Has Chris Matthews Jumped the Shark?

There was a time when I respected and looked to Chris Matthews (the Sunday ”Show” and “Hardball”) for decisive and insightful commentary — those days are gone.  Be it his seemingly strange draw (attraction?) to the right-wing, media-loving nutjob Sarah Palin or his collegial and respectful but still slightly condescending attitude toward Senator Bernie Sanders in my opinion, this once fine pundit has officially jumped the shark.

For those not familiar with the term, to “jump the shark” means to have entered a state or period of one’s endeavor (in this case journalistic integrity and relevance) where that which was once revered has become cliché or caricature; I believe Mr. Matthews has in fact entered this period.

What motivated me to write this observation was my reaction to Mr. Matthews’ return to describing himself as “progressive”.

During Mr. Matthews’ seemingly never-ending promotional tour for his book on John F. Kennedy entitled “Elusive Hero,” there was clearly not only a philosophical attraction to the former President but also a generational attachment.  In turn, this “generational ideology”, it would seem to me, accounts for his belief that he and his perspective (as that of many in his demographic) perceive themselves to in fact be “progressive” as that is how they have always viewed themselves.  The problem is that times, and “labels,” have changed.

As MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow well deconstructed on her show of 29 February, 2012 (http://on.msnbc.com/wbSWg9 ), the political landscape has drifted rightward since around 1972 leaving the Democratic Party as a whole the “centrist” party as the Republican Party veers evermore toward “conservatism”.  So when Mr. Matthews notes the senatorial vote of 1 March, 2012 regarding the defeat of a controversial piece of legislation regarding women’s health in specific and healthcare coverage in general (http://bit.ly/xFyaOm ), he falsely draws an equivalent comparison saying that “both parties are being pulled by their extremes” (http://on.msnbc.com/zm7rwd ).  This perspective belies the fact that three Democrats voted with the Republicans while the lone Republican to crossover and vote with the Democrats was the retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe.

This is precisely where Mr. Matthews jumps the shark.  It is in his apparent inability to see that the Democratic Party, like himself, has become staunchly centrist.  This is not the first time he has done this, and there are volumes of anecdotes and articles written on Mr. Matthews’ “interesting” definitions of progressive and liberal and his use of personal pronouns therein.  Now far be it from me to judge the way one self-identifies though I suppose I am in this essay, but it seems rather easy to differentiate Ms. Maddow’s type of “progressivism” from where Mr. Matthews posits his, which seems to me like old fashioned “liberalism” (one can dress like Santa and distribute presents but that doesn’t make one THE Jolly Ole Elf).

As one who lies somewhere between the Democrats’ Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Socialist Party (I am actually a member of the Green Party of America), I am growing weary and tired of the mainstream media firstly saying that the Democratic Party is (or otherwise represents) the left while secondly, never affording representatives of the Green or Socialist Parties the ability to draw comparisons from the Democrats on their respective programming or in their publications.  Herein, we might also attribute the earlier noted “generational bias” to this omission.  Mr. Matthews and the corporate officers at MSNBC and many other “liberal” outlets grew up in and post McCarthy-Red Scare era and are undoubtably hesitant to invite and give voice to representatives of “truly” left wing institutions or parties due to such historical bias or perhaps even more disturbing — contemporary fear — fear stemming from the observations of Ms. Maddow and attempts to shift political discourse rightward.

Well, at least Mr. Matthews has the journalistic integrity to frequently invite Senator Sanders on even if he is a scary anomaly of sorts and for those of us “on the left, we have technology and the promise of truly grass-roots muckracking.

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  • Well, at least you admit you are a Green.

    The main issue is that most of the pundits are ACTS. At least Stewart and Colbert admit it. Everyone but Rush says it about Rush. I originally figured out that Matalin and Carville were an ACT when it was revealed that they were married. Same for Don Wade and Roma on the local scene. Political commentary is the cable news networks' and PBS stations' answer to Professional Wrestling.

    Basically, MSNBC was conceived as a political left wing network to combat right wing Fair and Balanced Fox, and very unsuccessfully at that, and Chris Matthews's role was to play that part. Apparently, now, not so much.

    Given that the only national political sport in the nation is the Republican primary, even the public TV shows, such as Inside Washington, The McLaughlin Group, and Washington Week are far less contentious than they once were. Nina Tottenberg was laughing all through last night's episode. Heck, even Juan Williams is not as left wing as he once was on Fox News Sunday, and I'm sure it isn't only because NPR kicked him in the teeth, and he is now a Fox employee.

    Other than that, I am sure that the Far Left and Far Right are trying to pull in more extreme opposite directions.

  • In reply to jack:

    "ACTS"? I am not familiar with that term.

    LOL, The only thing "Fair and Balanced" about FOX "News" is their marketing effort to insist that they are fair and balanced. I see no Joe Scarborough equivalent on their channel, and when they might have a "Democratic" leaning pundit s/he are simply "set up" people for O'Reilly, Hannity, Ingraham et al's pontificating agenda/propaganda -- Roger Ailes/Rupert Murdoch would never let a genuine "leftist" program exist for the three hours daily Scarborough gets as a self-described "conservative" on MSNBC. It would be nice to see FOX match MSNBC in actual fairness and balance.

    National "journalism" is a lost art now seemingly practiced by those (generally under 40) who don't want to rock the boat lest they not get invited to the better parties in Washington -- who is today's Woodward or Bernstein for example? Cable "news is, as you suggest, cablecast "professional wrestling" though when "fact checked," MSNBC's line-up is far more accurate than Fox . . . all while being equally partisan.

    I would debate that the "far left's" views are even heard (outside of the occasional guest interview from Senator Bernie Sanders, a fellow member of the DSA) though the right tries to posit the Democrats as left -- which from a policy point of view clearly is incorrect. Political Scientists would call many of the Democrats "third way" centrists. The voices of the center (the Democrats) and the right (the Republican's as most if not all Republican moderates have been purged) are represented in abundance!

    Don't believe me? Ask a real "leftist" what they think of the Democratic Party and/or most Democrats. That is what I aspire to remedy in The Wordshed. :)

  • In reply to Ameriviking:

    I put "act" all in caps to put emphasis on it. Mathews is about as much an actor as George Clooney is. All the people I mentioned are actors. Maybe a few, like Bill Kristol, who worked in the White House have some political conviction, but the rest don't.

    Maybe the term "friends having a staged event" makes more sense to you.

    Many of their gimmicks go back to Kup's Show in the 1960s, i.e. have a 4 member panel with 3 that agree with the host and one who doesn't, and call it "the provocative art of conversation" as Kup did, or "fair and balanced" as Fox does. Note that I said that Fox was right wing, but MSNBC is left wing.

    And with regard to the far left, you deny that there is a far left like Publius denies that he is far right. I'm sure you can get him to call you a "far left fascist," one of his favorite terms, and what he thinks about the probable Republican nominee, Mitt (you can look at Chicago Political Commentary for his post on that).

    Other than that, tell us what "fact checking" facilities you personally have that the networks don't.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm sorry but I didn't quite understand your post but I will address what I can. Generally however, and perhaps in complement to your overall point, I refer to politics as a form of "performance art".

    "And with regard to the far left, you deny that there is a far left like Publius denies that he is far right. I’m sure you can get him to call you a “far left fascist,” one of his favorite terms, . . . "

    I never said that there wasn't a "left-wing" intelligencia per say, what I said was that is was not reflected in popular media, and anyone who sought to attempt ad hominem marginalization by using the term "fascist" simply reflects the anti-intellectual, reactionary phrasing I don't even address persuant to my "About Your Host" button on the front page -- it is the dominion of the weak in argument and poor in intellect and education: one can't be a "fascist" as it is in direct opposition to the "social demcracy" that I generally believe in.

    "Other than that, tell us what “fact checking” facilities you personally have that the networks don’t."

    My "fact checking facilities" are no different than anyone else's. My point here was that MSNBC is "forced" to offer far fewer on air retractions than Fox. Perhaps this is because Fox relies more on the "lowest" of the low information viewers of all cable "news" consumers, per Fairleigh Dickinson poll of 21 November, 2011 and can better get away with misinformation and, again, sheer propaganda.

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