Part 3—As the worm turned: A letter in today's New York Times describes a serious problem. It helps explain how we've achieved the current ludicrous state of our ludicrous public discourse.
The writer refers to this guide, in which a pair of liberals explain how we liberals should react to Trump. That said, we were struck by the letter writer's description of one part of our ongoing cultural mess:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (1/11/17): It’s nice that the Op-Ed writers have created “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” for people willing to read it, but the existence of this guide is no match for the huge propaganda machine on the right—Fox News, which runs continuously in almost every bar and convenience store in many parts of the country, and the hundreds of right-wing radio stations molding people’s minds, often with complete disregard for the truth.It's true! There is a "huge propaganda machine on the right." Frequently, it does operate "with complete disregard for the truth."
Until moderates and progressives have an equivalent way of communicating, the right wing in this country will continue to dominate.
Rather plainly, that huge machine does "mold people's minds." It determines the things that people believe, the things people think they know.
Should moderates and progressives find "an equivalent way of communicating?" We're not sure what that means. But we do know this:
Greta Van Susteren was part of that "propaganda machine" during her years at Fox. Last Thursday, so was the ludicrous Rachel Van Maddow as she buffed and polished, then tried to sell, her own corporation's new car.
Yesterday, at the Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove was especially scathing in his review of Van Susteren's Monday night debut at MSNBC. Her new lead-in to Hardball should perhaps be called Softball, the wry pundit puckishly judged.
Grove recalled Van Susteren's "zealous defense" of Roger Ailes when accusations of sexual harassment broke. He then launched a point-by-point account of her Monday night performance.
From that one show, there's no way to know what Van Susteren will be like as an MSNBC performer. That said, Grove's critique stood in sharp contrast to Maddow's fawning last Thursday night, when she told us gullible liberal viewers that "Greta is great. She is!"
Despite Maddow's ridiculous claims, Greta Van Sustern wasn't great during her tenure at Fox. Maddow's pimping and fawning was grossly misleading. Let's just say she was selling the car.
In our next report, we'll offer examples of Greta's less-than-great work, focusing on the inexcusable ways she helped Donald J. Trump pimp his birther claims all around. For today, let's return to the year when Rachel Maddow flipped on Van Susteren's work.
In recent years, Maddow has consistently tended to vouch for Van Susteren. She didn't feature clips of Van Susteren's work as often as she seemed to claim last week. But when she did, she routinely referred to the Fox News star as "my friend."
Last Thursday night, we even learned that Maddow has been a drinking buddy of Van Susteren and her husband, DC lawyer John Coale. For today, we thought you might want to know an intriguing fact:
In the old days, Rachel Maddow didn't seem to think that Greta was great.
Maddow wasn't always "a real admirer of Greta Van Susteren," a point of view she unveiled in October 2010. In the early months of that very year, she played video clips of Van Susteren on two separate occasions—but on each occasion, she did so to show us Maddow-sketeers how bad Van Susteren's work was.
Maddow hadn't yet started pretending that Van Susteren's work was great. And uh-oh! In the first example, Rachel told us that Greta the Great was "just plain making things up."
Without going into the substance under discussion, Maddow's condemnation of Van Susteren's work on this occasion was clear:
MADDOW (2/3/10): Wrong. Wrong! Andrea Mitchell just said that was wrong, just ignoring all the evidence of your complete and total wrongness does not make you less wrong!Oops. Greta was "just plain making things up" back in 2010!
But Senator Collins, for all of her astounding wrongness on this issue, is not the only Republican tripping and falling into the wrong in this political battle over the attempted Christmas Day bombing. Here, for example, is South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, along with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren. And the two of them—I will warn you in advance here—are just plain making things up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the interesting thing is, in my prior life as a criminal defense lawyer, so—and sort of my look at this, either he got himself a deal—
GRAHAM: Yes, probably.
VAN SUSTEREN: —right up front, a good deal, or he's got a lousy lawyer.
GRAHAM: Well, I.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I understand his lawyer's good, so he must have gotten some deal.
GRAHAM: I used to be a military lawyer, a defense lawyer. I used to be a defense lawyer in the civilian world. I wouldn't let my guy talk until I knew it was to his benefit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wrong? Wrong.
Four weeks later, it happened again! In this instance, Maddow was wondering how an unnamed Fox News anchor could be so uninformed about the so-called "nuclear option"—why he mistakenly believed a "bogus Republican talking point."
She said he must have been watching too many other people at Fox News! Maddow included Van Susteren in a list of Fox miscreants:
MADDOW (3/1/10): No, no. Completely not what the nuclear option is! Why would that Fox News anchor mistakenly believe that bogus Republican talking point? Perhaps because he's been watching a lot of Fox News lately.Maddow listed Van Susteren as one of the people who was misinforming others at Fox. She seemed to say that Van Susteren was repeating "bogus Republican talking points," "pushing an agenda."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Republican lawmakers fear that Democrats will use the controversial nuclear option or reconciliation to pass health care with just 51 votes.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: Reconciliation or the nuclear option requires only 51 votes to pass the bill on the Senate side.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The GOP slamming the majority for threatening to use the nuclear option. The Senate procedure called reconciliation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Some Democrats want to use reconciliation known as the nuclear option to push through a health care bill with 51 votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this may be the course, reconciliation, the nuclear option, we shall see.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: You know, they say that only— They only push an agenda, they only sort of have opinions, in their prime time hours, just those guys at night. It's amazing.
As of March 2010, Maddow didn't seem to think that Van Susteren's work was especially great. Something happened over the summer.
That fall, Maddow interviewed Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was locked in an election fight with a more conservative Republican. Without explanation, Maddow now offered this endorsement:
MADDOW (10/26/10): Fox News makes me crazy, but I am a real admirer, actually, of Greta Van Susteren. She did an interview with you last week where you said something really interesting. You said you remembered a time when the Moral Majority came in and turned Republican politics on its head here in Alaska. What did you mean when you said that to Greta?Maddow was now "a real admirer" of Van Susteren, who was now referred to on a first-name basis.
Needless to say, people are allowed to change their minds about the work of big major cable news stars. Over the summer of 2010, Maddow seemed to have developed an appreciation for the greatness of Van Susteren's work at Fox.
Maddow seems to have changed her view, but that doesn't mean that her new view was wrong. At any rate, from that point on, Maddow tended to describe Van Susteren as her "friend." Last Thursday night, she told us that Van Susteren is "great."
Here's the problem:
Maddow's new view about Van Susteren was wrong. So were Maddow's ridiculous statements last Thursday night.
Van Susteren may well be a wonderful person off stage. On stage, her work for Fox has been a rolling mess. During her years at Fox, Van Susteren was an obvious cog in the propaganda machine today's letter writer described.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the lack of greatness exhibited by Van Susteren during her tenure at Fox. In particular, we'll look at the way she helped Donald J. Trump pimp his birther claims.
No part of the path to our broken discourse has been more broken than that. Alas! While Maddow was sipping classic cocktails with her friend, her friend was doing this.
Tomorrow: How to roll over for Trump