Editorial: Why Keith Olberman’s Ouster is Good for Progressives

Keith Olberman‘s ouster is Good for Progressives… This is what author Hadji Williams aka Black Cansenco notes in this editorial as he brings to light a stewing concern amongst many people of Color and their relationship with the Progressive Left.  Are they really listening and should we continue to go along to get along?…This essay brings some heat and will make many feel angry or uncomfortable, but will be cheered and embraced by many more. -Davey D-


by Black Canseco


I’ve seen probably a terabyte’s worth of corporate layoffs and firings in my time—including a couple of my own. And the only time somebody gets shown the door in under a couple hours’ notice Keith Olbermann was is when it’s part of massive layoffs, outright firings due to insubordination, or to distance the company from impending illegal action or perceived emerging PR nightmare.

Now at this point, I’m not accusing Comcast or @KeithOlbermann of any of the above. In fact, I’m content to take the word of all involved that this is nothing more than a straightforward business decision—a numbers’ game (salary + ratings not adding up) and a mutual parting of the ways.

My real concern is the pitchforks ‘n’ torches mentality that mushroomed seconds after Olbermann’s final sign-off. Within hours, Twitter, Facebook and every left-wing online community was filled with OMGs , SMDH, *facepalms*, WTFs and F**k Comcast!… Online petitions to boycott Comcast and MSNBC and get Olbermann back on the air had hit my in-box by dinnertime Friday. Online groups and pages were formed to @draftOlbermann to run for US Senate out of Conneticut. (I’m sure the boys at Bristol would be his biggest campaign donors.) Folks are even being asked to pressure our congress reps to launch an investigation and to determine if Olbermann’s ouster is related to media monopolies or Net Neutrality. Folks are even wondering if Rupert Murdoch somehow cut a backroom deal with Comcast to get Olbermann canned. (Why else would Comcast merge with NBC Universal but to fire Olbermann?)

Are you effin’ kidding me?

I swear haven’t seen White Liberals this wound up since Conan left NBC. (Word to #teamcoco.)

Lookit: I’m an independent; but on most issues, I’m probably about as left as it gets. But now way in hell am I strapping on sandwich boards and cocking back my bullhorn just because a loud snarky white guy with a guaranteed $14 million salary for 2011 and more job offers than all the unemployed folk I know combined just lost his op-ed show.

And it’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I don’t care enough about one guy to canonize him as our Obi Wan Keith-nobi. (And for a guy not shy about his atheist leanings, Olbermann probably finds all this secular sainthooding thing we’re doing a little childish.) And this is a major problem with Dems and so-called Progressive Liberals. For all our self-sanctimony about big tents, inclusion, coalitions and dialogue, we actually idolize and demagogue way more than we educate and engage.

In the last five years, the Left’s increasingly myopic pedestal-erecting, starfucker mentality has reduced most discourse on our own side to only what the current holy trinity of Olbermann, Maddow and Jon Stewart acknowledge. And now that “they” “got” Olbermann, we’re in mourning like he caught a couple rounds while on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. (I guess you could sub Bill Maher for Keith, and add Stephen Colbert and Arianna Huffington or Joan Walsh to round out a Prog Fab Five.)

As someone whose family descends from slavery and knows the civil rights struggle fairly intimately, I (along with most African Americans) have long accepted something that very few White Liberals understand: “Never hitch everything you ride for on one horse—because sooner or later, they’ll (figuratively or literally) shoot that horse.”

Again, I’m not saying that anyone was out to get Olbermann. Not at all. What I am saying is this is a great opportunity for the Left to learn from the right and broaden the number and range of voices and views that we cleave to.

For example: when it comes to news sources, the Left is still way to myopic and homogenized—both ideologically and culturally. Short of Tamron Hall, MSNBC’s formula seems to be “White, snarky Liberal host + Favored Person Of Color Of The Moment as guest sidekick.”

Just because Obama’s in office and Oprah started a network doesn’t mean Black, Hispanics, Asian, and other People of Color should be relegated to playing rotating Robin’s to whichever White Liberal Batman (or Batgirl) the networks prop up.

But it’s not just MSNBC that’s guilty of this. All the major channels operate this way, with nary a peep of objection from the masses of White Liberal/Progessive Democrats.. And this blind spot extends online.

The great irony of social media’s explosion is how anti-social and homogenized the Left’s presence is. If your information or perspective isn’t co-signed by the likes of DaliyKos, HuffPo and Salon or even TPM, you have little or no voice among Progs/Democrats. And if you run a blog that seems to highlight issues disproportionately affecting Liberals of color—gentrification, inner city education, crime, prison reform, jobs, discrimination, lack of representation in Congress, etc.—White liberals tune you out. (It’s no secret that one of Obama’s biggest hurdles in a probably re-election bid his long-dwindling support among White self-identified Liberals and Independents.)

And before anyone pulls the “I Voted 4 Obama!” card, Obama is just one guy. That you helped elect him doesn’t mean you get to ignore the voices and issues relevant to over 100 million Americans of African-, Hispanic-, Asian-, Native-, and Middle Eastern descent. But with very few exceptions, this is exactly what the Left is doing and has been doing for a quite while now.

Until so-called Progressive and Liberal Democrats diversify our own range of voices, discussions, influencers and leadership at every level—politically, economically, digitally and journalistically, we’ll never be mobile enough, flexible enough, resilient enough to be effective in 2012, 2014 or any year any time soon.

Then again we could ignore all this and just focus on important questions like “How long before Maddow and Stewart get canned?” and “When will Obama get mad at the right instead of his base?”

6 comments on “Editorial: Why Keith Olberman’s Ouster is Good for Progressives

  1. From one independent to another, good points raised about the Democrats, progressives, or liberals or whatever pop name is in vogue. And the quoted point, “Never hitch everything you ride for on one horse—because sooner or later, they’ll (figuratively or literally) shoot that horse.” is so true. Too often, the black community places all their bets, hopes, views, etc in one basket without hedging the options available. And then is disappointed by the outcome due to the lack of diversifying your options. And the Democrats, progressives, liberals, etc know this and continue to ride it till the wheels fall off.

  2. Here are your overarching points:

    1. He’s a rich (white) guy with opportunities, compared to poor (black) people with opportunities few-to-none, so why should anyone care? This is jealousy.

    2. This jealousy has blinded you to the simplest fact of the story; Olberman fights for liberal ideals and defends democrats. Dems lost a fighter and don’t know if he’ll be back. That’s it. It’s not rocket science.

    3. You over and over inject race into the issue, when race has nothing to do with this story one bit. The fact that you inject race so frequently shows you’re no better then those bigots at Faux News. Fire with fire? No, you fight fire with water. You refer to Martin in this article but you don’t understand his teachings, so don’t use his name for this race-baiting crap.

    4. A ‘-1’ for white liberals is not a ‘+1’ for africans. White liberals are on our (african) side about as much as you can ask for. Try to repay this favor by not playing the oppressed card so frequently and in such bad taste.

    Also, my Great-Great-Grandfather was a slave and you know what? It’s never come up in my everyday life, yet you manage to somehow use their suffering as some sort of badge of honor. Shameful.

    My advice: Grow up dude, because nobody gives a shit.

  3. As a lefty, I did not “hitch my horse” to Keith alone and I believe you are wrong to say that is broadly true. When Keith arrived are started articulating a left wing point of view, to me it was like here was a voice that single-handedly was going to challenge Fox.

    He is smart, tough on management, cantankerous-sound like anybody you know at Fox? To say what he did perhaps took that kind of approach. Sure there are other ways but it was his way. He added to the almost non-existent “diversity” about which you are concerned. What’s wrong with that?- I get it-he wasn’t perfect. So what?

    The fact he got paid a lot-so what again? If he was smart enough to wangle that kind of contract, it’s call enterprise.

  4. white liberals do not help blacks as much as they can. How stupid. 10 years ago the whole country would be on Oscar Grant’s side, and would have called for Don Imus’s head. Today the country was split in half over these issues, with white liberals about 50/50 on each side. Many liberal whites became much more racist over the Bush era. I think this was one bone the white left was willing to throw to the right after 9/11. ‘Just let us have our civil rights, you can have the blacks and Latinos. Have at it with your gang injunctions. Fuck ’em. They’re thugs.’, etc. That’s what I’m seeing.

  5. People need to stop being shocked to find out that their problems are more important to themselves than to others. That is human nature. A white liberal can be supportive but you can’t expect them all to be John Brown. Especially if they’ve read what became of John Brown 😉

    So long as they replace him with another liberal voice no one’s mad. Cenk Uyger from TYT would be a great improvement. Muslim born Turkish guy with a black producer and Mexican director.

    But for the sake of discussion. What is the obligation of a successful white liberal in media? Already they are in the position of having to bite the hand that feeds them on a daily basis, the margin for error is much smaller than conservatives who’s message is that of their bosses so there’s no conflict. A liberal’s racial goal is the equality of opportunity, in practice that is still going to lead to a majority of non blacks due to 87% of americans not being black. When they do give shine to black people it’s a bat man to robin situation. That’s the dumbest point the author makes. As if a person is supposed to work their entire careers to get their own show then immediately hand it over to a black guy and take second billing. It’s a lose lose situation as far Black Conseco goes.

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