At the outset, while I agree that Olbermann's sympathies are obvious, and that his show is about commentary and "analysis" (e.g., punditry) more than objective news, if this is a violation of MSNBC's rules, then yes, MSNBC is within their right to suspend or even dismiss him. Indeed, Olbermann's popularity is probably the only thing that kept them from firing him outright; MSNBC is getting trounced in the ratings.
Originally Posted by Countezero
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It doesn't really matter if Joe did it, too. Nor does it matter that MSNBC made excuses for Joe Scarborough. Well, not so directly.
Originally Posted by Iceaura
Indeed, which leads me to my next point ....
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An excellent point. This is part of a much larger drama going on in the cable "news" world.
Originally Posted by Nirakar
Start with the general myth of "liberal media bias". There are various aspects here, one of which is that such an alleged bias only really applies in any context to reporters. The higher up the news media food chain you go, the more conservative the institutions get. The idea of liberal media bias starts with the observed fact that more reporters at traditional news outlets happen to vote liberal or progressive. But what of their editors? Publishers? Directors and producers? Network executives?
Everette E. Dennis of Fordham University explains:
From studies of the elite national press to those focused on medium- and small-town newspapers, working journalists consistently register positive on the liberal litmus test and have since the 1930s when Leo Rosten first examined the character, background and practices of the Washington press corps.
To many critics, these studies offer definitive evidence of a pervasive liberal bias among the nation’s journalists. But this is far too simplistic. Among other things, these critics ignore the political predilections of publishers and media owners, which are and have always been overwhelmingly conservative ....
The advent of FOX News was a milepost in the liberal media bias debate. Citing the myth of liberal media bias as fact, FOX News went forward as a definitively conservative propaganda outlet. Although many tried to deny this, despite Roger Ailes' direct expression of the point, the fact has become unavoidable. If their presentation of Bill O'Reilly and, of late, Glenn Beck didn't make the point clearly enough, Rupert Murdoch—CEO of FOX's parent company, News Corporation—donated over a million dollars this year to the Republican Governors' Association.
MSNBC's role in the media bias debate has often been murky:
While your point is generally valid, it also verges on a false equivalence. For instance, sure, it's quite clear that the MSNBC prime time lineup is generally sympathetic toward liberalism, but even including the gasbag Ed Schultz, their presenters might have a liberal opinion on the facts, but at least they are dealing in facts. FOX is part of a right-wing echo chamber in which repetition, not validity, makes something a fact. Or, as Rachel Maddow put it:
MSNBC has tried being a second CNN and that failed. MSNBC tried being Fox lite and that failed. MSNBC's swing to the left has been more successful as there was no competition for news shows being blatantly on the left the way Fox is blatantly right.
MADDOW: Sharia law has not, in fact, supplanted the United States Constitution anywhere in the United States.
When confronted with that truth, candidate Sharron Angle's response was not to withdraw the claim but to explain why she believed it, which is good enough for her.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LARS LARSON: Did you say, though, that Sharia law was in place in Dearborn right now?
SHARRON ANGLE (R), FORMER NEVADA SENATE NOMINEE: I had read that in one place, that they started using some Sharia law there, that's what I had read.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have no doubt that you have, in fact, read that, Sharron Angle.
If you've been reading around in conservative media world recently, you read a lot of stuff like that. And because that media world is now so big and so well-funded that it is self-contained, and self-sustaining, there is no debunking of this stuff anymore. It just becomes true by dint of mutual conservative reinforcement and repetition.
Many have asserted, in defense of FOX News and support of the liberal media "conspiracy" that MSNBC is no different than FOX News. They hold up MSNBC as an example of liberal extremism.
Yet this is the same network that dropped Phil Donahue. They claimed it wasn't political, but rather because he wasn't getting good enough ratings. Donahue, however, hosted the network's highest-rated show, edging out Chris Matthews' Hardball in its final weeks. Donahue was replaced by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough. Next, the network demoted and eventually fired one of its rising stars, Ashleigh Banfield, in response to a speech she gave at Kansas State University. Her mistake? She criticized cable news coverage of the Iraq War.
CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin said in 2008 that during her time at MSNBC, the network pressured their reporters to support the Bush administration.
A few years ago, conservative journalist Tucker Carlson, hosting his own show on MSNBC, criticized San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome. He compared Newsome to Nazis because the mayor had declared San Francisco a refuge city. Now, setting aside the whole argument about how terrible it is to call someone a Nazi, how does that comparison even work? The Nazis labeled people as outsiders and then persecuted them; Mayor Newsome made a point of welcoming outsiders. There seems to be a functional discord there. What was Carlson's punishment for such an outrage? Absolutely nothing. Unlike Donahue, when his show was canceled for low ratings, the problem really was low ratings. Carlson, formerly a writer for National Review, is now a regular contributor to FOX News, where he can tackle important issues such as why President Obama should hide the pictures of his family he keeps in his office.
In 2008, MSNBC appeased its conservative critics by removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of the network's election-night coverage.
Is this really the behavior of the "liberal equivalent to FOX News"?
And this is just MSNBC. In the larger picture of the liberal media conspiracy, it is only one piece of the puzzle.
Numerous media figures have been punished by the "liberal media conspiracy" for saying things that conservatives don't like. This was brought into sharp focus recently when NPR fired senior news analyst Juan Williams for explaining to FOX News how people who look Muslim scare him. Some congressional conservatives responded by threatening to cut the two or so percent of NPR's $162 million yearly budget that comes from the federal government. Naturally, there isn't much Congress can do about the budgets of the cable news media, which are funded by advertising. One thing they could do, though, but, naturally, won't, is stop giving interviews to these outlets. But that's not going to happen, for obvious reasons. And, of course, the other side will start screaming about elitist hostility toward the media.
But those who accept Williams' firing must also accept Olbermann's suspension. This was a contractual violation, and regardless of what we think about such contract terms, they are what these journalists sign their names to in order to have their platforms for speaking.
And, sure, that begs an issue in and of itself, but how many NPR supporters who are upset about Williams' firing are going to come out and say it honestly? How many of them are going to say, "That rips it! I'm withholding money from my local public radio station until NPR revises its contracts so its employees can use the institution's prestige to lend authority to insane bigotry!"
And, really, how many MSNBC viewers are going to abandon the network for FOX or CNN until NBC news changes its contract terms?
I wish Rachel Maddow's transcript from last night was posted; she made the point very well. Yes, the folks at FOX News contribute to all sorts of conservative causes. Yes, Sean Hannity boasted of helping to raise seven million for the RNC. Yes, he maxed out his donations to several Republican candidates. Yes, he used his show to help raise funds for John Kasich. But he also works for FOX News, and nobody outside the self-contained right wing sphere of delusion doesn't know what FOX News is. MSNBC might be widely viewed as the liberal cable news station. But not even Ed Schultz is as bad with his facts as FOX News. MSNBC and FOX News are different kinds of creatures. And Keith Olbermann's suspension reminds us of that.
It all comes back to that mythical liberal media conspiracy. You might notice that very few on either side are upset about Rick Sanchez's departure from CNN. And why is that? Well, for liberals, it's because he said something immensely stupid, even more so than his usual worthless tripe. And for conservatives, it's because he said something nasty about Jews.
See, saying bad things about Jews is just off limits to conservatives. Just ask Helen Thomas. But saying the bad things about Muslims? Now that is praiseworthy. Juan Williams now has a lucrative contract with FOX News, where he quite obviously wanted to be, anyway. Mike Huckabee has a job at FOX News. And Dick Armey has gone on to be a Tea Party Patriot.
There are clearly two standards in play, with the effect that, if zero describes the range of acceptability, |-2| = |8|. You can clearly be more extreme to the right and expect people to accept and justify your behavior. I mean, normally, I tell people if they want to see what liberal media bias looks like, go to the World Socialist Web Site. But even they are not so far out on the fringe as FOX News.
And having thrown together that diatribe, I would also note that—
—it's a strange question about GE ownership. When I was a kid, I remember lamenting to my father at the number of advertisements popping up in the local newspaper. (The upshot, though, was the lingerie adverts on page three at least once a week.) His response was, "Do you think that quarter pays for the newspaper? Someone has to pay for it."
I don't see how lefties can be comfortable being led by General Electric. Like it or not the media and the campaign funders are America's political leadership. The political parties, and politicians and for the most part the people are followers not leaders. Fox, other conservative media and some big political spenders turned the Tea Party from nothing into everybody's favorite meaningless political phrase. The ties between the Tea Party and the conservative wing of the Repunlicrat corporate welfare industrial base means the Tea Party can never be an effective force for real change.
Likewise the ties between MSNBC and GE means that should MSNBC every spawn a left version of the Tea Party that resulting movement would also never be capable of being an effective force for real change.
Something About Olbermann always irritated me. I think the left could do better than to have GE appointed Olbermann as their leader. Since beggars can't be choosers I guess the left will have to accept whoever GE appoints as their leaders and the right will have to accept whoever Murdoch, Clear Channel and the Koch brothers appoint as their leaders.
So the reality is that if it's not GE, then who? Look at the "independent" news sources for the left wing: Communist party rags, the ICFI's World Socialist Web Site, AlterNet, TruthOut, ThinkProgress—if it has, or is perceived as having a liberal slant, it is obviously not credible. And what of the "liberal media conspiracy"? The New York Times and The Washington Post followed the conservative drumbeat to war; CNN maintains the conservative line on Israel; the difference between torture or not to NPR is whether it is a nation abroad or the United States engaging in the behavior.
Meanwhile, FOX News is somehow credible? The Washington Times? Even around here, we find people who think The New York Post is credible when it's hyping fake scandals. NBC News, under whose rubric Keith Olbermann (but not Rick Santelli) works, stood by Brian Williams when he responded to media reports of the networks putting Pentagon-paid officials supporting Bush administration arguments by saying, "How dare they?"
Without GE, or some other large company ultimately running the show, who pays for the programming? Where would Olbermann, Maddow, or others be?
And this, too, is central to the debunking the liberal media conspiracy myth. Maybe the face on the screen has liberal sympathies, but what, really, do we think the executives prefer? As you pointed out, MSNBC has long struggled to find its identity. As a market decision, it can't be FOX News lite. As a market decision, it can't be "the other CNN". As a market decision, Olbermann is only suspended, and a guest host filled his seat on Friday; if they thought they could afford to cut him loose permanently, they probably would. If Maddow had her way, one day would be enough. If our friend Syzygys is correct, it would be a week. Why is the suspension "indefinite"? So that it can be market oriented. If it hurts MSNBC too much, the suspension will be "shortened". If it doesn't, who knows?
I wouldn't tack you to the wall for your post; rather, I think it highlights some of the central themes of what's going on—it provides an excellent springboard for this discussion.
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