Sunday, November 07, 2010

Olbermensch

One of the more amusing things about Keith Olbermann's suspension is the amount of barely-concealed professional jealousy that has emerged from the media woodwork. A quick review of stories that have emerged on the Olbermann suspension in the last few hours:
In a few clumsy paragraphs, CNN contributor John Avlon manages to compose the most intellectually dishonest column I've seen on the issue so far. He cites Fox News's 30+ hyperpartisan hosts and contributors, in order to compare them to MSNBC's two or three, in order, finally, to cast a blanket of equivalency on all of them. This despite the fact that neither Olbermann nor Maddow have ever _endorsed_ a candidate, appeared at a campaign rally jointly sponsored by a Fox program and the candidates, and so on. Editorialists can be ideologically oriented without overtly supporting a party or candidate. Avlon doesn't get this. He also misses the fact that both Olbermann and Maddow have been critical of the Democratic Party and Obama, where one would never expect (nor ever witness) equivalent criticism of GOP leaders from Fox News.

He calls Maddow, who has an independent history all her own, Olbermann's "on-air protege." That's Ann Coulter language. It's also inaccurate and meanspirited, but was probably an attempt to sound clever. And, he explains Maddow's defense of Olbermann as a natural consequence of their ideological afinity, ignoring the fact that she, um, actually made some arguments. Avlon doesn't care about arguments, particularly those emerging from female proteges with no histories or personalities of their own.

He wraps it up with the most meaningless display of statistics I've seen since I used to go to L.A. Clippers games: Guess what, kids? 15% identify as conservative republicans while ONLY 11% describe themselves as liberal democrats. Good Gosh, a four-point gap among polar opposites! That didn't help the nutbags take over the Senate, but it's supposed to make Olbermann and his sidekick somehow contrite? Because, as Avlon contends, MSNBC's lefty partisanship emboldens Fox News?  Sigh. Another article to throw in the "don't write like this" basket.
Clever, albeit with an over-use of both metaphors and bold print (omitted below), is Tommy Christopher's speculation that IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY!!!:
Amid the white hot coverage of MSNBC’s indefinite suspension of Countdown host Keith Olbermann, speculation furious enough to shame Melle Mel’s collegial quintet has emerged. Is this Olbermann’s Waterloo? Does Keith still have the juice to weather the maelstrom? Does the whole thing scream “Comcastic?”
One wrinkle that hasn’t been explored is an intriguing notion that a colleague of mine floated to me. Could the whole thing be an ingenious part of MSNBC’s re-branding effort, a publicity stunt with the dual purpose of drawing a sharper contrast with rival Fox News? Was 11/5 an inside job?
Deliberately or not, the Olbermann suspension is accomplishing great things for MSNBC. First of all, this thing is generating enough publicity to make P.T. Barnum look like Greta Garbo. But more than that, it also appears to have cleverly enlisted its own enemies in a Tom Sawyer-esque fence-painting exercise.
The bigger story is that MSNBC is now run by Republican Overlord and Bush-buddy Steve Burke. Even the New Republic thinks that's noteworthy.

My own take: We should, if we care to, condemn the suspension of Olbermann. But we should not settle for Olbermann, let alone worship him like many lib dems do. Moreover, we should explain the context of the supension and what it reveals about the economic forces at work in even the "liberal" media.

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