As Maddow’s tulip craze seems to die, Cooper’s keeps rolling along: In our senior year of college, our residence hall suddenly featured a Rock-Makers pinball machine.
The machine was wickedly great. Its imagery featured a race of primitive beings whose lives revolved around the making, or perhaps the harvesting, of rocks.
For a glimpse of these primitive beings, click here.
Rock-making! It seemed to be the entire culture of these primitive people. (You coaxed free games from the great machine by scoring “rock-a-rocks.”)
Rock-Makers was a wickedly great machine. Adding to the excitement, its imagery evoked one of Wittgenstein’s early structures in the Philosophical Investigations, in which we’re asked to imagine “a complete primitive language” consisting of only four words: block, pillar, slab and beam.
Had Wittgenstein owned his own Rock-Makers? Everything is possible!
Last night, Anderson Cooper evoked the great Rock-Makers machine, in which a primitive race of people were engaged in a very limited set of obsessive behaviors.
He evoked the Melanesian “cargo cult,” and the Dutch tulip craze. When we flipped to Cooper late in the 10 PM hour, we caught the cable news airplane obsessive telling a panel of fellow obsessives that they were going to go to “the lightning round.”
With that, Cooper began firing quick questions about the missing plane at his half dozen fellow obsessives. He received brisk replies in return.
By now, this seems to be part of the extremely limited culture devised by these primitive people.
Weirdly, CNN hasn’t prepared transcripts for Cooper’s programs last night. Perhaps the channel is feeling embarrassed about the cargo cult it has created, in which panels of madmen spend whole days discussing, or pretending to discuss, the missing Malaysian airplane, culminating in self-proclaimed “lightning rounds.”
The madness of this cargo cult has become rather hard to miss. When we flipped to Megyn Kelly last night, she too was fully zombified concerning the missing plane.
Once the tulip craze got started, it’s said that the Dutch didn’t know how to quit it. (Playing Rock-Makers was something like that.) Last night, we began to wonder how these zombified cable obsessives will ever be able to quit their cult about the missing plane.
That said, the madness of this tulip craze seems to affect everyone it touches. Yesterday, Salon highlighted Chris Hayes’ snarky putdown of the craze, which he said was being pursued by other cable channels.
To watch his segment, click here. Careful though, Hayes! This morning, we flipped to The One True Channel. Krystal Ball was promising airplane blather with a zombified look in her eyes.
That said, Hayes went on and on in his critique Thursday night. Along other things, he said this:
HAYES (3/20/14): Have you noticed that the coverage of this missing flight has gotten a little out of hand lately?We couldn’t help thinking that Hayes’ description somewhat resembled a lot of the work Rachel Maddow has done about the Fort Lee matter—a topic Maddow seems to have completely abandoned this week.
I’m going to let you in on a little inside secret. Sometimes, in the world of cable news, there’s a mismatch between the demand for new information about a story and the supply of new information that exists.
So what do you do in those circumstances? Well, you try to find creative ways of pushing out the supply.
You have reporters, and you hope they dig up new nuggets of information you can report, or you offer context or some history, or, for the mystery of Flight 70 [sic], that’s the strategy we’ve tried to use here at ALL IN. We have talked about other flights that have gone down. We have talked about the way that modern airplanes can be flown on autopilot, or how crash investigations work.
But right now, with this plane, none of that, none of that, gets you to a point where you fill the demand. The demand is still there begging for more. So the question is, as the host of a cable news program, then what do you do?
Here’s what is not so harmless. What’s not harmless is filling in that gap between supply of information and demand for it with completely baseless speculation about nefarious foreign actors and enemies, and using the gap between the supply of information and the demand for it to push whatever paranoid theory you have to make people scared about the enemy you want them to be scared of.
More on that abandonment below. Soon, Hayes was making factual errors as he displayed the snarky style he has been taught by the suits since his move to prime time.
Hayes dished a lot of snark, making several mistakes as he did. As for Maddow, her own personal tulip craze seemed come to an abrupt end this week. Here’s why we say that:
There was actual news this week about David Samson, an ancillary figure in the Fort Lee matter. But Maddow completely ignored it.
For weeks, Maddow has been “trying to find creative ways of pushing out the supply” of apparent news about Samson’s alleged bad conduct. This week, when some actual news appeared, she completely ignored it.
The Fort Lee matter remains a real news topic. At least, the topic may well produce real news when something actually emerges from one of the ongoing investigations.
It isn’t clear that Samson’s possible conflicts of interest were ever real national news. That said, Maddow has laboriously milked these possible conflicts in much the way Hayes described—until this week, when it suddenly seemed that Samson was dead to Maddow.
Has Maddow abandoned her own cargo cult? This week, with no explanation at all, the answer seemed to be yes.
Prior rock-making came to an end on the Maddow Show. Cooper’s craze remains active.
Actual news about Samson: Actual news abounded about Samson this week. This was ignored by Maddow, who had been inventing pseudonews about Samson for weeks.
On Sunday, the Bergen Record published a long report about the somewhat peculiar way the board of the Port Authority has operated under Samson. Just click here.
On Wednesday, the New York Times (and everyone else) reported that "federal prosecutors in New Jersey issued a subpoena last week to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seeking records relating to its chairman, David Samson...The interest in Mr. Samson, a close political ally of Mr. Christie, represents a significant widening of the scandal that has grown out of the closing of two bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., in September." Just click this.
On Thursday, the Record reported on a topic Maddow has beaten to death in the past. "Port Authority officials are reconsidering a controversial deal that gave NJ Transit a $1-a-year lease on valuable land in North Bergen, officials said on Wednesday, one of several moves taken as the agency tries to right itself after months of tumult and criticism." (The Times published a similar report.) Just click here.
Maddow ignored all these reports. According to Nexis, Samson’s name hasn’t been mentioned on her program since Monday, March 10.
In our view, Maddow’s focus on Samson has always represented a bit of a cargo cult, an attempt to keep a favored topic alive in much the way Hayes described.
This tulip craze seems to have ended this week. There has been no explanation.