Your cavalcade of crap is on the air!


Pundit runs cable experiment: On Monday, Kevin Drum linked us to this report about Fox News and MSNBC.

The report was done by Tod Kelly. For Drum’s reaction, click here.

Kelly conducted an experiment about those dueling “news channels.” In his initial post, he outlined his plan:
KELLY (6/4/12): So I have decided to perform an experiment, though I will be the first to admit it will be neither scientific nor unbiased. My premise: Watch the three highest rated programs from both FOX and MSNBC, and compare the two networks based on what I see. If I tell people that FOX or MSNBC is horribly biased, I want to be able to say that based on more than what I know now. And if I’m wrong about either, I want to know.
This experiment is well worth conducting, though Kelly didn’t overwork himself. He watched those six programs on one night only, vastly restricting his input.

And uh-oh! In three separate posts on this experiment, Kelly keeps saying that he watched the programs of May 31, although he actually watched the programs of May 30.

(Everybody makes mistakes! That said, we reviewed one full hour-long transcript before we noticed that Kelly had made this error. Where do we go to get our life back?)

In all honesty, you can’t reliably make an assessment on the basis of one night’s viewing. That said, we think Kelly reached several judgments which are well worth pondering.

This is our first takeaway:
KELLY: I really came away with two big takeaways: The first was the discovery that 24-hour cable news television is–surprisingly–much, much worse that I have always assumed; the second was the far more surprising revelation that it doesn’t have to be.
Cable news was much, much worse than Kelly had assumed. For the record, Kelly is talking about Fox and MSNBC when he makes that judgment.

Kelly’s second judgment concerns two of the liberal hosts he watched, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell. Ow ow ow ow ow:
KELLY: [T]he truth is that grouping Maddow’s commentary with Shultz’s or O’Donnell’s is a huge stretch. Shultz and O’Donnell’s Romney rants seem more akin to the FOX anti-Obama screeds, politics aside...

While I have to say that Maddow is intellectually superior to anything I saw on FOX, her two compatriots are just as vile as their cross-channel rivals without being nearly as entertaining or engaging. MSNBC was a tale of two sides of the spectrum, while all the FOX shows seemed to be one long, amorphous hack job.
In Kelly’s view, Schultz and O’Donnell engaged in rants which reminded him of Fox. He even called their work “vile.”

We wouldn’t go that far ourselves, though we find that Schultz has become such a blunderbuss that we've found it hard to watch him in recent weeks. But in a world where liberals routinely insist that MSNBC isn’t as bad as Fox (which is somehow supposed to make things right), we think it’s constructive to see someone say that Schultz and O’Donnell are “just as vile as their cross-channel rivals.”

The third point we’ll recommend is Kelly’s use of the term “propaganda.” He uses that unflattering term to describe the bulk of the work he observed on both these channels.

We think it’s a good choice of words. O’Donnell’s show is clownish propaganda, night after night after night. It doesn’t say much for our liberal tribe that we can stomach such piddle.

A final point: Kelly says that Maddow is the outlier here. We agree with that judgment—and then again, we don’t.

Maddow’s shows are often driven by propaganda, although it isn’t as bumptious or obvious as the variety found on the other five programs. We thought there were several such elements on the May 30 show, the one Kelly watched, although that show was a bit of an outlier, leaning toward the mellow.

Maddow often deals with very important topics. But her political judgments are often strange, and in truth she isn’t especially honest. Kelly is right—she plainly is the outlier here. But we think he should watch more of her shows—and we think he should fact-check some of those programs. We think he should look for the propagandistic selection of pointless topics.

Schultz is so bumptious we can barely watch him. O’Donnell is often a manifest clown. In theory, Maddow has always been the intellectually superior outlier—but on the program Kelly watched, she clowned at length, in two different segments, about pointless spelling mistakes.

The spelling mistakes were all found on the right. Sadly, that’s how this program, which could be superior, often tends to work.

Final question: Did you watch Maddow's rant about John Ensign last Thursday night? (To watch the segment, just click here.) In certain ways, it was very strange. “Intellectually,” it was just sad.


  1. Oh, dear, now I have Mad dow disease.

  2. O'Donnell is insane.

  3. I think we need to stop confusing the having of an opinion, with bias.

    1. Uh, speak for yourself?

      Or better, say what you really mean rather than being mealy-mouthed about it.

    2. Excuse me for a moment while I get the meal out of my mouth. Let me expand a bit. A lot of people seem to think their views are based on irrefutable logic and rational and sufficient arguments. Therefore, any difference of opinion can't be either rational or logical and must, therefore be based on bias or prejudice. There are just a world of negative consequences associated with this kind of thinking.

    3. It didn't work. Rinse and spit.

      Just who are you talking to?

      Who, in what instance, has asserted "bias" where you feel there is merely difference of opinion?

      See how that would be more helpful than your little homily?

    4. Your point is a valid one, but part of the problem is that "opinion" writers of all political stripes are allowed to present "facts" to support those opinions that are falsehoods. The more respectability they are granted (George Will) the more license they are granted in this area.

  4. Anon @ 11:33:

    Maybe you could tease that out for us.

  5. I learned to switch channels when O'Donnell. Starts. To. Put. A. Period. After. Each. Word.

  6. MSNBC is bad, it's true, and I watch it very little now. But when one evaluates or compares, it is relevant that MSNBC's slant was formed as a later reaction to long term bias of right wing media. Remember when Phil Donahue was axed at MSNBC for opposing GWB? "Serving" a market created by Fox bias must be factored in.

  7. Simple as this: In a fragmented cable world, Fox is after its niche audience and MSNBC is after its niche audience. And neither audience, compared to the population of the United States of America, is really that large. But it is large enough in today's fragmented cable world.

    But isn't it just wonderful that someone is devoting his entire adult life to PROVING to us know that both are "biased."

    Who wudda thunk it?

  8. Yes Yes! We can see the that MSNBC is often just as bad!! Just as bad as Fox News!! Thank God The Daily Howler is here to report every sin of MSNBC!! Right here in his blog for all the world to see, he lays every sin of MSNBC out there in black and white! Busted! There they are! He lays them right there in detail, right next to those they are just as bad as, right there, right next to the sins of Fo---........ oops.

    1. Yeah, if he's gonna talk about MSNBC he just *has* to talk about FOX, because... well because it makes you upset if he doesn't.


  9. For goodness sake, Greg, no one's forcing you to read this blog! I believe it performs a useful function. From your sarcastic tone, you seem to think the Howler belabors points that are blindingly obvious to everyone. But it is far from obvious to many people that MSNBC is often as bad as Fox. I know lots of liberals who slam Hannity and gush over Maddow on her bad days as well as her good days. The disfunctionality of our media is a critical issue, maybe THE critical issue.

    By the way, whatever joke you're making at the end of your post is lost on me and, I would guess, to most everyone else. To paraphrase Anonymous above, why don't you just say what you really mean instead of being so sarcastic about it?

  10. Actually, I think the above Annon is a bit more out of line than me ( Baby wants his bottle!). The point, not a tough one and you may not agree, is that The Daily Howler spends ALL his time now bashing MSNBC under the premise "just as bad as Fox." But since he now only writes about Fox on the bluest of moons, we sort of lose the point of just how bad Fox is.
    This is, I'd further argue, not exactly an isolated phenomenon on the self defeating, self loathing left, where it is always a sin to think of yourself as better than someone else, unless of course it's a member of your own tribe. You get this twist on the famous Freud: "I wouldn't belong to any club where I couldn't run down every other member." During the bad old Clinton days, of course, many "liberals" made a good buck on Fox News and other outlets as the Alan Combs in residence, the liberal who offered further proof of the evils of liberals. No doubt this still goes on to a certain extent.
    A true Socratic review would be fair and look at everyone's behavior, but The Daily Howler now looks almost exclusively (sometimes making dubious judgements) on the failings of the left. And available evidence suggests that conservatives are much more welcoming to this kind of broadcasting than liberals.

    1. To summarize:

      The 3:19 PM "parody" of your position is out of line, but completely accurate.

    2. People who read Bob tend to take for granted by now that Fox stinks. Everyone who isn't on the far right already knows that.

      Unfortunately, MSNBC also stinks. Not as badly, but that's not very comforting. I happen to think Bob is right about Rachel--she's better than the freak show hosts before and after her, but that's not saying much. The only show I've seen on MSNBC that isn't shallow and embarrassing is the one run by Chris Hayes.

      And this matters, if you want the left on television to have some sort of impact on intelligent people.

    3. I have no idea what "people who read Bob" "take for granted." That's because I have no idea who reads Bob. Or how many.

      But Bob certainly has built a nice strawman to argue against -- MSNBC's evening hosts, and Rachel Maddow in particular -- as the source and summit of all "liberal" thought, and the prime example of what is wrong with "american discourse" today.

      The problem with that is that "american discourse" had long taken a coarser tact toward the personality-driven, issue-ignoring "politics of personal destruction" long before Rachel Maddow signed onto Air America, let along MSNBC. I suggest that Bob read Lee Atwater's mea culpa, probably for the first time. Then he could study the campaigns that Karl Rove ran before he became a household word.

      And for him to point out as an example of that the fact that Maddow very briefly reported that the husband and former best friend of John Ensign is now facing sentencing for his role in the affair and payoff involving the sexual affair of the senator and the former best friend's wife is laughable.

    4. Maddow's show isn't a strawman, it's real.

      You however are a specialist in erecting foes of straw!

      Somerby hasn't and doesn't have to argue that it's the "source and summit" of all liberal thought -- it's simply a fact that it is one of the most known, cited and watched of all "liberal" programming on television.

      Somerby hasn't said that Maddow is "the prime example" of what's wrong with American discourse. Your straw people ride again!

      "read Lee Atwater's mea culpa, probably for the first time"

      You really are useless, aren't you? Google "Atwater" at this site and return to earth someday soon, OK?

    5. Oh, I am sure he read it before. But I think he understands it about as well as he understands the works of Margaret Mead.

      In other words, a mile wide and an inch deep. Kinda like this blog.

    6. "I am sure he read it before"

      That's true.

      It's also true that other stuff you said about me really being the one putting up strawmen.

      I can't face that.

      I don't really have anything at all to add.

      So, uh, "mile wide and an inch deep."

      Me smart one now?


    7. @ 8:23, I'm afraid summery is the key to your post because to go beyond childish sarking makes you look pretty silly, pretty fast.
      The Daily Howler's argument re the "war on Gore" was that "it wasn't just Fox News." But in those days, part of the case was made by showing us what was going on AT FOX NEWS. As time went by TDH pretty much ceased any attempt to hold the right in check. Bill O, whom TDH was always rather forgiving of, got a pass on later discussions of the war on Gore, even though he had thundered night after night during said war that Gore should be indited by Janet Reno!
      It is more, however, than simply not looking at what is going on with right, allthough this becomes part of a willful ignorance. The notion that the liberals are always the culprits in right wing wrongdoing infects not just our junk new culture, but the interactions in Washington itself. Or as Barney Frank finally had to say "we're sorry we hurt your feelings."
      This is possible only in a culture of fetishistic liberal self reproachment (though liberals like Bob never reproach THEMSELVES, even when they turn out to be way off on an a minor issue like Mel Gibson or a big one like Katrina) that is the best friend the One Percent ever had.

    8. I can keep shorting your rants, because the nut is always the same:

      Stop talking about liberals; talk more about conservatives!

      You really are such a crybaby.

  11. Quaker in a BasementJune 13, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    Watch six hours of cable "news"?

    Not even for money.