In search of the health effects: If you watch the Maddow Show, you're often watching cartoons. The program's coverage of Flint is a case in point.
A cartoonized story will often come with heroes, villains and victims. One of the perfect heroes of Flint has been Virginia Tech's Marc Edwards, whose actual views you've rarely heard on the Maddow Show.
Even as she avoids his views, how did Maddow cartoonize Edwards, making him one of her perfect heroes? This was her first portrait of Edwards, offered during her second report on Flint:
MADDOW (12/18/15): Turns out there was a broad problem with the drinking water in Flint. And the Snyder administration so obviously not caring about it spurred other people to action when they saw that the state did not care.The MacArthur genius, award-winning expert drove fifteen straight hours to get to Flint! On its face, this statement is a bit strange, since MapQuest says the trip from Blacksburg to Flint should take a bit more than nine hours.
A MacArthur genius, award-winning drinking water expert drove 15 straight hours from Virginia Tech to start testing Flint's water. When he got the results, he went back to Flint and held a press conference on the lawn in front of city hall to show Flint's water eating through an iron nail. He told the people of Flint, "Do not drink this water."
Whatever! Four nights later, Maddow told the heroic story again. On this occasion, she added an additional hook about the award-winning genius:
MADDOW (12/22/15): So Rick Snyder's government got that news from the federal EPA in February and they did not say a word about it to the public for the better part of a year.In that account, the genius hero expert "dropped everything," then drove fifteen straight hours to get to Flint. Surely, we all can see the cartoon elements here.
We knew that as of Friday. Now there's something new.
The MacArthur genius, award-winning drinking water expert from Virginia Tech who dropped everything when he heard what was going on in Flint and he drove 15 hours straight to start testing the water in Flint, that Virginia Tech professor now says, in addition to ignoring the EPA telling them what was wrong, the state of Michigan under Rick Snyder also intentionally withheld even its own data—the Snyder administration's own data which showed the levels of lead in blood tests in Flint going up.
Did Professor Edwards really "drop everything?" We're going to guess he did not.
Despite that disinformation from MapQuest, did he really drive fifteen straight hours? Maybe not!
According to this detailed report in the Detroit News, "Edwards was among a team of five who drove 11 hours from Virginia Tech to Flint to conduct a broader examination of the water."
All of a sudden he's part of a team. Not being the brother of Annie Hall, he didn't drive fifteen straight hours!
We seem to looking at cable cartooning versus news reporting. By the time the Detroit News got through, Edwards had no longer driven fifteen straight hours, apparently by himself, to get to Flint and start his testing. He had driven eleven hours with a team of researchers—and they'd perhaps possibly stopped for lunch, explaining those two extra hours.
Judging from appearances, it looks like Maddow created a bit of a silly cartoon with that portrait of Edwards. That said:
By all accounts, Edwards' work in Flint has been indispensable, all-important. That's why it's so odd that Maddow has made so little effort to inform her viewers about the views of the genius hero expert who drove those fifteen straight hours.
Uh-oh! Edwards has been at this type of work a long time, and he's a savage critic of the EPA. But uh-oh! In her cartoonized story-telling, Maddow has been playing "the federal EPA" as one of the good guys of the piece—as one of the heroes arrayed against her arch-villain, the evil Governor Snyder.
Here's another problem. When he testified before the House, Edwards seemed to say that a small group of state employees bore the primary responsibility for the initial horrific error in Flint, then for a wide-ranging cover-up.
At one point, he seemed to say that these state employees even lied to Governor Snyder. Just a guess: That sort of thing can't be discussed on the Maddow Show, where Snyder has been portrayed as the all-knowing evil genius of the cartoonized tale.
Whatever the explanation might be, Maddow's genius expert hero has never appeared on her show, except for a truncated appearance during her Flint town hall. Beyond that, his views have not been explained to Maddow's viewers, who are being served a typical porridge of perfect heroes, perfect victims and perfect (Republican) villains.
There seems to be no room in Maddow's story for any complexity—for anything which doesn't advance her simple-minded partisan story. This may explain why the genius hero hasn't been interviewed on her program.
In future posts, we hope to discuss other aspects of Maddow's cartoonized story-telling. We'll show you the way she has fluffed the role of the EPA, an agency which has been savaged by Edwards.
We'll marvel at the absence of LeeAnne Walters, the remarkable Flint resident and parent who got Edwards involved in the first place. Walters didn't even appear on Maddow's "town hall" program from Flint. Warning! She's also very tough on the EPA. Beyond that, there may even be a second problem with Walters!
In our view, Maddow's treatment of this topic has been a journalistic disgrace. For today, let's close with one more point. Let's return to the letter which appeared in Tuesday's Washington Post.
The letter was written by Joseph Cotruvo, director of the EPA’s drinking water standards division from 1976 to 1990. We continue to wonder about the highlighted point concerning the CDC:
COTRUVO (2/9/16): The EPA has taken some flak for its regional office’s inaction. But the EPA should get credit for the major nationwide reduction in lead exposure when it eliminated leaded gasoline, the dominant source of lead exposure, years ago. The average lead blood level for children was 16 micrograms per deciliter in 1976.According to Cotruvo, the CDC "recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter." We're not sure what that means, but it leads to the most important question in this whole sorry mess:
A recent report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicated that 3.4 percent of the child blood measurements in Flint were greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and 0.6 percent were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that fewer than 2.5 percent of U.S. children between ages 1 and 5 exceed 5 micrograms, its reference level. It recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter.
What kinds of health effects are the children of Flint likely to experience? Maddow has toured the countryside bellowing about "mass poisoning" in Flint—more specifically, about the mass poisoning of "the entire town."
"Poisoning" is a very scary term. In this instance, what does it mean? Maddow has made exactly zero attempt to define the range of health effects which may appear in the children of Flint.
As with almost everything else, she simply doesn't seem to care about a trivial matter like that. She does seem to care about her cartoonized partisan yelling and about the heroism she drapes across her own shoulders.
What is the range of health effects those kids are likely to experience? As she continues to offer her relentless mugging and clowning, including her endless wasting of time and her "poofing" of head shots, Maddow hasn't taken the trouble to ask.
The clowning cartoonist hasn't addressed this most important question from Flint! More and more, we wonder it this peculiar person cares about anything at all, except her own bloated career.
More to come in the coming days. Sample questions:
What has "my friend, Debbie Stabenow" (Hillary Clinton, promising action) done about this matter in the course of the past two years?
Why hasn't Maddow asked?