In response to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity critique of the media last weekend, Keith Olbermann, host of The Countdown on MSNBC, announced that he was suspending his popular “Worst Persons” segment, which is exactly what it sounds like, until further notice. Olbermann explained his decision in a formal statement:
The overall message that the tone needs to change, was not lost on any of us. The anger in this news hour was not an original part of it, nor was it an artifice we added to it. It was a response to a threat to this democracy posed by Mr. Bush and now by his lineal descendants. The anger happened, it will still happen, it is not for ratings and it is not ‘get angry first and find a reason later.’
But there is an institutionalization of it that may no longer be valid. That is the ‘Worse Persons in the World’ Segment. Which started, of all things, as a way of defending Tucker Carlson. Its satire and whimsy have gradually gotten lost in some anger, so in the spirit of the thing, as of right now, I am unilaterally suspending that segment with an eye towards discontinuing it. We don’t know how that works long term. We might bring it back. We might bring back something similar to it, might kill it outright, and next week we will solicit your input.
Its just that today, given the serious stuff we have to start covering tomorrow, we think its the right thing to do short term and then we will see what happens. And we’ll also see if anyone else, on tv, or radio, will do something similar.
I think this is a really good thing, especially in light of yesterday’s election. There is a place, obviously, for anger in the political process, but I am not so sure if there is one in the journalistic, though even if there is, I think the observation that anger has become the primary filter through which everything is viewed and disseminated and therefore colored and entrenched is correct (if not a couple years late, actually). I don’t think Keith Olbermann not calling Bill O’Reilly a red-faced punk on MSNBC in the middle of the night is going to change anything about our national discussion, and Bill O’Reilly IS a red-faced punk, but I do respect the consideration that a prominent voice in the debate is at least willing to do some self-reflecting and put some work into making things potentially better rather than just louder.
Some more thoughts, for what they are worth:
Last night, longtime Videogum reader An American Patriot wrote on Twitter that he was “anticipating SOME FULL on existential/POLITICAL meltdown TOMORROW AT @videogum, and ONE comment about “carrying THE FIRE.” If that is really what he was expecting than I think that a) he is going to be disappointed, and b) we’ve made a terrible mistake. Why would anyone have an existential/political meltdown? The results of yesterday’s election had not only been predicted for months, they are completely in line with the ebb and flow of our (#1) country’s political mood swings. We are, first and foremost, an impatient people with ZERO tolerance for things not IMMEDIATELY going the way that we thought they were going to go. (So get ready, John Boehner.) This is not a defense of Barack Obama or democrats in general. Lord knows, they make their own messes. I am just pointing out that we are three years deep into one of the worst economic crises in generations at the same time that we remain embroiled in two foreign wars. So.
“It’s Complicated” — America’s Facebook Status.
There is just nothing to be mad about in all of this. There are a lot of people in America, and they have really different ideas about how things should be. So, America will get what it voted for, and if it turns out that that isn’t what they wanted, they’ll vote for something else. And if it turns out that they don’t even know what they want (DING DING DING) then they’ll just keep making blind guesses in the dark, but eventually we will all be buried in the ground and Christian Shepard will explain that it never mattered who ran the island because we were all going to end up being reuinted with Hurley and Baby Aaron’s Ghost in the end. What I’m saying is, if You Mad, don’t be. You have no reason for it. Would you get mad at the sun or moon for making poorly informed electoral decisions based on false populist rhetoric paid for by secretive billionaires? No. (Just Kidding! KIND OF!)
I’m also not suggesting that Videogum is going to follow in Keith Olbermann’s footsteps. While we completely agree that the rhetoric is overly toxic, and while our finger is always hovering over the reset button, I don’t think we have the same responsibility. We aren’t on television and we don’t wear fancy suits and there’s absolutely nothing paternal or authoritative about our voice. It’s kind of adenoidal, and disappointingly high-pitched. And to be honest, I think Videogum does a pretty decent job for the most part. It has a mean streak, NO DUH, but that mean streak is generally pointed in the right direction (although please feel free to let us/me know when it is not.) In any case, this is all beside the point now anyway, because Videogum’s political bent always flares up around an election (see: Videogum 06/08-11/08) and then fades into the background, because that’s when everyone’s political bent flares up and then fades into the background. Now we and the Basil Marceaux Dot Coms of the world go back to our normal jobs. And we leave those in Washington to do theirs. But we do share, hopefully all of us, the hope that they’ll try their best, and leave things a little better than they found them. Fingers crossed.
Although An American Patriot was right about one thing: everyone SHOULD carry “the fire.” This ash-covered grocery cart with one broken wheel and filled with oily coats isn’t going to push itself to the ocean.