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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Friday, November 12, 2010

    Keith Olbermann and MSNBC

    For those who haven't been following it, MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann for violating an MSNBC policy that says commentators should not make political donations. They did this despite the fact that their right wing commentator, Joe Scarborough, makes political donations all the time with no consequences. After a HUGE outcry from Olbermann fans (including myself) MSNBC relented.

    There are three things to note here.

    1. Olbermann and Scarborough are doing exactly what most Fox News commentators do ALL THE TIME. The fact that MSNBC has a rule against it is clear evidence that MSNBC has at least marginally more integrity than Fox News. Rachel Maddow expresses this difference very well:

    The fact that MSNBC has this rule and enforces it (sometimes) is not inherently bad (though see one caveat in point 3 below). In fact, as Rachel shows, it is CLEAR evidence that Fox News is really the bottom feeder of cable talk shows while MSNBC is far, far better.

    2. The fact that MSNBC held Olbermann to a higher standard than Scarborough is clearly unfair. It is assumed that this shows the bias of the right wing owner of MSNBC and the fact that they showed ANY bias whatsoever in enforcement detracts from the sense of integrity that the rule itself gives us. This bias was the main reasoning behind the call for Olbermann's reinstatement.

    3. I do wonder whether this rule violates civil liberties. To what degree can an employer limit one's ability to exercise your freedom of expression through political donations (and according to the Citizens United case and the ACLU position is that such political donations, even if made by a corporation, are protected as freedom of expression)? Obviously employers do put restrictions on their employees. And rules made by private corporations are different than rules made by the government. However, a private corporation is not allowed to stifle at will an employees freedom of speech. Does this rule by MSNBC, even though it is (if enforced in an unbiased manner) done in the interests of integrity, violate the commentators' freedom of expression? I am not versed enough in this kind of law to have a firm stance here. No one I know has brought this issue up.

    So I say welcome back Keith Olbermann and kudos to Rachel Maddow for her excellent comments on the issue. I complement MSNBC on having higher standards than Fox News though that a.) may be damning with faint praise and b.) is negated if they enforce the rule unfairly.

    Let me end by saying I ENCOURAGE all my readers to watch Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Quite simply they are both intelligent, liberal people who are amazingly able to be both rational and passionate about political issues and express both their rationality and passion in an articulate, engaging manner. To date, they are the ONLY cable talk show hosts I have enjoyed watching and between them and Current TV's Vanguard series I find you can get amazingly good coverage of world news and politics, far better than you can from any other television source.


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