You all know how much of a fan I am of Keith Olbermann…I post clips of his smackdowns of the Right religiously.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I consider him perfect the way Erick Erickson considers Boss Limbaugh…he can be human, he can make mistakes…and he on occasion can allow his ego to get him owned.
Yes, I acknowledge that KO has a huge ego, and that’s OK by me, because he is so correct on the fundamentals.
Problem is, sometimes that ego can get in the way of the facts and can expose one to be potentially decieved.
As could be the case, ultimately, with his most recent public moment: The “waterboarding” of Chicago right-wing gabber Erich “Mancow” Muller to prove how evil waterboarding really is.
To reset the entire fracus from the beginning; Olbermann originally challenged Fixed Noise wingnut Sean Hannity to endure a waterboarding to prove Hannity’s point (shared by most on the Right) that waterboarding wasn’t torture, pledging to contribute $1,000 for every second that Hannity lasted to a military families’ support fund. Hannity had blurted the standard right-wing party line that waterboarding was not torture and wasn’t as harmful as “liberals” were saying, and that it and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were neccessary to extract information from “terrorists” and thusly prevent another terrorist attack such as the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, DC, and Pennsylvania. KO made it such an issue that he dedicated his “Oddball” segment on his program Countdown with Keith Olbermann to counting up the days in which Hannity was chickening out on delivering on his promise.
Well…on May 23rd, WLS-AM right-wing radio shock jock “Mancow” Muller decided to either prove Hannity wrong, or simply pull off the publicity stunt of a lifetime; he offered himself to simulate a waterboarding to see how long he could hold out. Turned out, he bailed after six seconds, after which he got serious religion and testified about the ultimate evil of waterboarding. KO was so impressed (or so taken) that he had Muller on his show to elaborate on his experiences, and as a buffer to prove that even right-wingers could see that waterboarding was not only torture, but even tantimont to drowning.
Not so impressed, however, was the website Gawker.com….which has had a long history of needling Olbermann; two weeks earlier, they had posted a series of stories (reprinted from a media gossip rag called CityFile) concerning KO’s grieving over and eulogizing the recent death of his mother; effectively calling him out for playing hooky out of his job by not alerting his employers of his absence, and for letting his alleged ego get in the way of company business (apparently even getting into it with Rachel Maddow (Twitter ID: @maddow) over the booking of Ben Affleck as a guest on his show…he ultimately appeared on Rachel’s show due to, according to KO, a scheduling error by Affleck’s publishing agent). KO, in response, used his May 15th “WTF!?!” segment of his show to rip Gawker and reporter John Cook a new one for shoddy journalism and spreading gossip.
That might have been the reason why Gawker (and KO via MSNBC) was approached by an anonymous tipster who passed on a series of emails which together proposed that the entire Mancow “waterboarding” was a giant hoax, invented primarily to give Mancow free publicity and to spoof Olbermann. The emails generally center around Linda Shafran, who was Miller’s publicist as well as an agent for Jerry Springer, and whom led a search for someone to simulate (or fake) the waterboarding.
Gawker then decided to break the story on their website; with followups appearing here and here. Basically, they declared Mancow to be a faker whose experience didn’t even come close to the real thing…..and they even went back and retrieved a 2008 clip of columnist Christopher Hitchens being waterboarded under more realistic (as in, what actual victims of waterboarding experienced) to prove their point. (Their issue was not that they questioned that waterboarding was morally wrong or torture; but the use of a right-winger and a known spoofer and publicity hound by Olbermann to prove that point.)
That led to Friday’s (May 30th) “WTF!?!” closing segment on Countdown, where KO decided to unleash havoc on Gawker for their “right-wing conspiracy” reporting and calling them “conspiracy theorists”… and to have “Mancow” Muller on for his closing segment one more time to defend himself.
And that led to Gawker columnist John Cook issuing a rebuttal at Gawker.com standing by their story and all but calling out Olbermann as a dunce for allowing a right-winger to pwn him.
Now…like I said, this should be prefaced with the fact that Gawker.com does have a rich history of smacking down KO for more than the usual political reasons; there is also some very personal attacks on Olbermann for his weight, his private sex life, and his personal finances from even as far back as 2008. That might make their claim that the issue isn’t as much torture but Olbermann’s use of a right-wing “shock jock” to prove his case about waterboarding and allowing himself to be used by Muller, more than a bit hollow.
And, you can also make the case that even if the Mancow waterboarding was more than a bit staged and faked, and that there are other examples out there of the practice being executed under far more “realistic” conditions (as in Christopher Hitchens’ aformentioned waterboarding last year and a similar occurence by a Playboy magazine journalist this year (h/t to Dr. James Benjamin over at Notes From Underground for pointing me to the latter story), it certainly looked realistic enough to prove the point about it being torture. Not everybody gets a bucket full of water poured down your throat while your nose is being held and you are blindfolded, you know.
Nevertheless, I do think that KO could have used a better example of someone “enduring” waterboarding than the likes of Mancow Muller, who, by all accounts, seems like a perfect asshole of the Jerry Springer mold who is not immune from the most inane acts of barbarity. I guess that Olbermann decided that using a right-winger like him to prove that “even conservatives can see that waterboarding is torture” was worth the risk of being used for Muller’s publicity machine…not to mention taking whacks at InSanity and the rest of the Fixed Noise/Boss Limbaugh Machine.
We’ll see together if Mancow is really on the legit, or if he decides to pull a “Gotcha, Keith!! Hahahahaha!!!” and reverse himself.
And as for Gawker.com…nice journalism there, but perhaps you might want to ixnay with the personal attacks on Keith Olbermann for a while. You’re not exactly seen as pure as the driven snow yourselves, and attacking KO’s ego just to inflame your own ratings doesn’t do you much justice, either. If you didn’t own Fleshbot.com, I’d put y’all on the quarantine list…but I’ll give you some slack for now.