Saturday, 22 January 2011

Olbermann's departure from MSNBC: one more Step towards Stupid.

Of course I was surprised and dismayed this morning to hear MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announce that his Friday show would be the last one. I sometimes found him to be a bit over-the-top on some subjects and comments, but he is one of few American journalists remaining today who hold true to the principles of journalism - relating fact-based (not opinion-based) stories in an objective a way as possible. He, like MSNBC's other leading journalists, judged acts at their face value, and only then by their motivations, and would pull no punches for any politician, right or left, if his/her actions were worthy of criticism - and exactly the same in the opposite direction for any action worthy of praise. This is how journalism should be, and Mr. Olbermann is (was?) one of the rational world's last bastions against the immature screeching, whining and lying tactics used by today's political right.

I remember, after George W. Bush's 2004 re-election, an English tabloid headline querying its readers: "Is more than half the U.S. completely stupid?". I don't agree, but I can observe that the more strident and misleading opinions get about just as much airtime as fact, and that the more irrational and extreme the views of a voter, the higher the possibility that he will turn up at the polls. Yet as of today we have one less mainstream figure providing fact to the masses - as fact - and convince them to decide for themselves. Billo, Beck, Rush and Breitbart must be creaming their jeans about now at the thought of a future where even the wildest lies will go uncontested.

The right-wing pundits I mention above, unlike their viewers/listeners, cannot claim the innocence of pure stupidity. At best, they can plead guilty to one of two crimes: they can a) claim purposeful ignorance - ignorance of the true obstacles confronting the majority of the U.S.' population today (already-over-demanding job positions disappearing overseas, lack of even basic health-care for some) because of their already-prosperous position, and promoting other prosperous pundits/politicians/organisations 'like themselves', or b) be corporate-serving corporate-riches-seeking stooges spreading corporate-enriching lies to the very same knowingly-ignorant populace that is enriching the same. Beck and Breitbart are of the latter category - fully aware of their actions and the damages they cause - and in my mind are humans of the most despicable sort - those who wilfully impede and destroy the very essence of what makes us human: fact-(science-)based education and rationality.

Humans think, animals 'feel'. Thinking humans have less tendency to resort to vitriol and violence, a fact that is both true common knowledge and available everywhere, and are less likely to react with the same tactics the same. Yet the trend for today's American public seems to be pundits and politicians, backed by corporations intent on spreading a 'feeling' message to a public remaining dependant upon them because their thoughtless 'feeling' of fear or comfort, behaving in belligerent and irrational manner quite unsuited to a thinking human being. In my mind, watching American politics is like watching a grade-school play-yard: the bullies win out over 'the wimps' in the beginning, but settle down when they are obliged to compete in situations that require rational thought; but what if the U.S.' richest denizens' goal was to create and fund wave after wave of bullies, and make sure the stage was permanently set in a way where no rational thought was 'required' and could never compete? Keith Olbermann was like that big kid a couple grades up who would protect any younger kid he thought 'cool' against gratuitous persecution - and we're going to miss him dearly.

Let's hope Mr. Olbermann finds another post from where he can spread his arguably-over-the-top manner in his unarguably fact-oriented way. I also hope that Mr. Olbermann's departure won't weaken the positions of his co-journalists Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow and recently-arrived Lawrence O'Donnell, three more rational voices much-needed by the U.S. public today.