Dear MSNBC: Grow up, already

Dear Chris M., Rachel, and Lawrence at MSNBC:

Sorry old friends. You got me through a lot of hard times. But you’ve lost  me. I’m weaning myself away.  So here’s my confession.  It might help you  understand why it’s really, truly over.

In the run up to the 2012 election, I confess I indulged in a nightly dose of MSNBC for four straight, mind-numbing hours. From Chris to Ed to Rachel to Lawrence, it didn’t matter that most nights each one of you hashed over the same tidbit, embellishing it just enough with your own spicy sauce to make it sound as if you were the first and only one stirring the pot.

You could say I ate, drank, and slept the news. That’s what fear will do.  The dread I felt about a Mitt Romney presidency and the crazies of the Republican party gaining more sway than they already had kept me glued to your news casting.  You coddled my political leanings, and so I clung to you—my fellow progressives and your words—for dear life.

In the uncertainty of how the election would end, MSNBC became my lifeline.  MSNBC became my surrogate mommy—soothing me with a gentle touch to my fevered head while crooning that “yes, my dear, there is a tooth fairy”; and, “yes, my dear, she’s doing everything she can to get Obama elected.”

And this: “Yes, dear, there are still sane—nay, even thoughtful, rational people out there somewhere in the universe.” (Can you hear it?  This is where we cut to the mellifluous opening notes of Judy’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”) And there was even more: “Yes, dear, there will be life after the next election, no matter who wins.” (That one I wasn’t so sure about.)

Let me be clear.  You news-junky hosts on MSNBC and your smarter-than-smart staffs were the only ones on national television highlighting stories and framing the news in a way that squared with my progressive viewpoint. And for that I was grateful.

But post-election, the thrill is gone.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve gotten tired of the graphic gimmicks and silly bells and whistles that are there to seduce an audience decades younger than I.   Or maybe it’s that Chris M. interrupting the thought flow of yet another distinguished guest became too infuriating or the brilliance of Rachel’s mind and the circular construction of her solo arguments became too familiar and too predictable.  (Must familiarity always breed contempt?)

Or maybe it’s just that I thought that after you got over the first blush of finding yourselves on the big stage trumpeting the progressive line, you’d settle in to some good old-fashioned, serious journalism.  Of course, things haven’t turned out as I thought they might.

To be fair, there’s serious journalism underpinning your programs, but to this viewer the egos gone wild and self-indulgent strutting of wit and intelligence kick the serious box out from under all of you.

Edward R. Murrow you are not.

It was March 21, at 9:27 pm to be exact, when I knew it was over. That night, during a segment on Rachel’s show, the commentary encapsulated everything that’s turned me off MSNBC’s news coverage.

Something really important had happened that day.  Something really important that illustrated the cynical propaganda campaign that’s undermining what we know about our elected officials, the world, and the real workings of our democracy.

Of course, I know that you, Rachel, know.  But did you present the story with the seriousness it deserved?  The answer is no. First off, you were nearly squirming with delight to show us how clever you and your staff were for discovering and connecting the dots.  If I had you in front of me, I’d say: Stop touting your smarts.  It demeans your calling.

If you remember, on March 21 President Obama was in the midst of his first visit to Israel.  He was being shown, by live feed, receiving Israel’s highest honor as a true friend and trusted ally. As Rachel and her staff discovered, at the same time, Fox News was running a program excoriating Obama as the archenemy of Israel.

The contrast between reality and the imaginary world of Fox could not have been more stark. But Rachel, you sneered and giggled.  Your demeanor said, “You’re in on the joke, viewers, can you believe this?  Those wild and crazy, out of it guys at Fox. Those wild and crazy Republican wing nuts.  You and me, we’re educated, smart, with it, not like those bozos.”  (Hear the sound of laughter.)

That kind of delivery might make you, Rachel, your staff, and your audience (me, included) feel good about what we believe to be our superior knowledge, education, and nuanced understanding of politics, but it’s not journalism.  And it’s not what we need right now.

And Rachel, you’re not alone.  Lawrence and guests indulge in barely disguised snickers during a nightly Rush Limbaugh segment.  You might say that laughing at Rush is the best medicine. (Remember how Mel Brooks said the same about another demagogue?) But an awful lot of people take Rush very, very seriously—to their detriment and ours. After all, Rush’s lies are why we have people in need who believe that Obamacare is a Frankenstein (as someone recently referred to it in my local newspaper).

So I say, grow up MSNBC hosts. Maybe there’s still time to win back this viewer. Focus a little less on glorifying your own opinions and displaying your self-satisfaction and more on giving us the facts. Make your hours less about you and more about the news. Forget about entertainment and start creating some grown-up news casts because that’s what we—and our democracy—really need.

  • I don’t know who you are. I have never heard of you before now and will probably never hear (read) you again and don’t care if I don’t. I will continue to watch MSNBC and those three hosts. For the record Rachel has never said she is a “journalist”. She is a political commentator and is very good at it. She gives her opinion and is pretty good with facts and figures. It is your right not to like someone or something and telling us your opinion. It is also my Right not to agree with that opinion, and I don’t. This is my opinion and I am sticking to it.

  • Salmo

    MSNBC sniping at Fox News is immature, but humor/mockery is the “American as Apple Pie” response for situations like the evil bloated puss bag that is Rush Limbaugh and his influence in the Republican Party.

  • MontanaSid

    I’m with you on this one Richard. Maddow is quite possibly the most intellectual voice on T.V. right now.

  • Renee, I’m sure you’ll get flak for this, but I sometimes feel the same way. I think it is because we’re looking for a source for real discussion without the snark. If I want snark I can find plenty of it on the internet. I’m a huge MSNBC fan but I find I’m tuning out the nightly lineup more and more.

    They are who they are and they provide a great service in a culture where Right Wing is considered normal, but I’ve had enough of the cutesy, the leering, the snark, the jokes (yes, about Coulter or Limbaugh when what they produce is seriously dangerous). It was bound to have a short shelf-life but it pains me to have to admit that my former media heroes have worn thin.

    I loved Lawrence O’Donnell for so long but now he comes across like the kindergarten teacher trying to get the ‘lil ones to understand. Can he talk any slower or louder? And speaking of loud, I just can’t abide Rev Al’s shouting. It drives me insane. I don’t care what he has to say, I just can’t listen anymore.

    I do like Chris Hayes. He comes closest to what I’m looking for, though I won’t give up on Rachel entirely. I still think she’s the smartest of the bunch and can be funny. As a Michigander I’ll never forget what she’s done to bring attention to our besieged state.

    Thank you for articulating what I’ve been feeling for a while now. I had thought about writing about it, too, but hadn’t had time to think it through. Just know that you have someone in your corner when the haters begin.

  • SparkyCXV

    Seems to me you are doing the same thing you are complaining about

  • formerlywhatithink


    Treating someone with condescension is the opposite of treating them with respect. Condescension is full of arrogant and snooty attitude, and people who practice condescension treat others like inferior idiots.

    Pretty much sums up your attitude.

  • onetree

    Thank you. I watch Rachel often because I learn things that I wouldn’t otherwise have time to learn and I usually enjoy her personality. I definitely do appreciate it when real information is given and not just opinions about others’ opinions. I’m just not sure Rachel is as informed as she would like to think she is and she could, if properly informed and free to speak, give us a lot more than she does. So whether she’s ignorant of certain things or just not free to speak of what she knows, I can’t be sure. But I do know the owner of the network is a very large corporation and that the boundaries of NBC News are pretty clear and similar to the other networks.

  • peterjohn936

    The MSNBC commentors are not perfect but they are all we have. I watch Maddow but I don’t watch the others. I need to know whats going on and I find Maddow to be most informed. I need facts more than I need to be entertained but I also recognized that I may be unsual in this requirement.

  • Ron H

    I’m amazed you didn’t call out that smugly arrogant Chris Matthews. Contempt doesn’t begin to describe the way people feel about him.

  • Ron H

    Check out Thom Hartmann’s radio and tv show. He’s a liberal who’ll blow you away with intelligent news and commentary,

  • You are so off the mark with this article I want to gag! The “thrill” is still VERY MUCH THERE for me and most of my friends. The lineup of Hayes, Maddow and O’Donnell are THE ONLY political commentary worth watching during the week…along with the laughs they back up everything they say with cold hard facts…something UNKNOW in Faux Noise land. And Up With Chris Hayes (now to be hosted by Steve Kornake,) and Mellissa Harris Perry FAR outshine any of the other news commentary shows on the weekend. I’m also looking forward to the two hour shows of Ed Schultz beginning there soon.

    I guess you prefer the stogy old bobble-headed serious ones on This Week in Washington, Face the Nation and The McLaughlin Group, which I find predictably dull and full of the usual “inside-the-beltway” herd-mentality wisdom.

    You need to seriously grow up yourself. You’ve made yourself the laughing stock of the internet with your sad article here!

  • hupto

    You’re completely missing what makes Rachel so special–her unalloyed joy in what she does and what she covers. She never gets angry; she never raises her voice; she tries to see the bright side of any situation. In a medium almost totally dominated by shouting, spittle-flecked hatemongers, she shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • Ms. Maddow is spot on all the time. She doesn’t poke at Fox as much as one would think by reading this article at all. She is a commentator first and foremost, but her facts are usually right on the money. She covers a lot of stories not heard through out MSNBC during the day or night. She’s quite brilliant. She hits on things broadcast ‘journalism’ doesn’t originally pick up for days, if at all.
    With the exception of three shows shown during the daily weekday broadcast, MSNBC bills itself as the Place For Politics, it’s a commentary channel. Jansing and Co., Andrea Michell Reports, and News Nation with Tamron Hall are more geared towards daily news.

  • Ms. Maddow is great at her job. A lot of her segments are very important, some of them will be picked up by non-commentary journalism later and examined and be reported up because they are factual (her coverage of the states trying to divy up electoral votes garned little attention outside of online groups until the Maddow show talked about it).

  • Melissa Harris Perry is great, she’s a wonderful thing to wake up to in the morning (I’m a late riser), it’s great to see I’m not alone here. I also can’t wait to see Ed in a new format that I think will fit him better,

    Ms. Maddow is about the best thing ever. I was so happy to discover her this year. She’s always DVR’ed for those nights I can’t watch her live. She’s snarky in a way I love, as in not so very much except where it’s much needed.

    MSNBC bills itself as the Place For Politics and the slogan Lean Forward for a reason.

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