Let's Be Honest...

Let's be honest with each other here... Keith Olbermann was a blow hard. And there may be some truth to the suggestion that he contributed to the vitriolic nature our contemporary political debate has become so mired in. Countdown, though often funny and entertaining, was a good deal less informative than it was megaphonic. I do honestly think Olbermann attempts to follow the example of the likes of Edward R. Murrow, but I also think he rarely succeeds. As of now, neither Olbermann or MSBC have given anything resembling a reason for his sudden departure. Speculation abounds as a result. The coming merger of MSNBC and Comcast seems to be the prevailing theory, be it through Comcast's demands to drop Olbermann or significantly change the editorial content of the show or Olbermann deciding he'd rather not work for Kabletown (internet speak for Comcast). So far though, it is all just speculation, and as with many things that happen in the upper echelon's of the corporate media world, we may never get the real story.

All of that being true, this doesn't mean that Olbermann and Countdown didn't serve good purpose. In 2003, there wasn't another nationally televised voice suggesting there was some logical fallacy to the Bush administrations claims that war in Iraq was a necessity. As tired as I've personally become of the political mind meld machinery at work on both the conservative and progressive sides, the fact is that he was right, and had there been a little more of a rush on the part of the media as a whole to actually analyze the case being presented to them instead of worrying about the future of their opportunities for access to a notoriously inaccessible administration, there may be many hundreds of thousands of Americans and Iraqi's still living today who have subsequently been killed in the most useless of wars. If the national level conservatives were as principally fiscally conservative as so many of them claim, they would at least recognize that there would have been billions of dollars of American taxpayer money saved, a slightly less bloated national debt, and that there was no connection in any realm, except in some possible alternate universe, to national security. We went to war in Iraq because it was good politics for the Bush administration and it privatized the profits while socializing the losses. Anyone who suggests otherwise should be directed to the fact that the man who PRESIDED (as in was President) during 9/11 and the Katrina debacle cites a loud mouthed, attention whoring rapper calling him a racist as the worst moment of his presidency. Priorities, principles and country first indeed.

There's also a good deal to be said about Olbermann's recent statement related to "objective journalism,"and the role it played in the lead up to the Iraq war. Presenting facts doesn't make any news, media or journalistic outlet partisan, which is what both sides will claim when faced with facts that contradict their narrative. In the run up to the Iraq war, one of the reasons none of the other major media and news outlets, nor any of their highly paid "experienced" talking heads would challenge the narrative presented by the Bush administration is that doing so was being assailed as being partisan or even better, unpatriotic. Though some of our more devout political figures might suggest otherwise, there is no such thing as witchery, so being called a partisan does not magically turn someone into a partisan any more than being called a newt turns one into a newt, a platypus or an intellectual titan for that matter. The rush to maintain the veneer of "objectivity"as opposed to actually maintaining the objectivity of factual representation kept one of the most vital pieces of a functioning democracy from serving it's function at all.

His point about the false equivalency propagated by contemporary media following John Stewart's "Restored To Sanity" rally was also important. Both sides of the political spectrum engage in propaganda, this is very true, and something I personally find abhorrent. I tend to think that if our political figures actually cared as much about The People, The Country and The Constitution as they do their campaign coffers and retaining the perk-aliciousness of their offices, they'd be willing to be honest with the American people, and we'd eventually be able to handle it. That being said, the political left has no equivalent to Birthers (those who still believe, regardless of the availability of proof to the contrary that Barack Obama is not a U.S. born citizen) or Deathers (those who believe the health care bill instituted government run panels to decide who is useful enough to be granted medical care and who is useless enough to die), because they're mainstream pundits haven't flirted with anything nearly as absurd. The equivalency Stewart suggested in his announcement of the rally was the Truther movement. Unlike the contemporary narrative which suggests our political spectrum is a straight line, on which one end is the left and the other the right, our political spectrum is actually circular, and the Truther movement is where the circle closes. Though the entire movement hinges on the suggestion that the destruction of World Trade Center building number 7 was actually a controlled demolition, the reasons they cite create a picture of a group which reaches to the most extreme ends of both the left and the right. Some claim that 9/11 as a whole was either purposely executed or willfully allowed to happen by senior members of the Bush administration as a way to create a security state and to feed contracts and subsidies to the various corporate entities Cheney and his ilk favored. That would be the left side of the Truthers. Then there's the right side of that movement who believe that the entire thing was orchestrated by an Illuminati like organization led by the Rothschild family, who in some cases are actually believed to be the Illuminati, in an attempt to create a security state and to gain control of the most powerful nation in the world, and hence be able to start having an even more direct control over the world economy which will be instituted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the one world government and economy part of this having been co-opted from or being an offshoot of the nationalist militia movements and conspiracy theories which dominated the fringe of politics in the 90's). They believe this is next step in a long gestating plan to achieve one world government and one world economy. Depending on the school of thought, this plan began not long after World War II or stretches as far back as The Renaissance. The Truther movement contains so many different internal sects that these two are the only one's I'm describing because they at least have their own internal logic, flawed as it may be by both fact and rationality. The majority of the rest make these two sound infinitely sane, and the cover the entirety of the political spectrum. I know this not because I sympathize with this deeply sad and pathetic conspiracy craziness but because I find the degree of insanity people are willing to believe fascinating and I've always had an internal instinct that suggests it's a good idea to keep an eye on what is being saluted on the flagpole of Crazy Town, U.S.A. The problem with all of this being that a number of the right's talking heads and flapping lunatics have been purposely flirting with many of these one government, one world economy crazies, specifically to keep hold of a motivated and anxiously terrified base that will enact their visions which less serve even a political ideology or misguided belief in national interest as they do their various money making scams. Buy gold, stop the one world economy, buy backpacks full of freeze dried food, be prepared for the one world government... etc. And stock up on ammunition, because either they'll be coming for you and you'll have to resort to Second Amendment remedies when the FEMA camps are finished being constructed. Don't do any of these things because the people who advertise with me will pay me more based on their sales spiking when I make these completely unfounded claims or because they contribute financing to put on my various tent revival/political rallies... that wouldn't be principled. There is no equivalent of this on what is popularly considered the mainstream political left. Though there is definitely a propaganda machine for it, it's still largely the traditional variety of political speech and political organizations. The equivalency suggested in the media today, including those often criticized as "leftist propagandists" (I have a friend who regularly refers to CNN, the one network which has attempted to keep the veneer of objectivism at the cost of it's own ratings, and often as a result it's journalistic integrity, as the "Communist News Network," because they've refuted things offered as fact on Fox) is at this point in time patently false. The New York Times has probably angered the Obama administration more than any other single American entity (including Fox News) by cooperating with Wikileaks on a number of occasions, and it's still lambasted as a leftist media outlet. Calling it a partisan outlet does not make it so. Actual journalism is not always objective, but it is always open and attempts as best as the individuals and organizations engaged in it are capable, to present facts.

Olbermann has also consistently done something none of the commentators "on the other side" were able to do for the first six years of the disastrous implosion that was the Bush administration. Until it was clear that their unquestioning support of the Bush agenda was threatening their hold on power, the political and media machine on what is considered the mainstream right were supporting every single proposition and policy, including the privatization of Social Security, which if it had been allowed, would made any current worries about Social Security's solvency look quaint in the aftermath of the economic meltdown of 2007 and the Great Recession that has ensued. Olbermann has consistently criticized the Obama administration on a number of issues, and in some of them been remarkably more consistent than the sudden debt hawkishness right wing media adopted after eight years of cheering the Bush administration as it drowned the nation in largely unnecessary debt. He's consistently criticized the handling of Guantanamo Bay, the extremely slow willingness to tackle Don't Ask Don't Tell or any of the rest of the issues related to civil rights regardless of sexual orientation, the expansion of a largely secret war in Pakistan, and the beginnings of new secret wars in both Yemen and the horn of Africa. These are all things that if given the weight of intellectual consistency, should be accepted by anyone who believes in individual liberty (there's no better practice in oppressive governmental policy than practicing those policies on the cultural "other"), the principle of open fiscal policy (if we haven't already learned, it costs a shit ton of money to conduct military operations, especially in the post Rumsfeld privatized military, keeping them as secret as possible doesn't make them cheaper), which both parties claim to support, but only tend to do so sparingly, in opposition to the other party in order to preserve the appearance of differences, when in fact both parties are controlled by the financial contributions of multi-national corporations who have no loyalty to any country or Constitution. Less than a one world government, our political parties are becoming anarcho-corporate subsidiaries. Whether or not one agrees with Olbermann's politics, he has at least been consistent in his challenge of authority and the establishment, no matter which party has been in power.

MSNBC is still running it's latest ads in the "Lean Forward"campaign that feature Olbermann, and that suggests this was a rather hasty decision on someone's part, be it their's or Olbermann's. Whether or not Comcast has been the deciding factor in Countdown's end has yet to be seen, even as the most ardent of the reaction from Olbermann's fan base is screaming for boycotts. Principally, boycotting Comcast is certainly a good idea. Their cable packages are over priced for their quality (they don't provide full 1080p, though they advertise HD, and their standard picture quality pales in comparison to some of their competitors), their customer service is at best inefficient and at worst hostile, and they are moving very quickly toward attempting to establish a communications monopoly in a world where the ability of average citizens to use those communication tools and networks is going to define the health and viability of the very possibility of a well informed electorate and healthy democracy. But, boycotting Comcast over Countdown's demise is senseless when as of yet there is no evidence to suggest a connection. The consistent baying at the moon of boycott as a response to Olbermann's departure makes no more sense than buying gold because some frothing looney on the radio says the dollar is about to come eat your children. Buy gold because precious medals have a history of appreciation, but do it sparingly, because the right wing screamers are creating a bubble in it's value. Boycotting Comcast because they're making a move to establish the kind of media monopoly in television that Clear Channel has in radio makes actual good sense. Reactionary proposals come from reactionary perspectives. Like many of the good things Olbermann had to say, and the good things he was able to bring attention to, the success of a political or socially conscious action is always diluted when it is obviously and misguidedly taken for the wrong reason, no matter how good it's results may have been. Undertaking a good idea for really poor reasons is only going to lead to further disenfranchisement among the electorate, and a further sense of hopelessness.

None of this is to suggest we have to throw the baby out with the bath water. One of the keys to restoring some semblance of real sanity to our political debate is to recognize distinctions and facts, no matter our political leanings. The facts in this case suggest that Olbermann was an unapologetic partisan, who at the same time actually attempted to hold to some principles he believed were more important than partisanship or wealth. His ability to do so without dropping to the level of rhetorical bomb throwing was often poor, we should all be able to honest agree on that much. The other side of those same facts is that even as those are his very real failings and shortcomings as a journalist and commentator, he still did some very courageous things that were of service to principles he believed in, and I'd suggest any American, if they're honest enough with themselves to look beyond the perpetuity of party can admit are admirable. He wasn't much of a journalist, you'll get no argument from me on that account. But he was willing to challenge the power structure in ways more journalists should probably attempt to. The sad truth is, what they should probably do and what they will do still look to be very different things. It leaves the impetus and responsibility on those of us who are consuming all of this news and media content to do our best to be able to recognize that though we may have respected a journalist or pundits actions or beliefs on some occasions, this makes them neither saints nor correct about everything they say or report. It actually is our personal responsibility to try, as best as we are able, to look at the situations at hand through more than just the perspective offered to us by the various talking heads of any political persuasion. No one can do that for us. It is not our personal responsibility to be loyal to a political party. It should be both parties responsibility to be loyal to us, but I think it's pretty clear that they abdicate that responsibility when it is expedient and/or profitable.


Popular Posts