Thursday, April 12


My Poor Wife and I were watching Olbermann last night--don't go away Keith, I want a word with you--and he led off with Imus, Imus, and More Imus, which was probably a mistake to begin with. What's certain is that turning the program over to NBC News President Steve Capus was a large blunder, assuming you wish to preserve the idea of News reporting as some sort of Platonic ideal in which the NBC family of networks regularly engage. Capus blathered on for what seemed like half an hour--he finally drove my wife from the room, and she's all but unflappable--in a wholly self-serving exercise that had to gall Countdown's intended audience. Unless, that is...

...uh, unless, that is, the intention is to solidify Countdown's modest ratings climb of late by turning the show into The Same But More So. First Olbermann, who is not exactly the most unassuming of teevee personalities, let us say, gets over-praised for one of his Special Comments. Then for a while there was a New One every three days or so, and they were the focus of the show's advertising. Enough with the Mr. President, the Constitution does not give you the right... already. And while that seems to've slowed, Olbermann has now taken to leading his guests by the nose. Doesn't this show that the administration is out of ideas? he'll ask Howie Fineman or Richard Wolffe, who are supposed to reply what? "Brilliant insight, Keith. We're all frankly flummoxed to find the administration lied so brazenly"? The audience is parsecs ahead of you at this point, and all it really accomplishes is running a neon highlighter over the fact that Newsweek and WaPo and the other institutions who feed your guests, as well as many of the guests themselves--Fineman being the obvious example--couldn't hang onto this story if it'd been velcroed to a butterfly net. That's until Bush's approval ratings tanked. "George W. Bush is an incompetent bozo" is not only not news, it obfuscates the real problems, the criminal behavior, and the complicity of three Republican-controlled Congresses and the Right in general.

Okay, let's assume you can't turn down the boss (is the same true of Russert, who got a pass on his Libby involvement plus some Expert Commentator slots?). How is it that a half-hour later, on Scarborough, there's a guest making the point that the "difficult financial decision" Capus claims he made at the insistence of the NBC family of employees (presumably not including Imus character witness, the aforementioned Timmy) was in fact a move made only after a litany of major advertisers pulled out, and came after a week in which a lot of the NBC family claimed its protests were being ignored? Granted he was immediately jumped by a Columbia prof-slash-paid NBC shill, but even so the point was raised. But not on Countdown, which would never have let Dana Perino bring that weak shit to the plate.

Okay, that was twice as much as I intended to say about Keith, and maybe the less said about the slimy self-service of Capus' the better, except that after last night one might wish for some wall-to-wall crisis to hit a different network news operation each week so American could see all these guys doing a CYA until it figured it out. The only thing I wanted to add about Imus is that this is the first public uproar of its sort for which I find the hyperventilating, shit-slinging, and unseemly Corporate Wagon Circling to be exactly, exactly the sort of national discourse we deserve. But there's a weird sense in which this is passing, like van Gogh's blob of spittle on the wall, from boredom into fascination, from the inevitable meta phase to a point where the stark issues--Racism and Sexism--have to be confronted directly. I could be wrong. I surely don't imagine this improves the stench coming from the public airwaves in any permanent way. Let's remember that yesterday Steve Capus' crocodile tears fell on the boardroom table where four years ago they decided to give Michael Wiener Savage a television program. But that ugly, burning, infected toenail that advertisers have suffered may yet be trod upon another time or two before it heals over.

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