It’s not Keith Olbermann’s fault that democracy in America today can’t seem to find a place for him ..Mar 31st, 2012 | By Citizen X | Category: USA Today
[UPDATED APRIL 2] : David Ogilvy, the original Mad Man (founder and creative head of Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson, & Mather, which later morphed into just Ogilvy & Mather, 1948–1975), apparently had three simple rules of success: “First, make a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to get on with it.”
As far as I’m concerned, at least rules two and three especially come to mind in any serious attempt to explain such key current headlines as : “Current TV Dismisses Keith Olbermann” ; “Olbermann out, Spitzer in on Current TV” ; “Current TV Fires Keith Olbermann Claiming Network Sabotage” ; “Current: Keith Olbermann Fired for ‘Serial’ Breach of Contract” ; “Keith Olbermann Fired By Current TV; Replaced By Eliot Spitzer” ; and “Conservatives rejoice at Keith Olbermann’s Current ouster.”
Brian Stelter’s report in yesterday’s New York Times referred to “the mercurial television anchorman Keith Olbermann,” and opined that “as inevitable as it might have seemed to some in the television business who know the long history of antipathy between Mr. Olbermann and his employers, it was nonetheless shocking to his fans, to his detractors and to staff members at Current when the announcement was made.”
“Show Tracker” at the Los Angeles Times noted that “right-of-center commentators wasted little time Friday in gloating over the ‘Countdown’ host’s firing from Al Gore’s Current TV.” But: “Reaction among Olbermann’s liberal constituency appeared much more subdued, perhaps reflecting a weariness that has set in given the host’s serial battles with network employers.”
I am a mere fan who believes Keith Olbermann is the most brilliant American liberal TV journalist extant in our time — and possibly the closest the English-speaking peoples of the early 21st century come to anyone remotely like the late great Saint George Orwell in the 1930s and 1940s. And to me all these allusions to the “long history of antipathy between Mr. Olbermann and his employers” reflect much worse on the employers than they do on Keith Olbermann.
The Huffington Post concluded its report on the issue yesterday with: “As one executive said rather presciently during the height of Olbermann’s conflicts with the network, ‘Everybody is replaceable.’” This is of course a well-known home truth of contemporary corporate bureaucracies everywhere, right and left, east and west, etc, etc. Part of Keith Olbermann’s progressive vision involves challenging the unaccountable authority of these bureaucracies. It is hardly surprising that he recurrently comes into conflict with them.
I think it is one of the deep problems of the liberal or progressive left in the USA today, however (and elsewhere as well, no doubt), that it lacks corporate bureaucrats who are willing to follow David Ogilvy’s rules two and three: “surround yourself with partners who are better than you are … leave them to get on with it.”
At the moment of his departure: “Mr. Olbermann ranked as the highest-rated program on Current.” One reason he did not get as many viewers there as he did on MSNBC is that many of us still cannot get Current TV on our cable services.
(And I am one in this group who would gladly have been watching “Countdown” over the past 40 weeks, if only Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt were clever enough to make their allegedly non “corporate-controlled … authentic progressive outlet” more widely available. [UPDATE APRIL 2: Reading "Keith Olbermann’s Angry Email Trail Traces Breakup With Current TV" in yesterday's Daily Beast has also made clear to me the extent to which I have not allowed here for the role that Olbermann's frustration over the "rinky dink" production values at Current TV has played in all this. And I suppose I should add as well that while I do know I cannot get Current up here in the Canadian wilderness, I have not really looked carefully into just how available it is the USA today.])
I still watch MSNBC, because it does remain a welcome rare alternative to most of what is available on US TV. But I don’t watch it at all as often as I did when Keith Olbermann was there. And in my view there is no one on MSNBC now who comes at all close to doing what Keith did — whatever the current ratings of his various successors may be. Like other fans, I look forward to this coming Tuesday night, when Mr. Olbermann will appear on David Letterman’s New York talk show, offering some further intelligence on just what has happened.
Meanwhile I second such motions as that of the tweeter @mickeleh, who has noted that Olbermann covered the Occupy movement “when nobody else on cable would touch it.” Or the blogger on BlacklistedNews.com, who urges that “some of his special comment sections … have been some of the greatest pieces I have seen.”
If Thomas Jefferson were still alive — and not quite broke from his assorted endless high-cost adventures at Monticello and elsewhere — I feel quite certain that he would establish a present-day cable TV channel for Keith Olbermann, and then just leave him to get on with it. No matter how many of his opinions he thought were a bit too extreme. Or how often he found Mr. Olbermann’s insistence on creative control or love of baseball annoying. Or ill-mannered, or whatever else it is that Al Gore and Joel Hyatt are currently objecting to. And when there finally are a few more people like this on the left today, the right might just stop winning quite so often.