“Is We Getting Dummer” Or Is The News Media Deliberately Trying To Make Us Dumb?

Ethics Alarms has occasionally referenced the Arthur Herzog novel “IQ 83,” in which mutant DNA infests the U.S. population and lowers its average intelligence disastrously. “Is We Getting Dummer?” a typo-riddled New York Times front page asks. In the novel, the news media is one of the victims of the virus; today, it appears to be spreading the equivalent, and perhaps doing so intentionally.

Less than two weeks ago, we discussed a jaw-dropping (technically “head-exploding”) op-ed in the New York Times that criticized President Biden for giving poor Vice-President Harris assignments that were too darn hard for her, thus undermining her chances at being President, which was much to be desired. “[Biden] had to know that in choosing her as his vice president, he was making her his heir apparent. But based on how things look now, her work as his No. 2 could end up being baggage more than a boon. Mr. Biden and his team aren’t giving her chances to get some wins and more experience on her ledger. Rather, it’s the hardest of the hard stuff,” the Fordham political science professor wrote.

I thought this was about as incompetent an argument as I had ever seen published in a supposedly trustworthy publication, and even sinister in that too many readers lack the intellectual wherewithal to recognize its non-logic for the dog’s breakfast that it is. Prof Greer obviously thinks that Kamala Harris is qualified to be President, though why she does remains vague. But imagine an op-ed that takes the position that Harris is being unfairly “sabotaged” in her Presidential aspirations while simultaneously making it clear that she is obviously unqualified (which, of course, she is.)

You don’t have to imagine it, because Sarah Baxter, the former Deputy Editor of The Sunday London Times, now based in the U.S. and apparently determined to make the U.S. “dummer,” has written it. The op-ed is called “The sabotaging of Kamala Harris: Joe Biden’s reputation has been shored up at the expense of his party’s future.”

The essay reminded me of the several episodes of the original “Star Trek” in which Captain Kirk would defeat an evil computer or android by making it consider some internally inconsistent statement that caused its circuits to overload. We are told by Baxter that Harris has been “unpopular and ineffectual in office” and that “she is the author of her own misfortune.” The author writes, “Biden knew all about her political shortcomings after watching her implode during the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination — but went on to select her as his running mate, regardless. The optics of having the first woman, first black and first Asian vice-president at his side were too good to resist.” Then she writes, “What nobody expected is that every outing by Harris would be greeted with the same level of apprehension.”

Wait—Baxter just said, accurately, that Harris had no assets to recommend her for national leadership other than her skin-shade, gender and ethnicity. Why wouldn’t anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex be apprehensive about her likely performance? I know I was. Weren’t you?

Then Baxter writes, contradicting herself again, “In any case, it was always highly doubtful she would be an effective vice president. During her botched run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris frequently got into a muddle on policy. Was she a progressive or a centrist? Nobody knew for sure, not even Harris herself, it seemed.”

Almost immediately, Baxter reverses herself. “Biden is too frail to shoulder the burden by himself and Harris has become too weak to help him,” she says. “Become too weak”? She just said Harris had proven herself to be weak before Biden even selected her!

Finally, we get this conclusion, which is simply incoherent: “Throwing the most diverse Vice President in history to the wolves doesn’t reflect well on the Democrats, and it has left them dangerously dependent on a geriatric president.”

When they could be dependent on an obviously incompetent Vice-President? How would it better reflect on Democrats to continue to prop up an unqualified Veep and deceive the public that she was a responsible choice for President of the United States? Is Baxter really saying that being “diverse” is more important than being able to do the job?

I’m not sure what she is saying, frankly, but I am sure that publishing incoherent, self-contradictory, wretchedly-reasoned opinion pieces do substantive harm.

When I first started reading newspaper op-eds and discussing them with my father—I was about 13—I regarded them as carefully reasoned and articulated positions by scholars, experts and professionals with special insight and knowledge that I lacked. Most of them were, too, but my father explained that such opinions should not be taken as automatically correct; they needed to be examined, challenged, and analyzed. Still, I assumed, as I think most readers today assume, that an op-ed ends up in print because it possesses some enlightenment, some potential to clarify.

An op-ed like Baxter’s does not. It is careless, lazy, illogical and misleading, and makes any credulous reader less informed or thoroughly confused. And increasingly, such pieces are the norm, not the exception. In my dark moments, I wonder if the news media is intentionally trying to make us less adept at critical thought—“dummer”— so it will be easier to manipulate us.

If we’re stupid enough, after all, even Kamala Harris might seem smart enough to be President.

4 thoughts on ““Is We Getting Dummer” Or Is The News Media Deliberately Trying To Make Us Dumb?

  1. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-democrats-are-stuck-with-kamala-harris-like-it-or-not/ar-AAM1HQY?ocid=spartan-ntp-feeds

    I think this one kinda says it all. The Democrats have staked so much on identity politics that it has become existential, and now they CAN’T push the first black, Asian, female VP to the back of the line. The only way they can avoid that is if Harris herself steps aside, and you know that’s not happening. Maybe she will succeed to the presidency if Biden can’t continue, but I think the chances of that are less than they once were, since even the leftiest lefties are seeing she’s both incompetent and unpopular, so the direction is now shifting to prop Biden up as long as they can, hopefully to finish out this term. At that point they can regroup and decide what to do. Harris should not run, the woman is not electable in a normal election and becoming less and less electable with each passing day, each gaffe, each failure.

    If this country ever comes to its senses, Kamala Harris may well go down in history as the poster girl for what happens when color and gender trump all else: you get institutionalized incompetence. Come to think of it, this whole administration may go down as institutionalized incompetence. At the top you have a nearly 80-year-old president whose main claim to fame is staying in the Senate long enough to finally get “kicked upstairs” into the vice presidency under a man who said he’d just screw major things up, so don’t trust him with any, and whose path in largely consisted of flying under the radar and sniping while the previous president handled two major crises, either of which would have made the best of the 46 lose a step, who’s still covering for his screwup son, and who’s just set up a perfect bribe pipeline, not even trying too hard to hide it. He’s backed by a VP who rose to power not on merit, but by sleeping with someone powerful, whose main reasons for being picked were her color and gender, whose paper-thin mask as a real-life Olivia Pope is about to dissolve completely. They’re backed by a cabinet composed chiefly of spoils picks (i.e. Buttiigieg) and Obama loyalists, plus a Congress where their majorities are hanging by a thread and will probably be lost in the midterm elections. Below that are governors who have abused their pandemic powers, some vulnerable (Whitmer, maybe Murphy), some not (Newsome, probably Cuomo), and mayors who are objectively lousy, often elected just based on their color by majority minority cities who just want those checks to keep coming.

    What are their goals? Strike that, what are their real goals? Permanent power. How are they going to get it? 1. Federalize the election laws to make it easy to vote, easier to cheat. 2. Pack the courts, so that their actions will be upheld. 3. Turn more suburbs (where either party can win) into extensions of the cities (where a Republican can’t get elected dog catcher). 4. Demonize the opposition even further, by calling them racists and saying racism is the greatest danger this nation faces. Can it win? Maybe not in the long term, tyranny rarely stays in power too long in the modern western world (the Middle East, which lacks a democratic tradition, and the Far East, where the group is deemed more important than the individual, are separate discussions). The so-called Pink Tide or Turn to the Left in South America was barely a generation long. However, Cuba is only now calling for reform after 64 years, and the USSR stood for just over 70 before it finally fell apart. Historically that’s just a tick and a tock, but it’s enough to affect millions, even billions of lives negatively.

  2. Part of the fallout of treating people as demographics as opposed to individuals is the discounting of individual failing or excellence; Kamala Harris isn’t Kamala Harris, she’s a black, asian woman. And because black, asian women can do whatever they want, and because they want a black, asian woman to be president, all they had to do was push and prod a little, and THIS black, asian woman was going to be president…. Because really, all she needed was the opportunity and some support.

    And this isn’t just a Harris thing…. It’s part of the reason that cancel culture is so virulent: Because we’re all just interchangeable cogs in the great machine, taking straight white male cogs out of the machine makes room for queer minority nonbinary cogs, and that’s desirable, because all those people needed was support.

    This is almost never true. Does anyone remember Kyle Kashuv? He was one of the students during the Parkland shooting. He became the Republican foil to characters like David Hogg because even having survived the school shooting, he was still a staunch second amendment activist. He eventually had his acceptance to Harvard revoked because someone unearthed records of him using racial slurs, and it became the cause du vivre for the campus left for a while. The right generally took the position that this was a cancellation. Quoting myself at the time:

    “I think it’s fair to revoke the admission. And I think a lot of Republicans are fart-huffing over this. In one of the few times I’ll break with Ben Shapiro, he has said that Harvard’s standards are utterly unattainable. To which I respond: Bullshit. There are plenty of young people, even young conservatives, who happen to make it through their high school years without calling people, quote, “niggers” and saying that minorities are genetically inferior to white people. It’s unfortunate, especially because I don’t think Kyle actually holds these beliefs, but he professed them, and they are currently biting him in the ass. What is Harvard supposed to do? Pretend it all never happened? That there isn’t a line of people about a million miles long that is gagging for the opportunity Kyle had without the moral failing?”

    That situation might lead you to think that I view students applying to Harvard as interchangeable. And to a point, they are: They are relatively interchangeable within the population of people who already had the prerequisites. You can’t take a homeless person off the street , dump them into Harvard, and expect them to succeed. Hell, you can’t take people even a little bit down the bell curve and treat them interchangeably… Books have been written about the relative outcomes of people who benefitted from affirmative action. But if there are 100 open spots, there’s enough competition that the people who ranked 101-105 are almost certainly also good enough.

    Political benches are not deep. And while the qualifications for those benches are less clear, there are hints. If for instance, you are the AG of California, but you’ve been ineffective, the policies you’ve put out there are toxic to half your party, you can’t speak publicly, you have unfortunate nervous ticks, and you are so deeply unpopular that you dropped out of the primary to avoid the embarrassment of getting less than 1% support in your home state, then perhaps you can’t cut out to be in politics. Maybe you’re as high as you’ll ever get. You’re probably already Peter Principled. You are not an interchangeable cog in that machine. You are, to follow the metaphor; missing teeth, made of inferior metal, and are slightly bent… Even if you have that new, shiny paint job that draws people’s eyes.

  3. There’s really nothing irrational about this woman’s editorial. She saying Biden’s dotty and Harris is a dope. But so what? They’re not Trump and they’re Democrats. Who cares if they’re competent, they’re in charge (i.e. Ron Klain is running things). And the media will cover for both of them during this administration and for Harris moving forward. Results? Are you kidding me? Who cares about results when we’re talking about maintaining Democratic control? Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

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