I’m not interested in criticizing MSNBC for bias. It intends to be biased; serving as the far Left alternative to Fox News is its niche, and was a conscious business choice. What is interesting is observing MSNBC as a case study in how the pressures of a corrupt institutional culture eventually destroy the integrity and ethical judgment of essentially ethical people. From a point where it was merely left-leaning, MSNBC has gradually jettisoned any shred of objectivity, and most remnants of fairness. Much of the transformation was wrought by Keith Olbermann during his fiery tenure, but others have picked up the baton.
The most obviously corrupted have been Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow, all previously well-credentialed and with distinguished service as legitimate and respectable journalists. Under the spell of MSNBC, Matthews has devolved into an angry, race-baiting, smearing hack; the days of grilling Republicans and Democrats with equal fervor on “Hardball” have yielded to shrill, one-sided advocacy. Mitchell’s reporting has gradually abandoned any pretense of neutrality. The greatest tragedy here, however, is Maddow. She is young, smart, articulate and skilled. She doesn’t hide her progressive orientation, but once she appeared to be a rising star, a probing journalist with a point of view, but one committed to being professional and fair within that point of view.
Maddow has joined the MSNBC gun control push, but she has so much company there among the entire span of U.S. journalists that I can hardly blame her that on MSNBC. Misleading video editing has become a staple of her employers, however, as in the disgraceful Neil Heslin “heckling” story, and now Maddow appears to have embraced the technique when it suits her narrative. Last week, to add to the “gun control opponents are heartless and callous monsters” theme that is currently popular in the media, Maddow showed a video of Sen. John McCain at an Arizona town meeting, responding to a woman whose son was killed in the Aurora shooting asserting that assault weapons were responsible and ought to be banned. Maddow introduced the clip by saying,“this happened.” What was then seen and heard was McCain tersely answering the woman by saying she needed “straight talk,” and that the legislation she favored would never pass Congress. [See Maddow’s video here]
Following the clip, Maddow made it clear that she felt McCain’s response was callous to a woman whose son had been killed. Then she said,
“Obviously, there was an edit between the end of the woman’s question and the part where John McCain sneers the straight talk line at her. So maybe that edit was cut in a way that’s not fair to John McCain.”
“Obviously?” It wasn’t obvious at all. “Maybe?” It certainly wasn’t fair; it was outright misleading. Here is the whole, unedited video.
Since the video was deceptively edited, it shouldn’t have been shown at all. Maddow attempted to rationalize MSNBC using it because the video was shown in edited form on a local Arizona news broadcast. So what? A bad video doesn’t become better because another media outlet was so unethical as to air it. If Maddow was going to show it, she had an obligation to flag the cut before it was aired, not after. Introducing the distorted account by saying “this happened” was untrue, and Maddow knew it was untrue when she said it. Shrugging off the deceptive editing, after falsely making the Senator look heartless, by admitting the cut and musing that “maybe” it wasn’t fair is just incomprehensible conduct, thoroughly unprofessional, and wrong. Later, she further rationalized:
“Maybe he really wasn’t in real time so insensitive and abrasive to a woman who probably deserves some sensitivity when she is talked to about these matters. But for what it’s worth, Patricia Maisch, the woman who disarmed the Tucson shooter, she was in the room at that John McCain town hall. She saw the whole thing happen. She saw that woman ask the question about what John McCain thought should be done about gun violence and saw him answer by saying you need some straight talk. And Patricia Maisch, who was in the room, told Talking Points Memo in an interview after the town hall that she found Senator McCain’s response “Unsatisfactory.”
Ridiculous. Again “maybe”…yet there is no “maybe” about it. McCain wasn’t as insensitive as the edited video was intended to suggest. What does she mean “in real time”? In what kind of time was he insensitive, other than imaginary, faked time? As for Maisch, what she thought is “worth” exactly nothing, as far as objectively judging McCain’s response is concerned. Is Maddow arguing that because this woman thought his response was “unsatisfactory,” it justified distorting the video and misrepresenting the incident to make certain everyone else would agree? Maddow’s commentary makes no sense, her treatment of McCain was unfair, and her journalistic conduct was inexcusable.
That’s what working in an unethical culture is doing to you, Rachel.
It’s time to start practicing Dr. Z’s rules.
Pointer: Daily Caller