It seems every week since Trump was elected, I’m forced to disagree with comedian/pundit and childhood hero Bill Maher. This time it revolves around his opinion, on multiple instances last Friday, that MSNBC was not the same as Fox News. I wholeheartedly disagree.
I used to be an avid watcher of the then liberal leaning news network. They had great hosts and pundits, from Phil Donahue and Cenk Uygur to Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann. They were mostly progressive and did journalism well, to the point where it cost them all their jobs.
Donahue for example, was fired in 2003 for his opposition leading up to the Iraq war. An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
Others such as Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks eventually quit, despite good ratings. Uygur aggressively interrogated Washington politicians and challenged the political establishment. He critiqued both sides of the political spectrum, including Barack Obama and his administration. These are tenets of a good reporter, but Uygur was told to act like an insider.
NBC News executive Andrew Lack had different plans. For starters, he decided to stop leaning forward and took a sharp right turn. Lack wanted to build on the success of MSNBC’s most popular program Morning Joe, hosted by the very conservative Joe Scarborough.
Lack decided to take in former Fox News Hosts Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly. Nicolle Wallace, George W. Bush’s former White House communications director just started her own show as well. Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt was also said to be in talks with the network until recently.
The conservative hires all took place in the time after Trump was elected President and there are no signs that the rightward turn is about to end. It is part of a larger trend at MSNBC who are trying to pounce on the Fox News Juggernaut while it’s wounded.
Problem is, at least if you’re a progressive, in hiring all these conservative hosts and Fox News veterans, MSNBC is slowly turning into a Fox News itself. If you think those conservative women are going to suddenly hold other conservatives responsible you’re in for a major disappointment. Kelly didn’t abruptly become a liberal simply by asking Trump one uncomfortable question.
Melissa Harris-Perry departed from MSNBC last year after she decided not to relinquish her editorial control to Andrew Lack. She said at the time “I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head.” Lack then went out to find one, and he did in Joy Ann Reid.
Reid is the perfect example of how Lack replaced good journalistic talent with a far lesser crop of establishment hacks. For example, over the past year of working at MSNBC, she has catered to the Democratic establishment and insulted all those who challenge it, especially Bernie Sanders and other progressives.
For example, about a week ago, in response to a twitter user’s call for fair and open primaries Reid tweeted back “Bernie and his followers are like that college friend who stays at your place for weeks, pays $0, eats your food & trashes your aesthetic.” Everyone is entitled to their political opinion of course, but when a journalist takes to using false conservative talking points to push that opinion, its reason enough for progressives to call her out.
Following the congressional shooting last week, Reid seemed to suggest that Republican Rep Steve Scalise was rightfully shot over his voting record as he was still being treated for a life-threatening gunshot wound. Bad timing obviously, but this is what keeps her labelled as a left-wing nut and not the establishment hack she is.
Journalism ain’t Nothing but Ratings and Money
MSNBC still has a few of good traditional journalists in Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes. However, even their journalistic integrity has been dwindling of late. MSNBC has replaced quality reporting with establishment oriented rating drivers and it’s working.
For example, Rachel Maddow recently reached the top of the news ratings mountain for the first time. She didn’t get there by breaking a big story or with a hard-hitting interview, she did it by talking about the yet to be proven Russia-Trump connection.
For months following Trump’s election and inauguration, Maddow covered the Russia story more than every other story combined. Trump filled the swamp with Generals and billionaires, took steps to repeal Obamacare, and withdrew from the Paris agreement. During that time, he also said and did numerous things that would have undermined any normal president’s office, but all Rachel’s viewers were seeing was Russia, Russia, Russia.
Maddow is not the only guilty party of course, but given the fact that I had admired her for years, my standards for her were higher than the rest. For all anyone knows, she’s just doing what she’s told. It’s part of the price you pay if you want a national audience every night and a $30,000 a day paycheck. Don’t believe for a second that the network and its stars have your best interests in mind. The Bottom line since the fairness doctrine stopped being enforced is money.
Despite the lack of evidence to support Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, it’s all we hear on MSNBC (and CNN). It’s like Fox News going on about Benghazi. Until there is proof, there are more important things going on in the world and the United States. Ratings should not come before factual information.
MSNBC over the last fifteen years has systematically ushered in a new conservative era while kicking most of the progressives to the door. In addition, they have clearly shown their contempt for those who don’t play by the establishment’s rules. A news organization should not have special interests.
Sure, Fox News has a tendency to lie more, race bait more and are therefore the more terrible network, but I never really considered them to be a real news organization to begin with.
MSNBC on the other hand I used to enjoy and I used to trust, but I can’t anymore. The direction they’re taking (or maintaining) is one that shuts progressive out completely. The only thing that MSNBC will leave us with at the end will be conservatives, centrists and misinformed liberals who don’t know what the term neoliberal is.