Accusing Russia of hacking anything from the 2016 election to US cancer hospitals may be fun and games for MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, but when her audience responds by demanding apocalypse, the shtick stops being funny.

Maddow’s conspiracy theories about ‘Russian collusion’ and supposed hacking of the 2016 election that resulted in President Donald Trump have been a staple of MSNBC audiences over the past four years. She’s not giving up that routine now, even as the entire mainstream media machine has turned on a dime and insists that the 2020 election was flawless – since it resulted in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, that is.

On Monday, Maddow cherry-picked a couple of quotes and linked a New York Times story – published last week – about ‘Russian’ hackers allegedly targeting the University of Vermont Medical Center last month.

The Times story is long on feelings and emotions of the medical personnel and cancer patients affected by the fact that the UVMC computers stopped working, but short on actual facts about the case. It works in a jab at President Donald Trump for firing head of the cybersecurity agency Chris Krebs – for disputing “baseless claims of voter fraud,” of course – even though that happened long after the alleged attack.

The story also notes that the FBI has requested the center administrators to refrain from commenting on the case – even to confirm or deny their own statements about alleged ransom requests. Absent the facts, the Times is happy to fill in the blanks by citing a private cybersecurity company, Hold Security.

Hold Security and its chief executive Alex Holden are the sole source for the claim that ‘Russian’ hackers were behind the alleged cyberattack on UVMC and other US hospitals – at least according to the Times, as well as the media coverage of the FBI’s warning in late October that Maddow referenced. 

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The whole thing sounds much like the debunked Times story about Russia allegedly paying “bounties” to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan, a June bombshell that was used to hammer Trump and oppose his efforts to end the endless US war there.

Even the Pentagon’s own denials didn’t make a difference; Maddow and her colleagues were “all in” on the bounties story being true. So was her audience, as evidenced by some of the replies to her tweet.

While much of the replies were in the same vein, there were some that crossed the line from partisanship into genocidal – and apocalyptic – calls for blood.

“Russia needs to finally be handled. They need to be knocked back into the stone age,” said one follower.

“I did not hate the leaders of the old Soviet Union as much as I hate the leaders of Russia right now. I want them to experience monumental, historic, unprecedented, apocalyptic pain for what they have done to us. I want blood,” said another.

Earlier this year, MSNBC’s lawyers defended Maddow against a defamation lawsuit by One America News (OANN) – whom she called “literally Russian propaganda” – by arguing her show isn’t news but opinion, and that her statement was “rhetorical hyperbole” that no reasonable person would understand as fact.

While that admission got Maddow and MSNBC off the legal hook, it raises the question of how many of her followers and their audience qualify as “reasonable” people – as the comments on her tweet about the Times story show anew.

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No one, Maddow included, should be held legally liable for the content of their replies, obviously. It’s something beyond their control. But when a steady diet of propaganda, insinuendo and conspiracy theories presented as facts creates an atmosphere that results in this sort of bloodthirst that’s on display, it doesn’t inspire confidence in her audience’s mental state.

Keep in mind that the politicians Maddow supports may soon end up with absolute power, if Trump’s claims about election fraud are really as “baseless” as the media claim. Also, don’t forget that the US and Russia have enough nuclear weapons between themselves to destroy all life on the planet. And that’s something people so obsessed with their feelings to be calling for “monumental, historic, unprecedented, apocalyptic pain” clearly haven’t given any thought.

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