Saturday, January 22, 2011

Olbermann Out at MSNBC

In a move that shocked some, but not others, Keith Olbermann announced on his MSNBC show Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Friday that he was leaving the network and his show was ending. He offered no reason, other than to say that he was informed late in the week that Friday was his last night.

The network claimed the move had nothing to do with NBC Universal's recent acquisition by Comcast (a corporation with well-known right wing ties) -- which is suspicious because the denial was issued before anyone officially asked the question.

A side effect of media consolidation is the homogenization of voices. The fewer media entities in existence, the less diverse the viewpoints being expressed.

I stumbled across Countdown one night by accident; I was initially confused when I saw Olbermann talking about the war in Iraq. Growing up, I'd seen Olbermann co-hosting SportsCenter on ESPN with his friend Dan Patrick. I knew Olbermann to be a goofy sort who loved baseball, but I never thought he'd find a career in politics.

But there he was, verbally ripping the Bush administration a new one over its lies and propaganda. I wasn't nearly as liberal back then as I am now, and I had no idea Olbermann was, either. But even then, I saw the visceral anger -- I could feel his disdain for what he thought was the abandonment of American principles.

Even if I didn't agree with him that night, his steadfastness stuck with me.

As I became more engrossed in politics in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, Olbermann -- and MSNBC as a whole -- became my network of choice. Even then, I saw Fox News for what it was and wanted nothing to do with it, and CNN was simply too milquetoast for me (I find it's self-proclaimed centrist nature with relation to the other two networks pathetically laughable).

Olbermann introduced me to several media figures who I trust to this day, including Rachel Maddow, Ezra Klein and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, Chris Hayes of The Nation, Lawrence O'Donnell and Arianna Huffington, among others.

Sadly, he never converted me to Chris Mathews.

Before long, Countdown became nightly viewing, even though it meant missing my share of basketball games and what few hourly dramas I enjoyed (sorry, Bones). Eventually, I watched Countdown and then The Rachel Maddow Show and, for a short time, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. Anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love these shows -- not just because the hosts are liberal, but because they cut through the right wing noise and support their assertions with facts.

And yes, Olbermann can be funny. Not Jon Stewart funny, but he held his own.

Insiders suggest Olbermann's ouster is a result of his defiant attitude following his suspension back in November -- but if that's the case, why wait until now to fire him? Why not just toss him to the curb in November? I think it has more to do with the Comcast merger, and I think none of MSNBC's other liberal hosts should feel too comfortable.

Olbermann was by far the network's ratings winner -- he had the highest-rated cable news show not on Fox News. If he could be unceremoniously tossed, how long do we have to wait before the other liberal voices are shown the door?

For almost eight years, whether he meant to or not, Olbermann was a reliable voice on the left. He was the first to stand up against the war in Iraq and the first to hold the Bush administration accountable for its lies and its alleged war crimes. He was passionate and instrumental in setting up the liberal narrative for health care reform, and even though he was an ardent supporter of President Obama, Olbermann was by no means a cheerleader.

His Special Comments were always must-see programming -- I've posted quite a few of them on this page. Even when he was over-the-top, even when he resorted to the same name-calling that the right wing calls home, Olbermann's heart was always in the right place.

I hope Olbermann finds a new home soon; we need voices like him in the media. The right wing always pointed to him as an example of the so-called liberal media, when in fact his voice from the left was one of few.

We need that voice, and damn MSNBC and Comcast for silencing it.

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