Part 5—Milbank and Maddow, and the national interest: It may be the stupidest piece of journalism the Washington Post ever published.
It was published by Dana Milbank on the front page of yesterday's Outlook section. Then too, there was Friday night's twenty-minute opening segment by the ludicrous Rachel Maddow.
The Stupid, how it burns! Also, of course, the self-indulgence. But mainly, the deeply dumb.
Take Maddow's latest effort. We start by asking a factual question about General Michael Flynn.
For the record, Flynn strikes us as a genuine full-blown nut. Presumably, we should all be glad he's gone from the White House, along with any possible influence from his even nuttier son.
That said, we now pose a factual question:
Last year, was the apparently crazy Flynn "on the payroll for a foreign government while he was advising Trump on the campaign, and during the transition?"
Putting it a slightly different way, was the apparently crazy Flynn "on the Turkish payroll during the presidential campaign?"
Maddow kept making such claims during the opening segment of last Friday's TV show. During that same segment, she flatly misquoted an AP report, even as the actual quote appeared beneath her on the screen, where anyone could read it.
Along the way, she offered a humble-brag account of a report she said she herself had delivered last November. Inevitably, her humble bragging "song of self" was simply, flatly false:
MADDOW (3/10/17): This wasn't like a rumor or like a secret. The Daily Caller reported it, Politico reported it, CNN reported it, the AP reported it, Bloomberg reported it. On the 11th of November, some dumb cable show even did a big long story on it at the top of the hour at 9 o'clock Eastern on MSNBC.If MSNBC ever posts a transcript, it will turn up here.
It was widely and publicly known and discussed that Michael Flynn and his consulting company were taking money to represent the Turkish government. They were lobbying for the Turkish government's interests while he was the top of the national security apparatus in the Trump transition. While he was advising Trump on national security matters, he was taking that money. He'd been on the Turkish payroll during the presidential campaign.
From that presentation, a person might think that five news orgs reported, back in November, that Flynn was "on the Turkish payroll during the presidential campaign." And that the Maddow Show did "a big long story" to that effect on November 11!
In fact, none of the news orgs named by Maddow ever made such a claim. Meanwhile, go ahead! Review the transcript of Maddow's show from last November 11.
In fairness, she did present "a big, long story at the top of the hour," as she does every night. (You can assign it the "dumb cable" quotient which you think it deserves.)
That said, General Flynn was barely mentioned in that November 11 report. In fact, it wasn't until November 15 that Maddow seemed to suggest that Flynn was on the Turkish payroll. (His firm was being "paid to lobby for a foreign government...being paid to lobby for the nation of Turkey.")
That apparent claim, which was discussed quite briefly that night, was factually wrong at that time. It was also factually wrong last Friday night, when Maddow explicitly made the claim again and again.
No, Virginia! Michael Flynn may be a nut, but he wasn't "on the Turkish payroll" at any point last year. Guess what? Under terms of the relevant federal statute (the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA), you don't have to be in the employ of a foreign government to qualify as a "foreign agent," and no one but Maddow has ever said that Flynn was.
(For the basics on FARA, click here.)
On the front page of Saturday's New York Times, Baker and Rosenberg flatly stated, in paragraph 4, that Flynn wasn't on the Turkish payroll ("did not work directly for the Turkish government"). On the front page of the same day's Washington Post, the always-fuzzy Ashley Parker even seemed to report that it isn't even hugely unusual for "senior campaign officials" to be registered as "foreign agents" under terms of FARA, though that's a different question.
No, Virginia! The transparently nutty General Flynn wasn't "on the Turkish payroll" during last year's campaign. Beyond that, the contract under which he served a Netherlands-based entity was terminated after Trump's election. This made Maddow's claim that he was "on the Turkish payroll during the transition" doubly inaccurate although, admittedly, it was thrilling to the tribal mind.
Please don't make us review all the howlers which littered Maddow's Friday show, including her claim about the "big, long story at the top of the hour" last November 11—the big, long story her "dumb cable show" never actually presented. We'll only tell you that Maddow's exciting reports were littered with howlers all last week, even as she offered the speech about the greatness of her staff, a ludicrous speech which came close to being Trump-level nutty.
Please don't make us review all the howlers which littered Maddow's shows. We'll only tell you that Maddow is one of the least reliable "journalists" currently found on the range.
Her relentless self-dealing ranks right up there with her persistent misstatements and embellishments. Good God, how The Stupid burns when Maddow cons the liberal world into buying her songs of self.
It was very bad for the republic when conservatives learned to put their trust in disordered media figures like Limbaugh and Hannity. Similarly, it's dangerous when we liberals decide to put our trust in a disordered tribal con man like Maddow.
The Stupid, how it burns when Maddow gets her tribal on! When we liberals put our faith in Maddow, we're extending a national problem which started Over There, on the corporate right.
The Stupid, how it burned on Maddow's program last Friday. Then too, consider the way The Stupid burned in yesterday's Washington Post.
On page one of the Outlook section, Milbank penned a ludicrous, admiring review of a new and ludicrous book. It's stunning to think that work so dumb can appear in a high-profile spot in a major American newspaper, penned by a major journalist who graduated, somehow, from Yale.
We won't even try to discuss all the ways The Stupid burned in Milbank's review. For an overview, we'll just offer this:
You have to be extremely dumb to believe in "generations" at all, in the way you must believe for Milbank's thoughts to even begin to make sense.
You have to be several stops past very dumb to take your thoughts about "generations" to the ludicrous place Milbank's author does. (For the record, the author is a wealthy, extremely dumb Big Corporate Money Man who seems to have written a very dumb vanity book.)
How dumb does an author have to be to claim that an entire "generation" of Americans—in this case, the so-called baby boomers—are "sociopathic," as the author claims in his title? An author has to be dumb enough to make factual errors like these:
MILBANK (3/12/17): The core of Gibney’s argument, that the boomers are guilty of “generational plunder,” is spot-on. He accuses them of “the mass, democratically-sanctioned transfer of wealth away from the young and toward the Boomers,” and he’s right. In addition to making a mess of Social Security and Medicare, Gibney notes, they dragged the national savings rate down to 5 percent between 1996 and 2016, from 10 percent between 1950 and 1985.How dumb does a person have to be to write a book like this? So dumb that he blames the boomers for Pat Robertson, who's (at least) ten years too old to qualify.
But Gibney blames the boomers for everything: abortion, divorce, overeating, high inflation, taking deferments during Vietnam, failing to launch a mass movement calling for the rebuilding of Vietnam after the war, crime, poor educational standards, corporate tax rates, adjunct professors. At one point, he rails about “Pat Robertson fulminating about homosexuals, feminists, and praying for the deflection of hurricanes while his website minions opined on the afterlife of pets.” Robertson was born in 1930, a decade before the oldest boomer. Gibney also has words for “feckless non-entities like Marco Rubio.” Rubio, born in 1971, is nearly a decade younger than the youngest boomers.
He also blames the boomers for Marco Rubio, who's almost ten years too young.
(With respect to Robertson: Milbank tracks this "generation" back to 1940. Most folk start at 1946. This would make Robertson sixteen years too old to qualify. The Stupid, how it burns in a book as dumb as this!)
The sheer stupidity of such errors might serve as a warning sign about an author like this. Not to Milbank, who rushes to show us how dumb he is by praising the book's ridiculous thesis—and by praising the claim, which he doesn't explain or justify, that someone has "made a mess of Social Security," however old those alleged culprits may be.
Maddow went to Stanford, Milbank went to Yale. The suits sold Maddow as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Milbank was Skull and Bones.
It's stunning to think that losers like these sit at the top of American journalism—in Maddow's case, at the top of its "corporate liberal" strain. The Stupid burns extremely hot, and that burn is a threat to the national interest, every bit as much as the national interest is threatened by the widespread acceptance of "corporate conservative" figures like Limbaugh and Hannity.
On page one of today's New York Times, we read about a misused soul who has recently discovered Maddow, part of his reaction to these partisan times. Grynbaum and Koblin paint a portrait of the way that old bugaboo, ditto-headedness, is growing Over Here on the gullible left:
GRYNBAUM AND KOBLIN (3/13/17): There is a new safe space for liberals in the age of President Trump: the television set.Brumleve thinks he's getting "informed" by all that shit "about the Russians." In fact, there wasn't a single night last week when Maddow's monologues didn't spill with silly misstatement and overstatement, all of it tending to serve thrilling belief in the tribal line.
Left-leaning MSNBC, after flailing at the end of the Obama years, has edged CNN in prime time. Stephen Colbert’s openly anti-Trump “Late Show” is beating Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight” for the first time. Bill Maher’s HBO flock has grown nearly 50 percent since last year’s presidential primaries, and “The Daily Show” has registered its best ratings since Jon Stewart left in 2015.
Traditional television, a medium considered so last century, has watched audiences drift away for the better part of a decade. Now rattled liberals are surging back, seeking catharsis, solidarity and relief.
“When Obama was in office, I felt like things were going O.K.,” Jerry Brumleve, 58, a retiree from Louisville, Ky., said last week as he stood in line for a “Daily Show” taping in Manhattan.
These days, he is a newfound devotee of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC—“She’s always talking about the Russians!” his wife, Yvonne, chimed in—and believes Mr. Stewart’s successor, Trevor Noah, has finally “hit his stride.”
“With Trump in office, I really feel the need to stay more informed,” Mr. Brumleve added. “You just don’t know what the hell this guy is going to do.”
Conservatives think they're being informed when they watch Sean Hannity. Brumleve thinks he's being informed when he tunes in to Our Own Corporate Mess.
Might we tell you one more thing about both Maddow and Milbank? Our observation will stem from this statement by Brumleve:
“When Obama was in office, I felt like things were going O.K."
Earth to Brumlese: Things actually weren't "going OK" when Obama was in office. Consider what happened in the fall of 2012, as Maddow ran off and hid in the woods.
Starting in September 2012, the Republican Party and the mainstream press began inventing bogus claims about what happened in Benghazi. This included a welter of bogus claims about What Susan Rice Said.
Those bogus claims about What Rice Said began as soon as she finished talking on the Sunday morning shows of September 16, 2012. People like Maddow ran off and hid, leaving it to people like John McCain, a Maddow favorite, to misstate What Susan Rice Said.
Maddow was very skilled, in the past few weeks, telling us what Sessions meant and what Trump had said. She was too afraid, and/or too unskilled, to challenge the bogus, destructive claims about What Susan Rice Said.
Those bogus claims helped invent Benghazi, one of the propaganda tools which put Donald Trump where he is. Things weren't "going OK" as these propaganda tools were being invented in the face of Maddow's self-dealing silence.
Maddow, self-dealing as always, ran off and played it safe. (Astoundingly, Chris Hayes actually endorsed what was being said.)
Rachel Maddow ran and hid while Rice was being attacked. She also ran and hid last summer after James B. Comey—Comey the God—made his irregular attack on Candidate Clinton in early July.
(Good God! Guest hosting on Maddow's show, Steve Kornacki actually seemed to endorse what Comey had said.)
Back in 1999, Milbank played the same game. At that time, the mainstream press had gone to war with Candidate Gore, Bill Clinton's chosen successor. Starting in March 1999, they began inventing claims about the various crazy things he had supposedly said.
Milbank was covering the campaign for the New Republic. He could have challenged the claims which were being made, but those claims were coming from the Washington Post, with whom Milbank accepted employment at the end of 1999.
Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? Our liberal leaders are still so timid, so self-protective, so completely unskilled, that they've never quite been willing to say that all those alleged crazy claims by Gore were really a press corps scam, a set of alternative facts.
They've never challenged the narrative which locked into place at that time, the narrative in which both Clintons and Candidate Gore were sketched as the world's biggest liars. The Milbanks all ran off and hid. A powerful narrative was invented—a powerful, decades-old narrative which helped elect Trump last year.
(Incredibly, many voters believed that Clinton was a bigger liar than Trump! This was the fruit of decades of silence by hustlers like Milbank and Maddow.)
They ran and hid in 1999. Maddow played the same game in 2012, then again in 2016.
Today, Brumleve is upset. Seeking information, he has turned to one of the eight-figure corporate-paid toys whose self-dealing self-adoration helped put us in this mess.
Maddow's program last week was a mess. Jerry Brumleve doesn't know that. Sean Hannity's viewers are similarly misled Over There, in the other tribe.
More and more, Rachel Maddow is a disordered clown. As with Hannity, so with her. Her position, and the trust it engenders, are threats to the republic.
At any rate, no, Virginia! The overtly crazy General Flynn wasn't on the Turkish payroll last year.
The AP didn't say what Maddow quotingly said it said. Those five news orgs didn't say what Maddow seemed to say that they had said. And she didn't do that "big long story" last November 11.
Her earlier reports last week were full of standard bullshit too.
The disordered version of Maddow which has developed in recent years shouldn't be on the air. For that very reason, we gullible liberals love the things she says and does.
Her ratings are going through the roof. The corporate suits adore her for that, and The Stupid continues to burn.
Remind us to show you: Remind us to show you what Maddow said last Tuesday about that subpoena threat. The Stupid, how it burned last week as Maddow discussed the Russians!
Starting tomorrow: In search of the USA 9400!