<em>London Calling</em>: MSNBC Loses It

In the space of less than one news cycle, the network displayed some of what is so wrong with the 24 hour news genre.
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If 24 hour news didn't already have a bad name, MSNBC would have given it one this week.

In the space of less than one news cycle, the network displayed some of what is so wrong with the 24 hour news genre.

Not only did MSNBC subject viewers to an hour of Ann Coulter on Hardball, it tortured its own early morning news anchor by force feeding her Paris Hilton stories that she clearly didn't want to read.

Coulter preening for sixty minutes in front of Chris Matthews and that open-air studio audience felt like the kind of freak show that Paddy Chayefsky and Howard Beale warned us against in Network.

But that broadcast, and the phone call from the angry wife, have been well covered on this site.

The other episode on MSNBC involved Mika Brzezinski and Paris Hilton, and would have left Brzezinski wondering why she ever left CBS.

Brzezinski's now a co-host on Morning Joe, the MSNBC morning program. That's the broadcast that replaced the Imus In the Morning show, that blew up when the I-Man bathed himself in glory at the expense of the Rutgers women's basketball team.

He simul-crashed, basically, on MSNBC and CBS Radio.

Brzezinski reads the news segments on Morning Joe and one of the reasons MSNBC hired her might have been that she's a bit of a celebrity herself, albeit one who is lumbered with a brain.

Mika is the daughter of Zbigniew, Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, who hasn't been in a room in which he wasn't the smartest guy since he was about eight years old.

Ms. Brzezinski obviously wasn't thrilled with her lead story Wednesday morning because it featured Paris Hilton, a prison and enough flashbulbs to light up Patagonia.

She announced on the air that she didn't want to read it. And she got away with that in the first news block. But in 24 hour news-land, the news blocks just keep on coming.

The second time around, when her producer (who she outed as Andy Jones) gave her a script with more Paris news trash at the top, Brzezinski bravely tried to burn the script, on the set, before settling for just ripping it up.

That's when Joe Scarborough, who's in Don Imus' chair because, presumably, as a former member of the US Congress, he's better behaved, showed us that he's not really.

He grabbed the torn up paper, brought it to his nose, and sniffed it.

It did not require a particularly dirty mind to conclude that the ex-Congressman was imagining that he had in his possession a pair of Ms. Hilton's underwear.

Under the circumstances, viewers might have forgiven Ms. Brzezinski for not showing up for the next news block. But she gamely came back for more, and this time took no chances. She ran the Hilton script through the shredder.

Not even Joe Scarborough was going there.

The twin spectacles of MSNBC's middle-aged Chris Matthews confronted by Ann Coulter in that weird black cocktail dress tossing her hair around like some naughty intern while casually peddling intolerance and books, and MSNBC's middle-aged Joe Scarborough getting his nose as close as he could to the essence of Paris, are worthy of some metaphor that is frankly beyond me.

But I do know this. They could both smell the ratings.

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