Weirdness watch: How weird is the Rachel Maddow Show?


Last night's first eight minutes:
How weird is the Rachel Maddow Show? Consider the way the program's host burned away her first eight minutes last night.

Maddow started in a familiar way. "We've got a big show tonight," she said. "There's a lot going on today in the news. There's a lot going on in politics."

Maddow listed a few of the things which were going on in the news. She then burned the next eight minutes ignoring those newsworthy topics.

She started in one of her typical ways, discussing something she can't explain—and talking about someone's mustache. No, we actually didn't invent this typical, ill-advised bullshit:
MADDOW (4/20/16): I want to start tonight with something that I'll tell you, off the bat, I cannot explain it. It's legitimately weird. Maybe you can explain it, but I can't.

And it concerns this guy—concerns this handsome gentleman. His name is Eliot Engel.

He's one of the more recognizable members of Congress. In any setting, in any picture, if people are holding still or moving really fast, you can tell if he's somewhere in the frame because Eliot Engel, as you can see, he has a truly heroic, giant mustache.

It's a completely different size than the whole rest of him. Clown shoes are to clowns what Eliot Engel's mustache is to Eliot Engel.

I say that with total affection. My dad had a mustache for most of my life that looked exactly like Eliot Engel's mustache. He has since shaved it, but I still think of him as kind of looking like Eliot Engel, at least between the nose and top lip.

Anyway, because he reminds me of my dad before my dad shaved, because he has inarguably the best Democratic mustache in American politics, Congressman Eliot Engel of New York was easy to spot on stage last night as a whole giant crowd of New York state Democrats crowded on stage with Hillary Clinton, as she finished up her victory speech in Manhattan.

So amid former Mayor David Dinkins, and current mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the attorney general for New York, Eric Schneiderman, all these other New York officials, all these people up there, there unmistakably, right, is Eliot Engel, right behind Hillary Clinton there.

See, there's the mustache? Mr. Mustachio!

Eliot Engel and his mustache represent a district just north of New York in Westchester County.
It's a very heavily Democratic district. It also turned out last night to be a very pro-Clinton district. Hillary Clinton won that congressional district last night by a 38-point margin.
To peruse the full transcript, click here.

At this point, Maddow is about to describe the news event she says she can't explain. Before we discuss that topic, consider what she had already done.

In that opening passage, you see several of Maddow's defining traits. For starters, you see her unfailing instinct to talk about herself in every conceivable circumstance.

Before her news show reported any news last night, she decided to talk about her father's mustache. This is fairly typical stuff from this weirdly self-referential person.

You see a second familiar instinct in that opening passage. In her string of comments about Engel's mustache, you see the instinct she announced long ago, when she said she doesn't want a more grown-up public discourse.

Maddow went on and on, for several minutes, about Rep. Engel's mustache. We said that conduct was ill-advised. Here's why:

Do you know how hard it is to convince our "journalists" that they shouldn't engage in such discussions? That they shouldn't engage in endless, trivial, irrelevant talk about public officials' appearances, including their clothing, their shoes and their hairstyles?

Given the nature of the baboons who constitute the American "press corps," it takes a lot of work by their trainers to convince them not to do this—to convince them that they shouldn't be talking about earth tones, three-button suits, polo shirts and cowboy boots. Or about the hairstyle and wardrobe of Howard Dean's wife, as Maureen Dowd did in two disgraceful columns about Dr. Judith Steinberg back in 2004.

Especially in the age of Dowd, the baboons who serve in our national press corps love discussing such matters. It's hard to get them not to do it. Along comes Maddow, with her vast sense of license, encouraging them to dispense with this wise sense of restraint.

Maddow is one of the least disciplined people we've ever seen in the press. Her sense of entitlement is overpowering, vast. For some reason, she thinks it makes sense to say that Rep. Engel's mustache represents a form of clown shoes, as long as she says that she offers that comment with total affection.

Maddow burned roughly three minutes discussing Engel's mustache. Her sense of entitlement is vast. It's a shame that she's still on the air, but the firm is making money from her incessant clowning.

That said, the larger weirdness to this opening effort came when Maddow began to discuss the topic she can't explain. This seems to involve a reporting error from Tuesday's election in New York, but there's no way to say, given Maddow's lack of effort and discipline.

Once Maddow finally stopped musing about Engel's mustache and the way it makes her think of dear old dad, she described some peculiar election results from Engel's congressional district. According to Maddow, an early return on Tuesday night showed Ben Carson getting a strangely large number of votes.

Also according to Maddow, when the final results were released, they showed Carson getting a substantially smaller number of votes.

Maddow said she can't explain it, but that maybe we can. This raises a fairly obvious question—why would she open her show with an apparently trivial matter which she can't explain? Maddow's weird instincts then came to the fore when she proceeded to express a view about this thing which she can't explain. Here you see some very bad judgment joined to some very dumb thinking:
MADDOW: Ben Carson went from 2,056 votes to 162 votes...That saved Ted Cruz from a fourth place finish [in that one congressional district] to a guy who is no longer running and hasn't been for weeks.

What happened there?

New York is a cosmopolitan, fairly well off state that just had presidential primaries in both parties that were unusually consequential and exciting. Millions of dollars were spent by the candidates to inspire voter turnout. Dozens if not hundreds of candidate events were held in New York City and in New York state. Palpable enthusiasm across New York for this presidential contest this year and still, New York is so screwed up.

New York makes it so difficult to vote in this state that New York's voter turnout was worse voter turnout than every other state that has held a primary so far this year other than Louisiana,
which is also a disaster, but everybody expects that from Louisiana. New York has archaic, arcane, terribly run, non-transparent, super-sketchy elections and they have forever, thanks to the fact that the elections in this state are organized and administered by the state of government of New York, which proudly features what I think is inarguably the most inconsistently and flagrantly corrupt state legislature in the entire nation, at least as measured by indictments and convictions, right?

I mean, there's a lot of competition for most corrupt state legislature. But New York.

Even so, even with Ted Cruz appearing to benefit from a last minute surge of minus 1,800 votes for Ben Carson in one congressional district—Ben Carson, who was apparently beating him in that district! Huh? What?

Nevertheless, the results were stark enough in New York that even the disaster that is the election system in this state, it cannot disguise the overall story of what happened here.
That is a very strange rant. That said, it's par for the course for the very strange person who fronts the Maddow Show.

Maddow opened this rumination by saying she doesn't know why Carson's vote total changed in that congressional district.

One possibility? It could have been an initial reporting error, a type of event which seems to happen fairly often in American elections. But after wasting about three minutes discussing the local congressman's mustache, Maddow headed down a road which ended with her denouncing the whole state of New York for its allegedly "super-sketchy" elections.

Maddow marveled at the fact that New York had a lower turnout rate than other primary states this year. She failed to note one obvious factor—unlike other states, New York's primaries are restricted to registered Republicans and Democrats.

Other states let everyone vote. You can even jump into the other party's primary, trying to screw up their candidate selection process. Whatever one thinks of these different approaches, it isn't especially hard to see why New York's turnout would be lower than that in an "open voting" primary state.

Maddow took a different approach. She implied that scandal was involved, or something like that. It's impossible to say, from her long formless rant, what point she was trying to make.

She almost seemed to be suggesting that someone was trying to help Ted Cruz avoid the embarrassment of finishing fourth behind Carson in one congressional district. Strange as Maddow is becoming, this undisciplined semi-suggestion is basically par for the course.

(For what it's worth, New York's total Democratic vote this Tuesday was roughly equal to that from the primary in 2008.)

Let's review:

Maddow started last night's show with a long discussion of a congressman's mustache. She then embarked on a weird discussion of something she can't explain.

Almost twenty-four hours later, had she even tried to figure it out? Had she asked election officials about the changed total for Carson?

There was no indication that she had. Instead, she was off on a rant.

Here's the ultimate problem:

By now, the Maddow Show's peculiar host had burned eight minutes off the start of her alleged news program. She had started the program by listing the important events taking place in the world. She then proceeded to burn eight minutes talking about her father's mustache and ranting about a set of alleged problems she didn't bother defining.

Maddow wastes time the way other folk breathe. This practice is becoming one of the defining traits of her ridiculous "cable news" program.

One last point:

You can't see what we're about to mention. The Maddow Show had enough sense not to post the videotape from this latest ridiculous effort.

That said, Maddow didn't seem to have done a thorough review of the election data which had her so upset. In the preliminary results which she showed on the air, Carson was shown receiving 12% of the Republican vote in Engel's 16th congressional district.

That would seem like a strangely large number of votes. However, the same document which Maddow displayed on the air showed Carson getting 9% of the vote in the 17th district. Whatever was happening in the 16th district, it also seemed to be happening over there.

Normally, journalists try to learn what they're talking about before they go on the air and spout. Maddow, though, is profoundly undisciplined.

She's getting more so all the time. Inevitably, this is what happens when you pay people millions of dollars and shower them with sudden, massive fame.

Final plea: it's very hard to get these baboons to stop discussing public officials' boots, shoes, polo shirts, sweaters, pant suits, bald spots and hair.

That said, the peculiar host of the Maddow Show doesn't want a grown up discussion. We're all paying the price for this Peter Pan's very strange privileged conduct.


  1. The troll is going to hate this one.

    1. The troll loves Bob criticizing Maddow for not asking someone about something. The troll has not seen evidence Bob has asked anyone he has written about anything in the last seventeen years. The troll noticed Bob used to do that in his first year.

      The troll also delights in the interest in Howlerland generated by Bob's second attack on Maddow today. Because heaven's knows, as Rachel goes, so goes the whole journalistic culture.

      Keep those cards and letters rolling in.

      And watch this space.

    2. Complaining about Maddow is so stupid.

      Complaining about Somerby? Genius!

    3. Complaints? Who doesn't love the naked old guy ranting on the street corner who thinks he is the little boy who is the only one who sees the emperor has no clothes.

    4. They let naked people rant on street corners in your town?

    5. 8:10, an interesting pattern is emerging, especially when Bob opens with another extended rant about Maddow.

      What's left of Bob's readership is clicking on to see what he's written about today, find that it's another Maddow rant, then clicks off.

      This would explain his horribly high "bounce rate" as well as the short amount of average time spent on this blog -- barely over two minutes, the time it takes to read the headline and a couple of paragraphs.

      Unfortunately, Boxcar Bob can't see the rut he's in, so he keeps playing what he thinks are his "greatest hits" not even realizing how boring he's become.

      Compare and contrast this blog with Uncle Drum's. Drum has his click-bait bones to chew as well, but he also writes about lots of issues -- not just people, but issues -- every day. And he does it in such a clear, concise manner that he invites discussion.

      And he will get more activity in his combox in a single post that takes Somerby months to generate in all his posts combined.

      And slowly, surely, the traffic to this blog keeps dwindling to the point where this national "pioneer of political blogging" isn't attracting the attention of a Kansas City vanity blog written by a wannabe reporter.

      (U.S. rank of The Daily Howler: 163,530. U.S. rank of Tony's Kansas City: 78,640.)

      If you've been a reader since he went to Blogspot and a combox five years ago to make his blog more interactive, think of all the people who used to comment here daily who are gone altogether, or commwent very seldomly.

    6. 1. Kevin Drum blogs for a living. He is paid to write what he does. His blog has advertising and sells subscriptions.
      2. Most of the comments on Kevin Drum's blog are idle chatter, much like any blog. There is no troll traffic because his comments are moderated. Trolls traffic drives away the community, so people don't bother with the comments here. It is too sad to be here because of you guys.
      3. Somerby's blog has a clearly defined purpose and he sticks to it. Not everyone is interested, nor should they be. People differ. Those who are interested have been here a long time but rarely comment unless they have some point to make.
      4. The statistics you are citing are intended to assess marketing potential of blog traffic. You are misusing them when you try to assess whether people care about Somerby's topic or like what he writes.
      5. I miss the people who used to be here. I blame you and your ilk for driving them off, not Somerby.
      6. I sometimes skim the day's post, as you describe, then move on. Those are the days when I am busy or traveling. But why comment when the same trolls say the same derogatory stuff, and the conservatives spew their bizarre links and make racist statements? Most sane people with other sources of entertainment in their lives will not waste time arguing with you.
      7. Why do I bother? I will spend the rest of the day thinking about that and let you know tomorrow.

  2. Like with Dowd, you have proved to me RM is a loon.

    1. Dowd also proved RM a loon?


    Mastering the Manteuffel Challenge

    Asked our Own Standup Comic Bob recently:

    "Should journalists compare candidates to roaches and rodents?"

    Answered our Modern Blogospheric Scold:

    "For what it's worth, comparisons to rodents, insects and machines have long constituted a basic element of dehumanization and otherization, dating at least to the famous, evil killing regime of Europe's you-know-whos.

    Bob Somerby

    "Tribalism watch: Taking the Manteuffel Challenge!

    SATURDAY, MARCH 19, 2016"

    In barely more than a month, Bob has proven himself up to the Mantueffel challenge.

    "Given the nature of the baboons who constitute the American "press corps," it takes a lot of work by their trainers... the baboons who serve in our national press corps love discussing such matters...Final plea: it's very hard to get these baboons to stop discussing public officials' boots, shoes, polo shirts, sweaters, pant suits, bald spots and hair."

    That Bob! Hitting a trifecta dating to Europe's you-know-whos.

    1. And, as usual, you see no difference between a journalist with a national podium and self-styled media critic Somerby on his vanity blog.

    2. Perhaps you should fault me for not seeing the difference between insect-rodent and baboon in the dehumanization of the hated others?

      As usual you defend someone who politely screams "Nazi" at someone one day for doing exactly what he himself has done before and then does again shortly after. Or is it the Nazis you are defending? Not sure which, but it has to be one or the other in the logic of Howlerland.

    3. I get it 10:33.

      It's only a sin when a journalist does it. It's always a virtue when Somerby does it.

    4. It's irrelevant when Somerby does it. Because he isn't a journalist.

      Trolls don't do rhetorical devices or figurative language or humor, much less irony, so it is unsurprising you don't understand.

      Here's another one. Persistence is a virtue when Somerby does it -- you, not so much.

    5. Sadly @ 1:11 Bob is a journalist. He's just a bad one who like to cover other journalists.

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