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Charles Warner Headshot

Olbermann's Right, Wrong, and Delusional

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MSNBC's Keith Olbermann delivered an emotional special commentary on August 17 about the mislabeled "Ground Zero Mosque" in which he was on the right side of issue, wrong to inject too much emotion into his comments, and delusional -- thinking he was Edward R. Murrow.

See for yourself:

Olbermann ends his intelligently crafted, emotional diatribe with Edward R. Murrow's legendary sign-off, "Good night and good luck." Was this a reverential attempt to evoke the memory of Murrow or a delusion that he had transmogrified into Murrow?

Having a sense of Olberman's gigantic self-absorption, I suspect the latter, which creates an equally gigantic dilemma. I want to despise Olbermann for being so egotistical as to compare himself to the rational journalistic icon and crusader Murrow, but I also want to love him for his brilliantly crafted and argued commentary in which he correctly debunks the simplistic, stupid, polarizing, intolerant, repressive wing-nut label and position on the Lower East Side community center.

As a New Yorker, it's so offensive to have wing-nuts from Alaska and Georgia trying to tell us who can worship where in our city. Their position is so blatantly anti-Obama, anti-religious freedom, anti-American partisan and political as to be ridiculous. But of course, calling wing-nuts' positions ridiculous is an oxymoron.

Olbermann's commentary would have been more effective and persuasive if it had been delivered in Murrow's calm, rational, authoritative style. When you watched Murrow, you didn't know he was angry by the tone of his delivery but by the force and logic of his argument.

On the other hand, Olberman's most obvious and visible message is rage - raw emotion that becomes the message and which means, unintentionally, that he is playing the O'Reilly, Beck, Hannity, wing-nut game. Therefore, when a viewer looks at Olbermann's commentary, the first reaction is to the anger, to the emotion (after all, it's TV) and not to the rational argument.

And that's the problem with TV, the medium and, thus, the emotion is the message. The wing-nuts have mastered the medium with their simplistic, stupid, polarizing, intolerant, repressive messages, and when Olbermann plays their emotional, angry game, the logic of his words is lost.

Too bad, because he's absolutely right on the issue.