EPILOGUE: Maddow promotes the great one-and-only!

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

Their most important product: Last Tuesday evening, at 9 PM, Big Ed Schultz threw to Rachel, as he had done every night for several years.

Gratefully, Maddow said this:
MADDOW (3/12/13): Thank you at home as well for joining us this hour. The great Ed Schultz is actually going to be back here joining us later this hour...
Wow! According to Maqddow, the great Ed Schultz would rejoin her later! “It’s coming up later on tonight,” she said. “I’m very much looking forward to that.”

Wouldn’t you know it? One week later, Maddow introduced Steve Kornacki the same darn way:
MADDOW (3/19/13): The person who will be occupying that seat at the table of Up on weekend mornings here on MSNBC is the great Steve Kornacki.

Steve, course, is also a senior writer at Salon.com. Mr. Kornacki, congratulations.
Maddow proceeded to chat with Kornacki. “It would not be possible without all your help,” the great Kornacki said.

Two nights later, Maddow teased a visit from Ezra Klein in a slightly different manner. She wasn’t going to speak with “the great” Ezra Klein. His sobriquet was different:
MADDOW (3/21/13): We’ve got the one and only Ezra Klein here momentarily to help sort out what is important about what they just voted on in Congress...
For some reason, Ezra wasn’t “the great.” He was “the one and only.”

In moments like these, your favorite analysts are being sold to you like so many other products. We always wonder what progressives think when they see this type of pimping conducted by the great unembarrassed Maddow.

Are folk like Schultz, Kornacki and Klein really the great one-and-only? That would be a matter of judgment. For ourselves, we’d rank Kornacki at the top of that list. From there, we’d work our way through Schultz and then we’d get to poor Klein.

But at such moments, you’re being sold the company’s products, as you are during the program’s commercials. The same thing happens when you see Lawrence doing his current promotional spot from inside a public school classroom.

In his promo commercial, Lawrence tells us that kids can’t function in the classroom if they’re hungry when they arrive at school. We aren’t supposed to wonder why Lawrence is doing such a heart-rending promo, even though he never discusses such topics on his program.

During his actual nightly program, Lawrence discusses movie stars. Low-income kids can go hang in the yard—except during his current promo, where he gives us rubes the impression that he’s deeply involved in their lives.

(In the process, he also dumbs us down about the challenges confronting low-income schools. That said, it’s all done for a good cause!)

The suits at The One True Liberal Channel are constantly selling us their products. Good progressives that we are, we just sit there and take it. That said, how great is the array of work on this one and only channel?

Maddow’s work often strikes us as bad. Consider a few recent broadcasts concerning life in Pontiac, Michigan.

On March 14, the city of Detroit was handed over to an emergency manager. For the past several years, Maddow has railed about this practice in Michigan, where it has been rather widespread.

On March 1, looking ahead to this ruling, Maddow offered her latest assessment of this practice. Not only is it undemocratic, she said. It doesn’t even work!
MADDOW (3/1/13): Implicit here is this assertion that if you take away local democracy, if you take away people’s right to vote for people to represent them and instead just put one person in charge, in complete personal control, that may be distasteful given that we’re a democratic country, but it will be efficient. It will work.

With respect to the governor, history has not proved him very right in his state. In the other places where this has been tried, what he is proposing for Detroit has not worked. Now, there is one exception. The village of Three Oaks had an excellent experience with an emergency manager. Three Oaks is a place with 1,600 people, very little poverty, a 96 percent white population, its own poet laureate and an overall art scene that is thriving enough to attract tourists.

The state took over this tiny teeny village of Three Oaks, 1,600 people in 2008 under the previous governor. The overseer balanced the budget. The next year, it turned the government back over to the locals. It was a short-run thing there, and it worked.

That’s the example of it working. That’s the one. It does not seem to have worked out like that anywhere else.
After snarking about little tiny Three Oaks, Maddow ran through all the other places in Michigan where this practice hasn’t worked. Eventually, regarding Pontiac, she seemed to serve us another bit of snark:
MADDOW: The city of Pontiac got an emergency manager imposed that same year [in 2009]. Pontiac still has one also.

Asked about an emergency manager trying to fix Detroit, the emergency manager in Pontiac said, yes, quote, "Good luck."
As one can discern from Maddow’s web site, that quote was cherry-picked from this lengthy news report in the local Oakland (Michigan) Press—a news report which makes it fairly clear that Pontiac’s emergency manager wasn’t snarking when he said he wished Detroit good luck.

The news report also noted that Pontiac’s emergency manager is planning to end his tenure this spring. Maddow failed to mention this fact. She failed to say that Pontiac was originally placed in receivership by Jennifer Granholm, a Democratic governor. She failed to mention the types of progress which actually have occurred in Pontiac during emergency tenure.

But then, what else is new? Down through the years, Maddow has often cherry-picked her facts when she “reports” on this general topic. On March 1, she snarkily conveyed the impression that the use of emergency managers has pretty much failed everywhere it’s been tried.

This created an opportunity when the New York Times offered a lengthy report about the situation in Pontiac.

Steven Yaccino did the reporting in the March 14 Times. “It remains to be seen how [emergency manager] Louis H. Schimmel's tenure will be remembered,” Yaccino wrote that day, describing Pontiac’s experience.

But Yaccino seemed to present a record of mixed success, perhaps better. Beyond that, he gave readers some idea of the types of problems which may lead to the appointment of emergency managers:
YACCINO (3/14/13): Some changes have drawn wide approval, including a decision to save $2 million a year by outsourcing the police to the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. Remembering times when it took Pontiac's police force hours to respond to calls, residents are quick to point out that the county officers now arrive within minutes.

Beyond the clear cost savings, the fallout from other decisions is murkier. Some residents say they worry that emergency managers have sold off so many of the city's assets to pay bills in the short term that Pontiac will be dependent on private companies and surrounding communities for years to come.

The city turned over its fire trucks when its firefighters were merged with Waterford Township, a move that saved $3 million a year. It cashed in on excess space in its wastewater disposal system—$55 million worth—but no longer owns the facility. When a parking plan cost the city more than it was making, Mr. Schimmel made all spots in Pontiac free, then sold some meters.

But while vacant houses fill the neighborhoods here, business leaders say Mr. Schimmel's policies have helped spur renewed investment downtown. Storefronts are now 90 percent full, up from about half in 2010, according to the city's Downtown Business Association. The group says streetlights have been rewired, new lofts are on the market, and more than 2,000 tulips have been planted in anticipation of spring events.
Whatever one may think of the practice, has Pontiac gained from emergency management? We have no idea, in part because we’ve watched Maddow discuss this topic so many times. But Maddow rarely asks us to ponder the lives of average citizens in failing cities—citizens who may have to wait hours for police to respond, who may no longer have streetlights.

Maddow doesn’t ask us to consider the problems of worthless people like these. Nor are we asked to consider the fact that Granholm appointed quite a few of Michigan’s emergency managers. Instead, we get handed the hackiest kind of pseudo-reporting—and we’re never asked to hear from those who may disagree with Maddow’s assessments.

That news report in the New York Times gave Maddow an opportunity. She could have presented Yaccino as a guest, asking him to assess the changes which have occurred in Pontiac. She could have interviewed Dustin Blitchok, the local reporter who did the long piece about Pontiac’s experience.

People, Homey don’t play it that way! Instead, Maddow did what she always does when discussing this topic. On March 14, she devoted two segments to the appointment of Detroit’s emergency manager. She ignored the report in the New York Times. She repeated her simplistic claim (“this radical policy does not seem to fix the problem of these places”). She presented only one guest—David Bullock, an activist who opposes the decision regarding Detroit.

How “great” is the journalistic product on Maddow’s one and only channel? Maddow tends to be deeply clueless about domestic American politics. Beyond that, she strongly leans in the direction of propagandization, which is of course good for our souls.

In fairness, she gives us plenty of snark and she isn't afraid to repeat shaky claims. She tends to pick and choose her facts. As a general matter, she lets us hear exactly one side of these stories.

In the process, she frequently peddles her network’s products. This includes the great Schultz and the great Kornacki, along with the one-and-only Klein. She relentlessly sells us the great one-and-onlys, treating us like pitiful rubes from the dumbest and reddest of states.

How much dough is she paid for all this? You will never be told! Nor will you ever be asked to think about police response time in a place like Pontiac.

On this pseudo-liberal channel, those people who waited for the police exist as tools for the use. We’re sold a simple-minded product.

Routinely, we’re told that the product is great, that it’s the one and only.


  1. Perfect, just perfect. These critiques are invaluable.

  2. Wow. The host of one cable TV show pumps up the hosts of other cable TV shows on the same network.

    I am shocked, Somerby. SHOCKED, I tell you.

    Clearly, this means the end of Western Civilization as we know it.

    1. I stopped reading this site because of Bob's hatred of anybody on the left. If they ever stray from his god-like perfection he slams them with a hammer.

      And while the horrible pandering listed above was going on, Chris Dodd agreed with someone on his show who said we need assault weapons in case Syria decides to invade. I watched Michele Bachmann claim a list of trash including the claim that the Food Stamp program is 70% overhead. I got to watch Paul Ryan claim that his budget will save us from middle class tax increases.

      But, as Maddow does a great job explaining why these things are wrong - we can count on Bob to complain that we should ignore her because he doesn't like her grin!

    2. Clearly you do not understand the purpose of this website. It is not to attack the right. It is to act as a media watchdog on the left because if we are going to claim the high road it is important that we actually occupy it. Progressives expect the right to be wrong. They tend to trust those who claim to be with them on the left. If those figures are not trustworthy, someone needs to say so, because viewers do not fact-check the people they trust. That is the important service provided by this blog. If that doesn't suit you, good riddance.

    3. Corby: "...it is to act as a media watchdog on the left ...."
      "If that doesn't suit you, good riddance."

      The purpose of the website is stated in the blog caption, not in your head. Also, your version of "America - love it or leave it" sucks.

    4. It is a losing game to try to tell the owner of a blog what he should write about.

    5. And it's an even bigger loser for the owner of a blog to devote his entire blog in the vain (in both senses of the word) attempt to tell the entire U.S. press corps what they should write about when he only gets around to one network and the op-ed pages of two newspapers.

    6. "Mark Stephenson March 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      I stopped reading this site"

      Then why are you posting here?

      "AnonymousMarch 25, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      And it's an even bigger loser for the owner of a blog to devote his entire blog in the vain (in both senses of the word) attempt to tell the entire U.S. press corps what they should write about"

      He's not trying to tell them what to write about (except when they waste our time with obviously ridiculous trivialities like the story of Mitt Romney's dog), he's criticizing HOW they write about things.

  3. I doubt if emergency managers are supposed to be popular with citizens; they are usually brought in to liquidate things and stop the bleeding and expense to the state, where elected officials are failing. So if you are expecting them to improve the quality of life for citizens much more than restoring law and order you will probably judge them to have failed, even if they succeed in the job they are hired to do.

    I believe CNN was much more of a real news organization at first (I didn't have cable then and didn't see it), but for whatever reason this was not commercially successful. What is successful - obviously - has been the provision of canned opinions as Fox does. It was probably inevitable that somebody would do the same on the other side just to exploit the market. And if some network(s) present a biased view on one side, why shouldn't there be a biased network on the other side? I think the people who are really falling down on the job are the supposed impartial cable and broadcast networks, and to be sure Bob gets on them as well.

    1. I think you are confusing CNN with MSNBC. MSNBC, in the Jack Welch days, was a hideous vomit of Beltway convention; nowadays it's a reliable outlet for the narrow band of "left wing" opinion that hasn't earned Beltway opprobrium. CNN, as far as I know (I'm one of those proudly arrogant fucks who doesn't watch TV), is still trying to report the news more or less down the middle.

    2. You give CNN far too much credit. It leans heavily "center"-right today - and is largely a miserable shadow of its earlier incarnation. At this very moment, CNN host Wolf Blitzer is fawning over Paul Ryan and Rand Paul in a story dedicated to the possibility of their running for President in 2016. This morning I read the network is hoping to sign Elizabeth Hasselback, the conservative mouthpiece who currently sits on "The View."

  4. I check this site periodically because I think you make some valid critiques of the liberal media but then I stop because you blow up something innocuous thing like promoting other shows on a network into a major criticism. I get that you don't think Rachel Maddow produces a good show but whether she promotes other shows is, I am sure part, of her contract.

    1. "I think you make some valid critiques of the liberal media"

      If you find those critiques somewhere else, by all means go there. But I suspect that Somerby, as usual, is providing something that nobody else provides. Someone who does that should be forgiven. It's easy to filter the parts where he's wrong.

      It's like a movie that's flawed but highly creative and original. If we bash the flaws, originality will die.

    2. So what, pray tell, does Somerby provide that nobody else provides? Daily critiques of MSNBC?

      How richer are all our lives because somebody is keeping an eye on MSNBC for us.

    3. steeve: "But I suspect that Somerby ... is providing something that nobody else provides. Someone who does that should be forgiven."

      Using that criteria, we should also forgive Glenn Beck, Adolph Hitler, and George W. Bush.

      No thanks.

    4. "How richer are all our lives because somebody is keeping an eye on MSNBC for us."

      I guess it depends on whether you're a fan of the great Rachel Maddow.

      MSNBC is exalted and promoted as the reality-based community's answer to Fox News. If that answer consists merely of being the lefty version of Fox News, it's pretty worthless. That's the overriding theme of Bob's criticism of MSNBC and its host/shills.

  5. What I don't understand is why Somerby is grouping Rachel Maddow in the mainstream "press corp"?

    As a liberal, I watch Maddow because she presents, along with her opinion, stories pertinent to the liberal cause, not because I hope to hear straight reporting without opinion from someone who just happens to be liberal. I'm not that naive!!!

    I don't mind that MSNBC is the "lefty" version of Fox News, because it can also serve as the "reality-based community's answer to Fox News." Would advancing the progressive agenda be counter to reality??? I think not.