TRIBAL FICTIONS: More specifically, fictions delivered to us Over Here!


Maddow and Lemon and Toobin:
Last Tuesday evening, as Thanksgiving approached, Rachel Maddow was at it again.

Already, she'd floated several loaded claims in the course of her opening segment. In the course of the hour, she'd go on to offer an unfounded condemnation of a major figure from the Justice Department of the Nixon era.

Now, midway through her opening segment, she turned to a new topic. As she did, she returned to a favorite master narrative. This pleasing narrative involves former Trump aide Don McGahn:
MADDOW (11/20/18): The New York Times also made news tonight with a sort of odd story about President Trump attempting to order the Justice Department to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump's 2016 presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The headline and the whole lead section of this article tonight in the Times details an episode that reportedly happened this spring in which President Trump is said to have told his White House counsel Don McGahn that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute both James Comey and Hillary Clinton.

According to this new reporting in the New York Times, the White House counsel Don McGahn responded to that by creating a memo for the president that spelled out for him all the reasons why such an order would be a bad idea.

And so once again, this is another one of these stories, and there have been dozens of them, where Trump White House counsel Don McGahn has saved the day. Trump wanted to do a terrible thing. Don McGahn made sure terrible thing did not happen.

Sources close to Don McGahn say he doesn't want your accolades. He doesn't want your thanks. It`s enough for him. It`s reward in itself to be a loyal American who's always trying to do what's right. I mean, this is a whole genre of weird Trump White House reporting:

Sources close to Don McGahn say Don McGahn did heroic thing.

To watch Maddow's full presentation of this topic, you can just click here. Her performance style will let you enjoy a whole lot of good solid fun.

Let's be fair! So far, Maddow's account of this Times news report was, at least, factually accurate.

As Maddow spoke, the news report she was describing could only be seen online. But the Times report would appear on the front page of Wednesday morning's print editions—and it did report that Donald J. Trump, at some point in the spring of 2018, told Don McGahn that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Comey and Clinton.

That is what the news report said. It also said that McGahn told Trump that this was a bad idea—that it would even be a bad idea to order a mere investigation of Comey and Clinton.

For ourselves, we can't tell you if those events actually happened. But so far, Maddow was right about what the Times report said.

As you can see for yourself at this link, that's what the Times report said. So far, Maddow's account of the news report was, at least, factually accurate.

That said:

In the passage we've posted, you can see where Maddow took things from there. She let us enjoy some familiar snark about news reports (she calls them "stories") in which "sources close to Don McGahn say Don McGahn did a heroic thing."

This has been a favorite storyline for Maddow for at least the past year. Presumably, she was suggesting that those "sources close to McGahn" were embellishing their tale about the way McGahn performed his "heroic" service.

Maddow loves this pleasing tale, to which she often returns. But this is where her tribally pleasing performance last Tuesday did in fact start breaking down.

Go ahead! Read the actual news report, the report which appeared in the Times. See if you think that Maddow's mocking account of those unnamed sources comports with what they're quoted saying in the actual Times report.

Sadly, no! Maddow's mocking account (it continues below) can't be squared with the actual comments by those "sources close to McGahn." Already, Maddow was treating us viewers like fools. But as she continued, she advanced from mockery and embellishment to flat-out, groaning misstatement.

Let's be fair! The multimillionaire corporate star's account did remain tribally pleasing. But in the passage shown below, her account stops being factually accurate. Her account is now groaningly false:
MADDOW (continuing directly): What is amazing about this New York Times piece that is published tonight, though, is the whole first part of the story is about Trump saying he wants to order these prosecutions, right? He wants to order the prosecution of Comey and Clinton, and McGahn heroically explains to the president, and puts in writing, that that would be a terrible idea.

But then, eight paragraphs into this story, there is this sort of parenthetical reference—oh, by the way, also some time last year, quote, "Mr. Trump's lawyers did privately ask the Justice Department to investigate Mr. Comey. Law enforcement officials declined their requests."

OK. So here we have, you know, a Superman story, short of a cape, in which White House counsel Don McGahn is stopping Trump from doing this terrible thing, stopping Trump from injecting himself into law enforcement matters to try to start an investigation into Clinton and Comey. But also we should also mention, eight paragraphs in, that Don McGahn did go to the Justice Department and tell them to start investigating Comey.


So, huh?
Before she was done, this tribal lion went on to snark, one last time, about "the ersatz heroism of Don McGahn and the sources near him." For a corporate money-maker like Maddow, this is just good solid fun.

That said, alas! In the last two paragraphs we've posted, Maddow has made one blatant factual error, and she has seemed to massively bungle her basic time line. Her account of the Times news report has now become flatly false—though, in fairness, her account and her performance did remain tribally pleasing.

"Cable news" is a big corporate business. Much of what you're handed there is bogus, misleading or false.

That is true on the Fox News Channel. But it's also true Over Here.

We humans! Because we're tribal animals, we're strongly inclined to put our faith in our own tribe's anointed leaders. We believe that The Others are peddling falsehoods. We're strongly disinclined to consider the possibility that we're getting hustled too.

We're wired to trust our own tribal gods. All week long, we'll show you the way those gods—Maddow and Lemon and Toobin and such—have kept finding ways to fail.

Tomorrow: What the Times report actually says

Same old same-old: If MSNBC ever gets around to posting last Tuesday's transcript, they will post it here.


  1. Maddow and Lemon and Toobin are all paid by Right-wing corporations. Liberals have no "tribal Gods" working in the corporate media.

  2. Never criticize liberals. Criticize conservatives. Look at Fox. Dem's worse.

  3. Goebbelsian rag nytimes and goebbelsian "star" Rachel Maddow are worth each other.

    1. This from the Goebbels emulator himself

  4. “she'd floated several loaded claims in the course of her opening segment. In the course of the hour, she'd go on to offer an unfounded condemnation of a major figure from the Justice Department of the Nixon era.”

    Somerby offers no examples or justification for these accusations.

    About McGahn:
    “This has been a favorite storyline for Maddow for at least the past year.”

    Again, no examples cited. The last time McGahn/Maddow was mentioned by Somerby was back in March. Back then, Somerby was not criticizing Maddow for her “favorite storyline”, which in today’s post seems to be that McGahn acted heroically, except that, in the very next paragraph, he criticizes Maddow for suggesting that "sources close to McGahn" were embellishing their tale to make McGahn look heroic, and that THIS was the pleasing tale she loves to which she always returns. It isn’t entirely clear which of these two he means when he refers to “this”, aka Maddow’s favorite storyline, but these two potential storylines are rather opposed to one another. At any rate, they aren’t the same thing. Somerby is completely unclear on this point; back in March, he criticized her for misreading a Times article, and it was his contention then that:
    “Don McGahn had made Trump back down! Cable hosts and viewers loved it!”

    “McGahn wants to get favorable stories out. The Times wants to post "breaking news."”

    So, back then, it was *Somerby* who accused McGahn of manipulating the press in order to get a favorable story out and chastises Maddow for falling for it.
    (Somerby can surely justify his use of the word “story” back then, even though he mocks every other English speaker who uses this word to mean “news report.”) Now that Maddow questions the motivations of the sources, Somerby criticizes her for doing what he himself did.

    “In the last two paragraphs we've posted, Maddow has made one blatant factual error, and she has seemed to massively bungle her basic time line.”

    Again, with all the time and space in the world, Somerby spends the bulk of his post, which is ostensibly a critique of Maddow, telling us what she got *right*, and then fails to specify her (in his view) blatant factual error or to prove how she bungled her time line. The reader is left to guess what Somerby means.

    1. Luckily, you will only be left to guess about the accusations for a few days as this appears to be the first in a series about the topic.

      You can share your fruitless, quixotic broodings on each and every example and justification as they slowly drip in my sweet, fair darling.

    2. What is the point of Somerby dripping them in? He can cover it in a single post, and then move on to something else. Surely, Maddow has committed vast sins that are worthy of a post each. Otherwise, it looks like pointless time filling and makes his argument look weak, sloppy, and counterproductive. His whole argument about her “favorite storyline” is gibberish, and won’t be resolved by further installments. But hey, if that’s what floats your boat..

  5. Somerby could have explained what's wrong with Maddow's story with half the space he used today to not explain.

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