MSNBC Simply Gives Up

Like most narrow-minded, sanctimonious Americans, I spent election eve watching the returns through the media filter of my choice, in this case the newly "leaning forward" MSNBC.  I knew it would probably be a bloody night for Democrats (as we had all been told, ad naseum, since almost a year ago), and figured spending the time with my similarly aggrieved TV buddies over on the liberal network might help take the sting out of seeing the corridors of power overrun by the angry amnesiacs who seem to believe they'll catch Barney Frank needlessly burning $1000 bills in the Capitol Rotunda because that's just what liberals do after all. 

What I wasn't expecting is just how aggressive MSNBC has decided to become in targeting what is now apparently their last remaining core demographic: well-educated, high-earning, liberal "elites" living in large cities who--for the life of them--just can't understand how everyone around them got so stupid so fast.  The entire evening's coverage played as a comedy of escalating exasperation, each interview segment achieving such a delicious level of absurdity that viewers, like the folks in the old V-8 commercials, could only smack their foreheads in utter disbelief that the nation has, once again, been conned into buying a useless sack of magic beans from the very same magic bean guys who have spent the past decade meticulously transferring all the magic bean wealth to the top 2%. 

Remember in the 2008 campaign when NBC brass wouldn't allow Keith Olberman to sit at the adult table with all the "straight" news personnel--Dick Gregory, Chris Matthews, Tom Brokaw, and the like?  What a difference two years makes!   This year's coverage consisted of the entire panel basically trying to one-up each other to see who could be the most comically disgusted at the tidal wave of elephant dung sweeping across the nation.  Perhaps the network, especially Olberman, is still mad that Jon Stewart dared to equate MSNBC to Fox (even if this equation, as I argued earlier, was a performative tactic rather than a sincere accusation).  Maybe it's the network's new business model--counter-program to a very small but very lucrative audience group of college-educated exiles who have, seemingly overnight, become strangers in their own country.  

The fun began early and just got more wicked as the evening progressed.  Somehow, Land of a 1000 Lakes loon Michelle Bachmann agreed to appear for an interview, her first on MSNBC since famously telling Chris Matthews that a committee should investigate the "Un-American activities" of certain Democrats in congress (for no other reason, apparently, than believing in Democratic principles).  In the rematch, Matthews took it straight to her, asking when this investigation would begin and if Bachmann would personally supervise the new HUAC.  Perhaps Bachmann really is an idiot rather than simply playing one on TV, because she seemingly had no idea this question might be broached again, even though her earlier spat with Matthews on Hardball was arguably the single most significant event in launching her to the national stage.  Matthews hurled the HUAC jibe three times, each volley met with Bachmann going into a rote spiel about "America speaking" and the need for immediate deficit reduction.  The fed-up Matthews finally asked Bachmann if she was "hypnotized" (!!!!) inasmuch as she was apparently in a deep trance that made her unable to answer a direct question.  When Bachmann eventually ad libbed something about the "American people" waking up from a "trance" (aka the nightmare of Obama's socialist agenda), open mikes on the panel recorded various chortles and chuckles from the bemused panel, who, like the viewer at home, could only speculate that there is no longer a basement for craven stupidity in American political discourse--it is now possible to fulfill the formal definition of an "interview" by simply staring into a camera and having a dissociative fugue completely divorced from all contextual cues.  It was actually a rather refreshing take on this tired convention of broadcast journalism, two individuals basically acknowledging that they live in wholly different professional/ideological worlds and making absolutely no pretence whatsoever that anything was happening other than a pas-de-deux of smiling "go f@#K yourselfness." 

Later, a gloating Eric "Young Gun" Cantor appeared and spewed a similar laundry list of coordinated horse hockey. As the interview concluded, Keith Olberman of all people expressed his hopes that Cantor might join them again sometime in the future.  After a couple of beats, Lawrence "I have touched senators" O'Donnell chimed in to say that if Cantor was just going to repeat mindless platitudes again, he could care less if the douche bag ever came back on the network. (well, he didn't actually call Cantor a douche bag, but we all knew what he meant).  The network appears to have realized that "bridge burning" is no longer a problem in a world where supposedly important and/or privileged "sources" have nothing to say anyway.  Cantor will be in a very important position of power in the new Congress.  But who cares?  It's not like talking to him or knowing him will yield any actual "information."  Congratulations to MSNBC for being the first network to fully embrace hyperreal journalism.  In fact, it is my sincere hope that MSNBC will go even further than the previous champion Fox and simply make up quotations that can be attributed to Cantor.  "Today Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, introduced a bill calling for all orphans not adopted within six months to be roasted on a spit and fed to Federal prisoners.  Cantor estimates this will save taxpayers over 10 million annually. More at the top of the hour." 

Lest you think Olberman, usually the most caustic and tone-deaf of them all, has somewhat mellowed, he was soon calling out the seemingly sincere weeping of John Boehner, the next Speaker of the House, as the crocodile tears of a fox about to eat the hens and then foreclose on the hen house.   Lawrence "I know how a bill REALLY gets through Congress" O'Donnell made an old-fashioned appeal to the magnitude of Boehner's new responsibilities and the sincerity of the moment.  But Rachel Maddow was having none of it, pointing out that Boehner bursts into tears when there's no Milky Ways in the House vending machines (well, again, it was something like that...I don't remember exactly).   In any case, screw that disingenuous crybaby! 

Then Matthews was back on point asking Alaskan Democratic senator Mark Begich if he had ever in all his life seen Sarah Palin reading any printed matter of any kind.  Priceless.

It was great television because it had an almost "punk" ethos of no longer giving a damn, as in "we've tried for the past two years to explain the nation's structural problems clearly and reasonably so as to better inform voters as to just how venal and evil the Republican agenda is, and yet still the country votes these idiots back into you know what, we're not even going to pretend anymore.  And guess what Poindexter? The stupid, uneducated, and uninformed are always going to outvote us Ivy League smartypants anyway, so we might as well all get used to it.  Want high-speed rail?  Clean energy investments? A nation that doesn't leave the sick and insane to starve to death on the streets?  Forget about it.  The future will be about everyone hoarding and protecting their own miserable shit until everything finally collapses, leaving anyone who doesn't have their own personal escape helicopter to wander from one burned out Walmart to another in search of Funyuns and ammunition.  The call us "elites" anyway, so let's just go for it and mock them openly for the dimwitted knuckle-draggers and snake-oil salesmen they really are.  If you feel that way too, 'lean forward' with us as we giddily puke into the 'End Times" toilet."  

It was awesome.  As politics long ago ceased to be about material issues of policy and became instead a game of mutually assured semiotic destruction, here's hoping MSNBC takes Fox to school on how to lie like there's no tomorrow.  Baldly.  Shamelessly.  Completely without any responsibility.  Lately Rachel Maddow has taken to showing Republican propaganda and explaining to us why it's propaganda.  But we get it.  We're not Fox viewers after all, we understand the textual strategies of lying through sound and image for we, too, have been to college.  Rather than explain how Fox disinformation works, maybe the time has come to fight them on their own territory--the land of complete and total make-believe.

This just in:  "Tax cuts of over 2% have been linked to a marked increase in lung cancer."  No, it's true, it really is!

(with apologies to Matt!)

Popular Posts