MSNBC’s Partisan Programming Hurting Progressive Movement

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Let me state it up front. I have stopped watching MSNBC in the last six months almost entirely, though I consider myself a strong liberal. I have typically gotten my news from sources like NPR, the PBS News Hour, the Guardian, the BBC, etc while reading magazines like the New Republic and the Nation. MSNBC to me has become the antithesis of these media outlets even ones with a noticeably liberal bent.

MSNBC has in the past 12-18 months become essentially a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party with the exception of a few shows (most notably the excellent All in with Chris Hayes ) here and there. Independent thinking and critiques of the President or Democratic leadership in Congress have dissipated and once excellent hosts like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have become more partisan and dare I say hackish in their approach. This has evidently impacted ratings as CNN concluded 2013 ahead of MSNBC in the ratings for the first time in several years. MSNBC recorded a double-digit decline in ratings and the prime time lineup fared worse than anytime since 2007, when the network was in the process of retooling its image and its talent.

Progressives have always valued a give and take on issues and enhancing what is force fed to us by media outlets with other resources, reading and analysis. This makes us different than conservatives (many liberals have said this is because conservatives have lower levels of education or lack intellectual curiosity) and simply accept what Newsmax writers or FOX News anchors say as gospel. Contrasting points of view are rarely presented in the conservative media, even when publications such as the Weekly Standard and National Review try and intellectualize their arguments. The conservative press does have two tiers though – the hackish talking points win at all costs entertainment press which includes Newsmax (based in West Palm Beach), FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and the more intellectual yet narrowly focused publications such as the Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Daily Caller. To me all of these publications are dangerous and simply represent various degrees of bias and propaganda of the right.

On the left,  the culture around MSNBC and unfortunately many MSNBC viewers, I have to say mirrors the criticisms some liberals have of conservative FOX News viewers. I have encountered more and more of my fellow liberals who over the past year have just merely repeated MSNBC induced opinions in a fashion progressives did not even dare to do a few years ago. No thought process or critical analysis is applied to much of what MSNBC spouts out. For example on the Snowden affair, Syrian crisis and Government Shutdown, many MSNBC anchors and shows went through great pains to paint the administration in the most positive light possible. This led to some otherwise progressive people spouting out decidedly illiberal but partisan motivated comments  at public meetings and on the internet. It quite frankly reminded me of the worst excesses of FOX News during the Administration of George W. Bush.

Worse yet with the exception of Andrea Mitchell, an experienced and savvy award-winning reporter, MSNBC is completely out its depth every time a foreign policy issue of importance pops up. They are just as poor in covering these events as FOX is, and when something happens foreign policy wise it is almost required to turn the channel to CNN or the new Al Jazeera America network.

For me the  best source of news on television  remains the PBS News Hour and I still consider NPR’s programming excellent. Neither slants to the left despite criticisms from conservatives who probably never watch PBS or listen to NPR. The historical documentaries on PBS still are far superior to those on other channels and substantially less biased as well. 

It is important progressives understand that MSNBC is in the entertainment business. They made a calculated decision a year or two ago to go all in with the administration and Democratic Party. While  substantial overlap between progressive ideals and the Democratic Party’s positions certainly exists, there are also some differences. Beyond that, for years those towards the left of the political spectrum tended to be better read, better informed and more educated about the issues of the day. 

What MSNBC is doing is dumbing down the way news is delivered to progressives and making the arguments of the left less thoughtful and analytic. This is a problem that must be countered and specifically why I do not believe watching MSNBC is a good idea for progressives.

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  1. Well I get some of what you’re saying but is it wise to unilaterally disarm against the right?

    Conservatives thanks to Fox news think with one brain speak with one voice and create a strategy which is affective. While you might have issues with this we must do the same and now we have done the same. Gone are the days when Democrats would be singing from different song sheets. We are all now on the same message saying the same things all the time and that is important if you want to win elections. Consistency branding and messaging wins elections. Thoughtfulness and appealing to NPR listeners doesn’t. I am sorry to tell you this since you seem to be such an idealist but that is the way things are. Would things be better your way? Probably but that’s not an option!


  2. I agree with this article.


  3. Bravo to FLa Dem you hit the nail on the head! As much as I agree with the FL Squeeze hypothesis that MSNBC is “dumbing down” the progressive agenda……we won’t win the majority of the middle of the road, low interest electorate WITHOUT a consistent message……just as the ultra right does on their propaganda outlets. Too often we progressives are far to “idealistic and gentle” in our approach…..time has come to push the agenda and push it hard.


  4. I agree with all of the above. MSNBC does simply resuscitate and recite partisan talking points. I to find progressives to be far less informed about what is going on then they wer before this network turned sharply to the left. This having been stated to me it is quite obvious that it is important for Democrats to be on message. MSNBC has put us on message. We are fighting a war for the soul of the country. We need as much quart nation and consistency in what we say and how we say it all. We need to be ass consistent as possible from the pop all way to the grassroots level. MSNBC is a service to our movement in this respect.


  5. Fighting Progressive · ·

    Thank you Kartik Krishnaiyer!

    I have made the same observation in the past which has had me blackballed from many of my friends and those I work with to elected Democrats.

    We need not mimic the non thinking politics of personal destruction FOX and the GOP practice.

    We are better and should act like it. MSNBC is nothing more than a petty and partisan Dem version of FOX.


  6. I agree that MSNBC is the DEM. version of Rep’s FOX. I also believe that they appeal to the same kind of intellectually challenged people of opposite parties. I also believe it is necessary. Both parties need shows that entertain t,v, junkies.


  7. Alex Wagner’s show is pretty good. I also think Hardball is fair. Sometimes Chris Matthews is an idiot (Bush in flight suit), and he can drive me nuts with his movie analogies, but occasionally, he gets it right.


  8. Agree 100%. I truly think that the left in the US is becoming like the Tea Party on the right. They have “progressive ideas”, but once they cannot answer a debate question, they revert to calling people stupid, racist, sexist and act like they are intellectually superior. The left has become as bad as the right in regards to the lessening of intelligent debate.

    You have hit the nail on the head in regards to MSNBC. It is nothing more than Fox News on the left. As someone who is on the left on most issues, I do my own research. And if I am conservative on an issue, it is usually my liberal side that drives that view. For example, I am ultra conservative on immigration because I am ultra liberal on the economy and creating jobs. But with MSNBC, liberals are being told what to think. There is no longer “liberal thinking”. And while most of MSNBC can be fact checked, most of it is partisan psychobabble. I still like Rachel Maddow and the reason for that is that she doesn’t need to shout at you to make her point. While I agree with Ed Schultz on most of the issues, his Republican-like yell tactic turns me off.

    But yes, the left in American politics are becoming like the right. But if you disagree with the left, you are either a racist or a sexist. But with the right, you are only anti-patriotic. Liberal attack are just as mean-spirited (maybe even more so) as Republican attacks. I know from personal experience.


  9. So after you praise Chris Hayes, he has Alan Grayson on his show. So much for that! 🙂


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