On news last night that NYU Journalism Professor and ‘media critic’ Jay Rosen was the latest pick up for the Omidyar/Greenwald News thingy, ‘left’ journalisty Twitter erupted in the usual orgy of sycophancy that lately so characterizes this whole affair. Still there were some discouraging words, like this from NSFWCorp boss Paul Carr.
It’s axiomatic now that in any part of the left where there is even meagre influence, there will be, at most, two sides to each question and both of them will be mostly wrong. So Carr’s quaint idea that Rosen would have been more critical as Omidyar’s ombud, or that Omidyar and Greenwald are buying Rosen’s silence, is every bit as ridiculous as the many virtues with which careerist sycophants now ostentatiously imbue him.
Where the establishment ‘left’ is concerned — that is that huge range of professional opinion-shaping between the partisan shillery of, say, MSNBC and the declinist reformism of Greenwald’s frothy showboating — Rosen is distinguished less by savvy criticism than prolonged acts of sycophancy and elitism. I went over this ground before, here, in my piece on Rosen’s ‘Snowden Effect’:
Rosen will happily tweet out some shit written by a shill of shills like Josh Marshall, and even have robust friendly discussions with him online, without once mentioning that Marshall literally gets his talking points straight from the White House.
Or he’ll look at Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s trivializing, weird confession of acquiescence to government repression, without even a hint of mystification, let alone disparagement, at how long Rusbridger suppressed this story. To the contrary, in Rosen’s piece about it, Rusbridger’s capitulation to government thugs and his failure to immediately disclose it to his readers, metamorphoses into heroism and prudence, as Rosen extols the overwhelming importance of knowledgeable, responsible journalism elites like Rusbridger to opposing mass surveillance.
Here he is acting as Omidyar’s mouthpiece, a day after announcement of the new unnamed venture, which Rosen christened NewCo with his customary flair. With or without pay, he is the perfect complement to Greenwald, for whom sycophancy is clearly like blood to a wounded vampire, and who unsurprisingly considers him “one of the best advisers any new media organization could have.”
Happily, Rosen is so irredeemably awful to anyone whose ass he’s not kissing — or who’s not kissing his — that his words speak entirely for themselves. There is no better demonstration of that than Rosen’s risible ‘Late Night with PressThink’ videos, in which he drinks whiskey and makes soul-crushingly banal observations with the clueless self-importance of the privileged grind who has been rewarded all his life for deference and assumed the whole time it was for brains.
The video he did on Maddow, in which he imparts insights that would be right at home in an MSNBC press packet, belongs in a time capsule to demonstrate to future enlightened societies how things like stupid and smart, sycophancy and critique become inverted in societies characterized by one hundred flavors of inequality.
I’ve embedded the video at the end of this post, which is best viewed in small doses. This remark from a friend encapsulates the effect: ‘I started off laughing, but slowly it began to weigh on me.’ Because I love my readers, I have transcribed most of the video, so that you can get the full benefit of Rosen’s insights, with minimal time and effort, though you will miss out on some grim amusement if you don’t sample the video at least a little.
“This is the third of my late night with PressThink videos. The first one was powered by Johnny Walker Black, the second by Macallan 12. Tonight I’ve gone downmarket and it’s Dewar’s on the rocks. [takes drink]. My subject tonight is why I loooove watching Rachel Maddow.
“When I say I love Rachel Maddow I love her performance, her presentation on television as one of the masters of political television which I really think she is.
“Rachel’s a nerd. She has a serious interest in public policy and politics as problem-solving and Truth, Justice and the American Way as she sees it. She was a public policy major at Stanford, she studied for a PhD in political science at Oxford, she was an activist before she got involved in the media at all. It’s this interest in politics and policy and the consequences of American policy that saves her from another kind of interest which is very common among people who do what she does and that is a fascination with the game of politics the way Chris Mathews or Chuck Todd exhibit it.
“And of course she’s fortunate because MSNBC allows her political commitments to show and it’s precisely the fact that she can declare herself and take a stand and have a stake that she doesn’t have to resort to this minute fascination with who’s up and who’s down, who won and who lost, how they’re trying to manipulate us.
“She has no interest in seeing things in politics from the same angle as the professional operatives and manipulators, which is what Chuck Todd is so good at. And this alone endears me to her. She has no interest in the game, even though she is realistic about how the game is played.
“There’s plenty of information in her show. She’s very interested in what happened. She wants to inform her listeners, her viewers, but she does that by first engaging in passionate argument and she constructs her arguments with care and that style is just a very different style than what had come to dominate in political television which you might see in somebody like Candy Crowley or John King on CNN, who never tell you what they think but who are more than willing to assess in a savvy way the state of the game or who’s up or who’s down.
“Rachel Maddow has an apartment in The Village in New York and I have an apartment in the Village in New York and she wears goofy sneakers and she loves cities and she’s a cosmopolitan person and all those things endear her to me.
[lengthy, tedious description of Overton Window]
“Maddow is just about the only one I can count on to notice when the Overton Window is in play and to point it out, and to draw attention to it today, this week! She’ll say Did you see that??? Did you see what just happened???
“I also love the fact that perhaps like comics, Maddow believes that the way to succeed on television is in great writing. Until she has the writing right, until every word counts and is the right word she’s not ready to do her show. This idea that the key to succeeding on television is actually the written word, not visual presentation or being chummy on the air, or smoothness of manner or being a classically sort of cool, perfectly put-together anchor person but writing, that really impresses me.
“I also love the way when she has somebody on who she wants to argue with or with whom there might be some tension, she will prepare a lead-in, a report to introduce this person and then say first question ‘Did I get anything wrong?’ ‘Is there anything you would like to correct?’ Which is not only an act of fairness but an act of confidence because you would only do that if you think you’ve really nailed the facts as well as the arguments in your presentation. Maybe there’s other people in television who do that but I can’t recall seeing it.
“Another thing I love about Maddow is she seems to understand that if I know how you think because I’ve really studied your mind but you don’t really know how I think, because you haven’t been playing close attention I have the advantage over you. And I love watching her work that advantage on the air. Maybe, intuitively a lot of her guests from the opposite party…maybe they intuitively grasp this and this is why they’re reluctant to go on the air but she’s constantly inviting people who disagree with her on, and I think she’s genuine that she really wants them to come on and she has a sense of fairness that coexists with her sense of passionate commitment to arguments and positions and that takes a certain talent as well.
“Rachel Maddow is an obsessive, like all good bloggers are obsessives, in fact even though she’s never distinguished herself as a blogger, and we don’t know her as that, I think it’s more or less correct to say she is the first blogger type who ever got her own show on television. who ever got to anchor and host a show on network television. For that matter she is the first openly gay person to have her own show and she’s the first intellectual to be a host of political television and all of those things are important milestones in commercial tv.
“Finally the thing that I love the most about Rachel Maddow is deep down she’s a dork who learned how to be graceful not because it came naturally to her or she was born for it..but .simply through hard work and determination and tremendous focus. There’s something extremely inspiring about that.”
There you have it, folks, media criticism in 2013, now informing the journalist/billionaire alliance that’s going to change everything.