Lately the version of Must See TV for me and Hanna has been Countdown with Keith Olberman. If we are both home at 8:00 we cuddle up on the couch and watch Countdown together. It is one of the more pleasant hours of the evening. Except last night--but I'll get to that. Hanna says Countdown is like The Daily Show, only real.
I disagree with that. I think the John Stewart is funnier, sharper, and just as real. But I did complain once that with the exception of Olberman and Chris Mathews there was nobody on the left to counter the disinformation and invective being spewed out by the Fox News crowd. As Olberman has become more and more emboldened since the midterm elections (much like the right-wingers did after 2004) he has kind of filled that void all by himself. He is the left's Bill O'Reily and we love him for it. I should complain that he is every bit as offensive and as biased and as belligerent as Bill is, but I admit it: I like it. I'm sure that this is how my mom feels about Bill (and I'm sure she feels about Olberman the way I feel about O'Reily). Mostly I love Olberman because he tells the truth about the conservative talking heads. And I LOVE "Worst Persons In The World."
But, like Bill Maher, his rhetoric sometimes pisses me off. Oh, not when he refers to "FOX News" as "Fix News," or runs a story on Ann Who Shall Not Be Named headlined "Coultergeist," or refers to the mouth as "Comedian Rush Limbaugh." That stuff I like.
No, what occasionally pisses me off is that he is so liberal that, like O'Reily, he refuses to acknowledge that the other side might have a well thought out position with which he simply disagrees, or when he feigns amazement at things that are perfectly ordinary outside New York. Like the way he rails on the south (look, I acknowledged a long time ago that the war between the states is still going on, but it seems to surprise Keith). He is also one of those liberals (and I think he knows better but is being disingenuous) who believes that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves.
But what pissed me off last night were two things. One, in an effort to make President Bush look bad (and does he really need our help) he ran a piece about a spoof he sang of "Green Green Grass of Home," at the Gridiron dinner, in which he was satirizing the press coverage of his administration. Olberman had regular contributor Rachel Maddow on to analyze the event and the song and she said it was completely offensive and not at all funny. Her comments were right on about the nature of this and the White House Press Corps Dinner being insidious because they break down the separation between journalists and the people they are covering in order to build sympathy with them (much--though she didn’t' say this--like embedding journalists with troops). But she also said this was offensive and not at all funny, while Olberman seemed shocked that anybody could laugh at "Bush's Failures." Well, I guess I'm a bad liberal, because I thought it was hilarious. I was laughing out loud. And Bush wasn't singing about his failures (which, as Olberman points out, Bush doesn’t admit to in the first place). He was singing about media coverage of his administration, which he sees and has always seen as biased. And people laughed. Because it was funny.
I think that is what pisses me off about Keith: his feigned outrage and sense of righteous indignation, and the way he pretends that he doesn't get the people he's covering. And, by the way, he is the last person not on Fox News who should be talking about objectivity.
His coverage of the Geraldine Feraro comments also showed his bias: that he, like apparently everyone at MSNBC, sees Barak Obama as the second coming and are willing to seize on anything that goes bad in the Clinton campaign to bring her down. I don’t know if Feraro was being racist. It doesn’t matter since, as has been proven time and time again, intent doesn’t matter when perceptions are involved, especially when dealing with race or gender. But, assuming she was not intending to be racist, I do think she brings up a legitimate point, and I do think that if a black person had said the same thing it wouldn't have created the furor it did. What I got out of what she said was that a lot of people are voting for Obama because he is black, which is true. Not that he was the beneficiary of some sort of quota system, but that part of his support comes to him because he's the first viable black candidate we've ever had. I think that's undeniable, and Olberman has proved it time and again. In the very same piece he noted that Obama won 90% of the black vote in Mississippi. He and others have pointed out that (a) there is no real substantive difference between Obama and Hilary and (b) that Obama's base is among African Americans and upper income liberals, the two constituencies that were believed to form Hilary's base as recently as December. In order to stay alive in this campaign she has had to reap the reward of Edwards leaving the race, and take over his constituency, the labor and working class whites, people she was never supposed to do well with (and people who are more likely to be overtly racist, it must be said). She had to do this because Barak beat her on her own turf. And the reason he was able to do this is because he is so inspirational, and the biggest part of his inspiration is that he is black. Among my black students Barak carries about 99%, and they all say that they are voting for him because they want to see a black president. That is the biggest change he represents, and everybody knows it. AND IT IS A PERFECTLY GOOD REASON TO SUPPORT HIM. (so long as it’s not the only reason). How many talking heads have commented on how symbolic his presidency would be, or have said that the best way to change the perception of America is to have the face of America be black? The media wants to have it both ways: you can praise Obama for his position as the first black candidate but if you say it gives him an edge then you are being racist.
That's what Feraro said: that Barak is doing so well because he is taking away Hilary's base, and one reason they are going to him is because they like the idea of a black president. And there's some truth to that. But it is an ugly truth, a truth we don't like to think or talk about, and like Jimmy the Greek saying something that people in Black Studies had been saying for years (that blacks were treated like livestock by slave owners), she said it in a way that was sure to inflame people's racial sensitivities, and a white person can't do that. I didn’t hear her say that she thinks Obama is not qualified to be president. But she obviously thinks Hilary is more qualified. I also hope she realizes that just about everybody who supported her as a vice presidential candidate did so because she was a woman (I know I did).
I think Olberman's real point was that by saying shat she said she is playing the race card big time and appealing to the people who will vote *against* Obama because he *is* black. If true then it is an ugly, disgusting thing to do. Like Jimmy the Greek's comments, Feraro's statement only re-enforces racist attitudes. And perhaps, as I wrote earlier, perceptions is more important than intent.
But Olberman’s response was not limited to Feraro. It was really to pound on Hilary for not distancing herself from Feraro: a person who, Olberman seems to realize, represents the one constituency Hilary absolutely cannot afford to loose, women. By harping on this issue the way he was Olberman was exposing his own bias in favor of Barak Obama. Hilary was right when she played the Nixon card: the media really are out to get her, and Olberman is leading the charge. Obama never gets this treatment and I for one am willing to say that part of it is because he’s black. But I’m not the only one: MSNBC’s Chuck Scarborough confirmed this on Real Time last week, saying that he has gotten pressure from producers not to criticize Obama because it could be seen as racist. There is less compunction about going after Hilary. Feraro has noted that it’s more acceptable to be sexist in America than racist, and she’s right. Don’t believe me? Watch a Hooters commercial sometime and then ask yourself if you could open a restaurant where the waiters all wore black face. I'm sure I'll be seen as racist for this post in some circles, but tell me I'm wrong.
By the way, I might as well say it at this point: I voted for Obama. And his being black had something to do with that.