Monday night, Tuesday morning: According to the New York Times, nothing gigantic has occurred in the past few days concerning the Fort Lee lane closings.
The paper has published news reports in recent days concerning the legislative probe into the lane closings. But the reports have appeared inside the paper, in the New York section—and generally not on that section’s front page.
That isn’t the way this topic has been played on MSNBC, which has committed to the lane closings as a signature event. Consider the treatment the topic received on the Maddow program in the past two nights.
On Monday night, Maddow devoted roughly the first three-fourths of her program to the topic of the lane closings. Last night, the first half of the program was so conceived and so dedicated.
Maddow is treating the topic as a signature, breakout event. On a nightly basis, she is now making portentous statements like these, from Monday night:
MADDOW (2/10/14): Tonight, we can report exclusively that the lawyer hired by Governor Christie to do this internal review, that lawyer has contacted the attorney for the mayor of little Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mayor Mark Sokolich. The mayor’s attorney telling us tonight it was Mayor Sokolich—the mayor’s telling us tonight that he received that communication from Governor Christie’s lawyer.While you’re at it, note the invention of a novelized character—the adorable “little Fort Lee,” which novelistically stands at the base of “the busiest bridge in the world.” Back to our major point:
In his search for why someone would want to do that to him and Fort Lee, Mayor Sokolich suggested it was perhaps retaliation at him for not endorsing Governor Christie in his re-election campaign. Governor Christie has denied that allegation from the mayor.
But tonight, the lawyer for Mayor Sokolich tells us that the attorney that Governor Christie hired to conduct that internal investigation of his own office, that Christie attorney has reached outside the governor’s office to seek an interview with Fort Lee’s mayor. The attorney for Mayor Sokolich says the request came through this weekend. The mayor`s attorney did not answer when we asked tonight about how he responded so far to the request from the Christie lawyer.
But that’s not all. There’s more. We can also report tonight exclusively that the Christie attorney conducting this internal review has also written to the town of Fort Lee. Governor Christie’s lawyer filing an open records request today with the mayor’s office in Fort Lee requesting, quote, "any and all correspondence going back to August 1st about those lane closures in September”...
Maddow hasn’t explained why MSNBC is “can report those things exclusively.” Is the mayor’s lawyer telling them things he is telling no one else?
Maddow has made it sound that way, but clarity has been lacking. Nor has Maddow explained why the mayor’s lawyer would do that.
Whatever the source of these insights, this type of trumpeting is now routine as Maddow devotes the bulk of her show to the Fort Lee matter, pushing other topics over the side of the world’s busiest bridge.
Has Fort Lee merited this degree of coverage in the past two nights? Consider something that happened last night as Maddow continued to give her viewers the thrill and appearance, perhaps the illusion, of nightly revelation.
Ten minutes into last evening’s program, Maddow snarked at some of Monday’s “weird” press coverage of Fort Lee. After constructing an alleged contradiction in Christie’s conduct, she moved on to some conduct by the press—conduct she said was even weirder than Christie’s:
MADDOW (2/11/14): That paradox, that contradiction, between his personal public statements and what his office is doing in his name, that continues to be one of the weirder aspects of this story, which I think probably hasn’t had enough attention.Maddow snarked at the “weird reporting” done the day before. She failed to note that she had devoted the first five minutes plus of her own program to that very topic on Monday night, and that she had questioned Assemblyman John Wisniewski about the same matter in her program’s second segment.
It is a weirder aspect of this story. It is not quite as weird [chuckling] as the reporting yesterday that Governor Christie might have done a fly-by of the traffic jam in Fort Lee by helicopter while those access lanes under the George Washington bridge were blocked.
Numerous press outlets yesterday reported that Governor Christie might have flown over the traffic jam that had been ordered up by his staff on his helicopter ride back to New Jersey from New York on the morning of September 11 last year and that that was why the aviation unit of the New Jersey state police was having its records subpoenaed as part of the investigation.
As she continued last night, Maddow reported that the New Jersey state police had pretty much killed the notion that Christie flew over the traffic jam on his way back to Trenton. She chuckled about the “weird reporting” which advanced that notion on Monday. As she continued, she seemed to criticize the “press speculation” which had occurred.
The night before, she herself had engaged in the same speculation! She had used that “weird reporting” to give us the thrill of possible revelation right at the start of her program. She had burned more than five minutes on that excitement, producing maps and other objets to help us speculate in greater detail. She then spent several minutes receivinging and accepting a non-answer answer from Wisniewski on the topic.
(Last night, she replayed the tape of that Q-and-A. She pretended that Wisniewksi’s answer had been more clear than it actually was.)
Now, to give us the thrill of advancement, she rolled her eyes at the silly reporters who pushed that theme on Monday. She now said that she could “add some brand-new reporting tonight,” because “MSNBC tonight has obtained a document from sources close to the investigation that explains what it is that” blah blah blah blah blah.
As we have often told you, Maddow isn’t obsessively honest. At present, she has adopted the Fort Lee lane closings as her signature topic. She and her channel seem to be trying to promote themselves as the place to come for exclusive revelations—the kinds of revelation which may fall apart the next day, with the excitement restored in various new thrilling ways.
Maddow isn’t gigantically honest, as we’ve often noted. But this general type of sleight of hand is now widespread on MSNBC as the channel pushes other matters aside to thrill you with scandal culture.
Last night, Maddow clowned in several ways. One hour later, Lawrence continued to underinform you about the facts surrounding the now-iconic statement that “there was no traffic study.”
On Hardball, Chris Matthews opened with some absolute nonsense about an alleged contradiction no one else on the planet had noticed. He spouted and name-called in the trademark ways he had used to savage Hillary Clinton for years as the liberal world politely looked on, saying and doing nothing. (For one astounding, appalling example, see yesterday's post.)
Meanwhile, Steve Kornacki continued to insist that Mayor Sokolich hasn’t changed his story about being asked for an endorsement. Serving as guest host for Chris Hayes, Kornacki devoted an entire segment to the notion that Sokolich hasn’t changed his story.
Do such interpretations help explain why MSNBC “is able to report exclusively” that X, Y and Z have occurred, apparently drawing on information presented by the mayor’s lawyer? The question entered our mind.
Has Mayor Sokolich “changed his story” about the request for his endorsement? We’d say he pretty much has, but one thing is certain: If a targeted pol ever changed his account of some matter as much as Sokolich seems to have done, he would be summarily fried by the press corps’ legion of boom.
Given three days to think it over, Kornacki was still saying that the mayor’s story hasn’t really changed. Tell that to Maddow, who devised a whole new theory of motivation for the lane closings based on the mayor’s original statement, in which he gave the impression that he hadn’t been asked to endorse.
The mayor’s current account may be perfectly accurate, but we’d certainly say his story has drifted. Except on MSNBC, where millionaire hustlers “are able to report exclusively” that various trivial events have occurred.
On Monday night, Maddow burned a large chunk of time on the fly-by speculation. By Tuesday night, she was snarking at the “weird reporting” done on that topic, weird reporting she ran with.
Almost surely, this is how it's going to go as MSNBC continues to sell Fort Lee as a partisan entertainment event.
If you read the New York Times, nothing of gigantic import has occurred this week with respect to this story. But MSNBC, a corporate entity, is making money off this entertainment event. Perhaps for that reason, they are going to fill your head with nightly excitement as they pretend that revelation may be right around the corner.
Almost surely, revelation is not right around the corner. You are getting conned and misled, hour by hour, as MSNBC and its millionaire hirelings treat you in the ways Fox News pioneered.
We’ll probably touch on this topic each day. MSNBC is defining itself through its treatment of this topic.
Turning to our Chekhov: As we often do, we’ve thought of a certain passage from Chekhov as we’ve watched Maddow excite her viewers over these past two evenings.
At the end of The Lady with the Lapdog, Chekhov describes the way Gurov and the lady in question yearn for a quick resolution to their painful personal situation. We’ve thought of this passage in the past few nights:
CHEKHOV (1899): And it seemed to them that in only a few more minutes a solution would be found and a new, beautiful life would begin; but both of them knew very well that the end was still a long, long way away and that the most complicated and difficult part was only just beginning.So too here! Almost surely, the answers to the mystery of the lane closings is still a long way away. But you will be hustled night after night as people like Matthews, O’Donnell and Maddow make you think a solution may be found in only a few more minutes.
You’ll be told some things that aren’t true. Quite a few facts which really are true will land on the cutting-room floor.
We’ll probably touch on this topic most days. MSNBC is defining itself through its treatment of little Fort Lee as entertainment event.