MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2023
Taking a good look around: Last Thursday, MSNBC announced that Mehdi Hasan's weekend show was getting canceled.
We don't know why the show got canceled. Neither does Kevin Drum, as he noted in this post:
Why was Mehdi Hasan canceled?
MSNBC canceled Mehdi Hasan's weekly show today. Twitter is alive with accusations that this was done because Hasan is outspokenly progressive and pro-Palestinian. Or did it happen because of low ratings? You decide:
[Graphic concerning viewership of three cable programs]
Hard to say, isn't it? Hasan's ratings over the past half year have been fairly steady, although he's lost a good chunk of audience since August. Most of this decline came after October 7 and may have been due to his pro-Palestinian stance.
So...... was he canceled because he was too pro-Palestinian? Or because he lost his audience because he was too pro-Palestinian? And does it matter?
We'll start with one observation. Based on the graphic in question, it doesn't look like Hasan really had lost an enormous chunk of his (rather small) Sunday night audience.
That said, we don't know why his program got canceled. In this news report from The Hill, we learn that other MSNBC programs are being canceled or reconfigured as part of "a weekend shakeup."
Hasan will remain as an MSNBC commentator—but why was his program canceled? We have no way of knowing.
That said, we were intrigued by several comments to Drum's post—comments about the current state of red and blue tribe cable news.
One of the comments came from a reader who spoke in support of MSNBC. Here's the text of that comment, along with a response:
COMMENT: I know it's all the rage to call out MSNBC as a left-wing propaganda site. Sure, its commentator shows lean left. But they are basically grounded in facts. They believe in climate change—that's a fact, they believe Jan. 6 was an insurrection—it was. They have broadcast any and all court proceedings having to do with Trump's 91 charges—how terrible.
RESPONSE: Yep, regarding MSNBC, you are right that "they are basically grounded in facts". Compared to Fox News, especially when listening to their commentators, MSNBC looks really good.
Does MSNBC "look really good" when compared to Fox News? If we tried to answer that question, we'd have to start with this:
On the whole, the commenter is judging MSNBC by an extremely weak standard.
(We'd also make this observation: It's possible to provide extremely unhelpful commentary which is wholly "grounded in facts.")
On the whole—though not in every way—the performance is often extremely bad on the Fox News Channel. With that in mind, we were especially struck by an additional comment to Drum's post about Hasan.
This commenter makes reference to Drum's graphic. The graphic shows that Mark Levin's Sunday night program on Fox has been swamping Hasan's program in the cable news ratings:
COMMENT: Mark Levin doing way better on ratings?! Wow, I used to listen him for a few minutes now and then on his AM talk radio show before he went to Fox, and the guy was just a angry nut. An extremist, angry nut.
He fit well on AM talk radio with its right-wing nonsense stations. It's just insane that Fox News gave him a job. Now he gets to spread his craziness more broadly.
Honestly, I have never listened to him even once on Fox News. Just can't take the idea of doing so. On the crazy-propaganda-spouting meter, I wonder how he compares to Sean Hannity?
The commenter has never listened Levin's weekend program. (We can't say we blame him.) That said, he seemed surprised to learn that Levin's program draws something like 1.5 million viewers on a regular basis.
We have occasionally watched Levin's weekend show. Millions of people disagree, but to our eye and ear, he does often seem like a bit of a nut.
Mark Levin does strike us as an extremely angry nut. Reading the comment from Drum's reader, something occurred to us all over again:
Many people have little idea about what happens on Fox.
We've had that thought fairly often of late. The background goes like this:
Over the course of (let's say) the past year, we've come to find MSNBC more and more unwatchable. That reaction is largely based on the way MSNBC programs pound away at endless volumes of legal minutia, all built upon this pleasing theme:
Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!
Stating the obvious, Donald J. Trump's legal problems are a real and ongoing American and global news event.
That said, those legal problems aren't the only American / global news event. In our view, MSNBC's obsessive attention to those problems represents extremely bad corporate judgment, on a journalistic and a political basis.
Over the past year or so, we've found it harder and harder to watch these endless hours of legal trivia. It's hard to avoid the thought that this endless programming may represent a cynical, rating-based corporate financial decision.
As MSNBC has become more and more unwatchable for us, we've been flipping over to Fox on a more frequent basis. Often (though not always), what we've seen has been even worse than we would have expected.
So it has been with Mark Levin and his weekend program.
In our view, MSNBC's incessant focus on legal trivia represents bad political judgment. In our view, that's a large part of the current problem with blue tribe cable news.
That's part of the problem with blue cable. All week long, we'll tackle these questions:
What's actually happening in red tribe cable? Why doesn't it get discussed?
In our view, "cable news" has largely become a red and blue tribal Babel. Can a large modern nation survive this arrangement?
We'll guess that the answer is no.
Tomorrow: It topped the front page of the New York Times. Who heard about it on cable?