Our nation is paying the price: On June 21, we noted a change in the on-air demeanor of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. As a performer, we suggested he might be undergoing a type of Maddowization.
We also suggested that, in the process, he might be dumbing his program down. To review that post, click here.
Four days later, at the end of an interview, Hayes discussed the process we thought we had seen playing out on the air. Speaking with Salon’s David Daley, he discussed the pressure of hosting a show in prime time as opposed to on weekend mornings:
HAYES (6/25/13): The biggest difference is the competition for those eyeballs is just intense. I think about, there’s someone out there who’s worked all day, helped their kid with their homework, grabbed a beer, sat down at the TV, and now they’re going to watch me. And they could watch “The Voice,” and I would not begrudge them wanting to do that! I would completely understand. So you have to be thinking in terms of what emotional effect are you producing in the viewer.Chris Hayes is learning to be entertaining. That may be why, a few nights before, he had said he was “seething with anger,” even though he didn’t seem to be seething with anger.
Yeah, ratings are the measurement of what you have to think about, which is producing entertaining television. The ratings–I try not to think about the numbers, because that data can be very overwhelming or misleading. The thing I do think about is “are we producing a good show?” And the word “show” is key. You have to be a showman. It is a show. You need to put on a show every night. Which means, like, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, let me entertain you. And I think the thing that I found rewarding, that I first found really difficult, is learning how to do that better, learning how to embody that naturally. Learning how to be myself fundamentally and authentically while still entertaining.
He was trying to entertain us! That may be why he made the claim which struck us as being so false.
As he finished the interview with Salon, Hayes saluted the person who is really good at the showman’s art. This also tracks with what we said in our earlier post:
HAYES (continuing directly): And that’s a really hard challenge. We did food stamps last night. It’s like, “How do you make food stamps entertaining?” and no one’s figured this out better than Rachel Maddow. She is just a savant in this respect, but I have to find my own route to that place, that is true to what I do best.As we suggested a few days before, Hayes thinks Maddow is really good at making topics like food stamps entertaining. We don’t disagree with that judgment; unfortunately, Maddow is a superb performer within the narrow filed of cable news channel clowning. But Maddow often performs this feat by dumbing her program down, or by handing her viewers pleasing facts which don’t turn out to be facts.
For what it’s worth, we went back and reviewed the recent segments Hayes had done about food stamps. For a guy who earned his rep by being smart, we thought those discussions were a bit low-IQ.
Were the segments entertaining? We're not sure. But on the merits, they weren’t worth much.
Step right up, ladies and gents!
We didn’t think Hayes was seething with anger when he said he was that night. In this interview, he said he’s really learning to be a showman. Last night, he lured us into the tent with a discussion of the Zimmerman case—a discussion which was scripted, dumb, tribal and false in every conceivable way.
Did we mention the fact that these segments were dumb? Later today or tomorrow, we will run through last night’s segments, showing you what we mean. But for now, let’s just say this: We’re truly all living in Bosnia now! Increasingly, we live in a land where each of the tribes has its own facts, history, religion and language.
And its own gang of hustler pundits.
In its prime time programs, MSNBC is providing highly scripted pundit reaction to the Zimmerman trial. Last evening, we watched Al Sharpton’s panel. Our synopsis:
Five pundits, one voice!
Your nation’s ability to conduct a discourse is rapidly being rotted away by this grisly conduct. The aggressive components of this destruction started with Rush and the rest of talk radio. But it’s no longer possible to doubt the fact that MSNBC is aping Fox as it tries to build a world where gullible liberals can feel entirely safe as they watch cable each night.
We’ll hear the bullshit we want to hear. We won’t hear a single word more.
(At this point, Fox viewers actually hear a wider set of viewpoints than we liberals are permitted to hear!)
It’s amazing to see howlittle time it took to transform Hayes. Last night’s discussion was monumentally dumb—and we have to pray it was false. Have our telegenic tribemates really been dumbed to the extent suggested?
Two weeks ago, Chris Hayes said he was seething with anger. Last night, he was probably being a showman—and he was presenting two segments which were astoundingly dumb.