MEDIA OBSERVER

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Olbermann: Retire the “Special Comment”  ||| [print_link]

BY MARYSCOTT O’CONNOR

Keith Olbermann is very good at soundbite polemic; the rise in popularity of Countdown has at least as much to do with his inarguably charming personality as with Olbermann’s ability to transform complex issues of modern political science into televised Reader’s Digest versions both palatable and comprehensible to today’s harried and confused American citizen.Olbermann’s genuinely outraged Special Comments — the ones he aimed at Bush when he first started offering them on Countdown — were things of beauty.

Lately, however, they’ve lost their impact. It started with the one he aimed at Hillary Clinton. They have become, successively, less effective with each attempt.

If he wishes to preserve the power of this particular element in his arsenal, if indeed it remains salvageable, Keith Olbermann ought to retire the “Special Comment.” He must reserve its use for the truly heinous, the truly momentous, the truly “Special” — or risk its becoming yet another Countdown number, no more nor less notable or effective a propaganda tool than the “Worst Persons” or “Bushed.”

Those of us on the left and even many “in the middle” rightly applaud Countdown‘s consistent provision of much-needed balance and correction to the onslaught of misinformation from the rest of corporate news networks’ baffling combination of reciting dictation from the GOP and constant omission of basic facts and glaring errors and missteps of the Bush Administration and, more recently, the McCain campaign for the Presidency.

The outrage Olbermann felt as he read aloud his very first Special Comment was palpable. And I shared it; we all did. Thus was born the Special Comment.

If it has lost its initial, undeniable potency (and I would argue it has and that, moreover, Olbermann risks transforming this now semi-regular editorial commentary into a merely erudite version of the Andy Rooney screed), it is because Olbermann has begun using these polemics as political weaponstrying, that is, to use them as such — instead of presenting them as he did in the beginning — as the infuriated remonstrances of a man who had, to that point, endeavoured desperately to maintain equanimity in the face of increasing insanity and finally refused to continue even bothering to pretend to pretend that ANYTHING sane remained in the world about which he gave his nightly reports.

Perhaps, spurred by the liberal and well-deserved praise his righteous and eloquent indignation elicited, Keith got carried away. After a few more Special Comments aimed at “Still President” Bush, Olbermann found other targets in Clinton and McCain… and his prose gradually became more prosaic and less puissant.

Case in point: His latest, regarding John McCain, while as always a well-constructed diatribe, might very well have been written by any number of Obama supporters. It lacks nothing in the way of facts, passion or a genuine basis for indignation; McCain has behaved abominably and Olbermann is correct in his analysis and disparagement of the candidate and the man.

Nevertheless, the frequency of these “Special” Comments and the essentially de rigueur character of the behaviour for which Olbermann takes McCain to task in this latest philippic combine to transform what began as a savagely incisive and dynamic rhetorical instrument into mere soothing anodyne to the liberal viewer — and perhaps a guarantor of said viewer’s patronage.

If Mr. Olbermann wishes to maintain his position as an editorialist on a news network whose commentary occasionally reaches Olympian heights of elocutionary brilliance, he should consider giving his Special Comments a hiatus for the duration of the Presidential campaign and perhaps hand the baton of daily expostulation to CNN’s Jack Cafferty, whose most recent commentary may be a smoke signal to MSNBC communicating his willingness to jump ship:

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

. . .

One after another, McCain’s answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has — virtually none.

Where are John McCain’s writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America’s moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

A disingenuous display of objectivity is not the point of shelving the Special Commentary for the duration of the Presidential Campaign. Only a fool would believe Keith Olbermann a neutral observer of these political proceedings. No, my suggestion is in service of preserving the “specialness” of the Special Comment itself. Frankly, there is nothing Special enough about John McCain to warrant another epistle written directly to him. Olbermann’s viewers are all too aware of McCain’s pernicious failings and the ills that would befall this nation should his campaign and the right wing succeed in torturing the electoral system sufficiently to guarantee a McCain victory in November. Let the facts, as illuminated so expertly in the Countdown format, speak for themselves. Do not waste another Special moment on the venial sins of John McCain.

If Mr. Olbermann does feel moved to create another of his incandescent jeremiads, perhaps he ought to let the unsparing glare of light and righteous rage fall upon someone who truly deserves to hear the unvarnished truth about the damage caused by her actions — and inactions: Nancy “Impeachment is off the table” Pelosi.

Senior Contributing Editor Maryscott O’Connor is also editor in chief and founder of MyLeftWing.com.

12 comments on “MEDIA OBSERVER
  1. Respectfully, it is his style and heartfelt. It is no different than others (dKos) criticizing you for your rants, your anger, your passion.

    Let Olbermann be Olbermann.

    He seems to do well enough being himself for himself, and the many who would not otherwise get the message.

    This is a pathetic attention ploy on your part, including posting, then deleting at dKos, long after being banned there.

    Have you no shame Madam?

  2. Diane, I had earlier pledged to stop responding to you elsewhere on the internet, but now that you seem determined to stalk me wherever I write…

    Please get some therapy. This has become not only tiresome but a little frightening.

  3. Countering right-wing propaganda cloaked as the left is important.

    The right would love nothing more than to hush Olbermann’s voice, one of the few MSM that offers countering to the propaganda tsunami of the Murdoch Empire and its minions.

    As a former ally of yours I cannot wonder but what made you turn 180 degrees against all you used to stand for, and may be the only person not afraid of your bullying slander enough to stand and speak for the LEFT.

    It is not stalking, but as being asked not to post on your site, I wanted to counter this somewhere, so people wouldn’t be mislead by a false guru of the non-left left.

    I know any one who criticizes you gets branded “insane” but truly this piece does not withstand scrutiny and objection?

    Meh, hopefully the readers will see the point and overlook your accusations.

    It needed saying.

  4. Dear Readers:

    Is this radio silence a result of there being nothing left to be said, or your being appalled by what I’ve said…

    Or have you perhaps been spooked by the deranged commentary of the first visitor?

    If that’s the case, trust me, you’re not alone.

  5. I don’t understand what this woman Diane is talking about, accusing the author of committing some heinous crime of impersonating a real left person without being one? That’s kind of deranged. Everyone knows that this site knows quite well the people they publish, and I just checked Ms O’Connor’s own site and it’s as legit a resource for the left as you can find. This woman Diane is a troll of the worst kind or has some fixation on Maryscott O’Connor for reasons that defy common sense.

    In any case I just wanted to say that I find this piece to direct our attention to something I had myself noted on Countdown with Olbermann. O’Connor’s points are well taken, and in no way diminish the contribution that Keith represents to a little bit of truth in the overall muck of propaganda that passes for journalism in this nation.

  6. I wonder how much REAL political acumen Olbermann really has, or he is merely a guy who stands out for doing something out of the ordinary in a media field populated by prostitutes and morons. Not that I’m not thankful for what we get on Countdown, a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the rotten programs, but is this a case of intrinsic quality? As they say, the dog that walks on his hind legs is not so much applauded because he walks so well, but because he walks at all…!

  7. Way to go O’Connor! I hope Olberman listens to your advice. It’s not about maintaining the viability of a gimmick, but of a legitimate instrument to keep the audience interested and informed abut topics of primary importance. It shouldn’t be abused and wasted on lesser targets…my 2 cents, that’s all.

  8. Many journalists working for the corporate media probably hide their level of disagreement with the system, and the way news is presented. That doesn’t make them into a Chomsky in terms of analysis, but there may be a potential there waiting for the opportunity to seep out. Cafferty often sounds like a curmudgeon chumping at the bit to tell it like it is, but I must confess he’s had something of an erratic record picking targets. Not too long ago he was in there with the rest of the media mob throwing insults at Hugo Chavez…Still, I wonder what would happen if he was given a whole show to mouth off? It’s an intriguing prospect, even though surely nothing will change anyway.

  9. In my view, that Olbermann’s egoistic wings have melted a bit doesn’t diminish his bona fides per his political acumen. The man is a history buff, and knows his political science; I defy anyone else working on television today (PBS and Tom Brokaw — possibly –excepted) to hold his own against Olbermann in a genuine intellectual face-off.

    aussieBloke has encapsulated it best; as usual, I have said it in hundreds of words what could have been accomplished in 75 or less…

    The primary culprit in the mild deterioration of Mr. Olbermann’s judgement seems to be his participation at Daily Kos; the unrelenting adulation and instantaneous nature thereof has a euphoric effect (I speak from vast Daily Kos experience) — and has a tendency to corrupt one’s output.

    (I wrote an essay about this phenomenon, but it was far too self-indulgent a piece to post in this venue):

    The Idiot Wind

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