The Debate Which Exemplifies Why We Despise the Corporate Press
Taibbi and Murray beclown Gladwell and Goldberg in a debate on trusting the mainstream media
A note on the article - the quotations are based on audio transcriptions, so they may not be word-for-word accurate. I have also modestly edited them for clarity and noted where I have done so.
In 1990, there was a girls’ high school basketball game between Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, and South High School in Torrance in the same state. On the Morningside team stood a 6’ 3” senior who could dunk. She would go on to become the best women's basketball player in history, but on that particular night, she scored 101 points in a 102-24 rout of the team from Torrance. But the most incredible thing about that 101 points was that she scored all of them in the first half because Torrance packed up and went home. I can’t say I blame them. The star of that team was named Lisa Leslie.
When a team is routed this badly, spectators typically sympathize with the routee. But what if they taunted the victors throughout in the process of being systematically disemboweled by their hardcourt torturers? In essence, saying that losing the game didn’t matter anyway because they were ultimately better, more evolved versions of the human species than their dimwitted, poor trash tormentors? You’d probably root for Goliath to smash David in that case.
As far as I know, Torrance didn’t do that, but the above is analogous to similar trouncing and revulsion I experienced in watching a Munk debate between Matt Taibbi and Douglas Murray (T&M) on one side and Malcolm Gladwell and Michelle Goldberg (G&G) on the other. The resolution they were debating was, “Be it resolved, don’t trust the mainstream media.” T&M took the affirmative, with G&G taking the con side. You can find it here.
In case you haven’t seen a Munk Debate, they work like this:
The audience votes either in favor of or against the resolution
The two sides debate
The audience votes on the resolution again
Whichever side has the shift to their viewpoint are the winners.
In the end, T&M won with the most significant voting shift over the past 28 events...39 points in their favor. However, I didn’t write this to address to drubbing G&G received but rather the manner in which they received it.
If the resolution was, “Be it resolved, normies should despise the elite classists of liberal orthodoxy,” the result would have been the same or may have had an even more dramatic shift.
Throughout the event, G&G consistently vacillated between beclowning themselves by bringing up pointless or misunderstood tidbits of information and making themselves look like rich, snobbish, out-of-touch assholes. For the sake of this article, I will ignore the former and focus on the latter.
Let’s start at the end, and then I’ll walk backward.
I came into the debate assuming Goldberg was a vapid liberal who has never had an original thought in her life that her Berkeley grad school degree didn’t tell her was the right one. To give you a sense of what set she comes from, she has written books about sexual harassment in the workplace, Christian Nationalism (in a bad way, obvs), and a history of Yoga. Get the point? And my initial priors were basically confirmed.
However, it was Gladwell who left me opprobrious. If you don’t know him, here is his Wikipedia page. The guy has written seven million bestsellers, and in other settings where I have heard him interviewed, he sounded like a decent, while maybe slightly self-important, guy. Well, plot twist. Gladwell is the quintessential elitist asshole. The only summation I can provide is that I despise the guy now, and I’m glad I’ve never put a dime into his pocket.
Off we go…
First off, not to be too petty (ok, yes, to be downright petty), look at Gladwell’s picture from the promotional materials below (second from the right). It is such a try-hard, imminently punchable headshot. “Look at how whimsy I am fellas! Not only am I breaking the mold with my hand on my face, but my bored countenance gives an authoritative, ‘been there, done that' feeling, right?” Ugh.
Moving past that sophomoric insight, the logical place to start is the apparent lack of seriousness and effort the G&G team put into this debate.
Now Matt would have you believe that those two principles [fact checking and capturing both sides of a story] are no longer a part of the brief of the mainstream media. I would tell like to say to him that's completely false he's so far removed from the mainstream media that I think he has a naive view about what goes on inside those institutions. They remain committed to a professional set of ideals that they have held for decades. [empahsis added]
It seems that Gladwell had no idea that Taibbi worked for Rolling Stone for 15 years (some of that time as an editor) and has published 11 works of non-fiction.
Further, Gladwell repeatedly got their names wrong, mispronouncing Taibbi’s name every time he invoked it and calling Murray “Doug.” (To which Murray amusingly calls Gladwell “Malc” in his closing arguments.) Of the voluminous interviews they have done, it was clear Gladwell had not listened to a single one because both of those self-owns could have been prevented.
On the other hand, Goldberg falsely accuses Taibbi of saying Ivermectin should have been prescribed to combat Covid when Taibbi’s article was solely about suppressing the discussion. When corrected on this fact, Goldberg insinuates that he’s lying. You can judge for yourself here, but it’s abundantly clear what argument he’s making.
Like the thrashing, I am giving here? You can read regular drubbings if you subscribe below.
Let’s move on to Gladwell’s sickening, race-baiting of Taibbi.
Here is a piece of Taibbi’s opening statement:
Once the commercial strategy of the news business was to go for the whole audience. A TV news broadcast was aired at dinner time and it was designed to be watched by the entire family. Everyone from your crazy right-wing uncle to the sulking lefty teenager in the corner. This system had flaws but making an effort to talk to everybody had benefits. For one thing, it inspired Gallup polls to twice name Walter Cronkite to be the most trusted person in all of America. That would never happen with a news reader today with the arrival of the internet.
He goes on to explain the current news ecosystem is bifurcated between liberal and conservative outlets, which inherently bias the stories and facts they present, explaining that “news media shouldn't have a side. It should focus on getting things right.”
Taibbi's argument was abundantly clear to anyone with two working axions in their brain. He wasn’t saying the 50s was perfect in American society writ large; he was harkening back to a day when Americans weren’t divided by the cable news they watched.
Does that give you the impression that when he returned to his hotel room after the debate, he slipped on his Klan robe and swastika armband to get comfortable?
If you answered no, congratulations. You still might be a rational-thinking human being.
However, according to Gladwell, if you disagree with this sentiment, you yearn for the days of Jim Crow, gay bashing, and making sure women are pregnant and in the kitchen, cowering for when their coal miner husband comes home expecting his piping hot dinner. You’re literally Hitler! RRRRRRREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! (You don’t want to be Hitler, do you?)
Because of this funhouse mirror view of the world, Gladwell insinuated Taibbi was either racist or sexist no less than four times during the debate. Not only was it the insinuation, but it was always with this professorial, smarmy inflection in his voice as if Taibbi was a case study in a college anthropology 101 class of some extinct knuckle-dragging demon.
Speaking of knuckle-dragging demons…
As an example of how open-minded and definitely NOT elitist, she is, Goldberg recounts how she reported on the Canadian Trucker rally last year (I’m sure she went through every bath bomb in her house when she returned to clean the proletariat stench off of her).
She begins by explaining that she’s covered the “far-right” in her career, which is always a dead giveaway for braindead Liberal bias. Whenever anyone invokes the term “far-right,” the follow-ups should always be:
Name me anyone to your right who is neither “far-right” nor named Cheney or Kinzinger.
Have you ever used the term “far-left” to describe anyone in modern American politics? And if so, who, and in what context?
Getting back to the point, she says, to her surprise, the truckers were not racist misogynists! Of course, the leaders were “people with very kind of unsavory and sometimes racist ideas, “but not the rest. No way! The masses she interacted with were simply clueless losers who attended the rally because of a ‘shroom-induced psychedelic trip. I believe she met someone who fits this description, but it says everything that, of all the people she met, this was the quintessential example of the people who would be sick of Covid lockdowns and forced vaccinations.
However, the coup-de-grace of liberal bubbledom was when Gladwell, in his opening statement, said something so ludicrously wrong it’s hard to know where to start. He said, “trust [in the mainstream media] is not about content. Trust is about process.”
Let me pose a hypothetical to you. Let’s say you had to have surgery to remove a brain tumor. Which outcome would you prefer? The one where the surgeon accidentally cuts into a part of your brain that leaves you a vegetable for the rest of your life but consoles your family with the knowledge that he followed the checklist in making his grievous error, or the one in which the tumor is removed, and you live a long healthy life despite the doctor ignoring the process and going on gut feeling? I thought so.
The fact Gladwell not only said this but thought it was his most potent argument in support of the mainstream media is preposterous. I am sure for navel-gazers like himself, he pleasures himself to the journalistic process, but for the unwashed masses like me, the output is what matters.
For all of his elite smarminess, the thing that most surprised me about Gladwell is that he is nowhere near as bright as I thought he was (needless to say, as bright as he thinks he is). Throughout the debate, he used analogies comparing journalists to kindergarten teachers, doctors, and stock brokers. Each of the metaphors he invoked was more nonsensical than the last. Let me give you an example.
To his stockbroker analogy, Gladwell said that stock brokers need to get their picks right while
…the job of a journalist is, to use that famous phrase, to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, and sometimes that means you go down some dead ends and you chase stories that don't turn out as you want them or wish them or hope that they would turn out. But that is the nature of the business and if that business seems uncomfortable to you then I would suggest you should [become a] stock broker.
If you have any clue what he’s talking about here, please leave me a comment below. I am thoroughly lost.
Is he saying that if a story doesn’t “turn out as you want them,” you abandon it? Why would a journalist “want” a story to turn out a specific way? Isn’t that the exact malfeasance that T&M are using as the rationale as to why the mainstream media can’t be trusted?
Is he saying that it’s ok to get stories wrong sometimes? That would certainly fit into his motif of the process being more important than the outcome but annihilates his position of trusting the mainstream media.
Furthering the lack of trust argument, in addition to being smarmy, elitist, and an IQ point or two below where he thinks he is on the bell curve, Gladwell consistently puts words into his foe’s mouths.
In one example, he accuses T&M of being conspiracy theorists by setting up strawmen arguments they never deploy.
“I was struck once again in listening to our opponents by how much their arguments resemble the kind of classic structure of a conspiracy theory. A conspiracy theory is a theory in which one assumes a degree of unanimity and collaboration amongst one's foes. You, the conspiracist, speaks of those who disagree with himself or herself as if they had a single voice, and there are numerous really unpleasant examples of this. This is a much milder, more naive variant on the traditional conspiratorial model. So when Matt and Doug speaks about the mainstream media they're acting as if there's a big room possibly in New York or in Washington DC or maybe in between so that each party has equal access to the room; I mean which everyone gathers every morning and makes up the agenda for the day right and the people fly in from the big news networks and someone from CBC comes down and this cabal of high-minded well-paid elite, white, as it turns out, journalists some of them the ones that Matt seems to have such affection for, gather together and set the agenda for the country. Now I don't know where this room is. I said I speculated that maybe it's in Maryland because that would be equidistant between these two places but um I this is a fantasy right, a conspiratorial fantasy.”
To which Murray responds:
It's so strange hearing you debate Malcolm because you listen to nothing that your opponents say. It's quite extraordinary I've met it before but never quite so badly as it as it occurs in you. You keep saying things that neither of us have said, and then try to pathologize what [you think we’ve] said.
In this case, I wonder if it is Gladwell who thinks we are living in the 50s. Let’s take a recent example… the liberal media’s response to the Twitter File report (as reported by Taibbi). It’s not just that they are all smearing Taibbi but using the exact same words to do it.
Did all these folks fly to the “Gladwell Room” in his undisclosed Maryland location, use their fingerprint, retina, and semen samples to gain access (hey, this is Malcolm’s room, not mine…blame him if only guys can get in), and then sit around figuring out the optimal words to use to slander Taibbi on Twitter?
Or maybe, just maybe, one of these lemmings tweeted something, a few other lemmings saw it, liked it, re-used it, and then it became a perpetual motion machine that organically created the same story across publications?
My guess is Malcolm is right; he certainly has his finger on the pulse of 2022.
Going back to Goldberg for the unintended comedy portion of this commentary. To prove the Time’s bonefides on telling both sides of a story (which she mentions pisses off their readers; she’s such an edgelord, isn’t she gang), she references an article they recently ran on puberty blockers, which included perspectives from de-transitioners who suffered adverse effects from the medication and ceased its usage. To this, the audience cheered, and in all of her cluelessness said, “I don’t understand why you’re applauding."
I have to give this level of liberal obliviousness a chef's kiss of perfection.
Regarding that article, she has the audacity to claim that only the Times could do this reporting because “who else has the incentive to do a story about this, and all the complications we don’t know."
I nearly choked to death when I heard her make this claim. I simply refuse to believe she is serious. If she read anything other than liberal media rags, she could have stumbled upon a vast number of articles with coverage on the puberty blocker topic which predates the Times piece, like, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I wonder if the name Abigail Shrier is ever brought up in polite conversation in her crowd? Unlikely.
It’s unfortunate that Munk chose G&G to represent the con side of this debate because I think it could have been an interesting one; Erik Wemple and Brett Stephens, for example, would have made a good opposing pair.
Far be it for me to leave you all on a sour note, I will close my commentary by giving Gladwell a modicum of credit. He did Inspector Gadget his way into saying something truthful in his closing argument of the debate:
I don't think we should be judging the quality and trustworthiness of journalists by the composition of that group or by their private ideological positions. I believe that in a liberal society that we have to believe that the people who come to our profession can place their professional obligations above their personal ideological positions, and if you don't believe we are capable of that act of transformation, then you can't have trust in any of the institutions that make up liberal society.
Put one on the board for Malc! Too bad the score is 102-24.
edit: fixed typos