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Why I am done with Keith Olbermann.

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:


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.


Dec. 2nd, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
Hi there.

Thanks for the comment. Sorry I missed this on twitter. I got a bit swamped under with things, to be honest.

I still think Olbermann's done some damn fine work over the past few months, especially since moving to Current. His #OWS coverage blew the other news networks's own efforts right out of the water. But now, I just can't separate the man from the commentary, something I could do with varying degrees of ease over the past couple of years. I was always critical of him when I thought the occasion called for it - the Assange mess, certain comments directed towards people like Coulter, Malkin, etc - but kept coming back to the show, perhaps a little stubbornly, because I believed he had a strong overriding message that deserved to be heard. Now, all I can see is the egotistical maniac who made this comment (in regards to blocking etiquette):

"I think I've received two intelligent critical tweets in eighteen months on Twitter."

It's not just about what happened here with me. I'm pretty much over my anger & upset about that and am mostly entertained and bemused by the coverage it's getting. It's about him basically admitting he doesn't give a shit about the people who look up to him, respect him and watch his show. He talks about how grateful he is for his fans but that seems like he means the fans as a collective thing, not a group of individuals. Individually, he thinks as little of them as he does everyone else on the planet. We're not worthy of respect and our opinions, no matter how valid others may see them, mean nothing. The complete lack of respect is what kills me here. If he doesn't respect us then why should we respect him? The difference is we can elect to turn off his show. His viewer numbers have dwindled significantly since the MSNBC days - understandable, and he is on a new network that's essentially starting from scratch so this is expected - but his base have been loyal, fiercely so, and stuck by this. Why should they stick around if he sees them as nothing? I won't be watching again, and I know a lot of my friends won't be either. Hell, even some people who I had never talked to before on twitter told me the same thing. That's called solidarity. Look it up, Olbermann.

Anyway, apologies for the insanely long comment. I have a lot of feelings on this issue! Thanks for your kind words and I hope you have a lovely evening.


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