Friday, June 13, 2008

Cruel Keith

Yeah, I was kind of bothered by this as well.

I've always felt a little bit out of step with some liberal publications since I'm not a huge fan of Keith Olbermann. Don't get me wrong; Olbermann is clearly a sharp guy and a talented broadcaster, and it's great to have a strong progressive voice to balance the Bill O'Reillys of the world (and I feel it's unfair to even compare the two, since BillO's show is all about himself, whereas Countdown is mostly a straight news show with some commentary added).

Olbermann has a reputation of a bold truth-teller, a Howard Beale without the crazy. Of course, Olbermann isn't some student activist Xeroxing a newsletter, or an investigative journalist talking to whistle-blowers and filing FOIA requests. He's the host of a nationally broadcast prime-time TV show, and while that brings his message to a huge number of people, it also means that he has to consider how his employer feels about what he's saying. MSNBC is hardly the model of a responsible news organization; this is the company that fired Phil Donahue in the run-up to the Iraq War, that thought it was a fine idea to give the reprehensible Michael Savage a show, and that is all too happy to put Ann Coulter on the air whenever she's out shilling for her latest screed.

So when Olbermann named Katie Couric his "Worst Person in the World" the other night, it confirmed my suspicions of him. He characterized the idea that sexism was present in coverage of the Hillary Clinton campaign as "Kool-Aid-ish," and then went on to savage Couric for her criticism of an MSNBC correspondent. So seeing sexism in the media is akin to brainwashing, but viciously attacking a competitor in order to defend the honor of a colleague (whom Couric did not even name) is the epitome of reasoned debate?

It can be quite satisfying to see Olbermann go after Fox News personalities and members of the Bush administration. As an attack dog, he's quite effective. But like any good attack dog, he understands that while he's encouraged to bark at anyone who walks by the house, he'd better make sure to behave for his owners.

Even Howard Beale had to learn that lesson eventually.

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