LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: "Her performance of the Rachel figure!"


Interlude—Grand finale tomorrow:
We've very very very sick of our ongoing report, of our discussion of Janet Malcolm's weird and endless profile of Rachel Maddow.

At the end of last week, we decided to continue our discussion into this second week because we were fascinated by Malcolm's reference to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." You can hardly blame us for that!

What exactly did Malcolm mean by "her performance of the Rachel figure?" What did she mean when she referred to "Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show?"

We still think those are fascinating, important questions. But we're truly sick of reading that ludicrous profile, which appeared in our brainiest upper-class magazine.

Our initial question remains the same. What does it mean when a profile which is so inane can appear, at such mammoth length, in an upper-class, allegedly high-IQ publication like The New Yorker?

What does the publication of such transparent nonsense say about our upper-class journalistic culture? What does it say about us liberals? Those are still very good questions.

We also think it's interesting to consider Maddow's alleged "performance of the Rachel figure." What did Malcolm mean by that? We think it's well worth exploring that question.

That said, we'll wrap the whole thing up tomorrow. We just can't face it today.

What is involved in Rachel Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure?" We've been watching that play for the past nine years. Tomorrow, we'll mine Malcolm's profile for clues.


  1. It illustrates that for many years the New Yorker has included outstanding literature and mediocre, far left political analysis. If Bob weren't a lefty he'd be more aware at how poorly reasoned most of their political articles are.

    1. "poorly reasoned?"
      I'm not sure you're one to judge anyone's reasoning abilities, given how you think Trump "won" the war against ISIS.

  2. "Grand finale tomorrow"
    Then, ding-dong the witch will be dead, and there will be no need for a single additional column about her, right? TDH readers will heave a sigh of relief.

  3. You're not the only one sick of this series.

  4. Outstanding series! An excellent and quite revealing exploration of the essence of "the Rachel character". It's obviously ruffled a few "Rachel" fans' feathers along the way, but those same fans, once they get over their initial apparent hurt and anger, will be all the better people for the experience.

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  8. I agree completely about that outstanding comment. Even if Rachel strikes many liberals as somehow funny and not at all worrisome (for me, her insistence that what she does is like what John Stewart does, even though Stewart patiently tried to explain to her in real time, unsuccessfully it seems, why that's a problem, is a very striking thing all by itself), isn't it possible that liberals should spend less time laughing at the likes of her wacky, often misleading takes on the news and more time trying to figure out exactly why it is that Republicans, if they're so obviously and predictably buffoonish and wrong, nonetheless tend to control such a disproportionate percentage of the apparatus of government at the local, state, and national levels?

    Much of what Bob writes about here points in the right direction, but it often does so in a take-no-prisoners way that leaves many liberals scrambling to defend their deeply flawed status quo. In contrast, laughter is always fun, but heaven knows, not always helpful. The title of Neil Postman's now long-ago book on a not-unrelated topic seems relevant here: Amusing Ourselves to Death. That concept seems not far removed from what a show like Rachel's seems designed, wittingly or not, to do, but in a party-selective way.

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