(By American Zen
's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
"I fired him...He's crazy." - Rupert Murdoch
, disgraced media tycoon
"(Current TV was) founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it." - Al Gore, disgraced ex President-elect of the US.
Keith Olbermann's problem is that he has too much backbone both literally and figuratively.
The average human has 5 lumbar vertebrae. Olbermann has six. And that shows in a long career in broadcasting that goes back to when he was a short-lived sportscaster for my local WCVB TV in Boston. A man both blessed and cursed, Olbermann's backbone and courage to standing up to both Republican and Democratic absurdity was and still is beloved by the left and reviled by television executives and an endless conga line of hypocritical right wing Fox "News" cheerleaders who never tire of criticizing his "partisan political statements". Not long before leaving MSNBC in a huff just over a year ago, Olbermann was briefly suspended by Phil Griffin
when it came out that he'd donated modest amounts of money to a few Democratic candidates and not disclosing it.
Of course, not mentioned by the "liberal" MSNBC was Fox's nakedly shameless hypocrisy in raising $1,000,000
for the Republican Governor's Association and at the same time another million dollars to the GOP
. Still, throughout his career, Olbermann has been held to a higher or more hypocritical standard than his opponents in the right wing. Overrated media critic Howard Rosenberg once wrote
in a snot-slathered piece, "Countdown is more or less an echo chamber in which Olbermann and like-minded bobbleheads nod at each other" without once making note of the fact that Fox "News" and many of the Sunday morning bobblehead shows feature largely if not exclusively Republican and conservative commentators similarly bobbing their heads at each other while telling one unchallenged lie after another.
Unmentioned by Rosenberg, also, was the fact that Olbermann and his guests were almost always on the right side of an issue.Yesterday, Current TV
a virtual clone of the MSNBC format that Olbermann perfected and popularized, abruptly and unceremoniously fired Olbermann. Desperate to fill his time slot by Monday night, Current TV's co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt just as abruptly hired whoremonger Eliot Spitzer, whose own show on CNN was the worst in television history since My Mother the Car
and Jay Leno's variety show.
Everywhere go Olbermann goes, he's surrounded by disgraced and morally turpitudinous people, which, this writer supposes, is inevitable in the mud pit of television journalism. But Olbermann also has a reputation for helping to found and/or build up networks and to make them not only profitable but good. If one were to trace Olbermann's television career after he left Boston for Los Angeles in late 1984, you'll note he was with ESPN, Fox Sports, MSNBC and, finally, Current TV in their salad days. Everywhere he went, Olbermann earned accolades and won award after award. Countdown
, his late, lamented political commentary show on MSNBC and still his high water mark, was one of the highest-rated shows in that network's 16 year-long history.
While I hesitate to describe Olbermann as a liberal, he's nonetheless long become the standard-bearer for progressives and Democrats who have a passion for the truth and for a man who bravely sought out that truth and gave it to the masses not caring about the well-shod toes he stepped on in the process whether it was Bush's apathy toward Katrina or Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign for using racist imagery (one of the few times Olbermann stepped on his dick).
Olbermann's acquiring a reputation for being our Peter Arnett, our Geraldo Rivera. But when Olbermann was about to figuratively open a vault, we were confident it had something in it. Olbermann never revealed American troop strengths and positions on national TV. And Olbermann is more prone to expose racial bias in the media instead of merely stoking it as Rivera recently has done.
It may be hard if not outright impossible for one to feel sorry for a multimillionaire like Keith Olbermann, a man with a monstrous ego not seen since Daniel Webster if his obsessive and often combative responses to mentions of himself as he seeks them out on Twitter are any indication. But he deserves more than a reputation for being someone who's difficult if not outright impossible to work with.
In a perfect world, Olbermann would have a show in which he's allowed to do whatever he wants and is not subject to hypocritical double standards. It's an unwritten rule in the world that you can have a massive ego if you can justify it. His numerous awards, large fan base, overwhelming eloquence and rhetoric and countless tens of millions of dollars he's earned for his employers easily justifies it.
But we don't live in a perfect world because Olbermann keeps getting railroaded or fired by one network after another while heavily-edited videotapes by the likes of James O'Keefe and Andrew Breitbart and the other Alan Funts of right wing journalism change American history at the Congressional level. And backbone, especially a surfeit of it, is just not a prized commodity in the corporate mainstream media of our vastly imperfect and corrupted planet.