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.