Starting tomorrow: MADDOW AND TOWN!

MONDAY, APRIL 12, 2021

Corporate clown's latest act: Long ago and far away, President Roosevelt—Franklin Roosevelt—described an unsettling vision.

He'd already served for one full term. But in the second inaugural address, he said he saw these things (among others):

ROOSEVELT (1/20/37): In this nation, I see tens of millions of its citizens—a substantial part of its whole population—who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

Roosevelt saw one-third of our nation "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." And he was only describing this nation. He wasn't attempting to take stock of life as it was being lived around the world.

Within the boundaries of this nation, things are less awful today. That said:

In many ways, we remain the clown car of the developed world. And around the nations of the less developed world, we can see children drowning in the Mediterranean; being stolen away in the Congo; and arriving at our own southern border on a regular basis.

And not only that! Around the world, we're now engaged in a great civil war, "testing whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated"—"conceived in liberty," like our own—can long endure. 

That's what Joe Biden has said! Autocracy has been making a comeback in wide swaths of the world, and Biden has said that the autocrats have placed a bet that our system of government (such as it is) is destined to lose the struggle for dominance over the course of this century.

We can't say that Biden is wrong when he sketches the outline of that struggle. We can't say that Putin is wrong when he bets that autocracy will prevail.

In this nation, our health care system remains a joke. Giant achievement gaps seem to obtain within our public schools.

(We say these gaps "seem to" obtain because our major newspapers have been told, and seem to have agreed, that they mustn't even discuss those apparent gaps. Our upper-end journalism collapsed some time ago.)

A global pandemic has swept our nation, sweeping more than half a million people (and counting) away, quite possibly with more pandemics to come. Meanwhile, from the liberal perspective—tens of millions of people don't share this view, nor are they required to—our nation is still in the backwash of a lunatic presidency, with the possibility that such leadership could return.

That's the nation (and the globe) FDR would be seeing today. And in the face of all this misery, in the face of this existential threat, the corporate owners of the TV shows we enjoy in Our Town keep putting a multimillionaire on TV to clown for us in this stupid, despicable manner:

RACHEL 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.

But I did take this photo of myself right after I got the shot, right as I sat down in the waiting area. And I know this is a terrible photo— [LAUGHTER] 

I'm wearing my old battered West Point baseball cap? I totally forgot I had put a bright red binder clip on the left side of the bill for safekeeping. 

That's what's  up there on the side of the brim. See that little red metal clip? 

[Sotto voce] I'm such a dork.

And this will be [CHUCKLING] like forever my vaccine photo! But if you will notice, I look a little bit crazy in the photo even beyond just the red hat...

Arguably, things get worse from there. At any rate:

"Can I just tell you about it for a second?" What were the odds that this disordered being would respect a time limit like that?

"If you will notice, I look a little bit crazy?" We've noticed that her deeply self-involved behavior makes her seem a little bit crazy on a fairly regular basis.

At any rate, this is the way Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar and the leading "cable news" star in Our Town, began Friday night's TV show. She was discussing her favorite subject again, with much more nonsense to come. 

As our transcript begins, Maddow has already spent one minute chatting with her friend Chris Hayes about "the dance [he] did on Instagram" after getting his second shot.

Now, Maddow launched one of her trademark discussions-of-self. She said she would be "taking a second" to tell us what happened when she got her shot.

What followed was monumentally, insultingly stupid; it was stupid all the way down. Beyond that, Maddow's trademark level of self-involvement went several somersaults past the boundaries of stupid, taking us all the way to the realm of the repulsive, the disrespectful, the inane.

The time has come for Our Town to ask why we support these displays—these recurrent displays of vast self-involvement, routinely mixed with trademark displays of massive journalistic incompetence. How will we explain to the children of the future why we allowed these displays?

Children are dying in the sea. Children are crying at our border.

Children are struggling in our schools, and our health care "system" is a worldwide joke. It's entirely possible that Mitch McConnell will be back in charge of the Senate as of January 2023, or imaginably sooner.

But so what? As the world's children drown in the sea, this deeply self-involved corporate clown discusses herself at endless length and bungles every journalistic task she occasionally seems to undertake. 

Here in Our Town, we've cheered this on for many years. We've cheered Our Own Rhodes Scholar on through her groaning journalistic bungles, but also through her massive acts of journalistic avoidance.

Always, we've cheered for our favorite star's gigantic, inane self-involvement. 

Starting tomorrow, we'll start to ask why we, the residents of Our Town, refuse to stop doing this. We'll ask what this says about us.

It's hard to find the words to describe this cable star's journalistic incompetence. It's hard to find the words to describe her level of self-involvement.

It may be easy to find the words to explain why we love this rolling gong-show here in Our floundering Town. 

Hans Christian Anderson described this phenomenon back in the 19th century. In the present day, leading scholars keep telling us what our conduct means.

Rachel Maddow is a multimillionaire corporate clown. She entertains us on a nightly basis, largely through "her performance of the Rachel figure" (Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker).  

On a journalistic basis, she's clownishly incompetent. She and her staff of twenty just don't seem to have what it takes.

We cheer for her incessant clowning; we love it more than we love life itself. This is the way our brains are wired, despondent top experts have endlessly told us.

Could it be that these experts are right? Isn't it time that we asked?

Tomorrow: It's hard to find words for this conduct

This afternoon: Continuing! Has anyone been able to explain what the parliamentarian said?

Transcript and tape: As of this morning, MSNBC has posted a transcript of Friday night's Maddow Show. You can peruse it here.

Also, you can watch the tape of the program's opening monologue, enjoying the way Our Own Rhodes Scholars places her vaccination sticker "right in the middle of her forehead," not unlike the little child of the nursery rhyme of olde.

Our Own Little Child was at it again! Her discussion continued for eleven more minutes, getting perhaps a bit strange as it went.

In our view, it's time to discuss this mess. We'll do so starting this week.


  1. "We can't say that Biden is wrong when he sketches the outline of that struggle. We can't say that Putin is wrong when he bets that autocracy will prevail."

    Yes, and of course the only way to defeat autocracy is to pack the supreme court, ban filibuster and completely censor the media, including social media.

    It's a herculean task, dear Bob, we wholeheartedly agree. Best of luck to your liberal-hitlerian cult.

    1. That's a small price to pay for taxing the establishment elite.

    2. So herculean!

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  2. "Giant achievement gaps seem to obtain within our public schools."

    Interesting that Somerby leaves out the word "racial" when that is clearly what he is referring to.

  3. The Great Depression, which FDR is describing, was the heyday of the screwball comedy. The entertainment industry flourished. People didn't want to sit around in despair but they wanted to cheered up, encouraged, inspired. FDR would never have chided the public for "clowning around."

    1. Newscasters and political comnentators didn't clown around then. They had a LOT of gravitas, often to the point of silliness.

  4. How stupid is it that Somerby derides a celebrity for encouraging others to go get their shot, by the example of her own experience?

  5. "Also, you can watch the tape of the program's opening monologue, enjoying the way Our Own Rhodes Scholars places her vaccination sticker "right in the middle of her forehead," not unlike the little child of the nursery rhyme of olde."

    The little girl in the nursery rhyme had a curl in the middle of her forehead, not a vaccination sticker. And she didn't place it there, it grew there naturally.

    Somerby is truly awful at using figurative language. He grabs at "middle of forehead" as if that were the important part of Maddow's action or something the little girl did, and not a description of her hair. There is nothing at all relevant or similar between Maddow and the nursery rhyme.

    And he throws in an allusion to something Hans Christian Anderson described, without telling us what it was, as if we all should just know. Anderson said a lot of things in many different stories. Which one is Somerby thinking of? There is no way to know. This stream-of-consciousness writing is almost like schizophrenic free-association. I am hoping it is a sign of self-indulgence and not a symptom of anything more serious.

  6. If Somerby, and anyone reading this blog, would like to help children in need worldwide, here is a way to do it:

    I would bet that Somerby has never sent them a cent, or any other children's charity.

  7. "On a journalistic basis, she's clownishly incompetent. She and her staff of twenty just don't seem to have what it takes."

    And yet she has a #1 cable show. Her staff includes Steve Benen, a respected liberal blogger who took over Kevin Drum's column when he left the Washington Monthly. She has been nominated for and won Emmys for "Outstanding News Discussion and Analysis." Her education and credentials outshine Somerby's and I consider her more likely to be right than Somerby in any factual dispute.

    So, why is she number one on his enemies list? Is it because of her accomplishments perhaps, or her looks, or her lesbianism or is it because she is arguably the most effective liberal voice on cable? Given that Somerby has become a shill for the right, I would suspect the latter, although it is possible that is sexism blinds him to her accomplishments. Whatever it is, Somerby is clearly not rational when it comes to Maddow.

    1. He has a problem with her her journalistic bungles, acts of journalistic avoidance and inane self-involvement.

      But, if you like her and don't see a problem, if you see her as our era's slapstick comedy, that's fine. You have the right to that opinion.

      Do you watch her show?

      Btw - McDonalds has a #1 restaurant. That doesn't make them good.

    2. His complaints about her "bungles" tend to be overblown nothing-burgers, manufactured in order to say mean things about her. I don't watch her at all and I find her energy level hard on my nerves, but I think she does fine discussing the news. I prefer Chris Hayes.

      McDonalds is not a restaurant. It is a fast food place. It is #1 because people like it, just as they like Maddow. Maddow long ago told Jon Stewart that her goal is to entertain (while informing), not to be a serious political scientist.

    3. Oh, I see. You feel his complaints about her are overblown and invented in order to say mean things about her because of some sort of jealousy or sexual bias. I can see where you might think that.

    4. Shill for the right? How stupid.

      The fact that she's "#1" is Bob's point.

    5. An interesting dialogue. It may be worth remembering that Jon Stewart was horrified by Rachel‘s sense that she and Jon were somehow equivalent figures, that what she owes her public, as the star of an ostensible news show was no different than what Jon owed his public, as the anchor of a self-proclaimed fake news comedy show. I have to admit that I found (and find) that disturbing, too.

      And I’m far from convinced that the problems Somerby isolates with how Rachel operates as a journalist are so easily dismissed as “overblown nothing burgers.” I actually find the vast majority of the points Somerby makes about Rachel compelling, and the fact that she’s wildly popular can either attest to her success as a journalist, which Somerby is just weirdly jealous of, or to the unsettling immaturity and dysfunction that she shares with her all-too-loyal audience.

  8. Somerby repeatedly says that "we love this gong show" but I don't think all liberals love Rachel Maddow. I personally don't watch her at all.

    That said, I don't see anything wrong with mixing information with some humor. Jon Stewart did it, John Oliver does it, Samantha Bee does it, Tevor Noah does it, even Stephen Colbert does it. Somerby hasn't said a word about any of them. You have to wonder why he has chosen to go after Maddow with such a vengeance. Did she forget his birthday or otherwise puncture his over-inflated ego? Maybe Somerby auditioned for the gig she got on Air America?

    1. Those are all comedy shows that use the news format to make jokes (and make fun of the news format).

      Maddow is a not a comedian. She has a news show basically.

      Did this obvious difference not occur to you?

    2. Maddow has a news show? Let me know when she does the news.

    3. It's not a comedy show. One thing is for sure: it's a "show". What kind of show is the question. She seems to want to be taken seriously. People do take her seriously. I wonder what she would call it.

    4. If you think that Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Samantha Bee don't care about politics and news, you are very mistaken. The comedy is to get across a message, not vice versa.

    5. I'm sure they "care about politics and news" as much as anyone. But the comedy is to make people laugh. That is all they care about. The news part is a form they are parodying. They are comedians commenting on the news comedically. Their writing process is a comedy writing, not a news writing process.

      But in terms of those shows, no, all they're trying to do is make people laugh. They are hardcore comedians from a very, very old tradition and the name of the game is to get a laugh. That’s it.

    6. No, that is not ALL they care about. And Stewart may be parodying news, but Oliver and Bee are preaching the gospel. Of course they are doing it comedically. But, if they were aiming just for laughs, their content would be different, more like SNL (who takes shots at everyone regardless of political implications).

    7. It's your business if that is what you choose to think. Best regards,

    8. Humor? She's not funny. She's stupidly self-indulgent.

  9. Maddow has spent hours reporting on the GOP’s voter suppression efforts around the country. She may smile occasionally, but she is quite serious about this.

    Somerby hasn’t said a word about that.

  10. “To Brian's credit, he seemed to direct a sardonic tone at the ridiculous topic.”

    Williams, whose complaints about buttons purportedly sent Bush to the White House, and whose whole shtick is being “sardonic” about the topics he himself picks, gets praised for his shtick.

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