Worse than Olbermann

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC photo)

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC photo)

You know, I’m starting to understand why the Republicans don’t like MSNBC (and, by extension, NBC News).

For those of you who don’t subscribe to this digital cable channel, your exposure to MSNBC might be limited to those “Special Comments” of Keith Olbermann that get so much play on the intertubes. They’re popular because they’re well researched, very well written, and well delivered. They don’t mince words and don’t try to be diplomatic. They call out the administration (and, more lately, the McCain campaign) on those things they have done which are wrong.

It’s part of what got me to subscribe to the channel (other reasons include the fact that I’m interested in how various media outlets cover important events, and the fact that most cable television is a crapfest of old reruns that I refuse to hand over even the most nominal amount to support).

But the rest of Olbermann’s Countdown infuriates me, even though I agree with him. He picks on the most trivial of missteps by his political opponents, making fun of them for simple errors. His comments are sarcastic and mean-spirited, and not nearly as funny as he thinks they are. It’s ridiculously one-sided, especially for a supposed “news” network. His interviews consist mainly of regulars who agree with him on everything and laugh at his jokes. On the occasion when he has an actual, respectable journalist on the air, the guest becomes visibly uncomfortable as Olbermann blurts out leading questions that assume he is right and the Republicans are wrong.

And then, of course, there’s his childish feud with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, which he insists on wasting airtime pursuing. He’ll run off demographic ratings whenever an outlier puts him ahead, or take any opportunity to make fun of O’Reilly for whatever reason.

It’s the Fox News of the left. Daily Kos on TV. The ultimate in preaching to the choir, and hence educating and informing no one. Olbermann is like a schoolyard bully who thinks he’s cool because all his friends like it when he picks on the nerd.

But, for the same reason Rush Limbaugh has high ratings, Olbermann is also popular (enough so that he’s starting to catch up to CNN and Fox News). And not having any better ideas to increase its ratings, MSNBC has decided to replicate him.

That brings me to Rachel Maddow (hence the picture above). She’s the host of her own one-hour show which airs right after Olbermann’s. At 10 p.m., MSNBC repeats Olbermann’s show, proving I guess that nobody watches MSNBC for more than two hours.

Maddow, an Air America radio host and former Countdown contributor, is essentially the same thing as her lead-in. The same sarcastic remarks. The same partisanship. The same ego.

It irritates me. But what irritates me more is that the network has taken all three hours of primetime and devoted them to these two characters.

And yet, like Olbermann, Maddow seems to be drawing in the ratings (by MSNBC standards, anyway).

So look for this not to change anytime soon. Fox will have its Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, while MSNBC has Olbermann and Maddow. CNN, which is already giving too much airtime to blowhards like Lou Dobbs, is the only one left that seems to make any attempt at staying neutral, of being cautious in its declarations, and seeking the truth no matter which side it may favour.

Maybe we need to create a place for these kinds of people. An all political opinion channel could put them all under one roof so they can be quarantined. You could create two – one run by the Democratic Party and one by the Republican Party – so they don’t have to see each other in the parking lot. And you can leave the news networks to doing what they’re supposed to be doing: bringing us the news.

Oh, and leave the political commentary for Stewart and Colbert (and, to a lesser extent, SNL and Bill Maher). They, at least, use partisan politics to improve their humour, not the other way around.

7 thoughts on “Worse than Olbermann

  1. govtdrone

    I used to watch Olbermann but I gave up because he is just so freaking angry and then I got tired of his “special” comments. I like Maddows because she is a smart ass and I like that.

  2. Vahan

    You know after years of Bush and his henchmen spinning the news and spewing lies, these tactics have made politics in the U.S and trickling into Canada, really polarized. You are either with ’em or against ’em as the hee-haw cowboy President once declared. There is no grey area, only black or white. So it is in a way refreshing to see Olbermann and Maddow rip into the right. The left were being slaughtered like sheep and were afraid to fight back dirt for dirt, because it was beneath them. Well now that they are using fire for fire look what is happening.
    Let’s be serious look what happened in Quebec with the dirty politics of the PQ. They yelled and screamed all kinds of dirty lies, while the “lamb lobby” sat out and didn’t want to upset. Well with dirty rotten people you have to be dirty and rotten also, otherwise the boot marks will be all over your backside. You know it is easy for the Quebecois to make fun of the square heads, the blocks and their frigid women, but dare not pick on the poutine, duMaurier, welfare crowd.
    We, too, have to yell back when the PQ and BQ get stupid, then our city will once again be the shinning light it was and will be again. Let us run the bums out, like they are doing in the U.S.

  3. HabsFan29

    Despite my internet persona, believe it or not I am quite the politico, and quite well-versed in both political and media matters (imho). I voraciously read and watch an inordinate amount about the U.S. elections, especially compared to my complete antipathy towards our own elections (despite my working for a candidate). I write this preface so that the following comment may possibly have some more weight than if you just knew me as the pornographer.

    You and I are not watching the same show.

    Rachel is eloquent, beyond intelligent (Rhodes scholar, etc), and in complete command of the facts of virtually every situation. Her “sarcastic remarks” are backed up by those facts and are made in the face of Repubs who are lying when they speak. Olberman is a character (who I watch anyway for the entertainment value), Maddow is not. To lump the two of them together as just left-wing versions of O’Reilly and Hannity is disingenuous to her, not to mention insulting. She neither spews talking points nor insults her guests. She tears them down with constructed argument and fact. A smug smile every now and then? Sure. But when you’re pointing out that a VP candidate erroneously thinks the VP is in charge of the Senate, while she wears $150,000 worth of clothes while calling her opponent elitist, frankly a little smug smile is holding back compared to what she could do.

  4. Fagstein Post author

    I don’t suggest that Olbermann or Maddow are stupid or ineloquent, nor that their sarcasm is based on untrue information.

    But they are smug. They are one-sided. And they aren’t funny.

  5. DAVE ID

    And FAUX NEWS has scored the same by luring Glenn Beck to their dark side. He’s the righ-wing nutjob version of Olbermann, don’t count that guy out.


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