Olbermann Hates ‘24’, NewsBusters, and All References to Terrorism

So Keith Olbermann doesn’t like the hit television series “24” or the hit conservative media blog NewsBusters. Somebody knock me over with a feather.

Considerably more shocking is KO wasting airtime offering these opinions to his viewers as if they’d be at all surprised by his feelings on these subjects. Oh, that’s right – that’s what he does five nights a week for MSNBC. And they pay him for it.

Potentially just as comical is someone wasting bandwidth pointing out somebody pointing out what is obvious? I feel your pain, but would like to ameliorate it by suggesting that Olbermann’s distaste for an award-winning television program might give us great insight into how the media clearly don’t believe that terrorism is a threat to this nation.

Maybe more importantly, their goal is to diminish the country’s perception that such a threat exists so the citizenry will end up viewing the Bush administration and conservatives as being the real enemy thereby making Democrat successes at the polls more likely.

To achieve this, press representatives such as Olbermann dutifully challenge all references to terrorism, belittling not only those making them but those foolish enough to believe them, and, whenever possible, tying their origin to the Administration regardless of how tangentially or speciously.

To examine the viability of this premise, let’s analyze some key statements and questions uttered by Olbermann on Tuesday’s “Countdown” as reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker:

  • Is 24 just entertainment or is it propaganda designed to keep people thinking about domestic terrorism to keep us scared?
  • Fox portrays a fictionalized America riddled with terrorists, which helps keep part of the real America convinced we might really be riddled with terrorists…Gripping drama or thinly veiled propaganda?
  • The fear is fictional on the series 24, but is the intent to spark real fear among real Americans? Fear that can be turned into political gain.
  • It's a familiar tactic for grabbing and holding the public's attention beloved by both the Bush administration and, just as another example, Fox News Channel.
  • Is 24 propaganda? Is it fearmongering? Or is it a program-length commercial for one political party?
  • But if the irrational right can claim that the news is fixed to try to alter people's minds or that networks should be boycotted for nudity or for immorality, shouldn't those same groups be saying 24 should be taken off of TV because it's naked brainwashing?
  • Is there some tangible way that this could actually help a President who has relied, who has campaigned on, you know, our party will protect you and the other guys, well, you're on your own?

Fascinating stuff, wouldn’t you agree? Makes you wonder if KO is seeing a psychiatrist for this obvious paranoia that he’s suffering from.

Yet, within the delusions that a television drama is being used as a tool to brainwash the population is a deplorable cynicism concerning that population’s lack of intellectual capacity. After all, Olbermann is suggesting that the public doesn’t understand the difference between a news program and a weekly TV show with Hollywood actors in it.

Though it is never surprising when liberals put themselves above average citizens, in this case even KO’s devotees should be offended by the suggestion.

Regardless, in the midst of Olby’s paranoia concerning this grand Rupert Murdoch cabal to brainwash the public into believing that a terrorist threat exists is a deliciously paradoxical effort to persuade his viewers that one doesn’t. And, it seems that this is by no means a newly-found objective on KO’s part.

Consider for example this article written by Olby and published by Salon on September 5, 2002, just prior to the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (emphasis mine):

Responsibility to its consumers and a dedication to accuracy exist at only two measurements in broadcasting: all or nothing. Which underscores a final point about the tube, and a warning that if you have kids, or grandchildren, under the age of 5, you may want to go unplug your cable right now and not reattach it until Sept. 12th.

A psychologist hired by NBC startled its news executives last month by telling them that young children watching reports of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks will not be able to comprehend that the calamities they see are on videotape. Their brains just are not yet sufficiently developed to discern between "live" and "taped." They are likely to think it is happening all over again.

This invitation to new trauma and sadness often extends in lesser degrees, the psychologist pointed out, to children as old as 12 or 13. These older kids may be able to intellectualize the difference, but emotionally they may be just as vulnerable.

Truthfully, I was amazed and proud of the generalized restraint in my industry about showing the video of the attacks, certainly after the first few days last September. The problem that now arises is that the full range of information organizations -- from PBS to "Entertainment Tonight" -- are now adjusting their self-imposed embargoes and the results are unpredictable. They are as likely to be fueled by the desire to accurately retell the story of the horror, as by any understanding that a large part of their audience may not have either the ability to avoid watching the screen, nor the capacity to understand what's on it. Some at the low end will simply think you can't not show "great video."

Consider "Opie & Anthony," and the sportscasters and their strike stories, and remember, whether it has planned to do it, or has merely slipped up in doing it, broadcasting can damage you directly and has no foolproof capacity to protect you from itself.

Fascinating stuff, yes? Here’s a sportscaster celebrating the media’s decision in September 2001 to not show all the gory details concerning the first attacks on this country in sixty years while suggesting that folks should protect children and teenagers from such images twelve months later.

Yet, in March 2003, just days after America’s invasion of Iraq, Olbermann was much more interested in getting all of the specifics of that incursion out to the public, and was no longer worried about people’s sensitivities. Here is a partial transcript of a special report MSNBC did on March 27, 2003, hosted by none other than KO himself:

OLBERMANN: The Vietnam war became known as the first living-room war in American history but Gulf War II is shaping up to be historic in it's own right with live war pictures weaning in from the battlefield and embedded journalist who have unprecedented access but despite the wealth of information, conflicting reports have contributed in some cases to a mass of misinformation. Tonight NBC's Andrea Mitchell takes a look at the meaning and impact of a phrase you may have heard Kerry Sanders use earlier in this hour "The Fog of War."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a country of the size of California where there are at least six intense fronts. Cameras are in some places but not everywhere. The Pentagon's information people only tell you what they want you to know.

[…]

Beyond that the Pentagon is not allowing images of flag-draped coffins coming back to Dover Air Force Base, which critics say is a heavy handed way of managing the message. The Pentagon also controls the timing of bad news. After Sunday's ambush near Nasariyah, it took four days to identify the dead and missing. Why the delayed?

So, just days after the Iraq war started, Olbermann was concerned that America was being treated to a “mass of misinformation.” Yet, twelve months after 9/11, KO felt it was important to protect citizens from the indelicate details surrounding those attacks.

Interesting contradiction, don’t you think?

Of course, Olby watchers are used to such hypocrisy. For instance, in Tuesday’s rant about “24”, KO chided this website for statements made in a post earlier that morning:

Right-wing Web sites leaving no doubt as to what they think viewers should take away from this fictional attack. Case in point: NewsBusters.org says this scene, quote, 'should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk and whether there really is a war on terror,' and accuses the media of undermining the Bush administration and, quote, 'downplaying the seriousness of terrorism.'

At least the rest of us didn't make it into a sitcom. By that logic, of course, somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there's at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the Gilmore Girls.

So, on the one hand, Olby suggested that “24 should be taken off of TV because it's naked brainwashing” with the “intent to spark real fear among real Americans,” and is “designed to keep people thinking about domestic terrorism to keep us scared.” And, in 2002, Olbermann claimed that there were Americans who couldn’t distinguish between live shots and videotape while warning that “broadcasting can damage you directly and has no foolproof capacity to protect you from itself.”

Yet, when a conservative writer “wonder[ed] how many people in the media understand how possible what was depicted [in Tuesday’s ‘24' episode] is,” and if “they really pondered the unthinkable,” KO suggested such person is addle-minded enough to believe that “somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there's at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the Gilmore Girls.”

Which is it, Keith? Is this serious propaganda designed to raise the fear level in America, or is it fantasy akin to the Gilmore Girls, and anybody falling for it is clearly short of IQ points?

You can’t have it both ways, mon frere.

Moving forward, Olby’s concerns about “24” being Republican propaganda suggest that he likely didn’t actually watch the episodes in question, and is taking cues from someone who did. After all, much as in previous seasons, women are in key positions in both the Administration and at CTU.

For instance, the character of Chloe O’Brian – regularly one of the strongest in the show – has now been promoted to Senior Analyst at CTU’s Los Angeles division, and is regularly seen in the first four episodes admonishing male employees.

Not exactly a Republican stereotype there, wouldn’t you say, Keith?

Furthermore, for the fourth season, the president of the United States is black. In fact, there’s only been two seasons of “24” with a white president, with the first being seriously injured during an attack on Airforce One.

The vice president that stepped in for him and eventually became president was a blithering idiot that couldn’t make up his mind on simple questions put before him. Even worse, he ended up being a traitor to his country that was exposed and turned in for his mideeds by his wife.

How does that fit into to your generalizations of conservatives being racist and sexist, Keith? Some fine Republican propaganda here, dontcha think?

Finally, the first four episodes just aired were full of strong civil liberties overtones as the president’s lawyer sister thwarted the efforts by the FBI to search the employee files of the company she represents.

Quite a conservative theme, dontcha think, Keith?

As a result of these revelations, one has to wonder which should be more concerning about this MSNBC anchor: the extraordinary hypocrisies inherent in much of the opinions he expresses, or the possibility that he’s formulating these opinions without all of the pertinent information available.

Sadly, these are highly desired attributes for a media representative these days making anyone who possesses both a perfect shill for the adoring left.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.