MADDOW AND TOWN: Jonathan Kozol spoke about Stephen...


...but Maddow discusses herself: How does Rachel Maddow's stardom dumbnify us in Our Town?

We're going to take you back a ways to explain a basic point. The point we'll explain starts here:

Last Friday evening, Maddow started her eponymous TV show by discussing a favorite topic. 

The topic she discussed was herself. It's Maddow's favorite topic.

What she said was insultingly stupid, but the topic was Maddow herself. On the Maddow Show, the topic is frequently Rachel Maddow, even when a naive observer might think that the topic is something else.

Even today, we're still filled with contempt for what we saw last Friday night. Today, we're going to try to explain why that is.

As you may recall, Maddow started Friday's show sharing a fun-filled minute with her friend, Chris Hayes. (On MSNBC, it's a corporate branding mandate. Everyone is everyone's  "friend.") 

After that opening fun-filled minute, she began discussing herself. 

In a world filled with serious topics which go ignored; in a world which still features the wretched of the earth;

In a nation where millions of good, decent kids still get the short end of various sticks;  in that topic-rich universe, Rachel Maddow's favorite pastime is still discussing herself.

The cable star also loves to perform her trademark clowning. On this particular evening, the inanity started like this:

MADDOW (4/9/21): And while we're on the subject—


Did I get it straight?


I got my shot! I did. I'm so excited!


I got the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. Can I just tell you about it for a second?

Uh, I went on my own so I didn't have anybody take a picture of me, let alone me dancing like Chris did, when I was getting the actual shot. I didn't—I—  [LETS VOICE TRAIL OFF]

I don't think I would have liked to see me, a picture of me, getting the actual shot anyway, because I am afraid of needles and so it would make me throw up if I saw a picture of myself getting an injection.

The star continued from there. It would have made her throw up if she saw a photo of herself getting an injection. In such ways, this stunningly self-absorbed corporate star began her insultingly stupid report.

She went on to burn up valuable time mugging and clowning for her many fans in Our Town. She adopted the "I'm just a hapless child" persona, a persona which serves as her periodic raiment, apparently for reasons of personal psychic need.

In fairness, we all have points of personal psychic need. That said, very few of us go on national TV and indulge in the performance of same  the way this increasingly ridiculous corporate star does.

(Not to mention the cons she's authored down through the years. Not to mention the various scams.)

Maddow said it would make her throw up to see a photo like that! The discussion which followed was blindingly stupid—it was stupid the whole way down. 

That said, why are we still disgusted to think that Maddow is allowed to do this? It may be because of the kinds of people Jonathan Kozol discussed.

For whatever reason, Rachel Maddow can't seem to stop discussing herself. Long ago and far away, Kozol once spoke about Stephen.

Kozol was 30 years old at the time. He was eight years out of college (Harvard, class of 1958).

He too had been a Rhodes Scholar. After that, he'd spent a year teaching fourth grade in a badly dysfunctional public school in Boston. 

He wrote a book about that year. At the start his book, Kozol spoke about Stephen.

Death at an Early Age was published in 1967. The following year, it won the National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Religion.

We read the book not long after it was published, when we were a sophomore or junior in college. Here's how the book began

KOZOL (page 1): Stephen is eight years old. A picture of him standing in front of the bulletin board on Arab bedouins shows a little light-brown person staring with unusual concentration at a chosen spot upon the floor. Stephen is tiny, desperate, unwell. Sometimes he talks to himself. He moves his mouth as if he were talking. At other times he laughs out loud in class for no apparent reason. He is also an indescribably mild and unmalicious child. He cannot do any of his school work very well. His math and reading are poor. In Third Grade he was in a class that had substitute teachers much of the year. Most of the year before that, he had a row of substitute teachers too. He is in the Fourth Grade now but his work is barely at the level of the Second. Nobody has complained about the things that have happened to Stephen because he does not have any mother or father.

According to Kozol, Stephen was "tiny, desperate, unwell." He was indescribably mild and unmalicious. He couldn't do his school work well.

You'll never be forced to hear about children like that while watching the Maddow Show. Among other examples, you'll also never hear about the way our nation's health care "system" serves various wealthy interests.

Rachel doesn't do that! Instead, you'll hear her talk about herself, a repulsive practice to which viewers were exposed, in an especially stupid way, at the start of last Friday night's program.

Which was worse last Friday night? The insulting degree of stupidity, or the familiar song of self? 

Are children drowning in the Mediterranean? Maddow doesn't care. Maddow enjoys discussing herself, and her owners let her do it. 

Indeed, we'll assume that her owners cheer the practice on. For reasons which take the measure of us in Our Town, we residents actually seem to like it when Rachel "sells the car" in this insultingly self-absorbed fashion. 

Maddow presents herself as an unmalicious but hapless child—the type of child who would throw up if she had to see certain photos of herself.

She constantly says that she's "a dork." It's a form of humblebragging. We're so ridiculous, here in Our Town, that we seem to love her for this.

In one way, it isn't fair to single Maddow out on the basis we're citing. It isn't that you won't hear about kids like Stephen on Maddow's show. In fact, you won't hear about the interests and needs of low-income kids anywhere on the "cable news" channels which prevail in the streets of Our Town.

A quick aside:

Not long after we read Kozol's book, we found ourselves teaching fifth grade in the Baltimore City Schools. 

We taught fifth graders for seven full years, followed by two years teaching junior high math. In those seven years teaching fifth grade, we had very few kids who were "desperate, unwell," although we did have perhaps one or two.

We did have a lot of good, decent kids who were being poorly served, in various ways, by their public school system. Almost surely, that situation continues today, even though basic skill levels seem to be vastly improved.

(That's a fact you'll never learn, or see discussed, as you watch Maddow perform. As everyone knows, the interests of kids in our low-income schools don't get discussed in Our Town.)

Children are drowning in the sea. Children are washing up at our southern border.

Girls are being stolen away in the Congo. Rachel goes on TV and discusses herself, in the dumbest ways possible.

At some point, a person is forced by decency to ask when this will stop. Tomorrow, we'll discuss this hapless report in New York magazine, an example of the kind of work Maddow would never critique or discuss. 

As we read that report, we flashed again on a certain Rhodes Scholar's incessant mugging and clowning.

We keep accepting this showboating here in Our Town. Will we ever find a way to insist on something better?

Tomorrow: Not allowed on Maddow's show

Friday: Recent weeks of clowning


  1. "The topic she discussed was herself. It's Maddow's favorite topic."

    Everyone's favorite topic is themselves. That is a human universal.

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  2. "On MSNBC, it's a corporate branding mandate. Everyone is everyone's "friend.""

    The corporate media would be way more entertaining if they had the news personalities fight in a parking lot of broken glass. Way more informative too.

  3. "On MSNBC, it's a corporate branding mandate. Everyone is everyone's "friend.""

    Wouldn't it be nice if the whole world were like that? Since when is it bad to be friends?

  4. You know what? I don't find it insulting or stupid when a cable star encourages other people to get vaccinated by showing that they have done it themselves. And she did it in an entertaining and not preachy manner.

  5. Cable "news" should be talking way more about the fantastic job Joe Biden is doing, and how "small government" Republicans (LOL) are trying to distract us by bullying trans kids.

    1. The self-proclaimed small government party of Freedom writing laws to bully politically under-represented minorities is a classic of the Republican genre.

  6. "He [Kozol] too had been a Rhodes Scholar. After that, he'd spent a year teaching fourth grade in a badly dysfunctional public school in Boston.

    He wrote a book about that year."

    This sounds like he used those children and their plight to benefit himself. He certainly didn't continue teaching in that school. What did he do? He made name for himself by kicking those ratty teachers, as if they invented poverty.

    Somerby too only mentions those kids when he wants to punish Rachel Maddow. Otherwise, crickets. He hasn't weighed in on the current controversy over whether kids should be given standardized nation tests after a year of virtual learning due to covid. Biden says yes. What does Somerby think? Nothing, so far as we can tell. He also has said nothing about priority for vaccine for teachers, whether schools should be opened, the damage done by Betsy DeVos and whether the new Education Secretary will reverse it, and any number of subjects important to kids education.

    One would almost think he doesn't care about those beautiful and deserving kids that he uses for his own purposes, occasionally.

  7. Somerby read Death at an Early Age (as everyone did) in 1967 and he hasn't read anything about education since then.

  8. "Are children drowning in the Mediterranean? Maddow doesn't care."

    Are children drowning in the Rio Grande? Somerby doesn't care.

    You don't have to go all the way to Europe to find neglected atrocities, asshole.

  9. Today Somerby says he taught for 9 years (7 + 2). In the past it has been 10 years, sometimes 12. A discrepancy this large would be fodder for a whole week's essays, if a member of the press said it.

  10. "We did have a lot of good, decent kids who were being poorly served, in various ways, by their public school system. Almost surely, that situation continues today, even though basic skill levels seem to be vastly improved."

    On what basis can Somerby say that children are still being poorly served if their basic skill levels have "vastly improved"?

    Assuming the schools are and will always be bad is like assuming that cops always have a good reason for shooting someone. It is a bias.

  11. "Three years later, Carranza resigned, ground down by the city’s relentless politicking and the pandemic. His New York years were marked by losses of all kinds. He lost a lot of weight, a transformation one observer told me “scans as self-flagellation.” His marriage broke up. Most devastatingly, he lost 11 friends and relatives to COVID. By this past winter, he seemed so exhausted and emotionally frayed that allies and adversaries alike became concerned."

    This is part of the linked article that Somerby says he will discuss tomorrow. It illustrates a phenomenon happening all over the country. Mayors and other public administrators are resigning or choosing not to run for office at the ends of their terms, because of covid burnout.

    These have been difficult times for everyone, but those with responsibility for coping with the pandemic along with the stresses it has brought for all, seem to be hard hit.

    I can't wait to hear what uncharitable thing Somerby has to say about this poor guy tomorrow.

    1. Apropos of tomorrow's promised TDH report:

  12. Maddow has written several books in which she does not talk about herself.

    Kozol does talk about himself in his book, about his classroom experiences.

    If Kozol had a TV show, I'll bet he would talk about himself too. It is how you establish a personal connection with your audience.

    What does it say about Somerby that he not only refuses such a connection with Maddow, but doesn't think female cable hosts should get personal? This may be part of why he lives alone with a pear tree for company.

  13. TDH: “After that opening fun-filled minute, she began discussing herself. In a world filled with serious topics which go ignored; in a world which still features the wretched of the earth; In a nation where millions of good, decent kids still get the short end of various sticks; in that topic-rich universe, Rachel Maddow's favorite pastime is still discussing herself.”

    How many times have I told you---it's a business model. Everything that Maddow does and says has been test-marketed. Her fans, just like Limbaugh’s or Glenn Beck’s, want her to clown and talk about herself. It’s a show. It’s entertainment, not a policy seminar.

  14. TDH: "We did have a lot of good, decent kids who were being poorly served, in various ways, by their public school system."

    Our vicious billionaire-owned politicians who run public policy decided that prisons are more profitable than treating children with decency by making public schools better. So the schools are designed to feed the prisons with broken people who have to turn to crime and become new customers for the prison/security/gun industrial complex so its owners can profit. Unfortunately, this is the best system that Americans can imagine.

    1. Oddly, upwards of 70% of parents are happy with their local schools, but criticism of education overall is widespread. How can the schools in general be neglected while people think their local schools are fine?

      Picking on the schools is a national pastime rivaling baseball. And Somerby is no better.

  15. Why watch clowning dembot shows, dear Bob? Once in a while, for the laughs, sure, but why watch them all the time?

    May we suggest Tucker Carlson?

  16. 'why are we still disgusted to think that Maddow is allowed to do this? '

    Because you're a Trumptard who finds nothing disgusting in Trump, Roy Moore, Matt Gaetz and others, but does find Maddow disgusting probably because she does not spend her show dedicated to defending your heroes.

  17. The guy who wrote this post should check in with the guy who wrote the next post, who thinks that Maddow is better off writing about herself than trying to be a watchdog over the government, or giving a voice to the voiceless.
    I'm beginning to see why Bob refers to himself in the plural.

  18. Maddow is what's called in Yiddish "shlock." Crappy marketable stuff you don't need but are encouraged to buy.

    1. In English, we call Crappy marketable stuff you don't need but are encouraged to buy "Capitalism".

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