Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media... and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independently of corporate interference."

-- Keith Olbermann on his new gig as host of an hour-long prime time show on Al Gore's Current TV

Olbermann will also apparently be the network's "chief news officer" -- whatever the hell that is. He goes on to say that his new show will be "for all intents and purposes an improved and we hope amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did at my previous network."

Olbermann, more amplified?

God help us.

To say that this is a bold move for Olbermann is a bit of an understatement; to his credit, he really is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to his advocacy of an independent press and his desire for creative control at any cost. Obviously, he could've gone just about anywhere; he may be a pain in the ass, but he's a talented pain in the ass and one with tremendous name recognition. By lending his substantial heft to Current TV he's guaranteed to be its marquee player and potentially put it on the map as a network.

Of course the negative way of looking at it is that Olbermann's ego is so vast that he'd rather be the genetically engineered giant SyFy-style mega-fish in the tiny pond than be forced to submit to anyone's will. That this is less the case of someone wanting to be an iconoclast than it is someone wanting free reign to be an asshole. And you can bet that Olbermann's many cable detractors -- and you know who I'm talking about -- will take exactly that tone, saying that their former foe has been vanquished to the cultural netherworld because he's a raging blowhard and from here on out he's to be considered a non-entity.

Either way, though, the Huffington Post goes corporate and Olbermann goes independent, all in the span of a day and a half.

Welcome to Bizarro world.


Capt Aclow said...

In Olbermann's defense, he was an important (and fairly lone) voice when Bush had everybody drinking the Kool-Aid. Important times.

I hope he kicks ass at Current, just like I hope Conan kicks as at TBS; Gotta get that media diversified.

Chez said...

I agree completely. Olbermann may be a nightmare to work with and he occasionally goes way off the res, but he's a singular voice.

TheReaperD said...

I so wish it was against the law for a news station to be owned by anything except a news company. I have to say "amen" to Olbermann's quote. Corporate ownership of "news" networks has killed independent news media in this country. None of them can be trusted with the truth and this goes way beyond "bias".

Anonymous said...

"Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media" - Did he really just say that? With a straight face?

One true definition of a blowhard is a person that would make a statement like that, then call for the permanent banishment from the airwaves of those who disagree with him.

Olbermann has his character that he plays on TV, just like the rest of them. The biggest difference between him and most? He honestly seems to believe his own bullshit.

The Hannity's, the Maddow's and Beck's of the world seem to maintain the wry smile, acknowledging that they know about half of what they actually say is based on fact.

The reason Olbermann has been regulated to the bowels of media is the same reason Greenwald and Tancredo don't have TV gigs.

Chez said...

Sorry, but you're more than a little off-base on this. First of all, Olbermann is right to say that certain broadcasters act in almost incomprehensibly irresponsible ways these days; to the best of my knowledge, though, he's never called for anyone to be "permanently banished" for disagreeing with him. That's fucking ridiculous.

Also, while it's true that Beck's shtick is just that -- shtick -- make no mistake that Hannity is a True Believing talking points machine for the right. He always has been. Yeah, he knows that by amping up the rhetoric he gets a nice paycheck and feeds his idiot audience plenty of red meat to chew on, but that doesn't mean he doesn't largely believe what he says. Maddow also believes the views she espouses; the wry smile is just her personality, it's a tip of the hat to the absurdity of a lot of the crap she feels she needs to expose.

You're drawing a false-equivalence, which a lot of people like to do when talking about Olbermann.

MJG said...

It will be interesting, watching Current grow up over the next few years

Capt Aclow said...

Anonymous said: "The reason Olbermann has been REGULATED to the bowels of media"

I think the word you were looking for is RELEGATED.

The good news is that the rest of the words you chose represented what you actually meant to say.

The bad news is that what you meant to say was pretty much completely incorrect.

Web Dunce said...

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. First off, let me say that I like Keith Olbermann very much, his style, his on camera sincerity are really unmatched as far as I can tell. But making him the "chief news officer" is kind of a stretch, no? I watch Current TV for their Vanguard shows. Current seems to be the only television network to actually do unbiased investigative journalism. I hope to God that Keith won't be in charge of that aspect of Current's "news." He also seems kind of old to be on Current TV. (It's not an ageist comment - he's as engaging as ever - I'm just thinking about the demographic and actual programming on Current TV.) But I'm sure he'll be interesting and I will most definitely tune in to see his show. I miss his rants and his sense of humor.

kanye said...

So that's all it takes? One Hugo Blackian/Jeffersonian paraphrase on the importance of a free and independent press, and...*snap!*...Mr. Olbermann's thirty year professional history of plying his considerable talents for, and enriching the bottom lines of those very same congealed, consolidated, thoroughly compromised and utterly insufficient media corporations that he now celebrates his independence from is all of the sudden washed away? The very same media corporations that made this man a decamillionaire twice over, if not more? Is that what he'd like us to believe? If so, there's a few questions that I'd like to put to Mr. Olbermann: What changed? What exactly was it that brought about this life altering, Andrew Carnegie-like shift away from what you've found personally/morally/ethically/professionally acceptable for the last thirty years, as demonstrated by the consistency of your own actions? Why in God's name should this leopard be taken at his word when he tells us that he's decided to change his spots?

Because if we're to believe Mr. Olbermann's Krakatoan belch of bravado and hyperbole, he's had nothing short of an epiphany. That one morning, as he gazed upon the lands from the balcony of his overpriced, vanity-addressed Trump Palace penthouse, his eyes were greeted by the sight of Murrow, Mencken and Gary Webb coming up 69th Street, be-robed and on camelback no less, bearing the blessed gifts of independence, insight and integrity. And that now, finally freed from his master's cruel house, no longer shackled by the chains of indentured servitude, the manacles and leg irons struck from his very soul, he'll enter that gladiatorial arena not as a slave to the man, but rather as an ascended being; as a paragon of both truth and virtue; that he'll assume his rightful place amongst the gods of journalism. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Journalis Maximus, Champion of the 4th Estate!”

“Free at last, free at last...Thank Al Gore I'm free at last.”


kanye said...

You know, it's been nearly six decades since a blacklisted journalist decided that the only way he could continue his work was by going it alone. He spent his days buried in the Congressional Archive, plowing through reams of information, hoping to gain some insight; to discover that one little nugget of truth that would allow him to inform the general public as to how this nation's legislators were in fact screwing the very constituents that they purported to be representing. He spent his nights and weekends knocking on doors and making telephone calls, trying to sell subscriptions to his own little self-financed newsletter. Today, that man is held up as a model of what it means to be an independent journalist. Some even consider him to be the acme.

Seven years ago, an Alaskan mountain guide who had managed to get the occasional piece published in the local newspaper, watched this country's run to war, and it pissed him off. He thought to himself, “I should do something about this. I should become an Iraqi War correspondent.” And so he did. He hocked everything of value that he owned, maxed out a credit card or two and flew to Iraq. He walked into the middle of a war zone, unembedded and unsupported, his only resources being guile, wits and whatever he could carry on his back, and he started filing reports. He spent eight months in country between 2003 and 2005, and he told us the stories that were unavailable from any other outlet. He told us those stories from a perspective that simply couldn't be gotten from the legitimate media. He tried to go back in 2006, but his interpreters and guides talked him out of it. They told that he had become a target, that he was being gunned for...by everybody.

I wonder what Izzy Stone would have to say about Keith Olbermann's Declaration of Journalistic Independence? I wonder what Dahr Jamail thinks when he reads Olbermann's latest pronouncement? I suppose I could send Dahr an email and ask him. He's always been pretty good about getting back to people.


kanye said...

There is no shortage of news organizations that are producing the kind of journalism that Mr. Olbermann claims to be a proponent of: FAIR, Project Censored, Columbia Journalism Review...there are others. These organizations have been doing the kind of vital, essential work for decades that most of us believe constitute the apotheosis of the noble journalistic endeavor, and any one of them would have been thrilled bring Keith Olbermann on board, to receive the resulting attention that would come from such an association. That would have been putting his money where his mouth was. That would have been a bold move.

But instead, he chose CurrentTV, where he'll be assuming the position of “Chief News Officer”, whatever that means. The next nine words of the sentence from the linked article...and will have an equity stake in the company... tells us exactly what that means: This isn't a step down for him, it's a step up. He's tired of being a worker bee, and so he's joining the ownership class.

This really is a double-windfall for Olbermann: In the short term, he get's the control that you say he desires, Chez, but that I think he needs...not an unimportant distinction...and of course, the ego stroke that accompanies that level of control. In the long term, the brand will be built around both his talents and the talents of those whom he brings on board, and when the product has achieved what the owners feel is the maximum value that they can attain, they'll sell; the same as Arianna just did. Of course, when they do sell, it will be to one of those mindless, soulless corporations. Not because they want to mind you, but because that's who's able to write the big check.

There's nothing in Keith Olbermann's background or past performance to suggest that his newest incarnation as newsman will be any different than his past incarnations. We'll get videos of water skiing squirrels, stories about the latest celebrity who's named their newborn child after a piece of fruit, wacky baseball plays, “What Sarah Said”, “What Glenn Said”, “What Rush Said” and a whole lot of commentary on what a bunch of other people whose words and action have no actual bearing on the day-to-day lives of the roughly 99% of Americans who've chosen to ignore those people on a nightly basis, said.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, through a Herculean effort and sheer force of will, Mr. Olbermann will single-handidly thrust the entirety of journalism, kicking and screaming, into a new Golden Age.

Maybe. But I'm certainly not going to waste my time holding out hope, and I don't think that anybody else should either.