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CNBC’s Carnival of Crazy

If, by chance, you were watching CNBC’s Fast Money Halftime Report on Monday afternoon, you may have caught an epic meltdown by Rick Santelli about Fed policy. Or, more likely, if you weren’t watching, you may have caught the rest of the Internet rolling its collective eyes at the same.

As traders on the floor gawked behind him and the in-studio panel calmly tried to address his various points, Santorelli began with a calm “we are not in a crisis, but Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke are still treating the economy as if it’s in a crisis” and gradually worked his way up to a screaming rant about Millennials living in their parents’ basements and bloated entitlement programs. (“We’re America! We don’t believe in consensus!”)

This isn’t the first on-air tantrum for Santelli; walking off camera in disgust is kind of his trademark move. His “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” attitude has been cited as the inspiration for the Tea Party movement.

Back in The Baffler no. 21, Jason Linkins laid out the history of CNBC, and laid bare its shameful denial of reality in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis. Jim Cramer, the red-faced host of Mad Money, has been most often cited since, for his cheerleading of Bear Stearns right before its collapse. But there’s more than enough shame to go around, argues Linkins. Here’s an excerpt of his piece, “High Church Hustle: CNBC’s televangelists”:

But the chief architect of CNBC’s high-baroque regime of crisis denial was, of course, Squawk Box correspondent Rick Santelli, who on a fateful February afternoon in 2009, took it upon himself to decry the Obama administration’s efforts to rescue underwater homeowners from the clutches of certain destitution. Standing on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he declared that the recipients of this particular bailout were the real malefactors in the economic collapse. Rallying the traders who were collected on the floor as if they were the True Sons of Soil and Toil, he declaimed that there should be a “Chicago Tea Party” in response. From that solitary outburst—which in a more just world would be little more than an outtake in the extended DVD of Elia Kazan’s prophetic media satire A Face in the Crowd—a million bedevilments were spawned.

With that great moment in financial-cum-political delusion firmly occupying the top spot in the network’s clip reel, CNBC has thrown over its Money Honeys in favor of an army of mini-Santellis, most of whom captain the network’s market-osculating dayside operations. There is the network’s chief international correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, author of the fittingly overconfidently titled book You Know I’m Right: More Prosperity, Less Government and full-throated devotee of Chicago School shock-doctrine purist Milton Friedman. (Her take on Iraq’s first post-invasion elections in 2005 was: “What I learned is when people say the Middle East isn’t ready for democracy, you should not believe it.”)

Linkins also describes the hyperactive carnival atmosphere of CNBC, the onslaught of flashing data points that can hypnotize viewers into thinking they are being informed. The craziness was certainly display during Monday afternoon’s “panel discussion,” but it is actually pretty typical. “It’s the aural-visual equivalent of receiving a frenzy of information live from the jock strap of one of the light-cyclists from the ‘Tron’ movies while tweaking on Adderall,” Linkins writes. “Also, for good measure, you are a werewolf.”

Enjoy the rest of “High Church Hustle” here.