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Maddow on the "Devil's Advocate" — Romney's disaster manager

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Here's a nice Rachel Maddow Show segment on PR firms that shine the devil's doorknob, so to speak.

The official term for them is "crisis managers" — people who come in when you've destroyed your "brand" (often by getting caught being who you are) and help you re-confuse people so the money can start flowing again.

Maddow's hook for the segment is the (apparently) conscienceless crew that's helping Romney recover from Taxes-gate.

By the way, those of you who want to see classic Maddow Show structure, watch it through, then watch it twice. Note the second time through how the start — 1:30 of fun Paul Bremer stuff — keeps you from knowing exactly where she's headed.

That technique is deliberate. The heart of the current affairs story starts at about 5:00, but there's great info getting there. For me, of course — and I suspect for Maddow as well — the heart of the real story is the soulless profession itself, the Devil's Advocates of which she says much.

Note that the title "Devil's Advocate" makes its first appearance at 8:48 (!).

I'll have more about this idiosyncratic structuring after the segment. Watch — Maddow on how some people make their money (click here to open big in a new tab):

About that unique structure, I found this explanation in a good Maddow profile in Rolling Stone (my paragraphing and the odd asterisk):
[Executive Producer Bill] Wolff says it took the better part of a year for the Verdict staffers to remake themselves in Maddow's image – readjusting their focus away from the news cycle, shifting their storytelling from revved-up to slow-burn.

The perfect Maddow segment, he says, begins with some obscure image from the fringes – "a bird covered in oil in 1979," say – and then slowly winds its way into the heart of the political debate. "Eventually, you realize that the story of that bird is all about Mitt Romney," he says, "and it f*cking blows your mind."

This kind of indirection – starting with the obscure and working toward the headlines – goes against the most basic rules of television, but for Maddow it can have a rare seductive power.

"It's really important that in the top third of the segment you don't say 'Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,' or 'military tribunal,' or 'Guantánamo,'" Maddow says. "Because as soon as you say those things, people think they know what the story is.

If you don't edit mercilessly to keep out all of the words that make people leap to conclusions about what you're going to say, you'll never persuade people that you're going to tell them something they don't already know.
Just a few tidbits for the structure fans. I'm definitely one of you.

There's nice info in this clip about the here and now (or the near and how). And Michelle Davis is a good backroom name to watch.

But for the profile of an industry —
"that most morally repellent indefensible thing" ...

"this open sewer that runs through American culture" ...

"when Evil needs public relations, Evil has [these guys] on speed dial"
— this is excellent. (There's a point to be made, by the way, about singular vs. plural — Devil's Advocate vs. Devil's Advocates — as the title of this piece. But I'll chalk that up to Maddow's clever misdirection.)

A note to you conscienceless young — stay in school; there's more work like this than you can ever shake a stick at when you get out.


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