I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had that reaction to the news that GQ had hired Keith Olbermann to discuss the demented dynamics of the 2016 presidential election. It has been five long years since Olbermann was controversially forced out of MSNBC; Olbermann’s departure was profoundly painful for those who appreciated his courageous condemnation of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly, the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party movement during his eight-year run on the trailblazing program Countdown.
It’s so good to have Olbermann back. Progressives need their wonks, their activists, their philosophers, their organizers and their strategists–but they also need folks who know how to stand up and strip the bark off the right wing. No one–no one–is better at that task than Olbermann.
I never quite understood why certain progressives wring their hands about Olbermann’s style, why he’s seen in some circles as too harsh, too abrasive, too sarcastic, too much. We can’t all be nice. We can’t all be civil. Movements need people who can throw elbows, who can give it to the ideological adversary as viciously as that adversary can dish it out, who aren’t timid when it comes to calling out BS.
Olbermann has always had a clear-eyed understanding that conservatism is the enemy, that the conservative vision inevitably leads to more destruction, more depravity, more deceit, more dysfunction. He recognizes that conservatism–the ideology that gave us Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and Donald Trump–is a metastasizing cancer within the American body, and that if that cancer is left untreated, the American body will be consigned to hospice care.
Before Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros stood up to Roger Ailes, Olbermann stood up to him. Before the world recognized just how radical Donald Trump was, Olbermann denounced his demagoguery. He is a pioneer without fear, and like his former MSNBC colleague Chris Hayes, it is wrong that Olbermann’s accomplishments have largely gone without respect.
As you listen to Olbermann excoriate Trump, you realize just how much America misses and needs this man. Who else is willing to state plainly that Trump is a clear and present danger to America’s best ideals and values? Who else is willing to point out that Trump is empowering white supremacists in a manner we haven’t seen since George Wallace’s heyday? Who else is willing to stand up to the forces of false balance and declare that Trump is a sick puppy–and that if he becomes the 45th President, he will lift his leg on the Constitution?
We wouldn’t need a Keith Olbermann if we had a mainstream media that did its job without fear or favor, a Fourth Estate that favored facts, a press corps that didn’t genuflect to power. We need a Keith Olbermann to fight the pollution of our democracy for the same reason we need a carbon tax to fight the pollution of our atmosphere: to prevent our world from descending into chaos.
It’s great to have you back, Keith. Ignore the haters, the folks who can’t, or won’t, understand you. Keep doing what it takes to help our wounded country mend–and never, ever stop kicking right-wing rear end.
UPDATE: More from Olbermann.