On Thursday night, MSNBC's Ed Schultz filmed The Ed Show live from the Capitol's anti-Scott Walker demonstration, convinced he'd found ground zero of a new American revolution. In his booming voice, the cable host lionized the demonstrators for opposing Gov. Walker's assault on Wisconsin public employees, He also took time to lionize himself, using this historic event to boost himself to historic status.
Schultz began the show by saying he'd never felt more personally connected to a story. Indeed, his passion was evident as he called Walker "a typical schoolyard bully" for trying to ram an anti-union measure through the legislature in a matter of days, with no negotiations. As ecstatic demonstrators cheered and waved placards behind him, he called them "hard-working Americans who are being harmed by a right-wing agenda." And he wasn't shy about using populist theatrics to make his point.
"You're being called freeloaders!" he shouted at the crowd.
"You're being called un-American!"
In a coup de thétre, Schultz interviewed the 14 Democratic state senators who'd mysteriously fled Wisconsin that morning to prevent a hasty vote on Walker's budget bill. Filming them from "an undisclosed location," he allowed Sen. Fred Risser (whom he called "Frank") and Sen. Mark Miller to explain their controversial disappearing act.
"We're here to slow down the steamrolling process," "Frank" said, explaining that "the outrageous dictatorial governor" wants to immediately do away with labor protections the state had built up over the course of a century.
"I doubt we'll be back tomorrow," Risser continued. "We'll be back when people have a chance to be heard."
Sen. Miller chimed in, "They're not being heard. We have to let them know that we hear them."
Schultz didn't let any Republicans speak for themselves, except in "BOO!"-worthy snippets. He showed a clip of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan sneering at the protesters, plus a cable commenter warning that they're "gonna get violent."
But the crowd standing around Schultz didn't look violent at all. In fact, they looked like friendly, peaceful Midwesterners, albeit Midwesterners with a cause.
"Why are you here?" Schultz asked one man.
"To stand up for the middle class," he said, with no hint of anti-American sentiment.
Schultz's broadcast was an effective bit of agit-prop, and he didn't hesitate to present himself as a heroic figure on the battlements. He patted himself on the back for jumping on the story before other broadcasters did, and he shamelessly showed footage of the demonstrators chanting "Thank you Ed! Thank you Ed!" The camera also zoomed in on any placard with a positive reference to Schultz.
Hey, it's not just an American revolution it's also showbiz. And the show continues on Friday with another live broadcast of The Ed Show from that stage set to end all stage sets, the Wisconsin Capitol.