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The Art of Madness: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann

September 5, 2009

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 An outdated hieroglyph of Alan Colmes.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.[16] (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.

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  1. SM-Illinois permalink
    September 5, 2009 2:33 pm

    Nobody watches MSNBS anyway—-and the crazier they get—-the more Dems and independents see them for what they are: radical left wing extremist America haters. My 82 year old mother in law is a life long yellow dog WI Dem. During the 2008 election—-she couldn’t wait to get rid of the evil Bush. Right after the election she was thrilled that Bush and Repubs were fired. Same with my other Dem in-laws. But, that was way way back in Nov 2008. Talked with them off and on since January—and they were getting more and more concerned but were trying desperately to find all that hope n change. Last weekend—-talked with them and they’re all scared out of their minds and can’t wait until the next elections to vote Repub to get rid of the bums. So, Obama is indeed a messiah and miracle worker because he just did what I thought was completely impossible: he changed my life long yellow dog dem in-laws to Repubs. So, hope that the Dems continue in lockstep dancing to the far left wing Obama—–and keep running off the middle Dems and independents.

  2. di butler permalink
    September 5, 2009 3:49 pm

    Ironically, I took a class trip in HS to NY to see all of these art works. We were specifically looking for the corelation of fascism and progressivism. We just never thought it would be this mainstream. It was history, for goodness sake! That was way, way back in 1983. Oh, and Olbermann is like Stewart. When he can’t refute something he goes to the goofy act. It has long ago turned tiresome. Even the stoned teenagers get bored with it these days.

  3. davidforsmark permalink
    September 5, 2009 4:24 pm

    Exactly, Di. Thought Glenn was a little too shocked by it all, but Keith was clueless. It’s not like it’s not out there for everyone to see, or any big secret. It’s been written about before.

  4. Barry Bonds permalink
    September 5, 2009 6:46 pm

    Glenn Beck is the perfect example of what happens when you give someone who really isn’t smart too much power.

    I’m sorry but there is no ligitimate reason to fear anyone because of their philosophical ideals. Communists don’t bother me, facist don’t bother me and I am definately not afraid of radicals.

    No one can articulate anything that Obama has done that they are ligitimately afraid of.

    Glenn Beck however is someone to fear because he has absolutely no limitations on the amout of hate he can spew and that influences others.

    • Highball permalink
      October 25, 2009 12:42 pm

      Communists don’t bother you? How about state controlled salaries for baseball players? Those salaries are too bloated anyway, so lets just cap them from the start, so we can lower ticket prices to $1.00 a game. The masses would love that. Rather play for the good old HAMMER & SICKLE. Funny how the Cuban players can’t wait to get here.

      • Darrell Ogden permalink
        November 7, 2009 12:05 pm

        Barry,no wonder you took ‘roids,you’re STUPID!

      • ktm3009v permalink
        November 7, 2009 8:07 pm

        I believe you have found the solution to our immigration problem. With communism we could become like the old USSR and then no one would want to live here too. Where would I move to?

  5. davidforsmark permalink
    September 5, 2009 9:00 pm

    Barry, if you can watch these two videos and think Glenn Beck is the unlimited hater of the two, then the steroids have not yet cleared your system.

  6. Diane permalink
    September 5, 2009 10:24 pm

    NBC (and MSNBC) lost its integrity and its soul the day Tim Russert died.

    It has been a “has-been” ever since. I can already imagine Olbermann’s plasticized face and metrosexual glasses centering one of the trios on Hollywood Squares (assuming they can find a chair wide enough for his matronly backside).

  7. Grammie permalink
    September 6, 2009 12:23 am

    Dittos to Barry!

    Very good analysis. In a completely different vein both Nazi Germany and Stalinist/Communistic Russia were very concerned and took drastic punitive measures to control the message of literature, art and pop culture. The ChiComs were absolute masters at it that culminated in their Cultural Revolution.

    What GB pointed out is openly visible in our society and he is not the first to comment on it. KO’s reaction, as usual, is way beyond the pale and makes GB look more like a doddering droning professor in comparison.

    If you have a strong stomach try this link:

    This is to the blog and there are two pages of his gal pals in an orgy of joy and admiration over that very same bordering on a psychotic break near meltdown highlighted here.

  8. chana permalink
    September 6, 2009 1:54 am

    Who watches MSNBC nowadays?
    We seem to have established long ago that all is not well in that establishment. I believe it was made clear to the public long ago that rampant mental illness had broken out there.
    One of the first carriers to be discovered was Mr. Olbermann and from him the illness spread like wildfire.
    It is always a shame that so many minds are wasted like that.

  9. Ed Shott permalink
    September 8, 2009 9:30 am

    Beck has not responded to Senior Art Critic at New York Magazine Jerry Saltz’s offer for Beck to curate 2 art exhibits with promiced gallery space and reviews of both shows—-Olbermann–get these two together.

  10. Thomas Young permalink
    September 8, 2009 2:22 pm

    As a very well informed independent voter I must say, that this constant haranging and vicious diatribe between you and the folks from FOX news is not winning any of you better ratings. However, since it is my understanding that FOX has the best ratings in Cable TV then it would indicate that you folks at MSNBC are losing the battle.

    Obviously, you don’t realize or care how damaging this fight between both sides (liberals and conservatives) has affected the discourse on America”s future. Its is more important today that the media do its job and that is to take a middle road on issues by presenting the facts of an issue and then allowing we voters to make up our own decision about the proper direction.

    I know you have no use for Bill O’Reilly. But over the years,I have found O’Reilly to be the best neutral reporter I have heard since Mr. Murrow. You don’t get the bias reporting that one gets when listening to you or Beck, which must be why Bill is the top dog in Cable news. You could learn from Bill, Oh and having met Bill before I don’t think I would say what you say about him face to face. He just might lose it and their would be no more Olberman.

    If you and Beck continue down the current path of vercbal confrontation all you will accomplish is to push we independents to vote for people neither of you can stand. Thank you for the forum.

  11. dan flynn permalink
    September 17, 2009 5:38 pm

    Keith, listened to you again tonight, and I must say I just cannot believe your emotional dishonesty. You sat their and fawned about the late Sen Kennedy and his fight to get national health care reform in the presence of his son. Paying your respects to the late senator may be a laudible thing to do, yet you followed with his fight to change the very law that was passed mostly with his backing to have a sitting senator that leaves his office for any reason to be filled by a special election in five months. This was only going to be done because the democrats in MA did not want the sitting governor Mitt Romney (republican) appointing a new senator if John Kerry was elected to the precidency or vp. Now just because he has passed away and you and your ilk can use this as an emotional tool, evidently it will be ok to change again to have the governor (a democrat) appoint the vacant senators seat. Shame on you and all of the rest of your dishonest cohorts.

  12. Carlos Varner permalink
    December 2, 2009 2:17 am

    I remember watching a conversation between Keith and Rachael on how to debate Sean Hannity. Could it get any more pathetic? I don’t like it when O’Reilly brings up his ratings and the competition but overall, he’s got a really good show.


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