Why does Saint Maddow dissemble: Good God.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen one big journalist after another make baldly inaccurate statements about very basic topics. In this pitiful profile of Rachel Maddow, Ben Wallace-Wells follows suit.
The profile appears in Rolling Stone. As anyone can see, it seeks to teach us how to worship Saint Maddow even more completely.
A new group of Kool Kidz is being invented! As anyone can see, this profile bears a sad resemblance to the press corps’ past ridiculous fawning over Saints Powell, Bradley, McCain.
As a general matter, it’s sad to see the liberal world stoop to this pitiful level. But what follows is truly pathetic.
Early in his fawning profile, Wallace-Wells describes Maddow’s recent dispute with Alex Castellanos on Meet the Press. But alas! The gent’s account of that dispute is just baldly misleading/inaccurate:
WALLACE-WELLS (6/27/12): Appearing alongside her is Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant who served both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, an embodiment of the clubby, insider pundit culture that Maddow abhors. When she begins to talk about gender disparity in pay–"Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make"–the genteel Castellanos, a master of the form, simply denies that this is true. Women in the workforce, he insists, make just as much as men; liberals are just "manufacturing a political crisis."That’s the kind of low-IQ hero invention we liberals once mocked and condemned.
Maddow knows immediately that Castellanos is lying to the audience. She swivels so abruptly in her chair, trying to make sense of what he is saying, that the camera winds up fixed on a spot just behind her left ear, as if it were an assassin's scope. You can see her, in real time, coming to terms with the extent of the lie as she watches agreement flicker across the face of the other Republican on the panel. "This hasn't just been sold to Alex by someone briefing him on the subject," she thinks to herself. "This is something that has actually been sold to Republicans–this is a vision of Republican World."
The tricky part is knowing what to do about the lie. Chris Matthews would erupt in thunderous outrage; Keith Olbermann would dissolve into a knowing sneer. But Maddow's skills are different: She strives not for the expression of political anger but for its suppression, to distance herself from the partisan debate rather than engage it, to steward progressive fury into a world of certainty, of charts, graphs, statistics, a real world that matters and that the political debate can't corrupt.
That said, the highlighted claims in that passage are bogus. “Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make?” That simply isn’t what Maddow said, not by the time this discussion unfolded. And that simply isn’t the statement Castellanos challenged that day.
You know? When he told his “lie?” The “lie” Saint Maddow instantly spotted? Just before swimming the Yellow River? Holding three cubs in her mouth?
Liberals are being dumbed to the ground through this type of sanctification. But what did Maddow actually say on Meet the Press?
Sorry! As the discussion unfolded, she repeatedly said that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same or equal work. And that claim—the thing she actually said—is just flatly inaccurate.
Perhaps for that reason, Wallace-Wells cleaned her statement up a bit. According to his account, Maddow said something much more limited—something which would have been accurate.
We discussed this flap in real time (for two examples, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/1/12 and 5/2/12). There’s no dispute about the basic facts:
According to federal data, women who work full time earn 77 percent as much as men who work full time. But no one claims that this disparity, or even the bulk of this disparity, stems from discrimination.
No one claims that women earn 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same or equal work. But as the discussion unfolded on Meet the Press, that’s the claim Maddow kept making.
That’s the actual claim she made—the claim Castellanos disputed. But as you may recall, Maddow’s extended performance was much, much worse than this.
Maddow made her original claim on Meet the Press. Simply put, her claim was wrong: Women are not paid 77 cents on the dollar for the same or equal work.
Maddow had made a mistake. It’s something we humans do quite often. But the following night, on her own program, Maddow tripled down on her own misstatement. In a lengthy opening segment, she claimed that she had “spent a long time going through the Republican side of this argument today just trying to understand how you could look at these very blunt numbers and come up with the opposite truth.”
She couldn’t understand what was wrong with her statement, she said—even as she avoided repeating the statement which was in error.
By Monday night, it’s hard to believe that Maddow was still unaware of her error. The simplest attempt at a fact-check or search would have shown her the way she’d been wrong. But despite the fawning of Wallace-Wells about his sovereign’s vast love for the truth, Maddow does this sort of thing with remarkable frequency.
We’ve puzzled about this for some time. Maddow just isn’t real truthful. Not infrequently, she makes elaborate presentations which aren’t simply wrong—they are audaciously bogus.
Before the week is done, we’ll review a few other incidents from the past few weeks. But why does Maddow dissemble so much? We have wondered for some time. As we reached the central theme of the Rolling Stone profile, we thought we might have a clue.
As we’ve seen, Wallace-Wells started by pretending that Maddow is just amazingly honest. Amazingly, he was even able to quote the words which ran through his regent’s head when Castellanos emitted his “lie.”
But that wasn’t the central point of the Rolling Stone profile. Soon, Wallace-Wells focused on Maddow’s problems with depression, a deeply painful condition:
WALLACE-WELLS: Maddow may be careful not to show her anger on-air—but that doesn't mean it isn't there. "I am as rage-filled as the next guy," she says. Off-air, the anger can turn inward. On Monday she is despondent over a monologue on Afghanistan that seemed muddled to her: "I had it so clear in my mind," she says. Tuesday goes well, the Michigan segment the star of the show, and she is gleeful. But at dinner after Wednesday's show, she is in the pits again.There’s a tremendous amount of self-drama there—but depression is a very painful condition. (Cyclical depression is defined here.) It’s a very good thing when people find successful treatment for such a condition.
I ask her why she is so hard on herself. "My reaction to that is to say, 'Oh, another bad thing about myself is that I've allowed you to see that I'm hard on myself,'" she says. "The fact that you're seeing me sweat is like, 'Ah, well, I'm failing on that, too.'"
Maddow suffers, she says, from "cyclical" depression. "One of the manifestations of depression for me is that I lose my will. And I thereby lose my ability to focus. I don't think I'll ever have the day-to-day consistency in my performance that something like This American Life has. If I'm not depressed and I'm on and I can focus and I can think through something hard and without interruption and without existential emptiness that comes from depression, that gives me–not mania. But I exalt. I exalt in not being depressed."
Over dinner, Maddow keeps talking about her career as if its end might be imminent. She says she sometimes thinks, "This show could be the last one I ever do." I ask her why that anxiety seems so present for her. What would she be losing if she lost her show? Her response is immediate. "My freedom," she says.
That said, we were struck by Maddow’s account of what it’s like when she isn’t depressed. “That gives me—not mania,” she told Wallace-Wells. “But I exalt. I exalt in not being depressed.”
We were struck by that comment. For some time, we have wondered why Maddow engages in so much purely willful misconduct. Why she says so many things which simply aren’t true. Why she doubles down on her claims, insisting she was right all along—even as she tells us that she adores self-correction.
Depression is a painful condition. But reading Maddow’s account, we couldn’t help wondering if our question was perhaps being answered.
It isn’t mania, Maddow said. Frankly, we aren’t sure.
For his part, the thoroughly pitiful Wallace-Wells was teaching us to adore Saint Maddow even more. He throws in the types of absurd anecdotes we rubes are trained to believe.
On many occasions, our sanctified leader behaves quite oddly on the air. She behaves in ways which seem baldly dishonest. Again and again, we have wondered why that is.
We still don’t know the answer, of course. But Rolling Stone’s fawning to the side, liberals were not put on the earth to worship their Darling Saint Rachel.
Maddow is still pretending she made no mistake on Meet the Press that day! If liberals have an ounce of self-respect, we’ll rise up on our scrawny hind legs and insist that this rank conduct stop.
Coming: Two recent incidents
Twilight of the (new) elites: Is Chris Hayes following this?