This article was posted on The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Jan 25. click on link to read it on HuffPost.
There was a deafening silence across the land, then a rising cacophony!
In a sudden and bold move on Friday night MSNBC delivered a big blow to free speech. Within seconds of the end of Countdown the internet was atwitter with news of Keith Olbermann’s sudden curtain call at MSNBC.
The news surprised Countdown’s audience and shocked the media.
There have been many stories written since the Friday night announcement; attempts to explain possible reasons for Olbermann’s departure. They included his recent suspension, his stormy relationship with NBC management, the merger with Comcast, and his liberal voice.
None of it will become clear until the termination of any non-disclosure agreements between Keith and MSNBC.
Olbermann had become the voice for liberal media—the counter balance to the bias of Fox and NewsCorp.
Vilified by the right for his passionate liberal views, his popularity with progressives became the model for MSNBC’s prime time line-up. That popularity helped bring voices like Maddow, Schultz, O’Donnell, and Ratigan to the public.
Olbermann’s Countdown was gaining market share in the same time slot as Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, and with it came more vitriolic attacks from fans of Fox. On the Thursday before Friday’s announcement Countdown attracted over 1.1 million viewers. He aggressively called out Fox hosts for their lies and hypocrisy which in turn drew accusations of hypocrisy, and lies from his detractors.
Those attacks were unfounded given the fact-based reporting on Countdown, a model that is evident throughout the MSNBC line-up and generally non-existent on the comparable shows on Fox. There seems to be no interest in presenting information based in fact at Fox and the chastised main stream media is reluctant to point that out.
The best thing Olbermann brought to MSNBC’s opinion/talk television shows was fact-based honesty—something viewers on the right hate. There is a great deal of evidence of the extreme contrast between the two networks as well as their respective viewers.
This has never been more glaring than reading the comments from Michael Calderone’s article, “ Why Did Keith Olbermann Leave MSNBC,” posted on Yahoo News on Saturday.
In reading over 100 comments that afternoon the difference in the discourse of the two audiences was unmistakable.
Seven or eight out of every ten were vitriolic and filled with extreme hatred. Short, venomous, hate-filled attacks, many containing thoughtless expletives, were rampant from the right. The two or three comments from people who obviously supported Olbermann displayed knowledge, education, compassion, and thoughtfulness which was missing from the right-leaning responses.
There is passion on both sides of the political spectrum. There is distrust and there is anger.
But the hatred, vitriol, and accusations leveled by Fox-viewing individuals is not healthy and clouds productive discourse in a democratic society. The damaging, divisive, and hurtful rhetoric is diverting the country from positive solutions. A healthy democracy is based on an honest exchange of ideas. It relies on a balance that has been missing in our politics for a long time.
The 4th Estate, freedom of the press, was established to check government and hold them accountable to ‘the people.’ Honest journalistic investigation is necessary for a vibrant and healthy democracy. Fox’s approach, its partisan bias, and its lies, violates every tenet—every principle—set forth in the establishment of that freedom.
Their unadulterated bias has created a journalistic imbalance that demands push-back. Olbermann was that force that dared to expose their lies, vitriol, and hatred—constantly challenging the veracity of the hosts and management of the biased Network.
Despite the differences between NBC, Phil Griffin, President at MSNBC, and Olbermann, the denials of involvement or interference of Comcast must be questioned and tracked to insure the voice of honesty does not get crushed by an uncaring media conglomerate.
Olbermann’s voice and voices like his must not be quelled if our democracy is to survive.