Tucker Carlson may wind up generating a little sympathy for Journolisters in his Day Four revelations. Target selection is everything in these stories, and something tells me that today will generate a lot more schadenfreude than anger among Hot Air regulars. For this installment, Jonathan Strong gathers the collected Journolist wisdom about Keith Olbermann — and finds that this group doesn’t like him much more than the Right does:
If you were one of the 400 members of the listserv Journolist, perhaps one of the most vicious insults you could hurl at a colleague is: You’re just like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
If the reader holds neutral — or even positive — views about the Fox News hosts, the insult may not sting. But in the cloistered world of liberal listserv enclaves, Hannityism is a cardinal sin. After all, Fox is a “dangerous,” “deranged” “cesspool” that, possibly, the FCC should be investigating.
The feelings against MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, then, must run deep.
“He’s become O’Reilly on the left– completely predictable, unfunny, and arrogant,” said Georgetown University Professor Michael Kazin in May 2009. “To my mind, what they do is no different form Hannity and O’Reilly,” said the New America Foundation’s Michael Cohen, “At least Hannity and O’Reilly engage with the other side (if mainly just to yell at them). Olbermann is just an echo chamber.”
Actually, that comparison has a meaning that goes beyond mere insult. Neither Hannity nor O’Reilly maintain a pretense of being their network’s anchor, as Olbermann does. Both clearly position themselves as opinion journalists doing a talk show, whether mainstream conservative in Hannity’s case or populist in O’Reilly’s. Olbermann does a pompous, self-congratulatory schtick as a modern Edward R. Murrow, which apparently grates on the nerves of both the Right and the Left.
A University of Chicago professor has had enough of it: ““KO can be smart and funny, but I’ve basically had my fill. My life is full of shtiky [sic] and rude blowhards already. Why add another?”
The more prevalent criticism of Olbermann came during the primary campaign, when Olbermann’s bias finally stopped delighting his supporters. Several Journolisters accuse Olbermann of being a misogynist and carrying Barack Obama’s water during the Democratic primaries, including CNN contributor Julian Zelizer and The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, who got angry over Olbermann’s treatment of Carrie Prejean:
“He and Michael Musto did this whole long riff about beauty contestant Carrie “opposite marriage” Prejean’s breast implants, stupidity, breast implants, tacky clothes, earrings, breast implants. They went on and on about how she was “part plastic” and pathetic. You’d think they were celibate vegans who spent their lives zen meditating. It was just a whole TV humiliation of her, and it made me feel sorry for her, which wasn’t easy,” Pollitt said.
Rebecca Traister of Salon wrote a blistering column about Paris Hilton that included a rip on Olbermann’s on-air attack on her, and argued among her friends that it was part of a pattern:
Salon’s Rebecca Traister agreed Olbermann regularly displayed his contempt for women. “Olbermann has a terrible record of going out of his way to talk about young, attractive women he believes to be stupid in grotesquely dismissive and oversexualized terms.”
Traister had written the same thing in her columns for Salon, for instance calling Olbermann out when he “felt free to call [Paris] Hilton a slut on air and speculate about whether anyone had ever ejaculated in her face.”
All of this will be great fun for conservatives and others who dislike Olbermann, but it’s essentially meaningless. Olbermann stays on MSNBC because he generates enough of a ratings boost to justify his salary — at least according to Jeff Immelt at GE. Even with a couple of suggestions to get Olbermann off the air in Journolist, he’s not going anywhere simply based on a collection of 400 activists griping about him on a listserv. None of this amounts to a conspiracy; it’s more like a virtual drum circle in which all of the petty and grand frustrations of having Olbermann ostensibly representing them get tossed into the campfire, and nothing more.
You know what goes good at campfires, though? Popcorn. Pass it around and wait for the next entertaining revelation.