Something good from Slate and The Huffington Post: Believe it or not, something good just happened with the left-leaning press corps.
At Slate and at The Huffington Post, writers presented aggressive reports criticizing the work of Rachel Maddow. In particular, they criticized last Thursday night's 25-minute report about the recent deaths in Niger.
Willa Frej wrote the piece at The Huffington Post. It appeared beneath these headlines:
What The Hell Was This Rachel Maddow Segment?That quotation came from Laura Seay, an assistant professor at Colby College and an Africa specialist. "No, that's crazy," Seay had said about Maddow's speculative insinuations from the night before.
“Everybody that I know is appalled by this.”
In her own report at Slate, Seay said that Maddow had "crosse[d] the line from reasonable speculation to irresponsible conspiracy-mongering" in her error-strewn Thursday night report about the situation in Chad and Niger. Here's a chunk from that report:
SEAY (10/20/17): Maddow’s approach to this story—“just asking questions” that are neither based in evidence nor likely to contribute to an accurate understanding of what happened in Niger and why—drags liberals down the same path that conservatives traveled with Benghazi, one of irrational, fearmongering claims that only serve to prolong the suffering of the families of the fallen while doing nothing to explain the root causes of the event. In doing so, Maddow also preyed upon Americans’ lack of knowledge about Africa, a widespread problem that ranges from not understanding how large the continent is to major news organizations mislabeling maps for national broadcast.If you want to know what those key errors were, you can read the reports by Frej and Seay. Also, try this report from Mediaite, or this Politico piece.
Maddow’s speculation, which mirrors a conspiracy theory pushed by the Palmer Report, a fringe website, might be tempting to believe, but it makes several key errors.
Saturday, in a series of tweets, Seay offered this overview:
SEAY (10/21/17): There are 2 possibilities here. One is that @maddow & her team are genuinely confused by these dynamics & not getting help from an expert. The other is that @maddow & her team are deliberately twisting facts to mislead viewers into believing something that isn't true.In our view, Maddow's error-strewn insiniations were pretty much par for the course for her work. On Friday night, she offered this rather typical, slippery non-reaction reaction to what had been said that day:
As a longtime viewer of the show & fan of @maddow herself, I'm deeply disappointed either way. I really hope that @maddow & @MaddowBlog will call any of the many experts on extremist groups in the Sahel who can sort out the facts here.
MADDOW (10/20/17): Over the course of the day today, lots of people have been very upset with me for reporting that last night, which is fine. I didn't know you cared.You'll note that Maddow never explained what she'd been criticized for. Nor did she invite an Africa specialist to discuss her insinuations from the night before.
But the upset over my reporting that last night doesn't mean that anything I reported wasn't true. Everything I reported was true.
Now, this doesn't—this also doesn't mean that Chad withdrawing their troops was necessarily the cause of what happened to those U.S. troops who were ambushed. That ambush is being described by the Pentagon a shock, and there's an investigation into what went wrong there, how it was the military had no idea what was coming and they were so unprepared for that.
But, honestly, if you are looking at the central domestic mystery here, which is why didn't the president even acknowledge those deaths in the worst combat casualties of his presidency, he was asked today by NBC News if he had ordered the mission that resulted in those deaths, and the president just walked away without saying anything. He is not acknowledging or speaking to or commemorating in any way the loss of those soldiers. He's made no public pronouncements about it whatsoever.
And if you are interested in the central mystery of why the president is so reluctant to talk about that or take questions on that—well, it really is true that his administration just took what is widely believed to be absolutely inexplicable action to alienate and anger and insult the country that has been our most effective military partner against Islamic militants in the part of the world where these attacks just happened.
Instead, she simply repeated the statements she had made the night before. She failed to explain why Seay and Frey and others said her insinuations from the night before had been absurdly bogus.
(You can base a crazy insinuation on perfectly accurate facts. We feel sure that Maddow knows this.)
Seay said she was disappointed by Maddow, of whom she said she's a fan. That may mean that Professor Seay has never fact-checked Maddow before, and has never watched her cover a topic where Seay possessed expertise.
We have fact-checked Maddow before, many times. The results are routinely quite poor. Beyond that lies a larger story—the many important topics Maddow has aggressively ducked down through the years, giving us mugging and clowning and entertainment instead. Also, pleasing theories designed to make us liberals feel good when we retire for the night!
It's encouraging to see The Huffington Post and Slate speak in detail about Maddow's slippery techniques. We offer this final excerpt from Frey's essay at Slate:
FREJ (10/20/17): “By reducing the story to its mythic fundamentals,” Janet Malcolm wrote earlier this month, “Maddow creates the illusion of completeness that novels and short stories create. We feel that this is the story as we listen to and watch her tell it.”We think it's heathly when unimpressed liberals start comparing Maddow to Hannity and even to Jones. For the record, that "Benghazi controversy" is the one Maddow completely ducked in the fall of 2012 when it was dangerous and hot, thus enabling the crazy theories which helped defeat Hillary Clinton four years later.
It’s a tactic that right-wing hosts like Sean Hannity and Alex Jones have perfected, building myths using unrelated or unreliable information in ways that brought us the birther lie and the Benghazi controversy, putting the country on a path to fake news and the Trump presidency.
On Thursday, Maddow reduced the story so thoroughly that it lost any semblance of the larger truth.
This time around, in 2016, she completely ducked the July attack launched by Comey the God. Rachel tends to play it safe, correctly assuming that no one in the liberal guild will notice, complain or care.
Massive wealth and massive fame tend to be deeply destructive. Corporate TV star Rachel Maddow has endured a great deal of both.
Greta's her bestest drinking pal. Greta, the birther enabler!