OLBERMANNS ENABLERS! KOs misogyny was his worst trait. Heres how we liberals reacted: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2011
Their own private Europe, now shared: This morning, Paul Krugman explains the recent problems of England and Ireland, refuting Paul Ryans bungled claims as he does.
How could Ryan have been so wrong about what happened over there? In this passage, Krugman explains it:
Later, Krugman coins another phrase: Again, American conservatives have long used the myth of a failing Europe to argue against progressive policies in America. (Our emphasis, on a nice phrase.)
Its true. Conservatives have endlessly talked about the terrible health care in that alleged failing Europe. Unfortunately, when these conservatives speak, other conservatives listen! Perhaps forty percent of American adults self-identify as conservatives. When they hear their leaders make these misstatements, they tend to believe that theyre accurate.
They especially tend to believe it when our side doesnt say boo.
For decades, their side has effectively driven disinformation about European health care (and other topics); in response, our side has tended to nap. We noticed the results once again reading yesterdays Daily Beast.
According to our sardonic analysts, the Beast is becoming the blog of lists, but its edited by a very smart woman. In part for that reason, the analysts cringed, recoiled and writhed when they read this bungled synopsis:
In large part, such bungled reports result from decades of pseudo-conservative disinformation. By the way: If an average American read that synopsis, why wouldnt he or she assume that SS will be belly-upbankrupt, broke, out of businessas of 2037?
The AP report to which the Beast linked wasnt quite as bungled. Even so, wed have to say that decades of liberal indifference about basic messaging thoroughly infects the prose, from the first paragraph on:
That statement by Biggs is really quite striking. But Ohlemachers attempt to explain the status of Social Security strikes us as quite bad. It wasnt until paragraph 16 that he told readers what will happen after 2037. (At that point, Social Security would collect enough in payroll taxes to pay out about 78 percent of benefits.) Meanwhile, this is how that second highlighted passage might have read, if liberals had pounded away at accurate messaging over the past thirty years:
The AP report was written quite poorly; the Beast only made it worse. But then, this sort of thing has transpired for decades. One side has devotedly invented and pimped misleading claimsand one side has stared into air.
Well correct Krugman in only one way:
Do conservatives have their own private Europe? Do they have their own private account of Social Security? Actually, nothey have shared their private ideas! By now, everybody shares these ideas, in large part because our side has rarely tried to speak up, rewrite or fight. Or, as Dylan so aptly put it:
Well, time passed and now it seems/Everybodys having them dreams.
Everybody is having them dreamsdreams which have ceased to be private
PART 3OLBERMANNS ENABLERS (permalink): What the fudge? Todays New York Times includes a pair of letters about Keith Olbermanns tenure at Countdown. The first comes from (presumably) the novelist Anne Bernays, an Olbermann fan who writes from the banks of the Charles:
Different people will make different judgments, of course. That said, wed have to list ourselves among those who were benighted. On balance, we didnt find Olbermanns work to be primarily thoughtful or above all, civilized. On balance, we didnt generally tend to find his irascibility appealing.
On balance, we thought his weekly reading of Thurber in the last yeara tribute to his late fatherrepresented a new high (or a new low) in the cable news culture of self-reference/self-involvement. We often wondered if anyone actually watched those Friday-night readings. Apparently, some people did.
On balance, we havent been fans of Countdownor of the overall culture of the news channel it spawned at MSNBC. That said, weve been interested by the views of people who did admire Olbermanns workthough weve sometimes been puzzled by their chronologies, as was the case when Will Bunch wrote the following at Media Matters. Bunch quoted a bit of Olbermanns own chronology, then mused upon it a bit:
Many admirers cite that first special comment, from August 2006. This said, Bunchs sense that Olbermann only emerged as a liberal about that time is a bit hard to square with Olbermanns self-description, in which his programs emergence as anti-establishment began with Mission Accomplished. In fact, Olbermann said little about the stagecraft of Bushs splashdown in real time, in the summer of 2003; as Bunch suggests, Countdowns special tone and tenor hadnt really emerged at that time. Wed like to see someone do a careful history of Countdown, describing the arc of the programs developmentand weighing its alleged strengths against its obvious weaknesses.
That isnt meant as a criticism of Bunchs short history, though we would be inclined to criticize one part of his assessment. Early in his discussion, Bunch discusses a "talking point" which is certain to drive progressives crazy. As he does, we think he plays the enabler a bit, in a familiar way:
Question: Has anyone ever actually said that people on the left and the right are always equally bad in equal proportions? Or is Bunch setting up a bit of a straw man, penning a slightly embellished complaint? However one might answer that question, Bunchs rebuttal is itself a very familiar talking point, a talking point liberals widely recite in Olbermanns defense.
Olbermann has been a victim of false equivalency, we liberals tend to say. When we do, we establish a very low bar for our own sides conduct. When we reject the false claim of equivalence, we give our side a pass as long as we can cling to this claim: We arent as bad as Fox! Given the conduct observed at Fox, this standard is quite easily met. Since no one in American journalistic history has ever been as bizarre as Glenn Beck, we thus establish a very low bar for our own sides performance. Building this rather flimsy defense, we may tend to enable the imperfect, possibly failing conduct of our own sides leaders.
Wed have to say that Olbermann was often ill-served by this type of tribal self-defense. Consider his gruesome, unyielding misogynyone of the factors which led us, years ago, to start losing respect for his program.
Presumably, everyone has imperfect impulses; this was one of Olbermanns worst. But how strange! When we began to criticize this conduct, we were amazed, for years, by the failure of other liberals to offer a similar challenge. We were puzzled, for years, by the silence which from the suburbs. Could it be that other liberals dont see how gruesome this conduct was? We wondered about that question for years. And then, at last, in July 2010, we all received an inside look at the perceptions and attitudes behind this long silence, courtesy of the off-the-record comments and statements which emerged from the Journolist flap.
Liberals offered many objections to various aspects of the Journolist flap, which emerged from reporting at the Daily Caller. That said, weve never heard anyone claim that the quoted remarks below didnt occur, or that they were somehow taken out of context. In this passage, the Daily Callers Jonathan Strong quotes liberals and progressives talking about Olbermanns misogynyoff the record, of course:
With regard to the Prejean matter, might we recall the sheer stupidity which accompanied Countdowns misogyny? In their gruesome segments attacking Prejean, Olbermann and Musto savaged her in blatantly misogynist waysbecause she had taken the same position on same-sex marriage that was held by Barack Obama! Yes, the misogyny was quite vile. The stupidity may have been even worse.
(Up in Cambridge, some may have found these naughty boys to be appealingly irascible.)
We criticized this conduct out loud. The brave souls quoted by Strong did not. Dont be misled when Strong says that Traister had written the same thing in her columns for Salon. The single statement he quotes comes from this long piecea piece in which Traister herself was largely devoted to mocking and trashing Hilton. (Nugget statement: It's time to admit that Paris Hilton, that creepy dollie, must be destroyed. Metaphorically, of course.) That one lone statement about Olbermanns conduct appears fleetingly, quite deep inside the lengthy piece.
When these Journolist conversations appeared, we searched for any sign that Traister ever discussed this gruesome conduct in a genuine, stand-alone piece. If she did write such a piece, we never found it.
Remarkable, isnt it? During years of similar transgressions, Olbermann felt free to call Hilton a slut on air and speculate about whether anyone had ever ejaculated in her face. And yet, these fiery liberals never stood up and challenged his conduct in public!
We lost a lot of respect for Traister as we compared her private comments to her years of public silenceas we read the comments she was willing to make, but only when speaking in private. Olbermann has a terrible record of going out of his way to talk about young, attractive women he believes to be stupid in grotesquely dismissive and oversexualized terms? How weirdwe had noticed that problem too! But then, we had discussed it out loud.
In our view, Olbermann was very poorly served by the silence of these lambsby the silence of the other fiery liberals who refused to speak out on this matter. The gentleman might have improved his conduct if others in the liberal world had spokenbut they chose to shut up. Careers were maintained as these self-dealing children stayed creatively silent. But Olbermanns interests were badly servedas were the basic interests of the progressive world.
Are ourn really better than theirn? Its a claim we liberals love to make. (Note to Bunch: OReilly does a fair amount of charity work too. What point are we trying to make?) In this matter, as in quite a few others, ourn behaved a great deal like theirn; simply put, ourn displayed the gross hypocrisy we like to impute to their side. And presumably, many people noticed. Here is the second letter in todays New York Times:
The other tribes true believers have their story-lines too. Was Olbermann the poster child for incivility? Actually no, he was not. But many people will notice the double standards our fiery tribe will often display. Ourn are a lot like theirn, they will often conclude.
In many ways, they will be right. High-minded people will swoon over Thurber. Others will notice the truth.
Go back and reread those quotes from Strong. Thats what our liberal leaders thoughtalthough they refused to tattle.