The grisly end of an era: Last evening, Rachel Maddow completed a week for the ages.
At the start of her show, her faux “response” to Stuart Varney completed the insolent cuffing-aside she’d delivered to viewers all week. Her program went downhill from there, as viewers were buried under a wave of low-IQ propaganda.
In our view, Maddow has thoroughly lost her way. We’ll offer more detail about last night’s events on Monday.
For today, we’ll suggest you consider recent posts by Gene Lyons and Charlie Pierce.
We’ll start with Lyons’ latest column at The National Memo. In the column, Lyons continues to debunk the basic factual claims which drive the current, Clinton-bashing cover report at Harper’s.
Lyons’ time spans don’t precisely parse in the following passage; Fox News launched in 1996. But in our view, his portrait of journalistic culture is very much on the mark:
LYONS (10/29/14): Upon first venturing to write about politics 20 years ago, I held naïve views about political journalism. Specifically, I imagined that factual accuracy mattered as it did in the kinds of books and magazine pieces I’d written on non-political topics: opinionated, yes, but grounded in careful reporting.“I imagined that factual accuracy mattered [in political journalism] as it did in the kinds of books and magazine pieces I’d written on non-political topics,” Lyons writes.
Otherwise, why bother?
After 10 years, I became persuaded that the honor system supposedly governing journalists had broken down. “Claiming the moral authority of a code of professional ethics it idealizes in the abstract but repudiates in practice,” I wrote in Harper’s magazine, “today’s Washington press corps has grown as decadent and self-protective as any politician or interest group whose behavior it purports to monitor.”
And that was before Fox News.
Driven partly by cable TV celebrity, personality-based narratives rule. Politicians are depicted as heroes or villains in group melodramas as simplistic as any TV soap opera. Facts are fitted to the storyline. Cheap psychodrama thrives. The whole world’s a Maureen Dowd column.
Lyons says he has come to see that as a naïve view. We recommend the column, including the important, basic facts about (groan) the Whitewater matter.
Facts no longer seem to matter on Maddow’s peculiar TV show. She is treating liberal viewers with the same undisguised contempt Sean Hannity has aimed at conservative viewers for lo, these many years.
Many liberals are buying the package, just as many conservatives have done.
Maddow, of course, is Our Own Rhodes Scholar. This brings us to Charlie Pierce’s tribute to the long-time Boston mayor, Thomas Menino, who died this week at the age of 71:
PIERCE (10/30/14): There are going to be two misconceptions thrown about in celebration of the life of Tom Menino, the former mayor of Boston who passed away today at 71. The first is that his ascension to power was some kind of fluke, and his continuation in Boston, some kind of accident. The second is that Menino was a kind of throwback among America's mayors—straight from the wards, no political ambitions beyond City Hall, not in any conceivable way glib, and not very good on television at all, an old school, index-card, machine politician in a data-driven, hyper-atomized, computer age. Neither of these is true. We will deal with the second one so as to understand why the first one is so remarkably wrong.From there, Pierce states his view of Menino’s important accomplishments as mayor. We strongly recommend the post.
Menino was a puzzlement only to those delicate souls who mistake syntax for intelligence...
We don’t mean to suggest that Pierce shares our view of Maddow’s program, although we think he should. That said, Menino wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar, nor would he likely have been mistaken for one.
Pierce understands that that isn’t the measure. Dr. King understood the world the same way:
DR. KING (2/4/68): Everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.It also helps if you don’t have contempt for the truth and for your misused viewers. It probably helps if you aren’t being paid $7 million per year.
You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
In the end, our academic elites are failing us badly. They simply aren’t very sharp. Beyond that, they aren’t real involved.
Their syntax is great. Their subjects and their verbs agree on a regular basis. But that’s pretty much where the brilliance ends.
More on this cultural problem next week.
The mayor’s early life: This is Wikipedia’s basic account of Menino’s early life:
Menino was born in Readville, a part of Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood, on December 27, 1942. He was the son of Susan and Carl Menino, who are both of Italian descent. Menino’s father was a factory foreman at Westinghouse Electric and his grandparents lived on the first floor of his parents' Hyde Park home.Pierce says his syntax wasn’t perfect. Again, we’ll suggest you consider Pierce’s account of what he accomplished as mayor.
After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Jamaica Plain in 1960, Menino enrolled in three night classes at Boston College and began working at Metropolitan Life Insurance. Much to his father’s dismay, Menino decided college was not for him. Carl Menino once recalled his son's reasons for opting out of higher education: “Truman didn't go to college,” the younger Menino would tell his father. President Harry S. Truman was Menino's favorite president and personal hero...
Menino received an Associate degree in Business Management (1963) at Chamberlayne Junior College, now Mount Ida College. During his terms as Boston City Councilor, Menino received a Bachelor of Arts in Community Planning at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1988.