Why Is Rachel Maddow Foaming at the Mouth About Russia Conspiracies?
One of the strangest journalistic spectacles to take place in ages...
I recently returned from a month in the US, and while channel flipping, I became aware of something downright extraordinary happening over at Rachel Maddow's show at MSNBC.
It illustrates so well the pressing problem we all face of living in our own media echo chambers, and the crazy, Glenn Beckesque detachment from reality that can result, in this case Maddow's, but also the fact that she could carry on like this and not be much noticed by the crowd on our side of the political fence.
The only richly deserved public spanking Maddow has received for her grotesque war-mongering and hysterical, McCarthyite Russia-bating that I can see, are in two excellent articles in the far left, progressive Counterpunch, Norman Solomon's Is Rachel Maddow Becoming a Liberal Glenn Beck?, and David Swanson's Does Rachel Maddow Want Russia Bombed?, both articles largely unnoticed on the right.
Here's a brief video montage of her obsessions:
So kudos to Aaron Mate over at the Intercept for a long, excellently-researched article, reproduced below, which lays out Maddow's frothing in all its gory detail. Still it is criticism from the left, and not nearly hard enough.
What Mate doesn't bring out in his article is the priceless theater in Maddow's delivery. Night after night she rants on an on, hammering away like a person obsessed, and according to Mate, she shows no sign of slowing down. Long, wild-eyed, rambling monologues reminiscent of Carrie Mathison off her meds in the 'Homeland' TV series. Interjections like 'just stay with me cause I'm going to pull this all together, I know its hard...'. Exhortations that this was 'the most important story in the world right now!!!', as she tried to explain why she was devoting the better part of every night's show, day after day, to ever more far-fetched, Beckian bluster.
The bizarreness of the spectacle is a testament to how insular political discussion has become in the US. Maddow is MSNBC's biggest star and biggest draw, and has millions of devoted fans, mostly female, who gulp down her loopy ideas cap, bottle, and label. That this could go on for months without eliciting much public mention is nothing short of extraordinary. An important angle which Mate doesn't get in to: who are the executives and owners at MSNBC who sign off on this stuff?
Mate's article is long, so here are a couple of take-aways. After demonstrating factually that Maddow, did in fact, over a three week period spend more than half her show time on Russia conspiracies, always giving them the lead, which means that effectively 75% of the punching power of her show was devoted to them, he lists some of the more outlandish things she raved about. Some damning quotes:
Proposed budget cuts, canceled press briefings, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s muted role have led Maddow to wonder if Trump is weakening the State Department on Vladimir Putin’s behalf. “We have to ask,” Maddow said in a 12-minute segment on March 8, “whether [Russia] wanted actions by U.S. political figures to weaken the parts of America that most annoy and that most undermine Vladimir Putin.” In an extended follow-up the next night, Maddow said, “Silencing the U.S. State Department, putting a friend of Vladimir Putin’s in charge at the U.S. State Department, who stands by quietly while the State Department gets hollowed out, gets gutted… That’s a dream for Putin.”
On March 7, WikiLeaks published documents exposing cyber tools used by the CIA to penetrate cell phones and other devices. Two days later, Maddow blamed Putin. Reminding viewers that WikiLeaks had released the Podesta emails, Maddow asked:
"Consider what the other U.S. agency is besides the State Department that Putin most hates? That Putin most feels competitive with? That Putin most wants to beat? It’s the CIA, right? Spy versus spy. Putin is ex-KGB. He’s an ex-FSB officer… Smart observers say this is the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA’s cyber war and flat-out spying capabilities, and that dump was released by WikiLeaks."
A popular internet theory posits that RT (formerly Russia Today), the Kremlin-funded television network, had advance knowledge of a WikiLeaks release of hacked Podesta emails. The claim is based on RT’s Twitter account reporting the release 19 minutes before WikiLeaks’ Twitter account did. Here’s Maddow on March 9:
"Russian state television was magically able to tweet about the next release of John Podesta e-mails. The sixth release of John Podesta e-mails even before WikiLeaks released them… Russia Today, how did you know it was coming?"
But RT answered the question months earlier: the Podesta emails appeared on the WikiLeaks website before WikiLeaks got around to tweeting about it.
In the long run, this wild-eyed bawling is good for our side, because Maddow, like Beck, now has to live with these broadcasts, and when the mood changes, and change it will, she will be relentlessly skewered, Brian Williams style, for her gullibility, her willful ignorance, and abandoning of any journalistic integrity, as Mate so clearly demonstrates.
ONE DAY AFTER her network joined the rest of corporate media in cheering for President Trump’s missile attack on Syria, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was back to regular business: seeing Russian collaboration with Trump at work.
It’s “impossible,” fellow anchor Lawrence O’Donnell told Maddow on April 7, to rule out that “Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week – so that his friend in the White House could have a big night with missiles and all of the praise he’s picked up over the past 24 hours.”
The Washington Post noted that the “conspiracy theory” drew “derision from across the political spectrum.” But it was not out of place.
MSNBC, the country’s most prominent liberal media outlet, has played a key role in stoking the frenzy over Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race — in lock step with the Democratic Party’s most avid partisans.
Jennifer Palmieri, a senior member of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, captured the prevailing mentality when she recently urged party members to talk about the Russian “attack on our republic” — and to do so “relentlessly and above all else.”
And no leading media figure has done so more than Maddow. In the period since Election Day, “The Rachel Maddow Show” has covered “The Russia Connection” — and Russia, generally — more than it has any other issue.
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