Part 2—Progressive leader gone wild: Rachel Maddow sometimes does informative news segments.
Over the years, she has followed some important topics—abortion rights and voting procedures in the various states, to name two.
That said, Maddow’s informative segments now tend to come in the second half of her program. Up front, we tend to get the puzzling, long-form presentations in which the cable star tends to play with dolls.
On Wednesday evening, July 30, Maddow literally played with dolls—with paper dolls of the heinous Bob and Maureen McDonnell. As Maddow played with these paper dolls, she even pretended to speak in their voices.
Then, Maddow fashioned a virtual Chucky doll, representing the national press. A ludicrous bit of press criticism followed.
This is the way it began:
MADDOW (7/30/14): The corruption trial of Bob McDonnell has been incredible so far. Today was Day Three. Jonny Williams is going to be back on the stand tomorrow morning.Something was sort of wrong about the national coverage!
But as the national coverage of this corruption trial picks up, there is something sort of wrong about it or at least something unexamined about it. And here’s what I mean...
As Maddow continued her segment, she fashioned a virtual Chucky doll as she assailed the work of the national press. In the process, she authored one of the strangest segments we’ve ever seen on TV.
According to Maddow, what had been wrong with the national coverage of the first three days of the trial?
She started with some observations about the frequency with which the McDonnells had been holding hands in public—and were now failing to do so.
Then, she complained about four “salacious” headlines. Two of the four were perfectly accurate. They were also completely on point:
MADDOW: Here they are again, arriving today at the courthouse 40 paces apart. This is what they are doing now in public, now that the trial has started.On screen, the first and fourth headlines were attributed to the AP. The second headline came from NBC News.
And that fact, I think, is part of the key to understanding the salaciousness of the headlines you’ve been seeing about the Bob McDonnell trial. The headlines are all like this this week, right?
“Trial reveals governor’s wife had crush on CEO.”
“McDonnell corruption trial bombshell: CEO became Maureen McDonnell`s favorite playmate, say her lawyers.”
The trashy Daily Mail from Britain, as always putting the finest points on it:
“Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer claims her marriage to ex-Virginia governor was over. And she had a crush on wealthy donor who lavished her with gifts.”
“McDonnell trial reveals ex-Virginia governor’s broken marriage. Wife’s crush on government star witness.”
The third came from “the trashy Daily Mail from Britain,” which had somehow now become part of “the national coverage.”
Were those headlines “salacious?” Not especially, except to Maddow, who is weirdly puritanical about matters involving sex, especially when The Other Tribe is involved.
More to the point, the headlines from NBC News and The Daily Mail were perfectly accurate and directly on point. Quite accurately, they summarized what Maureen McDonnell’s lawyers had said as they outlined her defense in court.
Predictably, this made Maddow angry. For the rest of the 14-minute segment, she savaged the national press for daring to report what the defense lawyers said.
(The two AP headlines were in fact bungled; they treated the lawyers’ assertions as “revelations.” Maddow didn’t draw this distinction. To her, all the headlines were bad.)
From this point on, Maddow made one of the strangest presentations we’ve ever seen on a TV news program. It’s hard to summarize her presentation any way but this:
She doesn’t think the national press should report what the defense lawyers say.
We know, we know—it doesn’t seem possible that Maddow could have meant something like that. But in cases dating to Rod Blagojevich, Maddow has often betrayed the presumption that prosecutors speak for us and can’t really be wrong.
Plus, the McDonnells are very bad. It’s a disgrace when the national press reports the terms of their defense!
We strongly suggest that you watch the segment where Maddow rails in this fashion. At the six-minute mark of the tape, she plays around with her paper dolls. From that point on, she fashion a virtual Chucky doll, demonizing the national press in the most ludicrous manner.
Is it good for progressive causes when our corporate-selected intellectual leaders are as wacky as this? This is the way Maddow ended:
MADDOW: That McDonnell defense, that their marriage is on the rocks, that she had a crush on somebody else—it does make sense as a legal strategy. What does not make sense is the media helping them with it.Truly, that is astounding, in an array of ways. For starters:
To the extent this trial is being covered nationally, so far, it is being covered purely in a tabloid way, right? Purely through the lens of catty, frankly sexist gossip about the first lady and how she like expensive shoes and fancy shopping sprees, while Bob McDonnell is cool, calm and collective. He is essentially collateral damage for his wife’s trashy, expensive taste.
I mean, that framing is not only sexist and gross, it ignores the fact that Bob McDonnell himself was doing things like setting up meetings for this wealthy donor with the top state health officials, right? The government is going to have to prove that he was doing those things that he did in exchange for the vacation trips and the golf clubs and the Ferrari rides and all the rest of it. They claim they have the evidence to prove it.
But if the Bob McDonnell defense is going to be to blame it all on the lovesick, emotionally erratic, Louis Vuitton-loving wife, they are, at least so far, doing a masterful job of injecting that story line into the press and getting the press to mount their defense for them. The press is bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense.
I mean, this is a legal strategy that they’re mounting. And it makes sense as a legal strategy.
But attention news media! This is an overt strategy, and you are helping one side of this legal case by advancing the strategic story-line for them, because you can’t resist a tabloid soap opera tale.
You’re being played! You’re being played. I mean, it’s your choice if you want to cover it this way. But you are being played, by covering this as a tabloid story about a marriage and not a crime blotter story about a corrupt governor.
At several points, Maddow berated the press for the “tabloid way” it was said to be covering this trial.
Coming from Maddow, that’s an amazing critique. Has anyone been more “catty” or tabloid than Maddow herself?
Has anyone been more catty and tabloid than Maddow? This dates to the earliest days of this case, when the cable star endlessly pleasured herself by discussing the question of Governor McDonnell’s laxatives and body wash, which the state of Virginia had paid for, perhaps incorrectly.
Maddow went cuckoo for colonics! For one example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/20/13.
No one has covered these endless events in a cattier tabloid way than the magnificent Maddow. Just two days before this Day Three rant, on Day One of the trial, she had wasted everyone’s time on a catty, tabloid-drenched treatment of Maureen McDonnell’s handling of the governor’s mansion’s Christmas tree ornaments—a catty, tabloid-drenched pseudo-report she had read, at peculiar length, from the catty Washington Post.
Two nights later, Maddow was complaining that the national press was behaving in a tabloid way when it accurately reported assertions made in court by the defense lawyers. To Maddow, these perfectly accurate news reports meant that organs like NBC News were “bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense,” were “mounting their defense for them.”
NBC News was “helping one side of this legal case!” They were “being played!”
Go ahead—watch this remarkable segment, starting six minutes in. You’ll see Maddow play with some (literal) paper dolls, then with a figurative Chucky doll representing the national press.
Is it good for progressive interests when our multimillionaire leaders play with dolls in such ludicrous ways? We will say the answer is no, but the conduct is quite widespread.
We often think we see our “leaders” playing with dolls. Much more on this problem tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Back to the (lack of a) future
You should watch that tape: We dare you to watch the tape of that ludicrous, 14-minute segment. (Start at minute 6.)
Maddow trashes the national press on the basis of four headlines, one of which comes from England. Two of the headlines are perfectly accurate and very much on point.
She offers no other evidence of wrongdoing. Those headlines were all she had!
Is it good for progressive interests when our millionaire leaders function this way? We will say the answer is no. More on this problem tomorrow.