Sunday, February 09, 2014

TV: Big Ed of the Little Mind

If MSNBC were a comedy network, its ratings wouldn't be any better but things would make a lot more sense.


Friday, David Bauder (AP) reported, "MSNBC fired a staff member last week for an offensive tweet after top Republicans began talking about refusing to appear on the network. It was fourth in a string of apologies by people who've gone too far with their words, leading to questions about whether the incidents reveal a systemic problem."  It's always something with MSNBC.

And some on the right giggle and point, insisting the trainwreck reflects on the left.

That's simply not fair.

First off, long before MSNBC 'leaned' left, they had high profile train wrecks including Michael Savage and Don Imus -- both of whom were fired.

Second, as Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) observed last week, "You don't earn a daily slot on either side of corporate media if you're not a consistent and effective shill for corporate interests – for the privatization of public education, for US imperial interventions and war crimes in Africa, South Asia and the Americas, for fracking, for unfettered police spying, and for only attacking the bad things the other party does."

MSNBC is not the left.

If you caught any of the non-stop attacks on NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden, you know that.

MSNBC exists to promote Democratic Party governance but, as the slashing of food stamps just demonstrated, Democratic Party governance is not the left.

MSNBC has demonstrated other things over the years as well -- such as it's not TV.

Don Imus, Michael Savage, Rachel Maddow, John Hockenberry, Mike Barnicle, Ron Reagan Jr., Monica Crowley and Alan Keyes were among the on airs who came from radio.

And they did their programs as if they were still on radio.

In fact, the only MSNBC host who ever developed strong visuals for their show and explored the visual format was Keith Olbermann.

The history of MSNBC has pretty much been one radio program after another recorded by video cameras.

Occasionally, viewers might endure some cheap graphics with all the originality of clip art.

But mainly, MSNBC is radio for those too lazy to create their own mental images.

And the really lazy can't even muster the energy to grab the remote and change the channel when The Ed Show starts.

The lowest rated of MNSBC's evening talk shows is hosted by the grossly obese, 60-year-old Ed Schultz.

Like so many MSNBC hosts, Schultz can't be mistaken for easy on the eyes.

And the ugly is thought to have hurt the ratings.  Among others, MSNBC president Phil Griffin's been heard floating that notion.

And the need to put on some pretty is why veteran journalist and frequents MSNBC guest Joy Reid is getting her own show.  It's also why visual cupcake Ronan Farrow's getting his own show despite having no broadcasting experience and 'resume' that wouldn't get him a job with Bop or Tiger Beat.

No one would ever mistake Ed Schultz for pretty or even to live next door to plain.

In fact, in the land of TV talk shows, Schultz holds the record for most unattractive.

And maybe that's why he manages to bluster so loudly while always appearing to be on the verge of tears.

He does this as he says whatever's on his mind -- a quality that some might mistake for honesty but actually just indicates he lacks the ability to prioritize and rank.

Which is how Thursday found him giddy with guest Sandra Fluke as he shared how 'lucky' she was to be called a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh.

Fluke tried to smile it off, but it was insulting and pig-headed and recalled another infamous MSNBC moment: when Chris Matthews declared Hillary Clinton -- lucky her -- only got elected senator due to Bill Clinton's sexual entanglement with Monica Lewinsky.

Not only did telling a woman that she was lucky to be called a "slut" on national radio was a lucky break demonstrate a lack of common sense, it also (yet again) revealed a lack of awareness. 2011 found Schultz suspended for a week by MSNBC as a result of his calling right-wing Laura Ingraham a "slut."

Worse than being suspended, 2013 saw the self-proclaimed "Big Ed" pulled off MSNBC's prime time weekday schedule and exiled to weekends.

The response was a collective yawn (and giggles from some because Schultz had been denying that he was being shoved to weekends only days before the announcement was made).  But Sarah Burris and the Teamsters sprung into non-action.

They could have protested.  They could have marched.

Instead they did a stupid online petition.  And couldn't even gather 50,000 signatures.

They insisted their hero "has been one of the few in the media who supports working class people."

And that is so true . . .

If by "working class people" you only mean White-Anglo, straight males.

Schultz is sexist, anti-choice and embraces homophobia and racism as evidenced by his opening song on his radio program.

Guns N Roses?

You want to be on the left and you want to promote a band that, at the height of the AIDs epidemic, wrote and recorded "One In A Million" whose lyrics include:

Police and ni[**]ers, that's right
Get out of my way
Don't need to buy none of your
Gold chains today
I don't need no bracelets
Clamped in front of my back
Just need my ticket; 'til then
Won't you cut me some slack?

[. . .]

Immigrants and fa[**]ots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they'll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some f[**]kin' disease
They talk so many [***]damn ways
It's all Greek to me

The implosion of Guns N Rose and Axel Rose ridiculous face which cheap plastic surgery has left looking like a cross between an over-stuffed sofa and a Muppet, is the universe correcting itself.

Leave it to Big Ed of the Little Mind to try to popularize a group that stands for racism, sexism, homophobia and is anti-immigrant.

That's how 'progressive' Ed welcomes listeners to his radio show?

Last December, after Ed Schultz's TV show returned to weekdays (evenings, he wasn't welcomed back to prime time), the world learned of other 'support' he'd received in 2012 and 2013: "$20,000 from the Food & Commercial Workers Local Union 75;  $20,000 from State & County Municipal Employees Employees AFL-CIO; $25,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; $50,000 from the Letter Carriers National Association; and a whopping $72,000 the Auto Workers AFL-CIO National Headquarters." And it wasn't just those two years, Dylan Byers (POLITICO) explained:

Early last year, after reports that Schultz was paid $199,900 by unions in 2011, Schultz said on his show that all the money he received for speeches went to charity; in this case, the American Cancer Society. A letter from the Society shows that it received $100,000, roughly half the total Schultz received from unions.

All those 'gifts' made us realize that Ed Schultz is to talk shows what Scoop Brady was to journalism.

Remember Scoop Brady?

On The Brady Bunch, Peter (Christopher Knight) decides to become a reporter, gets a hat, dubs himself Scoop Brady and starts a school paper column entitled "The Whole Truth."  In this season three episode ("The Power of the Press," written by Ben Gershman and Bill Freedman), Peter gets advice from Alice and Greg to offer praise and mention people's names in his columns in order for them to be popular.  It works.  A female student invites him on an eating outing -- her treat.  A male student gives him a box of candy bars and dangles the possibility of  pizza.  A third student announces she's throwing a party and he's invited.

Peter's column is not about "The Whole Truth," it's about offering praise in exchange for favors.

By the end of the episode, Peter learns that's wrong.  It took him less than a half hour to learn that episode.  All these years later, "Big Ed" still hasn't learned it.

But he has no character or ethics.

We're reminded of another season three episode, "My Sister, Benedict Arnold" (written by Elroy Schwartz) in which Greg loses a spot on the varsity basketball team to another student (Warren) and he loses class president to the same student.  He's furious because Warren's fake and gets his way by being a kiss-ass.  Meanwhile, Marcia's in love.  She's been asked out by a school basketball player and class president (Warren).  Greg's furious and tells her not to see him, he feels he's been betrayed.

We think of that episode because Ed Schultz is a turncoat.

He is a Benedict Arnold.

He used to be a Republican and a conservative.  But he saw money to be made on the left or 'left,' as Randi Rhodes noted frequently in the mid-'00s.  Air America Radio, unlike Democracy Radio, wasn't an in house organ for the Democratic Party forced to repeat the day's DNC talking points.  Stephanie Miller and Ed, Randi would explain, were paid to do just that.  She noted that she called out the illegal Iraq War but that Miller and Schultz, at Democracy Radio (run by Tom Athans who was married to Senator Debbie Stabenow at the time), were silent.  (The marriage ended after Athans was  caught with a prostitute he admitted paying $150 to for sex.)

Ed Schultz is a turncoat.

You can't trust them.

Can people have genuine conversions?


But a real conversion usually includes learning to shut your mouth and listen as opposed to trying to make yourself a leader.

A turncoat is usually someone who's burned their bridges and announce an 'awakening' (see David Brock) but whose tactics remain the same (see David Brock) demonstrating that no real conversion or awakening has taken place. They're still the same trickster, they just ran out of friends on the other side.

Last year, David Sirota (PandoDaily) noted some of Schultz's history:

For years, Schultz was a barely noticed cookie-cutter conservative radio host in the mold of Rush Limbaugh. As Salon’s Justin Elliott reported a while back, Schultz bashed immigrants, opposed abortion and made fun of homeless people. From those years firmly anchored on the right-wing side of the class war, he has a deep familiarity with anti-union agitprop.
Nevertheless, as George W. Bush’s presidency deflated the popularity of conservatism and inflated the popularity of pro-worker populism, the ratings-hungry Schultz abruptly rebranded himself a progressive champion of unions. While it certainly looked like an unscrupulous act of shameless hucksterism, Schultz’s move was definitely a smart tactical shift. Branding-wise, it correctly assumed that an audience of rank-and-file Democratic political junkies was so desperate for their own hyper-macho Limbaugh they would cheerily ignore Schultz’s right-wing past. Ultimately, Schultz’s makeover not only helped him vacuum in union money but also got him a television show on MSNBC just as that network was simultaneously trying to rebrand itself as a left-leaning outlet.

Being a turncoat and a former Republican, it's not hard for Schultz to repeatedly worship political leaders, especially presidents.

So he will (and has), for example, attack NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  His idiotic remarks attacking Snowden led Revolution & Beer to note Schultz as "Reactionary of The Week."  Gary Leupp (CounterPunch) offered, "I should not be shocked, but it is quite amazing to see Keith Olbermann's successor, MSNBC's 'progressive' Ed Schultz join the crowd labeling Snowden a 'punk' and lawbreaker."

Then, last December, Ed Schultz was seen as either identifying with MSNBC management in a labor dispute or too cowardly to stand up to them.  Firedoglake covered it here.  Josh Eidelson (Salon) covered it here.

Which brings us to 2014, still so fresh and new, except for the stench around Schultz.

Last week, Schultz began attempting to sell the KXL Pipeline to his small group of viewers. To counter this propaganda, Eclectablog again went over how the Keystone XL Pipeline would not create any significant number of new jobs but would seriously harm the environment.  JVolvo at Daily Kos wrote in disbelief over Schultz' whoring for the oil industry and his behavior in general.

We weren't surprised by Schultz's disregard for the environment.  Like most large farm animals, Ed Schultz damages the environment already by producing a large amount of methane gas.

And, like Bruce A. Dixon, we don't mistake corporate personalities for activists or fountains of truth.

Ed has to do what he's told because he wants the money and he has no where else to go.

He is a lousy host for a talk show, forever tripping over his own words -- even in monologues. Last year's attempts to 'modernize' him found Schultz responding to MSNBC's dictate that he offer more pop culture references.  The most notable response to this attempt was when Schultz began alluding (repeatedly) to A Few Good Men.

There were many problems with Schultz using this as a reference.

There was the fact that the Rob Reiner film was released in 1992, making it 21 years old last year and hardly 'contemporary' enough to reassure listeners that Schultz was one of them.

Even more troubling was the character Schultz chose to identify with.  Jack Nicholson is one of America's great actors, no question.  And he did a great job bringing Col. Nathan Jessep to life but the colonel was the villain of the film.

When we asked an MSNBC exec about this, he answered in a very frustrated voice, "We considered it a win that it was that and not Ross Hunter's Lost Horizon."

Point taken.

And good luck to MSNBC on their efforts to add the pretty.  We applaud any initiatives that could lead to Ed Schultz leaving the network.

That said, Schultz is only the network's largest problem in terms of girth.  There still remains so much more for MSNBC to address.

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