Who knew the condemnation would be so swift.
After checking out her MSNBC show awhile back, I Facebook-posted the comment “My God, Rachel Maddow, get to the point!” and went on my merry way. I took a quick break to make a sandwich and walk the dog and do the laundry and came back to find out that Maddow was still telling us why this particular story she was about to unravel was going to be significant, why we should remember something she said earlier in the program, and then smirking at some witty remark she made, which, admittedly, went over my head.
Surprised that she still hadn’t spilled the beans on her breaking-news piece, I checked Facebook again, only to find out I’d been hit with more disparaging comments than Sean Spicer at a Seder.
“LAY OFF MADDOW!” one friend large-capped in disgust. “Why don’t you go watch Fox, you closet Tucker Carlson fan?” posted another. And, the most hurtful, “It’s gays like you who make me want to date women, vote Republican, and support bills to send you back in the closet.” Since the last comment came from the guy I’m dating I knew I’d touched a nerve.
Rachel Maddow, I’ve learned, is the new Cher. You may worship her, you may find yourself oddly aroused by her, you may think she’ll survive man’s biggest threat to humanity—Trump—but criticize her and you may just as well tell people you’re still glad you protest-voted. The backlash will not be pretty.
Let me clear the air before the new comments commence. I think Rachel Maddow is extremely intelligent, wickedly informed, and a crucial ally in exposing the Right’s lies. I’m thrilled she’s around and I hope she ends up taking the Donald down. Try as I might, however, I can’t watch her.
Her presentational style—not the 20 minutes of substance that does emerge in her hour-long program—is of such repetition and “fat” that any journalism teacher would rip up her news copy and tell her to start over. And to nix the smug humor that suggests her show is an in-joke that only she, and other like-minded liberals, are smart enough to construct.
Listening to Maddow report a news story is like asking your tablemate to pass the salt, and, instead of your wish being granted, getting a discourse on the first salt mine created and how it was incorporated and who worked there and how much of the seasoning was produced on a daily basis. By the time she hands you the shaker your food’s gotten cold.
I’ve tried to snap out of it, these reflections on Maddow, and I’ve tried to overlook the exasperating aspects of her show in order to reap the benefits of her commentary. I’ve fast-forwarded, I’ve split-screen another broadcast, I even tried watching her with just the subtitles, in hopes I would just soak up the important sections. That strategy failed miserably, as instead I found myself editing her words as they staccatoed and stuttered across the TV screen.
My friends have been merciless, reminding me that, in addition to being a brilliant journalist, Maddow’s a storyteller, not bound by the traditional who, what, where, when, and whys of journalism. Nonsense. Unless you’re Garrison Keillor the semantics of reporting apply. Keith Olbermann is as overly dramatic as Norma Desmond singing “I Will Survive” a cappella, but he persistently zeroes in on his point. Bill Maher jumps back and forth and sideways, but he’s a political comedian and a provocateur.
In contrast, Maddow tells us how important her story is by reminding us of the joinery, and instructing us to listen—apparently, it’s a skill we’ve never learned. It’s not length that I object to: I love long stories, and they require a special talent to keep us invested in the plot. You have to find new directions to add to the mix. If Maddow is a political storyteller, she’s not learned the fundamentals of the form.
Like I said, Maddow’s a great political asset and I commend her political savvy. I’m envious of those who not only watch her show but revel in her style. And my own mechanics have failed me because it doesn’t make sense to argue the point that criticism of people on “our side” is part of the democratic freedoms we’re fighting to keep intact. I’ve insulted Her, the goddess, the cheerleader pep rally queen of the fighting Left. I’m a pariah who should join the Log Cabin Republicans or just beat myself over the head with logs.
All that’s left is for me to bury my head in the ignoramus sand while others actually try to make the world a better place. I’m not just a half-breed: I’m a half-wit.