Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Special Comment On The Departure Of Keith Olbermann From MSNBC

I don't know why Keith Olbermann left MSNBC. I would like to think it's because he told the wrong person to fuck off, or that he pulled the chair out from under some network executive, but whatever the reason, Countdown is gone.

I was a fan of Olbermann and of Countdown. I was a fan when sports reporting was his full time vocation and I always believed his show was one of the best written political shows on television.

Political television has become the fabric of our political discourse. We don't refer to these shows by their names, rather, "Olbermann, or O'Reilly," or "Beck."

The popularity of political television is not based on music, or graphics or other technology, it's simply based on the point of view of the host.

And Olbermann, like O'Reilly, and Beck, had a point of view.

As we ponder the state of our political discourse in the wake of the attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, political television is at the center of the conversation.

The real problem is not the highly opinionated hosts, but us. We are an embarrassment, for several reasons.

One, we are unable to listen to anyone with an opinion that differs from ours. Anytime I mentioned Olbermann to a conservative I heard the same talking point: "How can you watch that?" "How can you watch MSNBC?"

I watched Olbermann not because I agreed with everything he said, but because I appreciated the writing, the commentary, the humor. I appreciated the fact that he had an opinion, all his own, developed from his view of the world, and not what someone else told him to think.

And yes, I also watch O'Reilly, Maddow, Huckabee, Matthews, Scarborough (who I note is a conservative on liberal MSNBC who often has MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan on as a panelist), and sometimes Beck (who I will admit is somewhat of a nut. I think he was normal once, but then he got mad about something and hasn't been the same since.) I watch these shows, and form my own opinions. Some entertain me, some make me think. None are the sole source of information which causes me to form my opinions on any topic.

Our inability to listen to those with a contrasting point of view is our shame. It is no surprise though. We live in a world where we only want to be around people who agree with us, and people who will tell us how great we are. We run from those that disagree, and form opinions based on what information to which we choose to listen.

Our nasty, violent political discourse is not based on the opinions of those in political television, it is based on our inability to listen - just listen - to those with other points of view.

We've now lost one of those points of view, for a little while I presume. I predict we'll see Olbermann soon, somewhere else, maybe radio, maybe TV.

There are those that are thrilled that Olbermann is gone. They will tell you various reasons why they are happy. But the real reason is clear:

They didn't agree with him.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Lee Rosen said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I used to watch and listen to a bunch of these guys. I've always been a total political junkie. I worked in the North Miami Beach campaign office of John Lindsay when he ran for President in 1971 (I was 11) and stayed involved for many years (worked for Jim Hunt in race against Jesse Helms). I loved everything about politics.

Lately, however, these commentators just wear me out. I don't have the energy to listen anymore. I'm not sure if I've lost interest or if they've beaten it out of me. I'm older than you so maybe it's just wear and tear on my brain. Not sure.

I wish we had more discussion that was educational and informative without being caustic. I understand, however, that there just isn't an audience for that kind of information anymore. It would be nice if we had something between Fox/MSNBC and PBS - interesting, with a little screaming, but without the constant dose of caffeine. Not likely anytime soon I suppose.

I suspect Olbermann will be back somewhere else soon. I doubt we'll have to wait very long.

Keep sharing your opinions. It's always stimulating and enjoyable. Thanks.


Kirk said...

Thank you for your commentary on this issue. Personally, I didn't have the stomach to watch Olbermann. To me, his show oozed with hate and bile.

Now, even though I'm more conservative than anything, I won't watch Fox, either. To me, Fox is all about pandering and demogoguery.

The show I love to watch is Scarborough's Morning Joe. Joe seems to make a real effort to present both sides. His guests tend to lean toward the liberal side, and I imagine this is because many conservatives wouldn't be seen dead on MSNBC.

Thanks again.

libhom said...

There's a one word explaination for why KO is gone: Comcast.

Christine McCall said...

I found Olbermann during the OJ trial and never left. He made me mad, crazy sometimes, but he expressed himself so wonderfully, and with such pure command of the language, I could never leave. His insight into legal matters always astonished me.

I agree with all that you have said here, Brian, and I fervently hope that your prediction of Olbermann's imminent return is proven correct. The world needs opinionated articulate people who enjoy the frank and unfettered exchange of disparate views. What kind of a humdrum monochromatic world would this be without the Olbermanns?

Christine McCall
License Advocates Law Group LLP
Pasadena, CA