Another Reason To Hate Comcast
UPDATE: Senator Bernie Sanders agrees with the Hag; wants NBC/Comcast merger stopped in light of Olbermann’s firing….
“Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties, including MSNBC… We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not & we will not.”
(Statement hurriedly released by Comcast after they canned Keith Olbermann, their highest-rated host, Friday)
Well, that didn’t take long. You might recognize that last part (in bold) from Iran/Contra; then as now it means, roughly, “Yeah, so what? We won’t admit it next time, either.” Reagan, having Alzheimer’s and all, might be forgiven for such a plain falsehood, but the sleazy pols and sleazier corporations who have trotted out this curiously constructed denial ever since know exactly what they’re doing. Name the heinous or corrupt act committed, be it torture, spying on citizens, or what have you, and the have not/will not couplet, repeated endlessly, generally tides one over until Fox et al can come in and carpet-bomb the area with lies and and pearl-clutching in equal measure. Don’t try this at home, though, unless you’re a powerful politician or a corporation who owns some; like polo or yachting, this isn’t a sport for the huddled masses.
The most sinister thing about MSNBC’s decision to dump Olbermann halfway through a $30 million four-year contract is that it is such a bad business decision; Olbermann’s intensely loyal fans, who essentially made MSNBC the network that beat CNN and is making gains on FOX, have made their voices heard before, and they are, after all, MSNBC’s audience. It’s hard to imagine Fox firing, say, Bill O’Reilly, with no real plan to replace him with anyone of similar stature in the time slot, and thus potentially losing ratings ground and viewer loyalty in the process. But it’s also hard to imagine Bill O’Reilly ever doing anything to annoy his monopolistic overlords, much less going out quietly.
Comcast knows as well as anyone that having a liberal or two on the air, if it can dig your network out of the ratings basement, isn’t such a bad thing, but not good enough to hang onto when it annoys the plutocrats. Better to have a gaffe-ridden Bozo like Chris Matthews or an insidery cipher like Lawrence O’Donnell… In the unlikely event that they stray from the reservation, they can be easily brought to heel. Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz provide color and a bit of passion, but neither have been known to leave marks on their targets, and having been made by MSNBC, are unlikely to cross it under new ownership. Now that Comcast is a full-scale monopoly, vertically integrated and ready to squash the competition in other ways, it no longer cares what the ratings are in its tiny old News division, or what its paying customers want. ”Whatever the traffic will bear” and “the public be damned” are the cries of the new plutocracy, just as they were for the old.
The message to the reality-based community couldn’t be clearer, as a loyal Bushie (probably Karl Rove) said in the heady days of 2003, “We’re an empire now, and we create our own reality.” Keith Olbermann provided an antidote to that barrage of lie-filled propaganda in those dark days, virtually alone in TV News, and he had the advantage of being right, to boot. That sort of thing just isn’t done anymore; as the otherwise inexplicably still-employed David Gregory would be happy to explain to you, “That’s not our role.” Comcast just reminded us of that, however sneakily, and I expect more reminders in the days and weeks ahead.
The ball got rolling back when Reagan’s FCC Chairman said, “A television is just a toaster with pictures.” And now, Keith Olbermann, and with him, MSNBC, is the toast. It was nice while it lasted.