Counting Out Keith Olbermann

I watched MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann one night last week.  Mimicking university hiring committees, MSNBC added a voice from the far left to its existing television lineup, already heavily burdened by the left.  My evening of viewing Olbermann no doubt caused a significant spike in the percentage of his audience, perhaps even to those lofty levels of Air America. 

George Orwell in 1984 captures perfectly a characteristic of radical thinking, if thinking is not too generous a term.  The regime of Orwell's fictional "Oceania" regularly televises "Two Minutes Hate" that is required viewing for the population.  These broadcasts are a shortened version of the regularly scheduled renditions of "Hate Week."  During these exercises, everyone must follow the ritual of hate against those deemed enemies of the regime - "Goldstein" (Trotsky) being that regime's favored enemy. 

The purveyor of Hate Minutes and Hate Weeks betrays a simple and stifled mind that seeks the same in its viewers.  It is a mind that cannot conclude that someone with conflicting views is merely misguided or wrong.  Rather, anyone who has views that don't comport with those "smelly orthodoxies" (as Orwell put it) is utterly contemptible.  He deserves all the venom and hate that can be mustered. 

This sort of hate, so lovingly cultivated by the likes of Keith Olbermann, is indicative of a peculiar attitude and little more.  This attitude is actually the pose of one who supposedly sees through all the charades, who cannot be fooled, and who then smugly reports his findings to the less sophisticated. It simulates depth. This attitude has become especially prevalent on the left since King Karl Marx was dethroned and relegated to the dustbin of history.

So, during primetime on weeknights, MSNBC treats America to Olbermann's hatefest, where, like being on The Edmund Fitzgerald, the minutes go by like hours.  Rather than "Goldstein," Olbermann subjects to his venom George Bush and anyone who may implement or support his policies.

In the show that I endured, Olbermann hyperventilated over the destroyed waterboarding tapes, which Olbermann repeatedly called "torture tapes."  In Olbermann's world, saying it is so often enough makes it so.  He trotted out a law professor who assured us that water- boarding is illegal torture. 

But where is waterboarding legally defined as torture?  There is hardly a consensus on this issue, and there are constitutional protections against vaguely defined crimes. Our own military uses waterboarding as a training device for our soldiers and none is harmed by it. It speaks volumes that leading Democrats knew of this interrogation technique several years ago and said nothing about its "illegality" until they perceived that there were political points to score.  That waterboarding led to the capture of prominent members of al Qaeda and likely saved many American lives is, of course, irrelevant to Olbermann.

Olbermann gleefully mocked White House Press Spokesman, Dana Perino.  She had admitted on an NPR show that she did not know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Gotcha! screams Olbermann. Yes, it is unfortunate that someone speaking for White House would not know more about this incident.

However, in defense of Dana Perino, she is a product of public education.  As such she was likely educated by those who reflect the political philosophy of Keith Olbermann.  This is the philosophy that says there is little in American history worth studying, except those "narratives" that undermine the legitimacy of the American regime.

It is the philosophy reflected by Howard Zinn's widely used history textbook.  This history very reluctantly teaches, if it teaches them at all, any instance where American policy was morally correct and where this policy triumphed because of military power.  That America faced a very real threat from Soviet missiles on Cuban soil in 1962, and then prevailed with naval and nuclear power is an anathema to the Olbermanns of the academy.

We should be charitable to Dana Perino, who, like so many Americans, was shortchanged by her teachers.  However, when ridicule is Olbermann's sole agenda, there is little chance of any weight being given to these mitigating circumstances. 

In my evening with Olbermann, I was fortunate enough to catch the premiere of a scintillating new feature, "Bushed."  This feature, so wittily titled, is supposed to be the beginning of a list of "scandals" that we mere proles no doubt have forgotten. 

Olbermann started with Bush's firing of several U.S. Attorneys who were not supporting the legal positions of his elected administration.  These firings paled in comparison to Bill Clinton's firing of all U.S. Attorneys, including one who was specifically investigating his corruption in Arkansas.  Never mind that all U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President.  No scandal here.

Then Olbermann gave us the inadequately armored Humvee "scandal."  There was no mention of the reams of procurement regulations that the Department of Defense was saddled with by Congresses, controlled for decades by Democrats.  Nor did he mention the successful military strategy that has largely made this point irrelevant.

Olbermann then dredged up the mother of all phony scandals:  Valarie Plame.  This is the same Valarie Plame who was not a covert operative legally entitled to any special protection of her identity, who lied about her role in getting Joe Wilson's assignment to Niger, who in turn lied about how he got the job, and who then lied about what he did and found in Niger. These are not exactly people a rational person would want to rely on to make a case as Olbermann does. Even the John Kerry campaign in 2004 had the sense to distance itself from these two.

When making a case, (or, presumably, when starting a new televised feature) one usually begins with one's best arguments.  This fact does not bode well for future installments of Olbermann's "Bushed."

Olbermann then gave viewers his "Worst Persons of the World" feature.  In this charming feature, Olbermann highlighted those political opponents whom he hates the most that day.  The audience, no doubt, is expected to react just as those audiences watching the "Hate Minutes" in 1984:

"A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic."
It is easy to imagine those at the Daily Kos or at doing precisely this, and working themselves into a frothy frenzy after a few episodes of Olbermann's bile.  Thus Olbermann, the cleverest patient, entertains the rest of the asylum.

Yes, let us join the countdown for Keith Olbermann.  This is the countdown to that day when MSNBC relegates this hatefest to the dustbin of television history.

Henry P. Wickham, Jr. welcomes comments.