Updated I've had an interesting exchange with Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy in comments to my post about my criticism of Bob Somerby's treatment of Rachel Maddow - interesting and long enough to move up to a post. I really didn't expect to still be talking about Somerby, but here we are. The way I'm going to do this is to put VLWC's comments in italics and my responses in regular type as well as heading them. It's all verbatim except for correction of typos. Here we go:
VLWC: I haven't delved into this chapter in any detail, but overall, I heartily agree with Somerby's diagnosis of Maddow, who presides over one of the top franchises of "progressive" media with tribal, ham-handed humor and serves up (if I may appropriate Somerby's lingo) dishonest comfort food for us rubes.
She sometimes has a worthy guest or commentary, but her program is substantially an excellent place for lefties to get disinformed in self-satisfying ways.
I don't always agree with Somerby (for example, he's been far too generous about Obama and his health-care plan, partially by giving Krugman his proxy on it [something I gather he's slowly wising up from]), but he's plainly motivated more by honesty than by tribe and popularity, something I couldn't possibly say about Maddow without my fingers crossed behind my back.
LarryE: I will simply repeat what I said: Maddow is a good liberal in the classic sense, someone who believes the government has a role to play in matters such as poverty, discrimination, etc., but who still supports the economic system and is "pro-US" on foreign policy.
She surely is no radical and I never suggested she is.
Bluntly, I think Somerby taking aim at her has less to do with anything she has actually said or done but with her popularity and his desire to maintain his "more liberal than thou" cred.
I do wonder, BTW, why you used a two-year old brief clip as a means of, I take it, criticizing her. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of things in the past couple of weeks that would work better.
VLWC: Why do I reference a two-year-old clip? Because it was the last nail in the coffin of my ascribing any credibility to Maddow. It was and is an example of twisted and oh-so-easy tribalism, to join in the media's utterly fabricated "RFK-gate" wilding of Hillary Clinton. "Progressives" used to champion a media critique, now career "liberals" of Maddow's ilk are a big part of the problem, spewing utter lies without a hint of shame.
Around that time, I stopped listening to Air America and watching MSNBC, so I don't have first-hand experience of recent vintage of her lame humor, her kissing the ass of power, and her disinforming viewers.
Somerby's reportage on Maddow's sleazy "teabagger" riffs and other vacant comfort food suggests that I haven't been missing much. YMMV.
Somerby has, for years, been willing to (properly) bite the hand that feeds him, calling out the worse-than-worthless career "liberals" that pervade so-called left-of-center media. How that supports your theory that he's merely jealous of Maddow's popularity is beyond me.
LarryE: I said nothing about Somerby being "jealous." I said he targets her because she is a popular media figure among liberals and he is always concerned with proving he is a realer, truer, liberal than anyone else on the planet, most of who, in his opinion, have "low IQs" - which is a big part of the "greasily sanctimonious condescension" to which I object.
As for Maddow being guilty of "tribalism," I'm always a little taken aback when leftists are surprised when liberals act like liberals.
I find Maddow useful in the same sense and way I find a lot of other media sources useful. Some, of course, more useful than others - but most news outlets, even conservative ones, can be useful if you apply the correct filters.
VLWC: "As for Maddow being guilty of "tribalism," I'm always a little taken aback when leftists are surprised when liberals act like liberals."
What does this mean? Maddow has a blank check to be the dishonest, lame-humored opiate of the "progressive" masses?
LarryE: It means what it said: The reaction of "Omigod! She's acting like a liberal!" just makes me think "Well, what the hell did you expect?"
It also means that rants about her supposed "dishonesty," which by their nature contain accusations about motive as well as behavior, fail to impress me. I say yet again, she is a classic liberal and what she expresses flows from that. That can make her, given the particulars of a case, anything from insightful to bone-headedingly dense, but it does not make her "dishonest."
(Compare this with, for an obvious example, Fox, where, I believe, many of the news people - that is, the ones Fox labels as "news" rather than "opinion" - are consciously seeking to advance a political agenda. The difference between that and essentially but not consciously advancing such an agenda because of reporting arising from your own convictions may have more to do with philosophy than practical effect but it is nonetheless real and does speak directly to the question of honesty.)
It means, thirdly, that his attacks on Maddow are less substantive (about what she actually says) than personal (who, in his eyes, she is).
As a sidebar, before her it was Keith Olbermann and before him it was Chris Matthews - that pattern being part of the basis for my assertion that he is going after her because "she is a popular media figure among liberals." Whoever is in the ascendancy in that role at a given moment becomes a prime target. That is not by its nature an unfair undertaking - those at the top should get and should expect to get more critical attention than minor voices - but it should be openly acknowledged that the targets are chosen due to their popularity rather than the quality of their work. That's especially true when the critiques are to prove your own, supposedly superior, lib cred - which is what I maintain Somerby is doing.
As for "comfort food," that impresses me even less. Bob Somerby is comfort food, a constant harping on the same narrow point ("All those 'liberal' media people are clowns! And liberals are stupid!") that enables his readers to feel they have a much greater depth of understanding of media and events than the trusting rubes who read or watch those "clowns" but without actually providing any.
BTW, I don't get the "bite the hand that feeds him" bit. While his bio on his site is vague about it, the fact is he has never worked as an editor or a reporter. He has written some op-eds, but he has made his living as a teacher and a stand-up comedian. The media does not "feed" him.
I'll end with this: I do watch both KO and RM. I enjoy the shows and take from them what I find useful. (Even though I hit the mute whenever Ezra Klein comes on again.) The bottom line point is this: I will often enough come to the end of a RM show feeling pissed about some attack on civil liberties, some corporate malfeasance, or some government failure to protect the pubic interest. I come away from a Daily Howler entry feeling pissed about Bob Somerby and his over-the-top self-important screeds. There are those who think simple bile is a valuable contribution to public debate. I am not among them.
Last licks are yours if you want them.
You are strongly encouraged to check the link for the original post to see if VLWC accepted the offer for last licks and if so what was said.
Updated to say that what I take to be VLWC's last licks are in comments here. Be sure to look at them to get the complete exchange.