In the wake of the Van Jones resignation, an aggrieved Keith Olbermann took to the pages of DailyKos and issued a call to commence what amounted to an online witch hunt of Fox News Infotainer Glenn Beck, who had been a leading voice in hounding Jones.
"Find everything you can about Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes," urged Olbermann. Something about this struck New York Times "Media Decoder" columnist David Carr as being, well...deeply wrong:
It all makes some of us at Decoder a bit uncomfortable. While Mr. Beck may be serving as a proxy for the party of opposition, his targets are members of the administration, a rugged game to be sure, but not one that attempts to investigate journalists and commentators for having contrary opinions. What might Mr. Olbermann do if someone digs up dirt on his intended targets, who, like him, work in the infotainment industry and have been elected by no one? Once the game of oppo research on the press begins, it's hard to tell where it might stop, no?
It now seems that cooler heads have prevailed, and that Olbermann will no longer seek to rake muck on Beck and his cohorts at Fox News. He officially stood down last night on Countdown:
"Do I really want to be like Glenn Beck? Do I really want to be like Fox News or the New York Post? I don't mean I'd stop calling any of them out for their inanities... What could we possibility find out that would be more humiliating to Glenn Beck, more embarrassing to Glenn Beck, more destructive about Glenn Beck, than this one fact: he's Glenn Beck."
I think this is definitely for the best. Carr is right to have been queasy about Olbermann's original call for dirt, and I think that Olbermann was poised to learn a very difficult lesson of the "act in haste, repent in leisure" variety. Olbermann is clearly still irked at the extent to which "oppo research" has been waged on him but drawing the line at not escalating the practice is what the bigger man does in this situation. Best to stick to the actual content that Beck presents on teevee every week. It provides ample material for media critics -- trust me on this.
To be frank, I had my doubts that Olbermann's original mission could have been pulled off in the practical sense. I'm not sure how he would have gathered information on Beck and Ailes. I imagine an email inbox somewhere overflowing with letters purporting to contain scoops. Who would have managed this information? Surely MSNBC would not have assigned an actual reporter to cull through hundreds of missives. How would Olbermann have followed up on rumors? What resources would MSNBC have committed to the task? I imagined that ultimately, this task would fall to some poor MSNBC intern and that thought made me very sad inside!
I have no campaign to muckrake Glenn Beck's personal life for blog posts but, nonetheless, I still get emails from people who purport to have dirt on Beck. And my experience has been that a lot of it is disgusting and wrongheaded stuff that I don't believe for a minute is true and would feel shameful for reporting. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to leaf through hundreds of similar emails. I imagine it would be depressing.
Carr is right. The practice of digging up oppo on elected officials is a "rugged game." But given Beck's propensity for providing a nation of critics ample grist, there's no reason to make the game of critiquing him sordid or difficult or needlessly base. Olbermann is right to step back from the brink here. Ultimately, what he was proposing on DailyKos was a dirty job that no one had to do.
David Carr Changes Keith Olbermann's Mind About Glenn Beck [Mediaite]
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Jimmy Fallon Squashes The Beef Between Keith Olbermann And Glenn Beck (VIDEO)