Keith Olbermann’s Alan Grayson Imitation

As bad as it is for an elected official like Rep. Alan Grayson to say publicly that “Republicans want you to die,” at least his status as a politician (and Grayson’s record as a politician lacking rudimentary respect, fairness, and honesty) alerts most listeners that his statements cannot to be trusted. Such statements are more harmful and less tolerable when they come from media commentators, however, even shameless partisan blow-hards like Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann began his coverage of the fire department in Tennessee that allowed a man’s home to burn down by calling it “a preview of an America as envisioned by the Tea Party…just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government.” Has any Tea Party candidate…or any candidate at all… anywhere suggested that fire departments are not core government functions, even for small government advocates? No. Has any Tea Party candidate, or any candidate from any party, local or state, endorsed an “a la carte” in which officials would allow one’s house to burn down under circumstances like those in Obion County? No.

Is Olbermann intentionally and grossly misrepresenting the philosophy, positions and character of citizens he disagrees with in order to create hostility, fear and hate? Yes, he is. And if his bosses at MSNBC had any sense of fairness or decency, they would stop him.

Pandering to his partisan rapid-left audience is one thing; stating falsehood as facts is another. Is Olbermann more unethical than Glenn Beck, who grotesquely misrepresents the intentions of Obama Democrats over at Fox? Close call, but I think so. Beck’s apocalyptic interpretation of the long-term motives of progressives is fanciful and paranoid, but it is clearly his opinion. Olbermann was misrepresenting, without any truth whatsoever, the position of a many national candidates for office, saying, in effect, that “these people want to let your house burn down.” Beck is irresponsible, but Olbermann is lying. (For the record, I believe neither Beck nor Olbermann meet the minimum standards of responsible broadcasting that news networks are obligated to maintain.) The MSNBC host is also guilty of outrageous hypocrisy, as he has been outspoken in his condemnation of fear mongering by the Right. Gee, Keith, how would you describe, “these people want to let your house burn down”?  Or, for that matter, “Republicans want you to die”?

This Olbermann slur was worthy of Alan Grayson, which means that it was not worthy of anyone who calls himself a journalist, a reporter or a news commentator.


Addendum: I admit to being surprised, disappointed and annoyed by how many voices on the web are taking up the same intellectually dishonest line of attack that Olbermann did, and are attempting to make political hay out of this fiasco when there is none to be made.  No limited government advocate that I’ve ever heard or read has argued that fire fighting services are outside the purview of legitimate government responsibilities, any more than paving the roads, guarding the borders or national defense. Since the limited government folks know the difference between what they consider essential services and non-essential government functions, the silly accusations of Olbermann and others leftward suggest that they don’t…that fire departments and roads are all part of one big “essential” nanny state package along with health care, subsidized colleges, regulation of small business and welfare.  The illogic of Olbermann,  et al., therefore, doesn’t make the limited government advocates look mean; it makes him sound ignorant.

8 thoughts on “Keith Olbermann’s Alan Grayson Imitation

  1. Pingback: Keith Olbermann's Alan Grayson Imitation « Ethics Alarms « Ethics Find

  2. Mr. Olberman is referring to the Republicans in Congress, and the Tea Party candidates, who are claiming that the “Obama bailout” (started by Bush, continued by Obama) was misguided and have blocked further funds to help strapped state and local governments keep FIREMEN, TEACHERS, and POLICEMEN on the job; who steadfastly insist that modest tax increases to do the same are unthinkable – even though the consequences in increased home insurance premiums, etc. are greater than the tax increases would be and contrasting the same with this incident. I am surprised that one with your perspicacity and intellectual grasp could have missed the context, particularly when Mr. Olberman has mentioned such context often.
    Mr. Olberman is not lying. I live in the district of Rep. Paul Broun, an extremist nut job that espouses making America into Mexico, and devil take the hindmost – lay off the fire department, the police, the teachers; people should send their kids to private Christian schools anyway and if you have enough guns why do you need police? Fortunately, we have a volunteer fire department he can’t try to lay off…
    You can deny all you want, but it’s clear to the vast majority just what the far right is wanting, and how wanting what they want is compared to what Americans want.

    • You are gullible. No Republican advicates laying off firemen, and you (and KO) know it. The GOP opposed baeout money for states to use to pay teachers et al because the states refused to cut expenses elsewhere. That is not advocating “government a la carte,” as Olberman dishonestly stated. No Democrat or Republican or Tea party candidate opposes government-maintained fire departments. The debate was over the feds paying (with money it does not have) for state services and personnel that the states should make hard choices and find the money to pay for tehselves. Only in the distorted Looking Glass world of Keith Olberman does that have anything whatsoever to do with firefighters watching a man’s house burn down. Absolutely he lied, and he keeps doing it because partisans refuse to hold him to any standards of fairness. Your cartoonish characterization of ‘what the Far Right wants” is proof that Olbermann, like Glenn Beck, rots brains and paralyzes consciences.

  3. Glenn Beck defends the actions of the firefighters, as does John Derbyshire and Jonah Goldberg. The only National Review writer, Daniel Foster, who condemned the firefighters said, revealingly, he has no problem with opt-in government. I’ve poked about the web a bit, and I can’t find any major conservative figure condemning the actions of the firefighters – they are either silent, or vigorously support the actions of the firefighters.

    If the Republicans are so supportive of basic services and so opposed to a la carte government, as Olbermann deems it, why does not a single one of them show that support?

    After all, the allegation is being made vocally on the left that Republicans uniformly support the actions of the firefighters and fantasize about this sort of a la carte situation. It would be pretty simple for Republicans to dispell this nasty rumor, instead you have to defend them, without any help from the party itself. Look at the comments on freerepublic about this story; compare them to the comments on huffingtonpost. You can say they shouldn’t be forced to respond to frivolous allegations, but evidence indicates they aren’t frivolous.

    In fact, there seems to be a clear line: Republicans support the firefighters overwhelmingly, and Democrats are overwhelming appalled. In my view, that’s important, and worthy of discussion. You might not like the way Olbermann phrases it – but the divide he is referencing is real, unlike Beck’s fake history of progressives.

    • Nonsense. Defending the firefighters on the basis or contract, liability or the homeowner’s attempt to duck responsibility is wrong, but it is still not remotely the same as advocating the privatization of fire fighting services—government a la carte, in Olbermann’s sneering words—which NOBODY, including Beck, supports or has ever advocated, except as a rural necessaity, a last resort. Do you really not see the difference? Because it is big, clear, and obvious. Supporting the firemen’s actions is callous and misguided, but Olbermann is claiming something else entirely. Supporting the fireman has nothing to do with wanting the South Fulton system to become a model for the nation—such an idiotic concept that only a shameless demagogue like KO could suggest it. If you allow that kind of lazy slippage from fact to fantasy, you are as bad as Beck and Olbermann, or you are one of the people they con nightly.

      • Hi Jack,

        I figured that I might vist your blog, and make a comment. Looks like you need traffic.

        So I make a comment that in fact there seems to be a divide between Democrats and Republicans on the firefighter issue, and give some evidence (ie, three National Review articles). The source of that divide is not completely clear, but I consider the failure to provide emergency services to be a moral issue, and I find it interesting that there is a political divide on this moral issue. Interestingly, I specifically quote the only critic on National Review, who specifically talked about supporting opt-in government. Yet, I’m somehow dense for failing to see an “obvious” distinction between “opt in” government and government “a la carte?” They sound the same to me. I can’t read Foster’s mind, and Olbermann’s, to figure out whether they are talking about the same thing.

        I’m apparently a fool if I don’t see a giant distinction between supporting a bad system passively and advocating its advancement and expansion? If it’s a bad system, it’s a bad system, and it produces bad results. I don’t see why it makes a difference whether a house in Tennesse or New York burns. There may be all sorts of different challenges in different communities – but the foundational question is whether this system is good for anyone. Liberals say no; conservatives seem to say yes, and they use phrases like “opt in” government.

        You suggest that I’m a rube or as bad as Olbermann or Beck. It’s odd, because my post was pretty polite, and you come back – a la Beck and Olbermann – as a rude, intolerant name-caller.

        I certainly will never visit your blog again. Perhaps you might consider the relationship between civility and ethics in the future.

        • I am sorry if my crankiness upset you. I found your comment annoying, particularly because Olbermann and the rest (including Beck) need no encouragement with their intellectually dishonest leaps of logic, based on a desire to smear rather than enlighten. Everybody knows its a bad system. That’s why nobody has it if they can afford a professional fire department. Both liberals and conservatives (Bill O’Reilly, among many) condemned the conduct of the department for letting the house burn.

          It wasn’t a story with national significance except as 1) an oddity 2) an ethics lesson, which is what I wrote about it, and 3) a bootstrapping exercise for any partisan wanting to score cheap and dishonest political points against small government advocates, who STILL don’t advocate this. There is no “passive support”—for heaven’s sake, are you proposing that every public official has to condemn this oddball, if sad, story or they must be, by definition, supporting letting a house burn down? I read 50 horrible stories of official and unofficial misconduct a day—is all of the misconduct endorsed by anyone who doesn’t make a public condemnation of it? Are all conservatives supposed to dance to Keith Onlbermann’s tune, lining up to condemn what is obviously–to almost everyone—wrong?

          More than that, your contention that defending the firemen in this one instance is tantamount to advocating no government-run fire services anywhere—which is what Olbermann is accusing conservatives of wanting—makes no sense whatsoever. And your statement: ‘” In fact, there seems to be a clear line: Republicans support the firefighters overwhelmingly, and Democrats are overwhelming appalled” is flat out false, and the kind of political myth-making slander that I have no tolerance for. If you can read what has been written about this incident and listen to what has been said, and make that statement, then you have an agenda, and are not participating in the dialogue in good faith. It is the equivalent of bigotry to impute callousness to a political group based on a couple of individuals. I certainly don’t project Olbermann’s bigotry (or hate, or dishonesty—take your pick) on all Democrats or progressives…but using your logic, I should if they don’t explicitly say he’s full of it.

          I’m perfectly happy with my traffic, thanks—for a non-partisan, non-sex blog about a topic most people don’t want to bother thinking about, it’s been picking up readers pretty well.

          You write that you can’t undertand why a moral issue is treated like a political one, and then show exactly why, by being unable to remove an anti-Republican bias from your analysis.

  4. Dear Jack: I listened to Glenn Beck’s comments on the deplorable Obion county incident. What Beck attacked was the attitude of the homeowner for not chipping in the $75 fee for fire suppression services to his outlying rural area. He certainly did NOT defend the callousness exhibited by the firefighters. What he suggested was that, after responding and putting out the fire, the department should have billed the homeowner for the total expenses of their response. Frankly, I agree. There were no good guys in that nasty little event.

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