Monday, October 13, 2008

Rachel Maddow vs. David Frum

So, David Frum just kind of blindsided Rachel Maddow on her show. Don't get me wrong--I don't think Frum did anything wrong in criticizing Maddow. He's well within his rights, and Maddow probably should have expected it. He's got no obligation to roll over for her.

Basically the discussion started like so: Maddow asks a question, and Frum says something very roughly like:

Our politics is worrisome and the tone is bad. I mean, look at this show, what with its snarky treatment of serious issues.

Maddow was a little shocked, and stumbled around a bit. She was a bit defensive, but on the whole, recovered well and even counterattacked fairly reasonably and fairly effectively. Basically, she pointed out that there's nothing wrong with satire.

I've got no interest in defending Maddow. I like her fine--and more than most of those people--but there are bigger issues here. Let me just throw out a few points:

1. Frum is right in a way. We need more serious, grown-up discussions about politics.

2. Maddow is right in a way. Satire's fine, too.

3. It's easy to overdo the satire thing. Which is not to say that I think Maddow has done so. Maddow and Olbermann both on the same channel...well, that might be a bit much.

4. Um, since Frum introduced the ad homina, let me just say: the guy who sold his rhetorical skills to one of the worst presidents in American history in order to help him effect his terrible policies...the guy who basically turns clever phrases in order to trick people into supporting policies that they shouldn't decrying the tone of Maddow's television show??? Seriously, dude. Get some perspective.

And, finally:

5. It is important that Frum is right in a way...but I can't resist pointing out that we had to show that we're capable of beating the Republicans bloody before they'd start admitting this. After eight years of rhetorical bullshit ("we can't wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud" etc.) and decidedly unserious discussion and decision-making, now finally they're sobering up and getting serious about our public discourse??? When they can no longer impose their will by fiat, and people are no longer buying their bullshit, now they're ready to be serious?


What a coincidence.

Still, though Frum's motives are suspect, that doesn't mean his point is wrong.

And: at least he's more seroius that the rest of the inmates at the Corner, who are now climbing his frame because he won't pretend that Paln is qualified.

So, anyway, though Frum and Maddow both had their danders up, they both handled things pretty well, and ended up making serious points worth thinking about. I got the feeling they could both be reasoned with under the right circumstances--and they even did pretty well with their pride on the line on national t.v.--circumstances that frequently bring out the worst in people.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

only one question ... anyone have an address where i can send frum some suppositories??? seriously, political ideology aside, the guy just needs to loosen up ... rachel makes politics a little less unbearable. as for getting serious ... puhleeze ... this from the man that championed BUSH?????

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am sorry but I don't remember seeing David Frum defend Kerry on his "swiftboating" this time 2004.

11:30 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Satire is better than fine. Satire exposes contradictions and bullshit better than the Socratic method. Seriously, did anyone buy Plato's bullshit in the Theaetetus? Yes, it all seems reasonable...

1:04 PM  
Blogger Mrs Tilton said...

Minor pedantic nitpick.

I imagine you've written ad homina in point 4 because Maddow is a woman. But the Latin homo isn't in the declension that uses the ending -a to denote the feminine (and you can't just feminise the word by switching endings, and even if you could, to use it after ad you'd need a different ending than -a). One might have written ad feminam, but even that is exaggerated biological correctness, and unnecessary. Latin, like German and unlike English, does a good job of distinguishing between "man-as-member-of-H. sapiens" and "man-as-bearer-of-a-Y-chromosome". The latter would be vir, hence our "virile", and its opposite number is femina; but the former, homo, just means any human.[FN1] So ad hominem would have been perfectly correct applied to either Maddow or Frum, though only one of them committed this debating foul that night.

Sorry about that. Had the stuff crammed into my head in the schoolroom and just can't shake the impulse now.

[FN1] Extra special bonus pedantry: you probably already know this, but homo has nothing whatever to do with our "homosexuality". The latter derives from the entirely different Greek prefix ὁμό-, meaning "same".

3:45 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Embarrassing admission: it was actually me incorrectly trying to pluralize 'ad hominem'.

Even worse...

Thanks for the interesting comment, though!

10:01 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Personally, I think a little ad hominy here in New England might open new markets among the well-educated (Latin speakers?) who might nonetheless need the essential amino acids. That's probably not enough to make North and South live in hahmony, but what's the hahm in easy livin', anyway.

You expected something other than corny humor?

6:30 PM  

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