The "Obama Bear Market" and Other Tales of Cable News Insanity

If there's one thing we've learned since January 20, it's that President Obama is driving the establishment press (and far-right conservatives) crazy. To date, the volume of media ridiculousness compressed into these 50 short days has been almost impossible to comprehensively document. Seriously, I'm afraid at this rate we'll run out of internet by Memorial Day.

And experts in the field of cable news crazy haven't even factored into their estimates the exponential growth of the Glenn Beck Crazy Bubble. His "War Room" episode alone, in which he and a panel of fellow paranoiacs discussed how the Obama presidency would lead to an army of bubbas and the end of civilization as we know it, pushed the structural integrity of the crazy containment unit well beyond acceptable levels.

God help us all if Beck airs a show examining whether the Moon landing was faked in a movie studio. He'll probably invite a group of PUMAs to speculate about how an eight-year-old woman-hater named Barack Obama was responsible for the greatest forgery of our time. Just the other day -- and I'm not making this up -- Beck wondered out loud if stem cell research was an Obama conspiracy to create a "master race" of human beings.

Put another way: if the Glenn Beck Crazy Bubble were part of the economy, the recession would be over.

But ultimately everyone expects Glenn Beck to be a sideshow geek: a sketch comedy show caricature of a far-right cable news pundit whose pontifications are only taken seriously by the same people who believe that "teabagging" is an excellent and very serious form of protest. All in all, FOX News Channel has long since become predictably ridiculous. Only the truly outstanding instances of crazy, provided lately by Beck, receive any real notice or outrage from the left these days. I mean, let's be honest, since the ascension of Beck and the deification of Limbaugh, O'Reilly hasn't seemed nearly as unhinged as he was before.

By contrast, however, we expect better behavior, or, at least, slightly more integrity from MSNBC. That's why when MSNBC routinely drifts into the realms of crazy, it's actually much more infuriating and alarming than anything that happens on FOX News Channel. (I hasten to note here, too, that certain friendlies in the MSNBC lineup are excluded from the forthcoming "MSNBC is being exceptionally crazy" analysis.)

Outside of the consistently infuriating Morning Joe, the last time MSNBC was this far off-the-rails was probably last July's "Is Obama Too Presumptuous?" news cycle.

This week, two reoccurring stories have landed MSNBC squarely in that FOX News orc hive of cable news reportorial awfulness: the "Is Obama Doing Too Much?" story and the "Obama Bear Market" story.

The origin of the "Is Obama Doing Too Much?" story appears to have been an unsourced item from the Telegraph claiming that President Obama is so overwhelmed by the job that he's constantly exhausted. You might recognize the Telegraph's reputation for journalistic integrity from such stories as: "Michelle Obama's prom date describes their high school romance" and "Germany seduced by 'Messiah' Barack Obama" and "Is Barack Obama really too thin to win?"

This latest Telegraph piece was subsequently filtered through the far-right blogs and eventually into the very serious inbox of TIME blogger and Morning Joe guest Mark Halperin who injected the concept into the MSNBC's bloodstream. In fact, later that morning on his daily "PageCast" video, Halperin asked a male companion if perhaps the president should cancel his stem cell research event because he's, you know, doing too much. Yes, Mr. Halperin, that extra hour might've successfully reversed an economic crisis that's been underway since 2007.

There's no other point to this particular story other than to willfully repeat a far-right attack in the context of somehow being newsworthy. Of course opponents of the president don't want him to do a damn thing -- least of all reversing George W. Bush's policy on embryonic stem cell research. So they'll say whatever is necessary to prevent the Obama conspiracy to sire a master race of communist fascist Muslim Aryans. From there, someone like Mark Halperin picks it up and turns it into a topic on Morning Joe with the vague pretense: "some people are saying that [Obama is doing too much]." Then, by the next day, the pretense is dropped for the sake of expedience and we're left with a very serious cable news discussion about "Obama doing too much." Mission accomplished.

A similar process created the "Obama Bear Market" story: one of the most flagrant displays of intellectual dishonesty in the history of MSNBC.

It began with Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck and it crossed the osmotic cable news network barrier to MSNBC with a nudge from sister-station CNBC and accompanied by the familiar "some are saying" pretense. But then, like always, the pretense was abandoned and the story became accompanied by an on-screen graphic showing the Dow Jones Industrial Average since Election Day. This graphic:


Help! Barack Obama has absolutely destroyed the stock market! Even before he was he was president, he was ruining it for everyone! Somehow. Why does Barack Obama hate America?

This graphic was displayed on MSNBC pretty much around the clock (with the exception of the aforementioned prime time programming) for the better part of a week. This begs the question: how could President Obama possibly be held responsible for a stock market decline that's been underway since the Dow's high water mark in October of 2007?

The following is an alternate graphic of the DJIA since October 12, 2007 with the Bush Republican administration highlighted in light red, the transition during which Bush was still president highlighted in yellow and the Obama administration highlighted in light blue:


As you can plainly see, illustrated using easily accessible facts, this is totally President Obama's fault, yes? Also, even though there was a very obvious "Bush Bear Market" for many months, Media Matters has discovered that there were exactly zero mentions of the phrase "Bush Bear Market" on cable news during that relatively lengthy period of time.

So how can MSNBC honestly -- and I underscore "honestly" -- lay the blame for the down market at President Obama's feet? They can't. It's absolutely dishonest, and I think Mark Whitaker, Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News, along with Joe Scarborough, Alex Witt and the other anchors who aired this graphic owe us an explanation.

I mean, when MSNBC airs a reoccurring story that coincides with Michelle Malkin's latest rant, then I think we can safely begin to question MSNBC's descent into crazy.

Incidentally, what happens when the Dow recovers? If the criticism from the far-right and, now, MSNBC is that the president is solely to blame for the down market, the only honest way to look at a future surge in the Dow would be to give the president full credit. And, yes, the Dow will recover sometime during the Obama administration. So what, then? CNBC's resident cranky-pants, Mark Haines, appeared on MSNBC Wednesday morning and gave us a hint. He credited Monday's rally like so: "The market is going up because it's done going down." Insightful! Whatever the excuse may be, we can rest assured knowing it'll be just as inconsistent and ridiculous as that.