Friday, May 31, 2013

Apparently its not just MSNBC that's in trouble

Yesterday I wrote about the challenges facing major media outlets. A lot of the talk lately has been about the bad news MSNBC got recently about their low ratings. Well, it seems as if the liberal-leaning cable network isn't the only one in trouble. Check this out from Digby:
...but I must point out that it's not just MSNBC. The online left has seen a steep decline in traffic since the election as well...

We've been through a number of elections, crises, other ups and downs over the past decade but I've not seen anything like the drop in interest over the past few months. If it was just me I'd attribute it to my little project having run its course but it's happening across the liberal media spectrum.
Digby didn't provide any names regarding which online left sites she's referring to other than her own (its certainly not this one), but a look at her blogroll might give you some idea (hint: there is only one site she includes that is listed here on my "Pragmatic Progressive Blogroll.")

It would be normal to see a drop in participation on blogs after a general election. But she's saying that what she's seeing is much bigger than that. So whassup? Digby writes it off to a "bored or disillusioned" left reacting to an "ineffectual president." Surprise, surprise.

But I see it differently. The fact of the matter is that listening to most of MSNBC's lineup and reading emo blogs tends to engender one thing after a while...depression. That's what cynicism does to people. Sure, they can ramp up the rage over something like the public option or chained-CPI or drones or (what's coming) the Keystone pipeline. And its great to howl all the time at those lunatic Republicans. But after awhile, where does that leave you?

It reminds me of something Clay Claiborne said a while ago:
Cynicism is a privilege. When practiced by those in a position to do it well, cynicism allows them to criticize the oppressor and sympathize with the oppressed without ever having to move out of their comfort zone. In fact, one of the main objects of this practice of cynicism is to make the cynic more comfortable. He may not, as yet, be wanting for much personally, but he can see the growing misery all around him so he has to think or do something. The cynic solves this dilemma by thinking that nothing can be done!
Cynicism doesn't attract eyeballs. But more importantly, it kills any effort to build a movement. Years ago Tim Wise pointed out how people of color (President Obama's REAL base) know better.
Invariably, it seems it is we in the white community who obsess over our own efficacy, and fail to recognize the value of commitment, irrespective of outcome. People of color, on the other hand, never having been burdened with the illusion that the world was their oyster, and thus, anything they touched could and should turn to gold, usually take a more reserved, and I would say healthier view of the world and the prospects for change. They know (as indeed they must) that the thing being fought for, at least if it's worth having, will require more than a part-time effort, and will not likely come in the lifetimes of those presently fighting for it. And it is that knowledge which allows a strength and resolve few members of the dominant majority will ever, can ever, know...

This isn't to say it's impossible to inspire young whites to fight for justice, nor to stick it out. It's just a bit more of a challenge sometimes, for it requires that the person be open to an entirely different way of thinking about the world and their place in it.
In other words, it requires the audacity of hope in the long game. This is something the great Maya Angelou knows in every fiber of her being.


  1. People have better things to do than talk about 2016 in June of 2013. Two people making rehearsed arguments while yelling at each other loses its appeal. I guess people are tired of hearing bigots. Taking a daily dump on the first black president isn't the best way to go about one's business when you look at his margin of victory. If I wanted to hear about the sky falling all the time, I'd find John Haggee.


    1. Bravo and well put. I got to the point where even dealing with the trolls at HuffPo got old. I am sick to death of all of them. I also want the pres to put his big boy pants on, have a heart to heart with the American people and tell them what's what with Republican obstructionism.

      I don't think it helps that most news people know even less about the issues then a mildly educated viewer, and see to be unwilling to do anything but look for the sensational soundbite. And that's why I don't watch much anymore.

    2. Exactly! Why talk about 2016 when 2014 is more important?

      We have critical mid-term elections coming up next year and some on the Left are more concerned about 2016? This and the constant negativity is why some online lefties are having a harder time than others.

      And just as I said on another blog, it's now "Go Time!" We've had 30 - 40 years to complain about the GOP while sitting on our asses doing nothing or being ineffective. I've been complaining about the GOP since I was 8 years old!

      So, maybe I'd be a little more concerned about actually doing something about them 3 decades later? Especially since they've caused so much damage in the meantime.

      And even if you are content being a keyboard warrior, at least support and encourage those who are willing to "take it to the streets" while paying more attention to what is actually effective. Why repeat the same failed strategies over and over again?

      It seems that we have many left-wingers who are just as conservative, out-of-touch, and out-of-date as their right-wing counterparts. Instead of trying to find a new way forward, they rather live up to outdated GOP stereotypes about hippies and liberals. Thanks, but no thanks!

  2. We (liberals/democrats) were all outraged by Bush/Cheney during their regime. To expect to generate the same level of outrage (and thus blog hits) against a popular democratic president who is the polar opposite of Bush/Cheney in every way (yes, even with the Dronzzz, it turns out), is very short-sighted. I quit reading Kos not long after the 2009 inauguration when some of the main posters there began calling President Obama names, and even making threatening comments (“If you don’t do what we say, we’ll screw your re-elections chances,” etc). Sirota began calling President Obama “President Rham” on his morning radio show. YOW! Now, I read only the pragmatic blogs like yours, and thank all the kitties in the universe that you’re here.


  3. You've got a great blog here that is focused on the positive and pragmatic. I have no sympathy for MSNBC and Daily Kos et al that are suffering from low rating as the content these sources produce is underwhelming.

    Yesterday I turned on Hardball to hear Chris Matthews complaining that Obama has no jobs bill (Obama did and does) and the fact the media is obsessed with "scandals". So of course Matthews then introduces his panel so they can chat about the "scandals."

    How about MSNBC stop worrying about what Obama is "not" doing and actually cover all the things that the government is doing. Obamacare's roll out, the housing market rebound, the stock market rebound, dropping federal deficit, moving forward on gun safety, let's move, etc etc. There are dozens of great stories to tell but MSNBC and many leftist media outlets are still obsessed with the GOP and their pointless bickering.

    1. ...and how many times does anyone want to hear the same four stories in one day? First there's local news, which will lightly cover all the four stories of the day in addition to the local house fire and national gun death reports.

      Then there's the national news covering the four stories of the day. (why are there ever only 4 stories worth reporting on?) Then comes Chris Hayes, with in-depth coverage and conversation about the four stories, then Rachel Maddow with in-depth coverage and conversation about the same four stories.

      Could someone ask Hayes and Maddow to coordinate and choose different subjects to cover on their back to back hours?

      So, the "scandals" are all hollow(another summer of impeachment anyone?), Nothing can be done in DC because fillibuster and the party of NO. Anything they do get done is usually damaging to you and me and were better not done. Immigration reform and the Supreme's decisions about some important issues are going at their usual glacial pace . . .

      Meanwhile it's spring and the weather just got warm. I think I'll put some beans and tomatoes in the ground... it's looking like we may need 'em sooner rather than later, and unlike politics, at least you get something for your efforts other than being thrown under the bus over and over again.

  4. To Me the MSNBC issue are as follows:

    1. Its becoming a show for old policy hacks (O'Donnell, Scarborough, Matthews) and inexperienced eggheads (Maddow, Harris-Perry) who seem trapped in the bubble of DC beltway prattle &Park Slope hipster intelligensia. Basically, the nightly shows spend far too much time trying to show off how smart the host are. Yes, we know, most of the MSNBC hosts are Ivy League level eggheads whose grasp of issues could run laps around the average Fox News person (even Scarborough is Einstein compared to those clowns) and their two biggest female anchors have PhDs in Poli Sci. And yes, most of the guests are brilliant academics in think tanks or community organizing. That's great for a convention, a cocktail party at a Yale Professor's house or an NPR round table type show (see MHP) - its make boring night time TV.

    2. Despite being the loyal opposition - the so-called "professional left" can't seen to jump at any "outrage" from the Obama administration. Sorry, but when I see Fox and MSNBC running the same non-scandals from the same ridiculous angles turns off viewers. When both the left and the right are screaming that Obama is a criminal failure - people tune out.

    3. Not fully embracing social media for all its power. Most of MSNBC's core audience are tech savvy college educated professionals who, get this, use the internet. So how come its so damn hard to get a live stream or a podcast of any of their shows.

    Just my opinion.

    1. Thank you. I could not have said it better myself.

  5. Thanks for this, SP. You gave me an idea for a new piece for TOD and TPV.

  6. And if you aren't cynical then you won't want to read or hear their continuous cry of "Doooooooooooooom!" Either way, it's a loss for them. When I hear/read people who are excited about President Obama and what he is doing, it makes me feel great. And most of the time I think I am getting a much clearer picture of the truth. If those people sometimes question a bit or take a cautious approach, that's okay too. But I will not continue to listen to people who need to fan the outrage flames (wears me out) or constantly jump to erroneous conclusions, or don't seem to learn after being wrong time after time that our president knows what he is doing.

  7. Part of the problem is, it's May. This is always the lowest traffic month -- beginning of summer, people in their gardens, kids finally out of school, etc. The fact that it follows a Presidential Election Year (tm) leads to burnout and a desire for a break from checking political media. I'm not worried.

  8. If it was about being "bored with an ineffectual president" then POTUS wouldn't be getting crazy excited crowds everywhere he goes still. No, it's 100 not that. It's that we are bored with the cynicism of the Daily Kos crowd, Digby included. (Personally I never knew if it was a man or woman but nothing I've ever read on that site was the least bit interesting.)

    It's not complicated; people are overall content with his leadership and relieved that helped the country recover from a disaster in every direction. No one has time to hear or read the whining about him; whether on cable or on the internet.

  9. I'm not sure, but I believe I've just been insulted...

  10. I think one of the major problems with lib/prog sites is an overload of right wing nuttery being covered. Of course, it's a hoot to make fun of their wacky and inane antics, but the lib/prog side needs to be presented a lot more often.

  11. "Hippie-Punching" might've been cute the first 100 times Digby, et al, trotted it out. But it got old.

  12. The Obama coalition made MSNBC. Now practically every pundit chooses to insult our intelligence by continuously bashing President Obama. Most of us who watch pretty much keep informed about what's going on in Congress and what decisions President Obama is making. We don't need them to keep telling us that we should BLAME President Obama for not closing Gitmo, when we know Congress wouldn't fund moving the prisoners. We don't need to hear about drones, because we have kept informed about the drone program. We don't need Matthews to tell us that President Obama needs a gazillion dollar jobs bill, when we know that Congress refused to bring his bill to the floor. I don't need to hear Steve Kornacki refer to the President as "that guy" over and over - haven't watched him since. If these pundits are not liberals and/or don't agree with President Obama's policies than they should say so upfront, instead of the passive/aggressive BS they engage in.

    1. No News Network should be forced to demand loyalty to political power. If you think that is the case, you miss the point entirely about a "Republic for the people" Because I assure you that hope and change will not be something you can just turn off and on if corruption sets in all facets of our society.

      I don't see any good coming from ANY news network that takes marching orders from the whitehouse. I'm sorry but you are going to fail miserably w/ that concept, Anonymous.

    2. You obviously didn't comprehend what I wrote. I didn't suggest and I don't think anyone hear implied or suggested that MSNBC of any network take marching orders from the White House or "be forced" to do anything. How in the world did you come up with that one? You have engaged in a red herring. I said pundits need to stop with the lying re Gitmo; they don't need to keep repeating over and over the ins and outs of the drone program. I don't know about you, but I don't need someone to repeat something to me 100 times before I understand it. The MSM is SUPPOSE to inform and educate. MSNBC is no longer doing this. They are engaging in infotainment and that is why their ratings are in the toilet. Just maybe it has something to do with the lack of covering the good that is happening in the economy; or maybe they could push the need for the infrastructure bank; or climate change legislation; or not raising the interest rates on loans for college kids INSTEAD of these non-scandals 24/7.

    3. The Obama coalition made MSNBC?

      Are you kidding me? Sorry, I agree with everything you said except this.

      Let's face, MSNBC was around before Obama and it's primary purpose is profit. However, it's clear that they are losing profit and still can't fully come to terms as to why.

    4. @followthedough-

      MSNBC isn't even 100% liberal or progressive so it getting marching orders from the White House is ridiculous. Actually, I don't have a problem with this. To me, one of the reasons why Fox News is going through tough times right now is because it's completely one-sided. And as a result, their demographic reach is severely limited. MSNBC was wise in not catering just to one political viewpoint.

      Also, I don't have a problem with the majority of left-wing pundits on the network. My main problems lie with Rachel, Ed, and Chris Hayes. I can't stand Chris Matthews either, but he's been oblivious to me for quite some time now. I do have issues with punditry in general since I value actual news over opinion. However, I still think pundits serve a purpose. I would just like them to use facts to back up their opinions instead of relying solely on emotion.

      If anything, MSNBC mistakenly thinks that following the "Fox News Model" will work for the Left. It does not. This is because conservatives and liberals process information differently. Conservatives have no problem looking up to a Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, or Shaun Hannity. However, on the Left, we question things too much to tolerate a left-wing equivalent.

      If you don't believe me, just look at the hard time we give our politicians when they are in office. We save the adulation and worship for years after they leave. The way the whiny Left has treated Obama is similar to the way they treated Clinton (but it was nowhere near as severe due to the fact that Clinton was a white man), Carter (same circumstances as Clinton, but he got still primaried), and let's not get started on LBJ! When LBJ was in office, these whiners were calling for his head. 40 years later, the dude is a saint.

      For me, the entire country is shifting and the establishment (social, economic, political, religious, military, and yes media) is having a hard time keep up.

      Nobody is insisting that MSNBC take march orders from any political group. All we have to do is look at Fox News and see why this is a bad idea. However, some of the left-wing pundits have major issues that may be alienating them from a wider liberal/progressive audience. Despite Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes being around my same age; I feel little connection towards them. Because, while they rather just bash and complain, I'm ready for real information and solutions. And Rachel disappoints me more because I know she can do better (and has so many times in the past).

      As for Hayes, whatever....he has yet to prove to me that he knows what he's talking about.

  13. Cynicism is not a privilege. If MSNBC did what everyone on this blog suggested, MSNBC would just become a mouthpiece for the Whitehouse. Which is something we as progressives FOUGHT against w/ the Bush Administration & the media. The painful truth that blogs like this and commenters are missing is that you have to confront people in power & face the scrutiny of supporters at all times. Yes, you are going to be wrong but the opposite of that to just cheer for a political brand is too pointless to even have a debate about.

    You want cynicism? Run a network like that and within 5 years you are going to have no "progressive news shows" likely just showing reruns of private prison reality shows. Because basically you will just be reading off talking points from the whitehouse. Edward Murrow warned us about this direction as well w/ his commentaries. He was seen as a "emo reporter" asa well. But everything he Murrow warned us about, is everything we are dealing now w/ political machines & media.

    In order to have a critical lense, you have to distance yourself from an administration rather than just furious head nodding and whispers that "everyone is brilliant & this is the best outcome for our country to just shut up & let the 11 dimensional chess happen" If you think that is the best outcome just to clap at everything the whitehouse & the president says, we aren't just on the road to ruin, we the passengers, by default, null and void as well.

    1. You have just explained why folks like you will never accomplish anything. You'd rather automatically "confront all power" and wallow in wailing about the status quo than actually get into the game and get something done. That - my friend - is the definition of privilege.

      No one here is clapping at everything the whitehouse says/does. But we are willing to take the power that having an ally in the whitehouse gives us and actually USE it for making some changes. If you are "above" doing that - feel free to wallow in your privilege.

    2. No, I stated my opinion and I never said I wish to automatically confront power, that is something you just made an broad assumption on. I'm not wallowing about anything, I just don't trust this strategy using as a guide to history, it never turns out like you hoped it would.
      By intimidating news networks w/ access, we will regret that as a country, & we already are to some degree. Because here is the stark reality you are going to have to face,Smartypants. Eventually there will be a new president & he/she will have a new political affiliation, we will be hypocrites bashing GOP for doing what is our new m.o. as a political base.

      I'm all for making changes in this country, I just don't think if you changed MSNBC's lineup or "purged" the emoprogs from news media, you would get the intended result you would want, "my friend"

    3. I never said a word about changing MSNBC. If that's what you got out or what I've written here then you missed the entire point. I don't watch MSNBC and don't give a damn what they do.

    4. Nowhere, in history, will you find any time where cynicism resulted in major change and improvement of the human condition. This is because cynicism is best when its expressed as its more productive relative, skepticism. At best, being cynical is only a gateway to greater understanding and insight. However, it usually seen by its sufferers as a more permanent condition.

      At some point, once you pose the questions that skepticism allows you to ask, you have to be committed to the answers you find. You have to actually believe in them and have the optimism to promote them and if possible, implement them. It's this last part the whiny left forgets.

      And again, left-wingers question too much to tolerate a left-wing equivalent to Fox News. We can't sit blindly and take, word for word, what any pundit tells us (even if we like them). The righty is content in foolishly trusting everything Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity tells them. In the meantime, the lefty is scrutinizing everything said by Sharpton, Maddow, O'Donnell, Hayes, Schultz, and MHP even as we may be nodding our heads in agreement.

      You can find similar left-wing patterns of behavior (more or less) in other countries. Granted, our left-wing has never been "hardcore," but we do share a similar skepticism of the establishment (including the media). Make no mistake, we are not immune to "groupthink," but aren't as suspectible to it. This is a leftwing strength, but can easily become a weakness during times of major opposition. The current rightwing weakness of lockstepping was actually a strength of theirs for a number of years. Recently, it become a liability because the healthy skepticism needed to ensure that you're on a good course of action has been purged from the GOP and the conservative movement. You need a little bit of both skepticism and committment in order to stay clear of the political minefields. However, since politics has its basis in personal belief and conviction, you will see many political actors going from one extreme to the other.

      Smartypants' reply to your latest post is another example of how we differently from the right and proves the entire premise of the blog post. Rightwingers will stick with Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity even if these jackasses tell them to jump off a cliff. For us, we just quit watching. End of story! I still watch MSNBC from time to time over the internet, but I have completely abandoned other left-leaning sources for similiar reasons.

      And guess what? Now, MSNBC is worried about their ratings. So, its clear that Smartypants and myself are not the only ones on the Left who feel the same.

      Besides, walking away never works in a political setting (especially during an election), but when its a TV or radio program that relies on advertisement revenue for profit, what cares? Especially if there are other sources of news and opinion out there.

  14. In order to have a critical lense, you have to distance yourself from an administration rather than just furious head nodding and whispers that "everyone is brilliant & this is the best outcome for our country to just shut up & let the 11 dimensional chess happen" If you think that is the best outcome just to clap at everything the whitehouse & the president says, we aren't just on the road to ruin, we the passengers, by default, null and void as well.

    @FollowtheDough, you're correct, but you can go the opposite way and have equally disastrous results. There is a difference between being critical and unyielding cynicism and whining.

    If you want to see what happens when a media network is simply made up of whiny, angry cynics on the Left, listen to Pacifica Radio (WBAI in NYC, KPFK in LA and the mothership - KPKA in the Bay Area).

    Those guys, in the Lefty capitals of the world, and network space that would be the envy of any radio network not named clear channel, barely have an audience that could fit in a phone booth.

    Why? Because the Pacifica model of broadcasting has been to be voice of the Angry Left since the mid 90's. Its now the Alex Jones of the Left Media - an enclave in bitter conspiracy nuts and old hippy burnouts. When you have folks from ANSWER and In these Times are regular host, you may have a problem.

    The result - nobody listens to Pacifica and its bleeding money. Pacifica, like any no profit, depends on donations and frankly, its done little more than scare and bore new donors away for over 15 years. Younger activists find the shows boring and would rather watch the daily show or the web. Middle class liberals over 30 like me view Pacifica with the same side eye we would give the creepy 60 year old neighbor who still smoked a bong on his lawn and wore tie-dye shirts. Uh, we'll stick to NPR, those guys at least bathe and get haircuts.

    No one thinks that that MSNBC should follow the Robert Ailes model or worse, chasing anything that moves like CNN. But the Pacifica/Democracy Now! model angry whiny pseudo-liberalism and cynicism is equally prone to failure.

  15. "FollowtheDough" is confusing criticism and cynicism. It's as simple as that. Criticism actually leaves room for positive feedback when its warranted. Cynicism will always see the negativity that isn't there. It's just as bad as being a "Polly Anna." It's just as annoying, destructive, and sad.

    I actually live inside the Beltway and I have more than enough opportunities to be cynical in my daily life. I don't need TV pundits who claim to be on my side to add to the pile. I'm not looking for Polly Anna or Gloomy Gus. I'm looking for real news first and foremost and then, good analysis or opinion on top of that.

    In my humble opinion, the angry whiny pseudo-liberalism and cynicism model is a rehash of the Robert Ailes model. It is a feeble attempt at copying the Right. The only difference is whereas the Ailes model directs it's the scorn and disgust towards the opposition, the whiny pseudo-liberalism model internalizes theirs. And as a result, instead of helping liberals, they aid conservatives despite their best intentions. I can easily get bored with GOP-bashing, but there's only so much self-imposed slaps across the face I can tolerate. Especially when there are lefties out there who have solutions and are willing to demonstrate leadership. You know, like the lefty who now lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW! There are probably others out there like him. However, the whiny left is too busy slapping faces of their own compadres to see this.

  16. Problem is, the so-called "professional left" is handy when it comes to sharing out the Whine, but they're mighty stingy with the cheese. They have a botload of complaints, but no realistic course of action, and they won't lift a finger to make the load for those of us in the trenches (who work for free I might add) a bit lighter.

    Not to mention, these are the same people who went out and told democrats not to vote in 2010, thereby ushering in the Tea Party fanatics now wreaking havoc across the country, making a formerly horrible situation exponentially worse.

    If they think people aren't wising up to the fact that the far left is half responsible for their current misery, they are severely mistaken. People want to DO SOMETHING to stop this travesty. Truth is, we've got no use for the doom criers in these perilous times. Either get off the pot or get the hell out of the way.

    Personally, I told the outrage peddlers to get bent a long time ago. We've got work to do and not a moment to lose. All hands on deck:)

  17. Perhaps Digby chased away her readers with brilliant insights like recommending "progressives" ally with the "Tea Party" to kill the bill, in this case, the evil Grand Bargain. Poor simpleton.