What the Hell Happened to Keith Olbermann?
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“Unlike News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who stands solidly behind the right-wing propaganda on Fox News, the corporate owners of MSNBC have no similar commitment to the work of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz.
"For the suits at headquarters, it’s just a balancing act between the ratings that those shows get and the trouble they cause as Republicans reclaim control of Washington.”
Those corporate priorities also were underscored in the pre-Iraq invasion days when MSNBC dumped Donahue, then the network’s biggest draw. But Donahue had allowed on some guests critical of Bush’s planned war.
After the invasion in March 2003, MSNBC’s coverage was barely discernable from that of Fox News, with both networks superimposing American flags on scenes from Iraq and producing pro-war promotional segments showing heroic images of U.S. soldiers being welcomed by happy Iraqis (with no scenes of the war’s carnage). [See Consortiumnews.com's "America's Matrix."]
The ongoing significance of America’s media imbalance is that it gives the Right enormous capabilities to control the national debate, not only during election campaigns but year-round. Republicans can deploy what intelligence operatives call “agit-propaganda,” stirring controversies that rile up the public and redound to the GOP’s advantage.
These techniques have proved so effective that not even gifted political speakers, whether the savvy Bill Clinton or the eloquent Barack Obama, have had any consistent success in countering the angry cacophony that the Right can orchestrate.
One week, the Right's theme is “Obamacare’s death panels”; another week, it’s “the “Ground Zero Mosque.” The Democrats are left scrambling to respond – and their responses, in turn, become fodder for critical commentary, as too wimpy or too defensive or too something.
The mainstream media and progressives often join in this criticism, wondering why Obama let himself get blind-sided or why he wasn’t tougher or why he can’t control the message. For the Right and the Republicans, it’s a win-win-win, as the right-wing base is energized, more public doubts are raised about the President, and the Left is further demoralized.
Like Clinton before him, Obama has reacted to this political/media landscape by shifting rightward toward the “center,” further alienating his liberal base. Many on the Left respond by denouncing Obama as a sell-out and deciding to either sit out elections or vote for a third party.
This dynamic has been instrumental to the Right’s political victories over the past three decades even as those policies – from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush – have worsened the lives of middle- and working-class Americans.
The sudden disappearance of Keith Olbermann from television is another ominous omen that this dynamic will continue.