OK, I’ll say it right up front: I adore Keith Olbermann. I have, ever since I watched his first show on MSNBC, and I have been a faithful viewer ever since. So if you don’t like Keith, well, you may as well stop reading right now, because this piece is gonna piss you off.
It’s difficult being a lightning rod.
I’ve been a lightning rod myself for almost 10 years – going all the way back to March, 2003, when I first posted on a public message board that I was dead-set against George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. I believed then – and I still believe now – that that war was planned in advance, and was sold to us with a pack of lies. I have never wavered from my conviction that the Iraq war was a criminal enterprise for the sole purpose of gaining control of Iraq’s oil, but that’s not the subject of this post.
As I said, it is difficult being a lightning rod. When, in March 2003, I posted on a public message board that I was against Dubya’s war of choice, I became the target of intensely concentrated hatred directed at me by a group of conservatives. They harassed me every single day. They posted that they wished that I would die, that I and my family should be murdered by terrorists, that I was a traitor to my country, on and on and on. The harassment didn’t stop there; these people invaded my real life – they did research on me and discovered my full name and where I lived. They called my employer and tried to get me fired and urged their friends to do the same. I received death threats. I was called ugly names. I was told I “should be afraid to open my door” because they were “sending me a surprise.” Someone vandalised my car by scratching the word “TRAITOR” on my trunk lid. On two different occasions, locals in pickup trucks took umbrage at my “Impeach Bush” bumper sticker and literally tried to run me into the retaining wall on the 101 freeway.
Now, keep in mind that I’m small potatoes. I’m just a tiny little fish in a very big pond having my say about what I believe – and the fact that I was the target of so much concentrated hatred, which carried over into my real life, still freaks me out a bit. I bought a new car in September, 2011, a truly gorgeous red 2012 Fiat Pop, a car I absolutely adore — and I admit it: I’m afraid to put an “Obama 2012” sticker on it for fear someone will vandalize it. And I live in blue Los Angeles.
Think about for a second: if a small target like me was subjected to such a ridiculous amount of harassment, what must it be like to be a national lightning rod like Keith Olbermann? He and I are a lot alike; both intense, passionate, unreservedly outspoken about the truth and the things we believe in, and neither of us is afraid to to use blunt descriptive terms to call out the racists, the homophobes, the bullies, the liars and the thieves who currently infest our national politics.
I know that I fought back, and I fought back hard. I got in some trouble for fighting back; I was banned from the message board any number of times for being too blunt in my responses to the daily harassment from the wingnuts. I fought the management of the message board for over a year; they wanted me to stop posting altogether, on the basis that the site was not for discussion of politics. I pointed out over and over again that there were numerous other subjects being discussed on this same website (including a group posting about conservative politics), and they weren’t being asked to stop posting. I pointed out that I was being singled out because I made the bullies angry, and instead of dealing with the bullies, they wanted me to stop making the bullies angry. Well, I refused. And I won. I’m still posting on the same website, and yes, I know darn good and well that I am still pissing off the bullies, but for the most part, they leave us alone.
Keith Olbermann has been a much, much larger target, and with him, other forces are in play: the network, ad revenue, ratings – big money is involved. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that Countdown had remained on the air for as long as it did, because Keith never did mince words when he called out Billo the Clown, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert, Joe Arpaio, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck — and all the other hundreds of ugly, racist, lying conservatives who have come out of the woodwork and ratcheted up the Hate-O-Meter since Barack Hussein Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency on February 10, 2007.
Someone had to do it. And Keith Olbermann was the first. He had the courage to go on national television and express a point of view at odds with the Bush administration, and had the courage to continue to express that point of view in the face of what must have been a veritable tsunami of hatred directed at him by the right.
I admire that kind of courage, and I always will.
All that said, I know from experience that being subjected to that kind of hatred day in and day out takes a toll. With me, it made me angry and I lashed out at people. I suspect that maybe Keith might have done so as well, because aside from the torrent of raw and vicious hatred directed at him from the wingnuts, he most certainly had pressure put on him by management to tone it down, to back off, to use words that were less blunt, to not offend so many people. I suspect that Keith, like me, refused to do that, and this latest firing is the result.
Keith Olbermann, love him or hate him, is a driven, exacting, passionate, wicked smart, sarcastic and funny man with extremely high standards who calls ’em as he sees ’em, and doesn’t mince words. In the high-stakes game of national television, those wonderful qualities are undoubtedly a double-edged sword. Keith has been forced into a pressure cooker on several occasions, with the inevitable result: an explosion.
I will always be a fan, Keith; I unreservedly admire your courage, your outspokenness – even your anger, because you express what I – and a whole lot of my friends – have been feeling for a very long time. My hope is that you have a sit-down and a heart-to-heart with Al Gore, who is another of my progressive heroes, work out your differences and get Countdown back on the air. Unfortunately, I don’t hold out much hope of that happening; once lawyers are involved, things have pretty much gone past the point of no return.
Keith: we need your voice. It is my hope that you find a way to come back to us as soon as possible.
Good night – and good luck.