"They had pretended to be geniuses. But they were just ordinary men working blindly, pretending to be able to bring light into the darkness. Why is it that everyone lies? No one I know is what he appears to be."
-- Charlie Gordon, "Flowers for Algernon"
There are two tragedies in Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon".
The first happens after the experimental surgery which radically increases Charlie Gordon's IQ, when Charlie discovers the anger and alienation that comes from being smart. His co-workers -- who had abused him brutally for years, but had given him companionship -- resent him and get him fired. He grows past the scientists -- the "geniuses" -- who gave him his new capacity and learns that they are just ordinary men and women who can be petty and reckless and vain and who, in the end, really have no idea what they were doing.
Second, Charlie learns that his new, towering intellect is only temporary. That after reaching a peak that renders him one of the smartest humans on Earth, the process begins to inexorably reverse itself so that, little by little, he slides back down to an IQ of 68 or lower. Every day he knows less and less. He forgets the languages has has learned and the great works of literature and art he has appreciated. He finds that he no longer understands his own writing from just a few days earlier.
These days, looking over the reptile-infested wasteland of what once was American public interest teevee feels a little like that. Whether it's Cokie Roberts casually conflating the meathead GOP base with all voters --
ROBERTS: And the problem that they have is that their whole campaign is their record, you know. My record as governor, my record in the congress, and the voters don't want to hear that record...
-- or Shuck Todd choking the last little bit of "journalism" out of "Meet the Press" by letting Conservative beat-box Hugh Hewitt flog Carly Fiorina's toxic blood-libel sludge (h/t Heather) , what we have all been seeing for the last decade or more is the remorseless, premeditated dumbing down of our public discourse by the global corporations that control most of what we see and hear,
There was a moment many years ago when, by a fluke of history and technology, it looked as if the good guys might actually be able to pry at least some of our public conversation out of the hands of frauds and oligarchs, When the collapse of Republican lies were coming so fast and the Beltway was being rocked back on its heels so hard that the establishment was forced to hold out a chair or two for voices who are not Bill Kristol and Peggy Noonan. Not Cokie Roberts and David Brooks. Not Mark Halperin and Ron Fournier and Harold Fraud Junior.
When the facts were so grim and the outlook so dire that they had to concede at least a little ground to the dirty hippies.
But that moment came and went and the great, oily ooze of Both Siderism closed over it all and reduced every Republican atrocity to this (from Brother Charlie Pierce, deconstructing the interplay between Todd and Hewitt):
...(Ed. Note: One hopes kindly Doc Maddow will have a chat with her new MSNBC afternoon colleague about the problems inherent in treating PolitiFact as a credible source on, well, anything. Still, you know something derpy this way comes…)A highly charged issue, abortion always is, Hugh Hewitt, Fiorina go too far in her description here?(Ed. Note: No, no, no. You just demonstrated that she "went too far" by pointing out that her lies were so obvious that even PolitiFact noticed. The question is whether or not Fiorina should be hooted off every debate stage forever. Don't give Hewitt a chance to do, well, this…)HEWITT: No. I want to borrow from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Planned Parenthood can't handle the truth and if the President of the United States wants to shut down the government over these videos, I hope they take Cathy McMorris Rogers, who is the chairman of the House Republican conference and have her speak three times a day during the shutdown with those videos rolling in the background. I have watched them. I heard that technician. I believe Carly Fiorina intended to say that if you hear someone talking about this, because that... they're so terrible and so awful that they get jumbled in your head and you have to avert your eyes, because it's murder. And so if Planned Parenthood wants to occasion the endless roll of those videos, which they are doing, they'll stand on that hill all day. But I hope Cathy McMorris Rogers, if the government shuts down, and the President shuts the government down in order to fund Planned Parenthood trafficking in body parts, that that's how they handle it.
TODD: Alright. Maria, I don't think Planned Parenthood believes this is what they're doing. Go ahead.Not is that not what Planned Parenthood believes it's doing. IT'S NOT WHAT THEY'RE DOING. For a second there, I thought my man Chuck Todd was going to get off the mountain before the snows set in this winter. But, he has always been the caretaker.
We out here on the raggedy edge are not banging our heads on our keyboards because, on any given Sunday there is shoddy, dishonest coverage of the week's events somewhere. We despair because there is almost nothing but shoddy, dishonest coverage. And it is everywhere.
Like Charlie Gordon trapped on the long downslope back to being a simpleton, we can see where things are going. How pandering to bigots and lunatics has become mainstream, and shutting Liberal's voices entirely out of every conversation has become the norm. How something dumb and dangerous has been set loose in the land, and how powerless we are to stop it.
For awhile there, as the Age of Bush darkness came flooding back as a suffocating tide of gray Both Siderism, we had a little gathering place, on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Early, before sane people were up and moving, we had a little teevee club of Liberal wonks and geniuses. And it was special because as the Sunday Gasbag Cavalcade got more and more degenerate and ridiculous, it became clear that this really might be the very last place on teevee where smart people could gather and talk openly and honestly, as adults, about the real problems of a complex world.
The last few sparks of intelligence flickering around... inside a dying brain.
And then, as part of its larger business plan, MSNBC took that lovely thing and methodically killed it. Which is why, this weekend, it didn't really raise my resting heart rate to see that Peggy Noonan picked another check up a check spouting merlot-goggle drivel on teevee, or that Shuck Todd considers "journalism" to be reading aloud from a column by Bill Kristol and then asking Ben Carson what he thinks of it.
Of course Noonan was on the air. Of course Todd let Donald Trump phone-in another "interview" on-the-fly and let Conservatives get away with murder (awaiting transcript.) This is the New Normal now. This is a slalom down into darkness on a bobsled stuffed with grifters and gibbering idiots on which we are trapped.
No, what knocked the wind out of my sails was seeing just far down the shitter MSNBC has shoved that tiny weekend pocket of respite and civility. The lowest moment over this weekend had to be seeing a genuine lunatic like Glenn Beck TV anchorperson and semi-permanent member of the MSNBC staff, Amy Holmes, earning her 30 pieces of silver by insisting that Birtherism was really a "Both Sides" issue because Barack Obama was every bit as guilty of profiting from it and keeping it alive as any member of the wingnut press.
She said this with a perfectly straight face, but the real breathtaking aspect of her performance is the knowledge that no matter how much madness she vomits out on-camera, she will definitely be invited back on MSNBC to spread even more crazy over and over and over again.
P.P.S. Please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard ...
-- Charlie Gordon, "Flowers for Algernon"