You know, I really hate to say I told you so–oh, but who am I kidding. I love to say it! I TOLD YOU SO. Rachel Maddow–so full of promise, so smart on Air America, and such a total sellout on MSNBC–and Historiann saw it coming all along. Say it: you were right, Historiann!
Bob Somerby has been on fire this summer, stamping his feet and screaming about the mal-, and nonfeasance of the so-called “progressive media” on TV, that is, Keith Olbermann’s and Rachel Maddow’s shows on MSNBC. Most people say, and apparently believe, that this year is the Dems main chance to do something about health care reform–if they don’t do it now, 2010 will be all about the midterms and then 2011 will be all about the 2012 Presidential election. Why isn’t there any reasonably informed coverage of the facts and issues at stake in health care reform in our so-called “progressive media” (that is, on single-payer systems, of which there are many varieties to study and learn from around the world)? Sing it with me children: As Somerby says, “other nations are spending half as much,” and are getting better results than we get! We wouldn’t accept this kind of low-quality for high prices when it comes to trivial consumer goods–why do we permit this when the consequences are life or death for many Americans?
So now, back to Maddow. How did she spend her precious hour of network news time Thursday night? The first thirty minutes were spent on John Ensign’s extramarital affair. (And Somerby reminds us that Maddow actually spent time the previous night reading his love letters on the air! Good God.) This might be justified if Maddow had a local news program in Reno or Las Vegas, but really–that’s your top news story, Rachel? Says Somerby:
Corporate interests will win again—because, in place of real information, they keep handing you distractions. Sex toys.
When people like Maddow keep handing you sex, her corporate owners have won. In the past, it was known as “bread and circuses;” today, it takes a somewhat sillier form. But whatever! Serial distractions keep the public from understanding the facts of their lives.
How dumb are the public debates which operate inside this framework?
In the mid-1990s, the press corps clowned its way through a two-year pseudo-debate about Medicare. Among name players, only Al Franken was smart enough to explain the basic facts of that thoroughly bungled discussion. (In Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.) The GOP really was proposing cuts—but no one in the press could quite explain it. They even began to call Clinton a liar—although Clinton was telling the truth. (This debate played a large role in creating the notion that Clinton, then Gore, were big liars.)
Today, the corps is clowning its way through a similar oddball debate. Very few journos are willing to explain the absurdity of current health care arrangements. Maddow could be explaining these things. Instead, she keeps handing you sex.
I’m so glad he brought up all of that ancient Clinton history from 1998 and 1999. How’d that work out for the American people? How much have we learned since then? (Not much, apparently.) Ensign’s and Mark Sanford’s problems are good for a little tee-hee-hee about Republican “family values” hypocrisy and of course they’re of compelling interest to their political opponents, but they are totally irrelevant to the major and urgent policy questions faced by the Obama administration and congress right now. Why on earth is Maddow wasting the nation’s time on yet another pointless distraction from issues that acutually matter to the lives of most Americans?
We’ll take a guess about motive:
Maddow is woefully clueless about domestic politics—and a bit immature to boot. In all honesty, she belongs at the helm of a nightly news program in much the way your next-door neighbor should be running the space shuttle program. For that reason, we’ll assume that most of her nonsense is done in good faith—although her corporate owners (GE) are surely thrilled with the circus she pimps to us rubes.
But make no mistake: The absence of knowledge about health care has been produced in just this way over the past several decades. There is always some distraction at play—some useful circus with which to redirect the public’s attention and focus. And highly-paid journalists—or “career liberal” strivers—have always been willing to walk that walk. They’ve always been willing to play the fool, to play along with the mainstream consensus. Their pay-days, current or future, depend on such acts of consent.
Young career liberals didn’t oppose those wars against Clinton and Gore. They aren’t rebelling against this crap now.
Might we explain how our politics works? The public tends to favor progressive positions, to the extent that they understand the real shape of our debates. For that reason, the corporate interest will almost always be served by a thrilling distraction. In this case, the public would be angry and deeply unimpressed—if they understood the nature of our bloated health spending. If they understood what that disparity in spending means—that massive amounts of “health care” dollars are being drained into corporate pockets.
The public would be upset about that. Maddow refuses to tell them.