Thursday, November 4, 2010

Olbermann vs Stewart: Or, the Voice for the Little Guy vs the Voice for Capitulation

Keith Olbermann was right about one thing he said in regards to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity™. The point Stewart was trying to make with the rally is that both sides need to tone it down, and so he implored everyone to do just that. But the problem is–as Olbermann tweeted–"I wish it were otherwise. But you can tone down all you want and the result will be: the Right will only get LOUDER. Sorry."

That is factually true, and it is a statement supported by evidence. Fox News, a.k.a. The Right™has been getting louder and louder regardless of how loud or quiet The Left™ is. With complete control of the media cycle, in print, online, and broadcast, The Right™ can easily plant stories in blogs, which are sent virally by the minion bloggers and the trolls, which are then picked up in broadcast, then later cemented in print, by both The Left™ and The Right™. Nice work, News Corp.

This same mechanism exists for the rest of the free press of America, too. The problem here is that everyone other than The Right™ doesn't care to
manipulate the system this way. On the one hand, that is admirable. On the other hand, it is exactly how the Republicans took back control of the House, only two years after their policies nearly collapsed the economy, and supposedly drove them into the political wilderness.

That Jon Stewart shows more deference to Bill O'Reilly than he does for President Obama is profoundly troubling. That he conflates Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and MSNBC with the likes of O'Reilly, Sean O'Hannity, Sarah Palin, and all of Fox News is not much less disturbing.

His point that the anger, and the relentless shouting of the talking heads from both sides in the "24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator" needs to stop is commendable. The problem with that is that it's comparable to asking one side in a major battle to stop fighting because the other side has louder weapons. The Left™ can choose to stop the shouting on the very few of their outlets, but meanwhile, The Right™ will continue to grow louder and louder in the massive outlets they control, their message reaching larger and larger audiences (indeed, Fox's viewership grew 127% since the last midterm elections).

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity™ may have drawn in more than double the number of people than did Glenn Beck's recent angry white people rally, but Stewart's audience is a fraction of the number of viewers Fox News reaches every day, just by broadcast. Which of the two do you think got more voters to turn up in this past election? Which of the two might have actually turned off voters, and perhaps made them lose interest in voting?

There can be no question that the adage "the loonies are running the asylum" has now become a fact. The ascension of the some of the craziest political candidates this country has seen in its history should be incredibly alarming to any reasonable person. While the Democrats were responsible for their own failures (I take none of that away from them), Stewart's persistent mocking of the Democrats, Maddow, Olbermann, etc., and his calls for them to basically pipe down and shut up, was not helpful.

Sure, as an "equal opportunity satirist", Stewart mocks The Right™–often more so, but the audience of The Right™ doesn't watch his show; the audience of The Left™ does. Imagine for a moment if there were shows in the Fox News media closed-loop that actually mocked other folks on Fox News, or their audience, or politicians of The Right™, even if there were truth in that mocking. What might the results of that be?

That does not happen on Fox News, or with The Right™, so we can only imagine. It does with The Left™, thanks to Jon Stewart, and we can infer that this had an effect on the morale of moderates and leftists.

Olbermann made another good point in a retort to Stewart's comparison of MSNBC to Fox News, saying, "Sticking up for the powerless is not the moral equivalent of sticking up for the powerful." It is shameful that this minor, yet serious, point even needs to be made.

In Stewart's recent interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace (again, more deferential to him than he was to Obama), Stewart charged that MSNBC was making a mistake trying to play Fox's game in their territory. By choosing a 'liberal bias', they're making Fox's point that the mainstream media has a bias. But so what? At this point, so what? Fox News has had a clear and strong right wing bias for years, and no one cares. Their audience has only grown, and has grown massively, in spite of–or as a direct consequence of–this bias. Has Stewart ever bothered to ask why that has happened?

I was glad when Olbermann first came around, and when Maddow followed. For the first time ever, those of us who were not on The Right™ had a voice in the national media, reaching millions of people, and not just the tiny few viewers of The Daily Show. I'm actually sad to see Olbermann taking any cues from Stewart, such as removing his Worst Persons in the World segment.

Now, given how much more successful Fox News has become, unless a new, major broadcast channel chooses to take a stand against everything Fox News stands for, the war has already been lost. But the war has been lost, because there has never been, and never will be, a Fox News equivalent for moderate or liberal people, for the simple reason that it is anathema to the policies of the corporations that own and operate nearly every media outlet in America. Our only recourse, it would seem, is to capitulate, stop pissing in the wind, and hopefully laugh ourselves into denial, and acquiescence.

Maybe Jon Stewart was also right, and has already figured that out ahead of the rest of us.

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