Monday, January 21

The Default Setting Is Now "Effing Liar". Sorry.

Rick Reilly, "Manti Te'o wondered in 2010 if Lennay Kekua situation was 'a prank'". January 19

Frontline: The Education of Michelle Rhee  Check Local Listings

ODDS are that you're a good deal smarter than me, and on the question of sanity no one will even lay the bet. So let me bring you up to date on the Manti Te'o story.

First, the haters at Deadspin reveal to the world that the inspiring story of Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend was a slight exaggeration, in that she wasn't his girlfriend, had not, in fact, died, and was slightly non-existent. As luck would have it, this was revealed just before Te'o, his agents, and/or the University of Notre Dame was set to fess up, publicly.

This inspiring Story for the Ages had been promulgated throughout the college football season by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the cable sports megalith, and ESPN, the online heaping mess, despite the fact that, in each instance, the reporters who cover the story (now) report that they couldn't find a trace of Lennay Kekua.

Since the story broke, ESPN has been your go-to source for news, if by "news" you mean "a collection of successive spin attempts from Te'o, his agents, his family, the University of Notre Dame, and, basically, anyone who saw the opportunity to grab a stick of the refreshing chewing gum of American media fame." ESPN's Jeremy Schaap agreed, essentially, to sit down with Te'o and his attorney for a No Recording Devices Allowed interview, or, in other words, as practice swing for Te'o's agents. Then Shelley Smith "broke" the "story" that a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man Deadspin had already identified as a central figure in the hoax, had revealed that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man Deadspin had already identified as a central figure in the hoax, admitted to being a central figure in the hoax.

Now Reilly confirms the latter non-story while actually naming his source. Naming her, in fact, "a former Miss South Pacific."
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was completely and cruelly fooled in a fake girlfriend hoax, and clearly not in on the con, one of his childhood friends said Friday. 
Tessi Tolutau, a former Miss South Pacific, grew up five doors from Te'o in Hawaii. She has Facebook messages from Te'o as far back as September 2010, checking on the legitimacy of the fictitious Polynesian beauty Lennay Kekua, who would become his "girlfriend." Te'o even wondered out loud if Kekua might be "a prank."
And just in case there's still someone out there wishing God would send him a sign, this comes in the exact same motherfucking week that Rick Reilly broke off his decades-long mancrush on Lance Armstrong. Yes, Rick Reilly was still defending--vociferously--the World's Ugliest Sports Thug until a sennight ago, or, roughly, five years after the next last person on earth.

I tuned into Sportscenter at some point this weekend and was astonished to learn that somehow the entire episode now revolves around the question of whether Manti Te'o can be proven, as of this minute, to've masterminded the entire thing. Otherwise he's completely innocent, apodictically, no tag backs. A victim. And one of the few Notre Dame actually gives a shit about.

You people have zero credibility. None. Jack Swarbrick is not a "responsible spokesman" because he's got the weight of Notre Dame behind him. He's automatically suspicious, for precisely that reason. From the moment the Virtual Girlfriend Is Virtual story was confirmed, Manti Te'o was revealed as a public liar, or else a confabulating head case. We can debate the seriousness of his crime, his complicity in the creation of Lennay Kekua, his motive, his intent, the accuracy of his post-revelation stories. What we cannot argue is whether Manti Te'o was telling the truth when the national sports spotlight was turned on him. He wasn't.

And, sorry, but you people are stuck with this world. The rest of us don't need to be, but to free ourselves we have to assume everything you ever say is a fucking, self-serving lie unless proven otherwise. If you don't care for this maybe you should have considered that twenty years ago or so. If by chance you give a shit, and would rather see a generation raised where credibility is something which could be assumed until it is irrevocably lost--say two generations from now, considering how much shit the last two or three generations have left for someone else to remove--then you can begin working, right now, to atone.  And yes, that is me you hear chuckling softly to himself.

Speaking of pathological pocket-lining, I missed taping that Frontline piece on Michelle Rhee when it first aired, caught it the following weekend, and finally watched it yesterday. The woman had cameras following her around from the moment she shut her car door on her first day at work. Perhaps this is not enough to've convinced the average voter, or councilman; but it should have convinced Frontline who, or what, it was dealing with.

It was not question of a news organization smelling a story, or objectively gathering "facts". Michelle Rhee was already proven a liar, her "education miracle" during her six weeks in a Baltimore kindergarten as real and substantial as a tissue-paper chrysanthemum. Not only was that information readily available, it was patently obvious. But Frontline played it straight; Rhee was seen walking into D.C. schools as a hard-nosed education reformer tackling the most difficult school system in America, not as a self-promoting serial liar with a PR agenda, no experience, and not much of anything else.

And it's true: you can't shine a light on Rhee, or a late-night kitchen sink, without noticing something unsavory skittering away. Rhee had a list of clay pigeons she was going to down before tackling anything real. Early on she (and the mayor, and the teevee cameras) marched through the district's central supply depot so she could point at pallets of sorely-needed supplies just sitting there. Rhee was allowed to portray this as a culture of bureaucratic neglect (and is given the right by the D.C. council, to fire at whim and en masse, upon which--wait for it!--she does.) Did this solve a problem? Was there even a problem? No school district loads its trucks with goodies and drives around letting teachers help themselves. Schools operate on budgets, and teachers requisition materials within those budgets, a semester or a year in advance. Is that why there were supplies in a warehouse? No one bothered to look. After all, this was education reform! Down with PATCO!

Rhee had a program: attack easy targets first, consolidate power and PR, and put the rank-and-file in fear of their jobs so they "saw the light". Which they did. By cheating, mostly, so the Rhee Miracle could make more headlines.

Principals were the first to go, then teachers, then masses of teachers. The game was given away early (to those who hadn't been paying attention all along) when it was leaked that she planned to close dozens of schools, and Rhee admits that she kept that information secret while awaiting a propitious time to spring it on everyone. Parents from those schools erupt, and Rhee lies to them. Natural born leader.

The reports of high wrong-to-right erasures on the tests of nearly all Achiever Schools prompts Rhee to hire a firm to investigate. It doesn't diagnose the test results, but it does give the district the Big Thumbs Up. (Who bought this at the time?) To this revelation Rhee--who ordered, paid for, and, presumably, received the results--is shocked! Shocked! to learn the job was less than thorough. Or competent. Or adequate.To the larger revelation that the miracle-performing schools were all cheating, Rhee claims she can point to "dozens and dozens" of shoals where the gains were real, and sustainable. Unfortunately, she seems to've left her pointer at home.

It's bullshit. It's plain and simple bullshit. If Rhee had a magic formula she should have been able to produce it, in writing, not cough up that combination of facile platitudes and warmed-over rightist entrepreneurial heroism. She should have been able to say something about what education means. She should have been able to, if not silence, at least contribute to the debate over high-stakes testing. She did none of that. She cheated, she promoted herself, and she landed on a pile of tax-free dollars.

We're smarter than this. Yes, it's rare that we show it, but we are, collectively. We don't have to give charlatans like Rhee the time of day, or a "fair" hearing. Shit still floats, but since the 19th century it's been flushable, too.


Kathy said...

The average American adult is smarter than Rhee or a Notre Dame football player, but, alas! the average reporter for any and all "news" outlets, is not. They'd be fired in a split-second if they show even a glimmering of intelligence, self-awareness, or humanity.

hells littlest angel said...

Why doesn't Te'o say he was lying for the lord, and move on?

Weird Dave said...

The Default Setting Is Now "Effing Liar". Sorry.

A) I thought that was always the default setting.

B) No you're not.

Anonymous said...

So Rhee is to school achievement as Jack Welch was to accounting.

Inventing bullshit right-wing fantasies and feeding them pre-digested to the screeching baby bird simpletons of the corporate media is the predominant form of "success" in this country now.

Kordo said...

hells littlest angel - my question exactly. we should start a PR firm.

Appreciate the nod to courtesy, but Dave is right; yer not one damn bit sorry.
And that's why we love you.

robo said...

Mr Riley, most eminent sir...on the topic of edumacation:

Given your happy history with Tony Bennett (the douchebag one), thought you would enjoy the irony of this headline.

You may be rid of this clown, but he's all up in our shit now.

Interrobang said...

Isn't it funny how that's always the way with bullshit crusaders with something to prove -- "I have in my hand here a dossier with the names of 200 Communists in the State Department^W^W^W^W^W^W two dozen schools that have made vast improvements!"