Topics on tonight’s show:
- WI recall elections
- S&P downgrade and the Dow – and the blame game
- What the right does incredibly well, and what the left can learn from it
- EFC’s #EFCpolfacts launch
- Anonymity online
- Glacier calving
Topics on tonight’s show:
Today, MSNBC informed Keith Olbermann that his show Countdown would be airing its last episode. Immediately.
No warning, no announcement of a replacement show.
It wasn’t for ratings – Countdown has consistently been a ratings winner for MSNBC.
More likely, it is a result of the recently approved merger of Comcast with NBC/Universal. Comcast has denied any connection between the merger and the cancellation, but there had been copious prior speculation that Countdown’s days were numbered.
Olbermann’s occasionally bombastic but truly genuine style made him a lightning rod for the right and for right-wing pundits. Seen as the epitome of the left and of “media elites”, Olbermann gave as good as he got, with a snarky style and acerbic wit that was matched by a charming goofiness.
This is not to say I always agree with him. In some cases, I think Keith misses the forest for the trees. But he has always come across as someone looking to present the truth, even if it means saying the unpopular. And in this light, he has been a voice in the wilderness.
With the rise of Fox News and CNN’s unsettling penchant for creating “balance” in stories when there really isn’t any, Olbermann has pointed out the false equivalencies and flat out falsehoods. If he was a voice for the left, that voice will now have to find another outlet. He is prohibited by non-compete agreements, from appearing on television for the next four years. Hopefully, we’ll see him online, tweeting, perhaps hear him on radio and in podcasts.
The left has lost a strong voice on air. Here is Keith’s final segment:
In her first national interview since the Tucson shootings, Sarah Palin went on Sean Hannity’s show to do some spin control. To no one’s surprise – but perhaps their disgust – Palin painted herself as the real victim, helped along by Hannity.
The Daily Show’s John Stewart didn’t miss the self-thrown pity party, and decided to give his take.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
On Friday, it was announced that Keith Olbermann, host of Countdown on MSNBC, had been suspended indefinitely for contributing to the campaigns of congressional candidates without getting prior approval from his superiors. And if it truly is in the agreements that are signed by employees upon being hired, they are absolutely in their rights to do so.
But, I have become far more cynical of late. And something about this doesn’t ring true.
Some have said this is a warning shot from new owners, Comcast, for Olbermann and others to tone it down. Last night, I happened upon a different theory.
Four days earlier, Olbermann announced a different suspension – that of the “Worst Persons” segment. An “indefinite suspension”. This was in response to something spoken at John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally For Sanity and/or Fear. In the speech, Stewart noted that a major contributor to the current political climate of partisan bickering is the media. The willingness of various media outlets to buy into the name-calling, the divisiveness of the various political pundits and talking heads has not helped improve the debate in Washington, but has instead fueled it.
Olbermann, while disagreeing that there was an equivalency between what he/MSNBC does and what FoxNews does, did understand the point, and said the decision had been made to suspend the “Worst Persons” segment. He also said he hoped others would take similar action to raise the level of discourse. And he pointed out that for the most part, he believed that MSNBC is a news organization first, and not a political organization, while Fox was more political than news.
That was Monday.
By Friday, news came that Olbermann had been suspended for not receiving authorization for making political contributions to three Democratic campaigns, for a total of less than $7,500. The corporate take on the matter is that he violated NBC News policies by doing so. There is question as to whether NBC News policies actually apply to MSNBC, but nevertheless, this is the MSNBC story.
Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow, on her Friday show that follows Countdown, spoke of the matter. She pointed out that it was the difference between her network and Fox that made the suspension a necessity. That MSNBC is a news organization, and that Fox is a political organization. Fox contributors include potential 2012 Presidential candidates, and their hosts have participated in and headlined numerous fundraising events, as well as actually making fundraising calls for Republican candidates on air.
She made a clear distinction between the two, showing that the reason Olbermann had to be suspended was because of that distinction, news vs. politics.
And until I heard that segment from Maddow, I was willing to ascribe the whole thing to Olbermann not following the rules. But something about that segment, and the preceding issues from that week, just didn’t sit right.
Stewart makes the claim that they are all to blame. Olbermann says it’s a false equivalency, but cancels the “Worst Person” segment to show that there is a difference, asking others to take similar action. He then gets suspended for an action the other guys do on a regular basis. And it is held up as the real difference between the networks.
The cynic in me sees something far too neat, far too compact for this. It is entirely possible that the narrative is just that, and the sequence of events is what it appears on first blush – the reaction to a host violating policies. But it looks very planned, very orchestrated. If it is, it’s brilliant. Thousands have gone online to petition for Olbermann’s return. And when he does return, it will likely be one of, if not the highest rated shows he’s ever done. And make no mistake, he will return.
Just as in politics, the media fight for market share. And when the cry for “sanity” ends up lumping you in the same bucket as the competition, there’s a major problem. So something has to be done to increase the differentiation to make it a choice. To show potential viewers that there is a clear separation between “us” and “them”. Between “sanity” and “zealotry”. And this incident seems designed to do just that.
Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps this is just the way things happened. But honestly, I hope not, because it is genius. It clearly shows a difference between the two. And the Democrats should take notice. They face the same problem.
Democrats have been lousy about differentiation, about showing what they stand for, other than “not them”. Republicans have been phenomenal for decades at defining the opposition, fitting them into neat – if false – niches, labeling Democrats as any heinous thing they can come up with. And Democrats have attempted to stay above the fray. Meanwhile, Republicans have advanced their cause.
If Democrats want to regain power, to show the difference between their ideas and those of the right, they need an “indefinite suspension” of sorts. They need to create a bright, clear line between their ideas, their policies, and those of the right. They need to show that the other side is doing something they shouldn’t and that it’s not just ideological difference. And they need to show it clearly.
I enjoy Countdown. I expect Keith will back on the air shortly, and I look forward to it. Hopefully, the Dems can take page out of this chapter, and figure out how to get back “on air” as well.
UPDATE: Keith Olbermann will return to Countdown on Tuesday, Nov. 9th.
Rupert Murdoch must be feeling his sphincter tighten just a bit of late. His “News of the World” is facing serious allegations of phone hacking by reporters, raising concerns from Members of Parliament calling for a deeper investigation.
Then, on this side of the Atlantic, Fox News gets into hot water with 400 rabbis because of the repeated use of the Holocaust and of comparisons to Nazis used by Fox hosts to denigrate those they disagree with. The rabbis are asking for sanctions against these hosts, with Glenn Beck at the top of the list. Beck’s show in the UK has run for months with no sponsors, and has lost over 300 sponsors here in the US due to efforts from the folks like those at StopBeck.com.
All this has raised the interest – and likely concern – of Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. ThePrince is the nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and he has a vested interest in what goes on in Rupert Murdoch’s world (From The Guardian):
Bin Talal’s power stems from his unique position. He is one of the few people who can tap the giant Saudi sovereign funds for money, so his every word is analysed forensically by the markets.
Last week, though, it is likely that the prince, described by Time magazine as “the Arabian Warren Buffett”, was devoting more than a passing interest to his almost 7% share in Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp, quietly accumulated over several years.
The prince cannot have liked what he saw. What had started out as a very British row over phone hacking by reporters working on Murdoch’s News of the World had become infectious and was in danger of going global.
As scores of new victims emerged to allege they had been hacked by the newspaper, MPs voiced fresh concerns at the police handling of the affair and the role played by senior executives at News International, News Corp’s UK subsidiary and the ultimate parent company of the News of the World, the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
Meanwhile, back across the Atlantic, it emerged that News Corp was facing another problem. Last week 400 rabbis from all the main branches of Judaism in the US bought a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, calling on Murdoch to take sanctions against News Corp’s Fox News subsidiary. The rabbis were incensed at the way that Fox commentators regularly referred to those with whom they disagreed as “Nazis”.
“You diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organisation you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks,” the ad read.
The placement of the ad was even more poignant and shocking as it was published on Holocaust Remembrance Day. It came partly in response to comments by Murdoch’s brash Fox News leader, Roger Ailes, who had compared executives at National Public Radio to Nazis after they sacked a commentator who made ill-advised remarks about being scared of flying with Muslims.
But it also focused on the most controversial figure in the pantheon of Fox News personalities: Glenn Beck. Fox’s biggest star repeatedly uses Nazi and Hitler references to describe figures he does not like.
Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, has been especially vocal in attacking Beck’s tactics. “I haven’t heard anything like this on television or radio – and I’ve been following this kind of stuff. I’ve been in the sewers of antisemitism and Holocaust denial more often than I’ve wanted,” she said.
Those familiar with bin Talal, who has given tens of millions of dollars to charities seeking to bridge gaps between western and Islamic communities, say he will have been dismayed by any whiff of controversy threatening his business interests.
“He is an incredibly intelligent man and deeply honourable; you can only speculate about what he must be thinking now,” said an acquaintance.
Coming at a time when News Corp wants regulatory approval to take over British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, both the phone-hacking scandal and the row with the rabbis are damaging not only to the company’s reputation but its bottom line.
With 7% of NewsCorp in his hands, Talal can’t be happy with what has been transpiring. The BSkyB deal gets tougher to do, as BSkyB’s stock has been rising, making the deal a much bigger drain on capital. NewsCorp heads the other direction, another development that cannot be making the Saudi prince happy. How long before Murdoch gets a nasty call from the Prince. Or worse for Murdoch, the Prince decides he’s had enough and dumps the stock?
That bump in antacid prices is from Murdoch buying as many as he can get hold of…
As we mentioned in a previous post, it’s stretching credulity to its limits to keep calling these “isolated incidents”. The latest? A man with explosives stting outside Detroit’s largest mosque (from the Seattle Times):
A 63-year-old Southern California man who had explosives in his vehicle was arrested outside one of the nation’s largest mosques in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, authorities in Michigan said.
Dearborn police said Roger Stockham was arraigned Wednesday on one count of making a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possessing explosives with an unlawful intent. Stockham had a large but undisclosed quantity of class-C fireworks including M-80s, which are outlawed in Michigan, Chief Ronald Haddad said.
Haddad said authorities believe Stockham was acting alone but still take him “very seriously.” He said Stockham has “a long history of anti-government activities,” though he declined to elaborate.
“A long history of anti-government activities”. Hmm. There’s no data on this yet, but I think it’s a pretty safe guess as to where he gets his news.
As we’ve said before, it isn’t that the rhetoric and the vitriol directly command these people to act. It’s that it creates an environment where they think it’s ok, even righteous, to act.
How many have to die before these are no longer called “isolated incidents”?
Keith Olbermann is suspended indefinitely from MSNBC for contributing to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates.