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    Olbermann Watch, "persecuting" Keith since 2004

    January 5, 2005
    Countdown - Tuesday Dec. 4, 2004 (8:00-9:00 P.M. ET)

    Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 4

    Host: Keith Olbermann

    Scheduled Topics/Guests:

    THE LATEST ON THE TSUNAMI DISASTER: George Wehrfritz, Newsweek


    THE EXCELLENT GRIP AND NO GRIME OF GECKOS: Kellar Autumn, biologist and lead author on the study of geckos

    Read the transcript to the 8 p.m. ET show
    Updated: Updated: 2:53 p.m. ET Jan. 5, 2005

    Guests: General Barry McCaffrey, Robert Marquand, Cyril Wecht, Kellar Autumn, Mary Murphy

    OLBYWATCH GUIDE: KO devoted a big chunk to the ongoing tragedy in Southeast Asia. But almost 200,000 fatalities from the tsunami didn't detract Keith from his mainstays: alleged Republican vote fraud and sniping at the Administration.

    First up, Keith reported on attacks that occurred in Iraq, including a suicide car bomb attack that killed three Brits in Baghdad yesterday. He referred to the attackers as "insurgents" a few times, which tends to blur distinctions between what we traditionally understand as an "insurgent", and a religious fanatic following the directives of radical clerics intent upon destroying infidels everywhere.

    Composite meanings of "insurgent" are. . . WordNet Dictionary: "Participant in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions), Synonyms: freedom fighter". Legal definitions point out that an insurgent may be one who justly opposes the tyranny of constituted authorities. States as an example: the colonists who opposed the tyranny of the English government were insurgents, not rebels.

    At any rate, there are two catagories of "insurgents" in Iraq. Perhaps a minority of the attackers are the aforementioned religious radicals---like the report on the suicide car bomber. They don't conform to any of the definitions of "insurgents". But most of the attackers are Sunnis from the former regime, and convicts that Saddam released from prison before the invasion. None of these people conform to any definition of "insurgent", because they attack solely for money. They get paid for each attack they perform, and their "salary" per bombing has been steadily increasing over the past year. They also attack their own countrymen, and not just the foreigners.

    "Terrorist Mercenaries" might best describe these attackers. At least Keith didn't refer to them as "Iraq's Minutemen", as Michael Moore had done.

    Of course KO got his licks in on Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales. He referred to the story that broke yesterday in which retired Army General John Shalikashvili and 11 other former military officers announced their opposition to the Gonzales nomination, claiming that he endorsed detaining suspected terrorists without protections accorded prisoners of war. They also cited concerns that failure of the US to treat prisoners in accord with the Geneva Convention will result in abuse of captured US troops.

    KO failed to note that the Gonzales' memo actually referred to Al Qaeda terrorists, and not regular armies from sovereign nations who are signatories to Geneva protections, and who are covered by its provisions. Terrorists are not legally entitled to, nor should be afforded protections normally accorded to prisoners of war, else there would be no incentive for signatories of Geneva to make any effort to comply with the provisions. Gonzales was also providing legal opinion, and not formulating public policy. His opinion was in accord with the US Senate and prior administrations that deemed actions that made unlawful combattants uncomfortable was not on its face, illegal or cruel.

    Earth to Keith: Treating members of Al Qaeda any better will not ensure that they will refrain from torturing their captives. And if they beheaded that saintly woman who worked for C.A.R.E. in iraq, it's unlikely they'll treat captured Coalition troops any better, regardless how we treat them.

    Jeez, at least on this issue, Chris Mathews in the prior hour was favored with reality checks from C. Boyden Grey, Frank Gaffney, and Tony Blankley. One can't expect that from KO's usual stable of guests.

    Finally, it wasn't an Olbermann show without a bow to the left wing cranks pushing VoteFraud2004inOhioButNotPennsylvania. KO "reported" that rumors continue to fly that a Senator may join a dozen Congressmen in challenging the Ohio electors on Thursday. But it won't be Sen. John Kerry, because he will be in Jordan. Wonderful. KO isn't a rumor mongerer. That would make his show no better than Entertainment Tonight. Instead, he "reports" that there are rumors!

    KO reported that Republicans responded in Ohio's Supreme Court to a petition from 37 Ohio voters seeking to invalidate the Ohio election results, while in the Washington state gubinatorial election, KO noted that it's the Republicans challenging the Democrat's victory, citing 8500 more ballots cast in 5 counties than there are registered voters! No equivalence should be inferred, as a reversal for the former is highly unlikely, while the later is at least possible. Besides, KO would prefer not to dwell on voter registration fraud, which happens to be a legitimate---albeit a frequently cited Republican---complaint.

    The Number One story in the countdown was whether or not late night talk-show pioneer Johnny Carson was healthy. Apparently, he appeared slightly overweight in a recent paparazzi photo of him. T.V Guide's Mary Murphy assured Keith that Carson was mentally fit and physically OK. Keith seemed genuinely relieved to learn this. REALLY relieved, and not like those disingenuous hosts on Entertainment Tonight!

    Posted by Robert Cox | Permalink | Comments (6) | | View blog reactions



    While technically accurate, I don't get your umbrage with KO's use of the term "insurgents." This moniker is freely used by the media--perhaps wrongly or carelessly--to describe those who use violence to sabotage U.S. efforts to establish and sustain order in Iraq. That these militants attack fellow Iraqis seems a dubious distinction, since all of their violence serves the ultimate goal of preventing democratic rule to take hold.

    Regardless of their religious affiliation or level of compensation, calling these extremists "insurgents" in the context of their role in this conflict is far from a misnomer, nor is it one that Olbermann solely owns. It appears to have become part of the lexicon. Singling out KO for using it, to me, seems petty.
    I doubt the targets care what we call their killers.

    Wonderfully well-done synopsis, Bob.

    I agree especially with your remarks about the one-sidedness of Countdown guests (excluding Howard Fineman who gently attempts to give Keith reality checks) and Olbermann's cheesy and disingenuous 'reporting' of rumors which really amounts to disseminating them.

    But since Keith is the out-of-the-closet 'Michael Moore liberal' of cable news, he's developed a loony left fan base because of it.

    Maybe Countdown will rise in the ratings since Markos of Daily Kos has written off the Ohio voter fraud charge.

    Going back to Howard Fineman, and the wry-smile manner that he takes with Keith's focus on the Ohio rumors, I think that indulgent tolerance is the way all the media people seem to have with Keith.

    It's interesting because I don't think that would be the response if Keith's obsession were with wild charges against a Democrat or the DNC. If that were the case you'd start seeing anonymous colleague quotes in Romensko and CJR. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom arrors would point down with a bit about Olbermann becoming a crackpot, etc.

    Thanks to Cecelia for agreeing with me, and to both her and Paul for confusing me with Bob. I'm trying to write in his style.

    Paul makes a fair point, and the 'insurgents' issue may not be the best critique one would levy at KO. But here are the reasons why I did bring it up.

    First, while it's true that the word cannotes different political meanings at different times, the current political meaning--used by the left--is that these thugs in Iraq are resistance fighters against our occupation. The implication being the US is oppressing a Muslim nation; stealing their oil and so forth.

    It's absurd, but that's the propaganda, and if that propaganda persuades even one young impressionable arab to drop his fallafal and pick up arms against the US, then I say to Keith and other people in the media to get another word to describe these attackers. A word that doesn't have a scintilla of favorable meaning. It doesn't have to be the phrase I suggested.

    Next issue is why pick on Olbermann? Because I write for OW and that's what we do. If I had an outlet to write about another newsman, I would make the same criticism.

    But with a few exceptions, and this goes to 'why pick on Olbermann'. KO is a wise guy. He's smart and informed and thus should know better. i wouldn't waste my time offering up this advice to Deborah Norville, Paula Zahn, Larry King, or Chris Mathews.

    I think KO is a smart dude. And if he wants to break from the pack and use words properly, others may follow.


    Dang, that print's small! Sorry about mistaking you for Bob.

    You're right that as an OW writer, you're entitled to grouse about KO. Thanks for considering my point, however, your comment "the current political meaning--used by the left--is that these thugs in Iraq are resistance fighters against our occupation. The implication being the US is oppressing a Muslim nation; stealing their oil and so forth..." is a sweeping generalization. In my defense of KO's use of the word "insurgents" to describe our enemies, I intended no such implication, nor have I seen any directive from the Democratic party to refer to them as such.

    In my short reply, I also described them as "militants," "extremists" and "killers," writing nary a word about 'Iraqi oil and so forth.' We can also call them "murderers," "religious zealots," "maniacs," "lunatics"...I can go on and on, but because I'm oft accused of doing so, I'll stop there.

    My point is that "insurgents" is not a term owned or used exclusively by Olby and/or liberals and I see it as synonymous/interchangable with many of the other words associated with those who attack us in Iraq. I hear and see "insurgents" used with reckless abandon by pundits, commentators, news anchors, politicians and everyday citizens irrespective of their political leanings.

    Other than this minor semantic exception, I think you raised many valid points.


    So sorry about the mix-up. Again, I enjoyed your synopsis.

    I agree entirely with your argument about the term 'insurgent'. Where we part ways is that I believe it reflects the MSM picture of the U.S. as being interlopers and too it is shows their reluctance to characterize the opposition as terrorists.

    Whether or not that intent is conscious or unconscious, it's still there.

    Cecelia, I don't see where we part company, but no big deal.

    Paul, I didn't mean to imply that you belonged to the wackos who equate what we're doing in Iraq to what Nazis did, etc. But you wanted to know why I took KO to task, and that was part of my reason.

    thanks for elliciting from me the rationale. it's helpful to know.