Technology with attitude

The Left’s Limbaugh

23

A surprising number of people have sent me links to this Keith Olbermann commentary that is one part defense of John Kerry and four parts skewering of President Bush. I suppose the fascination with this video is Olbermann’s seething outrage and rhetorical gymnastics. No one who sent this to me quite knew what to make of it, but they all kind of wanted to like it.

I will say up front that I don’t like Olbermann, just as I don’t like Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh (Olbermann’s inverted doppelgangers on the right). At their best, they are harmless windbags, but at their worst they are the band leaders of partisan spite and anger. These newsmen/pundits are the manufacturers of outrage, the knives dividing America.

This commentary by Olbermann, which has a few good points, is rotten at its core. In about eleven minutes of commentary, Olbermann manages to touch upon every failing of the Bush administration and make them sound like a coordinated, well-executed attempt to destroy the Republic. He speaks quickly and plays loose with logic. In the moment, it all sounds splendidly rousing�as if it someone is finally putting into words all that is bothersome with the Bush presidency.

But the speech is ultimately hollow, hung upon careless hyperbole and overwrought angst. It is, like so much of what these newsmen/pundits say, fast food oratory�tasty but unfilling and unhealthy to ingest. Because, really, Olbermann doesn’t have a point outside of the basic “Bush is a lying incompetent� refrain repeated ad nauseam by his critics. The rest is window dressing meant to incite rather than inform.

And that’s the problem. Olbermann incites and then signs off, leaving sympathetic listeners filled with outrage but possessing no outlet. He doesn’t ask anything of his viewers except for them to be angry. And where does this anger go? Hard to know. But it is rare that anger is well-focused. And rarer still that it helps heal rifts or solve problems.

I’m sure there are those who are glad Olbermann is around�he really is the first leftwinger who can match the oratorical skills of the Limbaugh’s and O’Reilly’s. But he also matches their self-indulgence, their hubris, their false outrage and their divisiveness. Americans listen to these guys because they appear to be speaking a beautiful truth. But they are merely modern day sirens luring us onto the rocks.