This Is Not How You Wield Power: Toxic Punditry’s Lack of Self Awareness

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This is complete and utter bullshit:

We all know asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself is merely pissing into the wind. Congressional Democrats are obligated to ask this of him but they know Thomas is corrupt and won’t give the demand a second thought.

What’s bullshit, though, is MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan and Ayman Mohyeldin ripping into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a request by Democrats to Thomas for his recusal on cases related to the January 6 insurrection.

We all know as well the real problem is that Thomas should be removed from the Supreme Court. Pelosi was absolutely correct saying that Thomas should never have been approved as a SCOTUS jurist to begin with. His failure to report his spouse’s income appropriately — particularly Ginni Thomas’s income from her nonprofit — during the lead up to the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision was unacceptable, as was his meeting with the Koch brothers.

But the House had absolutely nothing to do with Thomas being approved in the first place. The Senate is responsible for review of nominees to the Supreme Court and their approval.

We all know, too, that the House may impeach jurists, but they cannot be removed without a two-thirds vote for conviction by the Senate.

And in this case, a Senate which is only nominally held by Democrats. They couldn’t convict and remove Trump twice after impeachment for the same reason — an inadequate number of Democrats in the Senate.

Where is this power that Hasan and Mohyeldin think Pelosi has as House Speaker when she cannot remove Thomas? Why are they insisting she launch a war she can’t win? (We can see how that works out for Putin in Ukraine.)

All these two boneheaded pundits (and others making the same argument like them) are doing is misogynist pontificating when they know it’s the Senate which can force the issue and only if there were two-thirds of the Senate willing to vote to convict Thomas for his continued corrupt practices.

Yet you don’t see pundits like Hasan and Mohyeldin going after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Nope.

Why is that?

~ ~ ~

They’re literally filling empty air time with useless crap which only serves to damage the public’s opinion of House Democrats — the portion of government which has most reliably served the needs of the people during the Biden administration while the Senate obstructs its efforts.

They’re directly contributing to and amplifying the same poisoning of public opinion already performed by right-wing media outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, grossly distorting the public’s perception of US government.

It’s right there in front of their noses and they don’t see it:

Hello, Sam Stein, who’s with both MSNBC and Politico? You’re not doing a very good job breaking through to the public if they believe the complete opposite of the truth.

Dan Froomkin elaborated on media’s failures with help from Dean Baker; public opinion about employment is particularly telling.

An additional 21 percent didn’t know one way or the other. Only 28 percent said, correctly, that jobs were created. Less than half of those — only 12 percent — knew that it was more jobs created than in any other year in history.

Similarly, only 19 percent said they thought the U.S. economy experienced more job growth than normal in the past year. The plurality – 35 percent – said they thought more jobs were lost than usual, which is of course spectacularly wrong.

Media figures go out of their way to make sure something looks like it’s on fire or bleeding, so much so that it’s a joke.

But sure, keep beating on House Speaker Pelosi because that will effect the change needed as will pissing into the wind.

~ ~ ~

A pre-print study found that it’s not solely the public at fault when it comes to misperception — it’s not purely partisanship which mis- or disinforms their opinions.

A key problem is the business model: audience members’ understanding and opinions could be shaped by exposure to media, if media bought their time.

Unfortunately, cable and broadcast news don’t pay their viewers. They rely on advertising and subscription volume; their programming becomes little more than reductive clickbait fighting for audience attention. They’ll run the inflammatory material which skews public opinion the wrong way because good news is boring.

It makes sense, and yet the answer to running content which is both more attention-grabbing and -retaining to viewers and the ethically responsible content to run is right there under their noses.

Assuming, of course, the media outlets aren’t forcing their pundit-anchor class to promote corporatism über alles.

Why aren’t programs like Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s contacting every goddamned Senator and putting them on the record one at a time on camera about their position on Thomas’s failure to recuse himself and whether they would vote to convict him if impeached for abuse of his office as jurist?

I’d pay to watch them squirm. I’d pay to watch Senators’ chiefs of staff run away from mics to avoid answering.

I’d pay to watch them ask Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tommy Tuberville if Thomas should recuse himself on any lawsuit in which they may be named as co-conspirators because Thomas’s wife Ginni sided with Hawley and Cruz on overturning or obstructing the election…and was it obstruction of Congress or overturning an election in which they had been encouraged to participate?

That’d be Must-See TV.

~ ~ ~

The other person who gets off lightly all the damn time to the point every media outlet forgets he exists: Chief Justice John Roberts.

He’s the administrative leader of SCOTUS. Every decision made during his tenure will be attributed to the Roberts’ court.

Clarence Thomas’s unmitigated corruption including the damage to democracy Thomas’s role in Citizen United played is the product of Roberts’ court.

The lack of a self-imposed binding code of conduct is Roberts’ failure. Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from January 6 cases which may be decided by SCOTUS is also his failure.

The lack of legislation requiring a SCOTUS code of conduct with adequate teeth to ensure enforcement is Congress’s fault, but primary responsibility is that of the Senate. In its absence Roberts could administer his court in a way which enforces judicial ethics.

Why wasn’t Roberts a subject of Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s critique when Roberts clearly has the power to rein in corruption among his jurists?

~ ~ ~

But the real power to which Hasan and Mohyeldin deliberately turned a blind eye wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s as House Speaker.

It wasn’t even Chuck Schumer’s, or John Roberts’ power.

That pre-print study says it’s their own. How convenient these media figures with a bully pulpit have a handy favorite punching bag to use as clickbait, redirecting attention away from their own failures as media figures with sizable audiences whose perception they shape.

By the way, you have power, too. You should be exercising it by calling your representative and senators and demanding legislation to implement a code of ethical judicial conduct for the Supreme Court (since Roberts appears unable or unwilling to produce one), and impeachment and conviction of Clarence Thomas for his lack of ethics as a jurist.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

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78 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    WARNING: This post was not a permission slip to give in to your dislike of Nancy Pelosi for whatever reason.

    This post was about media’s failure and the Supreme Court’s corruption, which is what your comments should focus on in this thread.

    If you call your rep and senators about this, I’d love to hear what response you received.

    And yes, once again I’ve published something deep in the Insomnia Zone — 3:00 am ET — which means I’ve likely made spelling and grammatical errors and typos. You’ve been warned.

    • milestogo says:

      Thanks for keeping it real. I share frustration with a media that so often places the problem and solution on the wrong side of the isle. As if Republicans are just a given force of nature with no agency to which the Democrats must somehow rescue. Clearly the problem in this case lies with Thomas himself, Roberts cowardice (or complicity), and the Republican Senate which would never vote to convict after an impeachment referral. Blame the victim instead I suppose.

      I’ll call the switchboard this afternoon but on this one I feel relatively powerless since the ultimate source of these problems is the votes (or lack of) and the Murdochs of the world.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      I live in Texas and in July 2020 I wrote Cruz and Cornyn about the Russian bounties on American troops issue. I received a reply, a mealy-mouth bunch of bureaucratic nonsense from Cornyn, complaining about intelligence leaks and his duty to look into matters. Ted Cruz did not reply.

      I can try again on this topic, but I’m not expecting different results.

      • Rayne says:

        Do you have that reply from Cornyn yet? It could be useful. Folks need to look at the last two years the US was in Afghanistan as well as its exit with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in mind. How much of what Russia was doing wrt Afghanistan from 2019 on was preparation for Ukraine? And look, Cruz couldn’t be bothered then when it might have changed the run-up to Ukraine.

        This is supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people. Don’t let your diminished expectations put you off claiming your rightful place in democracy.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Alan, Thank you for taking the effort to write to a pair of US senators most of us (I) would have given up on. Cornyn’s response seems instructive now, in light of the Ukraine invasion and massacres of civilians; I wonder how he would respond if you wrote him back.

        Cruz appears to be more interested in whether his name is trending on Twitter. Perhaps you could reach him there–where he lives.

  2. d4v1d says:

    Since my reliably blue state delegation is on the right side of history, I do the the next best thing. I shut off cable (2009) and get insight and analysis from truth-bearing, truth-baring sites like emptywheel.

  3. dadidoc1 says:

    Thanks for you insight into this attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I have generally found Mehdi Hasan to be one of the straightest shooters among the talk show media sorts, but I have to agree that he missed the mark on this one. I follow Marcy Wheeler on this site and have grown disinterested in cable news.

  4. OldTulsaDude says:

    The issue is cultural and can be traced directly back to the immense popularity of Ronald Reagan and the onslaught of free market is the solution propaganda and its end result of profits before patriotism.

  5. jmac says:

    John Roberts, no longer needs to worry about polishing his legacy with me. He is definitely the most anti-democratic Chief Justice of my lifetime. Don’t know much about historically bad CJs, but I have to imagine Roberts has to be among the worst ever. The day the Republicans let the Federalist Society take over the vetting of their nominees should be marked as a National Day of Mourning.

    • BobCon says:

      Dumb pundits love the slicing the salami fallacy.

      They adore taking a larger response and subdividing it into smaller and smaller pieces, hold up a single piece and say this alone won’t solve the problem, and conclude the problem is insolvable.

      One letter from Pelosi of course is insufficient. But it’s also ridiculous to treat the letter as somehow not a part of a clearly larger effort to turn opinion against the Thomases, including handing over extensive research to NY Times investigative reporters and revealing data from the Meadows files of the 1/6 Committee which have largely been kept under wraps.

      *That* is how you wield power, and dumb pundits are swallowing the PR spin of GOP influencers for the millionth time that nothing more is coming out — that the salami is all sliced up and adds up to nothing.

      Maybe this is the end. But evidence suggests that a lot more is looming on the record.

      What the pundits are exposing, though, is their baked in bias toward refusing to do any work to follow honest, evidence-based narratives even as they jump on manufactured right wing narratives.

      • Rayne says:

        What the pundits are exposing, though, is their baked in bias toward refusing to do any work to follow honest, evidence-based narratives even as they jump on manufactured right wing narratives.

        There’s a general lack of accountability to the audience which encourages them to just heedlessly plow on.

        When I worked for a nonprofit news outlet, I had to pull together weekly reports measuring performance, like number of unique and return visitors, mentions of home page or specific articles, so on. These network news-punditry programs are constantly monitoring measures of performance as well, but they’re looking at audience size and advertising sales.

        In contrast, a key measure as a nonprofit was effectiveness — what were the outcomes after any particular report was published and did those outcomes meet donors’ missions? In other words I had to account for the degree of success or failure to earn donors’ contributions. All network media has to do is continue to win advertising without regard to who is spending the money or the impact of their programming or their advertiser’s content. The public is getting the latter and not the former, and certainly not the former with regard to improving democracy.

        • bmaz says:

          Keep in mind that MSNBC is absolutely cratering lately. That is audience, or lack thereof, speaking.

        • BobCon says:

          “These network news-punditry programs are constantly monitoring measures of performance as well, but they’re looking at audience size and advertising sales.”

          This is correct, and the constant measurement is part of the problem because it creates recency bias and fractional bias.

          They are overwhelmingly thinking about how does yesterday’s broadcast compare to the previous day or same day last week. They measure how one isolated catchphrase resonates with an audience compared to another. But they are completely unable to think in strategic, longterm ways.

          The extreme intricacy of their metrics is a major impediment to any kind of innovation, because it all depends on strictly defined, narrow apples to apples comparisons.

          Pundit shoutfests rely on measurements of things like topics, participants, and question formats, and management consists of evaluating and tweaking those elements. But if news shows accepted the broader reality that these things are audience poison and blew them up, all of the metrics would disappear and the purpose of half of management would disappear.

          So the institutional bias in favor of keeping TV news formats unchanged is actually higher than it was when the formats were fiirst invented 50 to 70 years ago. If you had told Walter Cronkite in 1962 that TV news would be almost unchanged in 2022, he’d look at you as if you were nuts. But if you tell news management something as modest as banning liars from live interviews, they act like you’re suggesting broadcasts be converted to Dadaist performances.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Why does every TV opinionator start from the premise that Republicans *will* take back the House this year, and likely also the Senate? Why is this presented as a given–that is, the future as fact?

          I understand about redistricting, the maps, the GOP-controlled state legislatures and the voter suppression laws. I know I might simply be exposing my own stupidity, or at least over-confidence in the will of those who’ve been denied justice to fight for it all the harder. I remember the Freedom Marchers of 1963 because they gathered in our NC house with my parents to wait until the cross planted outside had burned out.

          Is this particular future decreed in some book I haven’t stumbled on yet?

          • Belyn says:

            They take trends/historical patterns to be forever. Of course a trend is a trend until it isn’t. I would think that the startling election of tRump, Russian interference in the 2016 election, the pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine would be enough to make folks question the holy grail of trends. But no, they go for the apparent certainty of an unquestioned trend rather than a contingent future.

            I share your frustration, and try to counter with reasons why that particular trend may not hold.

          • Rayne says:

            Why does every TV opinionator start from the premise that Republicans *will* take back the House this year, and likely also the Senate?

            That’s an excellent question which can only make a reasonable audience member wonder if these opinionators have been assigned to ensure this happens with their coverage — which chronically complains about Biden — or if their networks are ensuring that?

          • Scott Johnson says:

            Current polling is good for the GOP.

            Redistricting, so far, has been friendly to the Dems, which is a surprise. Many GOP legislatures, such as Texas, have decided to focus on shoring up existing GOP districts rather than trying to create newer ones (which would have a smaller GOP lean and thus be more vulnerable in a blue wave). And a few key blue states, most importantly New York, have implemented Democratic gerrymanders, deciding it’s time to fight fire with fire.

            Senate map is actually good for the Dems; that the House flips but the Dems take a lead in the Senate is a possibility.

    • Krisy Gosney says:

      I am a fan of Nancy Pelosi too. And I would also pay to watch a news personality ask every senate member where they stand on Clarence Thomas and recusal. And I’d pay extra for each pointed, direct and relevant to recusal follow up question. I feel the same way about so much written here, along with the perceived energy behind the words and ideas. Thank you.

  6. Theodora30 says:

    Media critic Eric Boehlert has a good article up today about this issue.
    https://pressrun.media/p/is-the-press-rooting-against-biden?s=r

    It has been driving me crazy that the media not only hypes inflation while downplaying the news about our strong economic growth, but blamed Democrats’ “bad messaging” when polls recently showed the public is badly misinformed about our economy. I was pleasantly surprised — shocked actually — when I heard Kurt Bardella tell Joy Reid the problem wasn’t Democrats’ communications but the media’s constantly repeating right wing talking points. (Naturally MSNBC hasn’t posted that clip.) Time and again I have seen the media respond to Biden or other Democratic leaders talking about our strong economy by immediately pivoting to “but inflation if hurting low income families” implying that Democrats don’t care about them. I have yet to see anyone point out that many of those same families wouldn’t even have jobs without this robust economy.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      The media is essentially allowing a run of gluttonous corporate profiteering–numerous large players in numerous industries raising prices and pocketing the profits–to be portrayed instead as “inflation”. Is the currency being devalued? Not much. Is Wall Street making out like bandits? Heck yes.

  7. BobCon says:

    “It makes sense, and yet the answer to running content which is both more attention-grabbing and -retaining to viewers and the ethically responsible content to run is right there under their noses.”

    “Assuming, of course, the media outlets aren’t forcing their pundit-anchor class to promote corporatism über alles.”

    This is a bullseye. When the left accepts idiotic reductionism that the problem with the press is that they’re all about money, the left is only doing the right an enormous favor.

    The press constantly rejects stories which are honest AND would generate ratings. Over and over they water down major stories with the usual bag of tricks that make their reporting boring, confusing, and irritating.

    The only good conclusion is they DON’T want the extra money. They have bought into corporate and institutional values which would rather see news ratings circle the drain with ever worsening demographics that appeal only to advertisers like medalert bracelets rather than Apple and VW.

    Money matters to news outlets in narrow ways measured in minute by minute ratings and shirt color for anchors. But in larger matters of strategy and methods, they have been choosing paths that favor ideology over profits for decades, and the left has blinded themselves with a “only money” mentality.

  8. fubar jack says:

    Has anyone calculated the net worth of the US senate? I have a feeling that the figure could be a ‘well there’s your problem’ type of stat… the two thirds majority rule for certain votes seems an impossible hurdle at this point..

    • Eureka says:

      What a funny coincidence — was studying a very very large man ambling down the road with an Eagles jersey on this am (“Oh, 86”) (the choice vs the man surprised me) and thought of them. Good for the happy couple.


      Excellent post and discussion, Rayne and all. There’s a related clip (funny, generally similarly aimed) I’d like to share when I can track it down, maybe tomorrow. Gotta hit the hay…

      Also, Mohyeldin just had Tulsi Gabbard on his own show with a promise to have her return. In the year 2022 (either early-hot-war or before the hot-war we all knew was coming). That about sums it up.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    It seems that Froomkin’s comment about the courtier press wanting their horse race because it’s just so ‘interesting’ covers more than Biden. I also think it’s because a split government gives the courtier press opportunities to blame the Ds for everything.

    How about the GQP’s performance at the Judge Jackson hearings (among several other examples)? Polling showed quite clearly that the Americans that watched were turned off, yet instead of calling the trolls out the courtier press plays the bothsides game. The comment from the co-president of CBS News (did anyone look at his background? Is he a Harvard MBA or a real journo?) about keeping ‘access’ as the prime directive with stenography as its necessary product also had a side issue. It was that he also said he knew the GQP would retake control of the House and Senate in 2022 and CBS had to cover their bases. So, that particular admission tells me that as far as the press is concerned, this fix is already in at mahogany row and since editors determine what runs we will get slanted coverage through 2024 and beyond.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      Regarding the CBS appointment of Mick Mulvaney: Suppose that the proffered excuse (need for “access” into the GOP political machinery) were true.

      Which Democratic partisans, let alone hacks, does the former network of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, employ to gain access to Democratic Party insiders? Who is being allowed to inject liberal talking points into the CBS Evening News and the Sunday talk show circuit, in exchange for revealing tidbits about the minds of President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and other party leaders?

      MSNBC is reportedly hiring Jen Psaki, though for a show on the Peacock streaming platform, not a prime-time gig. And we still hear far too much from old Bill Clinton hands, who like to pontificate that the party is just too liberal for The People™. But it seems like CBS is only interested in “accessing” one of our two major parties.

  10. Savage Librarian says:

    Sorry to see Mehdi Hasan join the dick wagging club. I first noticed this when he was pissing and moaning about what he claimed to be racial discrimination in our concerns about white Ukrainians vs. POC in Afghanistan.

    It feels like he may have joined those other distorted views from the horseshoe left. Sad to see. I think he becomes exponentially worse when he joins Ayman Mohyeldin. It’s like they’re competing to become the next Glenn Greenwalds of the media world.

    This is exactly the kind of crap that was so problematic in my own struggles to combat white supremacy in local government. I guess they’ve become more interested in promoting sensationalism and crude exaggeration rather than in protecting democracy. And I suspect they are totally in denial of how misogynistic they are.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t think it is wrong age all to discuss the difference between the reaction to Ukraine as opposed to many other places that feature people of color. That discussion should be had. Doesn’t change how horrible Ukraine really is, of the need try to help though.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Agreed completely. We also should be discussing the way our right cozies up to Putin. This should be a major Democratic talking point.

      • gmoke says:

        from Energy (and Other) Events Monthly – April 2022
        http://hubevents.blogspot.com

        The Ongoing Crisis for Afghan Refugees
        Friday, April 15
        12:00pm to 1:30pm
        Virtual Event
        Please register for the virtual Zoom webinar at https://bit.ly/AfghanRefugeeCrisis

        Panel discussion with experts :: Part of the Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration
        Panelists:
        Dipali Mukhopadhyay is Associate Professor in the global policy area at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the relationships between political violence, state building, and governance during and after war. She is currently serving as senior expert on Afghanistan for the U.S. Institute of Peace and is an affiliated scholar with Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. She is also the Vice President of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.

        Nilofar Sakhi is a professorial lecturer of International Affairs at Elliott School of George Washington University. She is also a senior fellow (NR) at the Atlantic Council, South Asia Program. Sakhi is a scholar and policy practitioner who has written extensively on various aspects of peacemaking and peacebuilding processes, transnational security, and human security. Her recent book is on Human Security and Agency: Reframing productive power in Afghanistan.

        Omar Sharifi is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. He was the former Senior Research Fellow and Kabul Director of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS). He is also a member of the advisory board of the Civil Society Development Center (CSDC) and member of the Board of Directors of the Afghan Alumni Association and Afghanistan 1400. In addition, Omar worked as a National Consultant for UNICEF Afghanistan. He is an Asia Society Fellow and a member of Afghan 21 Young Leaders Forum.

        Moderator:
        Anna Hardman is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at Tufts University and is a co-chair for the Inter-University Committee on International Migration at MIT CIS. Her research focuses on urban economics (regulation and the informal sector in housing markets in developing countries, the development and provision of services in peri-urban areas, and neighborhood income distribution) and on migration (remittances and the impact of immigration on housing markets in migrants’ home and host communities).

        [Could we please avoid copy-pasting huge swaths of text like this which DDoS our threads? You could have simply named the panelists and moderator and pointed to the link for more details. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      It’s really simplistic for Hasan to say it’s racism when looking at the disparity between coverage and response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the conflict in Afghanistan. Racism is definitely an element, but there are fundamental differences between a sovereign democracy being attacked by a much larger neighbor, and the idiotic “land war in Asia” approach to what should have been a sustained covert operation in one or more failed states. The latter was an embarrassment the longer it went on.

      It’s also too simplistic to compare Ukraine to Syria — the latter is a civil war with Assad relying on outside forces to help him suppress opposition. The US’s role in Syria was supposed to be counterterror in yet another failed state, should have been much more covert, and unrelated to the civil war.

      By comparison Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is easy to cover in depth and breadth because the moral imperative is simple. It’s not sloppy ham-handed counterterror; it’s not a civil war but naked aggression. Why Hasan and other pundit-anchor types insist racism is the sole difference is beyond me.

      • Badger Robert says:

        The article is well written, but this particular response caught my eye.
        The long smoldering national identity of Ukraine seems to have caught fire in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union.
        The comparison might be to the successful fight for Irish independence in the aftermath of the first world war.
        The US had a separatist war at one point too. It may have one again, at the present.

        • Rayne says:

          I ran across this thread yesterday — its content needs vetting, I’ve not checked it for accuracy — in which Russia’s history of violent conflict reveals its own problems with national identity. It’s identified and attacked “The Other” whatever that Other might be at some point in history as a means to resolve its own identity problems through redirection.


          Russia itself is vulnerable to separatism within its own borders; it’s playing into a trap which could yet break it up if China and India gain more power by providing contra-sanction aid.

          • P J Evans says:

            Best estimate by historians is that the toll was much smaller, since that city’s population was 20 to 30K. But it was cruelty, and Ivan is the model for Stalin and those since – the cruelty was the point, along with the power.

        • gmoke says:

          Putin lost his “special military action” when he announced that Ukraine was not a real country. This made every Ukrainian around the world realize that this conflict was existential if not genocidal. The genocidal aspect has definitely grown since then and may even now be explicit if what I read and hear about the latest Russian remarks is accurate.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        There is also the Islamophobia, which links many of these impositions of military force. With Putin an increasingly strong unifying thread is his embrace of right-wing Christianity, in his case allied with a Euro-centric white nationalism that has permeated autocratic governments (including our own), spreading like the poppy trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.

        Not all religions are the opium of the masses, but this one, in which autocrats serve as deified leaders of a set of mass cults? Their brains behave as if some drug had co-opted them, or rather as if they had willingly submitted, abandoning independent thought for the sake of this new high.

        • MB says:

          Well, the difference between “religion” which can be (but often isn’t) benign and “cult”, which almost always is not, is rooted in my opinion in: 1) the ability to belong to a group (so you have fellow travelers), 2) giving up the apparent pain of having to use critical thinking skills (if you ever had them in the first place), and 3) a willingness to let someone else make important decisions for you.

          And yes, having belonged to a spiritual cult many decades ago, I can attest to the fact that combo results is a kind of peculiar feeling, a self-righteous “high”, which can be quite addictive. Too bad 99% of all cult leaders are insane, using their followers’ devotion as fuel to cover over bottomless feelings of insecurity and inflate an ego that is always deflating just as fast as it gets inflated. It’s quite a sticky racket and we need to learn how to better deal with it as a society.

          It’s no longer in the margins – look at what Rajneesh is doing in Oregon or Keith Raniere is doing in New York, it’s front and center now in world governments.

          Anyway, you nailed it in that 2nd paragraph. Just wanted add my 2 cents to that.

          • Scott Johnson says:

            Rajneesh is dead, FWIW, and neither he nor his followers have been doing anything in Oregon for well over 30 years. Some of what did go down was rather scary (including a biological attack on a restaurant salad bar, in an attempt to sicken some local officials), but I was a kid when all that went down.

    • MB says:

      Mehdi comes from a more “long form” background both with his previous duties as Deconstructed podcast host at The Intercept and his prior work with Al Jazeera. Seems like once the transition to a major American TV network is made, then the pressure for shorter, sound-bitier segments weigh in. I suppose that’s just the eternal struggle between maintaining integrity and advancing one’s career. His show technically is on Peacock, though a lot of the Peacock folks do regular subbing duty for the “official” MSNBC hosts. And why would anybody want to become “the next Glenn Greenwald”? That is not an enviable trajectory.

  11. JasonS says:

    The news should be a public service. And purposely lying or misrepresenting facts should result in loss
    of access to the public’s airwaves . When you commoditize the news there is no lengths that unscrupulous people will go to get those all important dollars. Just look at Rupert .

    • bmaz says:

      Jesus Christ, are you familiar with the First Amendment?? You just suggested exactly what Putin and China do. Am absolutely stunned to see an opinion like that on this website.

      • JasonS says:

        Of course i’ve heard of the First Amendment . Then again i wouldn’t dream of lying to millions of people on the daily like Republican lawmakers trying to undermine centuries of American Democracy.
        If one geriatric Aussie can gaslight 50 million Americans into thinking Democrats are stealing every election with 0 evidence produced what does the First or any Amendment matter really. I just don’t get how you can lie straight up and get away with it. If the comment stuns you so roundly feel free to remove it.

        • Rayne says:

          You have to ask yourself if you want a liberal democracy or not. Free speech is inherently necessary to liberal democracy to support an informed citizenry. Your suggestion that the right of free speech by the press be curtailed is inherently anti-democratic.

          The challenge is Popper’s Paradox — allowing all speech means allowing speech which eventually limits speech. The solution isn’t limiting speech but regulating commerce which the nation’s founders saw as necessary, embedding it in the US Constitution. How would you regulate media in a way which doesn’t violate the First Amendment?

          I’m putting this question to you because this isn’t the simple problem you seem to think it is; it’s all too easy to pop off a hot take in a sentence in a comment thread and goddamned hard to actually come up with a workable, lawful solution.

            • Rayne says:

              Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY, RIP) tried for years to pass the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act (FAB Act) but to no avail. The bill was based on the fundamental premise that publicly-owned airwaves should serve the public interest, which the Fairness Doctrine was intended to ensure.

              The bill wouldn’t have addressed the problem; hyperpartisan Fox News is on cable which is not regulated like broadcast. Cable should be regulated like broadcast because it relies on a publicly-authorized monopoly in communities — in other words, a publicly-controlled space. It should also be regulated like telcos because it is interoperable with them, carrying voice and text communications. Homogenizing the regulatory framework for communications carriers would be a better first start. A bill like FAB Act could work more effectively on that unified communications framework to ensure citizens received better information in their interest.

  12. klynn says:

    Media’s lack of self-awareness of their role in creating factually wrong public perceptions has become nearly hostile.

    The news is at times equivalent to watching the Bachelor.

    Thank you for this post Rayne.

  13. Scott Johnson says:

    My only defense of Hasan here is that there might be a good case for Pelosi to consider a (doomed obviously) impeachment of Clarence Thomas. That’s not going to happen in an election year, barring some other shoe that hasn’t dropped yet that’s far worse than garden-variety Federalist Society corruption. The idea has been floated, of course… and the same crowd was whining for the better part of a year about Pelosi’s failure to impeach Trump… until she actually went and did it.

    But Hasan seems to be engaging in the “too cool for school” sort of trolling that media liberals are fond of. A lot of things make more sense about our political media culture when you think of this as akin to high school, with the GOP the party of dumb jocks, and the Democrats the party of nerds. The former’s search for raw power is commendable and cool, whereas the latter’s earnest attempts to actually solve problems is viewed not only as uncool but as dishonorable–or as a false front for trying to get power by the backdoor. DC worships power, and those who seek it.

      • Scott Johnson says:

        I’m mostly agreeing with the article, and find the suggestions that Pelosi doesn’t know what she’s doing to be tiresome and objectionable. Should Thomas be impeached, knowing that he won’t be convicted by the Senate? I trust the Speaker to make that call, given that it will be an entirely political proceeding.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, why would anybody “trust” Pelosi after her absolutely craven and idiotic handling of the last two impeachments? That is fucking ludicrous.

                  • rdpayne says:

                    You guys are wonderful, I stopped reading MSM over 20 years ago and switched to blogs only. There are many great blogs out there, even some of which have become news services, but emptywheel and you guys are the best,

                  • mospeck says:

                    so bmaz, you made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs?
                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjYuw6zWk_Y
                    sry but the parsec is not a unit of time, but rather a unit of distance. And claiming that you made it in less than 12 parsecs is just out of bounds, man.
                    parsec (symbol: pc) is a unit of length used to measure the large distances to astronomical objects outside the Solar System, approximately equal to 3.26 light-years or 206,000 astronomical units (au), i.e. 30.9 trillion kilometres (19.2 trillion miles).[a] Parsec is obtained by the use of parallax and trigonometry, and is defined as the distance at which 1 au subtends an angle of one arcsecond[1] (1/3600 of a degree). The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 1.3 parsecs (4.2 light-years) from the Sun.[3] Most stars visible to the naked eye are within a few hundred parsecs of the Sun, with the most distant at a few thousand.[4] The word parsec is a portmanteau of “parallax of one second” and was coined by the British astronomer Herbert Hall Turner in 1913

                    Not saying that I’m coming back like some old dude who remembers all the slights @#$#%^^@ like back when you crushed my spirit like that John Houseman guy did with the unfortunate wannabe lawyer.. but it hurts, man

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fReC3h1mtDg

          • Scott Johnson says:

            Now I’m confused. What position, with regard to Speaker Pelosi, are you taking?

            Various actors on the “left”, some of them acting in clear bad faith, and others just looking for a head to mount on the wall, seem eager to hold the Speaker (and the POTUS, and the Attorney General) to ridiculously high (and frequently arbitrary) standards, often for no other reason than to then accuse them of failure when those standards are not met. Hasan’s potshot seems to be in that vein. Whether there’s a course of action Speaker Pelosi could take that would make him happy, I don’t know. I doubt she has the votes in her caucus for an impeachment at this time even if she wanted to, which we all know would be a symbolic gesture anyway. Unlike the other party, which will eagerly vote as a bloc for the most despicable things possible, the Dems are blessed, or cursed, with many members who still follow the old rules. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma–things work more smoothly when both sides honor the norms; but when one side stops doing so, what’s the other side to do?

            Besides impeachment, there’s really little that the Speaker of the House can do to a sitting Supreme Court justice, other than sternly worded letters and harsh speeches, which are going to have no effect whatsoever on a shameless ideologue who has life tenure. (And there’s even less that Schumer can do either; he doesn’t even have the power of impeachment at his disposal).

            At any rate–it feels like you think I’m making an argument that I’m not.

  14. Rayne says:

    not whinging on about how Pelosi is somehow the victim here of misogyny which complaint is, of course, a total red herring.

    Fuck. All. The. Way. Off.

    And welcome to emptywheel.

    • Nostradamus says:

      Please feel free to point out where Hasan and Mohyeldin engaged in “…misogynist pontificating…” wrt Pelosi.

      That’s not there so far as the record shows, at least in the comments you referenced. If not, that would be the very definition of red herring. Your response suggests you know that’s so but I’m open to your take here.

      Of course, you could post the whole comment and keep the screen name as originally submitted: Nostradoofus. Is there some sort of problem ?

      • Rayne says:

        First, the misogyny is right there where you refuse to see it because of testosterone poisoning.

        Secondly, your entire comment was posted and I’ve excerpted the part which most merited a firm Fuck Off.

        Third, say goodbye because I’m not going to put up with a misogynist asshat sockpuppeting by using a second name.

        Perhaps you could have seen this coming, Nostradamus a.k.a. Nostradoofus.

  15. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    MSM doesn’t cover issues unless politicians dramatically pontificate about them is Hasan’s point. He knows very well the Senate would take no action, but that doesn’t mean the Democrats shouldn’t be more aggressive and lead using their massive platform.

    The Republicans on Judge Jackson’s hearing exploiting the trauma of victims to smear her was appalling, but it was stomach churning to hear the tepid response from most of the D members and the chairman’s weak squalling about “the rules” as Cruz barrelled over him.

    We have weak, decrepit, comfortable leadership of the Democratic party that spend their time in a defensive crouch triangulating right, and only go on offense against progressive challengers. That is the problem.

    • Rayne says:

      Did you happen to see the townhall Grassley attended recently after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing in which a conservative voter told Grassley he’d voted for him in the past but couldn’t vote for him this time because of how the GOP handled Judge Jackson’s hearing?

      Democrats on the committee could have been better at pushback and planned for it, but being as aggressively partisan as the GOP may have backfired on them just as it did for the GOP. The hearings aren’t supposed to be partisan goat-ropings and a legitimate political party which respects its role as the people’s representative should actually focus on governance, not show boating. Perhaps that’s a point the Democrats should have made directly to the cameras at least once during the hearing.

      • bmaz says:

        I think that is just about exactly right. Dahlia was outraged about the Dem committee members not doing more, but going full on might have been even uglier. Durbin, Leahy and Whitehous did enough, and more would have been a distraction. Collins, Romney and Murkowski are going to support her. The Dems on SJC did fine it turns out. Though the credit goes to KBJ; she is the real deal and it showed.

        • BobCon says:

          I think it’s also the case that nominees have a say in the tenor of their defenders.

          Kavanaugh was clearly involved in the orchestration of his defense, while KBJ probably made it clear she did not want her side to stoop to his kind of hackery.

          One of the unfortunate things the DC press does is conflate all judges to the lowest PR level of GOP hacks who do and say anything to advance. They can’t accept that not every nominee wants their side to play by those rules.

          • bmaz says:

            Think that is a very fair take. Jackson consistently took the high road. It was incredible restraint.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      What “massive platform”?

      Unless you’re suggesting that President Biden spend all his time at a lectern giving press conferences and speeches–the Democrats don’t have a massive platform. There’s no news network that’s totally in the tank for the party (no, MSNBC is not such, even if it has friendly hosts), the Sunday talk shows generally won’t invite anyone on the party’s left wing on, unless they are in a position to play spoiler (i.e. Sanders in 2016), and speeches made by pretty much anyone else are ignored, unless there’s a gaffe to ridicule.

      It seems that the Dems have to, in most districts, elect boy scouts (or girl scouts) who have closets empty of skeletons, who are knowledgeable about policy, who are charismatic on the stump, and who have, in many cases, years of experience in public service, to have a chance–where the GOP can nominate corrupt toads, ridiculous trolls, compete empty suits, and others who make used-car salesmen respectable, and still have a good chance at winning elections.

      Perhaps the Democrats should have been nastier. Perhaps names like Gym Jordan, Dennis Hastert, and Roy Moore should have been loudly dropped during the hearing. Perhaps the low road should have been taken.

      Would the media applaud their moxie? Or be offended that the party that claims to be principled is now wallowing in the gutter too (but at least we know the GOP is dirty and craven, so it’s OK for them)?

      I think we know the answer to that.

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