Part 2—Their horrible work stood out: In the end, the decisions were fairly easy.
In the beginning, a sensible person could have seen this year's horrible end.
Our award-winning "Year(s) in Review" panel of judges has named Rachel Maddow as the worst journalist of 2016. They've also selected the New York Times as the worst news org.
In the end, routinely horrible work led to these decisions. In each case, though, the worst journalistic work of 2016 may have occurred last year!
Let's start with Maddow, a unanimous choice for Worst Journalist of 2016.
The judges awarded Maddow for a long list of offenses. For starters, they noted her constant mugging and clowning, mixed with her potent self-adoration. "Only Trump matches her absurd self-regard," one of the judges said.
The judges noted Maddow's willingness to politicize important substantive matters. Most of all, they hailed her as a skillful dodger. They cited her skill at presenting herself as a fiery liberal while taking a dive on the issues which decided the 2016 presidential campaign—and while cashing large corporate checks.
In the judges' formal citation, Maddow was hailed for "a skillful, persistent con." Still, in the beginning was the end! Paradoxically, the judges cited some of Maddow's work from 2015 as some of the current year's worst.
Regarding her work from 2015, the judges cited her ludicrous "thirteen weeks," the period she devoted to nightly ranting about the way the Fox News Channel was planning to stage the first Republican debate. Here's how that went down:
Confronted with seventeen certified Republican candidates, Fox News announced that it would include only ten candidates in its first debate. CNN announced a similar plan for the second debate.
Confronted with these unremarkable decisions, Maddow swung into action. With an 18-month pseudo-campaign beginning, MSNBC was rebranding itself as "the place for politics." Maddow jumped in with a substantively ludicrous, tribally pleasing, 13-week attack on Fox News.
Psychiatrists continue to debate a basic question: Could Maddow possibly have been sincere in her nightly keening and wailing about the way the lineup for the first debate would be chosen? Or was this simply a con?
It's hard to know how to answer that question. But Maddow shrieked about Fox for a full thirteen weeks, rarely mentioning the fact that CNN was going to limit participation in the same way. In this manner, the judges have found, Maddow signaled that her election coverage would be fake, faux and phony throughout.
(The judges also called attention to Maddow's reactions when Donald J. Trump announced his decision to seek the White House in June 2015. She said she had no personal beef with the self-made Birther King; chuckled and clowned in the immediate wake of his announcement; and barely mentioned his "rapist" announcement speech until several weeks had passed and tribal opinion was clear. In this beginning, the judges found markers of the end; Maddow's coverage of Campaign 2016 would be a con throughout.)
As for Maddow's work in this calendar year, the judges were unanimous. Her refusal to discuss the "emailgate" matter turned out to be the defining mark of her year. The strategic silence she maintained echoed her silence in 2012, when the Benghazi scripts were being invented. The judges were unanimous in their assessment of these twin refusals to speak:
Maddow was protecting her career through lengthy, elaborate silence. Here's how it happened this year:
On July 5, 2016, FBI kingpin James B. Comey interjected himself into the White House campaign. Comey is widely known as Comey the God; he's a very powerful insider establishment figure.
Presumably for that reason, Maddow never mentioned Comey's name until late in October, when he struck again. But then, back in the beginning, the judges had seen this end. All through the fall of 2012, Maddow never mentioned the name of Susan Rice as she was pilloried and left for dead in the wake of the Benghazi attacks.
First Benghazi, then the emails! In each case, Maddow maintained total silence as the scripts which would defeat Candidate Clinton hardened, then turned to stone.
Clinton was pilloried for her email practices over the last twenty months of the 2016 campaign. Maddow was scrupulous about maintaining a self-protective silence. The judges were especially amused by her report on May 25 of this year, when she pretended to respond to a damaging State Department report.
Adopting her typical "here look me over" approach, Maddow mugged and clowned with large stacks of paper, complaining about the way the State Department's emails are archived. As she clowned in these familiar ways, she transplendently failed to address that actual claims at issue, while giving gullible viewers the impression that she had.
(Is it possible that Maddow is really that dumb? The judges have ruled that she isn't.)
On a corporate branding basis, Maddow was sold to the liberal public as "their own Rhodes Scholar." The judges were unanimous—she stood out in the past several years for her refusal to put her intellectual skills to actual use.
In an appendix to their report, the judges noted another beginning which suggested this end. This too involved Maddow's relentless branding.
The judges recalled the way Maddow originally defined herself as "the TV star who didn't own a TV (not that she was saying that she was smarter than you are)." This branding was everywhere when Maddow burst upon the scene. It aligned her with other branded NBC stars, such as the kid from New Jersey who loves Nascar and the working-class kid from Buffalo whose Dad rode a garbage truck.
A few years later, the news finally broke—Maddow had bought a TV set! She earned "special demerit" in the judges' eyes for a ridiculous story she told at least one profile writer—her claim that she and Susan had purchased the TV set on-line when they were drunk one night. She claimed they were surprised to wake up the next day and find evidence of their on-line purchase scattered about in the bed.
In this bizarre beginning, we should all have seen this year's gruesome end, the judges have now reported. (To see Maddow's current TV room, you can just click here.)
Maddow was an easy pick for Worst Journalist of 2016. Similarly, the New York Times was a runaway winner of the Worst News Org award.
Here too, the judges ruled that the Times' worst work of 2016 was done in earlier years. In the case of the Times, the horrible work extended all the way back to the paper's bungled Whitewater reports—work which began in 1992!
In that horrible beginning, we had this year's end! Within the past two years, the judges pointed to a string of front-page reports by what they called "this most foppish of all major American news orgs."
They cited last year's hapless, sprawling front-page report about the scary uranium deal. They cited this year's Sunday front-page report about Beau Biden's use of his last few nouns.
They cited the newspaper's refusal to challenge Donald J. Trump's ugly birtherism, even in a Sunday morning front-page report on the topic in July of this year. They cited the front-page report in early October which sought to rehabilitate the credibility of three truth-challenged Clinton sex accusers from the distant past.
For their topper, the judges simply linked to this Kevin Drum post. It shows the front page of the New York Times on October 29, the morning after Comey the God intruded on the White House campaign again.
That intrusion was so blatant that even Maddow felt forced to respond! The New York Times chose to fill its front page with the latest collection of gorilla dust. According to the judges, that recent front page tracks to a distant beginning in 1992.
In the beginning was the end! This campaign was decided by a poisonous narrative which started on the Times' front page in early 1992. (More on that "Most Consequential Narrative" to come.) Right to the end, the Times emitted the requisite blather in support of that old story-line. Maddow kept avoiding related topics over the past several years.
In closing, the judges made one final point. The New York Times was awful this year, but liberals could be sure one thing. They could be sure that Rachel Maddow would never tell them that!
Maddow is part of an insider guild that's strongly built around self-interest and self-dealing. According to the panel of judges, speaking truth to and about this institutional power is simply never done.
Her mugging and clowning insult us all. As we liberals praise ourselves for our moral greatness and our intellectual brilliance, we make it clear, night after night, that we like being conned this way.
Tomorrow: Most Consequential Narrative and other related awards
Maddow never ends: Judges noted Maddow's skill at killing time while serving tribal porridge. Several judges noted a November 28 time-killer which started out like this:
MADDOW (11/28/16): Good evening, Chris [Hayes]. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.The bullshit continued from there. This was Maddow's rambling, crowd-pleasing way of discussing one of Donald J. Trump's less consequential nominations to date, that of K. T. McFarland as deputy national security adviser.
Sixteen years ago, 16 years ago, this man set a record. He ran for a seat in the United States Senate 16 years ago, and he lost that race, which is why you probably don't recognize him.
But in the course of losing that race that year, he did set a record. And this was the record that he set. He spent more money losing a U.S. Senate race than anyone had ever spent losing a U.S. Senate seat ever before. Whoo!
And his name was Rick Lazio. And the person he lost to in that Senate race in the year 2000 was somebody you will recognize, Hillary Clinton.
2000. That was the first year Hillary Clinton ran for the United States Senate from New York state. She beat Rick Lazio badly. She clobbered him by 12 points.
Over the course of that campaign, he spent himself into oblivion. He outspent her by a mile. He outspent her by something like—she spent $29 million and he spent $40 million. He ended up millions of dollars in debt and he lost, and he lost by a lot, and he had to give up his day job for all that.
Rick Lazio had been a member of Congress but you can't hold on to a seat in the House while you run for the Senate. So he was like quintuply crushed in that Senate race in 2000.
Well, Hillary Clinton became the United States senator. And then at the end of her first term in the Senate, so six years later, Republicans went up against her again, but they had a hard time getting somebody to run against her...
Along the way, Maddow pleasured us liberals by ridiculing Lazio; by ridiculing the awful Jeannine Pirro; and by ridiculing a little-known Republican mayor of Yonkers. Eventually, she started ridiculing McFarland herself, in an overtly sexist manner, while placing thumbs on several scales.
That's our Rachel! Even after Hillary Clinton gets beaten by someone she vastly outspent, we get to hear how ridiculous Lazio was, and how badly the marvelous Clinton beat him.
Lazio was "quintuply crushed!" No, it doesn't get dumber than this, but it's like this all the time on this childish program.
(Please note: Maddow loves to show photographs of minor Republicans while chortling about the fact that no one can recognize them. It's a regular part of our porridge.)
By the way, did Clinton "clobber" Lazio "by twelve points" while he "spent himself into oblivion?" Yes, she did, but that wasn't an especially huge win in a blue state like New York. In that same 2000 election, Candidate Gore beat Candidate Bush by twenty-five points across that same state of New York.
There was exactly zero reason to waste time with this silly piddle last month. But that election might have been seen as a harbinger of Clinton's relative weakness as a vote-getter, not as a sign of her overpowering greatness.
Homey doesn't play it that way! Rachel Maddow serves tribal porridge as she jams corporate cash in her pants. For these reasons, she's been named Worst Journalist of the Year(s) by our panel of judges.