WHAT’S WRONG WITH MSNBC: Good God!

MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2013

Part 1—An horrifically bad Wednesday night: Friend, are you a liberal?

If so, Wednesday evening, May 29, was a horrible night for you.

Over on Fox, the hounds of scandal were braying. As always, it started at 5 PM, with the scripted inanities of The Five. But let’s move straight to the hounds of hell which were unleashed in prime time.

At 8 PM, Bill O’Reilly’s first two segments dealt with the trio of so-called scandals which have come to define the American news agenda. First, O’Reilly interviewed Paul Ryan about the trio of outrageous events. He then devoted a second segment to an interview with Bob Beckel, a deeply dejected “Fox Democrat.”

After Beckel rolled over and died—“It's very much like Ronald Reagan during Iran-contra,” he said—O’Reilly teased his third segment:
O'REILLY (5/29/13): All right! Bob Beckel, everybody! There he is.

Directly ahead, Megyn Kelly on a very important question: Did Attorney General Holder legally, legally commit perjury? Miss Megyn is next.
In his fourth segment, O’Reilly spoke with the sainted James Rosen. That segment started like this:
O'REILLY: The Washington Beat segment tonight: Lots going on as the scandals continue to envelope the nation's capital. Joining us now from D.C., the very famous James Rosen and Fox News chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron.

So people are taking bets on whether Eric Holder is going to have to resign, Cameron. And there is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. What are you hearing?
In his fifth segment, O’Reilly spoke with the sulfurous Dennis Miller, as he does every week. Critiquing Obama’s trip to Atlantic City, Miller said, “Obama throws like a girlie-man.” He also continued his years-long comparison of Holder to alleged Oprah boy-toy Stedman Graham.

At 9 PM, O’Reilly handed the reins to Sean Hannity. The beat went on.

In Hannity’s first segment, a ritual slaughter occurred as Juan Williams tried to debate the purported scandals with Michelle Malkin (or perhaps as he pretended). In his second segment, Hannity spoke with two congressmen, both Republicans, about Holder’s depredations.

In his third segment, Hannity discussed the bouquet of scandals with conservative talker Dennis Prager and with Fox Democrat Kirsten Powers. Frequently, Powers doesn’t roll over and die. But on this evening, this was part of her opening statement:
POWERS (5/29/13): But in all seriousness, what the White House did was completely despicable and I think now, people are starting to see. You know, we got the tapes of it early on. That's all started pretty quickly after he was in office. It was just about, not even quite a year into office that they launched this war on Fox News. And the thing that I love about that clip that you showed of [Obama] at the beginning is that he says, “There is this one news—you know, I have one news station that attacks me all day long.”

Now, setting aside whether it is true that he is being attacked all day long, it's one. You know, and he is complaining that, out of all of the media, there is one place that allows people to say things about him that he doesn't like. You know, let's get a little perspective. I think any president would be happy if that was their situation.
During this particular segment, Powers represented the liberal perspective! In his next segment, Hannity spoke with Karl Rove about “the IRS enemies list.” And segment 5 started like this:
HANNITY (5/29/13): One of the president's most vocal supporters during the 2012 campaign has now landed himself in a lot of hot water. Singer-songwriter, co-host of the hit show The Voice, Adam Levine declared that he hates America on live television last night.
One of Obama’s biggest supporters had declared that he hates America! Sadly, Hannity wasn’t even making his basic claim up.

When Greta started at 10 PM, the pounding continued. “Tonight: How high does it go?” she instantly asked—and she wasn’t asking about the water in some rain-swollen river.

Last Wednesday, it was all-scandal all night long on the nation’s highest-rated news channel. (Fox is highest rated by far.) But friend, on your own liberal news channel, a group of children were enjoying an evening of play.

At 8 PM, Chris Hayes kicked off your tribe’s prime-time programming block. He chose to discuss a minor figure who had pretty much lost her prominence more than a year ago.

It was time to go over some tired old flubs! Here’s what Hayes said as he introduced his evening’s featured segment:
HAYES (5/29/13): But we begin tonight with—well, another of whom there is only one, the one and only Michele Bachmann.

Five years ago, if I said that name to you on this program, you would have had no idea who the heck I was talking about. Michele Bachmann happened at that point to be a freshman member of Congress in Minnesota and there are even still lots of members of Congress whose names you probably don’t know.

[...]

Today, we know that Michele Bachmann will not be seeking reelection next year, a decision she announced, fittingly, because it’s the medium she works within, in a web video—a long, long, aggressively boring and over-musically scored web video. There were moments, however, in the eight-plus minutes of her straight to camera monologue of pure trademark Michele Bachmann amazingness, starting with the not reasons she’s leaving Congress.

BACHMANN (videotape): Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress. And rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.

HAYES: As convincing as Rob Ford’s crack-cocaine denial.
Hayes was focusing on a figure so inconsequential that she had just announced her plan to retire from Congress. As he discussed her videotaped announcement, he complained about its musical score—and he drew a comparison to the “crack cocaine denial” of Rob Ford, a person the average voter has never heard of and never will.

(Ford isn’t from this country. To waste your time, click here.)

Friend, what does it mean to be part of a backwater cultural cult? Hayes turned to two guests to discuss the retirement of the inconsequential Bachmann. These remarks were soon offered:
HAYES: Joining me at the table, Joan Walsh, editor at large for Salon and author of What’s the Matter with White People—that includes Michele Bachmann. And Dan Savage, syndicated columnist, host of Savage Lovecast, and author of the brand new book you should check out, American Savage.

All right, Michele Bachmann! I guess I was actually sort of surprised she did this, but once we sat in the editorial meeting, what would you do if you were Michele Bachmann? It makes perfect sense, right?

WALSH: Yes, it does. I mean, she’s also facing—I love the whole “pay no attention to FBI investigation behind the curtain” part of her word-salad generated video.

SAVAGE: And she led with that.

HAYES: That was the beginning. The beginning was this whole long thing about all the reasons she’s not quitting, and it’s not because of the FBI and it’s not she’s going to get her butt kicked in—

WALSH: No, none of those things.

SAVAGE: And I’m glad it was at the beginning, because I got through about four minutes before I had to go back to watching porn. Only so many minutes in a row I can take Michele Bachmann before I need a palate cleanser.
Set aside the pointlessness of mocking Bachmann’s greatest flubs for perhaps the ten millionth time. Just look at the way your cult members elected to do so this evening!

One of Hayes’ guests has written a book which is weirdly titled, “What’s the Matter with White People?” That group would include Bachmann, Hayes himself weirdly said.

The author of that weirdly named book was soon complaining about the “word salad” found in Bachmann’s video announcement. (It may have been even worse than the musical score!) The other guest said he quickly returned to watching porn after trying to watch the video.

He needed a palate cleanser!

Can we talk? If Karl Rove was allowed to program MSNBC, he couldn’t make it more irrelevant, even more destructive to liberal interests.

What a performance! But all night long, from 5 PM on, this channel’s hosts and well-scripted “contributors” pounded away at Bachmann’s past flubs, sometimes going out of their way to showcase their own distance from mainstream American culture.

The first half of Hardball was “all about Bachmann.” But then, every program started with Bachmann this evening except the Rachel Maddow Show. For unknown reasons, Maddow started with a weirdly undercooked bit of “breaking news,” then turned to the mocking of Bachmann for her second segment.

When Maddow mocked Bachmann, she made a groaning factual error (see next post). But watching the children chuckle and play, a cable viewer would have no idea about the actual claims and themes which were roiling political Washington.

Briefly, let’s consider the other topics Hayes discussed this night.

After wasting everyone’s time with Bachmann’s greatest flubs, where did Hayes go next? Good God—to marijuana! His second segment began as shown below, with tape of Ronald Reagan.

No, we aren’t making this up! After laughing at Bachmann, we liberals got to laugh at Reagan himself! And we got to talk about marijuana—pot, grass, Mary Jane.

Hayes’ segment started like this:
REAGAN (videotape): Leading medical researchers are coming to the conclusion that marijuana, pot, grass, whatever you want to call it, is probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.

HAYES: That was a little over 30 years ago, and, well, we have come a long way. If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to live in a world where marijuana was legal and regulated, in Colorado that day has arrived.

Yesterday, Governor John Hickenlooper made history by signing four bills to make his state the first state in the country to fully regulate the recreational use, sale, and consumption of marijuana for adults.
Was this a news topic? Barely! But Maddow also explored this topic, offering one of the emptiest interviews in cable history with a legalization advocate:
MADDOW (5/29/13): Major Franklin, thank you very much for being here. It’s nice to have you with us.

FRANKLIN: Hey, Rachel. It’s great to be back.

MADDOW: So, this has been a hypothetical for so long, states treating marijuana basically more like alcohol than like a Schedule One drug. How do you think Colorado has done drafting these regulations?

FRANKLIN: I think they’ve done a wonderful job. The people of Colorado have done a wonderful job. The team that was in place to craft these regulations have done a wonderful job, and now, the governor has done a wonderful job moving this policy forward. It’s a great day.
Was Major Franklin on pot, grass himself? Everything was wonderful, in its own way, as this segment crawled forward.

Friend, your liberal channel seemed to be broadcasting from an alternate universe last Wednesday night. There was little sign that a dangerous set of scandal claims was taking control of American politics as the children filled the evening with their enjoyable chatter. (Don’t even ask about the two segments with which Hayes concluded his hour.)

Who knows? Perhaps each of these hosts is a lover, not a fighter! But in last Wednesday’s performances, the children continued the practice they started last fall, when they refused to fight back against the claims being made about Benghazi—crackpot claims which retain their power today, even as the kids on our channel continue to look away.

In terms of substance, this was a horrible evening for MSNBC. That said, the channel’s ratings were horrific too.

Those ratings suggest a possibility: To our credit, we the dogs aren’t eating this particular dog food! Because alas! As Fox kept driving the political framework which now controls American politics, its ratings dwarfed those of The Liberal Channel on this horrible night.

“What’s wrong with MSNBC?” Alex Pareene asked that question at Salon two days before this horrific night.

In the main, Pareene referred to the channel’s flagging ratings. We think he was asking a very good question.

We’ll ponder his question all week.

Tomorrow: In this morning’s New York Times, Bill Carter explores Pareene’s question

18 comments:

  1. I always thought Bill Moyers had a knack for exposing lies without coming off as a snide, condescending know-it-all.

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  2. As an Okie luckily on the safe side of Tornado alley this year (so far). I've appreciated NBC's policy of breaking into Martin Bashir's righteous caterwauling with live coverage of Nature's fury from Oklahoma City affiliate KFOR. Being able to watch that EF-5 tornado whip through Moore, OK, from the perspective of newscopters and various brave storm chasers is what TV journalism is all about and for once justifies the expense of all that technology.

    I don't have KFOR in HD in my area, but I certainly have it for MSNBC. Too bad 99 percent of the time it has to be wasted on talking heads telling us nothing but what they think we want to hear.

    Could it be that MSNBC make a terrible mistake taking Ed off of prime time and replacing him with Harry Potter? I was never a big fan of Ed's, considering him to be more or less the Bizarro Hannity, but I caught part of his radio show on Sirius Radio the other day, and he was actually talking about jobs, economic policy (or the lack thereof), and their cumulative effects on working people and the disappearing middle class.

    Hey, I suppose gay marriage, military rape, and the collective ownership of all children are valid topics, but it was good to hear attention paid to something important for a change.

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  3. While I appreciate the importance of economic and populist issues, the real problem, I would imagine, is that blue collar people aren't MSNBC's audience. They're much more likely to be watching FOX News or CNN. Upper middle class people with sedentary, self-actualizing jobs watch MSNBC. Hence, the decision to fire Ed, the focus on social issues and the sneering and snarking toward mainstream Americana.

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  4. I agree that the sneering and snarking are a waste of valuable time, not the least because they will not reach or a attract a wider audience who need to be educated on why and how a Bachmann is dangerously idiotic. (In fact, they may alienate that audience.) But the Bachmann's and Gomert's do need to be called out, and the traditional mainstream news media, whether newspapers or network TV's and PBS's daily news shows, are not doing that. We have been waiting a long time for the "Have you no shame?" moment.

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