Please Stop Assuring Me I’m Right

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in some precincts, or parishes if you’re in Louisiana, I guess, about Rachel Maddow semi-retiring from her weeknight show on MSNBC. Now, before I begin, I want to make clear I’m not criticizing her per se. Well, I’m not JUST doing that. I’m using her as a representative of prime time pundit cable shows.

I also concede science hasn’t yet devised an instrument that can measure how little a crap she or her millions of fans care about my views on anything, let alone her. Just so we’re clear, I’m clear on how clearly uninterested any of these parties (and perhaps more than a few readers) clearly don’t care about my views.

I Come Not To Bury Ms. Maddow Or Her Peers

Rather, I’m here to bemoan (I love a good bemoaning on occasion) the toxic conversion of news cable prime time to the pursuit of making you feel good about your opinions.

Ms. Maddow is exceptionally bright. And I almost always find my political views align with hers. That’s actually part of the problem. Someone posted recently her shows were the last of the great public squares for serious, high-minded debates. To which I say, exactly what is ever debated on her show? Or most others?

Our Opponent Was Unable To Make It Tonight As We Didn’t Invite Them

Her shows bring on virtually no one who isn’t eager to ratify whatever she’s saying. At least that’s the way it was for years. Maybe that’s changed. A few used to make a half-hearted attempts to do so, like having Rick Santorum on CNN, but they obviously decided the ratings were better without the tedium of interrupting self-congratulation with other opinions.

I agree with Ms. Maddow 99.9% of the time, but I would like to hear on occasion from a countervailing argument. None of these shows do that. They educate you (perhaps) inasmuch as they give you facts that support the beliefs you (and I) started the show with.

Sometimes there IS no rational counter argument, especially these last few years, but like I said, the organizing principle for the pundit based programs isn’t so much to challenge our ideas as makes us feel good about the ones we have already and feed those delicious little sanctimony pellets (I’ll bet you can’t eat just one) many of us (myself included) have become addicted to.

Please Don’t Humor Me. Seriously, I’m Begging You

I don’t need humor in my shows, but I wish someone would have lovingly pulled aside Ms, Maddow and told her people aren’t tuning in for her snappy one-liners. There are few things more tiresome to me than people who are convinced they are funny and are wrong. She’s not within an affordable cab ride of funny.

Then there is her need to delay and delay and delay, occasionally peppering in a tangent or two before getting to the point. Nine times out of ten this is due to the need to fill time rather than provide relative context: “Let’s get into McConnell’s brazen misuse of power to stop Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, which means, to really understand what’s going on, we need to talk about the European powers’ control of the opium trade in 19th century China, The Whiskey Rebellion, and Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps.”

I Come Not To Bury Ms. Maddow And Her Cohorts, But I’m Open To Pettily Bitching About Them

Most of all, pretty much all the CNN/MSNBC (I won’t even consider Fox, obviously) pundit shows are by definition corrosive. They make my blood boil by pointing out egregious wrongs (which, let’s not kid ourselves, is the raison d’etre of all of these shows) and they only have people to on who agree with them.

If you and others like her (and there are millions who do), I’ve no problems with that. I just find these shows – and indeed, that’s what they are, shows – dangerously eager to make you feel better about everything you already believed when you tuned in.

My Point, At Last!

These shows are not a discourses. That’s not their business model. And man oh man, it is a business.

They’re indignation dispensaries. And increasingly, most of us (me too) have become hooked.


12 thoughts on “Please Stop Assuring Me I’m Right

  1. I’ve actually never watched the show so I can’t comment on Maddow or the show specifically. But I think your larger point about our relationship to traditional media, social media, and even the definition of what constitutes debate and discourse, is spot-on. The fact that exposure to and engagement with differing viewpoints is becoming more rare, and the fact that media is bending more to “what people want to hear”, is a trend that I think is extremely dangerous for society

  2. They key to being reasonable is to understand that no matter what your opinion is on any controversy, you are probably in a minority and that you are significantly wrong in respects that you do not realize. Reasonable people are viewed as traitors by the partisans who dominate media.

    There is no national consensus on any controversial issue. If there were such a consensus, the problem would soon be resolved. But insisting that your way is the right way and the only way that right thinking people would ever accept seems to be what passes for political argument these days. Anything else is viewed as weakness. There is no attempt to convince anyone, but rather an arm wrestling match between good and evil that must be won at all costs. This is equally true on the right and left.

  3. I find it interesting how certain sides of the argument openly say that certain other viewpoints are beneath consideration, yet the holders of the latter viewpoint often comprise half the nation. Hmm where I have heard this before…. last night maybe?

    1. Well, if you’re referring to Biden’s speech, I’d point out that the number of true MAGA Republicans is far closer to 1/3 of the country than half, which is no small distinction. And as I said in my post, I do believe some positions have no morally compelling argument to make. Outlawing abortion in all cases, for example, is opposed by roughly 80% of the public. Attacking police officers while. Maiming to support the Blue is another. The laughable idea that the FBI is somehow a liberal organization – especially as the FBI Helped torpedo Clinton’s campaign the week before the election.

      Political violence because you don’t like the outcome of an election would be one. The idea the election was “rigged” is demonstrably false, as none of Trump’s attorneys, happy to make such claims in public, to a person, have refused to make this claim in court. Why? Be sure to assert something you know to be false is an offense that can lead to disbarment. If one looks at each court transcript, and I encourage all Americans to do so, the lawyers refusal to make claims of fraud is unanimous.

      Having said that, I think it’s important to try to – without judgement – understand how such a polarized electorate reached this point, rather than watch another show which smugly points out facts.

  4. I wonder if our brain’s tendency towards confirmation bias will stop working if we listen to these one-sided shows and never have to filter out the rest. 😀

    I’d love to debate the merit of this post just to provide some discourse not provided by cable news but I unfortunately totally agree. Our ability to only listen to what we want to hear whether it’s personal, business, or political is bad for character development.

    Great post, Jack!

      1. Once again, despite the title of this post, I’m finding myself having to tell you you’re right again, because I do have great taste. 🙂

  5. They’re op-eds. So, they’re not unlike op-eds. Or blogs 😉 A major frustration I have is not in the proliferations of op-eds, but in the refusal to label them as such. Opinions aren’t facts, and we seem to have gotten away from that.

    I definitely agree on the problems associated with echo chambers.

  6. It’s a well oiled propaganda machine for sure. But you can’t be a good propagandist unless it’s deeply in your bones. We are a business run society, and it shows, if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you Jack. I like the way you break it down.

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