is Potemkin all the way down. This is a fascinating, remarkable fact about our highly Potemkin culture.

Our press corps is phony/faux all the way down. Will someone alert Kevin Drum?

Also this: Has any journalistic or academic org ever interviewed survey respondents about this topic? What would all those people say about where they think Obama was born?

This is the grand-daddy of them all in the realm of modern bogus belief. Our big news orgs and our academics have chosen to take it in stride.

Nothing to look at, boys and girls! Children! Please keep moving!

TIME FOR A CHANGE: The fog of (24-hour) war!


Part 3—At CNN and the Times:
Was Carl Bernstein right, last Friday night, when he spoke with Anderson Cooper? Is it time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump?

Inevitably, there's always room for improvement! For one example, consider CNN's latest fuzzy report.

The fog was general over the famous cable channel last night. We'll cite the chunk of CNN's written report which was posted by Kevin Drum.

Last evening, CNN's Pamela Brown—her mother was a Miss America!—delivered this report to Cooper himself. According to Cooper, Brown was one of the reporters who "broke this story."

Presumably, he'd meant to say that she had broken this "news report:"
BROWN (/3/22/17): The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN....The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings.

....One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.
According to a recent confession, Drum was born again on Election Day. Perhaps for that reason, we'd say he may have gotten a tiny tad over his skis in the comments he offered about this fuzzy report.

What's so "fuzzy" about that report? Let's consider the fuzzy term "suspected Russian operatives" as we try to discern what Brown actually broke.

According to Brown, this is what CNN has "learned:"

CNN has learned that information "indicates" that Trumpsters communicated with "suspected" Russian operatives to "possibly" coordinate the release of information. According to U.S. officials!

To us, that's a rather fuzzy claim. Consider the term, "suspected Russian operatives:"

According to CNN, does the FBI claim to know or believe that Trumpsters communicated with actual Russian operatives? Actually, the alleged communications were with suspected operatives, whatever exactly that means.

These questions come to mind:

Who suspects that the people in question may have been Russian operatives?

Presumably, the FBI currently holds this suspicion. That said, did the Trumpsters suspect that these people were Russian operatives, back then in real time?

Also, on what basis are these people suspected to have been Russian operatives? Were these people so suspected back then? Or are they just so suspected now?

We ask these questions for a reason. To wit:

Is it possible that the "suspected Russian operatives" in question are the good people of Wikileaks? At present, would Wikileaks people qualify for the somewhat fuzzy label of "suspected Russian operatives?"

If so, would Trumpsters have known about this suspected connection in real time? If we're talking about Wikileaks people, would the Trumpsters have had reason to suspect that they were in league with the Russkies?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. Last night, CNN viewers were lost in the fog of war of a 24-hour kind.

In fairness, CNN's report was exciting. It was also remarkably fuzzy. The channel served a cocktail mixed from "possibly" and "suspected." Chasers of "suggests" and "premature" were also served.

At times like these, excitement is driven by such fuzzy reports—reports which will, in standard second-grade fashion, be referred to as "stories." That said, news orgs like CNN are loathe to spot the fuzziness in such exciting reports.

Consider the nonsense on CNN last Friday night, one hour before Bernstein piped up.

Last Friday night, Bernstein said it was time for a change. One hour earlier, Cooper and a panel of thousands had battled the fuzzy, indeterminate claims advanced by Jeffrey Lord.

Lord is the hardest-working, most frustrating man in show business today. Last Friday night, he showcased his ability to bring CNN's story-telling to a screeching halt.

Last Friday, Cooper and a panel of thousands were imagining what James B. Comey was going to say on Monday morning to the House Intel committee. The panelists agreed that Comey the God was going to clean Trump's clock.

The cast of thousands all agreed—Comey was going to say that Trump had been wrong with all that wiretap blather. But then, Cooper was forced to throw to Lord.

Here's what "the great frustrater" said for maybe the ten millionth time:
LORD (3/17/17): Anderson, I guess I'm going to be the lone voice here. I just respectfully disagree with all of my friends here.
Groans were heard across the land. There he went again!

After Lord discussed a transient point, Cooper took him where the rubber meets the road. For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord lodged these observations about Donald J. Trump's prescient wiretap claim:
COOPER: Again, we'll know more Monday [when Comey testifies]. But according to the latest reporting, the Department of Justice report does not confirm the president's claims. Jeffrey, does the president need to admit he was wrong?

LORD: No! What the president needs to do—and frankly, I am totally dumbfounded at these Republicans on the Hill. What they need to do is take all the news accounts from Maggie's paper and put them out there and investigate those. Notice that Fox News has—

Notice that Fox News has retracted its report. The New York Times has not done so with these stories.
There he went again! For perhaps the ten millionth time, Lord was saying that "stories" in Maggie Haberman's New York Times support Trump's wiretap claim!

How many times had Cooper's panels been through this? Haberman responded with two speeches which were beside the point, then finally offered this:
HABERMAN: For the record, those stories do not say what Sean Spicer said—claimed that they had said. Sean Spicer cited these to suggest they backed up the president's claim that he was wiretapped by the previous president.

LORD: He was surveilled.

HABERMAN: No, that is not what those stories said.

LORD: It is, Maggie. I just read them today.

HABERMAN: No, it is not. No, it is not. What those stories—

LORD: It says people in the Obama administration were responsible for surveillance, and then that surveillance was leaked to the New York Times.

HABERMAN: First of all, that's not what they said.
All the panelists knew what Lord was talking about. They'd all seen this pointless discussion about a thousand times.

At the bare minimum, Lord was talking about this news report from the January 20 New York Times, a rather fuzzy news report with fuzzy claims about "wiretapping." Now it fell to Cooper to play his role in this well-rehearsed, time-killing game:
COOPER: Jeffrey, we've had the reporter that you have cited multiple times. You've cited his reporting claims. We've had the reporter on twice saying you are wrong. "My article did not say what Sean Spicer and the White House and you are claiming it says."

[Silly misstatement provokes good-natured group laughter]

LORD: What I am saying to you is that it is abundantly clear in those stories that people working for the Obama administration—and let's remember, again, as I've said before, when some bureaucrat in the Agriculture Department said ketchup was a vegetable, Ronald Reagan was personally held responsible. That's what we do with presidents. Hence, Harry Truman's "the buck stops here."

This happened on Barack Obama's watch with people in his administration. He was responsible.
As he's said before? Truer words were never spoken! Endless story short:

Cooper referred to Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg. He had appeared on his program several times, saying his January 20 news report doesn't support Trump's wiretap claim.

Now, Lord was saying that he had just reread the report that very day! He said that, properly understood, it did in fact support Trump's insightful wiretap claim.

This silly Groundhog Day discussion had occurred many times. At no point did Cooper ever ask Lord to cite the words of the Times report which supposedly supports Trump's claim.

At no point had Cooper ever cited the language in the report which refutes Trump's claim (or Lord's). And by the way:

If Cooper's panel had ever gotten into the New York Times report, they would have found some fuzzy language and claims, including remarks about "wiretapping." Certain parts of the somewhat fuzzy report could conceivably be taken various ways in these excited times.

One hour later, Bernstein was saying that it's time for a change in the way CNN reports on Donald J. Trump. Concerning that, we'll say this:

Back in the day, TV news ate thirty minutes each night. Today, cable news stars are paid large sums to eat a full twenty-four hours.

The excitement of the fuzzy claim keeps the whole show going. The failure to resolve any point plays a key role in this game.

When you have to fill large chunks of time, the inability to resolve any point is perhaps your best friend. Perhaps for that reason, the stars who are paid to extend this game tend to display analytical skills straight outta second grade.

Again and again, the Coopers seem to be working on second grade level. They seem weirdly unable to settle any point. As a result, like Freddy Krueger, Lord just keeps coming back.

Along the way, fuzzy claims keep things exciting and fun. Lord provides nightly conflict.

On CNN, a cast of thousands battles with Lord on a regular basis. Constantly, the valiant pundit is forced to "guess that he's going to be the lone voice here." He's forced to "just respectfully disagree with all his friends on CNN."

Five nights later, his CNN friends may report that the FBI has information that "indicates" certain things about what Trumpsters "possibly" did with "suspected" Russian operatives.

They push their fuzziness all night long. Excitement spreads; another long day is done.

Tomorrow: In our view, the answer to Krugman's question is, in part, Frank Rich

One of our tribe's most glorious seers!


Frankly, it keeps getting Richer:
Let's recall the latest glorious statement by "the great Frank Rich:"
Frank Rich, March 19, 2017: In Portsmouth, Ohio, the epicenter of opiate-pill mills and of Quinones’s book, Trump won by a landslide. As he did in Ohio’s Butler County, where Vance grew up and which now ranks eighth among all American counties in the increase in the rate of drug-related deaths between 2004 (when opioid fatalities first spiked) and 2014.

As polls uniformly indicate, nothing that has happened since November 8 has shaken that support.

Quinnipiac University/Poll, March 22, 2017: President Donald Trump is losing support among Republicans, white voters and men, leaving him with a negative 37-56 percent job approval rating from American voters, his worst score ever, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.
Frankly, we're just saying.

Rich has been like this forever. But our tribe hangs on his every word, as their tribe is inclined to do with an assortment of seers.

Despite all this, we call Them dumb, insist that We are quite brilliant. This is the age-old logic of tribe, a logic in which our own tribe is deeply invested.

Our own tribe hit rock bottom last year. In line with the age-old logic of tribe, our tribe is unable to grasp this.

(Mandated tribal reaction: Why in the world would anyone engage in such odd disparagement?)

Unheated public school, temperatures near zero!


Oddly disparaging remarks about Jimmy Breslin:
Has this fellow Bob Somerby "been oddly disparaging about people who say that Donald Trump is a liar?"

Frankly, we're not sure. Yesterday, our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, leveled that harsh accusation, but he offered no examples of this ongoing odd disparagement.

He quoted a recent post which may have oddly disparaged three high-profile press figures, including Mika Brzezinski. For today, we'll move on to oddly disparaging comments about the late Jimmy Breslin, with the hope that this may start to convey the apparently mystifying idea we've offered for nineteen years.

Jimmy Breslin died this past weekend at 88 years of age. We have no overall view of his long, high-profile career.

We have been struck by some of the ways in which modern journalists have lionized his work. In a lengthy, page A1 news report of Breslin's death, the New York Times' Dan Barry employed at least one fighting word:
BARRY (3/20/17): Mr. Breslin found early escape in newspapers. As a boy, he would spread the broadsheet pages across the floor and imagine himself on a Pullman car, filing stories from baseball ports of call...

After getting a job as a sportswriter for The New York Journal-American, Mr. Breslin wrote a freshly funny book about the first season of the hapless Mets, ''Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?'' It persuaded John Hay Whitney, the publisher of The New York Herald Tribune, to hire him as a news columnist in 1963.

Soon Mr. Breslin was counted among the writers credited with inventing ''New Journalism,'' in which novelistic techniques are used to inject immediacy and narrative tension into the news. (Mr. Breslin, an admirer of sportswriters like Jimmy Cannon and Frank Graham, scoffed at this supposed contribution, saying that he and others had merely introduced Dickens-like storytelling to a new generation.)

Unleashed, Mr. Breslin issued regular dispatches that changed the craft of column writing, said the journalist and author Pete Hamill, a former colleague. ''It seemed so new and original,'' Mr. Hamill said. ''It was a very, very important moment in New York journalism, and in national journalism.''
Uh-oh! Breslin introduced "novelistic techniques" (and "storytelling") into American journalism.

And not only that! Before long, Breslin has been "unleashed." Freed from the chains of the past, he "changed the craft of column writing."

Just for today, let's be oddly disparaging about these alleged facts. Let's review Jim Dwyer's column in this morning's Times, the latest column about Jimmy Breslin.

In our general view, Dwyer tends to write good columns. As a general matter, he doesn't seem to engage in novelization to the extent that many others do.

That said, we thought we might be reading a novel at several points in Dwyer's new column. To read that column, click here.

Dwyer's headline praises Breslin for delivering "Fresh Truths, Bluntly Told." But uh-oh! When we read the passage shown below, we suspected we might be reading a novelized truth, inaccurately told:
DWYER (3/22/17): Mr. Breslin died Sunday at 88, and had been mostly out of the public eye for more than a decade...From the long arc of his public work and life, what remains are deep truths that he told bluntly, and that he saw because he stepped away from the crowd.

Before Mark Davidson and Ruben Blancovich were born, Mr. Breslin had written about the funeral of John F. Kennedy as seen by the man who dug the grave. Along the route of a voting rights march in 1965 led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Breslin found an unheated schoolhouse for black children in “a wooden building that was a church when people in Lowndes County wore Confederate uniforms,” he wrote, noting a teacher’s remark that while it did get cold sometimes, “we hardly ever get near zero.”
Uh-oh! Let's note that, in his actual copy, Dwyer praises Breslin for telling deep truths. We'd be inclined to regard that choice of words as another warning sign, novelized storytelling v. journalism-wise.

What "deep truth" did Dwyer recall in his very next paragrapg? He said that Breslin, back in the day, had visited an unheated school for black kids in Lowndes County, state unknown.

He said Breslin had quoted a teacher making a deep remark. While it did get cold in that school, Dwyer quotes the teacher saying, "We hardly ever get near zero."

In an oddly disparaging way, warning lights flashed around here.

Why would a teacher have said that, we skillfully wondered. In how many southern states does the temperature ever get near zero?

We journeyed home from the coffee joint, determined to check this moving deep tale. Our verdict?

In this case, it seems to be Dwyer who handed us a novel in place of the actual facts.

As it turns out, the Lowndes County in question is Lowndes County, Alabama. It's not too far from Montgomery, where the average low in the coldest month is 35.7 degrees.

Set that to the side! For the essay by Breslin to which Dwyer seems to refer, you can just click here.

The teacher is question was named Josephine Jackson. In Breslin's piece, she said the school dis get cold in the winter.

That said, she tells Breslin that the schoolroom is heated, sometimes by coal and sometimes by wood. In her fuller quote, she says that the local temperature rarely goes below 25.

We're reading about a school for black kids in Alabama in 1965. If we can believe what Breslin wrote, it sounds like conditions in that school were extremely bad.

That said, something is extremely bad today in Dwyer's actual column! Perhaps in the drive to tell a "deep truth," he seems to misstate one basic fact and he selectively edits a quote.

Based on appearances, Dwyer was writing a bit of a novel. To make the truth of his novel deeper, he threw journalism away.

This made his novel more pleasing for his target audience. That said, people are dead all over the world because our journalists have long since been "unleashed" and permitted to con us this way.

It's oddly disparaging to note this fact, unless you think there's a problem with the fact that people are dead all over the world because people like Dwyer do deep things like this. That said, most of the dead aren't people like Us. So why should anyone care?

Does it "matter" that Dwyer slipped his leash and penned a short novel today? Not exactly, no. That said:

Truth to tell, we thought we might have spied a second novel floating around in his column. Tell the truth. Do you believe the following passage, with which today's column ends?
DWYER: The New York of the 1970s and 1980s was slumping into decay; Mr. Breslin, his friend Pete Hamill, and the Times columnist Francis X. Clines were among the leading voices to insist that the people of the city should not be mistaken for its wreckage.

“He went under a desk in his bedroom and brought out some of the books he has been reading,” Mr. Breslin wrote of Ruben Blancovich, then a sixth grader in Public School 206 who started in the third grade able to read some words only in Spanish and a few in English. “A paperback collection of major American poets, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, the novel ‘April Morning’ by Howard Fast, and a coffee-table book, ‘Colonial Craftsmen,’ with drawings and text by Edwin Tunis.”

Mr. Blancovich, who now lives in Albany, went on to Yale and a career in banking and entrepreneurship. He was grateful for the attention Mr. Breslin gave to a school that worked well. He “was looking at things that the rest of the news wasn’t focusing on,” Mr. Blancovich said.

He still has his copy of “The Red Badge of Courage,” he said, and the clipping of Mr. Breslin’s column.
Do you believe that story? Do you believe that Ruben Blancovich, then a sixth grader in Public School 206 who started in the third grade able to read some words only in Spanish and a few in English," had actually been reading those books when Breslin came along?

Everything is possible! That said, the use of such selective examples, real or imagined, has played a deeply destructive role in our discourse about low-income schools at least since the 1960s. On the brighter side, the constant resort to stories like that has made us liberals feel good.

We liberals have always loved to be told that low-income and minority kids are secretly a bunch of geniuses who are being kept from splitting the atom only by the heinous conduct of their public schools.

Because our own IQs are low, this novel makes us feel good.

We're too dumb to understand that this famous old novel is a fantasy novel. We're too uncaring to see the way this fantasy stands in the way of serious discussion of the practices of our urban schools.

We're too lazy to see the way this construct enables the slanderous claim that low-income kids do relatively poorly at school because of their ratty teachers with their fiendish unions.

We're too dumb, too lazy, too uncaring. We like our "stories," our daily soaps. In the wake of their unleashing, people like Breslin began to supply them, replacing complexity and accuracy with a series of deep alleged truths.

"Unleashed" in the manner Barry described, our journalists began writing those "novels." More accurately, they began constructing low-IQ penny novels, novels which were built around pleasing sets of characters.

Where did this unleashing lead? In March 2000, the Washington Post's E. R. Shipp wrote a short but brilliant column about the novelization of the 2000 presidential campaign. By then, one of the candidates was being novelized by one and all as human history's weirdest, most puzzling liar.

His name was Candidate Gore. Predecessors to Drum kept sucking their thumbs as this standard mainstream novel sent Candidate Bush to the White House. To this day, the career liberal world has agreed that this can't be discussed.

People are dead all over the world. Put another way, it's oddly disparaging to note the way the life forms who pretend to be journalists continue to play this amazingly childish game.

(Most of the dead are the dead of Iraq. Can we tell the truth just once? Despite the stories we tell about ourselves, we liberals don't care about people like them. No fact could be more plain.)

Final note:

In the fall of 1999, Breslin wrote one of the stupidest columns about the vile Candidate Gore. Breslin was no longer influential at this time, but he gave amazingly sharp voice to the various loathings floating around in the columns of those who were.

Many of those columnists came from Breslin's East Coast Irish Catholic tribe. By now, Breslin was no longer in the loop. Mary McGrory, Maureen Dowd, Michael Kelly very much were.

We were raised within that same tribe, at least until 1960, when our family lit out for the territories on the west coast. Within the journalistic realm, this tribe's behavior was especially heinous during Campaign 2000, which started in March 1999 and ran a full twenty months.

Breslin had freed Chris Matthews and the rest to write their favorite "novels." Brian Williams trembled nightly about Gore's troubling clothes, which us about his flawed character.

Angry at Clinton, they novelized Gore. People are dead all over the world because of the astonishing way these silly, money-grubbing children played their destructive games.

Today, Mika plays a second grader every day of the week; others are in the same ballpark. To defenders of the faith, to the people who favored the war in Iraq, it is considered oddly disparaging to continue to notice such facts.

A tremendously stupid (regional) novel: Breslin's novel about Candidate Gore was tremendously stupid. It turned on the idea that Gore, being Southern and white, was a slobbering racist, what with "his quaint Tobacco Road customs" and all.

To read Breslin's column, click here. It appeared in October 1999.

Breslin used the old Gore-invented-Willie Horton con as his basic text. Earlier in 1999, only people like Rush Limbaugh had been playing this stupid old card, which came from the RNC.

By November of that year, mainstream journalists were standing in line to recite this novel. We're not sure if anyone else linked the tale to Tobacco Road, but everyone could see the deep truth was bigger than mere facts.

(Some of these novelists tortured the language, thus keeping their statements "technically accurate." Others couldn't even be bothered with that.)

All the silly second graders typed the pleasing novel. Thanks to the greatness of Breslin, they'd long since been unleashed.

People are dead all over the world. How odd to recall such a fact!