The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Rachel @Maddow’s Big Nothing Story: Fear and Loathing on MSNBC

Posted on | March 15, 2017 | Comments Off on Rachel @Maddow’s Big Nothing Story: Fear and Loathing on MSNBC


Tuesday afternoon, Rachel Maddow claimed a “BREAKING” exclusive: “We’ve got Trump tax returns.” And this turned out to be the biggest flop since Geraldo Rivera’s trip to Al Capone’s vault. Maddow spent an entire hour talking about a two-page summary of President Trump’s 2005 federal income tax filing, which showed he paid $38 million in taxes on $150 million income — a rate of nearly 25%. Nothing illegal, nothing scandalous, just nothing — no news value whatsoever.


She was reporting nothing, but she had an entire hour to report it, so she began with a sort of journalistic strip-tease, a lengthy monologue followed by — wait for it — a commercial break. After finally “reporting” the numbers, Maddow then filled the extra time with a lot of blabber — wild speculation about what sinister secrets might be hidden behind those opaque numbers. She suggested there could be debts owed to shady foreign entities (Russians, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) who could thereby influence Trump’s policies. While it is of course possible that such things could be true, speculation is not news, or else I could win a Pulitzer Prize for my seven-part series speculating that Rachel Maddow could be having a secret affair with Mika Brzezinski. Because, hey, why not?

The circular logic of Maddow’s “investigative journalism”:

  1. Donald Trump is a Republican;
  2. Republicans are evil;
  3. Somewhere, there must be evidence of how evil Trump is.

Really, that’s all she’s got — a belief in Trump’s evil, which permits her (and every other liberal journalist) to constantly locate mountainous “scandals” where anyone with common sense sees only a molehill. Ever since Hillary lost the election, the media have been dogpiling every possible variation on the Russians-hacked-the-election conspiracy theory, because that’s what their core audience of disappointed Democrat voters want to believe. To those of us old enough to remember the early 1990s, this is much like The Clinton Chronicles, the 1994 conspiracy-theory video that suggested that during Bill Clinton’s years in Arkansas, people had been killed to protect a drug-smuggling operation based at Mena Airport.


Well, Vince Foster could not be reached for comment, if you get my drift — nudge, nudge, wink, wink — but whatever shadowy secrets were concealed by the allegedly massive cover-up of Clinton’s Arkansas crimes, there was no smoking-gun proof. The really big scoop that emerged from Little Rock involved something more prosaic, namely Clinton’s predatory extramarital sexual habits, which led to the Jones v. Clinton federal lawsuit, which exposed the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which resulted in Clinton’s impeachment for perjuring himself under oath.

Could there be some Big Dark Secret in Donald Trump’s past that will destroy his presidency? We cannot rule it out, but rummaging around in his old tax records isn’t likely to locate that smoking gun, which is why Rachel Maddow’s “BREAKING” story was such a big nothing.

Anyone who has spent 20 or 30 years closely following politics ought to understand why attempts to manufacture Watergate-sized scandal stories so often lead to embarrassing journalistic failure. The White House issued a statement that denounced Maddow’s story as a “desperate” bid for ratings by “the dishonest media” in pursuit of an “agenda.”

Professor William Jacobson says Maddow committed career suicide Tuesday night, but he’s wrong. Think about how Alex Jones managed to turn his own paranoid 9/11 Truther fantasies into a lucrative career. Nowadays, his InfoWars site can be a valuable source for news — they’re especially good at covering Muslim immigration issues in Europe — but the reader must have the ability to distinguish between (a) the actual facts reported, and (b) any conspiratorial interpretation which might be overlaid onto these facts. So if Rachel Maddow is the left-wing Alex Jones of network news, she could conceivably continue hyping up “fake news” for many years, and getting paid $7 million a year to do it.

Meanwhile, of course, the Pulitzer Prize committee will be eagerly awaiting my seven-part investigative series about rumors of Rachel Maddow’s affair with Mika Brzezinski, which could conceivably be true, in the same way that it could be true that Donald Trump has a secret deal with Vladimir Putin and Webb Hubbell is Chelsea Clinton’s real father.

Journalists must learn to be skeptical about any story that seems too good to be true, but Rachel Maddow has never been a journalist. She’s never done the kind of prosaic work of covering the local school board or reporting on a tornado or anything like that. She began her broadcast career doing left-wing talk radio in Massachusetts, parlayed that into a show on the now-defunct Air America network, and then turned that into a TV career. Maddow is actually the best journalist on MSNBC, but that’s like saying Heike Drechsler was the cutest member of the East German women’s track and field team in the 1984 Olympics, IYKWIMAITYD.




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