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TV 101: How Keith Olbermann And Glenn Beck Eat Your Soul

by Jay Black, posted Mar 3rd 2010 2:02PM
Are these the two most evil people in America? Trick question: they aren't human!America, we need to talk.

There was a time when you were my favorite country in the world. Sure, you invented the Snuggie and insisted on airing multiple shows about making cakes for some reason, but you were always pretty stable. Well, that's changed and I think I know why.

You're addicted, America. You're addicted to something more insidious than nicotine or cocaine or Pokémon: you're addicted to Opinion Based News Shows.

Don't deny it! I've seen the signs! What started as an innocent attempt to have more talking points at parties has begun to rage out of control. Sometimes it seems you can't even make a move without a little taste of Keith or Glenn just to get you "right".

Well, I'm not going to watch my friend go down without a fight. This is your wake-up call America. This is your intervention.

I know this seems radical, but I want you to go cold turkey. Starting today, right now, you need to stop watching every single Opinion Based News Show. 'Glenn Beck', 'Rachel Maddow', 'Keith Olbermann', 'Bill O'Reilly', even 'Anderson Cooper' and 'Campbell Brown' (although, in all honesty, it appears like you already did give those two up): all of them need to go. I want you to put a block on your cable box so that those shows never pop up again.

But what's the harm in a little bit of opinion about the day's events, you ask? How is it hurting you, America? Just look at yourself!

You've always had your ups and downs, split between your conservative side and your liberal side. You've been so bipolar lately, however, that you're making Stephon Marbury's Twitter feed seem sane. You're taking every single issue - not just little things, but important discussions that will affect your future - and are filtering them through your cartoonish view of what it means to be a "liberal" or a "conservative".

And where do you get the basis for those cartoons? Opinion Based News Shows!

These views have become so important to you that you've begun to define everything around you by them. It's not enough that you have your beliefs, the people who feel differently than you have to be turned into villains so heinous a Spanish TV executive would reject them for a telenovela for being too outlandish.

The truly sad part is that these talkers on the left and right aren't driven by ideology, they're driven by ratings, pure and simple. America is as important to Glenn Beck as Pandora is to Sam Worthington. Keith Olbermann feels as strongly about global warming as Alec Baldwin feels about the Sheinhardt Wig Company.

Politics is a product for these people, as sure as rocks are to a crack dealer.

These hosts are actors playing a part, but you don't realize it. You think the theater is real. Oh, you say you get it, that it doesn't affect you, but we both know that's a lie. I hear you repeating what you've heard on Opinion Based News Shows all over the internet. I see the rhetoric being adopted by the trolls running for Congress on both sides of the aisle. A great country is being reduced to the sound bites of former sportscasters and FM morning DJs.

America, you're better than this.

I don't blame you for falling for it. TV is the most powerful medium for communication ever devised (the internet will get there, but as 'Avenue Q' said so well: right now "the internet is for porn"). Those shows are always being shoved at you and besides, they seem so classy - I mean everyone on them wears a suit! How can that be bad for you?

Also, it's easy to get hooked on something that seems so innocuous. It's like my father's cigarette addiction: when he was a kid, the dangers of nicotine were either unknown or obscured somewhat by the fact that Fred and Barney seemed to love their Winstons so much. He got hooked before he knew any better.

Well, America, so did you. This isn't an intervention to blame you, just to remind you that there's a life outside of spitting out "liberal" or "conservative" like you were Lokai and Bele fighting on the Enterprise. That someone can have an opinion different than yours and not be evil. That there isn't a grand conspiracy of your political enemies secretly controlling every aspect of the media (though I do have it on good authority that the Claymates are firmly in control of the CBS Morning Show).

Put down the Opinion Based News Shows pipe, America. Do it now before it's too late! And hey, if you find yourself unable to bear it, you can always use some methadone to get by. Get a chalkboard and fill it up with all the secret evidence as to why your dog is a cryptocommufacistsocialist. Prepare a Special Comment detailing in 17 powerful minutes why Marvel's handling of the "One More Day" story arc was not in keeping with Peter Parker's character.

Do whatever you need to do, but keep away from those shows. It won't hurt your understanding of the news - in fact, once you get over your initial withdrawl, I think you'll find that your understanding of the news will actually be deeper. The hatred inspired by Opinion Based News Shows creates a lot of sound and fury, so it's hard to get a grip on the facts you actually need to know. When you're freed from the addiction, you'll be able to weigh the facts a lot better and reach a conclusion all by yourself.

Imagine that, America: your own opinion about something!

By the way, my editor warned me that writing about this was going to anger you and I was going to get an inbox flooded with toxic comments. Well here's what I say to that, America: first, this intervention needed to happen and you know that in your heart.

And second, I live in New Jersey. There ain't nothing too toxic that it can kill me.

(Jay Black is a comedian and writer who really hopes you like this column. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jayblackcomedy).

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Beck is an impetuous clown you can laugh at. Olbermann is nothing but a self-righteous jerk.

March 06 2010 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I only watch O'Reilly I do think he can sometimes go off a bit too much like NBC at least it isn't every night like it use to be. And I also don't like that he ambushes judges that made a bad ruling just call if they want to be on the show and just say hiding behide there desk that is all and not have a cramera crew going after judges and asking questions which they will not answer anyways.

I like the article it was pretty good Jay.

March 05 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You're a good writer, and I get your point that people need to tune out all of this noise from opinion based news shows, get some facts and think for themselves and form their own opinions. But I agree with everyone who says that you can't equate Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck etc. with Olbermann and Maddow etc. Limbaugh and his crowd are diseminating propaganda, pure and simple, just like Joseph Goebbels taught them to. Tell the Big Lie, get everone on the same page telling the same Big Lie, repeat it ad nauseum, ignoring any dissenting views ,and whenever it is even remotely possible, do it at the top of your lungs. These people arent interested in niceties like debate, civility, facts, truth, making sound policy, consensus building, or even staying tenuously tethered to reality. They are interested in driving their viewpoint into your skull like a metal spike, because their ideas are always superior and infallible. They are always right because they say so and anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but evil, crazy, delusional, brainwashed, an athiest or communist, or a whole catalogue of other smear tactic put downs. Olbermann, Maddow and their crowd , on their worst day, dont do anything even remotely like that. If their viewpoint is slanted, at least they deal with facts, they are openminded, they admit mistakes, they consider other opinions and are interested in finding the truth, rather than deciding and decreeing what the truth is, based on whatever point they are trying to make at the moment.
To imply that they are just different sides of the same coin is grossly inaccurate and unfair.

March 05 2010 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to NightOwl's comment
Jay Black

Thanks for the kind words. Also, a separate thank you to all the commenters on this subject. I honestly expected more vitriol than intelligent disagreement and I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

To your issues with my column: I think my point stands regardless of whether Maddow's approach is different from Limbaugh's.

Let me put it this way: let's assume you're correct and Limbaugh is heroin and Maddow is red wine. One is clearly worse for you than the other, but it's possible to ruin your life with either.

The entire system of right-wing pundits and left-wing pundits yelling at each other is the problem, not what the individual pundits are actually saying. Sadly, we're treating politics like we do sports - we choose our team and we support that team no matter what. Blind loyalty and cheerleading is fine for football, but devastating to a democracy.

I know for a fact that it wasn't always like this - not because I'm looking at the past with rose colored glasses, but because shows like this literally did not exist 20 years ago.

We're in a feedback loop where people are only listening to those whose opinions they agree with and actively vilifying those who they disagree with. The cheerleaders on both sides of the aisle are encouraging it to happen.

I don't advocate censorship, but I do think that the conversation would become far more civil if everyone just stopped for a little bit and caught their breath.

As we all know, the Simpsons have an answer for everything, so I'll leave you with a you a video that I think sums up the best way to deal with all of them:


Thanks for reading this (assuming that, you know, you read this).

March 05 2010 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article is only 50% relevant. The country stopped wathing Olbermann and Maddow years ago. The only audience they continue to generate today is composed of their kindred.

March 05 2010 at 6:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What James Greenlee said...PLUS...

I have to admit, after reading this, I have a problem. I left FIOS because I couldn't get MSNBC. Okay, it was during the presidential election, and try as I might, I couldn't watch CNN - and I REFUSE to watch FOX! Now, my husband, who was always Apolitical, watches CBS from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., NBC from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. and then MSNBC from 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Enough is enough. I find I'm always outraged!

I'm outraged at Beck and Linbaugh - and then I'm angry that people actually believe the crap they say! I actually heard m yself say - they want their country back - well, I want MY country back!

I don't think I can stop cold turkey, but starting tonight, I'm going to shave at least an hour of news time from our schedule - I know we can do it - we'll take it one day at a time- maybe I won't be so angry all the time -

Now, if the people who watch FOX would start shaving we'd all be better off!

March 05 2010 at 3:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom Degan

It always saddens me to see a "Child Left Behind" - all grown up. Glenn Beck would be a text book case. Back in the spring on his unintentionally uproarious FOX Noise program, Beck told his television audience:

"First they came for the bankers, and I did not speak up because I was not a banker. Then they came for the A.I.G. executives, and I did not speak up because I was not an A.I.G executive."

He then looked the camera dead in the eye and ominously told his clueless viewers that eventually "they" (He never specified exactly who "they" were) would be coming for them. It was a gross perversion of the famous Martin Niemoller poem. It was a none-too-subtle effort to compare the Obama Justice Department's prosecution of corporate criminals to Hitler's persecution of the Jews seventy years ago. Nice.

Recently he has been trying to pump up his brain dead masses by flatly stating that Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people. The fact that our president's lineage is fifty percent European and that he was raised by his very white mother and grandparents apparently never occurred to this jackass. Fill the people's minds with hate and fear; that's all that matters. Incredibly, it's working. An alarming percentage of the American people actually believe that Obama's goal is to turn the United States into a Socialist police state.


Most of us here in the states have an I.Q. higher than that of your average half-eaten box of Milk Duds - Really, I promise!


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

March 04 2010 at 6:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jay, I totally agree with you. I thankfully have NEVER watched any of those programs. Talk shows are never news shows. They are opinion shows! The host (whoever that might be) uses clips and statements from different people to push their point across. All of them do it. It is supposed to be entertainment. I find it to be as entertaining as watching Survivor but that is just my opinion. If I wanted to watch a grown man (or woman) screaming at me for an hour I would have stayed married and kept in touch with my ex in-laws. In case I get any toxic replies I also live in New Jersey and we are not effected by toxic substances. Could that be why most of us are immune to these people?

March 04 2010 at 6:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watch Olbermann and Maddow most nights, and I have thought about giving them up. Just as I think I will, something new breaks, and I'm hooked again.

I don't buy the equivalency with Beck and Hannity. And I should know. I watched FOX "News" quite a lot before Maddow got her show. There is an extreme difference in both style and content between the FOX and MSNBC brands.

The difference isn't QUITE as noticible with Olbermann when he's on a roll, I'll grant. But Rachel just simply ISN'T as she's painted on the right. She's not shrill, she's not exclusively partisan, and she is absolutely not a "cheerleader" for Obama or the Democrats. Almost every right-wing opinion I've seen on her has seemed to me like the opinion of a person who has never watched her show.

As good as she is (and as much fun as Olbermann can be, theatrics and all), I do grow weary of it sometimes. And I realize I'm in a special category watching so regularly. The stories I'm "up on" are often completely unknown to most others. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so bothered by what's going on in the news. But I'm not sure I want to be blind to it all either.

I guess if you ONLY get your news from opinion shows, you have a REAL problem. I get news elsewhere too. I don't have a problem. I can stop any time. . .

March 04 2010 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All of those shows are so annoying, I wish my husband would stop watching them. I'm so much happier now that I just read the news online and don't hear the liberal and conservative talking points (along with lots of loud obnoxious voices) that started to drive me crazy.

My life is much more peaceful without cable news shows. Now if only the liberal and conservative fanatics that turn so many comments sections, that have little or nothing to do with politics, into idiotic name-calling and boring long-winded political rants would stop posting everywhere life would be even better.

March 04 2010 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never watched Fox News, I gave up MSNBC at least three years ago, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GIVE UP ANDERSON! Yes CNN needs to tweak their format, weed out some of the wankers, not spend twelve hours on a celebrity divorce or a reality show family trying to make it big with a balloon hoax, but the News Hour makes me sleepy and I only get BBC International, and CNN is the closest thing I can get to the news. (And Anderson is a dreamboat silver fox Superman.)

March 03 2010 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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