Rachel Maddow!


Part 4—Slowest children from Stanford: This very Wednesday, Allison Benedict wrote something shocking at Slate.

Benedikt, a self-identified liberal, described her pleasure as she watched Fox report the election returns. She described her household’s schadenfreude as the talent at Fox broke the news:

Obama was going to win!

Benedikt described the way conservative viewers had been misinformed by Fox. But as she did, she authored a striking parenthetical comment.

Can Allison Benedikt say this?
BENEDIKT (11/7/12): As Conor Friedersdorf writes in his very smart Atlantic piece about the failure of the conservative media, it’s “easy to close oneself off inside a conservative echo chamber.” As he points out, Fox News and other conservative media are “far more intellectually closed” than, say, NPR. Fox News feeds its viewers a line of bull about the way the world is. Viewers buy this line of bull. Misinformed viewers become misinformed voters. And then misinformed voters are shocked when Obama wins. Hey, I thought everyone hated this guy? (The preceding is a very good reason why liberals should limit their MSNBC viewing, by the way.)
Can Allison Benedikt say that? By Friday morning, 1747 comments had piled up at Slate. Many of the comments discussed that last heretical statement.

Is MSNBC comparable to Fox in any conceivable way? Can liberal viewers become “misinformed” in some significant way as they watch The One True Channel?

Actually yes, they can. That isn’t to say that MSNBC is “just as bad” as Fox, although in many ways the channel does seem to be trying.

MSNBC may not be “as bad,” but we’d have to say it’s gaining. Indeed, we thought of Benedikt’s heretical statement as we watched Rachel Maddow last night.

For us rubes in the liberal world, Maddow has been cast by the suits as Our Own Former Rhodes Scholar. In part, the marketing around her stardom involves a central conceit of pseudo-liberalism:

We are the ones who are smart!

But Maddow often isn’t smart; routinely, the work performed on her program just isn’t smart at all. Consider the moment in last night’s show when she shot down a GOP canard—the notion that Hurricane Sandy blunted Romney’s momentum.

Maddow played tape of several Republicans making this assertion. Then, she swung into action in a strikingly clueless way.

To enjoy Maddow’s carnival-barker certitude, click here. Move ahead to 7:45:
MADDOW (11/8/12): This is a narrative Republicans are telling themselves, that the Beltway media is also now starting to tell itself because they keep hearing Republicans say it. It is not a theory born from reality.

I mean, this is a checkable thing, right? This is an empirical idea. Their theory is that Mitt Romney was on track to win this thing if it weren’t for that blasted storm. This is something we can check. I mean, it’s easy, right?

OK. Let’s start with this. We’re all in agreement that the polls were correct, right? Despite all the nonsense ahead of the election about how the polls seemed so wrong before the election, now that the election has happened, it has been proven and we can all agree that the polls reflected math and not some an nefarious agenda to make conservatives feel bad, right?

So, the polls were right; we can all agree. Out of all the polls, let’s look at the one we know now mathematically was the most accurate daily tracking poll. The one that was most accurately reflected what was really going on in the race. That would be the Ipsos-Reuters poll.
Let’s stop right here. First, note the way Maddow fails to name anyone in “the Beltway media” who is pimping this momentum narrative. As we've told you a thousand times:

People! It just isn’t done!

That’s a familiar act of self-censorship. Beyond that, note the unexplained, unsupported claim that Ipsos-Reuters was “the most accurate daily tracking poll.”

Is that claim correct? We have no idea—and Maddow made no attempt to support it. But let’s assume this claim is correct. The larger blundering started as Maddow presented a child’s idea of the evidence:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Did Hurricane Sandy blunt Mr. Romney's momentum? Was he on track to win if it weren’t for that storm?

Well, Hurricane Sandy made landfall October 29. Here’s how Obama and Romney were running against each other in the most accurate poll in the country on the day before the hurricane:

On the day of the hurricane, October 29, President Obama is up 48, Mitt Romney is up 47 percent. And look at the five days after the storm hit. Hey, again, President Obama ahead by the exact same 1 percent.

So before Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead one or two points. After Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead by one or two points.

Remember, this is the poll that we know in retrospect was totally right. So if we believe the polls, which we all do now in America, and the Ipsos-Reuters poll was the most accurate one of all the polls in this presidential election, then really, provably, there was no Romney momentum going into Hurricane Sandy that was ruined by the storm. It just didn’t happen and it’s checkable.
By now, the Ipsos-Reuters poll is being described as totally right! (Routinely, Maddow embellishes on the fly as she pretends to prove her points to a nation of grateful viewers.) But Maddow’s presentation flies in the face of the data her staff was presenting in a simple graphic—a graphic which appeared right behind her on your TV screen.

That pitifully limited graphic presented three pieces of data. It showed Obama ahead by 3 points on October 28, then ahead by 1 point on October 29. As Maddow noted, he was still “ahead by the exact same 1 percent” on November 3.

Was Romney riding a wave of momentum which got blunted by Hurricane Sandy? The limited data which Maddow presented completely comport with this theory! The data in her (absurdly limited) graphic show Romney narrowing the gap by a full two points on the day the hurricane hit—then failing to gain after that.

Only a child would think you could dismiss the “momentum” theory on the basis of three data points from one tracking poll. But the data in Maddow’s graphic were completely consistent with this theory—and note the way she simply misstated the data which were right there on the screen:

“So before Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead one or two points!” That’s what Maddow told us viewers. But right behind her, the graphic said something different: Before Hurricane Sandy, it showed Obama ahead by three points—by three points, which then dropped to one point. But then, we often marvel at the way Maddow mischaracterizes data or quotations which she and her staff have put right there on the screen.

We often wonder if other viewers fail to notice this conduct.

Only a child would think you could dismiss the “momentum” theory on the basis of three data points from one poll. But the data presented by Maddow weren’t just comically insufficient. They were completely consistent with this theory—and Maddow misstated the data in two different ways! (You can reread what she said for yourself.)

So how about it? Is it true? Did Hurricane Sandy blunt Romney’s momentum? On November 5, Nate Silver debunked this claim in an intellectually serious way. By way of contrast, Maddow’s presentation seemed to be the work of a rather slow child. Other embellishments and misstatements followed as last night’s program continued.

This one presentation doesn’t matter that much. In fact, it doesn’t “matter” at all. And yet, D-minus work is performed on this program on a consistent basis.

Last Friday, we marveled, as we often do, at a series of obvious misstatements by Maddow—misstatements which flew in the face of material she was presenting right on the screen. Tomorrow or Monday, we’ll run through that particular reign of errors. But before we do, let’s make a key point:

These persistent errors are somewhat puzzling coming from Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Plainly, it seems that Maddow would score quite well on an IQ test.

How can it be that such a bright child turns in so much failing work?

If we judge her by a great deal of her work, Maddow is one of the slowest children from Stanford! We thought of this when we read the vile thing Allison Benedikt said.

Tomorrow or Monday: A common occurrence


  1. So once again, you are agreeing with what Maddow said, but taking issue with the way she said it?

    Here's another take. Clearly, Nate Silver's data showed that Romney's "momentum" which actually began a few days before the first debate, ended and started reversing itself somewhere around the Biden-Ryan debate (although I am not attributing cause and effect to that). From that point on, the momentum was all Obama, and all the post-second debate right-wing echo chamber bullroar about Benghazi could not stop it.

    But . . . at the same time, the image of Obama and Christie standing side by side before a nation who at least gives lip service to its desire for bipartisanship certainly didn't hurt Obama nor help Romney.

    Now I hate to break this news once again to you, Bob, but this election was decided by far more people than the 1 million or so who regularly tune into Bill O'Reilly, and the 700,000 or so who regularly tune into Rachel Maddow.

    And it certainly wasn't decided by the 5 or 6 people who regularly comment here, present company included.

    1. Anon. 10:42

      Way to take the high road in your refutation.

    2. 10:42, I know how much it disturbs Bob's tribe when we interrupt their lowing on the sweet hay Bob serves them about Maddow, but Bob just wrote a post talking about how stupid Maddow is for calling a 3 point poll lead the same as a 1 point poll lead.

      Heavens to Betsy, does not Rachel Maddow realize that Bob has put the entire fate of Western Civilization in her hands, and that it will all come crashing down upon us if she keeps making such egregious errors?

      Oh, and just to remind you, Bob has warned you about using the word "lie". I guess that only applies when you are talking about Republicans, however.

    3. Let the record show: The Democratic Party has now achieved re-election of a president, gains in the Senate, and realignment of the political map WITHOUT FOLLOWING ANY OF BOB'S ADVICE.

      I can predict this with Nate Silverian accuracy: Bob will become increasingly cranky about this. The Dems have ignored his racism-denying, cracker-coddling wisdom, won big, and are poised for much success in the future.

      Well, as Bob lives in the past, there's always Campaign 2000 and the War on Gore to go on about.

    4. Small point: Re the "1 million or so who regularly tune into Bill O'Reilly, and the 700,000 or so who regularly tune into Rachel Maddow". Don't those people turn into "influencers" who affect a larger number people?

    5. So how is your vote influenced? By viewers of Maddow or O'Reilly, or listeners of Rush?

      I am not saying that any of the above are totally without influence. But I am saying that their influence isn't nearly as powerful as Somerby imagines in his fevered, lizard brain.

    6. ...and therefore Bob Somerby should leave Maddow alone when she's bullshitting.

    7. If reading about Gore and the 2000 election bores you to tears then why in hell would you keep reading this blog every day? This is in response to Confused but if the shoe fits anyone else please just slip your foot into it. I just don't understand why anyone would read ,watch or listen to something or someone they don't enjoy reading, watching or listening to. I really don't.

  2. Well now Bob, I just look in here every week or two to see if you're still insane over Maddow's imperfections, real or imagined, and still attacking those who point out your foolishness.

    And I see by your post and by "anonymous" 10:42 that nothing has changed.

    1. "real or imagined"


    2. Cleverly put, Bob.

    3. Because if it were Somerby himself who mocked your idiocy, that would be illegitimate?

      But anyway it isn't Somerby. It's just me.


      Yeah, that's it!

      Somerby should stop insisting that Maddow be perfect.

      Let that whole "making shit up" imperfection of hers alone.

  3. I'm thinking both polls show that the national race is "too close to call" as the press likes to put it whenever the totals are within the margin of error. Although if one is a more partisan press member, they show a clear lead. Or not a clear lead. But regardless, the two polls don't show much change one way or the other. It's not smart to keep telling the public to read polls like they are votes. Romney may have gained two points. He may have not gained (no Romentum!). Heck, he actually might have been fading.

    It's fun to laugh at Romney's campaign for not reading polls correctly. But if we're presented with the same load of gibberish about polls, what advantage is there to that. Bob is right. It's not how she said it. It's how she supported her claims. Obama's clear lead in the polls the way she presents them is not really much different than Peggy Noonan's much mocked "gut" feeling.

  4. Suffern,

    You need to read up on the definition of "margin of error."(Hint: it doesn't mean that anything within the margin of error has no meaning and hence it's "too close to call.")

    1. "Margin of error" means exactly that -- "margin of error."

      It means that if the difference is one point, and the margin of error is two, then yes, the poll is pretty much a statistical tie.

  5. Bob, I also watched Maddow that night, and I could have written your post. I was seething at her half-wit presentation of something that is actually quite easy to explain. I can't overemphasize how stupid it is for her to choose 3 data points from a single tracking poll when her producers could have gotten a shot of trend lines from any of the polling aggregators. Not only did she obviously misstate what was on the screen, but she also made her case look incredibly suspicious by the strange selection of the 3 dates that she chose to present. It was screamed of shabby reporting fraud -- for no good reason! Also, the claim that we now know that Ipsos/Reuters is "totally accurate" because they were on the money for the final poll vs actual is idiotic. She is indeed smarter than this, but not smart enough to realize that BS is transparent?

  6. Maddow's point was that polls show the claim that "Sandy" gave Obama the edge are wrong. She was and is right.

    Just look at 538's chart of probability of Obama's election (that probability derived from a composite of the polls). The lines, upward for Obama, downward for Romney, begin diverging about the second week on Oct, and continue with consistent slopes of those lines right up to the election.

    There is no change at all associated with Sandy and Maddow was correct.


  8. Let me make this simple for the knee-jerk Somerby haters: it's a red-flag for us liberals that Maddow believes her presentation proved her point. It didn't prove her point. The fact that her point may have been correct is irrelevant here. What Bob is looking at is her judgment that her argument supported the thesis she advanced. Again, it didn't.

    So we have two choices here:

    1. Rachel believes her argument proved her point and isn't nearly as smart as most of us think she is.

    Or -

    2. She knows it didn't prove her thesis but didn't think the rubes that watch her would care or notice.

    Pick your poison, Maddow defenders. It's one or the other.

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