TRY TELLING THE TRUTH! Maddow was emoting hardand handing us rubes half a story: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2009
Theyve already killed one person: Did Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby kill Sandra Cantu, an adorable California child who was just eight years old? We dont know. Neither does Larry King, of course, or his gang of cable ghouls. But that gang has spent the last two nights convicting Huckaby of the crime. After all, shes been accused! And by the established rules of the game, thats close enough for cable.
For the record, the ghouls especially love this story because this adorable eight-year-old child seems to have been sexually abused in the course of her murder. Last night, former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro seemed to be nearing a state of special ecstacy as she discussed this part of the story. Over on Headline News, Nancy Grace was of course more clownish still.
Kings performance was inexcusable. On Monday night, guest host Joy Behar was actually several times worse.
Its hard to forget one part of this story. These ghouls have already killed one person in an earlier ramble. That innocent person was Richard Ricci, who actually hadnt played a role in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart. (Smart was the lovely Utah child on whose photographs cable fed in the summer of 2002.) Grace was still part of the King gang then; she, and others, convicted Ricci. As it turned out, Ricci was uninvolved in this crime. But in part because of the cable turmoil, he got dragged into prison on an unrelated charge. Due to a pre-existing health problem, he died there in August 2002. Uninvolved.
Miraculously, Smart was returned to her family in March 2003. When that happened, King lamented the way Ricci had been convicted on his program. Nancy, do you feel a little funny about all the racks [sic] we took at Mr. Ricci on this show? he asked the loathsome lunatic Grace on March 12 of that year. No. I dont, she dumbly replied. The evenings disgrace spiraled downward from there. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/03, with links to previous work.
Must we cite an earlier episode? In the summer of 2001, many of these same cable ghouls convicted Gary Condit of the murder of Chandra Levy. Incredibly, they even invented two key pieces of evidence to make it seem Condit was guilty. (See links at the bottom of the 5/2/03 HOWLER.) Its hard to find words for the moral squalor afflicting a gang of ghouls like these. But theyve gone right back to their ghoulish ways in the past two nights.
Recent history has made one point clear: People will do and say almost anything in the search for cable wealth and fame. If you doubt that basic fact, just watch Larry King Live tonight. To stare into a deeper abyss, we dare you: Sample Grace.
PART 2TRY TELLING THE TRUTH: People have asked in recent weeks: Why have we been criticizing emerging progressive media? (Olbermann and Maddow, to cite two examples.) Easy! Weve criticized emerging progressive media because progressive media matters! On balance, the mainstream press corps has been a disaster for years; the conservative press is a loud, screaming joke. If the public will ever get the chance to benefit from trustworthy media, that opportunity will most likely have to come from emerging progressive entities.
As Americansas progressives, as liberals, as centrists, as Democrats, as responsible conservativeswe cant afford to let these new entities adopt the broken cultural practices which have driven so much of our existing press corps over the past twenty years.
And yet, everywhere we look, we see emerging progressive entities which seem to be aping Sean Hannity. In the ened, they come down on your side. But they treat you like fools in the process.
In our view, this is unacceptable as a basic moral matter. You simply cant build a progressive politics by letting a bunch of upper-class kids disinform average people. Beyond that, we suspect this approach is extremely foolish as a matter of basic politics. Conservative bull-roar worked well for years for a basic reason: Because the mainstream press was frequently willing to pimp it. (Al Gore said he invented the Internet!) But unless our society fully collapses, the mainstream press will likely be an upper-class institution for decades to come. Its unlikely this group will ever want to recite gong-show tales from the left. Silly tales have worked wellfor the other side. Unless society collapses, they wont likely work well for us.
Neither will dick jokes. Neither will superior skill at denigrating other folks motives.
And yet, we get the feeling that many progressives want to ape the conduct of talk-show conservatives. As we watch and read our progressive media, we find ourselves getting the same half-truths weve gotten from the mainstream and the right. We find we have to fact-check everything; when we do, the facts routinely arent there. This is a deeply annoying experience. And so, to emerging progressive journalists, we offer this bit of advice: Try telling the truth.
Were getting half-truths from progressive journalists? We know, we knowit sounds like heresy! But well offer examples for the next several days. To consider a fairly trivial case, consider the half-story Rachel Maddow kept telling about Tammy Duckworthand the vile Richard Burr.
Duckworth is Obamas nominee to head the Veterans Administration. On April 3, Maddow made her first presentation about the nomineeand she let the whole world know how heartfelt her views really were. Does Maddow ever tell it straight? A progressive star was steaming madand handing us rubes a half-story:
Spare us. But Maddow was very upset with Burr, about whose motives she was mind-reading nicely. Later in the program, we got her fuller, heart-felt half-report. To watch the full segment, click this:
Is Tammy Duckworth renowned nationwide for help[ing] make the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs a leader in state benefits for vets? We have no idea. (For what its worth, a fairly detailed Wikipedia entry records no such judgments. Click this. Duckworth has served in her post for a bit more than two years.) At any rate, Duckworth was wicked-smart this eveningand Maddow was wicked sincere. And of course, Maddow was utterly baffled by Burrs baffling conduct. According to Maddow, Burr wouldnt say why he was delaying the Duckworth nomination.
Unfortunately, Richard Burr had announced why he was delaying judgment. Maddow didnt know this elementary factor shed decided to misinform you. At any rate: Four nights later, Maddow announced that Burr had relentedand she even pretended to be going off prompter! Stop the computer thingy, she cried, sincerity oozing from every pore. Her heartfelt feelings could be seen on her sleevethough Burrs vile conduct was still inexplicable. If youre the kind of progressive rube who believes the things Maddow tells you (to view the dramatics, click here):
The whole thing was still inexplicable, Maddow said; apparently, Senator Burr still wouldnt say what his puzzling due diligence might concern. (Question about our Rhodes Scholars logic: Are senators supposed to approve nominees just because they were helicopter pilots?) And on April 9, Maddow was at it again, show-boating with veterans advocate Paul Reickhoff this time. (Were always sorry to see quality people like Rieckhoff being stoop to the level of cable news hustles.) In this case, Maddow suggested that her own heartfelt efforts may have helped speed Duckworths nomination. But uh-oh! Reickhoff let something slip. He basically understood the story which Maddow had never told. To watch, click this:
The pair of progressives were swaggering hard, with Reickhoff allowed to do the mind-reading this time. But uh-oh! As he started, Reickhoff mentioned the apparent cause of the minor delay in Duckworths confirmation. This matter, of course, had always been clearexcept on the Maddow show.
As far as we know, theres no earthly reason why Tammy Duckworth shouldnt serve as head of the VA. But it was always fairly clear why Burr was delaying confirmation. At any rate, there was more to the story than Maddow ever reportedand it was all on the public record. Duh. On April 2, Matthew Johnson had explained the nature of the delay for the Congressional Quarterly. The report is available on Nexis. If we can afford to pay for the service, well guess GE can too:
Remember: That explanation came from Broder Van Dyke, speaking for the Democratic chairman of the senate committee.
Apparently, this turned out to be fairly trivial stuff. But Maddows clowning notwithstanding, the nature of this minor delay was always perfectly clear. It sounded like Duckworth had managed to minor-ly screw up her basic questionnaires. On April 3, the Chicago Daily Herald, a home newspaper for Duckworth, further explained the less than earth-shaking story. (Reporter: Deborah Donovan.) Maddows showboating notwithstanding, Burrs press spokesman did explain the nature of the delay. And omigod! We have no complaint against her, the vile spokesman had even said:
That report appeared on April 3. That evening, Maddow was emoting hard about Burrs outrageous conductconduct whose motives she mind-read skillfully. But wouldnt you know it? She didnt mention the apparent problems with Duckworths paper-workproblems which seemed to have been acknowledged by Akaka and by Duckworth herself. Who knows? Maybe Maddow and her staff didnt know this part of the storybut they plainly should have known. This rather trivial matter was public record, subject to a simple search.
Who knows? Maybe her staff had spent the day searching newspapers for dick jokes!
The next day, the Chicago Daily Herald reported on the story again. And uh-oh! This time, reporter Dan Carden mentioned a part of the story which seems especially awkward, given Maddows extended clowning about a related subject. Uh-oh! As head of the Illinois VA, Duckworth had served at the pleasure of Blago, Carden duly noted:
In three heartfelt fulminations, Maddow never remembered to mention Duckworths tie to Rod BlagojevichBlago, whose cosmic corruption Maddow has seemed to assume in a long series of entertaining reports (including one last night.) Meanwhile, Duckworth had apparently filed some confusing paper-work about her financesand she was the former appointee of a governor whose clownish corruption Maddow mocks at every turn. (Maddow can apparently tell that Blago is guilty. After all, hes been charged!) Given the endless prejudgment of Blago, would you be surprised if Burr, or someone in his position, wanted to check Duckworths actual data? After all: If Blago is as big a crook as Maddow suggests, why shouldnt a senator check fumbled data from a Blago insider?
As it turns out, none of this was ever especially significant. That didnt stop Maddow from posturing about itshe even made them turn off her prompter! So she could speak to you right from the heart!all while failing to let you know the basic facts of the case. On April 8, Rob Christensen reported Burrs decision for the McClatchy/Knight Ridder papers (click here). "I don't think there is a financial question about Tammy Duckworth, the solon had said. I think she is extremely sloppy, but that is not a disqualification." One night later, Maddow was still pretending that no one had the slightest idea what this had been about:
Oof. Burr said the Blago connection had given him pause. But then, Maddow herself has endlessly suggested that Blagos a comic-book crook. Why wouldnt a person with ties to this man perhaps get a moment of scrutiny?
In truth, this was never much of a story. All the way back on April 2, Duckworth seemed to acknowledge that she had given inconsistent answers. Apparently, it wasnt a major deal. But there is no apparent reason why a Republican senator shouldnt ask a Dem nominee for clarity in such a circumstance. The minority may as well go home if they dont fact-check something like this.
But wouldnt you know it? Maddow never told us rubes about any of that. Duckworth was wicked smart, we were told. And Burr was a very bad fellow.
Such novels bring us liberal rubes back for more, serving GEs bottom line.
Does Maddow ever tell it straight? How about Olbermann and Shuster? Or are these programs just comfort foodchances to hear that the other sides bad, while your side is good and adorable?
Does Maddow ever tell it straight? More examples tomorrow.