Life in the Box: Rachel Maddow and Cliff-hangers
One of my continual complaints about television news programs is that they tell a bit of “what happened today,” but rarely does their quick read-through of headlines give enough breadth and depth for serious understanding.
Enter Rachel Maddow, MSNBC cable news explainer extraordinaire. She is one smart lady and a great story-teller, who makes use of outstanding research and her staff’s connections with movers and shakers in Washington DC, New York City and beyond.
I am now addicted to her nightly program (8 p.m. weeknights Central Time.) Let me just note: if you don’t have cable, you can get video clips, emails, and transcripts on Facebook and the MSNBC website. (Look below my bio for some good links.)
Many is the day that I’ll say to myself, “nothing happened.” Then, at 8 p.m., Rachel will lean into the camera on the edge of her seat and intone: “This has been a huge news day, let’s get right to it…”
Every night on Rachel’s show, a new shocking confession drips out, another finger of truth takes hold, and the rappel of political intrigue continues down its slippery slope.
Not to take anything away from Rachel or her show, but the White House has generously contributed to the ongoing tilt-a-whirl of news. What is great is that Rachel has a line on it all, and not only does she collect the many pieces flying through the air, she also glues them together so we can see how the pieces fit together in an understandable whole. That is a major accomplishment.
She usually structures her show to start with a long, 20-ish minute story-time. One day I recall her story started with the aluminum industry, and how it made one Russian a very rich man. And all rich Russians are only allowed to be rich by permission of their ruler, Vladimir Putin. These rich people would be called Oligarchs, but they have no official government roles. It’s all unofficial and stealth-driven in Russia.
So, anyone with strong ties, as in financial ties, to these would-be oligarchs is also dependent upon the whims of Putin. What does this have to do with the U.S. President? Turns out the Trumps might have been getting loans from banks connected to these Russians. The Trump family might owe the oligarchs hundreds of millions of dollars. And the aluminum foil guy? Well, he is a known Trump “friend.” Hmmm.
Rachel is able to lead us to understanding with her longer-than-10-seconds stories, with human interest, and with her own very expressive way of telling the stories.
Another section of Rachel’s show is “The Interview.” When you’ve watched MSNBC a while, you become familiar with the “stable” of experts commonly showing up on camera, and you really do see their expertise and depth. You also see many of the newspaper journalists who have gathered the staggering information for the day’s breaking news stories. No matter who the (excellent) guest is, Rachel’s questions are framed so exactingly that you really do see the ins- and outs- that are involved in the day’s topic.
I learn so much every night from this intelligent and fair-minded program, I have been recommending it to all my friends. Which is strange, because I never used to like her show. It would make me get all upset with Washington DC and I would lose sleep… until this year. I still lose sleep some nights when I feel dis-empowered and scared about how much of reality is being ignored by the rich and powerful in our government.
But this year, something else is motivating my viewing. On Rachel’s shows I can finally see that there are also rich and powerful people standing up for truth, science, real facts, and real justice.
Even if we’re outnumbered by the fakers and miscreants, we can grab hold of firm ground and know we’re not alone, and know that there are forces of good taking on the evil of this sham of a president and the misinformed “American oligarchs” who have our Senate and House in their grip. (My words, not Rachel’s.)
How will America’s new (un)civil war end? There’s no guarantee of a happy ending, but we can at least soak up good information from the best journalists on the planet by spending an hour with Rachel as often as possible.
Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site.