Oh, boy. This was quite a week for Keith Olbermann. There’s nothing like a senseless act of violence to bring out the worst in pundits of all stripes, and Olbermann not only isn’t an exception, he’s the rule.
By Saturday evening, just a few hours after the shooting at a Tucson strip mall, we had hardly any information about alleged gunman Jared Loughner or his motivations. That didn’t stop Olbermann from somberly opining about why the act required widespread self-censoring. “We need to put the guns down,” he said in a bonus Special Comment on Saturday night. “Just as importantly, we need to put the gun metaphors away permanently.” So, just days after criticizing a new bowdlerized version of “Huckleberry Finn” for changing Twain’s language to be more palatable to 21st century ears, he suggests we strip all gun metaphors out of our language.
Here’s an abridged list of who Keith Olbermann holds responsible for the shooting in Arizona: Florida congressmen Allen West, Sarah Palin, “Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as this Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt,” Sharron Angle and, vaguely, “Tea Party leaders.”
Of Loughner, Olbermann intoned, “He was not just a madman incited by a thousand daily temptations by slightly less mad men to do things they would not rationally condone. He fired today into our liberty.”
Except, of course, for the fact that it’s since become clear that Loughner WAS simply a “mad man,” and there’s little evidence he was incited by anything other than his own mad mind. Unfortunately that’s not really as satisfying as instantly, conveniently blaming one’s own enemies for an unspeakable crime. Of course, there are already laws against threatening a member of Congress, and metaphors are, to put it mildly, a crucial part of the English language. Never mind all that. No time for reporting, reflection, or good judgment. There’s blame to be assigned!
MONDAY, JANUARY 10: Ooh, another change to “Worst Persons in the World” announced tonight! Olbermann started by giving us a brief history of the segment, including the time last year when he grandiosely canceled it “indefinitely,” then brought it back almost immediately. His explanation tonight for its return was that “There was a small clamor to bring it back.” Ha ha, that “clamor” wasn’t exactly organic: It rose up when Olbermann put a poll on his own website to ask his viewers whether he should restore the segment. Anyway, after rumors he would cancel it again, he said he’s simply making another change and renaming the segment, in the spirit of his new pledge to employ only the most mild and literal language.
He didn’t reveal the new name tonight, but I have some suggestions:
“Not the BEST Persons in the World, But Who Am I to Judge?”
“Keith’s Nonviolent Righteous Indignation Korner”
“I’ll Be Honest, It’s Just Going to Be Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh Again Tonight”
I can hardly wait to see what he chooses!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11: Tonight, a whole segment on the fact that Sarah Palin hadn’t yet issued a statement apologizing abjectly for using political metaphors referring to firearms. Though such metaphors had nothing to do with the violence in Tucson, that’s not important right now. The important thing is that we should all respond by apologizing and vowing to change.
Then Olbermann lamented the loss of Nelson Rockefeller to Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Republican primary. I sympathize. Personally, I’m still not over Alf Landon’s landslide loss to FDR back in ’36. It shoulda been yours, Alfie. It shoulda been yours.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12: Tonight’s episode of “Countdown” included one segment about President Obama’s speech in Tucson, which a wide variety of commentators praised as one of the best as his presidency. Yadda yadda yadda. Praise isn’t as much fun as blame, which may be why Keith Olbermann is more concerned with Sarah Palin, devoting two segments to her tonight.
One guest he invited in studio to discuss Palin’s response to the shooting was Lynn Paltrow, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ second cousin. She seemed to catch Olbermann off guard when she complimented Palin’s video, and said “There were places where she even sounded a bit like you.” Olbermann pressed on, playing more clips from Palin’s speech and prodding Paltrow into criticizing Palin for what she didn’t say. And that was before a separate full segment on Palin’s unfortunate use of the term “blood libel.”
In that spirit, I’ll go ahead and be petty, too: Olbermann pointedly mocked Palin for pronouncing the word “pundits” as “pundints.” Then about two minutes later, he pronounced the word “thesaurus” as “THESS-aurus,” which is, um, at best non-traditional.
Then again, Olbermann had other things on his mind: “A quick personal note,” he said near the end of the show. “I’m not exactly sure what it is, I’m either sick with kind of wave-like flu, or I had some bad oysters at dinner. Either way, enjoy the next 11 minutes because I may fall flat on my face, or perhaps something else bad could happen.”
First of all, what is “something else bad”? THAT IS GROSS, KEITH. Second of all, if you didn’t have oysters at dinner, I demand an apology for this inflammatory, imprecise language on behalf of America’s oyster farmers! Also, the ocean is offended by the use of your term “wave-like flu.”
Unsurprisingly after this revelation, Keith was out for Thursday’s show, which guest host Sam Seder kicked off by saying “If last night’s reaction hinted this was coming, today’s reaction sealed the deal.” Fortunately, he was not talking about Keith’s digestive health, but rather about the positive reaction to President Obama’s speech.
Still, if there’s one way we can honor Keith Olbermann in his absence, it’s by ensuring that his work of assigning instant, misdirected blame for essentially random events goes on. Thus, I blame anyone who has ever used inflammatory language like “It makes me sick to my stomach” or “I’m sick of this.” Good sirs, you now have Keith Olbermann’s stomach flu on your hands. I eagerly await your apology.