Spread the Word: The Survival of Lawrence O’Donnell

And you thought “It’s hard to keep a good man down” was just a cliche.

The news that MSNBC has decided to change its mind about axing Lawrence O’Donnell is a relief for those of us who feared that yet another voice for justice and integrity would be chased off the airwaves. NBC News President Andrew Lack may still harbor thoughts of becoming the next Roger Ailes, but the voices of O’Donnell’s supporters were apparently able to drown him out.

The continued presence of O’Donnell on cable television must drive Trump even further into insanity. O’Donnell has called out Trump for years, declaring in 2011 that the former Celebrity Apprentice host should have been kicked off NBC for peddling the racist hoax that President Obama was born in Kenya. O’Donnell is peerless in his ability to highlight the hubris of Trump, his Cabinet and his supporters–and fearless in his fight against those who would drag this country into a political and cultural wasteland.

I’ve previously noted that O’Donnell was one of the few cable-news figures willing to comprehensively cover the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. Of course, other folks were paying attention to that controversy for different reasons:

As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.

The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement.

Think TigerSwan was happy that O’Donnell cast a spotlight on the mistreatment of the water protectors in North Dakota? This is why O’Donnell and his show are vital. He doesn’t kneel down to the false god of false balance, or play pattycake with the pernicious. O’Donnell understands that power is to be challenged, not placated, and that right-wing extremists are not to be pacified by the press. He knows that there are already too many outlets that will kiss wingnut rear end to no end. We need more of him, not less.

O’Donnell was famously a producer and writer for The West Wing prior to his work on The Last Word. The current occupant of the West Wing will spend the remainder of his tenure turning from orange to red over O’Donnell’s oratory. Good. If Trump didn’t want to be held accountable for his actions as President, he shouldn’t have run for the job.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.