November 21, 2017

Olbermann and Bey

I was a guest on “Countdown” a number of years ago and Keith Olbermann was the host. Olbermann was gracious in his introduction, referencing that we had been co-workers for awhile on theABC Network Radio. I was on the show discussing the deceptions and manipulations of television, principally as they were executed in the lead up to the war in Iraq.

I doubt that he recalled that prior to our ABC connection we were also neighbors in the same condo building on West 57th street, sharing the elevator and even the sundeck on occasion. It would be difficult not to notice him. He was a tall man with an ideally proportioned physique, chiseled features and a square jaw as sharp as a letter opener. Outwardly he appeared almost impossibly perfect in real life, like a comic book hero, a Clark Kent or the cinematic equivalent of one, Christopher Reeves. At those more informal occasions he seemed aloof and unapproachable, but that might have been his personal reaction to the attentions of celebrity. I’d felt similarly the first half-dozen times I ran into Al Pacino who also lived in the building. Then one day he actually looked into my face and transformed into the most friendly and engaging of personages.

During the lead up to the Iraq War media pundits who told the truth and disputed media/government assertions were fired and silenced. Phil Donahue, a host on MSNBC was one of them. An internal NBC memo explained Phil Donahue’s firing: “Donahue was a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war” and his show would be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Lynn Samuels, Rev. Byron Schaefer, Roxanne Walker and Charles Goyette were anti-war radio hosts fired because of their views. I believe I was also one of that group at WABC radio.

And then came ‘Countdown’ and Olbermann.

At first the show was cautious, undistinguished and undistinguishable from other cable talking head shows, but by mid-2006 Olbermann began his ‘special comments’ segment blasting administration figures and it was clear the tide was beginning to turn. His show was a beach head. It offered hope that the days of Dixie Chick demonization were finally over. It was again possible for Americans to criticize their government without being called ‘traitors’, ‘friends of Saddam’ or ‘enablers of terrorists’.

Soon the entire network would follow his progressive on-air lead. Even Chris Mathews who had gushed over George Bush in his flight suit and exclaimed “We are all neo-cons now!” began to drop in line behind Olbermann’s ideological lead. Matthews began asserting that he was always against the war, adopted his own ‘special comments-type segment and unabashedly steered his on air presentation towards the North Star of Liberalism.

Before Phil Donahue was fired at MSNBC Chris Matthews let it be known that he wanted Donahue off the air. At the time Matthews was the biggest star at the network, earning $5 million a year. He always toadied up to CEO Jack Welch, had the ear of NBC CEO Bob Wright, and they all vacationed together at their summer homes on Nantucket Island. In 2002, U.S. News & World Report ran an item that had Matthews opining that if Donahue remained on the air, he would bring down the network. Mathews hates Olbermann and their on-air tiffs made must-see television but also had executives pulling out there hair. I wouldn’t doubt that Mathews could be a contributory element as I suspect he was in Donahue’s firing. Matthews understands corporate and political survival. He knows how to play the game.

All that being said, ‘Hardball’ is the only cable news program I watch every night.

Not infrequently I found Olbermann’s presentation pompous, self-righteous and hyper-emotional but I usually also found him fearless, correct, intelligent and even necessary. And sometimes he was even eloquent, something rarely found on cable TV news. Although I watched infrequently, for all his flaws I will miss his on-air presence.

There is a also a great deal of speculation that Comcast wanted Olbermann out. The merger of Comcast and NBCU occurred the day before Olbermann’s firing:

“Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet company, on Thursday announced plans to take over NBC Universal, creating a new kind of media colossus that would not only produce some of America’s most popular entertainment but also control viewers’ access to it.” Washington Post.

Comcast denies any involvement but corporate press releases are notoriously obfuscating.

Olberman had the highest ratings on MSNBC and was paid 7 million a year. It is probable he will receive that for the next two years, just as I received payment for a year after The Richard Bey Show was cancelled. (That’s another story!) I’m sure he’s not crying today. After all, he’ll be paid handsomely to don those martyr’s robes. He might be able to do radio…but in general these contracts keep you off the air for the duration.

Short answer for the firing: Olberman was not a corporate darling. He directly and publicly stood up to management. He is difficult and uncompromising to work with. He has had fewer and fewer supporters at the corporate level of NBC. New management comes in and wants to make its own imprint. It doesn’t want to deal with a guy who can make trouble when they try to change things.

And that, as they say, is show biz!

WORDS HAVE CONSEQUENCES


I heard about the shooting of Representative Giffords while sitting by my uncle’s hospital bed. He was sleeping and the television was turned down with the audio low. The newscaster, Alex Witt on MSNBC referred to her at first as Garbrielle and the chyron banner similarly misspelled her name. For the next hour I flipped back and forth between MSNBC and FoxNews hoping to get information the other network missed. My first reaction was that it was Arizona, she must have been a Republican and indeed FoxNews was immediately highlighting that Giffords was pro-life and fighting for a stronger immigration force at the borders. They identified her as a moderate Democrat but FoxNews was attempting to grab her for one of their own. The politicization of assassination had begun at first report.
It is possible for an assassination of a political figure to be non-political. Bremer and Hinkley come to mind (both failed assassins are now free men, by the way). This attack has led to countless internet and media attempts to place the shooter in one or the other political camp. The point here, I think, is not whether Jared Loughner is a ‘liberal’ or a ‘teabagger’. He was obviously disturbed and not a distinct representative of any cogent political ideology. Yet vititriolic right wing expression today is not cogent, it is inchoate anger. The important point is that extreme right wing hate speech creates an atmosphere that ignites such people to violence.

But speaking of inchoate expression, who warned us of government mind control BEFORE Jared Loughner?

“The government is gearing up to conduct one of the biggest scientific experiments ever and you get to be a part of it.It’s called H.R. 3247. It’s a bill proposed by Congressman Brian Baird. Oh, this is fantastic. Remember the book “1984”? Sure. It’s nothing like that. Really, this is completely different. There’ll also be a director of social and behavioral research. Oh man, I doubt if it will be, you know, like anybody with crazy beliefs, you know, like every other “czar.” This one is going to be totally just like you. They’re going to study us and find ways to essentially trick us into driving crappy hybrids and I bet that’s just the beginning. As Time magazine summarized on April 2: “The president — President Obama is still relying on behavioral science. But now, his administration is using it to try to transform the country” — they didn’t say this like it was a bad thing, either — “because when you know what makes people tick, it’s a lot easier to help them change.” Well, that doesn’t sound creepy at all. It doesn’t. And interestingly enough, it doesn’t sound very American, either. But what is that now that we’re in a global community? When has that ever stopped Barack Obama before? I mean, hey, if it’s for the betterment of the collective — you know what I’m saying?”GLENN BECK

Does that sound any more attached to reality than Loughner’s complaints about mind control?
In 2008, a man walked into a ‘liberal’ church and began shooting, killing two and wounding others. He felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets,” the affidavit said. “Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement … he would then target those that had voted them into office.” He was an ardent fan of Savage, Hannity and O’Reilly who helped to shape his hatred and directly motivate his actions. He used Bernard Goldberg‘s book ‘The 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America’ featured repeatedly on O’Reilly as an original menu for his targets. When he couldn’t get to them he shot the liberals who supported them.

Yes, Laughner will probably not turn out to be a card carrying Teabagger. But that is not the point. The reckless politicians and right wing broadcasters who create the milieu that justifies spitting on Congressmen, threatening them with guns and requiring police protection for public officials and their families, also create the atmosphere where tragedies like this take place.

Representative Giffords was shot through the head yesterday.

–A rifle site was placed over her district by Sarah Palin a few months ago. Beneath it read the exhortation: “Don’t retreat! Instead: RE-LOAD!”

–Giffords pleaded for civility on national television: “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the way she has it depicted she has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.” …..Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

–Giffords office was trashed the night after she voted for Health Insurance Reform.

–Giffords’ opponent held an M-16 shooting rally to vanquish her. The invitation read: “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly”

— Her father when asked if she had enemies replied: ‘Yes. The entire Tea Party.’

–In August 2009 at another “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Douglas, AZ Safeway the police were called after an angry constituent dropped a gun and left it behind.

Judge John Roll was murdered yesterday. He showed up unannounced as a friend and supporter of Giffords, so his murder was neither premeditated nor totally unrelated to politics. Death threats against him were directly related to the vitriol of right wing talkradio:
— In February 2009, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout. When Roll ruled the case could go forward, U.S.David Marshal Gonzales said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online. “They said, ‘We should kill him. He should be dead,’ ” Gonzales said. Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.
Read: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2009/07/09/20090709threats0709.html#ixzz1AU0st7a5

–The Tucson Tea Party has announced it has no plans to tone down its rhetoric.

–The local Sheriff who is in the community and understands what has gone on has spoken out. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said: “I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol… When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”

And what of the other national stories urging Americans to get their guns if they don’t get their way voting?

–In Nevada Teabagger candidate Sharon Angle said:

Angle:When you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical…
Interviewer : If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.
Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

…well, it wasn’t. So what is the ‘cure’ for Harry Reid now, Sharon? And since Representative Giffords beat a Teabagger in the last election what ‘cure’ is appropriate for her?

-In my district in Florida right wing host Joyce Kaufman told her followers:
“If ballots don’t work, bullets will. I’ve never in my life thought the day would come that I would tell individual citizens that you are responsible for being the militia the Founding Fathers designed. They were very specific: you need to be prepared to fight tyranny….I’ll put my microphone down on November 2nd and I mean it! Because at that point I’m going to go up in the hills of Kentucky, I’m going to go out into the mid-West, I’m going to go up in the New Hampshire outreaches and I’m gonna gather together men and women who understand some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for.”
…..Joyce Kaufman, right wing radio host offered the position of chief of staff for Teabagger representative Alan West.

–“Let me tell you what you’ve got to do: You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.” Teabagger Representative Alan West

I spent years broadcasting talk radio. And during every one of those years, including the current one, I’ve heard right wing talkers dredge up the same story about Al Sharpton. In 1995 he told protesters angry about the eviction of a black store owner: “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” One of the protesters later entered the store with a gun and flammable liquid, shot several customers and set the store on fire. For years right wingers have continuously blamed Sharpton for these murders and arson and Sharpton has expressed regret for his remarks. Sharpton’s words, though racist, did not explicitly call for violence but right wingers have blamed him for years for using provocative language in a volatile political atmosphere. It seems for them cause and effect only applies when it is politically expedient.

Many bloggers and the few left-leaning broadcasters that remain have warned Americans about the consequences of this hateful incendiary (and yes, even treasonous) rhetoric. You didn’t have to be Cassandra to see it coming.

Richard Bey Predicts 2004 Democrat Presidential Ticket on MSNBC

Richard predicts Kerry & Edwards to be the Democratic ticket in 2004. He also discusses Bush’s economic policy with Dan Patrick.

Richard Bey on MSNBC – Interview Discussing Rush Limbaugh

Richard and Steve Malzberg discuss Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction problem.

OUT OF MY MIND…

Have there been any new pop music forms since Grunge? We had Punk, Heavy Metal, Disco, Rap, Hip Hop, Grunge through the seventies and nineties. Have there been any new categories in this new millennium? If not, why is that? Do trance and techno count? I don’t know enough about them to say…….The movie THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is better than alright. Much better: Mark Ruffalo, Annete Benning and Julianne Moore are superb. The kids are alright……..Inconvenient facts that will start some kind of argument if you mention them: The first person murdered on 9/11 was probably a Jew. Among the first terrorists indicted after 9/11 were two Jews who planned to blow up a mosque and assassinate a Republican congressman. The first people arrested after 9/11 were probably Israeli Mossad agents filming and mocking the attack. Try it……Is it just me or does John Boehnor’s skin seem even more orange than usual? And is that mascara or does he just have naturally black rimmed eyelids like the actor who plays Ricardo on ‘LOST’?……Anyone over fifty should read the sci-fi book ‘REPLAY’. I read it everywhere I go. Give it away as a gift on birthdays……INCEPTION is no longer the #1 movie in the US. THE OTHER GUYS made more money this past weekend. I must be the only one finding Will Ferril’s act growing thin. Steve Carrel too for that matter…….What happened to conservative Representative David Drier? A few years ago he was everywhere on the tube— FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC. Then rumors began circulating on line that he was gay and had been living with another man for years. I haven’t seen or heard about him since. Has anyone else? He won re-election in 2008 but took his profile so low he could walk under a door frame (perhaps the door frame to a closet)…… I’ll be back in NYC on August 17th for a week. I can’t wait. The days will get longer, I’m certain…….Why do the days in Florida seem so short?