CSotD: What did we not know, and how did we not know it?

Mike Smith (KFS) suggests that MAGA supporters are either stupid or hypocritical for ignoring the outrageous flaws of our previous president while blaming the current one for things beyond his capacity to control.

It is, unfortunately, a view of the world as it should be rather than the world as it is. There’s a lot of that going around.

A half century ago, before the Internet, before unbridled talk radio, before Fox News, the scenario he envisions would hold water: People had about a half dozen major news sources, the bulk of which — in broadcast if not in print — labored mightily to present as fair a spectrum of news and opinions as possible.

There were still people with odd beliefs, but they were known as “the lunatic fringe,” and, for the most part, had enough other oddball elements going on that few of them had any power to spread their eccentric views beyond Thanksgiving dinner and whatever barroom was willing to put up with their lectures.


Today, as Pearls Before Swine (AMS) lays it out, the “news” has become a partisan effort intended not to inform the world but to monetize and reinforce the aforementioned screwball opinions.

There had always been newspapers whose publishers ran a whacked out editorial page. They’d have a core of readers who were true believers, but a larger readership that simply shook their heads over the nutty parts and turned to the ball scores and cake recipes.

And those extremist  local papers were countered by the big three networks, whereby readers saw coverage that didn’t froth at the mouth, from Huntley & Brinkley, Walter Cronkite or Howard K. Smith.

Did those networks always get it right? No. They were sucked in by the Gulf of Tonkin reports and other fallacies later revealed in the Pentagon Papers, but these flaws — monumental as they were — stemmed from an overarching societal agreement that honesty mattered.

Perhaps you had to be there.


As Dave Granlund notes, we’ve entered a world in which a White House counselor could go on national television speaking of “alternative facts” when the numbers clearly visible at Dear Leader’s inauguration didn’t match his boasting of a Woodstock-sized crowd, and she did so with the cheerful cooperation of loyalist outlets reporting what their viewers wanted to be true rather than what clearly was.

Now the woman who cited the Bowling Green Massacre as justification for a ban on Muslim immigration has a book coming out which, as Granlund says, will tell the alternative truth of her alternatively patriotic service.

Point being that Mike Smith’s MAGA viewer never saw all that criticism of Dear Leader, because he was tuned in to Fox News and rightwing talk radio, soaking in a river of partisan outrage and alternative facts.

He’s not stupid. In a recent experiment, when viewers like him were persuaded to vary their media sources — not change them entirely, simply add different voices — they changed their views and became more moderate and well-rounded.

But that was only an experiment.


The reality is that Steve Kelley (Creators) can, with a straight face, pose a situation in which demonstrations on public sidewalks are termed “illegal” in order to recirculate a blatantly false report that people disrupting school board meetings had been branded as terrorists by the Justice Department.

Which brings us to this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Joe Heller)


(AF Branco – Creators)

Heller notes that the current shortage of infant formula has been transformed into a rightwing partisan scandal, and Branco demonstrates what he means.

There is a shortage, certainly, and for a small number of hyper-allergic infants (and others), it’s a crisis. President Biden is meeting with manufacturers, though a key part of the problem may be too much production in too few hands. Still, Abbott, whose recall sparked the shortage, is addressing the matter.

Which is not simply good public service but good business.

However, those who get their information from the right fringe seem willing to believe, first of all, that the Biden administration has chosen to ship pallets of scarce formula to border stations, since they haven’t been told that federal law requires food be available to detainee children and that, accordingly, Donald Trump also kept the facilities supplied.

Plus they believe that whatever quantities of formula are on the shelves at those locations could, loaves-and-fishes style, alleviate the national shortage.


All of it sparked by a seriously misinformed, if not deliberately dishonest, Texas Representative who circulated a photo showing what turned out to be mostly fruit, not formula.

The “So what?” is that, whether the accusations are purposely fraudulent or the result of blind foolishness, they’re being circulated for political purposes without the slightest bit of logic, fact-checking or sincere concern for post-born children. Elise Stefanik not only exploits the shortage, but blames it on “pedo-grifters,” whatever the hell those are.

Rest assured, however, her followers will understand, and believe, and vote accordingly in November.


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Pat Bagley)


(Paul Fell)

This pair of cartoons sent me scrambling to Google News to find out why residential schools were suddenly in the news.

They’re good cartoons and it’s a worthy topic, but I had cited the topic a year ago, when the issue was exploding across Canadian media and in their political cartoons.

Turns out there’s a new report on the American side, the result of a year-long investigation sparked by those reports from Canada.

CBS headlines their coverage “Report on American Indian boarding schools reveals horrible treatment of Indigenous children,” but of course it doesn’t “reveal” a damn thing.

As I wrote before

We knew that there were residential schools in the US, just as we knew there was slavery, just as we knew 19th century slums were full of homeless children, just as we knew how women suffered before Roe v Wade.

That is, we should have known.

But even without Kellyanne Conway or Fox News or Ron De Stantis, there are truths we never knew, not because someone lied in our faces but because we turned our faces away.

There is much in our history that, once revealed, makes us gasp and ask “Where was God?”

But God was there.

The question is, where were we?


5 thoughts on “CSotD: What did we not know, and how did we not know it?

  1. Historian Heather Cox Richardson yesterday wrote about food conglomerates, including the …
    “acute shortage of baby formula in the U.S., where supplies are 43% below normal. The problem stems primarily from a recall of formula produced by Abbott, the country’s largest producer of infant formula, in its Sturgis, Michigan, factory after Cronobacter bacteria, which can cause a potentially deadly infection in infants, was found in test samples.

    Abbott has had a good run lately: in October 2019 it announced a $3 billion share buyback program to make its stock more valuable. Two years later, last October, a whistleblower warned that the Michigan plant was in need of repair, and claimed that Abbott had falsified records and hidden information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Four months later, in February 2022, the FDA warned consumers not to use products from that facility. It is now closed, and other companies are scrambling to make up the difference. Today the administration announced it would increase imports of baby formula until U.S. production comes back to normal levels.”

    If only we could come together to tackle our real problems instead of one another. https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/may-12-2022?r=34qiq&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

  2. Minor typo: I think you meant to say “Mike Smith” instead of “Kevin Smith” in the 11th paragraph.

  3. Regarding “… as Pearls Before Swine (AMS) lays it out, the “news” has become a partisan effort …”

    Of course (as I’m sure you know) this is not the first time in U.S. history that news providers split into partisan factions. In the late 1800s and early 1900s many U.S. newspapers were upfront about which party they preferred, proudly displaying Democrat or Republican on the masthead. And from what I see of the satire magazines of that era (e.g. Puck, Judge, Life), they too had their own political slants.

    I’m not sure whether those were out to reinforce the screwball opinions of the day. But my point is that the era of non-partism journalism we saw from, say, 1960 to 1990, may have been the anomaly.

  4. Lonny, you’re right in that the “partisan press” has waxed and waned throughout our history. I began to mention the Know-Nothings, who had a reasonably strong presence in the 1840s, but cut it to maintain a readable length.

    Having read a lot of papers in the 1890s and forward as part of my job, I’d say the partisan element was far more muted than in the early days of the Republic, when newspapers were more pamphlet than news media.

    They would crow about their party’s speeches on Page One and bury the opposition on Page Five, or maybe attack the opposition prominently, but only a handful were as venomous as Fox, more like the illogic and spin of the WSJ a few decades ago, and, of course, they hewed to a Social Contract rather than trying to overturn or fix elections (except in keeping Black voters away, which, where it happened, was non-partisan)

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