January 2, 2010

From The Rachel Maddow Show Dec. 30, 2009. Rachel vows to keep covering the right wing extremists that her show has done such a wonderful job of going after all year in 2009. So all you astroturf groups, tea baggers, religious zealots, gay bashers and C-Street Family members, you're not going to get a break in 2010. Good for Rachel.

Anyone else think they ought to have her on earlier instead of giving Tweety two hours -- one a reair most of the time -- to pollute the airways for the most part before her show comes on? She's got the best news show on cable television, hands down IMHO.

MADDOW: So, happy new year. When this show launched in September of last year, there was absolutely no ambiguity about what we would be spending most of our time covering. We started the show during the very last lap of the presidential election.

And we here at MSNBC and at this show, specifically, covered that election wall to wall for what sometimes felt like 25 hours a day. There was election night coverage itself. And then after Obama won but Bush and Cheney were still in office, there was the "Lame Duck Watch" to attend to. Remember the "Lame Duck Watch" intro?


I live and hope for there to be another duck-related presidential news item that would justify us using "Hail to the Chief" with the quack at the end of it. We do have it on file in case that ever happens.

After the lame duck period was over and the inauguration happened, this new young show of ours, along with everybody else in the media, settled into a year of covering this new presidency and the news and politics of our country this year.

And we, pretty soon, found a very specific "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" niche. We found what it is in news and politics that this show specializes in.


(on camera): Tonight, more in our continuing investigation into the witch hunt against the community activist group ACORN, the corporate roots of that witch hunt, its baldly dishonest tactics, and its ultimate dislocation from the warranted facts.

The same public relations firm that brought you the sleaziest, lying-est, most memorable, most parody-ready attack ads of the whole 2004 election is coordinating a new multi-million-dollar "Don`t Fix the Health Care System" campaign.

These guys are the pros. This is an industry. Americans are showing up at these events to shout down the discussion and to chase their congressmen, and they are enraged.

And they`re enraged, at least in part, because they`re being riled up by over-the-top, fabricated conspiracy theories about health care. And they`re being directed and orchestrated by the corporate interests that do this for a living and do it very well.

You may wish you hadn`t said that fluoridation was a secret communist plot, but you did, in writing, and we have a library card.


Over the course of 2009, my hair has gone up and down and up and down. And we`ve spent a lot of time on this show talking about folks who were probably surprised to see themselves talked about on cable news. People like The Family, the theologically extreme religious group that runs the C Street house, where conservative lawmakers live in Washington.

It turns out The Family loves its secretive power and influence almost as much as it hates publicity about its secretive power and influence.

We covered the PR firms and Republican operatives and corporate- funded, so-called nonprofits organizing the recess rallies against health reform back in August, which led to a lot of coverage about the corporate and Republican and professional PR outfits behind other anti-health reform efforts and behind the tea party movement.

By the time the group Freedom Works was charging $10,000 for speaking slots from the stage of the supposedly grassroots 9/12 march, we sort of knew we were on to something with that.

And then, when the head of Freedom Works, former Republican majority leader Dick Armey, got fired from the lobbying job he was maintaining while he was still running Freedom Works, we started to sense that we were really on to something.

We covered the PR firm for evil, Burson Marsteller, after AIG hired them with public money to try to improve how we, the public, view them. Hey, we`re paying the bill for PR firms to spin us.

We covered the spin doctor so evil he likes to be called Dr. Evil. Rick Berman - remember him? We started covering him after we figured out he was part of the absurd right-wing outrage scam against the community organizing group, ACORN.

And we found out that American religious leaders and politicians, including The Family, were involved in proposed legislation in Uganda to execute people for being gay. We investigated the predatory anti-gay quack industry in America that claims to be able to cure people of the gay. We looked into the huckster get-rich-quick high sales pressure revival meeting, motivational seminars that George W. Bush and Laura Bush decided to speak at in the former president and first lady`s first year out of the White House.

The most recent coverage like this that we`ve done is about the John Birch Society. When we found out that the John Birch Society would be cosponsoring the marquee conservative conference of the year, the CPAC conference, the Conservative Political Action Conference this year in Washington, we decided it would be useful to talk about who exactly the John Birch Society is.


(on camera): So imagine that the right wing is - it`s like a rug, right? And on the far edge of that rug is fringe. Now, imagine that that fringe also has fringe. The fringe on the fringe of the right wing of the American conservative movement, that`s the John Birch Society.


I have been thinking about this year of coverage that we`ve done, this mini mission we`ve taken on of talking about forces on the fringe of American politics, while we have been doing our latest batch of that coverage.

And it turns out that the historical record we`ve been looking into anyway in order to talk about the John Birch Society ended up being really clarifying for us, in terms of the value of doing this type of coverage as a show.

Back in 1961, when the John Birch Society was probably at the height of its McCarthy-ite powers, the governor of California at the time tasked that state`s attorney general to report on the John Birch Society and what kind of effect it was having on American life and politics.

And the report turned out to sound like it came from the minutes of a "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" editorial meeting 48 years too soon.

Check this out, "The cadre of the John Birch Society seems to be formed primarily of wealthy businessmen, retired military officers and little old ladies in tennis shoes."

This is the actual California state government report on them. It continues, "They are bound together by an obsessive fear of `communism,` a word which they define to include any ideas differing from their own, even though these ideas may differ even more markedly from the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Khrushchev."

"In response to this fear, they are willing to give up large measures of the freedoms guaranteed them by the United States Constitution in favor of accepting the dictates of their founder. They seek by fair means or foul to force the rest of us to follow their example. They are pathetic."

And if this TV show existed in 1961, I can tell you, we would be trying to hire away whoever it was in the office of the California State Attorney General who was tasked with writing this report so that that person could work on this program. It would be a natural fit.

This report went on to note some of the kookiest stuff about the John Birch Society, like accusing President Eisenhower of treason and the society`s founder saying that the U.S. had only a few short years left before we, quote, "became four separate provinces in a worldwide communist dominion ruled by police-state methods from the Kremlin."

Only a few years left. Remember when that happened? So the big question is why talk about the nonsense being spewed by these folks, either today or then? Back in 1961, the California attorney general thought that it was worth it for this reason, quote, "The Birchers have an equal right with the prohibitionists, the vegetarians, the Republicans, the Democrats, or for that matter, with any Americans acting singly or in a group, to an expression of their views. And no official, no matter how highly placed can say them nay. In America, preposterousness prevents the acceptance, but not the expression of ideas."

Isn`t that perfect? In America, preposterousness prevents the acceptance, but not the expression of ideas. Exactly. You have the right to say anything you want to say or espouse anything you want to espouse. But we also have the right to report on it.

And if what you`re espousing is - we`re going to report that what you`re espousing is -. In 1962, the editor of the "Santa Barbara News Press" won the Pulitzer Prize for editorials that he wrote against the John Birch Society after his paper did an expose of that group`s disruptive would-be secretive efforts to find commies under every rock in Santa Barbara.

Thomas M. Stork wrote about his editorials and his local paper`s decision to give exposure to them by saying this, quote, "In the end, the only protection against such aberrations as the John Birch Society and such ridiculous leaders as Robert Welch lies in the informed good sense of the people. Air the ideas of the radical extremists and you will find in a hurry, as we did in Santa Barbara, that the moderates - conservative and liberal - are in control."

What`s happened on the far right fringe of American politics in 2009 has a lot of parallels to the paranoid tennis shoe tyrants that Thomas Stork won the Pulitzer for expose back in 1962. Calling people communists and socialists and Marxists, no matter what those people actually believed, just as a handy catchall insult.

The deliberate planned MO of disrupting public meetings, of preventing civil discourse, even the deliberate obfuscation of funding sources and the use of front groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works and all the Rick Berman front groups, they don`t disclose their funding today.

Back in the day, the John Birch Society was even proud about that. They used to publish in their monthly bulletin at the time, quote, "We shall not go into any detailed accounting about the funds."

These tactics don`t go away. The fringe doesn`t go away in American politics. American politics have always run all the way through the margins, right to the edge of the page and beyond. We always have been like that as a country. And bully for us.

2009 proved that as the Republican Party sought its path out of the political wilderness, the Republican Party was going to look to the right-wing fringe for help. And we decided on this show to help America take a good look at that fringe.

And we have had a really good time doing it. When then 85-year- old Thomas Stork, the Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote about this 50 years ago, he captured my feelings about this exactly.

He said, quote, "Merely exposing such monstrous ideas, merely ventilating them in the public breeze is enough to bring sanity, and sometimes laughter, to be sure, into the discussion of political issues. The absurdities fall of their own weight, or continue to be held dear by a minority so minute that it is more troublesome than dangerous."

That`s the hope at least, right? It`s optimistic. It`s born of a faith in the fundamental reasonableness of the vast majority of the American people. In my case, it`s also born of the desire to have a really good time on television.


(on camera): Having Rick Scott as your spokesman against health care reform is like having an E. coli bacterium as your spokesman against hand washing.

When evil needs public relations, evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed dial. I don`t want to help promote you, Tim. I don`t. I think what you`re doing is you`re getting fat, literally, financially fat on Americans` fears.

I`ve got to ask you, every single one of those ideas is insane to me. I mean, the idea of the divorce mix you gave, for example, is insane to me. You`ve described it as a factor that contributes to homosexuality desire, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re taking it out of context, Rachel.

MADDOW: No, I`m reading it from your book, dude.


MADDOW: I`m proud of the investigatory work that we have done on this show and the great producers and staff here who work their butts off that allow us to do it. In 2010, we`re going to keep shining a light on the preposterousness in our political mix because we think it`s the right thing to do for the country. And because it`s really, really fun. We hope you`ll keep enjoying it, too. And we will be right back.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.