We don't know if Maddow agrees: Famously, Mr. T pitied the fool.
Way back in 1968, Bob Dylan said he pities Trump.
("That man who with his fingers cheats, who lies with every breath...Who falls in love with wealth itself and turns his back on me.")
For ourselves, we pity the poor American citizen to whom the most obvious question occurs.
Within our tribalized journalistic system, such questions will routinelgo unaddressed. Information is no longer the coin of the realm. Tribalized narrative is.
Consider the question which occurred to us after the perpetually ludicrous Roger Stone was sentenced to forty months in prison. Our question shaped up like this:
On Monday, February 10, the Justice Department originally recommended a sentence of 7-9 years for Stone (more precisely, 87-108 months) The next day, that recommendation was amended.
Attorney General William Barr had been involved in this switch. This new, amended recommendation included these statements:
AMENDED SENTENCING RECOMMENDATION (2/11/20): The defendant committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to satisfy the factors set forth in Section 3553(a).Even in the amended recommendation, the DOJ said that Stone "committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration." However, the amended recommendation said that a sentence of "far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances."
Based on the facts known to the government, Mb and unwarranted under the circumstances.
At one point, the amended recommendation suggested that a term of 37 to 46 months might be "more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases." That said, the amended recommendation "ultimately deferred to the Court" without specifically recommending a specific term of imprisonment.
As of February 11, so the matter stood. In the days which followed, Barr was raked over the coals for his role in this amendation. On cable, we liberals were told that Judge Amy Berman Jackson wouldn't be swayed by such conduct.
But then, how strange! When Judge Jackson sentenced Stone, she sentenced him to 40 months. The recommendation which came from Barr was pretty much where Jackson came down!
Our question: Why did Jackson's sentence seem to align with the amended recommendation? Did this mean that the heroic Barr had been right all along? Was Jackson somehow required to defer to the general drift of the amended recommendation?
Why did Stone's sentence fall short of the initial recommendation? Inquiring minds wanted to know, but liberal news orgs didn't rush to explain.
If you watched Nicolle Wallace yesterday at 4 PM Eastern, you saw a lengthy discussion of this matter. But no one ever noted the fact that Jackson's sentence largely aligned with Barr's amended recommendation.
If you watched Rachel Maddow last night, things seemed to get much worse.
Did you watch Maddow last night? To our ear, she seemed to say that the mustachio-twirling Barr had recommended that Stone get no prison time at all.
That's what Maddow seemed to say, and Maddow tends to be like that. In the course of an endless treatment of this matter, here's the way her second segment started:
MADDOW (2/20/20): How would the court deal today with the crisis around this case, right? The president publicly demanding that the sentencing recommendation from prosecutors should be thrown out, that Roger Stone was being treated unfairly and that he shouldn't get any prison time.That's the way the segment started. It almost sounded like Trump had said that Stone should get no prison time, and that Barr had then said the same thing.
The attorney general then apparently acceding to that request and getting himself into that case personally, overruling the prosecutors who had brought the case to instead ask for lenience for the president's friend, for Roger Stone.
Plainly, that isn't what happened. But that's almost the way it almost sounded as Maddow's segment began.
Later in this same segment, Maddow seemed to make this claim more clearly. As part of a lengthy oration, she explained what happened after Barr had engaged in the conduct described below:
MADDOW: ...William Barr hears that public criticism from the president and intervenes and rescinds the sentencing recommendation from the prosecutors running this case and instead says, "No, no, no! I, William Barr, instead insist that instead we have a revised sentencing recommendation in which Roger Stone gets off."You can watch the full oration yourself. As she continued, Maddow suggested, one more time, that Barr had said that Roger Stone shouldn't have to "go to jail."
In that presentation, Maddow seemed to say that Barr had recommended that Stone should "get off"—shouldn't go to prison at all. To our ear, Maddow had seemed to say that at the start of the segment. Now, her account of the matter seemed clear.
For ourselves, we were still wondering why Judge Jackson's sentence had come down as it did. Even in the course of endless monologues on a favorite subject, people like Maddow don't waste their time explaining such matters to you.
As our journalistic systems continue to crash and burn, people like Maddow paint tribally pleasing pictures and tell tribally pleasing stories. In 2017, Janet Malcolm seemed to praise this pseudo-journalistic process when she profiled Maddow in the New Yorker:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.Maddow's show lets us liberals enjoy ourselves! Weirdly, Malcolm seemed to approve of this service. To us, Malcolm's description captures the way our information systems are increasingly falling apart.
Over on Fox, Tucker was telling millions of viewers last night that Judge Jackson has been behaving like an authoritarian. We haven't been able to review his whole segment yet, but our own tribe is involved in so much nonsense at this point that his segments are often highly persuasive without even being inaccurate.
Rachel and Tucker are extremely well paid to ladle comfort food to the tribes. Information and explanation play second fiddle to the process of novelization which now lies at the heart of this corporate project.
Can a continental nation function this way? We'd say the answer is no.
Last evening, an irate Maddow seemed to say that Barr had recommended that Stone get no prison time at all. Obviously, that isn't true. Just consider what readers were told in this morning's Washington Post, though only if they read all the way to paragraph 32:
WEINER ET AL (2/21/20): This week, those close to Barr said the attorney general has told Trump advisers that he has considered resigning over the president’s tweets. But Trump continued to tweet about the Stone case. This week, he suggested his friend deserved a new trial—just as the Justice Department, with Barr’s blessing, made clear it had opposed Stone’s request on that front. Like prosecutors, Barr has called Stone’s prosecution “righteous” and added, “I was happy that he was convicted.”Say what? Barr has called Stone’s prosecution “righteous?” Barr has said, “I was happy that he was convicted?”
Well actually, yes he has. He said those things to ABC's Pierre Thomas in an interview last week. Maddow's viewers have never been told that Barr said those things.
Barr said Roger Stone should go free? Maddow talked and talked and talked and talked about this topic last night. It seemed to us that's what she said, but with multimillionaire novelists like Maddow, the viewer can never be sure.
This too from Nicolle: Wallace and her "favorite reporters and friends" didn't attempt to explain the way Jackson's sentence turned out. Along the way, she once again repeated a claim which she knows is false.
We refer to her repeated claim that the Mueller report charged Trump with ten instances of obstruction of justice.
In the past, Wallace has said, on at least two occasions, that she knows this statement is false. But she says it, she has explained, because, "as a political communicator," she makes inaccurate statements which put her opponents on the defensive.
Increasingly, this is the way the tribes are allowed to enjoy themselves. Along the way, our systems fail. Increasingly, things fall apart.