A while ago, I watched Rachel Maddow interview Jon Stewart. Back then, I was interested in Jon’s critique of US media, but I knew bupkiss about Rachel. So when Jon criticized Rachel for fitting into the 24 hour a day attack video commentary cycle, I was put off from Rachel a bit.
But I started to watched Rachel’s show more regularly anyway. And watching changed my view of what Rachel actually does. Sure, she is unabashedly liberal. And as Jon points out, she does operate on the 24 hours news cycle. But there are two aspects of the show that distinguish it from Fox and the rest. First, she is record based. Before she flies off on what she thinks, she lays out the basis for it. She spends time on the basis and you have to give her credit for that. So even if you don’t like the opinion, you have an open book to respond on the factual basis of the opinion or her interpretation of facts rather than just personalize the attack. This also allows one to build threads from fact to opinion over time — something she also does. Second, she is not mean spirited the way that Limbaugh, Beck or O’Reilly are. As Jon says in the interview, she has the ability to dissect your position without making you sick.
So I went back to the Maddow/Stewart interview (link above) and watched again. I was rewarded for the effort, as the points made by both sides are more nuanced than I initially thought. I recommend you to check it out.
Oh … the title to the post. … So, what is Rachel’s head fake? Well, Randy Pausch talks about the importance of the head fake in making the game work. Rachel’s head fake works like this. On TV, she seems to be talking to the TV audience for political commentary. In fact, I think that audience is just peeking in on something else altogether. I think Rachel is actually talking to the next generation about how political discourse should work. She wants to inspire and educate that group and show politics in a new light. And this creates the fun spirit of the show for the rest of us.
FOLLOW - One of the fascinating aspects of the Maddow/Stewart interview is Stewart’s argument that commonly reported story lines about politics overly simplify reality. If this line of thought interests you, check out Tyler Cowen on why we should be suspicious of stories.