The Art of Madness: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann
Thursday, Glenn Beck used two stories — one of the Obama Administration’s misuse of the National Endowment for the Arts, the other of Obama’s planned speech to the nation’s elementary schools — to show that subtle propaganda in American culture is nothing new.
For his last Countdown segment of the week — the supposed “Number One Story!” — MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann purported to deconstruct Glenn Beck’s report on the fascist and communist roots of much of the art at Rockefeller Center, home of NBC News. Now, admittedly, Beck can get a bit emotional, but after this segment, MSNBC execs might spend their holiday weekend pondering changing the name of Olbermann’s show to Meltdown.
While Beck was at times imprecise in his timeline, Olbermann countered with deranged free association like:
The owl and the pussycat, you left out the owl and the pussycat… the horses Mr. Ed and Barbaro… Colonel Mustard in the library with the candle stick?… It`s all there black and white, clear as crystal, you stole fizzy lifting drinks, you bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized. You get nothing, you lose, good day, sir… I see it happening, they’ve got to tell people the ocean’s dying, life is dying. “Soylent Green” it’s made out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food. You’ve got to tell them, you tell everybody. Listen to me, Beck, you’ve got to tell them, Soylent Green is people…. You know I love you, baby, I wouldn’t leave you. It wasn’t my fault, honest. I ran out of gas, I had a flat tire, I didn’t have enough money for cab fair. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, terrible flood, locusts. It wasn’t my fault, I swear to God…I am the fool for Christ and the Paraclete of Caborca (ph), I am the wrath of the lamb and the angel of the bottomless pit…The body snatchers are here, can’t you see? Everyone, they’re here already. You’re next. And look what they’ve already done at the Fox News Building, it’s part of the Rockefeller Center….We took those pictures less than 36 hours ago. An outdated hieroglyph of Alan Colmes. Look, Bill O’Reilly’s bar-mitzvah picture, but not one symbol representing the Glenn Beck. Overnight, overnight, overnight they sneaked in, the Communist symbol- mongers sneaked in and magically it appears at Rockefeller Center, the symbol of the Beck. This is a travesty, a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham!
But let’s start from the very first words out of Keith Olbermann’s mouth in this “Number One Story” segment:
OLBERMANN: Last night we closed this news hour …
“News hour”? This night’s “news hour” featured these guests: Clarence Page, Markos Moulitsas (founder of the far-left blog Daily Kos), Rep. Maxine Waters (the Castro-loving congresswoman infamous for having justified the actions of the Los Angeles rioters following the 1992 Rodney King verdict), and Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter.
In this “news hour,” the most moderate voice was liberal columnist Clarence Page, complaining that the government might not socialize medicine all at once. This was followed by the Daily Kos founder threatening that Obama’s “progressive” base won’t stand for that; a conversation with Maxine Waters asserting that insurance companies are really the ones with “death panels”; and wrapping up with Jonathan Alter stating that the Republican Party is getting “whiter, older and dumber.” (More on that, tomorrow.) Nary a discouraging—or even challenging—word from “newsman” Keith Olberman.
This from a guy who said he’s the “highest rated news program” because Fox News isn’t news, it’s—“now migrated completely over to serving propaganda to tin foil hatters, conspiracy theorists, paranoids and racists, it’s not a news organization…”
But back to the serious point underlying all this—and there is one. Beck is building on the work of Jonah Goldberg, whose Liberal Fascism was the Left’s least favorite bestseller of 2008.
Goldberg brilliantly proved not only that modern liberalism has its roots in the Progressive movement at the turn of the century—but also that progressives at the time were equally enamored of fascism and communism; and that fascism has much in common with the Left, but little with modern conservatism. The political discussion has never been the same, and undoubtedly influenced Beck. Back to Countdown:
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Oh, you know what? Show it. This is it. This is from Moscow; the farmer and the worker, the hammer and the sickle. This capitalist had a hammer and a sickle? Had the worker and the farmer just like Moscow on his building a progressive? (END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The owl and the pussycat, you left out the owl and the pussycat. Factual error number one — the Rockefellers, he said were progressives! John D. Rockefeller, the inventor of the oil business!…And the Rockefeller Foundation once gave Van Jones a fellowship. That’s absolutely true, but that gives us factual error number 2. The Rockefeller Foundation is a hot bed of communism? The Rockefeller Foundation whose past and current trustees include such notable left- wingers as retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Republican nominee for president in 1916 Charles Evans Hughes…
Ummm, Keith, would that be the Charles Evans Hughes who was ENDORSED BY THE PROGRESSIVE PARTY? The one hailed by The Nation Magazine as the harbinger of a “new statism.” That one?
Keith falls back on the comfort of liberal clichés: titans of industry can’t have a leftist agenda (John D. Rockefeller, the inventor of the oil business!), and the word Republican has always meant evil reactionary. He no doubt considers himself an intellectual for having come up with the name of Charles Evans Hughes.
But as historian Thomas Fleming points out in his deconstruction of Woodrow Wilson, The Illusion of Victory, it was Progressives in the Northeastern Republican Party who pushed anti-lynching legislation, women’s suffrage and anti-discrimination policies for federal hiring, the latter of which were dismantled by Democrat Wilson as the fulfillment of a campaign promise (a “Southern strategy, if you will), not long after taking office, a pattern later followed by FDR. (Democrat Wilson also fought a war of choice which cost the lives of over 100,000 Americans, but that’s for a later topic.)
BECK: I’ve showed you the NBC Building; I’ve been showing you some of the things from Rockefeller Plaza that have been in plain sight for all these years. (END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It’s all there black and white, clear as crystal, you stole fizzy lifting drinks, you bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized. You get nothing, you lose, good day, sir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BECK: First let me show you what everything means. It’s going to be hard to see. But in the back, here’s the crowd of Americans, in the background you see the police beating people. Angry mobs, I guess. Here’s the evil army of capitalism up here with the gas mask and war planes, and everything; capitalism, army, awful. Then there’s the wonderful people over here of Moscow. And here are the onion domes of Moscow. (END VIDEO CLIP)
Here, Olbermann could have had Beck on a minor point. Beck doesn’t give old John D. quite enough credit. From Wikipedia—
“In 1932, the Mexican socialist artist Diego Rivera (whose sponsor was Museum of Modern Art and whose patron at the time was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.), was commissioned by their son Nelson Rockefeller to create a color fresco for the 1,071-square-foot (99 m2) wall in the lobby of the then RCA Building. This was after Nelson had been unable to secure the commissioning of either Matisse orPicasso. Previously he had painted a controversial mural in Detroit entitled Detroit Industry, commissioned by Abby and John’s friend, Edsel Ford, who later became a MoMA trustee. Thus it came as no real surprise when Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads became controversial, as it contained Moscow May Day scenes and a clear portrait of Lenin, not apparent in initial sketches. After Nelson issued a written warning to Rivera to replace the offending figure with an anonymous face, Rivera refused (after offering to counterbalance Lenin with a portrait of Lincoln), and so he was paid off and the mural papered over at the instigation of Nelson, who was to become the Center’s flamboyant president. Nine months later, after all attempts to save the fresco were explored—including relocating it to Abby’s Museum of Modern Art—it was destroyed as a last option. (Rivera re-created the work later in Mexico City in modified form, from photos taken by an assistant, Lucienne Bloch.)”
Of course, this account comes closer to Beck’s point than Olbermann’s, as does the next one…
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BECK: You might define their freedom as fascism, but no, no, no. At the time that was done, the progressives thought Mussolini was a good guy. They thought that was the ultimate system of government. (END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You know I love you, baby, I wouldn’t leave you. It wasn’t my fault, honest. I ran out of gas, I had a flat tire, I didn’t have enough money for cab fair. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, terrible flood, locusts. It wasn’t my fault, I swear to God.
Again, Wikipedia seems to back up Glenn, while it would take two burly guys in straightjackets to help Keith:
As a result, [Lee] Lawrie’s most recognizable work is not architectural: it is the freestanding statue on Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center, standing 45 feet tall, with a 15-foot figure of Atlas, supporting an armillary sphere, with a total height of 45 feet. As its unveiling, some critics were reminded of Benito Mussolini, while James Montgomery Flagg suggested that it looked as Mussolini thought he looked; the international character of Streamline Moderne, embraced by Fascism as well as corporate democracy, did not find favor during the Second World War. Featured above the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and axially behind the golden Prometheus, Lawrie’s Wisdom is one of the most visible works of art in the complex. An Art Deco piece, it echoes the statements of power shown in Atlas and Paul Manship‘s Prometheus.
I guess Wikipedia is about to be named part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. But buried in the middle of Olbermann’s dizzying rant is the crux of what is eating at his very core.
BECK: Oh, by the way, one other little tidbit, completely unrelated. Commissioned by Rockefeller, all the things hidden by Rockefeller; a progressive, a big leader. The Rockefeller foundation — they gave a big award an awful lot of credibility to, Van Jones, our new green jobs czar. Yes, wow, that seems weird, huh? (END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Weirder than the rest of your show? Not really, no. Van Jones, by the way is the guy who founded the organization that has already peeled off 57 of Beck’s advertisers. So he really doesn’t like Van Jones.
And NBC is the ONLY major news outlet that does not even have a website story today featuring the White House distancing itself from Van Jones’s lunatic communist ravings and 9/11 “truther” sympathies. This is what’s really driving Keith Olbermann crazy. Van Jones is by all indications, not long for this White House staff—even though as Byron York reports this morning, the New York Times, the Washington Post (which finds Virginia Governor candidate Robert McDonnell’s’s 20 year-old Master’s thesis worthy of 9 front-page stories), ABC World News and the CBS Evening News had cumulatively contributed ZERO words to the subject. (Finally, Saturday morning the WaPo decided Jones was worth an A-3 story.)
Glenn Beck is mostly responsible for driving the Van Jones story to national prominence; the rest of us are along for the ride, contributing additional information to be sure; but President Obama is suffering the biggest association problem since Jeremiah Wright– and he is about to throw Van Jones under the same bus with his former spiritual mentor.
Below is a compliation of the stories in which Keith Olbermann has had a similar impact.