Effect Measure

I like Keith Olbermann’s TV show, Countdown, and I couldn’t care less about Paris Hilton. But watching him last night I was dismayed — again — by the meanness and stupidity and exploitative nature of his coverage of Paris Hilton. She isn’t news anymore. If he insists on covering her, doing it in such a vicious and meanspirited way can only be to entertain and pander to the basest instincts of TV viewers. It says something about Olbermann and his TV colleagues on all the channels, regardless of politics, who are doing the same thing. What it says about them isn’t very pretty.

I’ll grant you the Hilton coverage doesn’t rise to the obcene level of the news media’s distortions and cheerleading in the run up and aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. But it is still malignant and venomous, even on its tiny scale. And I think it’s fair to call him on it. Of course it’s not just Olberman. Almost all who are covering Paris Hilton at this point are doing it in the same smarmy and brutal way. I’m singling him out because he ought to know better.

And we need him to know better. If he wants the respect of political progressives he has to earn it and not squander what he has legitimately earned through taking courageous and eloquent stands on principle.

Meanness is not a progressive value.

Comments

  1. #1 Lea
    June 23, 2007

    Link to Countdown not working kiddo. Says Page Not Found.

  2. #2 revere
    June 23, 2007

    Lea: Fixed. Thanks.

  3. #4 revere
    June 23, 2007

    Colugo: Hadn’t seen that. Thanks. I’m glad it bothers others, too. Olbermann may be “one of ours” (a progressive on the war) but that doesn’t let him off the hook. It just sets the hook in deeper.

  4. #5 decrepitoldfool
    June 23, 2007

    I did like his “Worst person in the world” award where he took Glen Beck to task for suggesting Jimmy Carter should speak at Al Queda suicide bomber training graduation ceremonies. Olbermann said; “You do realize, Mr. Beck, that only in his fondest dreams could any suicide bomber hope to do as much damage to this country as you do, every night.”

    But yeah, skip the Paris Hilton coverage. It is a good thing “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” is still on the air, if only as a baseline for what a news program is supposed to be like.

  5. #6 Michael
    June 23, 2007

    I agree. Mean is not a progressive value. Paris Hilton should just be left alone. Olbermann is squandering his credibility by picking on an easy target.

    As for Glenn Beck, he comes across to me as just an uneducated person with poor cognitive abilities. He is lucky to accomplish even specious reasoning.

  6. #7 Lea
    June 23, 2007

    Michael said: Paris Hilton should just be left alone. Olbermann is squandering his credibility by picking on an easy target.

    Spoken like a true male.
    She allows herself to be an easy target. She asks for the attention, she feasts on the attention, she loves the attention. She does not want to be left alone.
    Oh, poor sweet, wonderful role model Paris.

  7. #8 revere
    June 23, 2007

    But why should we — or you — care what she wants and craves? That wasn’t the point, to give her what she wants or doesn’t want. Many women are fed up with the misogyny of the coverage, too. See the Tom Paine link given by Colugo, above. It’s not a male thing or a male point.

  8. #9 scott pilutik
    June 23, 2007

    For what it’s worth, Olbermann often covers material he would, in his perfect world, not cover. Regular viewers will recognize this, as he often subtly reveals his cards. I missed the referred to Paris Hilton coverage, but it’s not uncommon to hear Olbermann bemoan having to cover frivolity, such as American Idol, for instance, at the explicit request of his overlords. Olbermann gets the best ratings on MSNBC, and the reason has nothing to do with guidance from producers, but because his viewers recognize that Olbermann is an unfiltered, uncomprimised, raw intelligence. Viewers bright enough to recognize Olbermann’s talent could care less about Paris Hilton, and it’d be nice of MSNBC realized this, but I’m not holding my breath. But I’d place the blame for Paris Hilton coverage at the feet of MSNBC and not Olbermann.

  9. #10 Phila
    June 24, 2007

    Paris Hilton belongs in jail, and deserves our scorn. She betrayed the public trust; worse, she arrogantly assumes that her wealth, status, and powerful friends outweigh her cynical contempt for the rule of law.

    Oh wait…that was Scooter Libby. Never mind.

  10. #11 Dylan
    June 24, 2007

    Hilton is simply an ideal icon to illustrate the heights to which utter inconsequentiality is actually capable of wafting, in this society; simply by exploiting, and capitalizing on the virtually boundless supply of vacuity, and stupidity, exhibited by the general public. I am incapable of understanding how any human being can find the complete collapse of his/her precious (in my mind, at least) anonymity an attractive, or desirable outcome. Once you’re “out there,” you’re an open target; something less than “fully human,” it seems to me. And, then, if you are a “Hilton,” you would be ceaselessly plagued by the prospect that it (this hard earned celebrity) will — one day, necessarily — all simply evaporate.

    What a life.

    I would prefer the Sean Penn approach…a member of the paparazzi gets within reach, you knock his teeth out (but only if he happens to be pointing a camera in your general direction, actually). Early on in his career, Sean probably would have clung to the ankles of any tourist with a camera; most — in the beginning — seem to take that approach. Oh, well. Once you become famous, you can just ask them all to go away. No? No. They’re stuck on you like Scientology on Tom Cruise.

    I think that we should all make a concerted effort to ensure that Revere becomes famous; that way, he can report back to us on the various advantages, and disadvantages of this condition. And if his elevated status should suddenly lead to a general disdain for law and order, and should this then rise to the level of being jailed for drunk driving…well, we can all just say that we never heard of him.

  11. #12 revere
    June 24, 2007

    scott: This was not an aberration. I watch him regularly — almost every night — and have been doing so for a long time. He has repeatedly done this and his Hilton coverage has been continuous and not just one segment. He is not alone. Leno, Letterman and many others are also guilty. I’ll excuse a time or two. But this is a habit.

    Phila, Dylan, Lea: As I said, I don’t particularly care about Paris Hilton. This wasn’t about her, either to condemn her or defend her, neither of which I have an interest in doing, alhough for the record, it seemed to me her jail term was well justified. But it was the over the top and continuous mean spiritness of the coverage — it was really disgusting — that prompted this. This was about Olbermann, not Paris Hilton.

    As media malfeasance goes, this isn’t anywhere near the worst. But if someone like Olbermann wants the respect of progressives — and he clearly does — then he needs to think about what this means. If he wants to complain about Fox as pandering to the worst instincts of its viewers, which he does frequently and with ample cause, then he also needs to look in the mirror sometimes.

  12. #13 Lea
    June 24, 2007

    Then please revere drop watching Olbermann. And all the while thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    My apologies to Michael also. I misunderstood what he was saying and for what it’s worth my favorite name for a male is Michael.

    It’s most likely because I’m am nearly distraught over the way in which certain people continue to conduct themselves. There’s no acceptable reason for this. And then again, how many people think that way?

    It all probably boils down to nothing more than program ratings and the fact that the guy needs a job.

  13. #14 Phila
    June 24, 2007

    Phila, Dylan, Lea: As I said, I don’t particularly care about Paris Hilton. This wasn’t about her, either to condemn her or defend her, neither of which I have an interest in doing, alhough for the record, it seemed to me her jail term was well justified. But it was the over the top and continuous mean spiritness of the coverage — it was really disgusting — that prompted this. This was about Olbermann, not Paris Hilton.

    I was agreeing with you (a little too obliquely, maybe). I do think Olbermann dilutes his impact and effectiveness by picking on her, and that it’s tasteless, tedious, and ugly on top of that.