Miami Gardens is full of great kids!


General Kelly's Days in May:
Miami Gardens, Florida is full of great kids.

(The same is true of Puyallup, Washington; Springboro, Ohio; and Lyons, Georgia, the hometowns of the other three men who died in Niger this month.)

Back to Miami Gardens:

Maybe fifteen years ago, La David Johnson was one of those great kids. By all accounts, he was lucky to be served by the mentoring program organized and run by Frederica Wilson, who was his congressional representative when he died this month.

In our view, General Kelly went around the bend and over the top when he aggressively belittled Rep. Wilson this week. On the other hand, we watched the videotape of Rep. Wilson's speech in Miami in 2015, and we can see why someone might have felt that she was perhaps a bit over her skis in her remarks that day.

Yesterday, it quickly became standard for mainstream and liberal pundits to say they couldn't imagine any such thing. The inability to imagine how Others might view an event is a dangerous aspect of human failing in times of tribal warfare such as the era into which we've descended.

General Kelly also made some obvious factual errors in his comments about Rep. Wilson's speech. Those factual errors don't go to the heart of what he said about Rep. Wilson, but they've been widely noted.

In our view, General Kelly's factual errors were largely trivial. His insulting remarks about Rep. Wilson went way, way over the line.

That said, everyone makes mistakes. In our view, General Kelly made a wider set of mistakes during his Thursday press event, and this wider set of mistakes has largely gone unremarked. This oversight should be corrected.

By all accounts, General Kelly is a disciplined, serious person. That said, he expressed views about the role of the military in American life which are historically dangerous and should therefore be assessed.

We refer to Kelly's repeated claims and insinuations that members of the military are our very best people, our top one percent, full stop. It's historically dangerous to think that way. This fact has been made clear in disastrous events all over the world down through the annals of time.

Simply put, those people aren't, all by themselves, our nation's top one percent, and they shouldn't be thought of that way. They're surely among our very best, but they have a whole lot of company.

What sorts of things did Kelly say that took us into this historically dangerous area? He started with some highly sensible remarks about the difficulty involved in informing a military family that their loved one has lost his life.

"If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine," General Kelly said. "There's no perfect way to make that phone call."

That was a very sensible thing to say. He also described the painful process by which a fallen soldier's family is told of their loved one's death.

This was a powerful, worthwhile presentation. But along the way, Kelly made the highlighted remarks:
KELLY (10/19/17): A casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door, typically the mom and dad will answer. Wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places.

If the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until—well, for a long, long time. Even after the internment. So that's what happens. Who are these young men and women? They are the best one percent this country produces.

Most of you, as Americans, don't know them. Many of you don't know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best that this country produces.
And they volunteer to protect our country when there's nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that's all right.
Ignore the hint of Nixonian self-pity lurking in those remarks. Focus instead on this question:

Are the men and women who serve in the military "the best one percent this country produces," full stop?

Actually no, they aren't, not all by themselves. And it's dangerous to start down that road.

Those men and women are surely among the best people we produce. It's fitting and just that we should remember that fact.

But are they the best we produce, full stop? it's dangerous to say such thigs because soon you'll be saying things like this, as you trash Rep. Wilson in an undisciplined way:
KELLY (10/19/17): When I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them, because they're in Arlington National Cemetery.

I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there, because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.
Are the men and women in Arlington National "the finest men and women on this earth?" It's dangerous to start down that road.

Those men and women are surely among the finest people on earth. But it's dangerous to say what Kelly said because you'll soon be saying this:
KELLY: In April of 2015, I was still on active duty. And I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 by the name of Grogan and Duke.

Grogan almost retired, 53 years old. Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, now retired.

So we go down. Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and the, and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were only 3 or 4 years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.

And we were stunned, stunned that she'd done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. But you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, "OK, fine."
Note the growing tone of self-pity. In that passage, Kelly makes his factual errors, and he characterizes Rep. Wilson's 2015 speech.

After watching Rep. Wilson's speech, we ourselves can understand why General Kelly might have thought that she was perhaps a bit self-aggrandizing that day, especially under the circumstances. We can see why the children of the fallen officers might have thought that her remarks were a bit tone deaf.

But it's troubling to see General Kelly slipping into an Us-and-Them framework in which "we"—presumably, the military people on hand that day—are portrayed as the long-suffering Better People forced to hold their tongues about The Lesser Beings with whom they must share this earth.

On a global scale, it's historically dangerous when military figures start viewing the world that way. Before too long, they may start structuring our civic life in this way:
KELLY: So I'm willing to take a question or two on this, on this topic. Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this:
Is anyone here a Gold Star parent or sibling? Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or sibling?
OK. You get the question.


KELLY: Any other? Someone who knows who knows a Gold Star fallen person.

KELLY: I will take one more, but it's going to be from someone who knows [a Gold Star fallen person].
It's dangerous to let yourself think that Your Kind are the worthy and best, full stop. Before too long, you may be saying that only people with ties or connections to your very best people are fit to take part in our national discourse.

Before too long, no civilians need apply!

That was a very strange turn for General Kelly to take. As he ended his presentation, he rather strangely said this:
KELLY: As I walk off the stage, understand there's tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing the nation's bidding all around the world.

They don't have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran, World War II and Korea, and there was the draft.

These young people today, they don't do it for any other reason than their selfless, sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don't look down upon those of you that haven't served. In fact, in a way we feel a little bit sorry, because you will never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kind of things our service men and women do, not for any other reason than they love this country.

So just think about it. And I do appreciate your time.
By now, Kelly was coming close to directly asserting the moral superiority of that military one percent. He seemed to think he was being kind when he said that His Kind, the one percent, don't look down on the rest of us, although they feel a little bit sorry for us as they ponder our pitiful lives.

By now, Kelly was thoroughly over the top. We thought of the potent John Frankenheimer film, Seven Days in May.

By all accounts, General Kelly isn't General James Mattoon Scott, the character played by Burt Lancaster, who tries to stage a military coup against the Timorous Lesser Beings who are running the United States government.

By all accounts, Kelly isn't that man. But he was talking like that man during Thursday's presser.

Sgt. La David Johnson was among our very best. So were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, who also lost their lives in Niger this month.

They were among our very best. But many others are among our very best, not excluding the energetic people who may establish and run the mentoring programs which may help the great kids in Miami Gardens become fully grown people like the late Sgt. Johnson.

All these people are fallible. None of these people are perfect. As Yevtushenko said of people:

"Whom we know as faulty, the earth's creatures."

None of these people are perfect. But many rank among our very best. Their ranks extend well beyond that meager one percent.

By all accounts, General Kelly is a highly accomplished, highly admirable person. By all accounts, he isn't James Matoon Scott.

That said, like all people, he's faulty. He was talking like James Mattoon Scott this week, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quickly surfing behind him.

He was talking historically dangerous talk. It may be several light years too late, but attention should be paid to the unwise things he said.

Final thought:

We can see why someone might have thought that Rep. Wilson's speech was a bit tone deaf. Especially during the tribal times which have historically led to our wars, it's important to be able to see the way the world looks to The Others.

It's the oldest fact on the earth. Your team is faulty too.

UPDATE: Video surfaces of Wilson's speech!


Possible irony looms:
Video has surfaced of Rep. Frederica Wilson's 2015 "empty barrel" speech. You can watch it at the Sun-Sentinel site.

Your choices:

1) Our tribal script is already in place. It says that General Kelly was wrong on his facts. Bellow, pause, repeat.

2) For ourselves, we can see why Kelly might have thought that Wilson possibly went on a bit this day. Under the circumstances, we'll note a possible irony:

Donald J. Trump's tone is said to have been wrong in his phone call to Sgt. La David Johnson's family this week. We can imagine that the families of two fallen FBI agents might have had a similar reaction to Rep. Wilson's speech back in 2015.

3) No one is a perfect messenger. We'd recommend that people look for ways to halt our floundering nation's rapid steep dangerous slide.

The Times asserts that Rep. Wilson was crass!


Their skills are amazingly limited:
We plan to discuss General Kelly's highly unusual press statement tomorrow.

On the merits, if not on the tone, we thought Lawrence was strongly on target last night, criticizing Kelly's belittling attacks on Rep. Frederica Wilson. To watch his long statement, click here.

(Does Katty Kay write Kelly's stuff? We ask that after watching Kay's scolding treatment of Wilson on Wednesday's Morning Joe.)

Rep. Wilson may not be a perfect messenger; neither is anyone else. Then again, it sounds to us like she's done some outstanding things in Miami.

All that said, we were amazed by Michael Shear's formulation in a front-page news report in this morning's New York Times. Where on earth—where in the world—do they get these journalists?
SHEAR (10/20/17): [Kelly] said Mr. Trump was merely trying to express what Mr. Kelly had discussed with the president before the phone call—that soldiers like Sergeant Johnson were doing what they loved, and what they had chosen to do, when they were killed serving the country.

“That’s what the president tried to say to four families,” Mr. Kelly said. He later appeared to attack Ms. Wilson by noting that, during an emotional 2015 ceremony, a congresswoman had crassly claimed political credit for getting funding for an F.B.I. building in Miami that was named for fallen agents. Ms. Wilson’s congressional district includes parts of Miami.

“And we were stunned—stunned that she’d done it,” Mr. Kelly recalled, though he did not name Ms. Wilson. “Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”
According to Shear, Kelly "not[ed] that, during an emotional 2015 ceremony, a congresswoman had crassly claimed political credit for getting funding for an F.B.I. building in Miami." What a sad choice of words!

Shear could have said that Kelly "charged," "opined," "claimed" or "said" that the congresswoman—who was, in fact, Rep. Wilson—had made a crass presentation that day.

Instead, he said that Kelly "noted" that Wilson had done this. For those of us still speaking English, that means that it actually happened!

What an unfortunate choice of words from a top-shelf journalist! We'll assume that Shear wrote something else, and that some editor changed it.

As Lawrence noted last night, Kelly's comments about Wilson were extremely belittling. We decided to check the press coverage of the 2015 ceremony where he said she had been so crass.

Within the Nexis archive, there isn't much reporting on the event. But at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Linda Trischitta reported what the keynote speaker said.

Headline included:
TRISCHITTA (4/11/15): New FBI headquarters dedicated to slain agents

Survivors rely upon rituals, symbols and memories when someone dies, and during the FBI's dedication of its new Miramar headquarters to two fallen agents Friday, a hymn was performed, funny and horrifying stories were shared and prayers were offered.

The powerful—from Congress, the military and law enforcement—came before an audience of 2,000 to pay tribute to Benjamin Grogan, 53, and Jerry Dove, 30, who died in a 1986 shootout where six other agents also came under fire.

The fierce but airy 380,000-square-foot building that recycles sunlight and water on a 20-acre campus is named for the fallen agents. It is expected to cost $194 million and stands along Southwest 145th Avenue and the east side of Interstate 75.

The building is made of exposed concrete and glass that reflects surrounding wetlands. It accommodates 1,000 bureau employees who were previously based in North Miami Beach and leased offices in the region, the U.S. General Services Administration said.

Now called the Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove Federal Building, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, was credited with pushing naming legislation through Congress in four weeks that was signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama in time for Friday's ceremonies.

"Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful," FBI Director James Comey said.
Did Wilson pull an attention-grab that day? Everything is possible, but we find no record of that.

That said, James B. Comey—Comey the god—said he was eternally grateful for Wilson's work in getting the building named in time for them to honor the fallen agents. Maybe he was just being polite. But given Kelly's unpleasant remarks, attention should be paid!

Kelly said he and the others were stunned. Comey said something constructive.

The Times report also said this: As he continued his report, Shear also said this:
SHEAR: Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump had not intended to suggest during an impromptu White House news conference on Monday that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had not done enough to honor the fallen. Mr. Trump’s words incensed former Obama administration officials.
Did Kelly actually say that about Trump's intentions? We see nothing in the transcript or tape which supports that statement.

Kelly said Trump didn't intend to make that suggestion? We have no idea why Shear, and his editors, would state that as a fact about what Kelly said.

Skill levels are amazingly weak in our upper-end press corps. This constitutes a very large problem. It helps explain how we all got to this very dangerous place.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: Sources of liberal enjoyment!


Conclusion—Gifts from the Rachel figure:
Did Jeffrey Sessions lie to that Senate committee back in January?

In our view, this question is much too complex for modern mainstream journalists. We'd also say that the answer is wholly unclear.

We'd say the answer is wholly unclear. Unless you're watching the Maddow Show, where liberals get to hear presentations like the one which ended Tuesday night's program:
MADDOW (10/17/17): You know what? Senators don't like being lied to. And Jeff Sessions never apologized or really cleaned up that lie he told to his confirmation hearing.

Well, tomorrow, Jeff Sessions goes back before that same Senate Judiciary Committee again, the one he lied to, for what's supposed to be a routine oversight hearing. I have my doubts it will be a routine oversight hearing. And it starts tomorrow 10 AM Eastern. I will watch.

That does it for us tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow. Now it's time for The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

O'DONNELL: Now I have my assignment at 10 AM Eastern tomorrow, which I did not know until you just gave it to me. But that's, that's why we have to get our homework assignments from Rachel every night.

MADDOW: You know from your time in the Senate that if there's one thing that senators never forget, it's being lied to.


MADDOW: Especially by a witness under oath.
On the Maddow Show, Sessions did lie, full stop, no explanations needed. In fact, viewers heard Maddow say, three separate times, that Sessions "lied" that day.

In much the way described by Janet Malcolm, hearing such statements makes liberal viewers feel good. On Wednesday night, the charismatic "corporate liberal" ran an even more pitiful scam on her mesmerized viewers:
MADDOW (10/18/17): Go back to the first week of March this year. On March 1st, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, all reported some very troubling news about the new administration.

They reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had in fact met with multiple Russians—excuse me, had in fact met multiple times with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, even though he had repeatedly denied that, including it under oath. That was March 1st, those reports came out about Sessions having meetings with Russians.
Wow! Those three newspapers all reported that Sessions "had in fact met multiple times with Russian officials during the presidential campaign."

People! Sessions had met with the Russkies "multiple times!" Welcome to the Maddow Show, where we liberals get to enjoy ourselves, even in spite of the terrible times our ineptitude helped bring on.

Maddow's statement was pleasing. That said, was it accurate? Was it perhaps misleading?

In point of fact, the "multiple" number of meetings in question was the rather small number "two," a word Maddow chose not to use. In fact, those newspapers had reported that day that Sessions had met with the Russkies twice—that is to say, two times.

(For the Post's report, click here.)

Why did Maddow refer to "multiple meetings" instead of just saying "two?" We can't answer that question! But two weeks ago, as you may recall, Maddow said that Steve Mnuchin had traveled on military jets "multiple times, many multiples of times."

The actual number of times was seven, a word she never used. Instead of saying "seven times," she said "many multiples of times!" The Rachel figure possibly seemed to be playing her viewers then too.

Why did Maddow refer to "multiple meetings" rather than "two?" We can't answer that question. That said, only one of these "meetings" was actually a "meeting" in the normal sense of the term. You're shielded from ever hearing such things if you're a suitably gullible liberal watching the Maddow Show.

Did Sessions attempt to mislead Al Franken that day in that committee hearing? We think the answer is far from clear. But Maddow's embellished reports this week help explain one part of Janet Malcolm's weird assessment of her program, the weird assessment Malcolm delivered right at the start of her endless, and endlessly strange, profile of Maddow in the October 9 New Yorker.

Malcolm started by saying, quite correctly, that Maddow "is the current sweetheart of liberal cable TV." Soon, though, she also weirdly said this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch the show. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem...I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
According to Malcolm, Maddow's show is a nightly "sleight of hand" which "permits liberals to enjoy themselves" during a disastrous time. Strikingly, that's the basic assessment we've been offering for the past quite a few years.

Weirdly, though, Malcolm effusively praises Maddow for working this sleight of hand. We've routinely criticized Maddow for her sleights of hand, which often resemble cons.

We liberals got to enjoy ourselves this week as Maddow told us that Sessions had "lied" about those "multiple meetings." She swept away uncertainty; she toyed with her number words.

In the process, we liberals were getting pleasured and possibly conned—according to Malcolm, by the sleight of hand of a mesmerizing purveyor of "TV entertainment at its finest."

Malcolm's profile is stupendously weird. It's astounding to think that David Remnick was willing to publish such manifest dreck, given its manifest strangeness.

That said, Malcolm offers many accurate observations about Maddow and her deliciously entertaining, enjoyable nightly program. One of Malcolm's most interesting frameworks involves her repeated references to "Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show."

Extremely weirdly, Malcolm compares Maddow's nightly "performance" to the performances which are offered by the actors in the "mesmerizing" TV ads which pay for Maddow's show. Eventually, she refers to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." What the heck might Malcolm mean by that?

We can't speak for Janet Malcolm, whose reasoning in this essay is often quite hard to follow. That said, we can provide the outlines of "the Rachel figure," the "well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show."

What are the basic elements of this "stage persona?" Below, we offer a quick overview:

The Rachel figure is an attention-seeking clown—more politely, an entertainer. As part of her mugging and clowning, she'll even put the lid of "a baby-poop-colored cannister" right on her head, after wonderfully telling us that it's "baby-poop-colored."

The Rachel figure won't always seem to be obsessively honest. She ran her DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS scam for years, convincing gullible viewers of her massive honesty.

(Malcolm describes one such session, ignoring the lengthy history.)

In fact, Maddow rarely corrects her mistakes at all. She persistently tends to embellish facts to make life enjoyable for liberals. She'll embellish the facts about political issues, and about her own life.

(She only bought the TV set because she was blackout drunk! She was completely surprised the next morning when she found the on-line purchase order right there in her bed!)

The Rachel figure is constantly engaging in staged laughter. We've long suggested the obvious, that this may be a performance tic prescribed by her corporate owners as a way of avoiding The Shrill.

Malcolm tells us, admiringly, that "to keep herself in character, so to speak, Maddow marks up the text that she will read from a teleprompter with cues for gestures, pauses, smiles, laughs, frowns—all the body language that goes into her performance of the Rachel figure."

There's nothing "wrong" with that, of course—until there actually is. At any rate, the Rachel figure's constant forced laughter helps keep us entertained.

The Malcolm profile is full of glimpses of the Rachel figure's essence. We'll suggest that narcissism is one key part of that essence. The Rachel figure is inclined to play old videotape of the Rachel figure. She reminds us of Donald J. Trump more than anyone else in all of corporate cable.

We'll especially suggest that you review the bullroar in Malcolm's profile about Maddow's "distant relative," Ben Maddow, who—we'll take a guess—Maddow mentioned to Malcolm because she wanted readers to know that she has some Jewish ancestry, balancing the Catholic upbringing she also discusses with Malcolm. (The Rachel figure is fascinatingly complex, much more so than you.)

Malcolm's long diversion on this matter is utterly pointless. That said, she asserts, again and again, that Maddow mentioned this distant relative, a writer of poems and books, "in a forthcoming moment."

Scenting the obvious hint of a Maddovian scam, we checked to see if Rachel could have known that Malcolm has long admired Ben Maddow. Sure enough! Malcolm mentioned Ben Maddow as recently as 2013, in a best-selling book. By total coincidence, Rachel Maddow dropped his name when she spoke with Malcolm.

Malcolm swallowed the bait. Is she really that easy to play? We have no idea.

As a long-time Maddow watcher, we found many markers of the Rachel figure floating around in Malcolm's essay. Today, we're deciding that we don't want to go any farther into the weeds on this matter.

Still and all, we think we'll mention Malcolm's opening sentence! Were we the only readers who noted the apparent contradiction with the self-deprecating claims of the Rachel figure?
MALCOLM: In Rachel Maddow’s office at the MSNBC studios, there is a rack on which hang about thirty elegant women’s jackets in various shades of black and gray. On almost every week night of the year, at around one minute to nine, Maddow yanks one of these jackets off its hanger, puts it on without looking into a mirror, and races to the studio from which she broadcasts her hour-long TV show, sitting at a sleek desk with a glass top. As soon as the show is over, she sheds the jacket and gets back into the sweater or T-shirt she was wearing before. She does not have to shed the lower half of her costume, the skirt and high heels that we don’t see because of the desk in front of them but naturally extrapolate from the stylish jacket. The skirt and heels, it turns out, are an illusion. Maddow never changed out of the baggy jeans and sneakers that are her offstage uniform and onstage private joke. Next, she removes her contact lenses and puts on horn-rimmed glasses that hide the bluish eyeshadow a makeup man hastily applied two minutes before the show. She now looks like a tall, gangly tomboy instead of the delicately handsome woman with a stylish boy’s bob who appears on the show and is the current sweetheart of liberal cable TV.
Quick question: Does anyone extrapolate a skirt and high heels when Maddow is on the air? Also, on what planet was this profile written? Moving right along:

How strange! Malcolm says that Maddow's rack contain thirty elegant, stylish jackets. Maddow has often said that her crummy old jackets cost $19 each. The Rachel figure is self-deprecating, in a humblebrag sort of way.

The Rachel figure is deeply self-involved, to almost Trumpian levels. She's doesn't seem obsessively honest. She loves to mug and clown and entertain. She'll even put "baby-poop-colored" objects on her overpaid head.

The Rachel figure is extremely good at selling the car, and the car she sells is The Maddow. In the October 9 New Yorker, Malcolm bought a fully-loaded roadster, apparently paying cash.

The mugging, clowning, dissembling continue. The largest questions are these:

What can it mean when the nation's best magazine writer admires cable news sleight of hand designed to let liberals enjoy themselves? What can it mean when The New Yorker puts such manifest weirdness in print?

Beyond that, the Rachel figure will continue mugging and clowning and pleasing liberal viewers. Long ago, Jon Stewart tried to tell her that she ought to drop the stand-up routine. She said she didn't want to.

According to the highly peculiar Malcolm, the Rachel figure works a nightly sleight of hand. This results in "TV entertainment at its finest." Plus the Cialis ads!

We agree with that formulation! In theory, journalists used to know what we need. As Malcolm says in her crazy third paragraph, corporate cable's Rachel figure has long seemed to know what we want.

We think her judgment tends to be poor. Luckily, no one's in charge!

New York Times headline stirs the blood!


How to gin tribal war:
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! The headline on the Times news report spoke about Us and Them:

"Democrats Think Men Have It Easier. Republicans Disagree."

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Over here, We think one way. Over there, They think another!

That headline tops Claire Cain Miller's on-line report for the brainiac Times blog, The Upshot. This morning, the same headline topped Miller's report on page A15 in our hard-copy Times.

(The graphics you see in the on-line report didn't appear in the hard-copy Times.)

Sadly, that headline is highly misleading. Headline included, here you see the first two paragraphs of Miller's report:
MILLER (10/18/17): Democrats Think Men Have It Easier. Republicans Disagree.

Whether or not people think it’s a good time to be a woman or a man in the United States depends largely on their political party, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

More than two-thirds of Democrats say the country needs to do more to give women equal rights, compared with only a quarter of Republicans who say that, the Pew report found. Meanwhile, half of Democrats say men have it easier these days, compared with 19 percent of Republicans.
Oops! In actual point of fact, only 49% of Democrats answered that murkily-rendered question in the murkily-rendered way that headline describes!

Let's take a look at the record. In the actual survey, 49% of Democrats said they think that "men have it easier," whatever exactly that means.

Miller rounded that off to "half." In the headline, it was simply (and dumbly) said that "Democrats" hold that view!

In this way, the New York Times managed to turn "half" of Democrats into something that sounds like all! We Democrats think that men have it easier. Over There, Those People do not!

Seriously. What the fungk goes through the head of a journalist—a New York Times editor, no less—who composes a headline like that? Is he or she mesmerized by Rachel's Cialis ads, like the nation's best magazine writer?

For the record, performance like this suffuses the Times on a daily basis. In passing, might we make a few comments?

Miller's report is almost completely worthless. Due to the fuzzy questions asked of respondents, so is this whole Pew survey, on which she was reporting.

Having said that, let us also say this. In this silly presentation by the Times, we're looking at the eternal "human" desire to manufacture the appearance of essential tribal difference.

According to the Pew report, respondents were asked this question:

"All things considered, who do you think has it easier these days—men or women?"

Apparently, respondents were offered a third possible answer: "No difference." This is the way the numbers turned out:
Who has it easier these days?
Democratic respondents:

Men: 49 percent
No difference: 45 percent
Women: 6 percent

Republican respondents:
Men: 19 percent
No difference: 68 percent
Women: 12 percent
Without any doubt, responses by the two groups of respondents weren't exactly the same. On the other hand, it isn't like all Democrats thought X while all Republicans thought Y, the way that Times headline suggests.

In fact, responses by the two groups were more alike than different. We base this assessment on our own award-winning statistic, the internationally-acclaimed "dinner party metric."

Suppose you're holding a large dinner party. You'll be hosting two hundred guests—one hundred from each party.

If you were seating pairs of guests based on their answers to this question, you could match seventy Republicans with Democrats who had given the same answer. This would include all 19 Republicans who said "women;" 45 of the Republicans who said "no difference;" and six of the Republicans who said "men."

You would only have to seat thirty couples whose responses had differed. In their responses, the two parties agreed more than they disagreed—until you read that pitiful headline in the New York Times.

Let's review. Miller turned 49 percent into "half." A headline writer then turned "half" into the appearance of "all."

Readers glancing at that headline got a familiar warm glow. Our Tribe thinks one thing, Their Tribe thinks another! Yay yay yay yay yay!

We liberals got to feel wonderfully good, knowing how wrong They are. Low-IQ performance of this type suffuses the work of the New York Times, where writers may still be mesmerized by last night's Cialis ads, or perhaps by a certain someone's performance of the Rachel figure.

"Her performance of the Rachel figure?" Boy howdy! More on that bullship tomorrow.

Percentages bollix the New York Times!


Also, how the late Bunny Mellon managed potato chips:
Nos morituri, we kid you not! Live and direct from our hard-copy page A3, this is one of the "Noteworthy Facts" in today's New York Times:
"The late heiress Bunny Mellon was known to offer guests at her Virginia farm a bowl of Lay's potato chips, but behind the scenes she ordered her kitchen staff to first remove all the broken chips."
That's the second entry on today's list of noteworthy facts! The third entry on the list goes exactly like this:
"440 Hz is the current tuning standard for the music note A."
Someone at the New York Times thinks these are noteworthy facts! Meanwhile:

Concerning Bunny Mellon's management of those potato chips, does the inanity of that noteworthy fact perhaps align with this bizarre confession from the October 9 New Yorker?
As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch [The Rachel Maddow Show]. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem: the Cialis ad with curtains blowing as the lovers phonily embrace, the ad with the guy who has opioid-induced . . . constipation (I love the delicacy-induced pause), the ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance in which the woman jeers at the coverage offered by a rival company: “What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?” I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
What does it mean when "the nation's best magazine writer" is mesmerized by constipation ads, while someone at our brainiest newspaper thinks Bunny Mellon's past handling of potato chips is one of the day's "noteworthy facts?"

No, really! What does it mean when sheer inanity starts to define a powerful nation's upper-class journalistic culture?

(In our view, it helps explain how Donald J. Trump ended up in the White House.)

The inanity of that "noteworthy fact" should probably stand on its own at this point. That doesn't mean that we weren't saddened at other points as we fought through today's New York Times.

We were struck by the puzzling logic put on display in several Times reports. To cite just one puzzling problem, where else does "half" seem to end up equaling all?

That particular puzzler popped up in this utterly useless news report. For the record, the report appears in our hard-copy Times, though it isn't listed on the Today's Paper page or in the Nexis record of this morning's Times.

Where else except the New York Times does "half" seem to turn into all? We'll ponder that puzzler after lunch. For now, we'll leave you with Bunny's chips—and with this third "noteworthy fact," out of a list of seven:
"This year alone, the Romanian government has tweaked its tax code 22 times."
Within the context of American news and public affairs, does that seem like a noteworthy fact? No, really! As Ed might once have said to Johnny, "How noteworthy is it?"

There are seven allegedly noteworthy facts on today's "reimagined" page A3. We've shown you three of those facts.

To whom do they seem like noteworthy facts? Is that upper-end journalist drunk on last night's Cialis ads?

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: "Her performance of the Rachel figure!"


Interlude—Grand finale tomorrow:
We've very very very sick of our ongoing report, of our discussion of Janet Malcolm's weird and endless profile of Rachel Maddow.

At the end of last week, we decided to continue our discussion into this second week because we were fascinated by Malcolm's reference to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." You can hardly blame us for that!

What exactly did Malcolm mean by "her performance of the Rachel figure?" What did she mean when she referred to "Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show?"

We still think those are fascinating, important questions. But we're truly sick of reading that ludicrous profile, which appeared in our brainiest upper-class magazine.

Our initial question remains the same. What does it mean when a profile which is so inane can appear, at such mammoth length, in an upper-class, allegedly high-IQ publication like The New Yorker?

What does the publication of such transparent nonsense say about our upper-class journalistic culture? What does it say about us liberals? Those are still very good questions.

We also think it's interesting to consider Maddow's alleged "performance of the Rachel figure." What did Malcolm mean by that? We think it's well worth exploring that question.

That said, we'll wrap the whole thing up tomorrow. We just can't face it today.

What is involved in Rachel Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure?" We've been watching that play for the past nine years. Tomorrow, we'll mine Malcolm's profile for clues.

Some examples of what we were talking about!


Does this presentation make sense:
Every morning, the New York Times presents an array of riddles. As one example, did you understand yesterday's takedown of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance?

The takedown came in an op-ed column, but the Times chose to publish the piece. Our question:

Do you understand the logic behind the highlighted presentation?

RICE (10/17/17): [D]espite lamenting racism in the criminal justice system, Mr. Vance perpetuates worrisome racial disparities. A 2014 Vera Institute of Justice study found that black and Latino defendants prosecuted by Mr. Vance’s office were more likely to be detained at booking, compared with similarly situated white defendants. And last year, 51 percent of marijuana cases involving black defendants in Manhattan ended in conviction, while only 23 percent involving whites did.
Does Vance's office engage in discriminatory practices? We can't answer that question. Nor do we understand why the Times thought that highlighted presentation supported this serious charge.


According to this op-ed column, way more marijuana cases ended in convictions when the defendants were black. Do you understand why that would mean that Vance and/or his office were discriminating against blacks?

We ask that question because juries dole out convictions, not prosecutors, or at least they do on TV. And by the way:

If way more whites are escaping conviction, couldn't that possibly mean that Vance's office has been overcharging whites?

As presented, we'd have to say that passage didn't make obvious sense. But so what? The New York Times waved it into print anyhoo. Such confusions are routine in the Times.

Does the Vance office discriminate against blacks? If you click the relevant link in the column, you'll be taken to a source report where the logic of this charge at least becomes clear.

You still won't know if the charge is fair. But you'll at least be able to see why the logic of that presentation isn't completely screwy.

Unless you're actually Cyrus Vance, that was a relatively minor point of confusion. At the same time, Michelle Goldberg's op-ed column in yesterday's Times struck us as a walk down a familiar hall of mirrors, one which is very unhelpful. (Unless you're the type of "Janet Malcolm liberal" who mainly wants to feel good.)

Tribal liberals most likely won't see what we mean. But here—you can give it a try. We may revisit tomorrow.

Thoroughly bollixed this morning: On this morning's page A3 (not available on line), this was one of the the "Noteworthy Facts" in the persistently low-IQ feature, Of Interest:
"Last year George Soros, the hedge fund manager and major Democratic donor, lost about $1 billion betting that Donald J. Trump would lose the presidential election."
We'll be honest—that struck us as a slightly weird-sounding claim. We decided to check the news report which was cited as the source of this "noteworthy fact."

You can check that report by clicking here.
As you'll see, page A3 had omitted a potentially significant phrase from the original claim. (Page A3 does such things all the time.) But even after reading the source report, we still don't understand what Soros is said to have done.

This stuff lards the Times every day. It's the way our mainstream press corps rolls.

In part, this helps explain how Donald J. Trump ended up in the Oval. The evidence tells us again and again; our nation's upper-end mainstream press corps just isn't transplendently sharp.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: Malcolm [HEART] "the Rachel figure!"


Part 6—The joy of performance art:
Janet Malcolm likes the Maddow Show. In fact, she likes it a lot.

Malcolm, "the nation's best magazine writer," penned an endless profile of Maddow for the October 9 New Yorker. She opened with gushing praise for Maddow, who she watches every night, by whose performance she's "mesmerized."

The key word may be "performance." According to Malcolm, she isn't mesmerized by Maddow herself, or by her the content of her reports; more accurately,she says she;s mesmerized by Maddow's performance.

Nor is she mesmerized by Maddow alone. She's also "mesmerized" by the Cialis and constipation ads she says she "stays and dumbly watches" each night as she waits for Maddow to come back from her commercial breaks.

In the second and third paragraphs of her endless profile, Malcolm describes this process of mesmerization. She also describes the Maddow Show as "a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show." According to Malcolm, the show is "TV entertainment at its finest," designed to make liberals feel good.

We've already asked one basic question. How have we as a nation have reached the point where such transparently dotty nonsense can possibly appear in an upper-class, upper-end magazine like The New Yorker? That's a question for David Remnick, who put this manifest nonsense in print.

Based upon these opening paragraphs, we'd have to suggest that Malcolm, who is 83, may have lost a few steps. That said, she notices many things about the Maddow Show which we have also noticed down through the years. It's just that she approves of sleight of hand, while we've long complained about it.

Malcolm seems to be thrilled by the sleight of hand! Today, let's focus on the ways Malcolm claims that Maddow is staging some sort of nightly "performance."

As she opens her endless profile, Malcolm correcrly states that Maddow "is the current sweetheart of liberal cable TV." From there, she proceeds to her confession of mesmerization.

We've posted this remarkable confession several times. Today, as we endure it again, let's note the way Malcolm says that Maddow is staging a performance:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): Maddow is widely praised for the atmosphere of cheerful civility and accessible braininess that surrounds her stage persona. She is onstage, certainly, and makes no bones about being so. She regularly reminds us of the singularity of her show (“You will hear this nowhere else”; “Very important interview coming up, stay with us”; “Big show coming up tonight”). Like a carnival barker, she leads us on with tantalizing hints about what is inside the tent.

As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch the show. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem: the Cialis ad with curtains blowing as the lovers phonily embrace, the ad with the guy who has opioid-induced . . . constipation (I love the delicacy-induced pause), the ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance in which the woman jeers at the coverage offered by a rival company: “What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?” I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
Try to ignore the embarrassing confession concerning the pleasures of the Cialis ads. Focus instead on the praise for Maddow's "performance," for the "sleight of hand" which turns an apparent cable news show into what it actually is: a "delicious experience of TV," "TV entertainment at its finest."

To us, the fact that the Maddow Show is actually "TV entertainment" explains why its host should be thrown down the stairs, out the door across the sidewalk and into the street. To Malcolm, this sleight of hand is a source of vast simple-minded pleasure.

That said, Malcolm expressly says that Maddow is staging a "performance." How many ways does Malcolm say this?

Let us count the ways:

Malcolm starts by referring to Maddow's "stage persona." She says that Maddow "is onstage" when she does her show, "and makes no bones about it."

She compares Maddow to "a carnival barker." In our view, this description more aptly fits the persona this channel's corporate suits have imposed upon Steve Kornacki, especially when he's perched before "the big board" and told to talk double-fast, hunched over, with sleeves rolled up, as he hands us repetitive reams of feel-good polling data.

That's feel-good entertainment for gobsmacked liberals too! Also, it's an imposition on Kornacki, who seems to be sane and is perfectly bright, well-informed.

Back to Maddow:

As she continues in that opening passage, Malcolm refers to "her performance," explicitly pairing it with the performance of the actors in the moronic TV ads she also thoroughly loves. In paragraph 4, she quickly refers to Maddow's "artistry."

That said, it isn't until a good deal later in her profile that Malcolm offers her most pregnant description of Maddow as something like a performance artist. Maddow seems to accept the framework. This is the intriguing passage to which we refer:
MALCOLM: Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show—suggests experience in the theatre, but Maddow has had none. “I am a bad actor. I can be performative. But I can’t play any other character than the one who appears on the show. I can’t embody anyone else.” To keep herself in character, so to speak, Maddow marks up the text that she will read from a teleprompter with cues for gestures, pauses, smiles, laughs, frowns—all the body language that goes into her performance of the Rachel figure. “My scripts are like hieroglyphics,” she said. I asked her if I could see a page or two of these annotated texts. She consented, but then thought better of it.
Should we regard that as strange? Malcolm refers to Maddow's "TV persona," defining it as a "well-crafted character."

Maddow seems to accept this structure. She says that, unlike an actor, she can play no character other than "the one who appears on the show." As Malcolm describes the detailed ways Maddow preplans her trademark grinning, laughing, mugging and clowning to "keep herself in character," she issues her slightly puzzling, definitive statement:

This body language all goes into Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." Should that be seen as a strange description of a TV news program?

What does Malcolm mean when she refers to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure?" What does she mean when she refers to Maddow's "TV persona" as "a well-crafted character?" And whatever Malcolm might mean by these terms, is anything actually wrong with such a performance?

We'd be inclined to say the answer is no—unless the performance results in a "sleight of hand," a con in which a cable news program is turned into delicious "TV entertainment."

Make no mistake: we liberals are as dumb and ineffectual as any group who has ever drawn breath on the planet. In part for that reason, we've now been forced to notice the fact that Donald J. Trump is our president.

According to Malcolm, Maddow is staging a nightly sleight of hand. It's designed to make us liberals feel good at this horrific time. She's doing this, in large part, through her presentation of that "well-crafted character"—through "her [mesmerizing] performance of the Rachel figure."

What goes into the well-crafted character described as "the Rachel figure?" In the next few days, we'll ransack Malcolm's endless profile looking for nuggets and clues.

For today, we'll only say this: Malcolm seems to be describing the process we've long referred to as "selling the car." We've long suggested that Maddow is a highly skilled con man, a slippery salesman who's constantly selling the model known as The Maddow.

Malcolm seems to have noticed the same darn thing—but she seems to say that the con just feels so good. Like when Rachel put the lid of that baby-poop-colored canister right smack dab on her head!

What goes into "the Rachel figure," the well-crafted character you will encounter tonight? Tomorrow, we'll start to answer your question. On Friday, we'll wail and moan as Malcolm buys the latest con from this corporate TV star, a self-adoring figure who often makes us think of Donald J. Trump.

Tomorrow: Quite a bit more special than you

Lustily, the analysts cheered!


At Slate, Peters gets it right:
Lusty cheering by the analysts woke us early this morning.

The youngsters had read the start of this piece by Justin Peters at Slate. Soon, we were lustily cheering too. Peters had introduced an important framework, one which is rarely employed:

"These are remarkably stupid times."

These are remarkably stupid times! Peters was working from an important framework, one which is rarely employed.

Are these remarkably stupid times? Let's take a look at the trigger for Peters' accurate statement:
PETERS (10/16/17): These are remarkably stupid times. For a glimpse of why, consider the daily patter of Fox & Friends—or, rather, consider that I am even asking you to consider Fox & Friends. The show is by now known for being terrible television, something that is neither entertaining nor informative...
Long ago and quite far away, we described Fox & Friends as the dumbest show in the history of TV "news." We're going all the way back to the day when E. D. Hill was the blonde woman on the couch between the two dull-witted boys.

The program is still that stupid today—stupid, and influential.

It's true! We do live in remarkably stupid times, and Fox & Friends is dumbfoundingly stupid. But it's also true that The Stupid is found all over the modern press. For ourselves, we're struck by The Stupid every day when we read the New York Times.

The sheer stupidity of this era is its most striking feature. That said, when we liberals spot and discuss The Stupid at all, we tend to spot and discuss it Over There, among Those People, and pretty much nowhere else.

In the last two mornings, we've spotted The Stupid all over our own tribe's pitiful work, but especially in the New York Times, where The Stupid starts on the reimagined page A3 and then spreads out from there. Our culture is dying from The Stupid, and it isn't all located Over There, within the other tribe's tents.

Sorry. That's not even close.

Our tribe is soaked in The Stupid too. In the next few days, we'll offer examples.

That said, a modern nation can't run on The Stupid. At what point will we liberals be willing to scope our dying culture and admit that this statement is true?

Justin Peters got it right. These are remarkably stupid times. Our tribe's a big part of the problem.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: Baby-poop-colored lid on her head!


Part 5—"The Rachel figure:"
How many ways does Janet Malcolm love the Maddow show?

It's hard to count the ways. That said, in an endless profile in the October 9 New Yorker, Malcolm mentions only three specific Maddow programs from this calendar year—and in one of those specific programs, Malcolm says a Maddow show "failed to please." That was "the notorious show of March 14th," in which Maddow turned the uninformative contents of Donald J. Trump's 2005 tax returns into an endless tease and a song-of-self.

Malcolm describes only three programs from this calendar year. Somewhat oddly, without real explanation, she also mentions a pair of Maddow shows from October 2014. It seems fairly clear that Malcolm saw something significant in these programs, which aired on October 29 and 30 of that long-lost, long-ago year.

Malcolm seems to see great significance in these programs—but why? Her description of those back-to-back programs begins like this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): The [October 29, 2014] show began with Maddow placing on her desk, one by one, a graduated set of ceramic kitchen cannisters. “Here in our offices at 30 Rockefeller Center, in our office closet, actually, we have, sort of randomly, a really hideous complete set of kitchen cannisters,” she said, drawing them to her with an impish smile. “A full set of mushroom-ornamented, baby-poop-colored, made-in-China ugly kitchen cannisters. They take up a lot of space, but I can’t get rid of them. We bought these hideous kitchen cannisters when a producer on our staff stumbled upon them while out shopping and realized—photographic memory—that these were an exact match to one of the best campaign-ad props thus far in the twenty-first century. Look.” A picture then appeared onscreen, showing a woman sitting in front of a display of the same mushroom-ornamented cannisters that live in the office closet at MSNBC. The woman was Sharron Angle, a Nevada Republican, who had tried to make a political comeback after an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Harry Reid in his Senate race in 2010.
We'll interrupt Malcolm's essay here. Throughout, we'll use the double-N spelling of "cannister" which The New Yorker seems to prefer.

Let's summarize what we've heard so far about the first of that three-year-old pair of programs. We've heard that Maddow started her program that night with "an impish smile." She then began discussing herself, or at least she began discussing the internal dynamics of her show, which she referred to as "we."

According to Maddow, her show had purchased a set of "hideous kitchen cannisters" at some time in the previous few years. According to Maddow, a producer had "stumbled upon them while out shopping" and had realized that they were "an exact match to one of the best campaign-ad props thus far in the twenty-first century."

The show's producer had a photographic memory, we were inevitably told. For undisclosed reasons, Maddow told us that the hideous, unused cannisters "live in an office closet at MSNBC" but she "can't get rid of them.

This is all part of the Maddow Show style, in which viewers are perhaps made to feel that they're being treated to an insidery view of the workings of a cool club. Along the way, we were treated to the inevitable low-IQ touch. The hideous cannisters are "baby-poop-colored," we were inevitably told.

As it turned out, the hideous, baby-poop-colored cannisters matched a set which had appeared in a campaign ad for Sharron Angle, who lost a high-profile Senate race to Harry Reid in 2010. The hideous cannisters had appeared in a campaign ad in 2011, when Angle launched a run for a seat in the House, a campaign she later abandoned.

As Maddow continued this night, she linked Angle and the hideous cannisters to a campaign which was then underway—to the 2014 Iowa Senate race of Republican Joni Ernst. Maddow offered some critical commentary on Ernst's campaign, which Malcolm briefly summarizes in her New Yorker piece.

This was just the beginning of Malcolm's treatment of those Maddow shows from October 2014. As noted, Malcolm discussed only three shows from this calendar year in her endless profile of Maddow. As such, the cannister shows from 2014 constitute a full forty percent of the Maddow shows she chose to discuss in her recent piece.

It's fairly clear that Janet Malcolm saw some sort of significance in those cannister shows. It must also be said that it's hard to discern what it was, or why the three-year-old shows were ever discussed at all.

Back to Malcolm's profile. According to Malcolm, Maddow closed the opening segment of that first show by making yet another disparaging reference to those "hideous kitchen cannisters." This led to a segment in the next night's show, a segment Malcolm chose to describe, for unknown reasons, at considerable length.

Malcolm devoted a good chunk of time to the events of the following night (October 30, 2014). Here's the way her manifest piddle began:
MALCOLM: The next night, an unsmiling Maddow addressed her audience thus: “O.K., so last night I may have crossed the line. I went a little too far and said something that offended some of our viewers, and rightly so. It was not my intention to offend. So we’ve got a Department of Corrections segment coming up. Anybody who likes to watch this show because you like to yell at me while I’m on the screen, you will like this next thing that I’m going to have to do. Mea culpa on the way.” Sitting in front of a sign that read “DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS,” Maddow recapitulated her narrative of the page Joni Ernst took from Sharron Angle. “Tonight, I have a correction to make about that. I will tell you, though, that this correction has nothing to do with Joni Ernst.” In fact, the “correction” was not a correction at all. Maddow had made no factual errors. She had merely betrayed her youth. She had not lived long enough to know that you do not mock people’s things any more than you mock their weight or accent or sexual orientation. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” William Morris wrote in his famous dictum. Morris knew very well what was hideous. But he knew enough about human nature to insert that inspired “believe.”
There's so much piddle in that paragraph that an observer barely knows where to begin. Yet this plainly is the way Maddow staged one segment that October night, and this is the sort of brain-damaged dreck which now appears in The New Yorker.

Let's run through what Malcolm has said about that program so far:

For starters, few readers will have any idea who this William Morris is, or why he would have offered his "famous dictum" about what you should have in your house. Let us fill in that blank:

According to the leading authority on his life, Morris was "associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement" of the 19th century. As such, "he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production."

None of this has much to do with Maddow's presentation that second night, in which she apologized, or pretended to apologize, for the previous night's misconduct. In real time, we commented on the sheer inanity of this ridiculous, time-wasting segment. That said, we assume the segment was at least largely tongue in cheek, a possibility Malcolm doesn't seem to have considered.

In Malcolm's apparent view, Maddow had actually offended some viewers the night before with her comments about the hideous cannisters. In Malcolm' apparent view, Maddow was conducting a serious attempt to apologize for her bad judgment, which Malcolm attributed to Maddow's youth.

Just for the record, Maddow was 42 years old at the time these programs aired. At any rate, as Malcolm continued, she described Maddow's supposed mea culpa:
MALCOLM (continuing directly): Maddow’s disparagement of the mushroom cannisters brought her a torrent of mail. She read aloud from it: “I was insulted that you referred to the cannisters as ugly, as I had bought that set many years ago. I wish I still had my cute, adorable cannisters.” “Hey, Rachel, my mother has a set, too—we could use a matching set.” “If by hideous you mean the most awesome cannisters of all time then you are correct.” More messages appeared on the screen: “hideous??? What ever do you mean?” “Those were my grandmas mushroom canisters! She had matching pots, s&p, spoon rest, napkin holder and a wall clock.”
We'd assume that these complaints were largely tongue in cheek. We'd make the same assumption about Maddow's silly resort to her DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. But as she journeyed back three years in time, Malcolm seemed to read things differently.

She seemed to think that Maddow had really apologized for really offending an actual torrent of viewers. She continued along, describing what happened next:
MALCOLM (continuing directly): “I have been aesthetically swayed,” Maddow said, setting down the sheaf of letters. “Yes, I once believed that those mushroom cannisters were hideous, in the context of threatening armed violence against government officials, à la Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joni Ernst in Iowa. I also do still kind of think they’re hideous here at my office. But in real life, on your shelf, on your kitchen counter, in the recesses of your childhood memories, the Merry Mushroom cannisters your mom bought at Sears in the seventies—which also happened to match your Merry Mushroom curtains—those mushroom cannisters really aren’t hideous. They are lovely. So thank you for fact-checking me on this. I sincerely regret what I now believe is an error. I love your mushroom cannisters and your kitchen—I love all of it.” She had been hugging the biggest cannister. Now she removed its lid and put it on her head. “Sorry.”
Yes, that actually happened. Also, this was the end of Malcolm's treatment of those shows from 2014.

Yes, that actually happened. After Maddow finished her pointless discussion of the aesthetic worth of the cannisters, she removed the lid of the biggest cannister of them all and deposited it on her head.

"Sorry," she said, as she mugged and clowned about this inane, stupid topic. This was part of "cable news" in the last few months before Donald J. Trump launched his drove toward The Oval.

Reading Malcolm's endless profile of Maddow, we can't tell you why Janet Malcolm devoted so much time and so much space to these cannister shows from October 2014. She seemed to think that Maddow was conducting a real apology for a genuine offense—an offense which reflected the 42-year-old TV star's youthful failure of judgment.

In our view, it's important to know how we've reached the point where such inanity can appear in The New Yorker. For today, we'll offer this one suggestion about those Maddow shows, and possibly about Malcolm's reaction to them.

We don't know why Janet Malcolm included those shows in her endless profile of Maddow. Having said that, we'll offer this:

In those two programs, it seems to us that Maddow was engaged in what Malcolm calls "her performance of the Rachel figure." Tomorrow, we'll start to make a pair of suggestions:

This repetitive type of performance art is a major part of Maddow's popular program, which Malcolm approvingly describes as "TV entertainment at its finest" and also as "sleight of hand." It's also part of the way our culture has been dumbed down to the point where Donald J. Trump is now president.

What does Malcolm mean when she refers to Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure?" Your question strikes us as very important. We'll start with that question tomorrow.

Tomorrow: "The Rachel figure?" What's that?



Interlude—Possible hint of a brilliant disguise:
Finally, there's someone to admire in the wide-ranging discussion of Harvey Weinstein's decades of misconduct.

That person is Sarah Polley, the actress and writer/director who wrote an essay about the matter in Sunday's New York Times.

Polley's essay is unusually intelligent throughout. But our respect for Polley turned to admiration fairly late in her piece.

Earlier, Polley had described an unpleasant encounter she had with Weinsten when she was just 19. As she neared the end of her piece, she added a type of confession:
POLLEY (10/15/17): Harvey Weinstein may be the central-casting version of a Hollywood predator, but he was just one festering pustule in a diseased industry. The only thing that shocked most people in the film industry about the Harvey Weinstein story was that suddenly, for some reason, people seemed to care. That knowledge alone allowed a lot of us to breathe for the first time in ages.

Here is an unsettling problem that I am left with now: Like so many, I knew about him. And not just from my comparatively tame meeting with him. For years, I heard the horrible stories that are now chilling so many people to their core. Like so many, I didn’t know what to do with all of it. I’ve grown up in this industry, surrounded by predatory behavior, and the idea of making people care about it seemed as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky.
To a person, the analysts cheered.

In the previous week, they had seen an array of players finesse the question of whether they had known about Weinstein's decades of misconduct. By way of contrast, Polley said that she had known about Weinstein. And she hadn't just known in some general or anodyne way.

"For years," Polley says she heard the stories about Weinstein. And she hadn't just heard some array of tame, murky stories. She had heard "the horrible stories" concerning which people suddenly, "for some reason," suddenly seem to care.

Like many others, she didn't act on what she knew, in part for perfectly sensible reasons. That said, Polley described her own failure to act as "an unsettling problem." In our view, her admission of knowledge and her statement of regret are the marks of a person with an active conscience. So is an insightful statement which got dropped from her text in the hard-copy Times:

"This [film] industry doesn’t tend to attract the most gentle and principled among us," Polley was willing to say at an early point in her piece. Keep that thought in mind.

Sarah Polley was willing to say that she had heard "the horrible stories." Elsewhere, attempts to sidestep, avoid or finesse this question seemed to come early and often.

For our money, the Morning Joe program was especially shameless in its repeated attempts to reinvent Mika Brzezinski as a courageous culture-war hero with respect to Weinstein's misconduct. As Mika, a star of Weinstein Books, lodged her non-denial denials, the Morning Joe gang seemed to be working from script.

We have no idea of Mika knew, but her program's journalism was utterly bogus, suspect. That said, others sidestepped this question too, and not just with respect to Weinstein's behavior. At yesterday's Washington Post, a code of silence was in effect when Kathleen Parker insulted her readers' intelligence concerning a similar, earlier matter—the behavior of Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly at the Fox News Channel.

According to Parker, Greta Van Susteren certainly didn't know about that conduct when she was earning those millions of dollars over at Fox! According to Parker, this fact qualifies as "obvious." After all, that's what Greta has said!
PARKER (10/15/17): Ailes, of course, left the company he created two weeks after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment. They reached a settlement amount of $20 million, and he died soon thereafter. Justice doesn’t get any plainer than that. O’Reilly left the same company after revelations that he had settled with five women who accused him of sexual harassment, although the dethroned king of cable news has said the claims had no merit.


Moreover, “everyone” sorta knew about these men, at least by reputation and rumor. Not everyone [knew], obviously. Greta Van Susteren, who left Fox News soon after Ailes, told me again on Thursday that she never had any idea what was going on. But many did, apparently, and they looked away, including some of the alleged victims, who kept silent for fear of retribution or, perhaps, because they were ultimately willing to suffer humiliation in exchange for advancement. This seems an obvious, if painful, truth.
Over at Fox, many people knew about what Ailes and O'Reilly were doing, or at least so Parker suspects. But according to Parker, it's "obvious" that Greta didn't know. To Parker, this fact is "obvious" because Greta has said so again. She said so again just last week!

It's obvious Greta didn't know because Greta has said so? Your intelligence and decency are being insulted when a fully competent journalist hands you such manifest nonsense.

That said, codes of silence—guild protection rackets—are widespread within the upper-end press corps, which, like the film industry, may not, through the size of its rewards, always attract and produce the best people. We think of the time when Rachel Maddow also vouched and covered for Greta, back when Greta split from Fox and took her talents to The One True Liberal Channel.

Did Greta Van Susteren know about Ailes and O'Reilly's conduct? We have no earthly idea.

That said, we do know this: for four long and guesome years, she knew all about Donald J. Trump's birtherism. Indeed, she served as Trump's main enabler, as his caddie, as he became the king of the nation's birthers.

Through 2015, Greta Van Susteren played dumb for Trump concerning his birtherism. But so what? When Greta brought her talents to MSNBC, Rachel vouched for Greta intensely.

We should all watch Greta's program, the cable star told us gullible liberals. Greta wasn't just a fabulous journalist, we were told. She was also Rachel's drinking buddy and her bestest best friend!

Why did Rachel say those things? We can't answer that question. That said, we've long suggested that Rachel's laughing, joking on-air persona may perhaps and possibly be a bit of a brilliant disguise.

In the October 9 New Yorker, Janet Malcolm described that brilliant disguise—but she approves of the on-air practice, which she admiringly describes as Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure."

Is Maddow cloaked in a brilliant disguise when she performs her "sleight of hand" every night—that is to say, in "her performance of the Rachel figure?" Next question:

Is it possible that "cable news," like Hollywood, may not necessarily "attract the most principled among us?"

In our view, our nation's journalistic and political culture have collapsed beneath the weight of these questions, perhaps beyond the point of repair. For that reason, as the world turns, crashes and burns, we'll discuss those questions all week.

Janet Malcolm says she's mesmerized by Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure." What in the world is she talking about?

We'll start with the baby poop.

Tomorrow: "Baby-poop-colored cannisters" and "the Rachel figure"

Sources of our language:
For the Springsteen lyrics, just click here.

To hear the song sung, click this.

The state of Indiana is full of great kids!


That was (David's) mother:
The state of Indiana is full of great kids.

For the latest confirmation of this encouraging fact, we refer you to this news report in this morning's Washington Post. We'll also note this important fact:

It seems that the child in question got lucky with her selection of parents.

Reading the Washington Post's report, we thought about our own sainted mother. We also thought about Bernie Sanders. Also, Larry David.

In the past few days, we'd been recovering from a type of sickness induced by the experience of reading last week's New Yorker. As our whole staff struggled to recover from the magazine-inflicted flu, we watched the first two episodes of the current season of Professor Gates' PBS program, Finding Your Roots.

Sanders and David were the subjects of the season's first program. We also watched the season's second program, which featured three more famous subjects.

Our own sainted mother was rather tight-lipped about her personal history. In a recent award-winning report, we described the way her Casey Stengel story and her "longest game in major league history" story seemed to turn out to be one story, not the apparent two.

That said, she told very few such stories. And a few of her stories weren't true!

Watching those PBS programs this week, we were struck by the way the parents of Gates' subjects had also been extremely reluctant to discuss their personal and family histories. In the most striking example of same, Larry David, for the first time, learned his mother's first name!

Joe Otterson explains for Variety:
OTTERSON (10/3/17): Series host Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his researchers were able to determine that David’s mother’s family came from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, with his grandparents having been born in the city of Tarnopol, Poland. In addition to information about David’s grandparents, Gates and his team also uncovered that David’s mother was also born in Poland and that her birth name was Regina, while David had always known her as Rose. “I cannot believe I didn’t know her real name,” he said. “It’s so typical of my mother to withhold something like that.”
Larry David was raised by his mother. He just didn't know her first name!

(Neither he, nor Professor Gates, knows why his mother's name was changed, assuming it actually was.)

For ourselves, we never knew how our parents met until we were told the story by our older half-brother, when we were at least fifty. Our mother never talked about matters like that. We'll guess those parents in Indiana are being a bit more forthcoming.

In the second program of this new PBS season, Carly Simon is told something concerning her alleged "race." We don't mean this as a criticism of Professor Gates. (We're not even sure he used the term.) But might we suggest that Carly Simon, and everyone else, doesn't quite have a "race?"

Does anyone actually have a "race," except to the extent that they may choose to think of themselves that way? Consider three different terms:

Whether we can name the people in question or not, everyone does have an ancestry. Everybody had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents. Your "ancestry," a simple matter of fact, leads on back from there.

Similarly, everybody has an "ethnicity" to one extent or another. As a general matter, this is a reference to the places where your ancestors lived, and/or to the language and cultural group to which they belonged.

These are simple matters of fact. The notion that we all have a "race," and that it forms our "identity," is rather different.

Within the American context, the idea that we all have a "race" comes from the world the slaveholders made a very long time ago. Those people created a highly disordered world. Part of the disorder they created is the idea, which dominates our thinking even today, that we all have a "race," and that it defines our "identity."

This idea is one part of the wide-reaching poison the slaveholders handed down. Within our current American culture, no one is more devoted to maintaining this idea that we liberals are.

Within our modern American culture, people get told that they have a "race;" we all get pigeonholed hard. But do people actually belong to a race? Everybody has an ancestry. Except within our slaveholder-scripted heads, does anyone have a "race?"

Carly Simon has an ancestry. Societal strictures to the side, does she actually have a "race," unless she wants to picture the world that way? What makes us cling, with such devotion, to the world the slaveholders made? Wouldn't it be a smarter world if we remembered, even once in a while, to let this corrupt idea go?

"That was your mother," Paul Simon once said. His traveling companion was 9 years old. To hear that child told about his mother and father, you can just click here.

For the prologue to that conversation, you can just click this. These are two of our favorite songs. Because everyone wants to know these things, they strike us as deeply humane.

Dancing to the music of Clifton Chenier, the king of the bayou: To our ear, that story is deeply humane. According to our older half-brother, it isn't entirely unlike the way our own parents met.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: The Rachel figure's baby-poop play!


Part 4—How we got Trump-level dumb:
For the record, this week's reports weren't supposed to be about Rachel Maddow.

(Having said that, we aren't among the cable star's biggest fans.)

Instead, this week's reports were intended to be about Janet Malcolm, "the nation's best magazine writer." But mostly, they're supposed to be about the intellectual standards of a well-known upper-class publication, The New Yorker.

By extension, it seems to us that these reports concern a broader subject. They concern the intellectual standards which have obtained, in recent decades, all through our upper-end press corps.

Those intellectual standards have been extremely low. Last week, they led us very close to the place often described as "rock bottom."

They led us to an astounding assessment of Maddow's weeknight TV show. At the start of Janet Malcolm's ridiculous profile of Rachel Maddow, the nation's best magazine writer strangely and weirdly wrote this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): Maddow is widely praised for the atmosphere of cheerful civility and accessible braininess that surrounds her stage persona. She is onstage, certainly, and makes no bones about being so. She regularly reminds us of the singularity of her show (“You will hear this nowhere else”; “Very important interview coming up, stay with us”; “Big show coming up tonight”). Like a carnival barker, she leads us on with tantalizing hints about what is inside the tent.

As I write this, I think of something that subliminally puzzles me as I watch the show. Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem: the Cialis ad with curtains blowing as the lovers phonily embrace, the ad with the guy who has opioid-induced . . . constipation (I love the delicacy-induced pause), the ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance in which the woman jeers at the coverage offered by a rival company: “What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?” I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV. “The Rachel Maddow Show” is a piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show. It is TV entertainment at its finest. It permits liberals to enjoy themselves during what may be the most thoroughly unenjoyable time of their political lives.
Those are the second and third paragraphs of Malcolm's endless profile. We've posted those paragraphs three times now. We've done so, or at least so we hope, for an obvious reason.

Those paragraphs help create a record of the level of journalistic intelligence which has obtained during the era which led us, on a long and winding road, all the way down to President Trump. So far, we've asked two questions about those paragraphs:

First, how could any journalist, let alone "the nation's best magazine writer," possibly offer such manifest dreck?

Also, much more significantly:

How is it possible that any publication, let alone the lofty New Yorker, could even consider putting such manifest nonsense in print?

Speaking directly just this once, those paragraphs describe the TV viewing experience of someone who no longer seems to be cogent. She doesn't just say that she's "mesmerized" by the Cialis and constipation ads which pay the bills for Maddow's program, though that would be crazy enough.

She also says that the Maddow Show is a nightly "piece of sleight of hand presented as a cable news show." She says this putative cable news show is actually an entertainment product—"TV entertainment at its finest"—designed to let liberals "enjoy themselves" during these dangerous Trump-riddled times. Most astoundingly, she goes on to praise this TV program's multimillionaire host for working this sleight of hand. She praises Maddow for giving us this delicious experience, which has melded in the journalist's mesmerized head with those Cialis ads.

Stating what is blindingly obvious, that passage seems to have been written by someone who may no longer be fully cogent. This leaves us grappling with the larger question:

Why in the world? Why would one of the nation's loftiest journals choose to publish such work?

Our answer to that is rather simple; this is where things have gone. This is where the culture has gone in the twenty years which have passed since we started designing this site, a move we undertook because we were already astounded by the low intellectual levels on display within our upper-end press.

There was no President Trump at that time, though we already had Speaker Gingrich. When we watched the press corps spend more than a year trying to answer a certain question, we felt the system-wide intellectual squalor could no longer be ignored.

What question were they trying, and failing, to answer? The question in question was this:

Was the GOP proposing cuts in the Medicare program? Or were they proposing that we simply slow the rate at which the program would grow?

For more than a year, we watched our nation's reporters and pundits, performing on Crossfire, trying and failing to answer that question. Twenty years ago this month, we had already decided that we were appalled as Hell and just couldn't take it any more.

Twenty years have passed since that time, and now we have Malcolm's profile. She's mesmerized by Cialis ads, which she has committed to memory, and by Maddow's sleight of hand, of which she heartily approves.

At The New Yorker, David Remnick seemed to think this manifest inanity made sense.

In case you haven't noticed it yet, you simply can't run a large modern nation this way. And yet, if we might borrow from the poet, "And yet, this is us." It has been so for many years!

Originally, we thought we could critique Malcolm's essay in one week of reports. We've come to believe that there's too much of value in Malcolm's essay for us to quit today.

We want to consider Malcolm's treatment of two of the dumbest TV shows of all time—the TV shows Maddow aired on October 29 and 30, 2014. The sheer stupidity of those shows was truly a Thing 1 and Thing 2 for the ages—and Malcolm seems completely unable to see this.

That said, we also want to consider a phenomenon to which Malcolm approvingly refers. That would be, in Malcolm's words, Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure," an essential piece of the "sleight of hand" of which Malcolm approves.

Malcolm sees Maddow engaging in this "performance" during the time when she's on the air. Ir seems to us that Maddow may also have been "performing the Rachel figure" during her interviews with Malcolm, in ways which seem to have flown right past Malcolm's ear.

The "performance of the Rachel figure" is a basic part of the "sleight of hand" to which Malcolm refers. It's part of the "TV entertainment" which Maddow provides each night.

It's also part of the dumbing-down which has led our failing nation to its current perilous state. We're not sure if that dumbnified state is survivable at this point, but we think this ludicrous New Yorker essay helps us establish the historical record before Senator Corker's impending World War III quickly takes us all down.

Next week, we'll explore the various ways in which Maddow's "performance of the Rachel figure" seems to pop up in this long, ridiculous essay. We'll start with the ludicrous pair of performances from October 2014 which Malcolm introduces like this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): The [October 29, 2014] show began with Maddow placing on her desk, one by one, a graduated set of ceramic kitchen cannisters. “Here in our offices at 30 Rockefeller Center, in our office closet, actually, we have, sort of randomly, a really hideous complete set of kitchen cannisters,” she said, drawing them to her with an impish smile. “A full set of mushroom-ornamented, baby-poop-colored, made-in-China ugly kitchen cannisters. They take up a lot of space, but I can’t get rid of them. We bought these hideous kitchen cannisters when a producer on our staff stumbled upon them while out shopping and realized—photographic memory—that these were an exact match to one of the best campaign-ad props thus far in the twenty-first century. Look.”
As Maddow favored us gullible liberals with that silly talk about the baby poop color, she was, of course, entertaining us. But unmistakably, she was also "performing the Rachel figure."

Along with the work of many other corporate employees, Maddow's performance of this figure has made us increasingly stupid. The work of these grabbers has made us so dumb that a magazine writer who's now 83 wrote the following manifest nonsense, which got published at the start of a very long essay in our loftiest mainstream journal:
MALCOLM: Why do I stay and dumbly watch the commercials instead of getting up to finish washing the dishes? By now, I know every one of the commercials as well as I know the national anthem: the Cialis ad with curtains blowing as the lovers phonily embrace, the ad with the guy who has opioid-induced . . . constipation (I love the delicacy-induced pause), the ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance in which the woman jeers at the coverage offered by a rival company: “What are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car?” I sit there mesmerized because Maddow has already mesmerized me. Her performance and those of the actors in the commercials merge into one delicious experience of TV.
That was published last week in The New Yorker. Our question:

How did our nation ever reach this baby-poop-colored point?

We'll continue exploring that question next week. Given the way we humans are thrown, your lizard brain may offer complaints every step of the way.

Coming Monday: "She had been hugging the biggest cannister. Now she removed its lid and put it on her head."

Entire staff found under the weather!


No fish today:
Incomparably, our entire staff has been located under the weather.

In familiar award-winning fashion, there will be no fish today.

LESSONS CONCERNING THE FALL: Hard to spot from outer space!


Part 3—In search of our missing IQs:
Janet Malcolm is enthralled by Rachel Maddow's storytelling.

We offer that, not as snark, but as a virtual quote. Malcolm's profile of Maddow in the October 9 New Yorker is entitled thusly: THE STORYTELLER. Throughout the piece, Malcolm enthuses about Maddow's "inimitable" storytelling.

Watching Maddow on TV is "an exhilirating experience," our nation's best magazine writer confesses at one point. Early on, she describes herself as "mesmerized" as she watches Maddow each night—though, it must be said, she also says, in a daft admission, that she's also "mesmerized" by the constipation and Cialis ads which pay the bills for Maddow's art, which she weirdly describes as "TV entertainment at its finest."

It's hard to know why a major journal would publish observations so daft that they're visible from space. That said, The New Yorker has chosen to do so—and all through her lengthy profile, Malcolm praises Maddow's storytelling transplendence.

She praises Maddow's "extraordinary storytelling," which is driven by the "acute storyteller's instincts" which let Maddow turn a New York Times report into "a lucid and enthralling set piece." According to Malcolm, Maddow "spins her elaborate tales out of the threads the news provides."

"Maddow's artistry is most conspicuous in her monologues, which can span as long as twenty-four uninterrupted minutes," the mesmerized magazine writer says, not just about those Cialis ads, but about Maddow herself.

In fairness, we ourselves have often said that Maddow's a skilled performer. We've offered that assessment as an offshoot of a larger critique, in which we've said that Maddow is exceptionally skilled at "selling the car," though she may not necessarily be obsessively honest.

We've sometimes praised Maddow for her "hand jive," the histrionic hand gestures she's developed over time. We've often mentioned the weird grinning in which she engages, along with the phony forced laughter.

We've assumed that these behavioral ticks, which apparently "sell" to the traumatized viewer, were the result of consultant training. It wasn't until this very week that we would have thought something like this:
MALCOLM (10/9/17): Maddow’s TV persona—the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show—suggests experience in the theatre, but Maddow has had none. “I am a bad actor. I can be performative. But I can’t play any other character than the one who appears on the show. I can’t embody anyone else.” To keep herself in character, so to speak, Maddow marks up the text that she will read from a teleprompter with cues for gestures, pauses, smiles, laughs, frowns—all the body language that goes into her performance of the Rachel figure. “My scripts are like hieroglyphics,” she said. I asked her if I could see a page or two of these annotated texts. She consented, but then thought better of it.
Even with cues for frowns! Even we have never suggested that Maddow actually writes all that bullshit into the scripts she reads on the air. Mesmerized, Malcolm describes these "performative" affectations as "the body language that goes into her performance of the Rachel figure," "the well-crafted character that appears on the nightly show."

Is there something "wrong" with what Malcolm describes? Is there something wrong with performing a well-crafted character, in this case "the Rachel figure?"

Not necessarily, no! It all depends on the quality of the work which is being provided.

Malcolm, of course, has already said, perhaps a bit weirdly, that the work in question is actually "TV entertainment"—"a piece of sleight of hand disguised as a cable news program." She has already said that the work in question, this sleight of hand, is designed to let liberals "enjoy themselves" in this, our deeply dangerous hour of total political failure.

Mesmerized by the Cialis and constipation ads, Malcolm praises the sleight of hand. For some reason, her editors chose to publish these strange assessments in our nation's brainiest, and also dumbest, upper-class low-IQ journal.

How daft is our best magazine writer as she assesses Maddow's work? For today, lets consider her assessment of Maddow's first monologue of the year, the monologue which opened her program on January 2, the first Maddow Show of this deeply dangerous year, which is now being defined by the president's IQ wars.

How brilliant was Maddow that night? In paragraph 4 of her endless report, Malcolm begins to tell us, even revealing the segment's donnée:
MALCOLM: Maddow’s artistry is most conspicuously displayed in the long monologue—sometimes as long as twenty-four minutes, uninterrupted by commercials—with which her show usually begins. The monologue of January 2, 2017, is an especially vivid example of Maddow’s extraordinary storytelling. Its donnée was a Times article of December 31, 2016, with the headline “Trump’s Indonesia projects, still moving ahead, create potential conflicts.”
According to both Merriam and Webster, a donnée is "the set of assumptions on which a work of fiction or drama proceeds." In fairness, Maddow's 17-minute monologue wasn't a work of fiction this night, though at moments it came rather close.

(To watch the performance, click here.)

At any rate, Malcolm feels that this first monologue put Maddow's artistry on display. As happens again and again in this piece, she notices things that we also noticed in real time. But she showers praise on these performances, while we saw them as points of concern:
MALCOLM: In Maddow’s hands, the Times story became a lucid and enthralling set piece. “This story is amazing and it starts with copper,” Maddow said at the beginning of the monologue, looking happy. She had already told us that she was glad to be back from her vacation and wasn’t disheartened by the election. People had approached her “with concern in their eyes” and asked how she felt about the coming year. “I found myself . . . saying, ‘I’m really excited for 2017.’ I am! My job is to explain stuff—and, oh my God, is that a good job to have this year!”
As usual, Maddow had started this monologue by talking about herself. To Malcolm, the artist was "looking happy" this night. We thought, and still think, that she looked perhaps a bit manic that night, an unfortunate condition which Malcolm discusses later in her profile.

Needless to say, we were also struck by the self-involvement, bordering on narcissism, which animates so much of Maddow's work.

As of today, the possibility that Donald J. Trump is taking us to World War III is being openly discussed on a wide range of major news shows. Finally, major players are willing to say that they're flatly scared by Trump's behavior.

To anyone with an ounce of sense, the danger involved in Trump's election was already apparent on January 2. To Maddow, though, inevitably, Trump's election was cause for elation this night—for the giddy air which Malcolm records as happiness.

Appallingly, Maddow began the year by announcing to us that she was "really excited" looking ahead, because Trump's election meant that this would be a good year for people with her particular job. What would make someone say that?

What would make a person react in so peculiar a way? We've sometimes suggested that Maddow's remarkable self-involvement resembles that of Donald J. Trump. In her introduction to the new year, she helped us form that assessment.

As she continues, Malcolm describes the happy/manic affect Maddow displayed this night. She says that, as Maddow proceeded with her monologue, she was soon "laughing, almost chortling," and was "looking enormously pleased with herself."

(That is almost always the case. Discouraged members of our liberal tribe seem to enjoy it.)

Along the way, Malcolm describes another excursion by Maddow into the realm of a few of her favorite things. "I love it when a story doesn't make sense for a year and then all of a sudden it does," the artist is quoted saying.

Maddow was talking about herself again, as she so constantly does. Eventually, Malcolm explains, perhaps a bit daftly, how this particular monologue displayed Maddow's brilliance:
MALCOLM: As Maddow nears the end of her monologue, she mentions the Times story from which she got most of her material: “Donald Trump’s new real-estate deals, that golf course he wants to build . . . the Indonesian resort deals that brought this politician to Trump Tower in the first place, the Trump Organization has just confirmed to the New York Times, those deals are on, those projects are moving forward.” The reader who has been following my own lesson in comparative narratology will notice that Maddow has been sparing in her use of the Times narrative. Many characters that figure in the Times story are missing from Maddow’s, most conspicuously Trump’s Indonesian business partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo. Apart from the not negligible problem of pronouncing his name, Maddow understands the importance in storytelling of not telling the same story twice. The story of Donald Trump and Setya Novanto is enough. You don’t need the additional story of Donald Trump and Hary Tanoesoedibjo to show that Trump’s business dealings are problematic; nor do you need quotations from experts on ethics (the Times cites Karen Hobart Flynn, the president of Common Cause, and Richard W. Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer) to convince us that they are. By reducing the story to its mythic fundamentals, Maddow creates the illusion of completeness that novels and short stories create. We feel that this is the story as we listen to and watch her tell it.
One part of that assessment is plainly daft. Will Malcolm's reader really "notice that Maddow has been sparing in her use of the Times narrative?" Will that reader notice that "many characters that figure in the Times story are missing from Maddow’s?"

Of course she won't! That reader doesn't have the Times report in front of her as she reads Malcolm's lengthy essay.

That reader will have no idea what has or hasn't been omitted from the original Times report. Everyone on earth will know this, except our nation's best magazine writer in our loftiest magazine.

No, this doesn't actually matter. But the manifest dumbness of that statement is a disastrous sign of the times.

At any rate, Rachel Maddow understands that you don't tell the same story twice! On this basis, Malcolm tells us that Maddow has brilliantly "reduced the story [in the Times report] to its mythic fundamentals." Only in this age of IQ failure could a nation's brainiest magazine present so fatuous a point. But we live in a time of massive IQ failure—and this failure is very strong in the tents of our self-impressed, upper-class tribe.

According to Malcolm, Maddow "created the illusion of completeness that novels and short stories create" as she happily told her story this night. That strikes us as a silly assessment, but we let it stand.

That said, before we show you one of the ways Maddow achieved this sense of completeness, let's consider that magic word "happy," along with its evil twin "manic."

You'll have to watch the tape of that monologue
to see if you think Maddow looked "happy" that night as she laughed, almost chortling, where her script said she should. To our eye, Maddow looked manic that night, and she still looks that way on the videotape.

Here's what happened when Malcolm asked about that, later in the profile:

A few years back, Maddow told several interviewers that she has had a life-long problem with "cyclical depression." Assuming this statement is true, this is a very unfortunate fact. No one should have to deal with such a punishing condition.

At some point, Malcolm asked Maddow about this. We were struck by several things Maddow said:
MALCOLM: Maddow has suffered from depression since childhood, and a few years ago she decided to allow this affliction a place in her non-TV persona by speaking about it in interviews. “It was a hard call,” she said. “Because it is nobody’s business. But it had been helpful to me to learn about the people who were surviving, were leading good lives, even though they were dealing with depression. So I felt it was a bit of a responsibility to pay that back.”

The depression comes in cycles. She doesn’t know how long a bout of depression will last—it can be one day or three weeks. She takes no medication, but expects that one day she will have to—“I will not have a choice.” But she dreads the thought of “a change to the psyche.”

“Is there a manic side?” I asked.

“Yes, but much less than when I was young.
That has flattened a bit.”

“Have you had psychotherapy?”


“Are you afraid of changes to the psyche it might produce?”

“No. I’m just not interested. I’m happy to talk to you for this profile, because I’m interested in you and in this process. But, in general, talking about myself for an hour—it’s not something that I would pay for the privilege of. It just sounds like no fun.”
Maddow suffers from painful bouts of depression—but she doesn't take medication, and she's not interested in seeking therapy. We have no idea if she should seek therapy, but we were struck by her reasons for deferring.

First, a loyal viewer has to chuckle at Maddow's original statement. As we've often noted, "talking about herself for an hour" often seems to be very thing Rachel Maddow likes best.

We're not sure we've ever seen any news anchor talk about herself so much. Maddow loves talking about herself! That said, note her other statements in that exchange:

She thinks therapy would be "no fun." Also, she thinks this topic is nobody's business.

Radiation treatments are no fun, but people frequently take them. Maddow's emphasis on the concept of "having fun" has long been a puzzling part of her on-air persona, dating back to the time when she told David Frum that she didn't want a more grown-up public discussion.

That said, is this matter nobody's business? We'd tend to disagree with that, because of the way this unfortunate condition may affect Maddow's work.

Do Maddow's intermittent manic states perhaps affect her work? To our eye, she seemed a bit manic on this very first night of the year. This may have affected her work in a way our best magazine writer blew right past, without notice.

As Maddow discussed Indonesia that night, she mesmerized Malcolm with a reference the star writer cites three times. Mercifully, we'll only show you Malcolm's first citation:
MALCOLM: Maddow then explained the properties of copper. She showed pictures of the Statue of Liberty, pennies, and wires. She talked about the “massive global appetite” for copper electrical wiring, and about a mining company called Freeport, based in Arizona, which is the world’s second-largest producer of copper. One of Freeport’s operations is in Indonesia, where it extracts gold and silver, as well as copper, from a mine that covers almost half a million acres. Maddow showed arrestingly beautiful photographs of the mine’s crater—which is so huge that it is not just visible from space but “easily visible.”
Those photographs were arrestingly beautiful! Presumably, this added to the TV entertainment. Along with the constipation ads, the photos had Malcolm mesmerized.

That said, is that Indonesian copper mine really "so huge that it is not just visible from space but 'easily visible?' " Malcolm mentions this claim three separate times, partly because Maddow made it again and again in the course of the happy report, during which she laughed and almost chortled.

Maddow said it again and again, but is it actually true? In reality, as opposed to in Maddow's short story, is that copper mine "visible from space" at all, let alone "easily visible?"

It doesn't make any difference, of course, but no, it pretty much isn't. Unless we're talking about photographs taken with high-powered lenses!

Can we talk? Except in the realm of Cialis ads, Indonesia is barely visible from space, let alone easily so. Meanwhile, the NASA site which provided this arrestingly beautiful photograph is a NASA site, for crying out loud!

Using the tools of that NASA site, Janet Malcolm's backyard birdbath is "easily visible from space!" But so what? As she cited Maddow's claim three times, it didn't seem to occur to our best writer that she was citing a claim that pretty much didn't make sense.

That said, Maddow routinely makes inaccurate, doctored, massaged and misleading claims. It's just exactly as Malcolm said. Routinely, her program is a cable entertainment product, designed to make us liberals feel good, through use of the tools at hand.

It's hard to know what makes a person want to dissemble so much, but we wouldn't rule out the possibility that manic and depressive states are involved in the behavior. Also involved is the failing IQ of the famous magazine writer who keeps repeating a pleasing claim which is slightly absurd on its face.

In fairness, Janet Malcolm knew enough to disappear one of Maddow's statements. As the narcissistic entertainer finished her glorious segment that night, she returned to outer space for one final fly-by. She was speaking about Carl Icahn:
MADDOW (1/2/17): This new key member of the federal government, for whom they have invented a job without a formal portfolio, he is the single largest shareholder in that mining company, whose mines in Indonesia you can see from space.

The company that did not pay the $4 billion shakedown price to that politician who is personally helping Donald Trump get richer in Indonesia as president. And now that company will presumably be in an excellent position to do whatever needs to be done to benefit whoever needs to be benefitted. You scratch my back. I scratch a giant hole in the earth that can be viewed from Mars.
Maybe she was joking. But by now, you could see that giant huge mine from Mars! No, this possibly joking remark didn't make any difference. But even Malcolm knew enough to leave it out of her tale.

Maddow embellishes a fair amount of the time. In the broken liberal realm, we never fact-check her remarks. We just enjoy the ride.

Sometimes when she comes on the air, she looks, to us, a bit manic. Her judgment strikes us as rather poor a fair amount of the time.

None of this matters to someone like Malcolm, who's in it for "TV entertainment at its finest." In this age when we've come face to face with the dangerously low IQ of our failed elites, she is sitting in her home, mesmerized by a storyteller and by her Cialis ads.

Tomorrow: "Now she put it [the canister lid] on her head." Unvarnished praise for the stupidest show of the year