I missed this yesterday morning at the Examiner but that’s okay. The vibe’s better suited to a Friday anyway.
I’m reluctant to ride him too much for this because honesty in media is welcome and all he’s doing here is being honest about his network’s view of the GOP. Why pretend to respectfully air the opposition’s viewpoint when you don’t respect it? Partisan media’s supposed to be partisan. Thing is, Hayes himself wasn’t supposed to be this partisan. He’s an out-and-proud lefty, but the hallmark of his old show “Up” was to invite an ideological spread of guests and have as intelligent (and hyper) a conversation about a topic as the cable format will allow. Putting him in at 8 p.m. opposite O’Reilly was supposed to be MSNBC’s cerebral alternative to FNC. Fast-forward three months and here’s one-half of the network’s “intellectual” primetime punch babbling about ass-faces, just a week after he did an interview with Wendy Davis that was so fawning that it would have embarrassed Chris Farley. The question: Is this just Hayes letting his liberal id out to play, or is it a deliberate strategy to goose his disappointing ratings by pandering to his audience as stupidly as he can? Before you choose door number one, here’s a choice quote he gave to Salon a few weeks ago:
How is it different?
In every way. It’s a totally different game. The biggest difference is the competition for those eyeballs is just intense. I think about, there’s someone out there who’s worked all day, helped their kid with their homework, grabbed a beer, sat down at the TV, and now they’re going to watch me. And they could watch “The Voice,” and I would not begrudge them wanting to do that! I would completely understand. So you have to be thinking in terms of what emotional effect are you producing in the viewer. What’s that thing you’re giving them that’s going to make that choice? In Saturday, Sunday morning, there wasn’t that same choice. There’s not a lot of other stuff on, people are in a different mind-set, it’s early in the morning and it’s kind of uncluttered. It’s more laid-back. You put the show on and you make coffee and you walk around the house and you – 8 p.m. is a whole other set of constraints.
You have to think about ratings more? MSNBC has had its challenges there lately.
Yeah, ratings are the measurement of what you have to think about, which is producing entertaining television. The ratings – I try not to think about the numbers, because that data can be very overwhelming or misleading. The thing I do think about is “are we producing a good show?” And the word “show” is key. You have to be a showman. It is a show. You need to put on a show every night. Which means, like, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, let me entertain you.
You have to be a showman, which means … more “ass-face” rhetoric, I guess. (His pal Rachel’s version of cerebral showmanship involved making “teabagging” jokes to goof on tea partiers.) This isn’t the first time Hayes’s conspicuous attempts to up the excitement factor on his show have raised an eyebrow, either. The Daily Howler noticed lame hyperbole creeping into his segments last month; the Free Beacon had fun with it just a few days ago in a memorable highlight reel about how “amazing” everything on the show is. One of the theories for why MSNBC’s ratings are tanking is that the Hayes/Maddow combo is “too erudite, too sophisticated and too earnest to hook a wide swath of viewers.” Like Adlai Stevenson, they’re too darned smart for a stupid mass audience. Enter “ass-face.” That’s a lot more benign than the sort of demagoguery you’ll see on, say, Martin Bashir’s show, but then no one ever called Bashir cerebral.
But maybe I’ve got him wrong and this really is purely ideological. Read the GOP statement when it appears onscreen and note where he trails off. It’s not on some fine point of border funding or the mechanics of citizenship; it’s right before the perfectly astute argument that if Obama refuses to enforce the law as written on ObamaCare by upholding the employer mandate, there’s no earthly reason to trust that he’ll enforce the border provisions in a new immigration bill either. The left has no answer to that, so Hayes just washes it away with a goof. So there’s your exit question, I guess: Is this liberal hackery, or a sort of cable-driven self-schmuckification designed to “entertain” viewers? You make the call.
Update: A friend reminds me that the “ass face” bit is a joke from “Waiting for Guffman.” Right. And? “Teabagging” is a joke too. If he had played the “Looney Tunes” theme song in lieu of reading the statement, that also would have been a joke. The point here isn’t that “ass face” is somehow outre or a Hayes original, it’s that he’s wholly dismissive to the point of not even reading a fair point made by the opposition. So much for being cerebral.