Whatever happened to Keith Olbermann? Once a leading progressive voice on MSNBC, he is now doing a series of You Tube commentaries for GQ.com titled ‘The Resistance.” A not-especially-kind profile published Monday by NY Times Magazine describes the aging host’s show as a place for voicing anti-Trump conspiracy theories.
According to “The Resistance,” the United States has suffered a “bloodless coup” and is “no longer a democracy”; the president is a “Manchurian candidate” who is “mentally ill” and beholden to “Russian scum”; we are witnessing the steady reduction of “the chance that we will have any future elections”; and Olbermann, the show’s tireless hero, will not rest until this problem is solved. “Is There an Actual Tape of Trump’s Russia Collusion?” an episode title asked last month. “There may be two tapes,” Olbermann concluded, citing a blog post from Louise Mensch, the English founder of the news and opinion site Heat Street — a former member of Parliament whose belief in Trump-Russia collusion is so strong she has suggested everyone from Ferguson protesters to James Comey is under Russian control. The world Olbermann describes on “The Resistance” is different from and even more dystopian than anything I can recognize, and his efforts to chase down Trumpian conspiracies can strain credibility. It was hard not to wonder what he was trying to accomplish, and what he truly believed.
Despite the suggestion that Olbermann may be doing some of this merely to appease a Democratic base that wants blood, the author notes Olbermann says the same sorts of things in their face-to-face meeting, even comparing him to birthers:
On “The Resistance,” Olbermann insists that Trump is genuinely mentally ill; in person, he says that his psychologist friends, despite never having treated the president, have remotely “diagnosed” Trump with any number of mental illnesses, up to and including psychopathy. The argument feels wishful and familiar, bringing to mind challenges to Obama’s birth or religion from fearful, frustrated or opportunistic voices on the right.
According to Olbermann, he has been in contact with two networks about possible jobs including MSNBC (which didn’t want any commentary) and CNN which considered hiring him on its HLN offshoot. “There was an offer, then there wasn’t an offer, then there was an offer. And Trump didn’t like me, and apparently exerted influence on that,” Olbermann tells the Times. CNN notes that the discussions took place over a year ago and says Trump played no part in Olbermann not getting the job. But fear not, Olbermann has taken the age-old advice given to politicians: If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog:
“I avoided it for many years through, like, 12 girlfriends,” he told me. “Then one time the girlfriend was young enough that the family dog was dying.” They went into a pet store and emerged with a Maltese. A year later, he adopted a second. “And after I got them, I was calling all my friends who had dogs and saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell me this is the meaning of life?’
It’s nice how Olbermann manages to work in what a ladies man he is into this story about getting a dog. Even so, it’s one of the few sympathetic notes in an article which keeps returning to what a crank Olbermann has become (and arguably always was):
On some episodes of “The Resistance,” Olbermann sounds prescient; more often, and more recently, he doesn’t sound much removed from the unfocused rage and wild speculation that so many, including Trump, directed at Obama’s presidency. When he says that Trump is growing crazier by the day, or that he’ll soon be revealed as Russia’s puppet and impeached, Olbermann is suggesting to liberals that there is an endpoint — that the right mole, whistle-blower or leak will end their nightmare. He’s offering hope.
Calling this “hope” seems a lot more kind that it deserves. A better term for what he’s offering: garbage.