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Why I am done with Keith Olbermann.

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I can't believe I'm even bothering to address this but here it goes. Last night, I live-tweeted Countdown with Keith Olbermann, something I have done on and off for roughly 2 1/2 years. Countdown is the show that inspired my passion for politics. Olbermann's commentary was what lead me to discover Rachel Maddow. It made me want to know more about the injustices of the world. I dare say it was one of the driving forces behind me becoming so heavily involved in the politics of my own country, going so far as to join a part and hope to actively campaign. I can't deny the impact it's had on me. It's also given me the best group of friends I could ever hope to have. I haven't always agreed with Olbermann. Sometimes I've been actively angry at him. However, even during those times, I saw him as someone willing to engage with his audience and learn from his mistakes. Once, me and some of my friends managed to get him to apologise for using transphobic attitudes towards Ann Coulter, something he has not done since then. I try to be vocal about my criticisms of people I respect because I think it's important to hold them accountable when they make mistakes. They're supposed to be better than pettiness. They're the vocal voice of a movement or opinion and they must be articulate. It's a big job but he's been doing it so well for so long. The jokes about his ego and such are all well known but I firmly believe in his message and defended him for many things.

Then he blocked me on twitter today.

I understand the sheer teacup storm nature of this topic and I know how silly it is to be so upset over something as insignificant as a twitter block, but when someone you've practically idolised for years, someone you can say genuinely had an indelible impact on your life, actively decides to push you aside, it bloody hurts. My friends consoled me and wondered if it was a technical glitch, as twitter is so fond of falling victim to. Some friends, and other people who I have never spoken to before, asked about it, and the answer was confusing:

"you don't insult my friends - by last name - on twitter."

I honestly had no idea what he was referring to. I checked my tweets and wondered if he was referring to a tweet where I'd commented on former congressman Alan Grayson's hair (which was never intended as an insult), or possibly my discomfort over using Olbermann's show as a platform to ask for political donations. Then more tweets revealed this:

"she addressed him as "Lewis""

The Lewis in question is Richard Lewis, the comedian. My tweet being mentioned here is this:

"What do Bachmann's looks have to do with it, Lewis? #Countdown"

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's physical appearance was mentioned in one of Lewis's comments, which I found unfair since it's unfair and extremely misplaced to emphasise style over substance in politics, especially in regards to women, who have faced such discrimination for so long. I never followed up on this tweet except for a couple replies to friends, and my tweet wasn't meant as some malicious insult to Lewis. Olbermann's justification for blocking me came here again in another reply to a friend of mine:

"Just the last name is far more insulting than just the first. We're done here."

This is new to me. I've always been told that it's ruder to refer to someone you don't know by their first name, since it adds an edge of condescension to the equation, and with twitter, tone is so hard to grasp sometimes. Countdown is a political show and it's commonplace, or at least it is in UK, to refer to political figures by their surnames. I do it all the time and I know I'm not the only one. 140 characters requires brevity. The choice of surname wasn't meant as some damning critique of Lewis, nor was it meant as the insult of the century. Besides, Olbermann refers to someone by their surname a few tweets earlier. Maybe it's only rude if you're British:

https://twitter.com/#!/KeithOlbermann/status/141677694415937537

So what do I have to say to this all? Honestly, I'm more confused than anything else right now, but there's some undeniable sadness and anger. Mr Olbermann, I think what you did was extremely petty. Not just blocking me but blocking anyone who you construe as disagreeing with you or daring to question you. I understand that you must get a lot of extremely insulting and possibly threatening messages every day and I can't imagine what it's like to deal with that, but your actions here are downright confusing at best. I've supported you and your show for so long, even during times when you were heavily criticised, because I stood firm in my belief that you stood up for what was right. But I'm done now. I'm not going to creep around on egg-shells for you or anyone else. I believe in the power of words and the responsibility that comes with them. If you think I'm being some sort of bully for using someone's surname then maybe you should think about the impact you have when you refer to a network as a "political whorehouse" or a female commentator as "a mashed up bag of meat with lipstick" or when one of your guests calls a rape accusation "hooey" or when a frequent guest on your show says, in reply to GOP's false equivalences over violent rhetoric "Well, I think that's what they said about the burning of the Reichstag, if I recall correctly." Practice what you preach, Mr Olbermann. I call you that because it's polite. So I'm done.

I also vote.

Comments

(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
Lord knows that Keith doesn’t need me to defend him. I don’t know Keith, personally. I have never met him. However, as a mom to four boys with autism, two of whom are Aspies, it is clear to me that Keith is also an Aspie. He’s in good company with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein.

The breadth and depth of his knowledge of baseball boarders on an obsession. (Although we prefer to call them splinter skills.) He’s done exactly what most Aspie moms are trying to do with their kids, take an obsession and channel it into a career. And I can imagine what it was like growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, since I am just a few years younger. Several of my fellow classmates were diagnosed with Aspergers as adults. They have been a wonderful resource as I attempt to help my sons navigate the world. But, back in middle and high school, they were the freaks, the geeks, the nerds. Socially inept is a kind description. They were bullied daily. And yes, most work in the tech industry now. One of Keith’s former colleagues described him as brilliant but “special ed” when it came to social skills.

Former colleagues also describe Keith as seeing the world in terms of black and white, no shades of gray. Typical Aspie trait. Keith also reported that he likes baseball because of the rules. No gray areas there. Nobody loses and says that they really won. The rules provide structure and comfort. Another typical Aspie trait. Common saying in our house, “that’s the rule.” My kids understand it if I couch it in terms of the “rules.” However, they have their own rules which they fail to share with me. I believe that Keith probably has his own rules which he fails to share with friends and coworkers AND that these rules probably apply to others but not to himself. I’m guessing that he doesn’t do nuance or subtext well. He seems not to “read” tweets well. I have notice him blocking others for things that I take as ‘comments” and he interprets as “orders.” And no one tells him what to do!

I also noticed that when he goes one on one with someone in an unscripted situation, he takes his glasses off. Generally Aspies don’t like to make eye contact. Even when he describes focusing on people, he states that he is looking at the “back of their eyeball.” So, he’s making eye contact but not really. It’s actually a very good way to compensate. Most of my Aspie friends look at the bridge of the nose. And you can tell! Try it sometime. Focus on the bridge of someone’s nose and see how long it is before they ask if they have something between their eyes or on their forehead.

So take it for what it’s worth. I, too, am disappointed. Between the Desist tweet to FOKChannel 1 and the blocking, it is petty. But it is also typical Aspie behavior.

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