Thursday, October 15, 2009

Keith, Ya Done Wrong

I like Keith Olbermann. Mostly, this is linked to the fact that I - unlike a great many other people - am actually unbothered by hysterics in regard to politics. I don't particularly like Bill O'Reilly, but the only time he really gets my dander up is when what he says is an instigation to violence (or is sexist; I'm also not so good with the sexist). I think hysterics are needed, I think people who are far to the right and far to the left are needed as much as people who lean more toward the center, and I don't have a real problem with ideologues. Also, Olbermann looks good in a suit. And that's important, because so few liberals on television do (I'm looking at you, PBS).

But liking Keith Olbermann is problematic. Liking Keith Olbermann means sometimes listening to the same type of shit I'd be hearing if I were listening to some partisan figures on the other side of the isle. In short, listening to Keith Olbermann means sometimes hearing him say something profoundly stupid, hurtful, and the opposite of progressive. Like, his recent commentary on Michelle Malkin:
[Malkin's] total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it.
Both Air America and Shakesville have posts up about this, and they both come at the problem from different perspectives. I agree with them both.

Megan Carpentier makes the salient point that
on average, once every 24 minutes in this country, a woman does become a "mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it." Nearly 1.3 million American woman will be a victim of domestic violence this year, and one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

A liberal, progressive critique of Malkin need not and should not resort to an attack on her looks or her gender or rely on silly stereotypes or imagery that brings to mind victims of domestic violence.
Over at Shakesville, Paul the Spud argues Olbermann's description
is sexist, it is dehumanizing, which is a central strategy of racism, and it is not helping.
They're both right. They both cover different aspects of why Olbermann was wrong, and they're both right. Olbermann f'd up.

He should apologize, but he probably won't. He won't because most of his viewers probably didn't catch how wrong he was, didn't catch how woman-hating it was, and - most depressingly - probably wouldn't care if they did. Because it is "just" Michelle Malkin. Just like it was "just" Sarah Palin when sexist and at times misogynistic crap was being flung at her. Just like it was "just" Hillary Clinton. And these viewers and Olbermann himself presumably feel these women deserve it, that these women are a special case when dehumanizing language is allowed, is appropriate, is understandable. But it isn't. Precisely because of the reasons Carpentier and the Spud point out.

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