Thursday, August 13, 2009


The latest worst thing to happen to the U.S. news industry (except for all those newspapers dying) is NBC’s decision – its business decision – to turn cable-news channel MSNBC into a wing of the Democratic Party.

The sad folly of that decision is evident in MSNBC’s “coverage” of the health-care debate. Specifically this month’s town-hall meetings with members of Congress... where some citizens have gotten loud ’n’ salty.

MSNBC has packed its primetime lineup with doctrinaire liberals, adding radio talkers Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz to the bombastic duo of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Apparently MSNBC has instructed these hosts to behave like a Fox News of the Left. All partisan, all the time.

I remember (fondly) when libertarian Tucker Carlson and moderate Republican Joe Scarborough were part of the evening mix. (Olbermann, petulant adolescent that he is, would refuse to “throw” to Scarborough, meaning that Keith never ended his show with “And now, here’s Joe Scarborough,” the way he does nightly with Ms. Maddow.

(Keith actually bragged on the air about dissing Scarborough when Rachel Maddow took over. “I’ll be glad to throw to you,” he told her. Or something like that. Fucking child.)

The problem with an avowedly partisan “news” channel is... you can’t trust it. You can’t believe what they say, because objectivity and even- handedness are not values for Olbermann, Matthews, Maddow and Schultz. Their leftist agenda drives everything.

They are Soldiers for Christ (figuratively speaking) in the war against evil conservatives, corrupt Republicans, their greedy corporate puppetmasters, and Ronald Reagan’s ghost.

Even summer-vacation substitute hosts like Lawrence O’Donnell are licensed to push the Democrats’ party line.

MSNBC, in other words, is almost as worthless as Fox News.

Rachel Maddow this month has been pushing a narrative regarding those town-hall protests over health reform. She calls it “astroturfing” and “false-flagging,” not genuine grassroots opposition.

Every night, Maddow tells her viewers that the public dissent is being orchestrated by right-wing political pros.

Which relieves Ms. Maddow of the mental discomfort of having to contemplate why anyone would want to resist socializing health care. It also relieves her of the hard work of analyzing the Obama Administration.

Olbermann, Matthews and Schultz have also pushed the “astroturfing” narrative.

Thank goodness for “Morning Joe.”

Joe Scarborough got sent to 6 a.m. (3 a.m. on the West Coast!), and he made it the best show on MSNBC.

This morning, Scarborough gave the simplest, most cogent explanation of President Obama’s current political problem that I’ve yet heard on MSNBC. Joe said that Obama is “overloading the circuits with ideological items that most Americans just don’t give a damn about. Especially when they’re not working.”

When the people are not working, that is. It’s the economy, dumbass. Obama needs to show people he can fix the economy before he starts trying to change the health-care world as we know it.

I’m just saying... the best marketing minds on the planet couldn’t sell “New Coke.” Because the people didn’t want New Coke. They liked the old Coke.

Barack Obama is out there trying to sell the “New Coke” of domestic policy.

Yet most of the talking heads on MSNBC would have you believe he’s on a mission from God. (Figuratively speaking.)


John B. said...

I find I'm watching MSNBC less and less these days. Not that CNN is much of an improvement, and forget FOX!

dickster1961 said...

It goes beyond MSNBC. NBC isn't much better. GE has a vested interest in pushing all of Obama and the far left agenda on cap and trade, health care, etc. They stand to profit greatly on all of those pieces of legislation. That is why they were one of the biggest lobbyists on the Hill. Like anything else, follow the money.

Michael Murray said...

I think your new Coke metaphor is weak. It would be one thing if Obama came out of nowhere and was driving hard to get insurance reform passed, but it was one of the pillars of his campaign. There were countless debates on the topic and guess what, he won overwhelmingly. The president has made the argument that our current course in unsustainable from a budget perspective. I have not heard anyone argue this point. Even the insurance companies agree with that.

The reason why MSNBC and all the news channels in general are focused on the protest is because they are sensational. We are not having a real debate on this because the talk show driven right is using irrational points (death panels, socialism, nazi). They are drowning out what should be the real arguments about cost and implementation.

Anonymous said...

Well stated, UBM. And I love that I have Elwood's voice in my head now.

that dude said...

Wow, UBM. You're a moderate. For some reason, that never really was clear to me before now.

Undercover Black Man said...

... but it was one of the pillars of his campaign.

More so one of the pillars of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, less so in the general election, when the economy and the wars loomed largest.

Barack Obama didn't get elected in November because he promised health-care reform. On the other hand, he couldn't have won the Democratic nomination without promising health-care reform, because it's a big issue for the liberal base.

Now we're seeing, just like with New Coke, that a majority of Americans aren't hot for the idea... especially the public-funding part.

Obama might've thought that an economic crisis was the perfect time to push through a sweeping social change. Recession turned out to be the exact worst time to try such a thing.

I'm curious to see how the president's political instincts deal with this turn of events.

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice how UBM is consistently negative about Obama? Dude reads way too many hate sites.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Fat, drunk and anonymous is no way to go through life, son.

Ill said...

I take a simple approach.
Fight fire with fire.
No network is a reliable source of information
They all suck corporate teet.
Fox is partial to the right.
Naturally, a network is needed to parry misinformation with misinformation counter the primary source of misinformation. It's only right.

Reviewer X said...

The only good thing about the partisan networks is you'll see things on their shows you won't see anywhere and UBM is exactly right, health care was a big issue in the primary.

Obama and Rahmbo are just trying to use the economic crisis to pass their agenda and worse like they did with the stimulus they've outsourced the thing to Congress. What is there 4 or 5 bills floating around?

Obama is going to need to realize that he can't sell this on his personality alone.

Undercover Black Man said...

Obama is going to need to realize that he can't sell this on his personality alone.

A valuable lesson to learn. I hope he learns it well.

Undercover Black Man said...

Naturally, a network is needed to parry misinformation with misinformation...

Sounds good on paper. The reality is... MSNBC is just more worthless noise. Can't trust 'em, can't believe 'em.

Ill said...

So are you saying you can trust and believe in CNN? I get my info from KPFK....and I even take that with a few grains of salt.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Yeah, I trust CNN well enough.

Ill said...

I trust MSNBC and CNN "well enough". Rather, for what they're worth, which ain't much. Except for my man Roland Martin and Ms. Wanda Sykes. Not to mention D.L Hughley, who had the capacity but not the cajones to pull it off. But to Keith and Rachael.. Keep fighting the good fight! I mean... lesser of the two evils fight!!

Dan Coyle said...

I think you're a bit rough on Maddow there, but I can't really disagree with your assessment of MSNBC at this point. I miss Asleigh Banfield- who reported on ACTUAL NEWS- and Phil Donahue.

And I like Joe Scarborough too- he's more reasonable and thoughtful than he's given credit for.

To get news, I use this strange paper like device that shows up on my lawn every day. It's weird but it works.

Angelina said...

While I completely agree with your assessment of MSNBC, you've got the health care debate rather twisted. These people mentioned, the one's who aren't working, many have lost their health care because they've lost their jobs. Seems a prime time to engage in debate about reform that would keep them insured when such misfortune falls. For Scarborough to claim that Americans don't give a damn about being able to afford to take their kids to the doctor, or not go bankrupt when they get a gall stone is ludicrous.

The ideological items overloading the debate are not coming from Obama, who has spoken pragmatically about this issue from the jump, rather the ideology is being injected by folks who don't want reform, either because they've taken money from lobbyists opposed to it, think it'll help their reelection chances or hope to politically wound the president. Or because they need people scared and angry so they'll keep tuning into their cable news channel.

No one with actual responsibility and weight in the process is suggesting socialized anything. Single payer is not on the table. Never has been. A national socialized system like they have in the UK - not on the table, never was. Any news outlet that gives credence to folks espousing the idea that this debate is ideological -- about socialism v "America as we know it" should have their broadcasting license revoked for fraud.

Check out this Bill Moyers interview with a former health insurance executive who details how fealty to the stock market drove his company to purge thousands of people from their roles for being too risky.

How about the fact that if I don't make enough money and lose my WGA insurance, I can't get affordable private insurance because of my asthma. Or how about this, from this month's Harpers:

Percentage Change since '02 in avg premiums paid to large US health ins. companies: +87

Percentage Change in profits of the top ten ins companies: +428

Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

Has the administration played the PR game perfectly on this debate? No. Do our representatives deserve to have their feet held to the fire on the specifics of the plan? Of course. But to claim this is not the time to try to accomplish something like health care reform because the economy's bad is just insane. This is EXACTLY the time to try to accomplish reform. When people need it.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Angelina, welcome to my spot, thanks for commenting, congratulations on "The Cleaner," and cheers for some pretty decent health coverage.

No one with actual responsibility and weight in the process is suggesting socialized anything. Single payer is not on the table. Never has been.

Here's the thing, Angelina. Single payer has been "on the table" for 60 years... when President Truman proposed it.

That's why, when you hear liberals in this conversation saying this is our best chance for health reform in 40 years (back to LBJ) or 60 years or even 80 years (back to FDR), they are spotlighting the ideological nature of publicly funded health care for all.

It is the major piece of unfinished business for the ideological Left in America.

Evidently, Obama is now taking a "public option" off the table. If you don't think this debate is ideological... wait till you see how the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party stomps on Obama for caving on the public option.

Angelina said...

Thanks for the welcome. Been reading off an on for a while, just never inspired to comment before.

Here's the thing, you're either talking about "Liberals" or you're talking about The President. They're not the same thing. Your argument was that Obama's health care proposals are the public policy version of "New Coke" and that he's failing because he's ideologically driven. I disagree with both. Sure, most liberals want a public option and many want single payer. The President, Pelosi and others driving the legislation have wiped single payer off the table in this negotiation. Hell, Barack dismissed it during the election. Said he didn't support single payer. That there is factual.

I'm not saying this debate hasn't become ideological, I'm saying Barack isn't the one who made it so which seemed, to me, to be your argument. He is the most pragmatic dude we've had in that chair in a long time. You also seemed to be making the argument that this is no time to tackle health care reform. I don't understand that position. When would you suggest we tackle it?

And to make a point I should have made in my initial comment -- Scarborough's claim that American's don't care about health care reform is demonstrably false. While polls have disapproval of the way BO's handling it hovering around 50%, most have the public's support of reform between 70-80%. You can't slag Olbermann and Maddow (who I agree totally deserve it and then some) and then act as though Joe is somehow credible. He's not. He's a bobble head like the rest of them.

Have you read Obama's op ed in the times today? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Angelina said...

And I realize in using the word "never" I implied time immemorial when what I meant was, in the context of this legislation. I am working on my tendency towards hyperbole.

Undercover Black Man said...

Your argument was that Obama's health care proposals are the public policy version of "New Coke" and that he's failing because he's ideologically driven.

Not quite, Angelina. Let me try to clarify my point:

I say Obama's been failing at selling this because 1) most people don't want a radical restructuring of the health-care markets, and 2) the only reason to radically restructure the health-care markets is ideological (as Truman proposed in the 1940s), and Obama wants to avoid an ideological discussion.

You also seemed to be making the argument that this is no time to tackle health care reform. I don't understand that position.

To clarify: This is no time to sell something that'll require massive new public spending. Why? Because the taxpayers just bailed out the banking system and the automobile industry... as well as undertaking a huge stimulus project. A trillion here, a trillion there... pretty soon you're talking about real money.

The time to spend big is in a period of prosperity... as with LBJ's Great Society project in the '60s.

Undercover Black Man said...

Speaking of ideological... here's leftist prof Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Facebook tonight:

"Melissa Harris Lacewell is writing my letter to the White House demanding they not drop the public option in health care reform. Please consider doing the same. Send it to"

This is going to be an interesting week.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ And Prof. Harris-Lacewell tweeted a half hour ago:

"Send a clear message to your member of Congress: If you want my vote in 2010 you *must* vote for public option now."

Now Angelina... what was you saying about "the ideology is being injected by folks who don't want reform"?


Michael W. Tucker II said...

I think it's your loss to assume that because someone has an opinion, and is upfront about it with you, that they cannot be trusted. As someone who gets their news from numerous outlets, I find Rachel Maddow to be honest as well as opinionated (and honest about her opinionated-ness). As you pointed out, she has her opinion about the underlying causes of the disturbances at the Town Halls and she provides legitimate evidence to support her opinion. Is there another side that she doesn't present? Yes. But the information she provides is accurate. It's the conclusions that you are rightly skeptical of.

But comparing her to the likes of O'Reilly and Hannity (and most other FNC commentators), who have opinions but lack any sort of honesty is imprecise and kind of insulting to her. MSNBC is patterned after FNC in that it is filled with commentary on the news rather than the news with objective journalism. But MSNBC, in general, is a bit more upfront about it. FNC acts like they are CNN and CNN is MSNBC. I guess that would make MSNBC Al-Jazeera :)

The problem is that CNN has been neutered of any journalistic balls. It presents the news as surface-level information, but rarely dares to ever draw any conclusions. That's not journalism either.

Big Man said...

You think Morning Joe is objective news?

Come on now Mills.

I agree with your critique of MSNBC, but I find them no more partisan than any other cable news station.

The objectivity myth is a myth. Only idiots and journalists believe that personal bias is not present in most major news stories. The bias is evident in the questions asked and the question not asked. It's evident in the dependence on "official" news sources, like law enforcment, as if they don't have their own agenda.

Bias is everywhere. Your decision to pick on bias because it's liberal in nature is hilarious. MSNBC's bias is evident to anyone who happens to pay attention to television. As are the biases on CNN and Fox news. Hell, as are the biases on 60 minutes.

I can't believe you are acting like their is such a thing as unbiased or objective media. When was the last time you thought a random corporation was "unbiased" or "objective?" Never. And since every news organization is a corporation, I can't believe you would believe that of them.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Having worked as a professional newspaperman, Biggie, I know whereof I speak when I describe objectivity as a journalistic ideal.

I'd rather have media organizations aspire to that ideal than not.

Angelina said...

Still stand by my point about the loudest ideological rantings are coming from those who are opposed to reform but as a former Obama staffer who's facebook page has been filled with fury from former OFA friends (gay rights, extraordinary rendition, TARP, public option, take your pick) for months now, I don't disagree with your point, now that I understand it clearly.

But I'm not clear on how health care reform automatically means massive amounts of public spending. This is a hint of the ideological ranting from the right to which I'm referring. Socialism! Gov't take over! We're doomed! I'm not up in arms about the public option. No one's convinced me it's the end all be all solution to our health care woes. Though it seems to me to be a smart solution, unlike way too many folks engaged in this debate, many of my lefty friends included, I'm willing to admit when I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. And the intricacies of health care policy, well, that shit's WAY above my pay grade.

What I'm convinced of is that reform is essential. That's why I asked your thoughts on BO's op-ed. The principles he outlines are what I agree with. The means to achieve them, I'm not so sure. Insurance companies should not be able to deny coverage based on pre existing conditions. Nor should it be easy for them to drop folks from their roles when they pose too big a risk.

I actually expect something will pass that addresses these issues, and the sacrifice of the public option will be what gets it done. I think I'm ok with that.

At any rate, thanks for engaging in the discussion. I always appreciate being forced to see things from a different perspective.

Undercover Black Man said...

But comparing her to the likes of O'Reilly and Hannity (and most other FNC commentators), who have opinions but lack any sort of honesty is imprecise and kind of insulting to her.

Mr. Tucker: Thanks for commenting.

Have you noticed that Rachel Maddow seems to have to correct an error of fact every show? It has seemed that way for the past week.

Big Man said...


Since I currently work as a professional newspaperman, I'm well aware of how easily that ideal is cast aside in the interest of the primary objective.

Making money.

Besides, when most people claim they are being objective, that just means they aren't aware of their biases, or they aren't willing to admit that those biases affect everything they do.

Big Man said...


Have you noticed that newspapers correct an error of fact EVERY day. They typically run on Page 2. They are called corrections.


You are seriously holding MSNBC to a ridiculous standard. I actually agree with you on the slant and pompous attitudes of the folks there, but you have created this unrealistic world where newspapers are so wonderful. I mean, newspapers typically do better than television, but that ain't setting the bar that high.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Things getting boring over at, Big?

I run a different kind of joint over here. It's not about arguing for the fuck of it.

Do you really work for a professional newspaper? Do you really allow your prejudices and biases to control every word you write?

Big Man said...

Actually, I read your website long before I read DV's.

Didn't know my argument was just about argument, hell, I just posted a blog topic on that very topic before I commented here, and it's been a recurring theme on my blog.

Point blank, who were are as human beings affects how we view the world. This comes across in how stories are written.

There is a longstanding bias in newspapers towards law enforcement and government sources. It explains how easily so many newspapers across the country were duped in the run-up to the war in Iraq. It explains why the vast majority of police stories quote directly from the police department or their reports.

If you don't agree you don't agree, that's cool. But, in my opinion journalists are only conning themselves if they think their worldviews don't impact the questions they ask, or what information they deem important. Hell, the the very standards of newsworthiness were decided upon based on what draws the most readers in order to charges the highest advertising rates and make money.

How about this. When was the last time you saw a newspaper run a series on how to get the best deals from car dealerships and outlining the scams inherent in the business? Do you think that is tied to the fact that auto dealerships are some of the largest classified and retail advertisers for newspapers?

As for my personal biases, sometimes they intrude on my work, but mostly I keep them in check because I recognize that my personal feelings about the world do not align with the accepted realities present at most newspapers. Basically, I write the stories the way a reporter is supposed to write them because that's my job. But, my thoughts on topics do influence who I talk to and what questions I ask them.

And, not only do I actually work for a newspaper, I went to grad school thanks to a scholarship from one of your old stomping grounds.

It's funny that you think I'm just writing something to write it. That's hilarious.

Big Man said...

Oh yeah.

I said most people aren't even aware of how their biases control their actions.

When a random white dude uses the word "thug" to describe a black athlete in baggy clothes with hanging jewelry, do you think he feels biased? How about when he uses the word "posse" instead of the word "entourage?"

Those words are both used to describe the cats hanging around celebrities, but they have too very different connations. When a reporter chooses one over the other, would that be an example of bias?

How about when a reporter uses the word "claims" instead of the word "said?"

Is that a subtle sign that the reporter actually doubts the veracity of one statement? After all, saying "claims" often has that connation. It's little stuff like that, along with what I described earlier, that eliminates the possibility of objectivity in many, if not most stories.

But, I've clearly taken up enough of your time with my pointless argument.

Anonymous said...

"When the people are not working, that is. It’s the economy, dumbass. Obama needs to show people he can fix the economy before he starts trying to change the health-care world as we know it."

But the thing is, when people aren't working, they also don't have health insurance. If I lost my job tomorrow, I'd be screwed without my health insurance. I wouldn't be able to afford the medication I have to take every day to you know, live. I guess it's a catch-22 thing.