Rachel meets Crazy Eddie: In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman has an instructive column about the current Obamacare problem.
We're assuming his column is accurate. But this is what we had in mind when we said that Rachel Maddow should stop entertaining us with the latest profusion of polls and should start informing us about important matters instead.
We were also struck by David Brooks' new column. Sitting across the page from Krugman, he caught our eye with this account of the lunacy of modern pseudo-conservatism:
BROOKS (10/28/16): The conservative intellectual landscape has changed in three important ways since [the 1980s], paving the way for the ruination of the Republican Party.Later, Brooks delivers another blow. "As conservatism has become a propagandistic, partisan movement it has become less vibrant, less creative and less effective."
First, talk radio, cable TV and the internet have turned conservative opinion into a mass-market enterprise. Small magazines have been overwhelmed by Rush, O’Reilly and Breitbart.
Today’s dominant conservative voices try to appeal to people by the millions. You win attention in the mass media through perpetual hysteria and simple-minded polemics and by exploiting social resentment. In search of that mass right-wing audience that, say, Coulter enjoys, conservatism has done its best to make itself offensive to people who value education and disdain made-for-TV rage.
It’s ironic that an intellectual tendency that champions free markets was ruined by the forces of commercialism, but that is the essential truth. Conservatism went down-market in search of revenue. It got swallowed by its own anti-intellectual media-politico complex—from Beck to Palin to Trump.
For ourselves, we were never fans of the conservative movement to start with. That said, Brooks clearly describes the crackpot mercantile forces which have turned the conservative movement into the lunatic enterprise it is today.
He's even willing to name the names of the media figures—Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Breitbart, Beck. At this point, the downward spiral is even leading to the utter craziness of the utterly crazy, or deeply mercantile, Alex Jones, whose lunacy is going unexplored within our major news orgs.
Brooks describes the way the crackpots have crazified the right. We couldn't help thinking of Maddow as we read this.
We single her out because her success at selling herself has made her the face of the mercantile, corporate pseudo-left. The relentless dumbing-down of her TV show matches a process which has occurred all over the web and the cable left.
All over the money-making web and cable left, we meant to say.
Maddow's program has been hugely dumbed down. In the process, it has been turned into an entertainment vehicle. It has also become the Vatican City of The Cult of Maddow.
On October 13, she opened her show with maybe ten minutes of pointless recollection about the dimwitted old TV show in which Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone's vault. As usual, we the viewers got hear her talking about herself.
("It was a two-hour special that aired April 21st, 1986. I had just turned 13 and I remember watching it. And honestly, it's not that weird that I watched it, because statistically speaking, basically everybody watched it....I read one report, they also found a stop sign down there? Maybe, but I don't remember that from when I watched it from when I was 13...It was, in its own way, it was totally, nihilistically awesome.")
"I I I I I I I," our analysts cry at such points.
That was the evening of the Geraldo/Al Capone reverie. This Monday, she opened with maybe five irrelevant minutes about the old Crazy Eddie TV ads.
("Starting in 1975 and running through the end of the 1980s, there were more than 7,000 of these various, deliberately manic, low-fi, screaming Crazy Eddie ads. They all end with that tag line, 'His prices are insane!'")
In fairness, this topic had special appeal for Maddow, since the story ended with Crazy Eddie going to prison.
We thought of this relentless dumbing-down when we read Brooks' column. He describes the way grifters of the corporate right have, in the fullness of time, turned conservatives into lunatics.
You may think it couldn't happen Over Here. For what it's worth, Brooks almost seems to be saying that it already has:
BROOKS: This is a sad story. But I confess I’m insanely optimistic about a conservative rebound. That’s because of an observation the writer Yuval Levin once made: That while most of the crazy progressives are young, most of the crazy conservatives are old. Conservatism is now being led astray by its seniors, but its young people are pretty great. It’s hard to find a young evangelical who likes Donald Trump. Most young conservatives are comfortable with ethnic diversity and are weary of the Fox News media-politico complex.Could we in our own brilliant tribe possibly get our brains turned to mush by the efforts of people like Maddow? In our view, it's already happening, to a deeply unfortunate extent.
We're getting sold a lot of crap by people making a lot of money. Maddow has been lunified by the process right before our eyes. In fairness, many people lose their way when they're saddled with giant barrels of money and with cult-level fame.
How far could this dumbing-down process extend? We have no idea. But we thought of Maddow once again when we read this post at New York Magazine.
As they say on cable: "And that's next."