Friday, June 18, 2010

Hissy Fits and Political Correctness, in the days since Obama's Oval Office Speech on the oil spill, I've read some real vitriol at places like Democratic Underground and DailyKos - where I follow topics but, on the whole, don't post - directed toward MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, in particular, for saying in their analysis afterward that the speech was underwhelming compared to (a) the opportunity it afforded to outline a forward-thinking, bold vision and (b) the level of inspired rhetoric we came to expect from Obama thanks to the campaign he conducted.

Today, Olbermann responded on DKos, where he has been an occasional but prominent participant, by effectively checking out of the site until the tone of unequivocal-endorsement-or-else changes, and in particular calling out one of those upset with his criticisms for posting unverified rumors (to wit, that MSNBC brass told him to be critical for the sake of ratings) and impugning his integrity.

Full disclosure: I didn't watch either Olbermann's or Maddow's post-speech analysis. Other things were on the table that evening...and, to be frank, I found the speech itself to be rather lackluster, and who can summon up a whole lot of interest in analyzing the mundane?

But I do find stunning the level of anger and semi-childish "You're not my friend any more!" kind of behavior that has been the blogospheric fallout from all of this. It makes me worry that the tolerance and latitude more typically personified by the Left have been usurped by the lockstep, my-way-or-the-highway mindset of the trolls and freepers we cope with daily. We have seen the enemy and they is us, so to speak. We caught their disease.

What do you think? Has the progressive side of the political spectrum lost its taste for open dialogue and maintaining high, tough benchmarks for our standard-bearers in office? Are we in the grip of the very "never-criticize-your-own" mindset that we used to take the wingnuts to task for? Or is this just the output of a handful purporting to speak for the many?

I hope it's the latter. I think society is better served when the citizens maintain demanding expectations for all their elected officials, of whatever party and whomever is doing the constructive criticizing. It seems to me from the available info that such useful critique is what Maddow and Olbermann both were engaged in, rather than some kind of pointless and disrespectful teardown; and that effort seems to me necessary, valuable and right. They were completely fair. It wasn't a speech redolent with the kind of vision that the moment allowed for. It was measured, quiet, and honestly kind of banal. For my money, it was also a speech that should have been given AFTER the big meeting with BP execs, so that it could have included items like the announcement of the $20B compensation fund. The WH lost an opportunity by telegraphing the trajectory and letting BP talk about the outcome, instead of talking with them first and then taking the credit for the results, in the course of the speech.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts. We always knew that whatever approach Obama's speech took toward this disaster, it would be panned by Faux News, so we can omit consideration of that angle entirely. And it's fun to see the wingnut base eat their own...less fun to see the same appetite apparently rising on what is otherwise the sane side of the corral.


Count Istvan said...

This surprises me from DU. They usually love their politicians until they get elected then they hate them with a vengeance. I quit reading that board over their out and out hatred of all things Clinton.

Count Istvan said...

Maybe it' a family thing. I can say it but not you.

Count Istvan said...

BTW I saw the same behavior on twitter

et said...

Good point, Count. Maybe it's just the nature of the Internet...discourse everywhere finds its lowest level eventually.

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