WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 2021
...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—
[PAUSES TO AFFIX HER VACCINATION STICKER TO THE MIDDLE OF HER FOREHEAD]
Did I get it straight?
[MAKES SILLY, CHILDISH FACE WITH STICKER ON HER FOREHEAD]
I got my shot! I did. I'm so excited!
[MOVES STICKER TO HER LAPEL]
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