I got a few messages on Twitter the other day about Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from his perch at MSNBC. But I’ve never been a fan of Olbermann’s style of news delivery, probably because I always saw him as the bloviating sports announcer he used to be back when he was on ESPN. Spend any time at all on progressive political websites, though, the way I often do, and you quickly understand that he was the “Keith” of “Keith and Rachel”, a broadcast duo featured on their own shows on MSNBC whose efforts to champion the ideals of the political progressive left earned them large followings who often hung on their every word.
Michael Ross, an Olbermann fan and blog buddy of mine, a journalist by trade, wrote these prescient words last fall:
Long-time “Countdown” viewers will surely note that Olbermann’s on-air comments have lately been punctuated by snippets of Paddy Chayefsky dialogue extracted from Sidney Lumet’s “Network,” the celebrated film on television and corporate power — the film that ushered into the cultural lexicon the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Has Olbermann been telegraphing a punch? Is he the character of Howard Beale? Will he be dispatched next year to the “Valhalla” of the boardroom, where Arthur Jensen — played by Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast — will tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he has meddled with the primal forces of nature?
Michael Ross, Short Sharp Shock
In a world defined by media access and the broadcast distribution of TV and radio signals, the political left has proven to be a political anomaly, a group without the plug and play, “let’s hate somebody today” programming characteristics that have made talk radio across the country the bastion of conservative carnival barkers. So I can understand how a lot of politically active liberals would want to canonize Olbermann’s relentless zeal in promoting their interests and his unmitigated gall and over-the-top outrage at anyone who stood in the way of their agenda. There are a lot of times, in fact, when I would like to see a more vocal presence across all media outlets endorsing the kind of common sense political policies that put this nation’s citizens first, the kind of political policies that more often than not are ascribed to a liberal political outlook.
But in a lot of ways, Olbermann was a carnival barker himself, an announcer whose shtick, at least for me, got in the way of his analysis, which seemed to rely more on the facts than most of the other news people in primetime spots. Niall Stanage captures perfectly the ambivalence a lot of us who champion liberal causes have about the style of the ex-Countdown host.
First reactions to Olbermann’s exit have broken along lines as partisan as they were predictable. That the New York Post would respond to the news with glee and The Huffington Post with a gnashing of teeth was hardly a shock.
But back in the real world, I cannot imagine I am the only viewer who is basically simpatico with Olbermann’s worldview, but who had come to find him and his show utterly insufferable. The glibness, the pomposity, the narcissism — all these foibles had, of late, reached gut-wrenching proportions.
Niall Stanage Why I’m glad Keith Olbermann is gone
As much as I didn’t enjoy Mr. Olbermann’s style of delivery, I am glad he figured out how to get MSNBC to pay him a rumored 7 million a year to entertain the progressive masses. And in some respects, even though “Countdown” wasn’t my cup of tea, I have to admit that there were times when it felt good to know that somewhere in the media universe there was someone who countered Sean Hannity’s inanities, although this also reinforced a binary version of reality, as if we were not a multi-dimensional, multiple narrative population who may or may not act in ways that protect our own self-interests.
The great thing about America is our love of second acts.
Mr. Olbermann, “good night and good luck.”