Anderson Cooper evokes Rock-Makers!


As Maddow’s tulip craze seems to die, Cooper’s keeps rolling along: In our senior year of college, our residence hall suddenly featured a Rock-Makers pinball machine.

The machine was wickedly great. Its imagery featured a race of primitive beings whose lives revolved around the making, or perhaps the harvesting, of rocks.

For a glimpse of these primitive beings, click here.

Rock-making! It seemed to be the entire culture of these primitive people. (You coaxed free games from the great machine by scoring “rock-a-rocks.”)

Rock-Makers was a wickedly great machine. Adding to the excitement, its imagery evoked one of Wittgenstein’s early structures in the Philosophical Investigations, in which we’re asked to imagine “a complete primitive language” consisting of only four words: block, pillar, slab and beam.

Had Wittgenstein owned his own Rock-Makers? Everything is possible!

Last night, Anderson Cooper evoked the great Rock-Makers machine, in which a primitive race of people were engaged in a very limited set of obsessive behaviors.

He evoked the Melanesian “cargo cult,” and the Dutch tulip craze. When we flipped to Cooper late in the 10 PM hour, we caught the cable news airplane obsessive telling a panel of fellow obsessives that they were going to go to “the lightning round.”

With that, Cooper began firing quick questions about the missing plane at his half dozen fellow obsessives. He received brisk replies in return.

By now, this seems to be part of the extremely limited culture devised by these primitive people.

Weirdly, CNN hasn’t prepared transcripts for Cooper’s programs last night. Perhaps the channel is feeling embarrassed about the cargo cult it has created, in which panels of madmen spend whole days discussing, or pretending to discuss, the missing Malaysian airplane, culminating in self-proclaimed “lightning rounds.”

The madness of this cargo cult has become rather hard to miss. When we flipped to Megyn Kelly last night, she too was fully zombified concerning the missing plane.

Once the tulip craze got started, it’s said that the Dutch didn’t know how to quit it. (Playing Rock-Makers was something like that.) Last night, we began to wonder how these zombified cable obsessives will ever be able to quit their cult about the missing plane.

That said, the madness of this tulip craze seems to affect everyone it touches. Yesterday, Salon highlighted Chris Hayes’ snarky putdown of the craze, which he said was being pursued by other cable channels.

To watch his segment, click here. Careful though, Hayes! This morning, we flipped to The One True Channel. Krystal Ball was promising airplane blather with a zombified look in her eyes.

That said, Hayes went on and on in his critique Thursday night. Along other things, he said this:
HAYES (3/20/14): Have you noticed that the coverage of this missing flight has gotten a little out of hand lately?


I’m going to let you in on a little inside secret. Sometimes, in the world of cable news, there’s a mismatch between the demand for new information about a story and the supply of new information that exists.

So what do you do in those circumstances? Well, you try to find creative ways of pushing out the supply.

You have reporters, and you hope they dig up new nuggets of information you can report, or you offer context or some history, or, for the mystery of Flight 70 [sic], that’s the strategy we’ve tried to use here at ALL IN. We have talked about other flights that have gone down. We have talked about the way that modern airplanes can be flown on autopilot, or how crash investigations work.

But right now, with this plane, none of that, none of that, gets you to a point where you fill the demand. The demand is still there begging for more. So the question is, as the host of a cable news program, then what do you do?


Here’s what is not so harmless. What’s not harmless is filling in that gap between supply of information and demand for it with completely baseless speculation about nefarious foreign actors and enemies, and using the gap between the supply of information and the demand for it to push whatever paranoid theory you have to make people scared about the enemy you want them to be scared of.
We couldn’t help thinking that Hayes’ description somewhat resembled a lot of the work Rachel Maddow has done about the Fort Lee matter—a topic Maddow seems to have completely abandoned this week.

More on that abandonment below. Soon, Hayes was making factual errors as he displayed the snarky style he has been taught by the suits since his move to prime time.

Hayes dished a lot of snark, making several mistakes as he did. As for Maddow, her own personal tulip craze seemed come to an abrupt end this week. Here’s why we say that:

There was actual news this week about David Samson, an ancillary figure in the Fort Lee matter. But Maddow completely ignored it.

For weeks, Maddow has been “trying to find creative ways of pushing out the supply” of apparent news about Samson’s alleged bad conduct. This week, when some actual news appeared, she completely ignored it.

The Fort Lee matter remains a real news topic. At least, the topic may well produce real news when something actually emerges from one of the ongoing investigations.

It isn’t clear that Samson’s possible conflicts of interest were ever real national news. That said, Maddow has laboriously milked these possible conflicts in much the way Hayes described—until this week, when it suddenly seemed that Samson was dead to Maddow.

Has Maddow abandoned her own cargo cult? This week, with no explanation at all, the answer seemed to be yes.

Prior rock-making came to an end on the Maddow Show. Cooper’s craze remains active.

Actual news about Samson: Actual news abounded about Samson this week. This was ignored by Maddow, who had been inventing pseudonews about Samson for weeks.

On Sunday, the Bergen Record published a long report about the somewhat peculiar way the board of the Port Authority has operated under Samson. Just click here.

On Wednesday, the New York Times (and everyone else) reported that "federal prosecutors in New Jersey issued a subpoena last week to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seeking records relating to its chairman, David Samson...The interest in Mr. Samson, a close political ally of Mr. Christie, represents a significant widening of the scandal that has grown out of the closing of two bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., in September." Just click this.

On Thursday, the Record reported on a topic Maddow has beaten to death in the past. "Port Authority officials are reconsidering a controversial deal that gave NJ Transit a $1-a-year lease on valuable land in North Bergen, officials said on Wednesday, one of several moves taken as the agency tries to right itself after months of tumult and criticism." (The Times published a similar report.) Just click here.

Maddow ignored all these reports. According to Nexis, Samson’s name hasn’t been mentioned on her program since Monday, March 10.

In our view, Maddow’s focus on Samson has always represented a bit of a cargo cult, an attempt to keep a favored topic alive in much the way Hayes described.

This tulip craze seems to have ended this week. There has been no explanation.


  1. So Somerby spends three months flailing away at Rachel Maddow for covering Fort Lee too much, now he flails away at her for not covering it enough.

    Truly, truly pathetic.

    1. Since you seem to have missed the point, it is that her reporting has not been driven by the news itself but by her own agenda. If I had more energy, I would point out how pathetic it is that you cannot see beyond the superficial, but I am tired of this endless stream of empty criticism from stupid trolls.

    2. Bob criticizes Maddow when she reports on Fort Lee. Bob criticizes Maddow when she doesn't report on Fort Lee. And Maddow is the one driven by an agenda.


    3. Somerby criticizes Maddow when she pursues a vendetta against Christie through PA employees. Somerby criticizes Maddow when she drops here vendetta without explanation even though there is actual news on the topic. It is easy to understand if you shift your focus off "Bob" and onto the subject of Maddow's reports.

    4. And it's very difficult to see anything with your head so far up Somerby's ass.

      Tell us genius, what has been Bob's normal reaction when Maddow reports that more subpoenas have been issued? To congratulate her for doggedly reporting this story and coming up with "real news"?

      Don't give yourself too much of a headache thinking about that one.

    5. On what planet is this real news?

  2. "since you seem to have missed the point.

    You comment implies you appear to perhaps have mastered the Master's modfiers.

    Bob has no clothes. Bob fan screams "troll."

    1. Trolls seem to have nothing to do on a Saturday night. Poor troll, alone with a bottle of wine and an empty keyboard.

    2. It's Sunday morning, shouldn't you be in church or something?

  3. So, MSNBC and Maddow realize it's time to cool off a bit, wait to see what comes next (what with the judge's decision being awaited), and they're criticized for the waiting-to-see what Bob has previously advocated. He's incoherent.

    And yes, anyone criticizing Bob is a troll here in comments (a misunderstanding of the term). Yell "troll" and you don't have to address the arguments commenters have made. mch

    1. Anyone criticizing Somerby without a point is a troll. As Somerby noted, there was actual news that could have been reported, unlike previous Maddow reports on the topic, so no, this isn't a lull in traffic because Maddow is awaiting the judge's decision. This is a decision by Maddow to back off reporting and it illustrates the trumped up nature of her previous reports.

      And troll is as troll does.

    2. "Somerby noted, there was actual news that could have been reported, unlike previous Maddow reports on the topic, . . "

      Yes. As opposed to last December after Foye, Fulton and Durando testified, and Bob brilliantly called the whole thing "ginned up."

      After as opposed to early January, after the Kelly-Wildstein e-mail exchange became public and Bob mused that it still could be a legit traffic study simply gone awry.

      So what now is the "real news" that Maddow should have been all over? Of course. Prosecutors issued some more subpoenas. Stop the presses.

      Only a true blue Bob fan is dumb enough not to realize that Somerby is playing you for an absolute fool.

    3. It is ginned up because nothing has been tied back to Christie yet.

      Given that Maddow has been reporting every slight development, her failure to report the latest does suggest shifting priorities on her part.

    4. "Nothing has been tied back to Christie yet."

      If that isn't the best example of the stupidity characteristic of the few loyal followers sliding with Somerby into his senility, I beg anyone to suggest a stupider example.

  4. How is it that Bob's fans need to clarity the point of his every post? Might his posts be incoherent and inscrutable? We don't know.

    1. Because trolls are being deliberately obtuse -- unlike you, I do know.

  5. The fainting-couchless "troll" whiners are out in force.


  6. Don't you just love it when Somerby evokes his college years?

  7. OMB (Does BOB think You're Dumber than a Box of Rocks...)

    Or Stupider than a Sack of Hammers?

    Let's watch BOB show his intelligence. Mixing pinball with philosophy. Pacific Island anthropology with a fictionalized 19th century tale of a 17th century economic bubble bursting.

    His fans go wild. And his point? Cable news tends to wallow in stories which can be easily covered and understood by viewers.

    Ah, but BOB can't let this simple message pass without fancying it up a bit with relatively obscure and personal demonstrations of intellect all
    served up to take a pot shot at a favorite target.

    In this post, it is Maddow. And his shot?

    Why there were three "news stories" about David Samson and Maddow covered none of them, meaning her earlier coverage, like the price of undelivered bulbs in Hollland, was a false bubble that burst.

    First, there were not three "news stories."

    1) Bob's description of the Bergen Record's major feature is as exaggerated and misleading about its content as a Rachel Maddow characterization of a Ft. Lee Police Chief e-mail. The story was about
    long term operations of the Port Authority board dating back to before Sampson's tenure. Virtually all the information about Samson has already been covered on Maddow's show, some of which drew criticism from BOB for the fact Maddow covered it. And it was not news. It was analysis.

    BOB misled. 'That's crazy" cry the hammers angrily in their sack.

    2) The Bergen Record reported on Thursday the PA board was "reconsidering" the infamous $1 a year parking lot deal. Except BOB doesn't tell you that the reconsideration line was in the Bergen Record's Wednesday report as well. Before the meeting finished Wednesday, reconsideration turned into a plan to get a staff report in April, hardly news for anyone, including Maddow, by Wednesday night's broadcast. BOB said the NY Times reported it as well. He didn't link to it. We couldn't find it.

    BOB misled. "Vile trolls" rant the rocks in the box.

    3) Maddow failed to report the raft of subpoenas issued for Samson records last week. BOB tells you she last mentioned Samson March 10. Except Maddow covered the subpoenas in that March 10 broadcast. BOB covered the March 10 broadcast on March 11. Except he failed to cover the part of Maddow devoted to the subpoenas. And he failed to mention his own glaring omission here.

    BOB misled. "Why do you read BOB if you don't like him" hiss the hammers and rumble the rocks?

    For the same reason BOB covers the topics he covers. No part of the collapse of our intellectual culture is too small to ignore. We worry about dumb rocks in boxes. We sympathize with hammers in sacks. We may care about black children too. Anything is possible.


    1. This post from Bob is a classic example of the Somerby Technique of typing up whatever random thought crosses his mind, and his rocks and hammers calling it brilliant.

      Wouldn't you love to print this out and hand it to a room full of high school composition teachers to grade?

    2. That's crazy, you vile troll. Why do you keep coming here?

      You continue your vendetta without explanation. Bob did well enough in high school to get into Harvard. If I had more energy I could demonstrate why his random thoughts when connected show you fail to understand why late night wine drinking and keyboards don't mix.

  8. Nate Silver hires global warming deniers who diss Al Gore. Ezra Klein hires homophobic homowriters. And all we get here are discussions comparing mid twentieth century pinball machines to cable news?

  9. "Soon, Hayes was making factual errors as he displayed the snarky style he has been taught by the suits since his move to prime time.

    Hayes dished a lot of snark, making several mistakes as he did."

    Since Somerby does not list those mistakes, we will chalk this unfounded charge up to bad journalism of the Rachel Maddow variety.

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