Part 1–Propaganda and Flint: Last Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducted its third formal hearing on Flint.
Thursday's hearing featured only two witnesses. Appearing together that day were Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, and Gina McCarthy, the head of the EPA.
As is often the case with such pony shows, this congressional hearing was largely a waste of time. In a major understatement, the New York Times' Abby Goodnough reported, on the paper's front page, that the hearing produced "few new facts."
By "few," Goodnough may have meant "none." Put then, it isn't just the House committee. Few news orgs have worked very hard to assemble a full set of facts about what happened in Flint.
What happened at last Thursday's fact-averse hearing? In large part, Republicans and Democrats took turns insisting that Snyder or McCarthy should resign.
To appearances, the standard soundbites had been crafted for maximum utility in members' home districts. As a general matter, Democrats instructed Snyder to resign. Republicans insisted that McCarthy needs to go.
We thought one member's performance stood out; by the end of the week, we'll post the bulk of what she said. That said, did we mention what the New York Times reported?
"Few new facts emerged from the four-hour hearing," Goodnough understatedly wrote. Then again, very few clear facts have yet emerged from Flint at all.
Snyder's presence made this the highest-profile hearing the committee has conducted so far, if not the most informative. Just how big was Thursday's hearing? So big that Rachel Maddow actually got off her aspic and pretended to discuss it.
Maddow's segment about the hearing came late in Thursday night's show. To watch that segment, click here.
The segment in question consumed seven minutes and 45 seconds, though that count is a bit misleading. Almost three minutes of Maddow's segment consisted in videotape of Snyder being scolded by Democrats Grisham and Cummings. But then, alas! Despite Maddow's posturing about this topic, viewers get very "few facts" about Flint from her increasingly broken program.
On Maddow's increasingly broken program, coverage of Flint has basically turned out to be propaganda. Viewers learn few facts from the show. Instead, they get pleasured with selective chunks of tribal propaganda.
Last Thursday night, Maddow pleasured us the liberal viewers by letting us see Snyder getting scolded. As she has done from the start, she shielded viewers from any criticism, complaint, point of concern or critique concerning the role of the EPA in what happened at Flint.
For Maddow, the children of Flint seem to be toys to be used for the purpose of tribal propaganda. Although she pleasurably pounded away at Snyder last Thursday, this passage represents her full account of the challenges aimed at McCarthy that day:
MADDOW (3/17/16): So, lots of this hearing today broke along expected partisan lines.At that point, viewers enjoyed two minutes of videotape of Cummings scolding Snyder. Viewers saw no footage of the criticism of McCarthy, which came from some Democrats as well as from many Republicans.
On Planet Democrat, they blame Governor Snyder and his emergency manager takeover of the city of Flint and his state agencies and his frankly obtuse leadership, where he supposedly had no idea of what all his senior staff and chief of staff were talking about and working on for months.
On Planet Republican, they blame the EPA. Which makes political sense for them. You don't need a diagram to see why bashing the EPA fits with the Republican worldview for a crisis like this.
But Governor Snyder said everybody should stop blaming anyone. Everyone should work with him to fix Flint. And then he spent two hours at that hearing blaming the EPA for what happened!
At the close of the hearing today, the ranking Democrat on the committee asked a final round of questions. Congressman Elijah Cummings kept the mike for more than ten minutes, question after question. Governor Snyder answered almost in a whisper at one point. And at the end, you could hear those Flint families in the room again.
McCarthy's name was never mentioned during Maddow's segment. According to Maddow, the EPA had been scolded that day, but only for two reasons:
Because it "makes political sense" for Republicans to do so. Because the scolding of the EPA "fits with the Republican worldview."
("Look's who's talking," the analysts cried, as they saw Maddow voice that second framework.)
Our view? When she isn't mugging and clowning and drumming her desk and endlessly talking about herself, Rachel Maddow has become a full-blown propagandist. If we liberals have a soul or a brain, we should insist that her corporate owners get her off the air and into the shop for a bit of long-overdue work.
Our view? Maddow has used the children of Flint as a way to pleasure us with tribal gruel; as a way to satisfy her own rather juvenile cultural instincts; and, of course, as a way to fashion herself as a hero in the eyes of the world.
She has done extremely little to inform her viewers about the complex, puzzling set of events which have emerged, and failed to emerge, from the mess in Flint. At this point, very "few facts" emerge on Maddow's program concerning any serious topic. Her discussion of the EPA's role in the mess is a long-running case in point.
How odd! While Maddow was toying with viewers again, a major figure in the Flint story was appearing on a competing "news channel." The person in question is LeeAnne Walters, the Flint resident and parent who alerted an array of outside players (including the EPA) to the problem in Flint.
That same Thursday night, Walters appeared for an interview with CNN's gruesome Anderson Cooper. By everyone's account, Walters is one of the major heroes of the Flint story. By all accounts, she knows a great deal about what happened there.
But how odd! LeeAnne Walters has never appeared on the Maddow Show! According to a Nexis search, Maddow has mentioned her name just once, as part of a brief, selective account of what Walters told the House committee.
LeeAnne Walters has never appeared on the Maddow Show. And how odd! Barring a truncated appearance as part of a group on Maddow's hour-long town hall program from Flint, neither has Professor Marc Edwards, the aggressive expert from Virginia Tech who Walters called into the fight.
Neither Edwards nor Walters has ever appeared for a one-on-one interview with Maddow. Walters didn't even appear among the crush of guests, some of whom were rather tangential, on Maddow's town hall program from Flint.
Before last Thursday night, we could have imagined one possible reason for Walters' exclusion from Maddow's program. As we listened to what Walters told Cooper last Thursday, we came up with two more possible reasons–two more possible reasons why we liberals haven't seen Walters or Edwards interviewed on the Maddow Show.
If we the liberals have a brain, it's time for us to spot a fairly obvious point–it's very much time for a change of oil on the Maddow program. Before the week is done, we plan to discuss the emotional problems Maddow discussed on the air, at substantial length, with Terry Gross in 2012, then with Ben Wallace-Wells for this profile in Rolling Stone. In our view, Maddow's "journalism" has become so bad–her on-air behavior so erratic–that this topic should no longer be avoided.
We'll review those interviews by the end of the week. Tomorrow, though, let's look at what LeeAnne Walters told Anderson Cooper last week. While we're at it, let's revisit the testimony Edwards gave to that House committee in its two earlier hearings.
One of those hearings occurred last week. Despite her lugubrious interest in Flint, Maddow didn't mention it. Indeed, Our Own Cable Star has never reported what Edwards has said to the House committee at all! In our view, you can feel fairly confident that she never will.
More and more, we liberals learn "few facts" about any serious topic from Maddow's peculiar program. Her slender, selective work on Flint is a case in point.
Journalistically, we'd call her work a rapidly growing clown show. We'd say her downward slide points to an important larger question:
Despite the greed of her corporate owners, is it possible that a certain multimillionaire needs and deserves some help?
Tomorrow: The things we liberals don't have to hear as we watch Maddow's program