Part 5—Rachel pretends to fight: Why has MSNBC been losing viewers?
Like everyone else, we can’t say.
The channel seems to have lost some viewers in the switch from Big Ed to Chris Hayes at 8, but that may turn out to be temporary. Beyond that, there is no science which can explain why MSNBC has lost viewers compared to this time last year, while the Fox News Channel has gained.
Why have some people stopped watching MS? For today, let’s ask a slightly different question:
Why would anyone want to watch the lazy mess this channel presents? Consider the programs the channel has aired on the last two Wednesday evenings.
This Wednesday, MSNBC featured the news that Susan Rice will become the president’s national security adviser. This is what transpired on the 8 and 9 PM programs:
At 8 PM, Hayes and his guest, Joan Walsh, staged a discussion right out of Ionesco. Each of the analysts quickly asserted that they “still don’t get” why Rice became a target of Republican attacks last September. They then wandered down the moss-strewn path of race and gender, with Hayes saying it isn’t crazy to think that John McCain and Lindsey Graham went after Rice to help “their bro,” John Kerry, become secretary of state.
Two questions: If Hayes and Walsh still “don’t get” a question as blindingly basic as this, why in the world are still they on TV explaining national politics? Second question:
Why would anyone choose to watch such a hapless discussion?
That’s what happened this Wednesday at 8. In the next hour, Rachel Maddow staged one of her trademarked reinventions of the world’s most obvious facts.
After nine minutes of clearing her throat, the better to snark at Scott Brown with, Maddow offered this astonishing history of the nine-month-old War Against Rice:
MADDOW (6/5/13): Susan Rice, by all accounts, was going to be the president`s nominee for secretary of state, until Republicans in Congress decided that they were going to go after her for Benghazi, which she had nothing to do with. But they decided they would go after her for the talking points that were drafted by the CIA after the Benghazi attacks.“Nobody in Congress made all that big a deal out of her appearance on those Sunday shows at the time until months later?” Does anyone think that Maddow really believes that bullshit?
Susan Rice used those talking points in September 2012 on the Sunday shows. Nobody in Congress made all that big a deal out of her appearance on those Sunday shows at the time until months later when it seemed like she was going to be nominated to be the next secretary of state. And then, suddenly, Susan Rice having used those CIA talking points on TV made it impossible, unfathomable, for Senate Republicans that she could ever hold the secretary of state job because she used the talking points the CIA gave her. And it was around that time that Senate Republicans just started calling her names.
(For extra credit: How does Maddow instruct her staff to write such manifest nonsense?)
As we’ve noted again and again, Maddow is strongly inclined to reinvent facts when it serves her own personal greatness. In this case, her absurd reinvention explains away her own cowardly silence last fall as Rice was drawn and quartered—as an enduring pseudo-scandal was invented by the GOP and by Fox.
Why would anyone choose to watch a channel which handed them bullshit like that? After watching Hayes, Walsh and Maddow, a sensible person might rewrite our question:
Instead of asking why MSNBC has lost viewers, this sensible person might wonder why it still has any viewers at all!
The previous Wednesday night was even worse. Over on Fox, the hounds from Hell were pimping an array of pseudo-scandals, disinforming millions of people and establishing bogus fact patterns to which the mainstream press will defer.
On Fox, they were fighting very hard, ruthlessly playing to win. On MSNBC, the children staged one of the most pitiful evenings ever performed on cable. They devoted themselves to recollections of Michele Bachmann’s greatest past flubs. In the time that was left, they staged an evening of twee.
One channel was fighting extremely hard. The other channel refused to fight. Instead, its hosts discussed the legalization of marijuana—pot, grass. Why would anyone watch this piddle? We have no idea.
What’s wrong with MSNBC? Consider what happens when its prime-time hosts attempt to fight, or pretend. We’ll review two recent examples from Maddow:
As of May 15, Maddow was visibly angry or at least she seemed to be. On May 10, Jonathan Karl had published a report about the development of the Benghazi talking points. Most of what he presented was accurate, including a dozen versions of the now-famous talking points.
Much of the information Karl released would have been helpful to anyone taking the administration’s side in the long, ridiculous gong-show Maddow avoided last fall. But late in his piece, Karl had also made an embarrassing mistake. He seemed to offer a quotation from one the e-mails which produced the points—but as it turned out, the “quotation” was bogus.
Intriguingly, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News had offered bogus quotations from several of the e-mails in question on that same May 10.
By May 15, Maddow was ready to try to fight, or at least to pretend. On May 15 and especially on May 17, she staged angry rants about what had happened. But how sad: She never mentioned Attkisson’s errors at all—and in two nights of ranting about Karl’s error, she only mentioned his name one time, in passing.
“ABC News” had made this mistake. Why bother naming poor Karl?
(If I don’t criticize you by name, you will do the same favor for me! Within the upper-end press corps, the high-income hustlers have played it this way forever, to the extent that they play at all.)
Maddow gave Karl a very large pass and never mentioned Attkisson. In the meantime, she committed some of her trademark errors of fact as she railed against [ABC]’s mistake. None of this stopped her from clowning around as she ranted about this mistake. Despite her apparent anger, she even rolled her R’s at one point in a standard, trademarked attempt to make us adore her more fully.
Why would a serious, well-informed person watch this channel at all?
Maddow attempted to fight, or pretended to fight, again this Tuesday night. The analysts averted their gaze out of respect for humanity.
They averted their gaze at about the same time the adorable penguins came in.
Early in her opening segment, Maddow tackled the (ongoing) scam at Fox concerning the alleged 157 White House visits. Congratulatory phone calls began pouring in to our sprawling campus as Maddow, blasting Bill O’Reilly, ticked off a list of the points found in our earlier post.
Sorry, but no. In fairness, Maddow treated us rubes to some of her snark—and she did explain the basic facts underlying the latest false claim by O’Reilly, whom she was willing to name.
On the other hand, she showed O’Reilly pimping this bullshit with Karl Rove, not with Bob Woodward. Darlings, it just isn’t done!
That said, can we talk? MSNBC is largely an entertainment channel. In giant amounts, the channel traffics political entertainment to gullible liberal viewers.
For that reason, Maddow treated us to some perfect shit in the midst of her exposition. In the passage we offer below, she wonderfully pretended to speak in the voice of O’Reilly himself.
Best of all, she treated us to 31 seconds of tape—videotape of adorable penguins dressed in dashikis waddling down a long flight of concrete stairs.
To watch the entire segment, click here. Why would anyone who actually cared want to be toyed with like this?
From the Rachel Maddow Show, 6/4/13:That was good solid fun! Afraid that our attention might wander, Maddow gave us what she seems to think we liberal rubes really want. She gave us 31 seconds of videotape of penguins hopping around in dashikis. This helped chase the boredom away as she pretended to go after Bill.
O’REILLY (videotape) The Obama administration continues to say the president had nothing to do with the IRS scandal. However, we still don’t know much about former IRS chief Douglas Shulman visiting the White House 157 times.
MADDOW (speaking as O’Reilly): We still don’t know! We do not know much.
We do not, for example, know that the idea that he was there 157 times has been debunked. We don’t know that! We have been very busy. It was the weekend, it was hot, spent a whole lot of time reading this completely different thing about these little penguins in Japan that they dressed up in dashikis to greet some foreign dignitaries who were visiting. It was really hard for the little penguins when they’re wearing their little dashikis to go down the stairs in their little shirts. They had to bend over and look at their feet. But they did it!
Yes, so I spent some time reading about that. I spent a lot of time, actually, on that. Also, I went to the farmers market, I washed my hair. I really haven’t had enough time to read about the whole IRS commissioner going to the White House story being debunked.
So I’m just going to keep doing the story over and over and over again for a few more days. It still sounds really good to me. Still sounds like a really big story.
At moments like this, Maddow shows you what she and her channel are largely about. And she shows you something else:
While the hosts at Fox relentlessly fights, she may not know how to.
Yes, the phone calls came pouring in, saying we’d scripted Maddow. Sorry! In the real world, you can’t fight to win in the way Maddow did—on one occasion, with oodles of clowning, with Rove included but Woodward excused.
You have to fight on a regular basis. You know? The way O’Reilly does?
You have to fight on a regular basis—and you have to name mainstream names. You have to insist on action from the big mainstream world, the powerful world career players like Maddow never want to bother.
Last fall, Maddow sat out the disgraceful War Against Rice. Under challenge, she has now devoted a few minutes to the current Scandal Wars, larded up with penguin tape to make the package go down.
She will not return to the theme of O’Reilly’s ongoing deception. She will not stand up on her two hind legs, the way those adorable penguins did, and insist that Glenn Kessler get off his ass and fact-check O’Reilly’s latest scam at the Washington Post.
She will not insist that Politifact fact-check O’Reilly’s scam. She will not complain that the New York Times earns its living by averting its gaze as tens of millions of regular people get disinformed in this way.
She won't name Jill Abramson’s name, asking why the New York Times does this.
Dearest darlings, it just isn’t done! You simply don’t name names like these; you don’t mess with the Times and the Post. On Tuesday evening, Maddow played her penguin tapes and told you what she thinks about you: She thinks you are a bunch of marks who mainly exist to get clowned.
Fox News will continue to fight extremely hard. MSNBC doesn’t plan to resist.
They'll try to make you think they’re fighting. Based on that decline in ratings, some viewers may already have stopped buying this corporate ruse.
Still available: Why won’t The Channel’s big stars fight? Involving particularities!