If anything, I think Pema Levy undersells the wrongheadedness of the New Republic’s anonymously-voiced view that Rachel Maddow is one of the top 10 most overrated “thinkers” in America.
Not to be a huge snob, but we do all understand that she hosts a television show, right? Different media have different advantages and disadvantages and it’s simply quite difficult as a logistical matter to do really in-depth thinking on television. Beyond the logistical difficulties there are the economic ones. Maddow isn’t backed by a non-profit, and doesn’t have the luxury of producing a television show that survives as a money-losing vanity project of some hedge fund managers. You have to compare people to other people doing comparable things. Is Maddow’s show the worst thing on prime time cable news? Absolutely not. It’s the best. And her show and her success are directly responsible for the existence of Chris Hayes’ very intelligent weekend morning show. Inexplicably, the other person who I would say has done pioneering work in terms of raising the intelligence bar on cable is Fareed Zakaria who’s also on TNR’s list. They complain that she’s too ideologically rigorous, whereas he’s too fickle. The people pushing the envelop on bringing some intelligence to the medium are penalized for trying, while dozens of mediocrity-mongers get off scott free. It’s a very strange way of looking at things.