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.
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.
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.
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.