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Keith Olbermann's first commentary on the "Dr. Dobson vs. SpongeBob SquarePants" bruhaha appeared to this contributor to Olbywatch at the time to be merely an easy and opportunistic attack on conservative values. But KO has since become a lightening rod in this highly divisive traditional and religious values debate. Something that perhaps the management at MSNBC may not welcome for one of their news anchors---particularly following an election which in some respects became a national referendum on the issue.
And what pivotal issue of our times triggered the backlash against Olbermann? The silly hoopla over allegations that a children's cartoon character appears to be proselytizing homosexuality! Yes, I do call it silly. I'm as much a secularist as Olbermann. But if I endeavered to become a commentator to be taken seriously, I wouldn't rest my case solely on the easy mockery of a character like Dr. Dobson. Indeed, it appears that cultural traditionalists are grilling Keith more for his smug self-complacency than for his secularist liberal views.
That was precisely the subject raised in yesterday's op-ed by Gary Schneeberger, editor of Family News In Focus, who writes:
". . . when it comes to lobbying liberal journalists like Olbermann, the sad reality is that getting them to acknowledge--let alone to respond respectfully--to our point of view is the longest of long shots." [. . . ] "Giving socially conservative, Christian thought a fair public hearing is an invitation for professional ridicule, an admission that you might not believe anymore that the answers to anything that ails you can be found in your own wit and will, and that of your equally witty, willful colleagues."
"Scour the 'morgues'--i.e., the old clip files--of some of the newspapers where I worked before coming to Christ in 1997, and you'll find the same kind of 'I'm-so-much-cooler-than-you-are' vitriol Olbermann has spewed forth in response to your criticism of his reporting on the SpongeBob story."
(By "your criticism", Schneeberger is referring to an email writing campaign directed at Olbermann by CitizenLink.)
Last night, Eric Deggans' op-ed in the St. Petersburg Times Online singled out Olbermann's "Will SpongeBob make you gay?" commentary as representative of that produced by media elites: By both not understanding the concerns of traditionalists, and by taking an ill-advised attack on a popular cartoon for kids, and using it as a facile means to ridicule conservative and traditional values.
Deggans' piece was balanced, criticizing the use of code words and demonization employed by both sides of the debate. Noteworthy was his quote from liberal professor Barbara McGraw, who has studied this culture war:
"You're not going to have millions of people following something that is completely stupid ... and there is a legitimate point about parents raising their children according to the values they have," [...] "One of (Dobson's) key points is that liberals are using buzz words to promote an agenda that goes beyond race and religion. The mainstream media need to be sensitive to that."
All people wish to be treated with respect and their views taken seriously. One day, Keith may find himself favoring something that the liberal intelligencia opposes. That will be that day Keith will yearn for serious arguments instead of constant ridicule and condescension.
And if at that time, he's no longer priviledged to be a news commentator for a major network, and unable to voice his views to the masses, he might feel as culturally disenfrachised as middle-America feels today.
Update: As astute Olbywatch reader Cecelia points out in comments, while the most vocal of KO's critics may be religious people, this issue is ultimately about the intense desire of all parents---liberal and conservative---to instill in their children the values that they hold, particularly regarding the age-sensitive subject of sexual preference and lifestyles.
"The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is never too certain that it is right" ....Justice Learned Hand.
Something that people without a media megaphone already appreciate, and which Keith may come to appreciate in time.