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July 24, 2009


I tuned out of the Maddow show after experiencing the inanely sophomoric "teabagging" episode with Wonkette.

Finally, within liberal circles, there's a tendency to rationalize Maddow's behavior by saying that she's still better than comparable conservatives and that the cable news medium is at fault.

Another thing to consider is that, to the extent that the cable format exists, it may be important to have representatives of the genre that come from a competing perspective.

Pro-Republican cable and radio programming were extremely influential for a long time, with absolutely nothing comparable competing.

It could be that as more flavors of demagoguery become available, people become increasingly isolated and radicalized within their own political groups.

On the other hand, when only one flavor of demagoguery is available within an individual's media environment, those who subscribe to it may become much more isolated and radicalized within it than they would have be if they occasionally encountered competing flavors.

(There are tons of competing flavors of demagoguery online, so I don't think is so relevant to the online world. But there are still lots of people whose media environments don't include the online world.)

I watched Maddow once and found her charming, although I disagreed with her politics.

nascar daughter, I rise to defend the conservative demagogues. They're far from perfect. However, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, et. al. don't make someone a bete noire by making up an offensive quote and pretending that the person said it. What Maddow did puts her in a different class of demagoguery.

Rush and Bill misrepresent people all the time.

Rush more often tells us what they "really" think and Billy more often puts words in other people's mouths, but it comes down to the same thing.

Howard Craft, I think they're very different. Telling the reader what someone really thinks is a practice that may deserves criticism. Indeed Brendan did criticize it as recently as July 16. But, falsifying a quote is a very serious journalistic no-no. And, falsifying a quote that makes someone a racist is obviously worse yet.

Here's why I think they're so different. If Maddow says Buchanan "really thinks" certain racist thoughts, that's just her opinion. A listener may not be convinced by Maddow's opinion. But, when she reports that Buchanan has made an explicit statement, that's a fact. At least, it would be a fact if Maddow were reporting truthfully.

If you look at the actual comment(s) he made - the comments that she "corrected" - it seems very silly to me to say that she misrepresented him.

He presented hypothetical examples. She responded the next day by saying that his hypothetical examples actually were false (in reality).

It seems she being criticized for the wrong thing. As opposed to discussing how accurate the hypothetical were, (or arguing if they were being presented as facts or just as hypothetical examples) they should have been debating why (or why not) those hypotheticals even related to the topic being discussed.

Maddow's "correction" wasn't really a correction, as Somerby pointed out, because Buchanan's statement was hypothetical.

Furthermore, her "correction" was irrelevant to Buchanan's point. His point was that if some Olympic team is over-represented by some ethic group, that imbalance was not a result of racial discrimination. He's illustrating the principle that an unequal result doesn't prove that there was unequal opportunity.

Furthermore, Rachel Maddow knew very well what his point was. When she pretended not to understand it ISTM she was behaving like a rube in order to fool her viewers, who she thinks are rubes.

Howard Craft, I agree with you that Limbaugh misinterpreted Hillary's comment. Whether he "lied" depends on whether he believed what he said. Although his interpretation was wrong in my opinion and yours, there was some justification for it.

I agree that Clark's early position was somewhat ambiguous. However, given his actual quote, ""At the time, I probably would have voted for [the resolution authorizing war against Iraq]", I think it's fair to say that he had changed his position. Spinsanity is certainly correct that Limbaugh highlighted the parts of Clark's testimony that supported his allegation. That's not unbiased, but it's a tactic used routinely by every pundit anywhere.

Jumping to Media Matters discussion of Gore and O'Reilly. Again, O'Reilly used the common tactic of presenting evidence that supported his POV. Still, I would like to know how Al Gore raised his net worth from $2 million to $100 million. Gore's mere comment (which I agree O'Reilly ought to have mentioned) doesn't convince me that Gore isn't making money somehow from aspects of fighting global warming.

I certainly agree with you that Lou Dobbs misreported whose "hasty decision" Gibbs was discussing, as did the non-partisan Politico.

You have demonstrated that over the last 8 years, conservative commentators have made at least 6 errors in which they misinterpreted what some liberal said, to the liberal's detriment. If that's your point, I agree.

BTW Limbaugh's 3 or 4 errors were made during a period when he was on the air for over 5000 hours. That's not bad compared with the New York Times, which corrects numerous errors every day.

David, I think you were replying to me, nascardaughter.

I should have been clearer that I was responding specifically to this comment:

"However, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, et. al. don't make someone a bete noire by making up an offensive quote and pretending that the person said it. What Maddow did puts her in a different class of demagoguery."

The links are the result of a moment's googling looking specifically for a few examples of selective quoting and misrepresentation of individuals statements -- they are not at all a round-up of errors and misrepresentations made by conservative commentators over the last eight years.

Selective quoting and paraphrasing and misrepresentation of individuals' statements are indeed practiced "routinely" by many pundits. They are not unique to Maddow.

Back to the original issue,

Given that the hypothetical examples were inaccurate, there wasn't really any point illustrated at all (IMHO).

If he wants to say that "racism doesn't explain everything" no one will argue with him.

If he wants to say that others practice reverse racism, he should have some better evidence - better than things that aren't true to use as hypothetical examples.

Unequal opportunity DOES exist in sports. That it isn't evident everywhere and all the time doesn't illustrate much at all.

I would have to disagree with your assessment in calling Maddow's coverage of the Ensign and Sanford affairs as tabloid pieces. Her coverage was centered around their abuse of office, as well as the hypocrisy of both men after calling for others to resign in similar circumstances as theirs (e.g. Clinton, Sen. Craig) and running their campaigns on a family values platform (good thing we have these men to 'defend' our marriages, am I right?).

Simply talking about the affairs and drumming it up as a sex scandal would be tabloid by nature. Focusing on the hypocrisy and abuse of power inherent in those affairs and their subsequent cover ups is what journalism is about.

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