Juan Cole on Olbermann: MSNBC has a ‘long history of throwing liberals under the bus’

The countdown continues, so to speak, as commenters absorb the MSNBC / Olbermann news. Juan Cole provides some needed history:

MSNBC has a long history of throwing liberals under the bus, despite its recent strategy of trying to use them to counter-program against Fox.

In the build-up to the Iraq War, MSNBC had Phil Donahue, whose evening magazine show was the highest-rated thing on the network. As the momentum for war built, the top corporate management became very nervous about having a show starring an anti-war liberal, so they fired Donahue[.] Rick Ellis wrote at the time that General Electric-owned NBC had commissioned a study of its public image, and that the consultants produced a report in which they wrote, that Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war……He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The report worried that the war fever would benefit rival, pro-war, pro-Bush networks and implied that Donahue might succeed in branding NBC in a way that caused viewership and therefore advertising revenues to plummet.

MSNBC replaced Donahue with far right wing shock jock Michael Savage, Dick Armey and Republican Joe Scarborough (who went on to donate to a Republican politician while on the air).

Then there was Ashley Banfield, a television reporter who was almost killed on 9/11.. She went off on this quest to understand Pakistan and Afghanistan, about which she had known nothing, and she risked life and limb to get up to Kabul as soon as the Taliban fell, and when the road from Jalalabad was very bad. She was on a steep learning curve and tried to take her MSNBC television audience along on this quest to understand the forces that had nearly snuffed her out. Then on April 24, after the successful Bush invasion of Iraq, she gave a public speech in which she criticized US television news for its rah-rah cheerleading of the war, which was not exactly in the best tradition of sober reporting. She was marginalized and ultimately fired.

I’m waiting for the full realization to be the frame — Any mega-corp who can buy media should do it; it confers enormous political power. In fact, this is the Rupert Murdoch secret — Buy media; sell propaganda services to government officials; get even more power and money in return.

Note to progressive commenters: Now’s the time, while the iron is hot, to frame this story correctly. This is a Citizens United / Billionaires’ Coup story. Write it this way now, and let the other side deal with our frame for a change. The good news? Our frame is factually accurate.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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