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Rachel Maddow: a ‘Republicans vs. Democrats’ distraction

The American economy is falling apart – but, as an election approaches, the public debate concerns the following: College pranks at Baylor in the 1980s; a high school date with a dabbler in witchcraft; the fact that someone called someone a whore; a joke about being a bearded Marxist in a college newspaper.

Daily Howler, October 20, 2010

Monday’s Rachel Maddow Show was a good example of the problem of both ‘Republican’ and ‘Democratic’ mainstream political shows: screw serious evidence, me and my audience got some bonding to do! And, as always, Daily Howler made the point well and provocatively. The larger point I took away from his screed about Monday’s show, and the Howler quote above in particular (whether or not it is/was Howler’s point), is that IT IS A BIPARTISAN PROJECT to distort and distract election and political coverage away from the economic crisis and related injustices. (The Howler’s main purpose, whether its author Bob Somerby realizes it or not, is to make this point with airtight specificity.)

Let’s now focus on the specifics of plutocracy Democrat Maddow’s Monday show, but begin with Howler’s conclusion, because it gives the overview through which to observe the specific failure of Maddow’s latest "those damn Republicans" myth/argument:

… a final point should be offered: Maddow’s performance was very much like the kind of dreck that gets served on Fox on a nightly basis. On that much-maligned news channel, prime time hosts like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly simply assert, again and again, that the Beltway media are spinning things the Democrats’ way. They rarely feel the need to offer serious evidence for their sweeping claims; they seem to assume that their viewers won’t notice the lack of evidence, or will be too eager to swallow the message. On Monday, Maddow was playing this same sweet game for a different tribe. She treated 1.3 million liberal viewers like a gang of low-IQ rubes.

This is Daily Howler’s usual complaint against Maddow and nearly all mainstream political pundits and talk show hosts: not presenting serious evidence for your claims. Maddow’s charge opened her show …

Over and over, for the next sixteen minutes, Maddow kept saying that "the Beltway media" is promoting the GOP’s campaign messages-is "spinning the elections for them." …

Maddow’s first of two pieces of ‘evidence’:

So here’s just one example. Here is the spin as dictated to us by the punditocracy:

It’s the deficit! That’s what the elections are all about, the deficit! The reasons Republican are going to pick up seats in this election is because people are fed up with the deficit! That’s the media spin.

(Reading from news analysis piece in The Hill):

"The Republican Party’s focus on reducing the federal deficit may be resonating with independent voters who could swing the midterm elections."

You know, conveniently, here’s that exact same spin in a typical Republican campaign ad. [She then plays a Republican campaign ad.]

Howler’s comment:

…that brief quotation from The Hill constitutes one of only two examples of the way "the Beltway media" are allegedly "spinning the elections for the GOP." And yet, there’s nothing much wrong with the report in question. In that analysis piece (click here), Sean Miller discusses a recent poll sponsored by The Hill-a poll in which 52 percent of independent voters "cited debt reduction as a priority, compared with only 39 percent who said additional federal spending to create jobs is more important." (Headline: "Independents prefer cutting the deficit to spending on jobs.") On the basis of this stated preference, Miller says that the GOP’s focus on the deficit might help them win the congressional districts where the poll was conducted.

As a bit of election analysis, this is thoroughly common-place stuff-and The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, hardly defines "the Beltway media." And yet, this is one of only two examples of the vast plot by that Beltway media-the plot against which Maddow inveighed for sixteen minutes.

Maddow’s second and final piece of ‘evidence’ for the statement that the Beltway media are selling us the Republican spin this campaign season:

Big government is what explains what’s going to happen in these elections! The Republicans are poised to pick up seats in these elections because they represent a rejection of big government.

That’s what we’re hearing from the media.

(Quoting headline from opinion column in Real Clear Politics:)

"As Views of Big Government Go, So Go Dems Out the Door."

Conveniently, it’s not just what we’re hearing in the media. It’s also what we are hearing from the people who are trying to elect Republicans this year.

Howler’s take:

Maddow quoted the headline of this column-another piece in which the author cited polling data to explain why voters are tilting Republican. This time, the data came from a Gallup survey-but the analysis was perfectly sensible.

So, no serious evidence presented for the claim, which may nonetheless be true, but the point is, present serious evidence if you want to be taken seriously. And I want leftist/progressive claims to be taken seriously, and for viewers to notice the difference between ‘evidence-free’ right-wing arguers and leftist ones. But does Maddow want to be taken seriously? No, that’s not IMHO what her show is about; the show in fact is simply a bonding exercise, accepting what she says on faith as a sign you’re part of her camp.

Note, by the way, that a ‘Republicans control the media’ spin fits well into the (at this point absurdly absurd) myth that ‘Republicans vs. Democrats’ is the main conflict in American politics. Rather than what is much more in evidence especially since the rise of Clinton and Obama, that a bipartisan plutocracy rules us and screws us over (and over). But you won’t bond with Maddow over that truth; she’s all about squawking over and lending credibility to the play-acting ‘fight show’ the Repub/Dems put on for us every two years.

[Expanded up from this comment.]

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