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Marion On June - 21 - 2010


Keith Olbermann doesn’t vote.

True dat.  And here’s the proof:-

A political commentator who doesn’t vote? Unheard of.  OK, there’s no law – in fact, there’s tact – which says a commentator doesn’t have to disclose his or her political persuasion.  Some had no need to do so – example: we always knew Bill Buckley was a Republican and Gore Vidal a liberal of the Democratic persuasion.

But then, until recently, we only had a few bona fide political commentators amongst us.  Ed Murrow, Huntley-Brinkley, even Wise Uncle Walter, would shudder, rather than admit that they were commentators. Rather, they were newsmen, challenged with the duty of reporting news as fact and showing truth to their viewers, allowing them the respect and licence to make up their own minds about the subjects presented.

Today, everyone and his dog is a political commentator – or strives to be, until they’re caught in an intellectually compromising position, and then they protest that they’re only comedians or entertainers.

And that’s the crime of the 24/7 cable media today: news has got to have an entertainment aspect in order to hold the increasingly immature public’s short attention span.

Thus, Olbermann, a pompous and pedantic man, seeks to emulate Ed Murrow, and succeeds in becoming a narcissistic clown with no respect for his audience.

In the wake of last week’s Presidential Oval Office address, Olbermann resorted, nearly, to visceral carpet-chewing in his over-the-top critique of a speech, to which, it was clear, he didn’t listen in any way.

Olbermann and his colleagues, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman, spent their analysis period, vicariously, criticising Obama’s message to his constituents – and, specifically, to his constituents directly affected by the Gulf oil spill – on the content of what THEY wanted the President to say to THEM.

It was the height of disrespect, both to the President and to the people in the Gulf. It was tantamount to telling these people that they were patently too stupid to realise what the President was saying was wrong – in the pundits’ opinions – and that they should be displeased and demand that he should have delivered their message.

It doesn’t surprise me that Olbermann should feel this way about his listening public. The French have a saying about people with an inflated opinion of themselves. Roughly translated, the French would say Keith Olbermann “farts above his nose” – meaning, he’s above smelling the whiff of his own bullshit.

I caught his Friday show online, which was being hosted by Laurence O’Donnell, except for the final bit, a Friday feature wherein Olbermann, seated in a comfortable chair, effects to READ a story from the works of James Thurber to his viewing audience. That’s right – a book at bedtime with creepy Uncle Keith.

What more proof that a commentator has absolutely no respect for the acumen of his audience than to have him read them a bedtime story?! What’s next? An invitation to climb into Uncle Keith’s ample virtual lap for a cuddle and a lullabye?

And isn’t this proof positive that, not only the neocon Right – who effected to keep their constituency reduced to the level of frightened children – but also the ueber Left, seek to keep the hoi-polloi in a distinctly puerile state of mind?

Olbermann’s show, at any rate, is like an echo chamber. For the most part, it’s a countdown of his five news items of the day, including someone who ranks as being his “worst person in the world” (again, childish hyperbole), along with the occasional “special comment” – Keith’s special message imparting to his fans his own iconic opinion about a particular incident or agenda. If there be any guests at all, they reflect Keith’s opinion and no divergence. Who said the Rightwing march in lockstep?

Last week, however, Keith made a major mis-step in his gratuitous critique of the President’s speech. Apparently, he received a plethora of messages left on his Facebook page and his Twitter account, in addition to the messages which melted down NBC’s switchboard, that his loyal viewing public were more than just mildly pissed off with Keith’s behaviour.

To say that Keith was mildly put out with the criticism received on the part of his adoring fans would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that he can dish it with the best of them, but – like his fellow Cornell alumnus and fellow narcissist, Bill Maher – he can’t take criticism. He issued a nine-part tweet, following it up with a special comment on his program, essentially bidding his recalcitrant viewers a cold good-bye, reiterating that perhaps they’d been watching his program for the wrong reasons.

Well, I’d like him to clarify what the right reasons are; because, quite frankly, I have a bit of a problem with anyone telling me or manipulating me into any point of view – much less, I have a problem with anyone who doesn’t vote seeking to influence my opinion on any political figure.

We all know the non-voters. We hear them enough in our daily lives – people who always have an opinion about a politician or government, but don’t vote because “all political parties are the same” or “all politicians are crooks” or whatever. Keith says he doesn’t vote because he feels he has to remain impartial. That’s bullshit.

Keith doesn’t vote because he’s simply afraid of commitment to one political philosophy. He’s ueber liberal – one can never imagine him adopting support of any Rightwing politician; but the fact that he doesn’t vote at all, precludes any right he has to criticize a politician from any side of the political coin.

My father had a name for such people. He called them “Pot Luck Peters,” saying that, like people at a pot luck dinner, they had to take the government on offer and lump it; because the act of voting gave a person a voice.

As a “Pot Luck Peter,” Keith takes Obama as he is, just as he had to take Bush; and his complaints, his whinges, his whines and all his special comments, should fall on deaf ears, simply because Keith doesn’t vote.

One should be wary of being influenced by someone who seeks to get others to vote vicariously in his manner, while he sits back and watches his own opinion get propagated as fact.  I’m glad a lot of people said they’d turn off Keith. I hope they do.

Keith’s entitled to his opinions as much as he’s entitled to take the corporate penny from MSNBC who pay him for his particular brand of infotainment. But he should make his listeners aware that he doesn’t vote.

Inability to commit is a sign of social immaturity; basically giving your viewing public a polite eff-off because they dared to criticize your behaviour is another childish gesture too.

Time to turn off Uncle Keith and his sinister bedtime stories. Time to think for yourselves.

Categories: News & Politics

15 Responses so far.

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  1. escribacat says:

    Despite the fact that he’s overblown, I am still a big KO fan. We need him to blow back the hot air coming from Fox. He is our antidote to Fox. It’s his reason for existing. He’s not a newsman and doesn’t claim to be. He doesn’t claim to be objective. Day after day, he points out the bullshit coming from Fox and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

    I also enjoy him reading the Thurber stories. He began doing it because that’s what he was doing with his father during his father’s illness and his dad suggested it to him. I like literature and I don’t think we have enough of it in our culture so I don’t see it as him reading “bedtime stories.” He’s doing it to honor his father.

    I also think he’s extremely smart and articulate. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen to it and it sounds like ranting, but most of the time I’m mad enough at Fox and the rightwing toxic spew machine that Keith is just plain therapy for me.

    • kesmarn says:

      e’cat, I think you have a good point. Whether or not the messenger is the ideal one, it’s helpful that there is a balancing presence at all on cable to counter FOX.

      A couple weeks ago I mentioned here an episode of head-bumping with a tea-partier in a social situation in which I told her it was entirely possibly to be a socialist and a patriot at the same time. Did I think I would change her mind? Not in the slightest. But she was so utterly sure of herself and so convinced that no one in the room would (or even wanted to) disagree with her, that I just had to get it out there: “Not everyone thinks the way you do!”

      That’s a simple thing, but an important one. KO and Rachel help to do that.

      I think they do make important points and get much-needed info out to the public. Granted, KO can veer to the histrionic and Rachel sometimes works too hard at being cute. I would love to see a more relaxed, genuinely confident version of a Lib on cable. Someone with more of the approach of our very own AdLib — who thinks rationally, with good humor, is incisive, yet still manages to be a “uniter, not a divider.”

      But until that person comes along, I think a little counter-weight is a good thing.

    • Marion says:

      Sorry, I need to challenge this.

      WHY do you need him to counter Fox? Fox is preaching to their choir. No one’s ever going to be convinced by Fox if they didn’t already sing from the same hymnbook.

      Let Fox exist for those of that ilk who are too lazy to think for themselves.

      The Left present themselves as above the lockstep of the Right. If Olbermann’s not a newsman (although there are some on the Left, who would say he is), if he’s not a journalist (although there are some on the Left, again, who would defend that he is), then what is he? He’s not a comedian. He takes himself too seriously for that. He’s not a satirist.

      So WHY do WE need him? Aren’t we capable of formulating opinions for ourselves? Aren’t we capable of blowing back against Fox? Because, just like Fox, no one of the Rightwing persuasion is going to watch MSNBC and be “converted.”

      I don’t buy the Thurber stories either. If Keith is having a problem dealing with his father’s death, then I’m sure MSNBC would give him ample leave time to deal with his loss. I’m all for honoring the memory of a dead relative, but I don’t think he should impose that on his viewers. We’ve all probably lost someone close. My mother’s favourite book was Gone With the Wind. I’d certainly get short shrift if -- to honour her memory -- I started parsing chapter after chapter and sharing it with y’all.

      And whilst I’m all for the propagation of literature and culture, being a big reader, myself, why -- if we like such things -- can’t we pick up a copy of Thurber and read it ourselves at bedtime? Why do we need a celebrity talking head or anyone to read TO us? Actually -- and this is making me mad now -- I’m surprised MSNBC has let him get away with something like that.

      You know, if Keith really wanted to give BACK in a big way, he should volunteer to go sit by someone’s bedside at a hospice and read to them. That way, it would seem genuine, because I’m only seeing someone with incredible hubris and narcissism reading to his viewers. Reading to children is one of the many ways various cultures indoctrinate, and the American public has regressed so much, intellectually, in the past 8 years that this may just be another way of inculcating opinion. There really ARE people who watch Keith Olbermann and think they’re watching the news. There really ARE people who think LOCKSTEP with these people, Left as well as Right, who don’t even realise when they’re contradicting themselves.

      I’ll give him his articulace and his intelligence. I’ll give him his arrogance too.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, we don’t need these voices to speak for us. We have our own.

      • escribacat says:

        I am one of those women willing to forgive many character defects on a guy who makes me laugh.

      • dildenusa says:

        Well said. And when the Supreme Court of the US starts talking about the first amendment and free speech my eyes glaze over and my blood pressure begins to go off the charts. Why? because there is a high level of free speech for those with resources and means and a lower level of free speech for the little people. Sting and the Police said it best:

        Poets, priests and poiticians
        Have words to thank for their positions
        Words that scream for your submission
        And no-one’s jamming their transmission
        And when their eloquence escapes you
        Their logic ties you up and rapes you

  2. Khirad says:

    I’d been weening myself off him for some time. Ed before that.

    I will watch though, just to get what the stories are, as it’s generally a mashup of stories from the liberal blogosphere.

    I only saw one of those things, about sex no less, where he’s staring at the camera from this cheesy masterpiece theater chair, …

    Creepy was the word. Plus I was trying to watch this as my niece was walking through the room, and had to just friggin’ give up and change it.

    For the record. Keith is still better than Hannah Montana.

  3. Questinia says:

    KO probably has Asberger’s. He’s a big kid with his own rules.

  4. whatsthatsound says:

    He really IS a pompous guy, isn’t he? :)
    I always love his, “Finally, AS PROMISED, a special commentary blah blah”
    He PROMISED! Oh, BOY, we’re in for a treat!

    My “Keith’s Worst Moment in The World!” moment was when he made Katie Couric one of his Worst People for making a comment that could have been interpreted (if one is self absorbed and hypersensitive) as a dig at……HIM! Hilarious! You can be not only a Worst Person in Keith’s world, but THE world, if you cross him.

    Good night and Good Luck!

  5. Kalima says:

    I missed the President’s speech live here the other day but heard about the issues he had covered in the 17 minutes from the Oval Office and thought that it was enough. Yesterday I watched the whole speech on a KO podcast and still think that it was enough. He wanted to reassure the people affected and the concerned American public that everything that could be done was being done and that the government would be with them until this crisis was solved and beyond. That they wouldn’t be deserted like they were during and after Katrina. He did all that with his speech, it was what most people needed to hear.

    The analysis after his speech by the three of them made me cringe, it was purely selfish to say that what the American people needed to hear was a future clean energy plan, for the majority of the people and especially the people in the Gulf region, they needed to know about their compensation and the clean-up operations, he made his position clear enough on both issues.

    In the end, only Congressman Edward Markey’s clear head prevailed, and as he is quite literally in the middle of things, I chose to listen to his pov rather than the hotheaded rants of the other three who think that they speak for most of America, when they so obviously don’t. After Edward Markey gave his opinion, all KO could say was, “I hope so.”

    I tend to watch these programs with my mind already made up on important issues, so the ranting and raving of some are just entertainment for me, they won’t really change my mind unless someone can prove without a doubt that something is a fact and I need to reconsider my opinion, this hardly ever happens.

    As for his Thurbor readings and his “Worst Person” segments, I listened to a few of his Thurbor readings, and then discovered this amazing power I have at my fingertips on my computer, it’s called the stop/mute button.

  6. Marion says:

    I am glad you mentioned Watergate, because I think, since Watergate, the media have been looking for the “next” Watergate, with every reporter/journalist hoping to crack the next political scandal and be lauded as the next Woodward, Bernstein or Woodstein.

    Every subsequent Administration had media poking and prodding for a scandal. More often than not, good people left for little reason (Bert Lance in the Carter Administration and David Stockman in Reagan’s), and other times crooks underwent a token investigation and lived to tell the tale, even to run for political office (Ollie North).

    It’s as I read the other day. This is now overkill. We’ve too much “journalism”, too much information and too much speculative misinformation. I remember, and you probably do too, when the only OPINION shows on offer from week to week were MTP and Face the Nation.

    Now, everybody’s got an opinion. Well, everybody has an asshole too. We’ve got sportscasters who are now political pundits, comedians who are political pundits, former hedge fund traders who are political pundits and social climbers who identify as the same.

    Rachel is the voice of reason, integrity and professionalism on the Left, but even she’s been reading her own publicity recently. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, from the President to the Pope. I’ve never seen people so niggled at whatever this President does or doesn’t do, says or doesn’t say. Now people are even getting pissed that he plays golf.

    I don’t know what went on on MSNBC last Tuesday night, but the public reacted. Matthews appeared the next morning on Joe Scarborough’s show, and he was pissed. But I gor the impression that he was pissed that the feedback he’d been getting was negative to his views. He was sullen, petty and pouting -- he reminded me of his spiritual brother Bill Maher, when some of Bill’s woo views are challenged.

    Olbermann was the only one who got niggled enough that he not only had to raise the criticism as an issue and take it personally on his show, he also flounced off the Daily Kos in a huff.

    Gosh, I’m glad I didn’t go to Cornell … I couldn’t have abided the big girls’ blouses masquerading as men at that place. No wonder Ann Coulter has balls!

    • choicelady says:

      Marion- I’ve been totally inattentive to ALL of this since I’ve seen none of it. It is deeply distressing to think that people who have always appeared to have integrity may be getting as sucked into self promotion as Rush Baby.

      Indeed, Watergate spawned a kind of “investigative” feeding frenzy among journalists, but it wound up being so partisan as to be scary. Remember when CBS or ABC backed off the story about the phony body counts out of Vietnam and paid a settlement to Westmoreland over their report? They were right, he was a liar, but he WON -- and we never knew what pressure was brought to bear to make CBS (or whoever) back down.

      No one in journalism would look at Reagan’s actions prior to the 1980 elections to see if his “secret plan” was in fact treason. Remember when the helicopters failed and crashed in Iran? Do you know who was in charge of making sure the sand screens were in place (they were NOT which is why they all crashed)? It was Oliver North. Where was THAT investigation? We have some pretty solid evidence and testimony from numerous people that Reagan (or his owners) may well have been so desirous of power they committed outrageous acts against this nation. Where is that story?

      Investigative jounalism almost does not exist because covering up the actual acts of outrage while lifting the curtain on peep shows such as Monica Lewinsky and John Edwards’ dalliance is the best we can get. I’m not so interested in whether a Congressman has a “wide stance” as I am in whether someone(s) are selling out this nation via The Family or other means and committing acts of foreign and domestic policy that undermine the official ones we voted for.

      If we can’t get that from Olbermann -- who is actually a very good reporter -- or Maddow who is better, then we’re sunk. We need to know who is ready to overthrow this country. But NOT telling us the truth is time honored since the last attempted coup in 1935 when several high ranking RW corporate and other figures tried to enlist WW I hero Smedly Butler in overthrowing FDR. And I heard about but never read about any of that until two years ago. There was even an investigation when Butler refused to be complicit, but it got almost NO notice in the press. It’s a true story we never read in papers and still don’t read in textbooks.

      I guess I will forgive almost anything personal about people if they are driven to tell us all some smattering of the truth. And we CAN handle the truth! What we can’t handle, and where I don’t want to see large egos and ratings headed, is their blasting the wrong people for the wrong thing. When Olbermann and Maddow say what Arianna says, we have problems. The pretense that by criticizing a Black president it proves we have standards is one of the most dangerous things we have going with so-called progressives right now. The first step toward false analysis is to begin criticizing someone not for what they said, but for what YOU think they SHOULD have said. This way lies falsehood and the undermining of genuine, essential analysis. I hope this was a glitch in the moment and not a portent of things to come.

  7. choicelady says:

    Hi MArion. I think your criticism are accurate and yet, oddly, when he’s good he’s outstanding. The work he did on health care reform, particularly the stories of friends and family, were powerful and moving. His sponsorship of the free clinics and making it available to us to support was also wonderful.

    He can definitely be over the top, and it’s wearing. I don’t need constant reminders of Rush’s weird speaking voice for Rush’s weird points to resonate. I do kind of like Worst Persons stuff -- they are tidbits I usually had not known.

    I don’t know why he doesn’t vote. That peeves me no end, but it does not affect my frequent appreciation of his often incisive insights. I did not hear either his or Rachel’s “Obama shudda said” stuff, but what this says to me is that they have been pilloried for giving Obama a pass (I don’t agree that’s what they do) and felt this was one speech they could roundly critique. So they did -- and then found out what Obama had been doing which was pretty much what they’d wanted.

    I doubt many of us have our views shaped by commentators since we on the Planet know much, much more than the average Joe the Plumber. Yes -- Olbermann is hyperventillating too often, and yes Rachel can be edgy, but they are to me a relief from the Dark Side of reporting that does not report, and certainly the RW commentators.

    Air America has something of the same problem. I have had a back and fort with Mike Malloy who is even MORE strident -- though he read a letter from me on the air, bless his pea-pickin’ heart -- as are many of the “lefties” whose outrage can be wearisome. We already ARE angry already! All of them (save Malloy with respect to my chastisement of a prejudice he promulgated) form as rigid a set of positions as the right -- and don’t pay a speck of attention to those of us who don’t fit their mold of Leftie thought.

    Where ARE the Murrows et al. who had criticisms and analyses but were REALLY “fair and balanced” with respect to their overall views? I mourn that the precise moment “investigative journalism” hit its stride with Woodward and Bernstein, it began to slide into tabloidism. I think we had solid investigative stuff for about three months before “yellow dog” journlism began to substitute for the genuine article. I have a very good friend who has won several Pulitzer Prizes for his articles, and he left the field to TEACH good journalism. He did that about three years before there was virtually nowhere to send his grads since papers were laying off, not hiring, and TV is without interest.

    So if Keith and Rachel, Mike, and Randi are the best we can get, at least they’re something. They are far from perfect, but they give us insights into stories you won’t hear anywhere else. Of course people such as I with issues that irritate BOTH sides are still left out in the cold, and there is stuff going on across the nation -- good, progressive, redemptive stuff -- that gets NO hearing, but we ARE getting the critique we lacked entirely from Reagan to Bush’s last days. So they may be imperfect and annoying, but they are all that holds the ground against the Teabaggers and the Brown Shirts. So I will keep watching unless and until something better comes along.

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