January 22, 2011

GOOD NIGHT, KEITH OLBERMANN, AND GOOD LUCK TO US ALL


I was wrong.

Now that's words you don't hear me say often. Not because I have problems saying them, I don't. But I am not very often wrong. I apologise for being this arrogant. I had thought that Comcast (run by people with a very well-known rightwing slant) would not be that stupid. I mean, rule number one in a take-over is to calm down the public, the politicians you haven't bribed yet, to make it all hush-hush.

What you don't do?

You don't have your public persona number one quit/get fired/shown the door less than 72 hours after your merger has been approved. And having myself some experiences with this kind of thing, let me just say this. Despite what all parties involved will tell you publicly, some really nasty shit must have gone down in the past 72 hours.

And Keith Olbermann is out.

[UPDATE INSERT] And no, in this case I don't think he quit. I wrote the first draft of this post before I could see all of the signing off. I am not going to change what I wrote up there. It would be cheating. It would be dishonest. It would be lying. Instead, this here will be an insert, so that you can see my updated thoughts at the right location within this post, and make up your own mind.

Note very carefully the wording at the beginning of this piece. "... what I have been told: that this is the last show". What he had been told. It is an odd wording for someone, if he had quit himself. I believe that he had been yanked. Strangely, the only one in the mediasphere who apologised for even the most inadvertend use of "violent imagery" coming from himself. Strangely, the only one who - after Jon Stewart skewered him - publicly went and said, yeah, he was right. I was over the top.

It isn't just for his comments that Keith Olbermann's run at MSNBC should be remembered.

It is for these moments as well. For the moments where he stated "I was wrong."

It is a difficult thing to say. It separates the men (and women) from the robotic machinations called moderators, called hosts that are what is eating the journalistic side of modern mass media, those who have become so common that they are now the mainstream, rushing through the cable channel's veins, through the internet's arteries, and in their wake, only lies and deceit follow.

And they never say that they are wrong.

And they think, they genuinely are programmed to think that this makes them...better.

For if you are never wrong, nothing what you do can ever be wrong, and thus the truth?

Is malleable. It serves you, and you do not serve it. [END/UPDATE INSERT]



In my case with NBC Europe, way back when... I told my gainful employers that I would finally like to see my work contract. You know, the one that gives me certain rights and duties and proof of e.g. a health insurance. And that had been "forgotten", "delayed" and "was with another department" at NBC Europe at one time or another.

Until I had it. Not the work contract, mind you, but my fill.

I gave my programming directors one beautiful morning exactly until the beginning of the show at 3 PM to cough up the work contract. I didn't threaten. Threats are meaningless to people like that. They are so secure in their arrogance that they think you'd never follow up on a threat anyway.

What I did have? A plan, of course.

See, if you don't have a work contract, you don't really have any duties. For further reading, I suggest to look through the posts here that are labeled "The Truth Shall Set Your Free", because I have seen more shit dumped in front of my feet, always by the same type of people, than I care to report on.

And so, obviously, I didn't get any reply. And I prepped for the show.

Until exactly ten minutes before three.

When I stood up, said good-bye to the other hosts in the studio and told them that I'd go home now. They were perplexed. Unlike me, they had bought (and would continue to buy) into the whole "tv star career thing". Me? I had thought I'd be doing editorial work, but when they told me that I'd be hosting the show's news segment, I went "fuck, this is not what you want, but okay... what is the harm in trying?"

And I am not going to tell you all about the various little and bigger shit storms at NBC Europe that made me, for the first time really, realise that these things are not run by professionals, by people who live up to what I considered to be professional standards, neither legally nor journalistically.

Instead I will tell you now, for the first time ever, what happened on that day.

I drove home. The show started.

They had no proper news host (see, the other thing they didn't do was to prep for the eventuality that some of us might get sick), and they did what every corporation would do.

They lied to their audience.

They told the audience, most of them geek kids, boys and girls, that I was ill.

They said that on the air.

But they hadn't counted on one thing. The NBC GIGA show was the first of its kind. It was truly interactive. And I actually took that seriously. In my time there I had answered every email personally, gave each and everyone who send me a link or just wanted to say "hi" a personal response, something I did every morning, long before the other hosts even arrived at the studio. And when I was not hosting my segment, I would spend most of my time in the NetBeat chat room, because I felt (and still feel) that if you are doing this type of interactive experience, if you tell your audience that the hosts will be available for you to talk to, that is exactly what you do.

You talk to them. You are there for them. You listen.

And so I watched the show at home. And I watched them lie on the air.

And I logged on from my home computer and went to my own chatroom. Where my kids were wondering how I could have fallen ill, I looked fine and dandy the day before. And I told them the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.

I told them I had quit. I told them they had not given us work contracts. I told them that they worked us impossible hours. I told them the truth.

And here is how I know why any system, any system at all that is based on corruption and lies should be afraid of those who watch, of those who are out there, the normal people, the ones who they think are merely a statistic, a number, a cipher, some nameless, faceless blob that is there to consume, to stare blindly at their television screens.

Once they knew it was me who was there with them, the information spread like a wildfire. Through whispered chats. Through emails. Through the entire system. And the shitstorm flew up into the faces of those who are in their offices and think they are untouchable, because most of the times, they are. Most of the times they cannot be touched, for we won't do it, we won't show them who's boss, really.

But it takes, sometimes, not very often, but sometimes... only one person standing up and telling the truth. And as much as they tried to correct it later, as much as they tried to cover it up, they lost a lot of their "geek" audience on that day.

Later that night, the head of NBC Europe called me up, all frustrated and at the same time angry (you know how these sociopaths always get angry when their dog starts to bite them?) and asked me, "Thomas, what did you do?"

"I exposed you as an asshole," I said. "Oh, and yes, I quit."

"What did you do?"

"What part of 'I quit' is difficult for you to understand? Would you like me to get you a dictionary? You lied, you cheated, and maybe you can do that to the others in that group, they ll got stars in their eyes, but not me. I was hired to do a job. And for that job, I expected a contract. And something that was verifiable."

Now, the reason that I am telling you this here is not to glorify myself, get your pity or your understanding. I care about none of those. I am telling you this to show you that in Keith Olberman's case, there was very likely something similar that happened in those past 72 hours. And yes, you should not pity him, for he will have very likely walked out with a lot of money, and I didn't, but the point still stands.

He was somebody the new regime did not like. I would have expected a slower pull-out, something that then could be covered up by the usual phrases, like "Keith would like to spend more time with his family. He is exploring other opportunities. He and the network are experiencing creative difficulties."

Whenever you hear those phrases, know this.

They stand for "The little motherfucker stopped being a good, little doggie and forgot who his masters are."

Good night to you, Keith Olbermann.

I may not have agreed with you all these times, but you were a clear, succinct voice in the darkness, you knew how to argue, how to analyse, how to formulate. Good night, Mr. Olbermann, for one final time, and to all of us... good luck.

We are going to need it.

P.S. Later on, while I was at Future Publishing, some of the other hosts at NBC GIGA told me that management had finally given them work contracts and better hours after I had done what I did. Management had become very nervous, all over sudden, of more exposure of their little media sweat shop, see? One of the hosts thanked me, privately. No, I am not going to tell you which one it was. It was a private thank you, and it shall remain just that. But it was also for the first time that I knew, with quite some certainity, that there are too many in the media industry that you can guide, that those who work in it are very often the most cowardly of people. Pretending to stand up for others, never more. Pretending.

But quite unable to stand up, quite unwilling to fight for themselves.