Thursday, May 14, 2009

The What the Fuck!? Files Vol. 7: Keith Olbermann Rips Me Off

Keith Olbermann recently debuted a regular segment on his show that seems to suggest that Olbermann may be a Nexus reader.

In a segment entitled the WTF!?! Moment -- which seems very similar to the Nexus' What the Fuck!? Files -- Olbermann takes some time out to complain about Carrie Prejean's recent complaints that her freedom of speech had been violated.

Olbermann rightly notes that the United States Bill of Rights, as entrenched in the United States Constitution via Ten Amendments, only provides decisive protection from governmental oppression of free speech.

Olbermann continues to argue that her employer could deny her the right to freedom of speech, noting that his own employer, CNBC, could deny him freedom of speech. As such, nothing Prejean said about same-sex marriage is actually subject to protection.

But Olbermann's argument fails on two key tenets.

First, Prejean made her comments in the course of a question asked by Perez Hilton, a question she was obligated to answer as part of the contest she was participating in. Olbermann's employer may be justified in taking him off the air if, indeed, he made comments that were deemed outside the realm of professionalism.

But the matter would be very different if Olbermann's producer asked him a question about a political issue and was given a question they decided they didn't like.

Second, Constitutional convention has treated the First Amendment very differently from the manner in which Olbermann describes it. There are countless cases of individuals suing for retaliation against them after the exercise of their free speech.

Amusingly, if asked, Olbermann would likely describe himself as a progressive, or at least as a liberal.

Yet Olbermann's depiction of freedom of expression as applicable to Prejean puts him distinctly at odds with the kind of free environment that is needed for liberal pluralism to survive. Robert B Talisse has noted that in order for liberalism to be truly viable, more is needed than simply legal protection of free speech. Rather, a culture of free speech -- in which public deliberation on matters of import, such as same-sex marriage -- is actively encouraged of people regardless of whatever opinion they may hold on the topic.

If Prejean were someone being censured for supporting same-sex marriage one can fully expect that Olbermann would react very differently to her plight. This is the base hypocrisy at the core of Olbermann's stance on this particular matter.

One should expect better from someone who is supposed to be a respected journalist, but Olbermann strays from the ill-conceived directly to the comical.

In addressing the recent "scandalous" photos of Prejean, Olbermann insists that the photos couldn't have been taken without Prejean's authorization because she's looking at the camera in each photo. Except, she isn't. In one of the photos -- the one with the clearly visible pre-implant breast -- Prejean is very clearly looking away from the camera.

She even has her hands up as if she's been adjusting her hair, for fuck's sake! For fuck's sake, Keith!

In the other photo, the exposure of the nipple is actually so slight that it's clearly more attributable to a Janet Jackson-esque "wardrobe malfunction" than to any willingness on Prejean's behalf to submit to a risque photo.

The utterly comical thing about that aspect of the entire affair is that very few people honestly consider the finished product of these photo shoots to be scandalous or risque. Aside from those milking these photos out of political motivations, one would have to travel to the most conservative depths of the Bible belt in order to find someone who would find them scandalous.

But it's amazing the extent to which Olbermann is willing to mortgage his journalistic credibility -- then default -- in order to contribute to the personal destruction of Carrie Prejean.

It's really the kind of thing that makes a person scratch their head and say "what the fuck" -- and we were doing that here first.

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