For a man that is averaging a paltry 600,000 viewers an evening, he sure is full of…himself. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann sat down with the folks from Radar Online for an interview published Monday (hat tip TVNewser), and it must have been hard to get his head through the entranceway.
First, he did what most employees learn at an early age is a no-no – he took on his boss. His interviewers asked: “Dan Abrams said recently that your program ‘could become a model for the newscast of the future.’ Are you a role model?” Olby obnoxiously responded (emphasis mine throughout):
I don't know what Dan has to do with it frankly. We've never had a conversation about the direction of the show. He's actually the—The general manager [of MSNBC], right, but we rarely interact. As far as I know he works on dayside programming. Phil Griffin runs the network. He is the vice president of NBC [News] and my original producer in television.
Then, he went after CNN’s Lou Dobbs (emphasis mine throughout):
I think Lou has basically done one comment everyday for the last three years. We get it! They've broken the borders! You're trying to sell a book called Broken Borders—at Border's! I get it!
And, of course, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin: “This guy [Chad Conrad Castagana] obviously has a lot of problems, and one of them probably is a disturbing hero-worship of Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.”
Certainly, no KO interview would be complete without a litany of insults directed at Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly – but you can read that repetitive, jealous nonsense for yourself. What was more telling was the following:
Ultimately, this is a news broadcast, and when the news is sufficient, we throw the jokes out the window. We will do it straight. I did the elections straight. I did the blackouts straight. I did the Pope straight. There doesn't have to be humor mixed into it. The whole idea of conveying a journalistic standard is great, but if nobody watches it, what's the point?
For the intellectually challenged – which, of course, represents the bulk of KO’s devotees – this was indeed the most telling part of the interview, and what “Countdown” is all about: if the news is compelling enough, he’ll report it. However, if that won’t either attract viewers, or keep their attention, he needs to quickly move into either comedy schtick, or Howard Beale rants. As there aren’t any warnings put on the screen when he’s made such a character change, the viewer has no idea what is news, and what is not. As such, it all becomes comedy schtick and Howard Beale rants – a fact that Olby and his drooling automatons are clearly missing. Olby almost proudly punctuated this concept:
I like to say that we are to some degree like the Daily Show, but for half an hour we're not allowed to screw with the news at all. The bar is a little higher over here. Well, the jokes don't have to be as good, but at least 50 percent of the show has to have actually happened.
Which conversely means that on any given day, up to 50 percent of this program can be made up, thereby making "Countdown" just a modern-day version of Paddy Chayefsky's vision of the news in the 1976 Academy Award-winning film "Network". For those that have forgotten, the fictitious UBS network had been seeing its ratings plummet, until one of its newscasters, Howard Beale, had a nervous breakdown on the air. Viewership spiked, and the producers realized that making the news entertaining and thereby driving ratings was more important than accurately reporting the events of the day. Sound familiar?
That said, towards the end of the interview, Beale...er, I mean KO made a deliciously hypocritical statement that right- thinking folks are sure to get a kick out of. As the discussion moved to the false anthrax letter sent to him, and the New York Post’s articles on the subject, Olby had this to say (make sure all fluids are at a safe distance, and nothing is in your mouth but your tongue): “And the Post not only wrote a mocking article but by doing so they were interfering in a terrorism investigation. They were on the side of the terrorists.”
I’ll give those of you that didn’t heed my caution concerning fluids and digestibles time to clean up your monitors. Ready? Good.
Can you imagine the gall here? This is a man that is against the Patriot Act, and applauded the leaks of both NSA surveillance programs by the New York Times. Yet, when he got a letter filled with harmless powder, and news organizations joked about it in much the same fashion he mocks everything, this rose to the level of interfering with a terrorist investigation. Talk about the height of hypocrisy.
Fortunately, those disgusted by this man's perversion of the news shouldn't be too concerned. After all, at the end of "Network", as people tired of Beale's act, his ratings plummeted, and UBS operatives assassinated him on the air. In reality, Abrams and MSNBC aren't likely to need such a drastic maneuver to shut this sad clown up, for he is destined to shoot himself, albeit in the proverbial foot.
Does anyone want to start the countdown?