MADDOW AND TOWN: Ignorance, posturing, incomprehension!

FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021

And a clown shall lead them: Brian Williams opened last evening's show in the normal way.

He thanked the "three friends of the broadcast" who had agreed to serve as his opening pundit panel.  Marketing / branding requirements satisfied, Brian threw to Yamiche Alcindor, one of his many friends. 

Alcindor works for the PBS NewsHour. It's one of the most respected news orgs in Our Town.

Previously, she'd shot up the chain at the New York Times, Our Town's smartest newspaper.

After receiving some bathos from Paul Butler, Williams threw to Alcindor. Moving beyond the question she'd been asked, Alcindor proceeded to state her view of the shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Seriously though, folks! To our surprise and to our lack of surprise, this is what Alcindor said:

ALCINDOR (4/15/21): I have to tell you, I've talked to so many people who feel that this is just trauma on top of trauma, that— 

You can imagine, of course, there's some who way, "Why run from the police? Why try to get away from them?" But there are people who are simply terrified of the police, for good reason in some ways, watching this video. 

So the mother and family of Daunte Wright today said, Can you imagine what Dante was probably feeling as he had three officers surrounding him for what seemed like a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana, a business that people make money with all over the country? So I think there really needs to be a big conversation about that.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, a 20-year-old in a Buick that was a gift to him. Yamiche, you're so right.

"Yamiche, you're so right," the giant star said, immediately after she had issued her latest remarkable howler.

In a word, say what? Last Sunday, Daunte Wright was being arrested on the basis of "a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana?"

Just like that, the demon air fresheners had been brushed aside. The demon fresheners had been replaced by a minor marijuana infraction! 

As Alcindor and Williams spoke, the analysts came out of their chairs. Even they had never heard this  misstatement before!

(A brief aside: As far as we know, the Wright family made no claims yesterday about a marijuana warrant. To peruse the transcript of their press event, you can just click here.)

This morning, the analysts went to work fact-checking Alcindor's latest. As it turns out, the claim the NewsHour star advanced was so obscure that only one news org had previously fact-checked it—Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the world's major news orgs.

You can read the AFP Fact Check here. Below, you see the agency's bold-face summary of the bogus factual claim:

AFP FACT CHECK (4/15/21): Social media posts claim Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in Minnesota, was wanted for not paying a fine for marijuana possession. This is false; while there was a previous cannabis-related charge involving Wright, the warrant for his arrest was issued because he failed to appear in court over illegal possession of a weapon and fleeing the police.

Sad. The fact-check traces this inaccurate claim to a set of "social media posts" by unidentified people. Presumably, that's where Alcindor stumbled across, and decided to buy, the stupid, inaccurate claim.

"Yamiche, you're so right," her well-dressed host quickly said. In the process, he added some bathos to the melodrama being shoveled to us in Our Town.

Quickly, a key disclaimer:

Here at this site, we don't believe in "bad people." On balance, we don't believe that it's constructive to try to figure out who the good and the bad people are.

We do believe in terrible work. And it's good that we don't believe in bad people. Otherwise, it would be hard to avoid holding contempt for people like the well-dressed, wonderfully-coiffed TV star who served as Alcindor's host.

Just imagine! Last evening's program was the fourth program during which the shooting death of Daunte Wright was discussed on Williams' hour-long program. 

That said, how does Williams perform his job? We ask you to understand this:

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, neither Williams nor anyone else ever reported the actual basis on which Wright was being arrested that day. No one reported that he was being arrested on a warrant related to the illegal possession of a gun and a previous flight from arrest.

Three straight nights had gone by; our spotless minds had been shielded from any such knowledge. (Over on Fox, viewers were being told.) . Instead, Williams had merely said, on two of those nights, that police had tried to arrest Wright on an "outstanding misdemeanor warrant." 

That was technically accurate as far as it went, but it hadn't gone very far. Now, on his fourth night discussing this case, the well-dressed corporate TV star took things down several levels:

Alcindor gave a baldly inaccurate account of the basis for the attempted arrest. As she did, she almost seemed to recommend fleeing arrest—and in reply, the well-coiffed anchor could only offer this:

Yamiche, you're so right!

"Yamiche, you're so right!" That's what Brian said!

In fact, Yamiche was stunningly wrong in her statement. Meanwhile, her appalling misstatement was helping to drive an ugly storyline. 

Why do we use the latter term? Because her claim was part of a swelling attempt to demonize police as a class on the basis of bogus claims; to try to get people thrown into jail on the basis of bogus claims; and in this case, even to seem to suggest that people like Wright should try to flee legitimate arrest. 

It's hard to feel sufficient contempt for the conduct of someone like Williams in seconding such a misstatement. That said, to what extent are basic facts being withheld from the people who watch Williams' nightly program?

To what extent have the facts been withheld? Good God! Consider this:

This morning, we're going to link you to  a report in the Washington Times!

Twenty years ago, the famously conservative newspaper was well-known and quite influential. Today, it's still a deeply conservative paper, but it plays almost no role in the discourse.

Today, the Washington Times is an afterthought; Alcindor and Williams are stars. But in this news report in the Washington Times, you get a detailed rundown of the legal issues confronting Wright Sunday afternoon as he drove around in the Buick which Williams so pointlessly cited.

There's at least one part of this background story we don't yet understand. We don't understand what happened to the initial part of the story described in this passage:

RICHARDSON (4/14/21): “A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a Taser and a firearm,” said [Wright attorney Benjamin] Crump in a Wednesday statement. “Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant.”

According to Hennepin County District Court documents, however, Mr. Wright had been charged with aggravated armed robbery, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.

His release on $100,000 bail was revoked July 30 over two violations: “Failure to not possess a firearm or ammunition” and “Failure to maintain contact with probation.”

The charging document said that Mr. Wright, then 19, went to a party in Osseo with a friend, Emajay Maurice Driver, after which they slept on the floor at the apartment of a female friend of Mr. Driver’s from high school. She said she had only met Mr. Wright that night.

In the morning, she received $820 in cash from another person for rent. She heard Mr. Wright tell his friend that they should “hit some stains,” which she said meant robbing someone, but she thought he was joking.

As they left the apartment, however, Mr. Wright turned around, blocked the door to stop her from exiting, then “pulled a black handgun with silver trim out from either his right waistband or his right coat pocket and pointed it at VICTIM and demanded the rent money.”

The report in the Washington Times continues on from there.  For an account of these matters derived from Snopes, see yesterday's report.

Alcindor works from inaccurate Facebook posts. By way of contrast, Valerie Richardson quotes extensively from court records in her account of the situation which occasioned the attempted arrest of Wright.

As they spread their bogus claim last night, Alcindor and Williams made the background situation sound remarkably minor.  This enables a figure like Crump as he tells the public and the world that Kim Potter executed Daunte Wright—that she "executed" him for "what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant.”

Crump's behavior is inexcusable. That said, the guilt-ridden posers who swarm in Our Town will pander to every word he emits. This dates all the way back to the Crump team's blatant misstatements about the Trayvon Martin case.

Our Town is performing quite poorly. Stars like Alcindor will go on TV and make bald misstatements about what occurred. Multimillionaires like Williams will sardonically second their claims.

We the people get dumbed way down in the process. The upper-end press corps' role in this gong-show dates back at least three decades.

Last night, a new element was added to this story. We refer to the videotape of the shooting death of Adam Toledo, age 13. More on that pitiful topic will come, but in closing for today, we'll report one more reaction.

We'll share the reaction we had to a relatively innocuous piece by Slate's Dan Kois.

Over at Slate, it fell to Kois to post the videotape of the Toledo shooting. He ended his very short piece on this mandated note:

KOIS (4/15/21): Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called for peace in the wake of the video release and said in a press conference that the video is “excruciating.” It is.

We don't know Dan Kois at all. But we don't believe a word he said, including the words "It is."

Sorry! We don't believe our mainstream pundits when they say how upset they are. We don't believe them because we've watched their work in this general area ever since we were in college.

We don't believe them because we read reports like this at New York magazine. What a monument to undisguised group indifference concerning the needs and the interests of low-income urban kids!

We don't believe that our pundits care. In substantial part, we don't believe them because they let a clown like Rachel Maddow sit at the very head of Our Town's clown parade.

We expect to go into an array of such matters next week. For today, we recommend this:

Just look at what Alcindor said. Please take a lesson—an anthropology lesson—from the astonishing claim she made, and from her host's reaction.

They disappear the facts they don't like. They invent quite a few others. This is the way our brains are wired, major top experts have said.

This is the way it's done in Our Town. Despite the ways we praise ourselves, you will almost never see a single word of complaint!

Spoiler alert: Williams should correct the record tonight. You already know he won't!


Air fresheners shouldn't have caused that arrest!


The Dumbness we're sold in Our Town:  Will we in Our Town ever understand how dumb we've turned out to be?

On Fox, they're told about our dumbness. Will we ourselves ever get clear about this major problem?

We've been dumb for a very long time over here in Our Town. At present, we're thinking about something we read yesterday at Slate. 

Yesterday, it happened at Slate! In an interview about the shooting death of Daunte Wright, this exchange appeared:

QUESTION (4/14/21): The Brooklyn Center police have said Wright was accidentally shot and that the officer thought she had her Taser. How has that been received there?

ANSWER: She was on the force longer than Daunte was alive. So I don’t know how you mistake one for the other. But let’s go back even further. Let’s say she actually thought it was a Taser. Let’s, in some freakish, strange, upside-down, Stranger Things world—let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Why is she grabbing for that anyway? You’re out in suburban Minnesota. You’ll catch this man if you need to find him. There’s really nowhere to go. You got the license plates. The question is why did she feel the need to go for any weapon. For air fresheners? Why is that even the move? Regardless of what we think if it’s an accident or not, she shouldn’t have had her hand on anything, and you can see the look on the Black officer’s face afterwards in the bodycam. Like, “What the fuck are you doing?” I want to know what he thinks, without the protection of the blue line. So, no, I don’t believe her. I don’t think it was an accident. She’s a 26-year veteran who can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun? Then they shouldn’t be a police officer. She surely has no business being the president of the police union in Brooklyn Center either.

The names have been erased to protect the well intentioned. But there you see it, loud and clear. That's the kind of Damn Fool Stupid we're persistently sold in Our Town. More specifically, that's the kind of foolishness they're willing to publish at Slate.

Earth to Slate:

The officers weren't trying to arrest Wright because of his several air fresheners. They were trying to arrest him based on a series of events in which 1) he was accused of armed robbery (stealing $820 at gunpoint from a young woman), followed by 2) a second alleged gun offense in which he successfully fled from arrest, followed by 3) a failure to appear in court on that second gun offense charge, resulting in 4) a warrant for his arrest.

Through some chronology which hasn't been specified yet, those are the events which seem to have produced the attempt to arrest Wright. Once again, he attempted to flee, resulting in the apparent error which produced his death.

For the record, people who are 17-20 years old do lots of stupid things. By normal reckoning, (alleged) armed robbery involves a high level of same.

That said, Slate is the kind of publication which is actually willing to publish the "air fresheners"  line. (For a second such report, see below.)

Our question:

Can a major nation hope to survive in the modern world with a liberal world as dumb, incompetent and delusional as we have turned out to be?

How to speak Our Town's language: The offense for which the warrant was issued was a gun offense. (Remember how we liberals are normally concerned about guns?)

For whatever reason, the offense was listed as a "gross misdemeanor." Presumably, that's a bit of local legalese.

Confronted with this event, pundits know how to speak Our Town's preferred language. If they mention the warrant at all, they tend to avoid mentioning the fact that the offense involved a gun. Also, they drop the word "gross." 

Rolling their eyes as they dumb us all down, they proceed to say that the offense was "just a misdemeanor." After that, they may even cite the air fresheners! Why would anyone care about them?

We've seen these conversations all week. Can a modern nation hope to survive when its tribes are so happily dumb?

Our team is very, very dumb. We've been like this forever. 

UPDATE: Also being promoted at Slate: A second such report is also being promoted at Slate. Sorry, we just saw it:

Other media outlets have noted that, in the broader scheme of police violence, the number of people shot in lieu of being tased is small. But that fundamentally misses the point of why people are so deeply upset about Wright’s death, those who were shot or killed before him, and the ways in which police operate within communities.

Before the Brooklyn Center officer reached for either of her weapons, she chose to stop Daunte Wright in the first place. Traffic stops involving Black motorists are often done for tenuous reasons—Wright was reportedly stopped for an expired registration and an illegally positioned air freshener—and the interactions that follow are amplified by the police...

Why are people deeply upset? Because he was stopped  for air fresheners! Werewolves of London again!

Each of these two reports by Slate cites the demon fresheners. This second report doesn't mention the warrant at all.  (The first report barely does.)

Each report appeared yesterday. Each report is currently posted at the top of Slate's front page. 

Only five reports are positioned that prominently right now as we type. Two of the five are these. 

Can a modern nation expect to survive when its "news orgs" function like this?

MADDOW AND TOWN: The Morning Joe gang was playing the fool!


The things we can't hear in Our Town: We were visited by Plato last night, or by someone presenting as same. Incongruously, this being carried a Xeroxed copy of Plato's Seventh Letter.

We've mentioned the famous document several times in the past. Below, you see the section we've commonly cited. 

Alas! When Plato was still a young man, Athens' democracy was overthrown. Many years later, he recalled the way he reacted:

PLATO: The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown...and a committee of Thirty given supreme power. As it happened some of them were friends and relations of mine and they at once invited me to join them, as if it were the natural thing for me to do. 

My feelings were what were to be expected in a young man: I thought they were going to reform society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. I found that they soon made the earlier regime look like a golden age. 

Among other things they tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright man then living, by sending him, with others, to arrest a fellow-citizen, and bring him forcibly to execution; Socrates refused, and risked everything rather than make himself a party to their wickedness. When I saw all this, and other things as bad, I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times.

The Athenian democracy was soon restored, but Socrates was brought to trial on “a monstrous charge.” 

The execution of Socrates pretty much finished off Plato too. “The more closely I studied the politicians and the laws and customs of the day, and the older I grew, the more difficult it seemed to me to govern rightly,” Plato later recalled. 

As a young man, Plato had been disgusted by "the wickedness of the times."  We thought again of that famous letter as we watched the start of today's Morning Joe.

We'll have to admit that we also thought of the widely-cited "banality of evil." 

In the program's first fifteen minutes, the Morning Joe gang offered a thoroughly banal account of the traffic stop which resulted in last Sunday's death of Daunte Wright.

There was little sign that this fatuous gang had any real idea what they were talking about. To appearances, they were building melodrama and speaking from script, as is their normal practice.

Joe marveled at the crazy idea that "three police officers were approaching anyone on the basis of an expired license plate." At that point, the New York Times' Mara Gay stepped in to support Joe's vacuous narrative. 

As always, Willie quickly chimed in, repeating the things he'd heard. Hs there ever been a more reliable yes-man? He's Our Town's version of Pence!

It was the banality of this exchange which evoked the "wickedness" of that earlier era.  Very frankly, we thought of Vladimir Putin's many wins—of the likelihood that the autocrats really may score an overall win over our own failing system.

(We refer to the ongoing, existential battle to which President Biden has been alluding of late.)

The ongoing collapse of our failing system was captured by the banal performance of the Morning Joe gang. We compared their banal presentation to the backgrounds facts of this deeply unfortunate matter—to the basic background information which has begun to emerge.

We aren't being told about these facts here in the streets of Our Town.  Along with many others, Joe and Willie and Mika and Mara have been handing us the latest version of a story we very much like.

To what background facts do we refer? Consider the detailed report of those facts at the well-known site,

Snopes is not a conservative site. Jessica Lee, who fact-checked this matter for Snopes, is a bit of a left-leaning propagandist.

That said, Lee did substantial fact-checking for the fact-check site concerning the arrest, and the death, of Wright. Once you fight your way through her early bursts of propaganda, you start to encounter the background information to which you won't be exposed in Our Town.

They're hearing about it over on Fox. You just can't hear it here.

Why did Brooklyn Park police pull Wright over that day? That still isn't fully clear. But as Lee performs her fact-checking duties, it does become fairly clear why police were attempting to detain him right before he broke away and attempted to flee.

Even this morning, the Morning Joe gang soaked that decision by the police in oceans of sarcasm / ridicule. As Lee quotes and describes the basic court records, the background to Sunday's attempted arrest starts here:

LEE (4/14/21): Using Minnesota’s online database of court records, we obtained a probable-cause statement outlining law-enforcement’s accusations against Wright, including allegations that he choked and threatened a woman with a handgun while robbing her.

According to that document, he and a high school friend went over to an apartment in Osseo (a neighboring suburb to...Brooklyn Center), to party one night in December 2019. At the end of the hangout, around 2:30 a.m., the young men supposedly could not find a ride home, so two women who lived in the home allowed them to sleep on the floor.

The next morning, after one of the women left for work, her roommate told authorities that Wright blocked the apartment’s exit, pulled out a handgun, and demanded that she hand over $820 in cash, the statement alleged. She supposedly had the money to pay rent. The document continued:

The $820 cash was tucked in the VICTIM’s bra and DEFENDANT WRIGHT placed his hand around VICTIM’s neck and choked her while trying to pull the cash out from under her bra. […] DEFENDANT WRIGHT then told her that he would shoot her and said “Give me the money and we will go”. DEFENDANT WRIGHT then tried to choke VICTIM a second time and tried to take her money.

After an unknown amount of time passed, the female victim identified Wright and his friend as the alleged perpetrators by looking at photograph line-ups, according to the complaint.

At present, these are all allegations—claims. But according to Snopes, that's where the story begins—and Lee is quoting court documents.

Already, we're in a different world, as compared to the innocuous craftings we're handed here in Our Town. Our spotless minds are being shielded from unpleasant information like this—from information which helps explain why police were attempting to detain Wright last Sunday. 

Lee has described how the story began. As she continues, she explains where the story went next:

LEE: [O]n Dec. 4, 2019, authorities indeed filed paperwork to issue a warrant for his arrest for the alleged robbery in Osseo. But, about two days later, law enforcement fulfilled that warrant; they arrested Wright and his friend. Wright quickly posted bond, as outlined via the documentation displayed below, and agreed to follow the court’s orders so he could leave jail.

[Photocopy of court document is presented]

Then, the following summer, officers with the neighboring Minneapolis Police Department cited Wright for carrying a pistol without a permit and trying to evade their directions (both misdemeanor offenses), the records showed. 

"For trying to evade their directions?" At that point, Lee provides a photocopy of the statement of probable cause describing Wright's behavior during this later incident.

According to that statement, Minneapolis police had received "a gun call" about a light-complexioned 17-year-old black male who had been "waving a gun around" and had then driven away. When the officers located the car the caller had described, it was determined that Wright was the person with the gun, but he ran away, thereby evading arrest.

Those are all allegations—claims. That said, Lee continues from there:

LEE: Because those alleged infractions violated the terms of his jail release mentioned above (and his probation officer said he stopped checking in, per the documents), Wright was detained again and released on bond in September 2020.

Then, just weeks before his death, Wright did not show up for his first court appearance on April 2 to discuss his alleged offenses in Minneapolis. It was unknown why Wright missed the court hearing.

In response to that absence, a judge issued another order for his arrest, and that was the active warrant (displayed below) when Brooklyn Center police ran his name through their background software moments before killing him.

A born propagandist, Lee works in one last shot in the last two words we've posted. That said, she had presented a large amount of background information—information you aren't allowed to know about here in Our Town.

The allegations about Wright are all, of course. allegations. At issue is the ugly, stupid, disgraceful clowning by Scarborough, Gay and Geist on this morning's spectacularly banal TV show.

As you follow the news orgs here in Our Town, you will be handed a pleasing story in which Brooklyn Park police inexplicably stopped and tried to detain Wright because of his several air fresheners. This is the latest stupid story we've been fed, in the last ten years, about events of this type.

You won't be told about the court documents to which the officers were reacting that day. By general agreement of the guild, our spotless minds will be protected from any such complexities.

Plato was repulsed by the "wickedness" he saw around him. We'll suggest that all of us who live in Our Town are drowning in a sea of banality which may be just as destructive and ugly.

We're being told a ridiculous story by the overpaid, corporate-owned children at our "cable news" channels. In the process, we're receiving the "background information" our spotless minds want to hear.

Because our spotless minds are so weak, let us state one point. No one is saying that Wright should have been shot last Sunday.

No one is saying that, not even the shooter! Despite this blindingly obvious fact, the idiots who appear on our "cable news" channels keep setting that straw man up, then heroically knocking it down. Again and again, our "cable news" stars are astoundingly faux and/or dumb.

The silly story we're being told is designed to skew our understanding of what happened last Sunday. It's designed to skew our understanding of why Wright was being detained when he broke free and was about to drive away.

We're being handed a stupidly sanitized version of what happened. Our Town's news orgs have been working from this general template for the past many years—certainly so in the case of police shooting deaths.

People who watch the Fox News Channel are being told that this repellent gong-show is being performed in Our Town. We ourselves are the only ones who are kept in the dark!

There is no way a modern nation can survive the practiced tribal banality of these Morning Joe / Anderson Cooper days. Meanwhile, the embattled Rachel has been on her best behavior this week.

She's been on her best behavior. The weeks of clowning have stopped.

She's also been avoiding, as always. It's been that way from the start.

Tomorrow: Why do we put up with this? Rachel Maddow's disgraceful clowning over the past several weeks

Do you agree with the press corps' values?


We'll go with two out of five: It's a fascinating headline. It sits atop Margaret Sullivan's column in today's Washington Post:

Bad news for journalists: The public doesn’t share our values...

Sullivan is the  "media columnist" at the Post. In today's column, she says the public doesn't share the press corps' values.

Sullivan's column is built around a survey by the American Press Institute. The API defined the press corps' five "core values," then surveyed the public about them.

Uh-oh! We the people don't like those core values! This is how bad it is:

SULLIVAN (4/14/21): The results indicated that only one of five core values touted by journalists also shares the support of a majority of Americans—the idea that more facts get us closer to the truth. About 7 people in 10 support this.

Gack! Only one of the five core values received majority support from the public. And that core value was only supported by 70 percent of us rubes!

In her column, Sullivan says there may be a way to win more support for these basic core values. In a typical manifestation, she never wonders if there could be something wrong with the core values themselves, rather than with the public's views.

With that, we offer a dirty little secret—we're not sure that we support those five core values either! In the end, we may support only two of the five. Here they are, in the way Sullivan lists and defines them in her column:

The press corps' five core values:

Oversight. We’re the watchdogs keeping an eye on government officials and other powerful people and institutions.

Transparency. We believe it’s best to put information out in the open, not keep it hidden.

Factuality. It’s crucial to provide as much accurate information as possible to get to the truth.

Spotlighting wrongdoing. We think society’s problems are best solved by exposing them to public criticism.

Giving a voice to the voiceless. It’s our job to advocate for those lacking power or social standing.

There they are—the five core values. We strongly support "Transparency" and "Factuality." Given the way the modern press works, we're not sure about the other three on that list.

For starters, we strongly agree! "We believe it’s best to put [relevant[ information out in the open." 

We also strongly agree with this: "It’s crucial to provide as much accurate [and relevant] information as possible."

We strongly agree with those values. But precisely because we agree with those values, we're not real sure about the other three on the list.

We say that for this reason:

Consider the first of the five core values: "We’re the watchdogs keeping an eye on government officials and other powerful people and institutions."

Given the way the modern press works, it's dangerous to let them think that they play an important "watchdog" role in the way our society functions.

As soon as you let them start thinking that way, they start putting their thumbs on the scale, often as a tightly-scripted group. As their stampede picks up steam, they start picking and choosing the information they're willing to expose to the public.

We have the same basic reaction to the "Giving a voice to the voiceless" value. That's what our unimpressive mainstream journalists think they're doing, at the present time, with respect to all sorts of questions of gender and race.

But as soon as you let them start thinking that way, they start disappearing certain facts and embellishing and dreaming up others. We've been amazed by some of the ways we've seen basic facts disappeared by major journalists just in the past few days.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our journalist just aren't super-sharp. They're strongly inclined to run in packs. They tend to swell themselves up with pride about their Remarkably High Moral Values, which are often of the highly performative kind.

As soon as they start thinking that they're major reformers, they start withholding certain facts and dreaming up quite a few others. They reject all efforts at correction. They can't be held in check.

These are not highly competent people. Top anthropologists continue to claim that, on the basis of wiring, this is the best they can do.

MADDOW AND TOWN: Jonathan Kozol spoke about Stephen...


...but Maddow discusses herself: How does Rachel Maddow's stardom dumbnify us in Our Town?

We're going to take you back a ways to explain a basic point. The point we'll explain starts here:

Last Friday evening, Maddow started her eponymous TV show by discussing a favorite topic. 

The topic she discussed was herself. It's Maddow's favorite topic.

What she said was insultingly stupid, but the topic was Maddow herself. On the Maddow Show, the topic is frequently Rachel Maddow, even when a naive observer might think that the topic is something else.

Even today, we're still filled with contempt for what we saw last Friday night. Today, we're going to try to explain why that is.

As you may recall, Maddow started Friday's show sharing a fun-filled minute with her friend, Chris Hayes. (On MSNBC, it's a corporate branding mandate. Everyone is everyone's  "friend.") 

After that opening fun-filled minute, she began discussing herself. 

In a world filled with serious topics which go ignored; in a world which still features the wretched of the earth;

In a nation where millions of good, decent kids still get the short end of various sticks;  in that topic-rich universe, Rachel Maddow's favorite pastime is still discussing herself.

The cable star also loves to perform her trademark clowning. On this particular evening, the inanity started like this:

MADDOW (4/9/21): And while we're on the subject—


Did I get it straight?


I got my shot! I did. I'm so excited!


I got the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. Can I just tell you about it for a second?

Uh, I went on my own so I didn't have anybody take a picture of me, let alone me dancing like Chris did, when I was getting the actual shot. I didn't—I—  [LETS VOICE TRAIL OFF]

I don't think I would have liked to see me, a picture of me, getting the actual shot anyway, because I am afraid of needles and so it would make me throw up if I saw a picture of myself getting an injection.

The star continued from there. It would have made her throw up if she saw a photo of herself getting an injection. In such ways, this stunningly self-absorbed corporate star began her insultingly stupid report.

She went on to burn up valuable time mugging and clowning for her many fans in Our Town. She adopted the "I'm just a hapless child" persona, a persona which serves as her periodic raiment, apparently for reasons of personal psychic need.

In fairness, we all have points of personal psychic need. That said, very few of us go on national TV and indulge in the performance of same  the way this increasingly ridiculous corporate star does.

(Not to mention the cons she's authored down through the years. Not to mention the various scams.)

Maddow said it would make her throw up to see a photo like that! The discussion which followed was blindingly stupid—it was stupid the whole way down. 

That said, why are we still disgusted to think that Maddow is allowed to do this? It may be because of the kinds of people Jonathan Kozol discussed.

For whatever reason, Rachel Maddow can't seem to stop discussing herself. Long ago and far away, Kozol once spoke about Stephen.

Kozol was 30 years old at the time. He was eight years out of college (Harvard, class of 1958).

He too had been a Rhodes Scholar. After that, he'd spent a year teaching fourth grade in a badly dysfunctional public school in Boston. 

He wrote a book about that year. At the start his book, Kozol spoke about Stephen.

Death at an Early Age was published in 1967. The following year, it won the National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Religion.

We read the book not long after it was published, when we were a sophomore or junior in college. Here's how the book began

KOZOL (page 1): Stephen is eight years old. A picture of him standing in front of the bulletin board on Arab bedouins shows a little light-brown person staring with unusual concentration at a chosen spot upon the floor. Stephen is tiny, desperate, unwell. Sometimes he talks to himself. He moves his mouth as if he were talking. At other times he laughs out loud in class for no apparent reason. He is also an indescribably mild and unmalicious child. He cannot do any of his school work very well. His math and reading are poor. In Third Grade he was in a class that had substitute teachers much of the year. Most of the year before that, he had a row of substitute teachers too. He is in the Fourth Grade now but his work is barely at the level of the Second. Nobody has complained about the things that have happened to Stephen because he does not have any mother or father.

According to Kozol, Stephen was "tiny, desperate, unwell." He was indescribably mild and unmalicious. He couldn't do his school work well.

You'll never be forced to hear about children like that while watching the Maddow Show. Among other examples, you'll also never hear about the way our nation's health care "system" serves various wealthy interests.

Rachel doesn't do that! Instead, you'll hear her talk about herself, a repulsive practice to which viewers were exposed, in an especially stupid way, at the start of last Friday night's program.

Which was worse last Friday night? The insulting degree of stupidity, or the familiar song of self? 

Are children drowning in the Mediterranean? Maddow doesn't care. Maddow enjoys discussing herself, and her owners let her do it. 

Indeed, we'll assume that her owners cheer the practice on. For reasons which take the measure of us in Our Town, we residents actually seem to like it when Rachel "sells the car" in this insultingly self-absorbed fashion. 

Maddow presents herself as an unmalicious but hapless child—the type of child who would throw up if she had to see certain photos of herself.

She constantly says that she's "a dork." It's a form of humblebragging. We're so ridiculous, here in Our Town, that we seem to love her for this.

In one way, it isn't fair to single Maddow out on the basis we're citing. It isn't that you won't hear about kids like Stephen on Maddow's show. In fact, you won't hear about the interests and needs of low-income kids anywhere on the "cable news" channels which prevail in the streets of Our Town.

A quick aside:

Not long after we read Kozol's book, we found ourselves teaching fifth grade in the Baltimore City Schools. 

We taught fifth graders for seven full years, followed by two years teaching junior high math. In those seven years teaching fifth grade, we had very few kids who were "desperate, unwell," although we did have perhaps one or two.

We did have a lot of good, decent kids who were being poorly served, in various ways, by their public school system. Almost surely, that situation continues today, even though basic skill levels seem to be vastly improved.

(That's a fact you'll never learn, or see discussed, as you watch Maddow perform. As everyone knows, the interests of kids in our low-income schools don't get discussed in Our Town.)

Children are drowning in the sea. Children are washing up at our southern border.

Girls are being stolen away in the Congo. Rachel goes on TV and discusses herself, in the dumbest ways possible.

At some point, a person is forced by decency to ask when this will stop. Tomorrow, we'll discuss this hapless report in New York magazine, an example of the kind of work Maddow would never critique or discuss. 

As we read that report, we flashed again on a certain Rhodes Scholar's incessant mugging and clowning.

We keep accepting this showboating here in Our Town. Will we ever find a way to insist on something better?

Tomorrow: Not allowed on Maddow's show

Friday: Recent weeks of clowning