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.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.
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.
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