Olbermann’s backbone still MIA


Judge grants Kucinich entry to NV debate (AP via Yahoo! News)

If you were watching Countdown tonight, then Keith Olbermann did, in fact, inform you of this decision, as well as the fact that NBC was going to appeal it. However, in the resulting discussion Olbermann had with Chuck Todd, Kucinich’s presence at the debate was never mentioned again. Todd even went so far as to ludicrously claim that tomorrow’s MSNBC debate would be the first debate where the "Big Three" of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama would be "seated down" and talking about the issues, when the most recent debate on ABC — the one from which Kucinich and Mike Gravel were excluded — featured the Big Three and a fourth candidate who wasn’t polling as well, in this case Bill Richardson, sitting and discussing the issues. MSNBC wouldn’t even change their graphic advertising the debate during Countdown, either by adding Kucinich’s photo to those of the Big Three or by simply scrapping the photos altogether.

Given how much big corporations, big media, and conservatives have tried to dumb down our political and social discourse over the past thirty years, given how they have tried to make everyone lower their expectations about the behaviour of anyone else but themselves, it is all too ironic that, when faced with a court order to actually make their debate fully informative and to let people know that there are still more than three Democrats actively campaigning for their party’s presidential nomination, NBC would act like a petulant child. MSNBC not only continued to ignore Kucinich’s campaign by failing to make any mention of him on tonight’s Countdown except for the parenthetical about the court order, it not only continued to abandon its role as a journalistic organization by arbitrarily deciding which of the candidates deserve to be mentioned on its broadcast, but it went so far, even after the court order, to still talk about and promote its upcoming debate as if Kucinich weren’t even there. The closest analogy there is to this situation is to a group of bratty kids, who decide that the best way to not have to deal with the "brain" of the neighbourhood is simply to ignore him or her, treating that child as if he or she were visible and didn’t exist.

That there has been no great national dialogue, either in this presidential campaign cycle or the previous one, over the media’s role in determining which presidential candidates do or do not get airtime to have their voices heard, is a sad testament to just how thirty years of rule by misanthropic Republicans and Democrats have affected this country. Perhaps Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have Mitt Romney’s Reaganesque hair or Barack Obama’s boyish grin or Hillary Clinton’s breasts, but his campaign is trying to provide an alternative for Democratic voters who are tired of a party that has sold its soul for the past sixteen years, abandoning all the social justice issues it stood for in a misguided effort to retain its own power and relevance at any cost. Kucinich not only provides that voice to Democrats and like-minded independents, but polls in which voters are asked to judge candidates based on issues, not names or money, have shown time and time again that, if this primary were to be decided on the issues themselves, Kucinich would not only be a front-runner but he would stand a damn good shot at being the eventual candidate. With money comes power, though, and just as the financial machines of the Clintons and Obamas and Romneys allow them to down out the Kuciniches and Gravels and Pauls, NBC and its team of highly-paid lawyers look set to silence Kucinich from tomorrow’s debate, all for the ratings the "first debate between the Big Three" might provide.

That’s what this is all really about, is ratings. Keith Olbermann has often said that television news got it all wrong a long time ago, back before even his youth, when it was decided that television news would be commercial, that the companies of this nation would so easily be able to exert control over the newscasts with the threat of pulling advertising and cutting the newscasts from the funds they needed to survive. On this point I could not be in fuller agreement with Olbermann, but perhaps now Olbermann needs to reexamine his own adherence to this statement. For years now Olbermann has profited quite handsomely as being the alleged voice of the left in the mainstream media, as the one who would not only stand up to the wrongs perpetrated by Republicans in all branches of office, but who would stay true to his principles no matter what. If Olbermann truly believes that the influence of corporate interests in television news is one of the great ills of our society, then he needs to look at NBC’s actions in trying to silence the one candidate who most embodies the positions Olbermann posits in his "Special Comments," and at his own role in that silencing. Until then, all of Olbermann’s talk about the evils of corporate media will ring distinctly hollow.

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