The Sad State of Political Commentary

Posted on June 24, 2009
Filed Under: politics

The O'Reilly Procedure: Ebert writes about a pet peeve of mine – political commentators, both on the right and the left. They drive me nuts.

Ebert discusses Bill O'Reilly in particular. Understand that Ebert is a self-admitted liberal, but his points hold true for about anyone.

I am not interested in discussing O'Reilly's politics here. That would open a hornet's nest. I am more concerned about the danger he and others like him represent to a civil and peaceful society. He sets a harmful example of acceptable public behavior. He has been an influence on the most worrying trend in the field of news: The polarization of opinion, the elevation of emotional temperature, the predictability of two of the leading cable news channels. A majority of cable news viewers now get their news slanted one way or the other by angry men. O'Reilly is not the worst offender. That would be Glenn Beck. Keith Olbermann is gaining ground. Rachel Maddow provides an admirable example for the boys of firm, passionate outrage, and is more effective for not shouting.

[...] There is little comfort to be had from today's polarized shouters. They are discontented, and they think you should be, too. They inspire fear and suspicion. There is a conspiracy, and you are the target. Dark forces are at work.

If you get too far out on the right or the left, you lose sight of the middle. So, both sides suck. O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh – all wretched. Olbermann, Garofalo – no better. Maddow hasn't done anything to really piss me off yet, but she's new, so give her time.

Worse than the bullying is the predictability. Just recently, there was the dust-up between Sarah Palin and David Letterman about his off-color joke. As much as I can't stand Palin, I actually sided with her on this. Letterman, whether he intended it or not, was out of line and should have apologized.

But Olbermann, jumped in for Letterman, saying something like this:

Sarah Palin doesn't understand that you don't pick a fight with someone two or three times more popular than you are. [...]

Really? You don't? So, just because more people like Letterman than Palin, she just has to lick her wounds on this one? That's patently ridiculous.

But what really killed me is thinking about the opposite. If Palin had made an equivalent joke about Letterman's five-year-old son, Olbermann would have jumped all over her. He would have spewed forth enough vitriol to make you think Palin was the antichrist.

So, he's a lemming – dutifully taking one side, no matter of the merits, marching down his happy little path of righteousness. In that sense, he's no better than the commentators on the right doing the same thing for their side.

When, as a society, did we surrender our opinions to these idiots? Why do we have to have these people to tell us what's right and what's wrong? I don't care what side of the political spectrum you're on, your side is not always right. But commentators like this polarize us to one side or another, and drill into us that anyone who thinks different is wrong. Or can't be trusted. Or is evil or worse.

I hate them all.