The New Yorker this week runs a feature on Keith Olbermann, angry man (on left). I’m not convinced Olbermann is a lefty, tho his coverage during the Bush Administration gives ample evidence of his courage to speak truth to power, as he sees it.
The easy cut against Olbermann is that he is a progressive version of Bill O’Reilly, his arch nemesis. Far from it. While I agree that Olbermann provides a critical voice against right wing media hegemony, one Olbermann is a far cry from balancing out the entire Fox network. It is also worth noting that while Olbermann is quite opinionated, his opinions are supported by evidence, which is sorely lacking in Fox broadcasting.
Quite frankly, I do not know how likely it is that Olbermann would be an Obamanaut should Obama become President. I don’t imagine he becomes a Rush or Bill O’Reilly. Here’s why: those wingnuts are propaganda machines, feeding off right wing talking points. Olbermann doesn’t answer to anyone, let alone suits issuing daily memos on what to say or not to say or how to say it.
On the larger score, Olbermann represents the first such progressive voice to hit it big in MSM in decades, if ever. Cronkite doesn’t count. too much like Russert (great for what he was, but limited by MSM frame).
As for the network, MSN is no FOX; the former is ratings driven, the latter is ideologically driven. no comparison. Give MSN its due for giving Olbermann some space to do his thing, but he gets the biggest office and new website only because of ratings. nothing more and no less. consider that MSNBC recently chose David Gregory over Rachel Maddow to replace Tucker Carlson as evidence the network is not committed to progressive voices.
The larger issue is structural. Olbermann represents the limits of the MSM structure as well as its most progressive strength. The limit is that the current system abides individuals and personality driven politics, once again as long as it reaps profits for the network. The larger issues have to do with the concentration of media ownership, the economic crisis facing the news industry and the reluctance of MSM to frame news in any way other than favoring the bottom line, with the outcome being that it supports and reproduces the political and economic status quo.
So, thanks to Olbermann, progressive voices have somewhere to go on MSM cable. it’s a start.