Home / General / The dynamics of institutional mobbing, or Jamelle Bouie for president

The dynamics of institutional mobbing, or Jamelle Bouie for president

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I found this dialogue (gift link) between Michelle Goldberg and Jamelle Bouie quite revealing (for obvious reasons I have no interest in the views of the mendacious Bret Stephens, while Patrick Healy has very little to day).

I’m a big fan of Goldberg’s work in general, but here it’s fascinating to watch how she seems to give herself over to what I would characterize as institutional mob dynamics: The New York Times — the nation’s most important elite media source — has decided, in the somewhat mysterious ways that these things happen, that Joe Biden is too old to be re-elected, in both the sense that he is certain to lose to Donald Trump, and the sense that he is too frail, enfeebled, and possibly senile to be someone who should hold that presidency, that Thursday’s debate is definitive proof of all this, and that it is unimpeachably obvious that he should withdraw from the race. This makes Bouie’s absolute and eloquent refusal to go along with any of this all the more impressive.

Look, anybody who denies that Biden’s debate performance wasn’t at least somewhat concerning in regard to both the question of whether he’s up to the job of winning a second term, and whether he’s going to be up to the job of POTUS for four year after that, is in my view being pretty denialist. Yes debates are stupid and almost meaningless, but they’re not completely meaningless, and Biden’s performance for the first half hour or so — he got somewhat better — was just horrific, to the point that it raised those questions in the mind of anyone who isn’t so hyperpartisan that the evidence of your senses can simply be ignored when inconvenient (that of course is the essence of Trumpism).

But the claims being made by the powers that be at the Times, including someone as normally level-headed and reliable as Goldberg, that Biden is certain to lose, that if he’s miraculously re-elected he won’t be able to function effectively as president, and that Thursday’s debate proves all this definitively beyond cavil, are obviously a massive hysterical over-reaction to an admittedly disturbing event (I leave aside those people at the Times and elsewhere who are crypto-Trump supporters of course. To them it was an enthralling and deeply energizing event).

It seems to me that these claims, to the extent they’re sincere, as I’m sure they are in Goldberg’s and many others’ cases, are a product of a combination of confirmation bias — specifically years of waiting for the Joe Biden is too old shoe to drop — and pure panic at a visceral level. I get the panic, and I get the bias, but it’s fascinating — and deeply disturbing — to watch it play out in real time. Much like Thursday’s debate itself.

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