WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2021
Our Corporate Clowns, all the way down: Who's the dumbest major figure in the history of "cable news?"
We're not asking who's most diabolical. We asking who's the dumbest.
For ourselves, we'd have to throw Rachel Maddow into the list of contenders. Her performance last night was steady-state Dumb from beginning to end, with a bit of her persistent Revulsion for The Others thrown in as she began.
(That revulsion is always disguised.)
Maddow would do quite well on an IQ test. As a cable news star, she's just endlessly dumb.
Her political instincts are constantly lacking. She's also a full-blown loather of Others, though she works to disguise this fact.
Last night, her various segments were so dumb that it would take a book to chronicle them. In Ulysses, Joyce built a lengthy if largely unreadable classic out of a single day in the life.
You could build a primer on Political / Journalistic Dumbness out of last night's single hour.
Maddow's dumbness has been visible for a long time. From the beginning, it's been joined to her truly massive egotism—her massive self-involvement.
Over the years, she has produced one ridiculous incident or episode after another, but none of these episodes get discussed. Maddow is too popular here within Our Own Hapless and Failing Blue Tribe.
Members of the Red Tribe have been unable to see through a succession of failed public figures, up to and including the deeply disordered Donald J. Trump. Over here in our own Blue Tribe, we've been completely unable to see the shortcomings and failures of Maddow.
Maddow is one of the (many) reasons why the republic's in peril. For today, though, let's focus on a simple question:
Just how dumb can "cable news" get in matters involving Our Scholar?
Our nation finds itself in a time of great peril. Many people have noticed this fact and have said so.
But even as the state of peril advances, the people we love on Our own Cable News can't seem to quit The Dumbness.
How dumb can it get where Maddow's involved—Maddow, Our Own Eternal Child? For starters, consider the insulting lunacy from last Thursday night, when Lawrence went there again.
The program started in a familiar way. Rachel was talking about herself, as she incessantly does:
MADDOW (9/23/21): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Man, when it rains, it pours. We've got news to break on a few different fronts tonight. There is a lot going on.
Today started out as a normal Thursday and we had sort of a normal Thursday day planned. And as we got closer and closer to show time, it turned into leak time. It turned into like "leak Christmas."
"Leak," not as potatoes and leeks, but like leaks, newsworthy leaks. And then it turned into "subpoena Christmas."
So we threw out in its entirety everything we planned on doing tonight and started a whole new series of stories. So I will tell you in advance, there may be a little more hurly burly than usual, because so many of these stories are breaking at the last minute and developing as we're reporting them
But let's just get into it. Forgive me any straying into the margins and veering out of the lanes a little bit. But let me tell you what we`ve been working on. First, we`re going to start with Arizona...
Quickly, a bit of background:
Increasingly, Maddow has been starting her program with complaints about the way "breaking news" has forced her to discard the program she'd planned to do that night
For someone being paid millions of corporate dollars per year to supervise a staff of twenty, you'd think such irritations might be seen as par for the course—as "part of the business we've chosen."
Increasingly, Maddow has complained about this point of annoyance at the start of her hour-long programs. On this occasion, though, Maddow wasn't complaining.
Instead, she was chuckling about the "hilarious" news emerging from Arizona. Somewhat oddly, she was chuckling about some hilarious news she wasn't willing to describe.
For perhaps the ten millionth time, she described the way the ridiculous group called Cyber Ninjas had been conducting a review of Arizona election results. At that point, she told us this:
MADDOW: Well, I can tell you tonight that there has been a document circulating all day today in Arizona journalism circles. It is a document that purports to be a near final draft of the Arizona audit report, the results of the Arizona so-called audit.
Now, in addition to this circulating in Arizona journalism circles tonight, I have to tell you that we have reviewed it. I have reviewed it.
It's three whole volumes—how best to put this—other than to tell you that its purported conclusions are objectively hilarious.
We are not going to report on the contents of that purported draft tonight because, even though multiple sources have told us that it is legit, we tracked down many sources today who all confirmed today that that is a close to final draft of the results that are going to be released tomorrow, we frankly, despite that multiple source confirmation, we just do not trust anything, anything, anything that has come from anywhere near this clown show process in Arizona.
So even though I can report to you with confidence and with personal knowledge that there is widely circulating in Arizona a draft of the purported results, we will wait. They will release their supposed results tomorrow, 1 P.M. local time, 4 P.M. Eastern time. Trump world will lose their minds regardless of what it is they are going to report, but we will wait to see what they actually say. So, there's that.
I will tell you, once the final results, such as they are, are released, one of the things that will be interesting to see is whether or not they revised those results from what appears to be the near final draft once it starts circulating in journalist circles and gives people a chance to laugh at it.
Anyway, like I said, when it rains it pours and news has been developing over the course of the day and into tonight...
That didn't exactly make sense. She wasn't willing to vouch for the contents of the draft report. She left open the possibility that the draft report would be changed.
On the other hand, she was willing to say that, when the final report was released on Friday, it would be "objectively hilarious." People would have the chance "to laugh at it," she entertainingly said.
We'll take a guess. We'll guess that the network hadn't given permission for the contents of the draft report to be described on the air..
We'll also guess that Maddow felt sure that the official report would say what it actually did the next day—that Biden had indeed beaten Trump in Maricopa County. That finding is what was going to be "objectively hilarious."
On Friday night, Maddow went on and on—then on and on—about how "hilarious" that outcome actually was. On balance, she failed to have enough savvy to see that TrumpWorld would simply misstate what the Ninjas had found—or that the Ninjas would include all sorts of suggestive claims which would serve to reinforce TrumpWorld's claim that "election reform" is needed, along with many more "audits."
On Friday night, Our Eternal Child indulged herself in this latest source of hilarity. We liberals turn to Rachel for entertainment as much as for anything else.
As dumb as Friday night's performance was, that isn't the Dumbness to which we want to call your attention today. We want to call your attention to the dumbness which ensued when Rachel performed the "handover" to Lawrence at 10 P.M. Thursday night.
The astonishing dumbness of this event began in a reasonably innocent way. After Maddow's program ended, the handover started with a promise that Friday would also be "nuts." For Lawrence's transcript, click here:
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night, which I have a feeling is going to be just as nuts.
Now, it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.
O'DONNELL: Good evening, Rachel. We have Congressman Schiff joining us on the subpoenas from the January 6 committee, fascinating, hard-hitting fast subpoena schedule. You've got two weeks to give us the documents. A week after that we're going to do your deposition, really stacking them up fast. We're eager to get to that.
As Thursday's program ended, Rachel said that Friday night would also be "nuts." Translation:
Silly Children that we are, we'd get to have a lot of fun on Friday night's program too!
Lawrence responded by citing his upcoming interview with Rep. Schiff. But then the Monster Truck Dumbness began, started, as it's done many times in the past:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): But, Rachel, I just want to—I have the most—
The most common question I get out there in the world about MSNBC is, "How does Rachel do it?" And I always say, "She's the hardest working person I know."
But tonight I don't know how she did it, okay? Because, because I am aware, let's say half-aware, of how hard you were working today on the Arizona story and how much—how far down that road into the Arizona story you were, and how late in the game you were on that road.
O'DONNELL: And then your show comes on, and somewhere you have—you've made the judgment, the news judgment that you can't use what you found. We`re going to wait 24 hours or less and—wise judgment.
But you then pull this other show out from somewhere that fills—that's a whole hour of a TV show that as far as I know didn't exist about an half and a hour before you went on TV.
So now I officially do not know. I have no idea how Rachel does it. I just don't know.
This familiar "fawning over Rachel" exchange has become rather familiar during the last year or so. We've puzzled over why Lawrence does it. The fact is, we still don't know.
It's always possible that he means it—that he isn't slyly mocking Rachel's egotism, or simply trying to extend his own career.
But of one thing we can be sure—Rachel is ready to go there. Last Thursday, she gave this response:
MADDOW (continuing directly): You know, you're very kind. I had no idea where this was going when you started this line of inquiry.
I will say, for close watchers of MSNBC, if you go back to the handover between Chris Hayes and me, you will note that at the very beginning of the show, I'm going like this. And I'm off screen still typing what's going to be on the show in the A block, because everything, we did have an entire show completely unrelated to what was on the air.
And then all of that stuff broke, including the Steven Hatfill stuff that broke about the coronavirus response. Luckily we were able to get Jamie Raskin here to talk about both the breaking news from the January 6 investigation and the breaking news from the COVID investigation, because he is on both. And the Arizona stuff has been Mr. Toad`s wild ride all day today. You are absolutely correct about that.
I am—I'm going to go sleep in my car. I don't think I can even make it home. I'm just a mess.
Just for the record, "the Steven Hatfill stuff" couldn't have been more trivial, except in the part of Rachel's mind which wants to Lock Everyone Up and Talk About Nothing Else.
Meanwhile, though, poor Rachel! She was going to have to sleep in her car, she'd worked so hard all day! Truly, Rachel was a mess. By her own account!
For the record, Rachel has played similar cards since she first went on the air. By her own admission, she frequently admits that she couldn't get to sleep at night, she was so concerned about some major topic.
By her own admission, Rachel is always a little more caring than everyone else. On this night, if they go back to the 8 P.M. handover from Hayes, historians will note that, at the very beginning of the show, she was still offscreen typing that night's actual program!
We've wondered, for some time, if Lawrence is mocking Rachel's self-involvement when he triggers responses like this. Whatever the answer, Rachel is always ready to talk about herself, and about her giant kampf.
The sheer stupidity of this exchange already had our analysts crying and tearing their hair. But the familiar foolishness wasn't over yet. The clowning continued from there as Lawrence continued to bait his more popular colleague:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): If I had a whole show planned and it got kind of we made the judgment that we can't do that at the last minute, I'd be sitting here reading weather reports or something. I don`t have another show. Rachel, there is no another show. I don`t have another one in my back pocket. I don`t. You`re walking around with a couple of shows ready to go at all times?
MADDOW: No. This is—this is an occupational hazard. You make it happen. Luckily when the news proceeds this fast, you kick something to the curb and let the rest of the traffic hit you. Any way, you are very kind, my friend. Thank you very much.
Rachel took the bait again, discussing the obvious greatness of her sprawling sacrifice. Unmentioned was the staff of twenty with whom she prepares her show.
Meanwhile, full disclosure! For mandated reasons of corporate branding, we're supposed to believe that Lawrence is Rachel's "friend!" For mandated reasons of corporate branding, everyone on this corporate channel extends this appellation to everyone else. It's part of the way we rubes get conned!
At this point, you'd almost think the bullshit had to be over. Actually, no—it wasn't:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): By the way, we're going to be joined by Senator Rebecca Rios, the Democratic leader of the Senate in Arizona to—
MADDOW: Oh, good.
O'DONNELL: —give her preview of what she is expecting tomorrow when the results of this thing that has been called a "fraudit" in Arizona is released. So we`ll see what she can tell us.
MADDOW: I can—you can tell—
Regardless of what they say, you know that the Trump world is going to light itself on proverbial fire over whatever the results are in Arizona, whether they match these purported draft documents that were circulating today that we obtained and that other news organizations obtained, whether they're something totally unrelated, whether they match all the fraud hysteria and all the conspiracy theories and wildest dreams or whether they wet blanket the whole thing. Either way, Trump World is going to be absolutely bananas tomorrow, which is why I have to figure out some way to sleep tonight, because we got to be ready for that.
O'DONNELL: Rachel "I Don't Know How She Does It" Maddow. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: See you tomorrow, Rachel. Thank you.
Lawrence's fawning knows no bounds. We've never been able to figure if he could actually be sincere.
At any rate, the foolishness finally stopped. By her own admission, Rachel was going to "have to figure out some way to sleep tonight," difficult though that would be.
(This is all part of the process known as "selling the car." Rachel tends to present herself as Just Like Us except A Million Times More.)
When corporate cable stars play us that way, we're being treated like fools. We still can't tell you why Lawrence does it, but on Monday night, there he went again.
At Rachel handed off at 10, he played tape from eleven years back. It had been his program's first night, his first handover from Rachel.
After the pair of cable stars noted how great they both still look, Lawrence started the fawning all over again, with Rachel joining in:
O'DONNELL (9/27/21): So suddenly, there was a live show at 10 P.M., and you had a little job to do at the end. And Rachel, because you say "Good evening" to me in this show every night, you have kept this show here for 11 years, because we wouldn't be here without the strongest, greatest lead-in we could possibly have.
MADDOW: That is very kind of you to say. It's also crazy talk. You have been here for these 11 years because you`re freaking fantastic. And—listen, getting to three years in cable news means that you`re a senior citizen. Getting to eleven years in cable news means, you are an institution and an icon. And you and The Last Word deserve it, and another eleven after this. And I just want you to stay exactly where you are.
According to Rachel, because he's been on the air eleven years, Lawrence is an icon.
She's been on the air thirteen years! You can probably take it from there.
We've skipped the bulk of the bullshit from Monday night. But this is a type of multimillionaire corporate bullshit which simply never stops.
None of this explains the dumbness which ran all through Maddow's program last night. Having said that, we'll add this:
Last Friday night, Maddow actually quoted at length from Robert Kagan's guest essay in the Washington Post. Quite correctly, that lengthy essay describes the massive peril this nation is in.
In fact, Kagan understates the degree of peril. For today, our statement is this:
When people persist, in the face of such peril, in the kind of stupidity we've shown you above, these people need to be taken off the air.
In our assessment, it's too late for us to hope for a decent resolution of our current peril.
It's entirely possible that Donald J. Trump will end up in the White House again. If that occurs, the endless mugging and clowning of Maddow—along with her horrible journalistic judgment—will be one of the ways Our Failing Blue Tribe helped bring the American experiment, such as it was, to its disastrous end.
Full disclosure! We're being consulted by Cassandra, daughter of Priam, as we make our gloomy projections. But the sheer stupidity of the "corporate cable" wing of our tribe has never been more clear.
You see it from Rachel every night. It doesn't mean that she's a "bad person." It simply means that she shouldn't be on the air.
You see it from Rachel every night, but by now, it pops up everywhere blue voters might look. Our tribe stopped making sense long ago, assuming it ever did.
Tomorrow: Conspiracy? Hotel Rwanda?