BACK-TO-SCHOOLED: One day only, at least for now!


Alex Wagner in Florida: The statement came in the first few minutes of Wednesday night's cable news program:

WAGNER (8/17/22): Tonight, Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig joins us live.

And then, we'll be going down to Florida, where Republican governor Ron DeSantis has ordered some new lessons for the start of school this week—revisionist history and Christian nationalism. New Yorker writer and dean of the Columbia Journalism School Jelani Cobb will be in the studio to discuss.

The teacher who stood at the head of this class was MSNBC's Alex Wagner. She's host of the new Alex Wagner Show, which now appears in four of the Maddow Show's original time slots. 

Wagner's show will air on Tuesday through Friday nights, at exactly 9 p.m. The show may turn out to be very good—or it could turn out to be less helpful.

Wagner comes to MSNBC from Showtime, a network whose journalistic standards are even lower than those maintained on modern-day "cable news" channels. In recent years, she has served as a co-host on the aptly-named program, The Circus, a politics-adjacent infotainment show.

During her MSNBC debut last week, Wagner featured lengthy reports connected to back-to-school week in the Sunshine State. These lengthy reports appeared on Wednesday and Friday nights.

That said, is it true? Is Governor DeSantis really injecting "revisionist history and Christian nationalism" into that state's public schools? 

Those sound like highly significant claims. To what extent are they accurate?

About twenty minutes into Wednesday's show, Wagner began fleshing out those claims. The rest of that evening's program concerned public schooling in Florida.

What hath Ron DeSantis wrought? Near the start of that evening's lengthy report, Wagner offered this:

WAGNER: Since he took office in 2019, he has made it a priority to refashion the Florida school system according to right-wing conservative principles

You may recall two signal pieces of legislation in particular, courtesy of DeSantis: the so-called Don't Say Gay bill, which restricts teaching on sex and gender...and the so-called Stop WOKE Act, which bans the teaching of any lesson, especially about race and racism, which makes any student feel discomfort which could be anything to suggest that systemic racism is real and then make students who benefit from it feel guilty.

Wagner's lesson this night started there, with a capsule description of two DeSantis bills. In citing the names of the bills, she used the term "so-called."

(For better or worse, each of those names is the fruit of snark. Don't Say Gay is a mocking name fashioned by liberal snark. Sadly, "The Stop WOKE Act" comes close to being the actual name of the second bill, an apparent product of the governor's perpetual snark.)

For the record, nothing in the "Don't Say Gay" bill explicitly says that teachers can't say the word "gay" in the classroom. 

Meanwhile, how about the "Stop WOKE Act?" Does it really "ban the teaching of any lesson, especially about race and racism, which makes any student feel discomfort?" 

That sounds like a fairly dumb thing to do. But does the Stop WOKE Act actually do that? 

We decided to take a look at the text of the legislation. The lengthy text is a bit of a jumble—but so was the journalism Wagner performed in discussing the fruits of the act.

Under Wagner's tutelage, liberal viewers were getting schooled about the Florida bill and attendant practices. Were they also being fully informed, in an instructive manner?

Full disclosure! We're not suggesting that The Stop WOKE Act is perfect legislation. We're not even saying it's good legislation, or that it should even be as seen as acceptable on balance.

That said:

In the main, we aren't here to discuss the quality of the Florida bill. In the main, we're here to discuss the quality of the journalism Wagner performed last week. 

Full disclosure! If DeSantis ends up on the ballot in 2024, we won't be voting for him. That said, we also wouldn't vote for the bulk of the journalism we saw Wagner perform last week.

In Florida, the children are starting a new school year. Elsewhere, it might be said that we'll soon be starting a new year of political journalism.

What kind of journalism do we blue tribe voters want our tribunes to perform? If we want to ponder that civics question, Wagner's reports about Florida's schools might be a good place to start.

That said:

We'll be visiting friends in the Hudson Valley for the next few days. We expect to post tomorrow morning before we depart, but we'll postpone further reports about the way blue viewers got schooled by Wagner's reports until we've made our way back.

Wagner's new prime-time program could turn out to be highly instructive. But as with all such undertakings, it could turn out to be something else.

The way of our blue tribe's world: We can't link you to transcripts of the two programs to which we've referred. 

Based upon what you can see at this site, it seems that Wagner's corporate owners have adopted an even weirder transcript policy than the ones they've maintained in the past.

Transcript delayed is transcript denied! All the top experts say this.


  1. An actual media critic, or even an individual who spends time musing on the mainstream "press corps," might have noticed that CNN just got rid of Brian Stelter and his show Reliable Sources (which Somerby has never mentioned here in all the years he has been musing).

    Instead, Somerby is berating Alex Wagner, the replacement for Rachel Maddow. Why? Most likely, because SHE is a female replacement for Maddow, a female and highly successful cable news host. She gets no settling in time, no honeymoon period to get her "feet under the desk" as they say in business. She is now fair game, subject to the same trivial nitpicks as his other favorite targets, also female, black or gay (or some combination), and always liberal.

    Meanwhile, Jason Easley says about Stelter:

    "It likely wasn’t a coincidence that Stelter is gone as CNN wants to look more Republican-friendly. Stelter’s final hour was an open plea for CNN to stay strong and adhere to journalistic principles in the face of the Republican delegitimization of facts and journalism.

    Stelter will likely end up writing about media somewhere else, but the end of Reliable Sources means that there are zero shows focused on covering how the news is covered in an objective manner. Fox’s MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz is propaganda that is never critical of Fox, so the nation has lost its only source on television of reporting on reporters, and Brian Stelter’s final comments were both a defense of his approach and a reminder of the vitality of journalism."

  2. "For the record, nothing in the "Don't Say Gay" bill explicitly says that teachers can't say the word "gay" in the classroom."

    This is a silly evasion. If a teacher were reading a book that said that "Mary felt giddy and gay to have the day off school," then of course the bill would not prohibit reading the word "gay" with that meaning and context. But if the teacher were reading a book that said "Mary felt attracted to her friend Lulu and wonder what it might feel like to kiss her." then that teacher would certainly be in trouble under the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Somerby's stupid excessively literal reading of what the "Don't Say Gay" Bill means as applied to teaching, is an evasion of the intent of the bill, which is to restrict teachers who may talk about sex and gender in their classrooms, even in the context of reading literature or talking about history. It censors teaching.

    Somerby does not tell us what the actual bill says either -- preferring to tell us that Wagner didn't describe the bills accurately, while pointing to no actual mistake she made and providing no evidence of her lack of competence. We are supposed to take Somerby's word that his own reading of the bills, which he says he did but tells us nothing to contradict or expand on Wagner's review, turned up mistakes that are so important that he had to write a column criticizing her, right off the bat, as she takes her new job. Phooey on that. I am going to give Wagner a chance and not blame her for folloing in the hated Maddow's footsteps, something she had no control over, except to presumably apply for her job when it became vacant. That appears to be a crime in Somerby's universe.

  3. "Transcript delayed is transcript denied!"

    The actual phrase is, of course, "Justice delayed is justice denied!" But is Somerby owed a transcript in the same way as those arrested are owed a speedy trial? Is it right to compare a minor inconvenience, which could be easily remedied by replaying a recording of the show, to a major tenet of our justice system, keeping the police from locking someone up and throwing away the key?

    We need to watch these casual false equivalencies, which Somerby uses frequently, because their implications can create unconscious parallels that may not exist. Somerby perhaps intends this as a semi-humorous quip, but there is nothing the same in these two situations, so it fails as humor but may create the impression that MSNBC is doing something wrong when it fails to post transcripts -- Somerby never mentions that Fox doesn't provide them either, and that these are a convenience not part of journalism, and not part of any expectation for any news shows, thus not a violation by Maddow or her cable network when the transcripts demanded by Somerby are NOT posted. No one every promised Somerby any transcripts, they are not required, not even usual, and so when they are NOT provided, no rule, law or custom, or even nicety has been violated. He is whining because the job he has chosen to do in his retirement occasionally requires some effort. Boo hoo!

  4. Here is a description by NBC News about changes in teaching under the new bill:

  5. Once I spent a very long afternoon with my teenage daughter shopping for a prom dress. She had an idea in her mind about what the perfect dress should look like, and none of the actual dresses in the store met that expectation. She wouldn't even try any of them on.

    This is what Somerby is doing with Alex Wagner. He has an idea in his mind of what the perfect discussion of Don't Say Gay would sound like and he is unwilling to consider other approaches, even if they are "perfectly nice looking dresses that she looked adorable wearing." Why not listen to her way of presenting the Bill and evaluate that on its own merits, instead of comparing it to what he would do or what he would prefer to hear if he ran the circus?

  6. "The way of our blue tribe's world: We can't link you to transcripts of the two programs to which we've referred. "

    Note the juxtaposition here. Have liberals or the so-called blue tribe really banned transcripts? Are there more transcripts in the red tribe? Tucker publishes an opinion piece excerpted from his show daily, but not a transcript. Is some plank in the Democratic Party platform prohibiting transcripts while Republicans produce them prodigiously?

    Why say fatuous stuff like this? It is one more criticism of our blue tribe, among many that he casually throws into every day's essays, to create the general impressions that liberals are shit.

    And then we are asked by equally fatuous people in the comments "can't you take any criticism of the left"? Is this really criticism or is it a hit job, ongoing, never-ending, nit-picky and clumsy and stupid, but a relentlessly negative stream of throw-away remarks against the so-called blue tribe, as if liberals were a monolith and not a tiny segment of a left-wing that includes some centrists, progressives, mainstream Democrats, Democratic socialists, minority group members, women, highly educated voters, and single-issue voters such as environmentalists or pro-choice activists. United in the desire to prohibit transcripts, according to Somerby.

  7. "Wagner's new prime-time program could turn out to be highly instructive. But as with all such undertakings, it could turn out to be something else."

    So, why not bias her audience in advance by focusing on some non-existent flaw using a highly negative tone, so that no one will approach her show with an expectation of competence? This is what bias looks like.

  8. I don't want a teacher discussing homosexuality with my second grade son and I don't want him told he should feel guilty or made to feel hated for his white skin. Most of the people who oppose these laws are the disgruntled childless who have a problem with normal families.

    1. Any sex education for a second grader is inappropriate. There is no disagreement there.

    2. Nothing about the USA being one of the greatest countries, either. No reason to put that to 2nd graders.

    3. 11:16:
      As long as you get to decide what is and isn’t normal, that’s all that matters?

      What if a kid in 3rd grade has two mommies. Will that kid get to talk about her home life, or feel ostracized because it might lead to awkward discussions that may bring the state of Florida down on that school or that teacher?

      What if a black kid’s parents discuss Jim Crow at home. Can that black kid bring up the subject in school, or will you feel aghast that your (white) child is being made to feel uncomfortable?

      What is normal in your world? Two parent families or single parent families? Mixed race couples? Jews? Muslims? Atheists?

      Re homosexuality: There is nothing abnormal about homosexuality. It is a completely normal part of the spectrum of being human.

    4. If a teacher is not intelligent enough to shift a discussion away from "two mommies" they shouldn't be teaching. Discussions among students about race are fine. Teaching about history, including the facts of slavery and Jim Crow are fine. Suggesting present day white culpability for either is not. Two heterosexual parents is normal. Mixed race is fine.

    5. The issue isn't avoiding acts proscribed by the law but avoiding spurious lawsuits by parents, who are not likely to be reasonable. Teachers don't have the money to defend such suits.

    6. It's too bad Democrats created circumstances that made the laws necessary. Cameras in the classroom would help, just like body cams on cops help.

    7. DeSantis is a fucking demagogue.

      If you’ve been keeping up with life in Florida lately, you likely know that Governor Ron DeSantis is on a one-man crusade to turn the place into an uninhabitable hellhole. Thus far, that campaign has included signing the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law; banning Medicaid from covering gender-affirming care for trans people; firing an elected official for refusing to prosecute pregnant people seeking abortions; going scorched earth on a major company that dared to disagree with him about LGBTQ+ issues; bullying the Special Olympics; and signing the ridiculous “Stop WOKE Act,” which effectively bans schools and private businesses from making white people feel bad about the history of racism in this country. And while there’s little hope for Floridians living under this petty tyrant, on Thursday they got a rare bit of good news when a district judge declared the “Stop WOKE” law a no-go.

      In a 44-page ruling, U.S. district judge Mark Walker said that the law regulating race-based conversations is unconstitutional, writing that it violates the First Amendment and, per the Associated Press, is “impermissibly vague.” That vagueness, of course, was no doubt by design. Like the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, the “Stop WOKE Act” was written in such a way that teachers and businesses could conceivably be sued for just about anything. “It is unclear what is prohibited, and even less clear what is permitted,” Walker wrote, adding: “Imagine an employer, during a mandatory seminar on dispute resolution, cites the civil disobedience exemplified by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi as a peaceful, preferred approach. Has that employer ‘inculcated’ employees with the belief that Black and Asian people are morally superior to white people?” Prior to the legislation being passed by the Florida legislature, Democrats had argued that the bill would bring about frivolous lawsuits and basically equate to censorship. When asked for real-life examples of schools or businesses telling students or employees that they were inherently racist because of the color of their skin, their Republican counterparts could come up with none. “This bill’s not for Blacks, this bill was not for any other race,” State Senator Shevrin Jones said in January. “This was directed to make whites not feel bad about what happened years ago. At no point did anyone say white people should be held responsible for what happened, but what I would ask my white counterparts is, are you an enabler of what happened, or are you going to say we must talk about history?”


      sorry, left out the link

    9. Children start noticing pregnant women and asking where babies come from around age 4-5. Anything you tell them in response to such questions constitutes "sex education."

    10. @1:19

      "Teaching about history, including the facts of slavery and Jim Crow are fine. Suggesting present day white culpability for either is not. "

      What about that couple whose house was redlined so that they got a lowball appraisal because they were black, whereas a white couple got an appraisal of the same house for $300,000 more? Can a teacher mention that example as an illustration of how redling still works -- this happened in Baltimore, Somerby's hometown. Can teachers talk about how that prevents black people from accumulating higher net worth today? Or might it make some white child feel bad because the teacher is suggesting it is not OK to bilk people based on their race in today's housing market?

      I seriously want to know how you think a teacher can handle that discussion without being sued by the parents of white kids who are distressed about the unfair way black people are still being treated in the South.

    11. No. You and I are able to recognize racism when it's directed at blacks and I am able to recognize it when directed at blacks or whites. These incidents do not need to be highlighted by teachers lecturing about racism. Parents can "handle" the discussion if they see fit. In my case if talking to a young adult I might mention it and note that there are vestiges of every kind of discrimination and hate in society and there always will be, and that it's important not to be prejudiced. My discussion will sound different from most woke teachers. I don't trust teachers to do it in any way that is different from the Democrat approach which is reinforce hate between groups.

    12. @1:43 says "Governor Ron DeSantis is on a one-man crusade to turn the place into an uninhabitable hellhole." The facts say otherwise. Florida just had a huge population increase.

    13. And we fully expect Val Demings to win tomorrow and Flordia to turn blue as the result of these shenanigans.

    14. It is the role of the schools to encourage good citizenship, cooperation and kind treatment of others, to build character and reinforce sound values. When parents are derelect and the schools do not do this, you wind up with miscreants like Donald Trump. Adherence to the laws of our land is not optional, that's why it shouldn't be optional for schools and parents to teach children how to behave in our society. Civil rights and equality under the law are the law of our land. That's why it is important for schools teach it, not just parents, and why it cannot be left up to parents alone to talk about with kids, especially when many parents (especially in the American South) did not learn such lessons themselves when they were young.

      Making it illegal to help kids learn to live with others in our society is unkind to children because it will place them in conflict with others, who they would do better to get along with. The cynical Republicans who are using children as pawns in political games should be ashamed of themselves for harming the futures of kids who don't know any better, and their equally ignorant parents.

    15. "Florida just had a huge population increase."

      Making Florida a wingnut haven just before it becomes an underwater atoll. I'll bring the popcorn.

    16. 1:10 PM, mh: "There is nothing abnormal about homosexuality. It is a completely normal part of the spectrum of being human."

      Oh dear. And may we ask: what other parts are completely normal? Bestiality? Necrophilia? Pederasty? Voluntary amputation? Cannibalism?

      Please enlighten.

    17. Homosexuality is about who a person is sexually attracted to, the opposite sex (heterosexual) or the same sex (homosexual). It has nothing whatsoever to do with the list of other sexual and non-sexual attractions Mao has listed, no doubt in order to smear homosexuals, even though heterosexuals are much more likely to engage in them.

      mh is in line with the medical and psychological/psychiatric community when he says homosexuality is normal behavior. This was determined by large-scale studies over time, causing public opinion to change, followed by laws and society (with the removal of stigma). Mao argues a return to know-nothing dark ages of prejudice. But what else would you expect of someone inhabiting a troll farm in Russia? Russians are one of the most superstitious peoples on our planet.

    18. Mao,
      All those are more normal than voting Republican.
      You're welcome.

    19. 1:31,
      And cameras in the boardrooms would be best of all.

    20. "It has nothing whatsoever to do with the list of other sexual and non-sexual attractions Mao has listed..."

      It sure does have something in common with the list, dear government scientist.

      They are all unnatural. Abnormal.

    21. "Please enlighten me."

      Impossible, as your following comments prove.

    22. Reading and math are unnatural acts. Being gay is not.

  9. Peter Greene’s view of the Florida bill:

  10. "We'll be visiting friends in the Hudson Valley for the next few days."

    As long as it isn't the Hamptons...

  11. Isn't it odd that Somerby used to be a teacher, yet he can't find an ounce of empathy for the Florida teachers affected by these bills?

    1. We are already seeing the consequences of these new laws that petty tyrant in Florida is enacting:

      Orlando, Fla. (Gray DC) - According to the most recent data from the state’s department of education, Florida is short nearly 4,500 teachers. It is a problem Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has recently promised to address. Meanwhile, his main Democratic challengers say they have their own ideas on how to fix the issue.

      Governor DeSantis says he is focused on giving teachers more moneymaking opportunities while recruiting law enforcement and military veterans to fill the remaining void.

      Isn't that wonderful, put untrained law enforcement and military vets in the schools to fill the slots. If I was a parent of school age child in Florida, I would be pretty pissed right about now.

      However, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar says the governor’s new policies on what teachers can and cannot teach are part of the problem.

      “This attempt to divide a wedge between parents and schools, parents and teachers, and create division and chaos on school boards is not something we should embrace,” said Spar.

      And Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried say the state needs to increase teacher’s salaries and overall school funding while decreasing our teachers’ workload.

      “People are leaving. And if we aren’t having qualified teachers teaching in the classrooms, we are doing such a disservice to the future of our state,” said Fried.

    2. Empathy is feeling sorry for the segment of professional teachers who might endure a frivolous action by a lying parent as a result of the woke teachers who try to indoctrinate children into hate or groom them. They should demand cameras in the classroom, but there is no better solution than that given the facts on the ground about these gender and racist activists.

    3. There are no "woke teachers" who are trying to indoctrinate or groom children. That is another bid lie being told by the right wing. And it is dangerous because it hurts public servants who are in short supply and children, who don't deserve to be mistreated, especially for political reasons. Cameras in the classroom are an invasion of everyone's privacy, including those kids who pick their noses and wet their pants and say embarrassing things about their parents during a day's activities, and would have all that happen in public because of spiteful Republicans. Of all the crazy nut-case proposals on the right, this is one of the most destructive because it hurts kids, second only to the anti-mask campaigns that killed hundreds of thousands of people needlessly.

    4. 4chan buzzword troll @ 4:09 - work harder.

    5. Can an educator be reprimanded for not teaching school kids that God is a figment of dim/witted imaginations?

  12. “We aren’t here to discuss the quality of the Florida Bill…” fine, but that suggests, to those who are familiar with Bob’s shaky constructs, that he is here to ignore what’s in the bill so
    he can stick it to MSNBC, which is basically
    what he lives for.

  13. I'm glad Somerby is looking into this issue of her reporting and claims about the bill.

  14. The author of this blog spends a great deal of time making readers less informed. Amongst the legions of 'guy on internet complains about things and tries to confuse the readers' style of websites, this one is pretty....blah.

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