Friday, November 5, 2010

When Pretenses Die

This is what powerful entities do to signal they're dropping the slightest pretense of caring about legitimacy:

Earlier today, MSNBC declared that it would be suspending progressive host Keith Olbermann because he violated NBC’s ethics rules by donating to three Democratic candidates for Congress. As many bloggers have noted, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated to Republican candidates for Congress while promoting the same candidate on air, but has never been disciplined. Moreover, Gawker notes that MSNBC has been exempt from the formal NBC ethics rules for years. It is still a mystery why MSNBC selectively applied NBC’s ethics rules to Olbermann. However, it important to realize that MSNBC has undergone a fundamental change in leadership in the last two months.
First you get the money, then you get the power, and then you do any goddamn thing you please.

It might be a little too dot-connecting to correlate this brazen thuggery with Tuesday's election results, but even if so, this turn of events demonstrates the importance of proceeding as though elections have consequences -- by which I pointedly mean even those elections that the GOP didn't sweep, such as the ones we had in 2008 and 2006.

To wit: sitting on the net neutrality bill for the last two years hoping for the noble spirit of compromise to settle over the Senate has been exactly as effective as voting it down. That is, it has been equally effective in changing the law; in terms of clarifying and dramatizing the political stakes, it has been markedly less effective than demanding an actual floor debate and an up-or-down vote.

This goes beyond Keith Olbermann and beyond net neutrality. With the new Congress, the bill is thoroughly dead, as are even more consequential bills on immigration, climate change, labor organizing, campaign finance, and many more.

Comcast/NBC/GE and their ilk are ever freer to follow their whimsy, and we are invited to pay to watch.

1 comment:

Sean G said...

I've sent a complaint to MSNBC, it's disgraceful to think that an American citizen cannot exercise his right to support candidates of his choosing in compliance with US law. I hope to see Keith return soon.

I just finished watching Rachel Maddow's segment on this, as usual she makes a very persuasive case. One important point she makes is that the rule that punished Olbermann is the very thing that separates MSNBC from FOX, something easy to overlook in our disappointment.

To be honest, I'd prefer to have seen left side of the internet abuzz all day about that Obama India nonsense that is making the rounds on the right wing. If I were more of a conspirator, I'd suspect Olbermann's punishment was a distraction to allow the lie to take hold.