I heard Ted Koppel bloviating on the NPR talk circuit today, just hours after having heard Keith Olbermann Bloviate Koppel into Oblovion. Ted is more than a little indignant that his attack on MSNBC in the Washington Post last week was so badly received by Olbermann. Apparently he thought Olbermann was Barack Obama and would want to play nice.
In truth, Olbermann was not the main target of Koppel’s op ed, but the MSNBC host was caught in the backdraft and correctly pissed off. Koppel did Olbermann and MSNBC a disservice and needed to be called out. I think Koppel is covering for the Washington news establishment and dodging his personal responsibility, as grand old man of television news, to set the record straight.
The worst thing Koppel wrote, and the BIG LIE he needs to be called on, is that there is some equivalence between MSNBC and Fixxed news. Koppel makes Rachel and Keith the left wing equivalent of Head Manratty and Glenn Beckman. Fixxed News, and the fact distortion syndicate that runs the fake information stream we are swimming around in these days, loves this. Ted Koppel thinks Manratty is as honest as Olbermann. This is where he is wrong. Olbermann does not twist facts, tell lies or pass off lies as “honest opinion.” The opinion that Obama is a Moslem, for example, or the non-fact that it cost $200 million a day for Obama to travel to India. The former is still treated as a valid opinion by FIXX, and the later was treated as reportable fact. MSNBC deals in real facts, not lies or opinions. When they see bullshit, they call bullshit, and we should all stand up and make that point clear. For whatever spin Olbermann puts on it, you can count on the facts he starts out with as being true facts.
Koppel’s big point, which he lays out as though it is a revelation, is television news is no longer profitable, and coverage is suffering as a result. Duh. It is disaster when the bean counters and marketing guys take over health insurance, but it is a mark of the decline of civilization when these same people have more power over news content than editors. I cannot doubt that soon we will all agree that Brawndo has electrolytes, which are what plants crave.
This is all true what he says about bean counters and editors, but it is also an excuse. What if the editors are just lazy or sloppy or incompetent? That is pretty much what they were from September 2001 through about August 2005 when the incompetence and stupidity of the Busch administration became too obvious for anyone, even the Washington press corps, to ignore any longer. And where was Ted Koppel during that time? Sitting comfortably on his throne, the most widely regarded journalist of his time, balancing a dog biscuit on his nose.
I will give this much to Koppel. The dean of Washington television journalism, a legitimate claimant to the mantle of Ed Morrow and Walter Cronkite, did at one time apologize for his incompetence in covering the lie machine that lead up to the invasion of Iraq. (See this Democracy Now interview.) He now seems to have found a convenient scapegoat for his failure… the bean counters and marketing hacks who really run the show.
Thank Keith Olbermann for not letting him off the hook that easily. History should record that Ted Koppel and a gaggle of like-minded know nothings led the charge into Iraq by ignoring the facts, refusing to look closely at the record and helping Busch feed the nation bullshit for months before the war. He had an opportunity to make journalism truly great, a chance to leave a legacy as big and powerful as Uncle Walter’s, and he blew it. The least he can do now is fess up to it and stop harping on those who are doing the best they can to walk in Walter’s footsteps.
And one more thing. He could use the considerable cache he has remaining and assault Fixxed News for the lying manipulative tool of the Christofascist oligarchy that it is.