Ed Schultz at the Union.

Alas, nothing to see here. I’m quite used to speakers being underwhelming in person by now, but that’s normally because they’re sports-people or artists ill-suited to engaging in penetrating debate. You’d expect journalists, and especially those whose medium is television, to be far better. Schultz seems to have a good liberal heart, but it’s masqueraded under an all too American obnoxiousness. He’s far too inclined to shout in crude generalisations and condemnatory platitudes before simply invoking freedom and justice, rather than relying on composed empirical claims. In that sense, he comes across more like an angry grandfather incapable of carefully constructing arguments. In no real sense did he seem like a journalist. The contrast on MSNBC between the likes of him and Lawrence O’Donnell versus Maddow and Hayes is just so stark.

And my hunch that he’s barely a journalist was confirmed when we did briefly drag him through questions onto more substantial territory. A woman brought up the Snowden saga and I followed up by asking him what he would have done if he’d been asked to air the NSA leaks. His answer? He firmly believes that reform and checks on this abuse of power could have been more constructively dealt with through private, conventional channels. He would have refused to air any information on The Ed Show, instead swiftly directing Snowden towards the Senate Intelligence Committee. He justified this in terms of putting his role as a good citizen ahead of his role as a journalist, so I followed up by asking if he really thought there was a tension here. Isn’t it essential to the tenets of journalism that a functioning democracy is dependent on freedom of information, and insofar as one facilitates a vibrant public debate by airing secret abuses of power, one is performing an unparalleled civic duty? Again, denial ensued. He’s all for information distribution, but only to those that need it. So once more, the Senate Intelligence Committee would have done the trick.

Oh, and he really doesn’t worry about the NSA’s powers, because he trusts that Obama isn’t interested in our phone calls. I noted that one doesn’t need to claim that high government officials intend to exploit such powers to nevertheless concede that the system could end up being abused. ‘Point taken’, he said. If only he could similarly see the insanity of a someone with his platform hypothetically refusing to air some of the most important political revelations in recent memory.

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