WHAT BAD POLITICS LOOKS LIKE: The persistently ludicrous Maddow rolls on!


Part 2—Her viewers get misled again:
Will the Alabama driver’s license situation end up as a passing blip on the screen? Will the episode be remembered six months from now?

We can’t answer such questions. Last night, though, the persistently ludicrous Rachel Maddow presented her fourth and fifth segments on the crowd-pleasing topic. Seventeen minutes into the program, she teased the upcoming reports in a typically crowd-pleasing way:

“So on Friday night, we had a bit of a cliff-hanger story about one of the most controversial things being done anywhere in the country in a red state by a Republican governor…”

You can’t exactly say that’s false—and plainly, it’s crowding-pleasing. That said, what followed was, in our view, the latest dose of extensive cherry-picking.

Plainly, it was horrible journalism. In our view, it also constitutes horrible liberal politics.

Maddow started last night’s show with one of her ludicrous, time-wasting segments about the most trivial, crowd-pleasing aspects of the presidential campaign.

She started and ended by discussing her new puppy’s reaction to last weekend’s early snow, photographs included. She then wasted a bunch of time playing clips of Herman Cain’s dumbest remarks from 2011.

This allowed her to sing small bits of the song from the Pokemon movie on two separate occasions. Increasingly, this is the way the game is played on this pseudo-news program.

Wealth and fame have made Rachel Maddow a monster of self-regard. Her show is becoming one of the most awful in cable news history—a program which makes us think of the early years of Fox and Friends, or perhaps of the gruesome old segments in which Hannity and Colmes would go to war with the frightening head of the very frightening New Black Panther Party.

Maddow’s opening segment last night was the usual gong-show. Eventually, she finished her puppy-and-Pokemon palaver, then teased her upcoming segments.

When she returned, she introduced the Alabama excitement in the manner shown below. In our view, this horrible journalism—and bad progressive politics.

We’ll set the highlights in bold:
MADDOW (10/19/15): Republican Governor Robert Bentley put Alabama in the national news a few weeks ago when he shut down the place where you get a driver’s license in Alabama`s blackest counties.

In Alabama, you now have to show ID at the polls in order to vote. A valid driver`s license is the most common form of ID after that law went into effect.

Then recently, a few weeks ago, in every single Alabama county where at least 3/4 of the voters are African-American, Governor Robert Bentley closed down the place where you get a driver’s license in that county. Of the ten counties that went most strongly for Barack Obama in the last election, the governor closed the DMV in eight of those ten counties.
Every highlighted word is true. On their face, those words are also grossly misleading—and we include one part of the Maddow package we haven’t included before.

By now, we’d have to say something else. Assuming minimal journalistic competence on the part of Maddow and/or her staff, then by now those words are also dishonest.

Dishonest, and also bad politics!

In what ways is that factual overview misleading? Maddow stated some accurate facts about the counties which lost their satellite offices. But she also omitted a boatload of facts, as she has done in all five of her segments about this topic.

Governor Bentley “shut down the place where you get a driver’s license in Alabama’s blackest counties?” That’s perfectly accurate! But he also shut down the place where you get a license in many of the state’s whitest counties.

Maddow has never mentioned that fact!

Watching Maddow perform last night, a person could easily get the idea that these offices were only closed in those blackest counties—that they were closed nowhere else. This is what she said after playing clips of a speech by Candidate Clinton:
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton speaking in Alabama, in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend. And with that kind of message on the way this weekend, with that kind of message telegraphed ahead of time by a Hillary Clinton campaign that was already making an issue of this voting rights situation, the closing of these DMVs in black counties in Alabama, you could understand why Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, would like to stop being the guy who closed the DMVs in these majority African-American counties in Alabama, right?
At some point, such selective presentation of facts can only be described as dishonest. Here’s the way Maddow opened her second segment on this topic last night:
MADDOW: In a story we have been following for weeks now, and about which we have had a ton of feedback from you guys, from our viewers, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has now announced that he will unclose the offices where you get driver’s licenses, where you get the most common form of voter ID in Alabama. The governor announcing late Friday night that he is reopening the DMVs in Alabama’s most heavily black counties.
Actually, Bentley announced that he is reopening those offices in all the counties where offices had been closed. That’s a matter of 30 counties, 22 of which are majority white, many heavily so.

These closings didn’t simply affect “Alabama’s most heavily black counties.” According to this post by Kevin Drum, the total population of the 30 affected counties is 23.8% percent black.

In the 2010 census, Alabama’s statewide population was 26.2% black. In short, these closings didn’t simply affect “these majority African-American counties,” though a trusting viewer might easily get that impression from watching this person’s show.

Whatever you think of these office closings, they involved a wide swath of Alabama’s counties and a wide swath of the state’s population. Watching Maddow, you were treated to one pleasing part of the story—and denied the rest of the tale.

In the era of tribal journalism, dissembling has its rewards! Apparently, this crowd-pleasing cherry-picking has produced “a ton of feedback from you guys.” (Maddow made a similar claim during Friday night’s segment.)

Assuming this feedback really exists, it comes from Maddow’s trusting liberal viewers. They believe she is telling them the truth, not unlike the trusting conservative viewers who have put their faith in Hannity down through these many long years.

For the record, Maddow is obscuring a second part of the story through some slippery language. It’s the kind of language the press corps used to describe as “Clintonesque,” a moniker we thought was unfair to Bill Clinton.

Maddow is frequently Clintonesque, even if Clinton isn’t. These are the statements in question:

“In Alabama, you now have to show ID at the polls in order to vote. A valid driver`s license is the most common form of ID after that law went into effect.”

“Governor Bentley has now announced that he will unclose the offices where you get driver’s licenses, where you get the most common form of voter ID in Alabama.”

True, but slick! It’s true—a driver’s license is the most common form of voter ID in Alabama. But it isn’t the only form of ID, and Maddow has now failed, in five separate segments, to note that Alabamians can get a free photo voter ID in all 67 of Alabama’s counties.

The closing of the satellite driver’s license offices hasn’t affected that fact—and that fact is part of this story. When a journalist uses slippery language to steer you away from such facts, you’re being handed a pleasing tale through the use of widespread cherry-picking.

In her second segment last night, Maddow spoke with John Archibald of the Birmingham News. Back on September 30, Archibald’s somewhat overwritten column about the closings started the current pseudo-journalistic craze.

In the course of their discussion last night, Archibald told Maddow, two separate times, that he doesn’t think the closings were intended as a way to affect voting rights.

“I don't really think [Governor Bentley’s] intent—I’ve come to believe that his intent was not to deny voter rights,” Archibald said at one point. He made a similar statement a bit later on.

Maddow didn’t ask him why he said that. We’ll guess that might have undercut a good solid pleasing tale.

Last night, Maddow just kept picking those cherries. Once she got through wasting our time with her puppy and Herman Cain and other utterly pointless matters involving Candidates Christie and Paul, she turned to the topic which is apparently earning her a shitload of feedback.

She told us a pleasing part of the story, tickling our sense of tribal greatness—our “moral overconfidence.”

Very little “moral humility” was on display this night. For background, see yesterday's award-winning post.

Plainly, this is horrible journalism. In our view, it’s also lousy politics—although it’s probably very good for TV stars’ bank accounts.

We think this is lousy progressive politics. Tomorrow, we’ll start explaining why. We’ll start with effects of the wedge, then move on from there.

Tomorrow: As noted in comments


  1. Great News. Rachel will be getting her first ever Hillary Clinton interview.

    Our guess? It is because they are totally in sync on the Alabama driver's license closures.

    1. Trolls r faster! Go, team troll!

    2. Why have Somerby and his fans turned on Maddow and Clinton on this issue?

    3. No one has turned on Clinton except the trolls. Maddow is demagoging. Somerby just wants journalists to tell the truth to the people.

    4. "Tell the truth?" Fuck. That's asking for the moon.

      It would be great if 'journalists' like Maddow would simply stop purposely bullshitting their viewers.

      THEN, after that, we can maybe work on "the truth."

    5. Exactly how have the trolls turned on Clinton?

    6. Well, they think "trolls" have turned on Clinton because they quote her saying in even stronger terms the very things that Maddow has said.

      And only Maddow stands accused of "demagoging."

      Interesting how things work in Bob's allternate universe.

    7. By the way, as you watch the Maddow-Hillary interview, be prepared for Bob's treasured and patented Solich-Hayes Maneuver.

      Whatever comes out of Hillary's mouth that Bob strongly disagrees with, she was tricked into saying that by the vile, evil, scheming MSNBC host.

    8. Will it be the patented Solich-Hayes Maneuver? That is an Oldie But a Goodie, and everyone knows Bob loves a blast from the past. But we think it will be the more recent Somerby Slippery Soft Paraphrase. It best example is yesterday's post.

      "Blast from the Jim Crow Past" becomes "she had possibly pandered and fawned a bit to a key part of the base."

    9. Don't forget the Somerby Seance.

      Rachel will ask her about Bernie and Joe, and Hillary will respond with only gracious things to say about how much she looks forward to a spirited debate with her dear friends.

      The Bob will summon the spirits of Ghandi, King and Mandela, as well as the living spirit of Malala, and wonder why all smug, complacent and uncomprehending liberals can't be like that.

      Then he'll perform the patented Triple Bob Spin and start calling Maddow names again.

  2. Always, the important thing to remember:

    No matter how true it is that Maddow is intentionally misleading her TV audience -- and it's really, really fucking true -- the Bigger Problem by far must always be: That Awful Bob Somerby.

    Our guess? You guys will keep doing great work. Go, team troll!!

    1. What I cannot forget is your support for this blast from the Jim Crow past.

    2. I hate trolls because they try to make a mockery of our democratic system.

    3. I hate trolls because they try to forget their support for mockery of our systematic crow blasts.

      I don't know if you came to the last one -- I got a little too blasted! -- but it was a blast. Even Jim was there. Not that I support *him*...

    4. But that's all in the past.

      The important thing is Somerby.

      Awful, awful Somerby.

    5. I disagree. The important thing is Huffington Post pieces with photos of Hillary in which, if you look closely, you can imagine a mustache. And global warming.

    6. Imagine that. There are some people who don't hold Somerby beyond reproach and criticism for the things he writes in his own blog.

      Get the smelling salts. His fans are beginning to faint at the very thought of this outrage!


    The science of misinformation and disinformation is grievously underexplored.

    This Monday more misinformation hardened. From the critical thinking perspective, we’d have to say that it represents the latest case of bad media blogging.

    Alas! This misinformation originated within our own liberal blog. The misinformation turned to stone in Monday's Daily Howler.

    Candidate Clinton had gone to Alabama to deliver a speech. In her address, she spoke for the second time about the driver's license issue in Alabama. This forced blogger Bob Somerby, who had managed to avoid mentioning Clinton in a six part series on the issue, to try something new.

    Somerby changed the name of the series and started over with a fresh numbering system for his seventh post on the topic.

    And, he downplayed what Clinton had to say and picked a new press target, the Washington Post. As usual, Somerby misrepresented the facts and got them wrong.

    SOMERBY: "As a result, the Washington Post published its first news report about those satellite driver’s license offices which got closed in Alabama. Right in its second paragraph, our own tribe’s preferred piece of misinformation hardened and turned to stone."

    In fact the same publication and same reporter covered the issue first on October 2, 2015. Vanessa Williams and the Post covered the story before Rachel Maddow, whose coverage has dominated Howler reporting on this topic. Take note of the first three words with which Williams began her piece.

    WILLIAMS/WAPOST: "Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Democratic officials in Alabama in criticizing a decision by state officials to shutter 31 satellite driver’s-license offices, mostly in areas heavily populated by African Americans, a move that could make it harder for those residents to get photo IDs needed to vote."

    Did Somerby miss the first Washington Post piece because his analysts did a poor job in bringing it to his attention while he was just getting the scent of the perfidious source of the Beau Biden deathbed tale? Where Clinton values were viciously attacked? Or did Somerby deliberately downplay it because Clinton played such a prominent role in the story, and invoking her might interfere with his efforts to point out the latest evidence of the shocking fact that Rachel Maddow makes a lot of money hosting a cable "news" opinion show that is about as bad as most cable "news" opinion shows.

    Whatever the reason, Somerby got his fact wrong again, weakening the chances critical thinking blog readers will some day see cable news shows that resemble the model that 5th grade civics textbooks tell us journalism should emulate.

  4. "Assuming this feedback really exists, it comes from Maddow’s trusting liberal viewers. They believe she is telling them the truth, not unlike the trusting conservative viewers who have put their faith in Hannity down through these many long years." B.S.

    Conservatives believe Catherine Herridge, FNC award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent, and Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for FNC. Both Hannity and Maddow are entertainers, not journalists. You wouldn't believe them anymore than you would Jon Stewart, Limberger, Stephen Colbert, Joy Behar, Whoopi, etc. Why is B.S. bothered by the prospect that 1.5 million are watching Hannity and 1 million are watching Maddow?

  5. Bob mentioned Alan Colmes in passing. I'll put in a good word for Colmes. While NPR ignores Noam Chomsky, Colmes interviews him on Fox News Radio.


  6. IMHO exaggerating the extent of racism harms black people. Not just this falshood about this Alabama office closing, but the false and exaggerated stories about blacks being murdered by whites, e.g., Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Why are these false racism stories so harmful to blacks?

    1. Spreading falsehoods is bad in general.

    2. Discouraging aggressive policing in the inner city may have cost over 100 black lives. This figure can be deduced from the increase in inner city murders in places like Baltimore, St. Louis, etc. See numbers at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/us/murder-rates-rising-sharply-in-many-us-cities.html?_r=0

    3. When racism is exaggerated, black youths are discouraged from taking advantage of all their opportunities. Opportunities for blacks are actually terrific right now, despite lingering racism. Not only is discrimination barred by law, but blacks get special preferences in college admission, job hiring etc.

    1. I'm surprised to see you so deeply concerned about what harms black people, David.

      Except, of course, unarmed black kids shot in the street.

    2. Why are youj surprised? I am perhaps the only commenter here who traveled to Washington D.C. to hear Martin Luther King speak many years ago.

    3. Right, David. You are also the only commenter here who marched in protest with Pete Seeger for several days, although you can't remember what the issue was.

      Your tall tales about yourself, and your many, many relatives, have long ago ceased being credible.

  7. What would make the Bobfan twins most perplexed?

    1) Comparing Clinton statements on this issue to Maddow statements.

    2) Comparing Clinton statements to Maddow statements with Bob criticism appended?

    3) Applying the rules Bob has used in this series to his own work in the series.

  8. "But it (driver's license) isn’t the only form of ID,"

    Good grief, Bob. Do you even bother to read quotes before you copy and paste them?

    Maddow never said it was the "only" form of ID. She said drivers licenses were the "most common" form. Heck, you even acknowledged that before you tried to spin it into something she DIDN'T say so you could beat her over the head some more with that!

    Bob, that isn't even slick.

    And Bob? You can pretend all you want that photo IDs are easy to get. Just a simple trip to the county courthouse, right?

    Try it sometime. Or take my 95 year old mother-in-law for example.

    She had been voting since FDR. But I had to knock off work to take her to the DMV for a photo ID so she could vote again. We grabbed a number and sat for an hour. Then when it was our turn, we learned she had to produce proof of citizenship to get her ID.

    Back home, more time off work for me, another trip to the DMV with the passport she got to take a cruise.

    Fortunately, though, she's still ambulatory and in pretty good shape. Otherwise, she'd be disenfranchised after voting in every election, including school board elections, for over 70 years.

    1. You know at her age you could have easily requested an absentee ballot and voted for her yourself.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Not without producing a photo ID.

      And you don't know my mother-in-law very well. If she were dying on Election Day, she'd ask the ambulance to take her first to the polling location.

  9. Go to every eligible voters home and provide them a photo ID for free.
    The alternative is to stop passing Voter ID laws.

  10. Bob, you don't know shit about Alabama, and throwing around a few general statistics is the worst kind of cherry-picking there is. People who do know about Alabama think the closings were politically motivated. They may be wrong, but they are more likely to be right than you are. It is an extremely complicated assessment for anyone who does not know the local politics of the state in detail. Apparently, there are enough red flags -- like the ones Maddow correctly described as you admit -- for some people who know the state a lot better than you do to justify that accusation.

    Just for starters, closing any facilities whatsoever after you have passed a law requiring a photo ID is, by itself, suspect in the highest degree, despite whatever patently bullshit explanations for saving a relatively small amount of money the Republican leadership may dream up. The only good faith response to a new law like that would be to increase the number of places that issue photo IDs, not reduce them.

    1. Hey, Bob has learned all he cares to learn about Alabama. And he does it from the comfort of a chair in front of his computer screen.

      Remember the time he found definitive proof that the Tuscaloosa schools weren't resegregating in the photos he found on their school district Web site of black and white children playing together?

      What more did Bob care to learn?

  11. TL;DR:

    Team Troll FOR THE WIN!

  12. Rachel Maddow ran more segments on her upcoming interview with Hillary tonight than she has run on the Alabama drivers license kerfuffle.