Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Above the Fray

Last year, in my first post on this site, I said I would ignore Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow when documenting instances of our anti-Republican culture. My reasoning was that these individuals actively teach Americans to hate Republicans. Documenting their behavior would monopolize the site.

I’ve stayed true to that promise … up until now.

The Huffington Post has a segment from Countdown with Keith Olbermann that is relevant to an earlier post (The Family Guy). The segment is almost 14 minutes in length, with the interesting part starting at about the half-way point. It was broadcast on February 24, 2010, the day before the Blair House Healthcare Summit with President Obama.

Here is the segment. Please watch it. You need to see this first-hand:

The characterizations in the piece are what our culture accepts as appropriate political discourse. Mr. Olbermann is not actually debating a policy issue. He is promoting the theme that “Republicans are bad people.” It is not just Republican ideas that are wrong. Republicans themselves are “ghouls” and “sub-human.”

For those of you into horror films, you know what to do with ghouls and sub-humans. You don’t sit down at a table and negotiate with them; you kill them.

Granted, those anti-Republican words are not expressly stated. Mr. Olbermann is much too polished for that. He phrases the emotion by talking directly to Republicans in this fashion: “My request to you then is that you not come back out of that meeting...go into that room and stay there.”

And how can we be certain that it is Republicans whose presence is no longer requested? Here Mr. Olbermann provides us with an emotional hint. His specific quote is, “That is the God damned death panel, Sarah Palin!”

The presentation draws me to the definition of the word “demagogue.” Mr. Olbermann packages his words to appeal to the prejudices and passions of his viewers. It is a technique that was beautifully on display this past weekend (Sunday, 2/28/10). Louis Farrakhan spoke in Chicago to 20,000 followers and used the occasion to incite hatred against the “white right.”

You might say, “That’s ok, I’m not a part of the “white right.” Unfortunately, if you are a Republican, you are precisely the target of those words. It’s even more difficult if you are a Republican with dark skin tone. Now you are not only a target, you must be certifiably nuts for associating with Republicans.

Why am I so wrapped around the axle over this? If I just happened across the Olbermann piece by watching Countdown, can’t I change my viewing habits?

That’s not the issue.

My agitation comes from Keith Olbermann’s piece being circulated on the corporate e-mail system of a large healthcare organization in Colorado. The 14-minute presentation is being passed around to employees as a legitimate contribution to our healthcare debate.

And that’s the point. A demagogic appeal to hatred is being circulated within a company employing thousands of people as a “right and natural” thing to do.

Contrast Mr. Olbermann’s invective with the criticism leveled at Sarah Palin for calling attention to The Family Guy episode. The Anchoress (Elizabeth Scalia) accuses Governor Palin of being undignified; of not “making the best of a dubious dig.” In defending herself and her family, Governor Palin is attacked for being “outside the box;” for being inappropriate; for lacking dignity.

Does this give you a sense of the asymmetry in our American political culture?

Emotional demagoguery of Republicans is unquestioned; a Republican reaction to an attack is the real problem. Stigmatizing Republicans is legitimate; a Republican rebuttal is undignified.

Here’s a thought for those Republicans who find themselves in the political spotlight:

Maybe it’s time to lose that “dignity” thing.

UPDATE 3/3/2010:
I think I've got to link viewers to the definition of "irony."  The first two comments make me wonder if I'm being too subtle.

In this post, I'm documenting two recent instances of cultural anti-Republican demagoguery, and suggesting that Republicans avoid being "too dignified" to respond.

In response, the first comment tells me that the reader finds any attention being paid to the issue beneath his dignity, and the second comment says that the important issue is really the interpretation of a blog post!


Maybe I should modify the final line into a Republican "call to arms."  How about,  "It's time to lose this 'dignity' thing and focus on the threat!"

UPDATE 3/7/2010
The Left Coast Rebel gets it!  Thanks for the link, Tim.


  1. I beg to differ.

    I do not need to taste the product in a sewage treatment-plant except maybe as it is dumped into the river, if I have been persuaded that the product is clean. (See also "space travel").

    "You need to see this first-hand:". No. do not.

    Olbermann's picture is more than I wanted to see and way more than I needed to know.

  2. Anchoress never said Palin should't have responded to Family Guy. She just said Palin should have been smarter about it.

  3. Great post Howard, I'm posting a section for Saturday and linking back.