The Fuss Sure Is A Puzzle

Why the buzz about the allegations that GE and News Corp. senior management asked Olbermann and O’Really to tone down their juvenile behavior? The castigations hurled at the ‘senior management’ reveal not concerns over ‘free speech’ or ‘media independence’ but how deep and pervasive our decadence has become – even among some of our self -anointed blog thought leaders.

Good night and good luck !

To recap what everyone already knows:

1. GE and News Corp. are vertically integrated corporations with diverse interests before the federal government, include defense, spectrum allocation, media concentration, medical, energy and other highly intensive regulatory matters. Known for years. (Time Warner is the same, btw).

2. The audience share for Olbermann and O’Really combined on any given night is less than a bad CW show. Less than 4 million. Bloggers might assume they and those who appear on these shows are All That Matters. Definitely a case of drinking one’s own bath water. To most Americans both shows are largely unseen and irrelevant to their lives. No one should be surprised that senior corporate management at the conglomerate level does not focus on the daily status and blow by blows in this tiny microcosm. Most people don’t.

3. Olbermann and O’Really long ago descended to a level of juvenile narcissism with ad hominem attacks that jumped the shark of self parody to reach revolting unrestrained egoism. Only the most devout Kool Aiders will deny that.

4. MSNBC’s craven suck up to the Bush Administration during the War Run Up is old news. As in 5 year old news.

5. ‘Journalism’ as a profession succumbed to business models and self-eating brand bacterial infection years ago. We’ve all talked about it since this site started. For crying out loud, Starbucks sponsors Mika’s kindergarten.

6. The ‘Green Room Club’ along with sub frats like the Catholic Old Boys Network (COBN – in high def in certain markets, call your cable company for details), etc. long protected their own over quaint mores of a vanished era. Caught plagiarizing or fabricating in your national newspaper column? Become a regular on radio and cable talk shows and it’s all waved away as ‘old news’, etc. Also old news.

Onward In The War On Christmas !

It’s A Good Thing

So why the fuss that Olbermann and O’Reilly’s ego indulgence is brought to heel? Feckless cable executives should have done it at the start. But they wanted eyeballs, not ‘news’ or ‘quality’. And isn’t this kind of executive re-assertion of control over personalities run amok precisely what bloggers et al. are asking CNN to do now with Lou Dobbs?

We see today’s decadence reflected in the fuss. Bloggers denouncing this alleged ‘truce’ assume – either mistakenly or out of carelessness — that carnival barking, paper tossing, and appeals to subliminal prejudices are *normal* ‘newscasts’. The staggering question they ignore is how we ever got this point in the first place. And what is the best way out. Forget Olbermann and O’Really’s management-imposed ‘time out.’ Finding a way forward with ‘media’ such as it is and may be supporting small ‘l’, small ‘d’ liberal democracy demands our intellectual energy now. GE, News Corp, and Time Warner are never going to come up with those answers by definition. So move on.

Who Are You Gonna Believe? Your Brain Or The Lying Chyron?

Some ‘progressive bloggers’ are also indignant MSNBC permitted the (to us smarmy) Richard Woffe to guest host for Olbermann. Why? Wolffe is — GASP — a lobbyist. One blogger added several breathless updates about the deeply ‘compromised’ Wolffe and MSNBC. Pretty clueless about many of the regularly recurring MSNBC cast and the overall journo-meme-industry ecosystem across media.

It’s not rare for ‘policy analysts’ and ‘journalists’ to get paid significant sums of money to write and promote a particular set of issues without disclosure. In fact, ‘journo-lobbying’ became an art form under the Warlord across the political spectrum. It received some major attention when one unlucky CATO analyst several years ago was identified receiving payments from Abramoff. He was forced out for a few years (he has since returned). He was a sacrificial lamb in that many of those tut-tutting about it were doing the precise same thing themselves. Major opinion ‘independent’ websites (before blogs took off) were actually fronts for lobbying groups and their clients and operated a seemingly ‘independent voices’ until threatened with disclosure they eventually self-disclosed. We know from direct first hand experience. The practice remains and was and is not limited to think tanks or now-defunct web sites.

We agree MSNBC erred in not disclosing Wolffe’s affiliation. Even in these debased times we are entitled to know that a lobbyist was guest hosting an opinion-based three-ring circus of flashing graphics, over loud music, predictable set piece jokes, etc. As opposed to a self-absorbed, undisciplined . . . well, you get the picture. We doubt it would affect Olbermann’s ratings much; Wolffe seems to be on almost every night anyway eagerly joining in Olbermann’s script.

Question: imagine Wolffe this week ending a show with a long ‘Special Comment’ about Cialis. Let’s assume it’s because Eli Lily is a client of his partner’s. What really would be the difference? Especially with Wolffe’s painfully stiff efforts to mimic the existing template of crescendo and dinner theater diva-hood? Who really would care?

So, slap on the wrist you bad MSNBC. To the rest of us, we’ve got to figure a way out of here. And neither Olbermann nor O’Really’s format and content are part of a better tomorrow for the Nation.


  1. A Random Quote says

    “The best-governed country, for the 64th consecutive year (awards can be made retroactively), is Vatican City. It has almost no corruption or violence, minimal taxes, rare elections by the most sophisticated voters in the world, immaculate civil liberties and social services, magnificent cultural facilities and green areas and does not have public-service strikes or publicly unruly parliamentary activities. Immigration is cosmopolitan and by invitation only.

    First place for sleaze, vulgarity and misplaced self-righteousness goes to the perennial front-runner, the great United States of America.”
    ~Conrad Black
    National Post (Canada)

  2. Comment says

    Sirota seemed to suggest that Olbermann’s journalistic excellence is something that must be acknowledged

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Olbermann is a talented broadcaster. But then, so is Rush. We’d be among the last to deny that Olbermann served an important role leading the charge against Warlord-compliant media during the Dark Years’ later stages.

      We still think it’s odd to make such a big deal about Wolffe. Why not examine the entire Talking Head eco-system, culture and cross-cutting agendas? For example, when a so-called normal ‘political analyst’ is on air they, too, have many of the same spiderwebs of intersecting interests. Particularly if they or their company/firm does polling. Few realize how muddy the financial streams get very quickly. For many ‘political’ pollsters, and analysts, commercial work is a far larger and more important slice of cash flow than political matters. Banks, insurance companies, movie studios, etc. all pay far more. And unlike campaigns they usually don’t stiff you.

      In fact, some ‘analysts’/pollsters charge commcerical clients for merely mentioning their name or a dropping a specific meme on cable. (Thousands of dollars). The meme mention could occur In ways that might not even be apparent to the Sirotas of the world – right before their eyes. Ka-ching.

      What cracks us up is how in the old days, for example, Merrill Lynch might think they are buying a poll and paying for certain specific and exclusive questions. It’s very common for an analyst/pollsters to add other questions once a poll is paid for either their own use or for others. Beyond that ad hoc piggy backing, even then there are more ways to profit. The data collected would be repackaged and sold to a media outlet, too. And some of the same cross tab data sold (or even better, given) to a campaign — or seeded with a ‘MSNBCNNFOX’ contributor analyst as ‘fresh’, ‘unique’ talking head points. And on and on.

      The Imperial City really is a layer cake of cynicism. To those bloggers who think they have stumbled upon Something Big with Wolffe it is, as they say, to laugh. Keep on slicing. They probably took the Obama campaign’s assertion they would have ‘nothing to do’ with lobbyists at face value, too.

  3. Anon says

    I hesitate to condemn Olberman for anything. He was here in 2004 looking into Bush election shenanigans and other Warlord misdeeds, way before anyone else in TV had the guts. He gets a pass from me for being a tad hyper, based on his past courage.

  4. Comment says

    Taylor responds disinguouosly to callers – artfully misinterpreting a woman caller’s objections.
    – Taylor obviously loves the Duke incident – not exactly a normal incident or very instructive – But Taylor seems to have little awareness of the fact that if drug laws were truly enforced at predominantly white colleges our prisons would have millions of white prosperous people in their twenties. It would be so absurd that the laws would change immediately

  5. Comment says

    Stuart Taylor disapproves – in that faux-sage mini George Will style of his – of Skip Gates daring to offer his opinion that race was the dominant factor (debatable imo) in his arrest. He thinks Gates shoule be tellling young blacks something else – The man has no idea how silly and condescending he sounds when he offers up his irrritable mental gestures as advice to Gates.

    He is now trying to pretend to be even handed and undecided about Sotomayor – a woman he obviously loaths and resents.

  6. Comment says

    It seems Stewart Taylor – on c-span now – would seem less like a phony if he just admitted to being a conservative who thinks being a white man is tough these days. Currently – his limited hang out “even Stewart Taylor” pose seems fraudulent.

  7. Comment says

    The Olberman-Billo feud was pretty much the only thing interesting about those shows – The idea of Bill going after Immelt on Iran sales was greatly amusing – since those sales – for all we know – were legal, but a deep headache for Immmelt to explain. The Charlie Rose role was beautful and perfect casting.

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