FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Inside the Democrats’ Favorite News Network

by

Martha Rosenberg: Your recent book takes MSNBC to task for many reporting and moral failures. One of the book’s most scathing chapters is its analysis of MSNBC’s coverage of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Michael Arria: Yes, the Manning and Snowden coverage shows how truncated liberal media can be. The leaks call into question the very objectives of our national security policies and domestic policies. While there was coverage of the collateral murder video [in which shows Americans shoot and kill 11 individuals not returning fire] MSNBC quickly morphed into smearing Manning and Snowden personally. Joy Reid, who has got her own show since I wrote the book, referred to Manning as someone, “seeking anarchy as a salve for [her] own personal, psychological torment.” MSNBC coverage swiftly turned to Snowden being a hypocrite for going to Russia. The horrifying revelations were lost in the game of personal attacks. Even the tepid defenses of the leaks, tended to focus on the right to leak, thus moving the conversation away from the content of the leaks.mediumblue.cover_5.06x7.81_EC-e1394643725270-291x450

Martha Rosenberg: You also mention MSNBC’s relative silence on Manning’s solitary confinement.

Michael Arria: The UN special rapporteur on torture has accused the US government of cruel and inhumane treatment in the case of Manning. Chelsea Manning endured horrible conditions and many speculate it was an attempt to get her to “rat out” Wikileaks, the web site that disseminated her leaks. There was virtually no coverage of her trial at the network. The night of her verdict, Ed Schultz ignored the story, but did an entire segment on whether Pat Robertson believed sweaters could be possessed by demons.

Martha Rosenberg: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is widely beloved but you spell out definite criticisms about her in Medium Blue including how she mocked Iran’s “Martyrdom of Hazart Fatemesh,” implying that it commemorated a suicide bomber when in fact, you write, “the word ‘Hazart’ is an esteemed title.”

Michael Arria:  Maddow gets her facts wrong a lot. Her perception of the Iran situation is murky and her stances on Israel, Libya and Ukraine are boiler plate. She has said in interviews that her job is to not give opinions but to “report the news,” yet she and the other MSNBC anchors do give their slant, if not explicitly but implicitly, by what they choose to report. For example, when it comes to drone strikes, Maddow might ask “were there memos legitimizing this?” instead of looking at the dirty underbelly of capitalism and proxy wars. Maddow is thought, by some, to be a kind of war critic, but her critiques tend to be logistical. She did some segments where she contrasted the flowery language of Obama’s Libya attack, with the cowboy rhetoric of Bush’s Iraq invasion. Like many liberals, she detects some vast importance in style, but if you’re living in a country that’s being bombed, I don’t think you care very much whether the President is an idiot or a great orator.

Martha Rosenberg: You give many other examples of  MSNBC’s avoidance of morality for the glitzier reporting in your book.

Michael Arria: I don’t know if it’s glitzy, but the supposed cultural divide of the country definitely fuels a certain amount of the programming. For example, take the Benghazi issue. While the right wing has claimed a government cover-up and is continuing to investigate a cover-up, MSNBC and other liberal media, prefers to cover the right wing’s Benghazi obsession rather than the larger issue of Libya. Benghazi is part of a much wider story. MSNBC defended the NATO intervention vociferously and there has been almost no subsequent discussion about the current state of that country or what that intervention wrought. An ex-general named Khalifa Hiftar is currently leading a very bloody revolt there; he was granted refuge in the United States a few years ago. I guarantee there will be far less coverage of Hiftar than there will be about GOP politicians who have said harebrained things about the Benghazi attack.

Martha Rosenberg: Covering the right wing and left wing duking it out is probably more entertaining to viewers–the same phenomenon exists on talk radio.

Michael Arria: Yes. For example MSNBC and especially Maddow still cover the antics of Sarah Palin even though she is completely “over with” as a politician since she stepped down from the Governorship of Alaska. MSNBC also, essentially, admits that the Tea Party is no longer a force of any importance yet it will cover the Tea Party as if they are dominating the Republican Party. It works the same way on the other side: many conservatives seem to think Obama is a bumbling moron, while at the same time believing he is a crafty villain systematically destroying the country.

Martha Rosenberg: Yeah–make up your minds! You write in Medium Blue that the issue is not so much left wing or right wing as MSNBC and other media serving their own financial interests.

Michael Arria: A clear example of ignoring news that threatens its own financial interests is how silent MSNBC was and is about the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. Obviously, they have no incentive to cover it– that’s who pays them. Or take a look at the attempt, by Peacock Productions staff, to unionize. When the AFL-CIO urged MSNBC hosts to speak out in support of the workers and their attempt to collect overtime pay and posses collective bargaining rights, all the hosts were silent, though Chris Hayes did meet with group of workers, in a secret meeting. At the risk of stating the obvious, MSNBC is owned by Comcast. It’s hard to imagine them ever upsetting the bottom line.

Martha Rosenberg:  So even though viewers think they are getting clear and unbiased news with MSNBC, they are still getting paid-for news messages?

Michael Arria: As I write in the book, MSNBC is Fox News for Democrats in many ways, but the comparison tends to overlook a very real distinction. The propaganda of Fox News tends to be tremendously blatant, many involved even seem like they’re in on the act. In the case of MSNBC, there seems to no coercion involved. The people involved really believe they can run any kinds of stories they want. In this respect, I think it’s even more insidious.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail