Keith Olbermann


“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Many have adopted that Eleanor Roosevelt quote as a guiding principle in their lives. Powerful ideas have enabled great advances in technology and have inspired the masses to take action, both for good as well as ill. But like any piece of wisdom, it can be misapplied and dogmatically adhered to in a way that is simply self serving.

The Haiti earthquake is seen by the religious right as an opportunity to spread the evangelical version of christianity, and to hell with the haitian people? Others on the extreme right have used the Haiti earthquake and President Obama’s response to it as their latest vehicle for their not so subtle racist views.

Naturally this disgusts those commentators seen as carrying the progressive banner:

Historical context only serves to magnify the depths to which those exploiting Haiti to push their ideology have really sunk:

And that is not even considering US and France’s involvement in the overthrow of exiled ex-president Aristide. It is very easy to anger those with more centrist views by highlighting the spokes people for religious and racist superiority.  Free market ideology is another matter, but deserves an equal amount of scrutiny and perhaps a comparable level of outrage.

There are times when we need to be thinking with what Eleanor Roosevelt calls a “small mind”. This is one such time.

The trouble with treating all basic science research as an earmark in the same class as that infamous bridge to nowhere, are all those nasty unintended consequences.

Is it now a scientist’s responsibility to defend the funding of basic research against cuts made by a Christian fundamentalist who denies anthropogenic global warming, defends creationism being taught alongside evolution as science, entertains thoughts of banning books, and believes she needs protection from witchcraft?

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann also weighs in:

It was no surprise that the right-wing response to Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment criticising Bush’s out of touch statements (lores version at C&L) would be both vociferous and personal. However, much to his credit, Olbermann acknowledged in his response to these personal attacks that a key principle in depth psychology was at play.

(Original at MSNBC, lores version at C&L)

It is perhaps instructive, that to the right-wing commentators, and the right-wing blogs, those terms should first evoke not the war-mongers of the Pentagon or the gun-men from Blackwater but U.S. troops.

“I cannot imagine that kind of evil knee-jerk reflex. I feel very sorry for those who have shown it.

It seems to me that these right-wingers have inadvertently shown their true colors, their instinctive hatred of and contempt for, these self-sacrificing Americans, who have been needlessly placed in harm’s way by these very commentators and the politicians they support.

They hear criticism of our nation’s collective conduct in Iraq, and immediately assume it’s the fault of the soldiers.”

Olbermann recognised that his critics were projecting their own subconscious hatred for US soldiers onto him, and then attacking him for carrying what is essentially their own shadow. In the words of depth psychologist, C. G. Jung:

“We still attribute to the other fellow all the evil and inferior qualities that we do not like to recognize in ourselves, and therefore have to criticize and attack him, when all that has happened is that an inferior “soul” has emigrated from one person to another. The world is still full of betes noires and scapegoats, just as it formerly teemed with witches and werewolves”

Those who fail to recognise they are subconsciously projecting their shadow on anyone they disagree with are often considered to be, in Jungian terms, not totally enlightened and self-realised:

Every person who is not totally enlightened and self-realised has an “ego” (that) is full of lower emotional poison (toward) its own ugliness and imperfection… it cannot acknowledge this ugliness in itself, because to do so would shatter the narcissistic illusion of its own wonderfulness and specialness, and confront it with its true nature. The result would be either madness or a spiritual self-judgement by which the ego is forced to confront its own negativity. Therefore, in order to maintain its own equilibrium, its own sanity in other words, as psychological defence mechanism, the ego has to constantly project its ugliness onto an appropriate scapegoat.

This is how they cope with their unacknowledged and repressed psychic contents, which can only be tolerated as hatred for another, for a pereceived enemy who has slighted them or their family or tribe or culture or ethnicity or nation or religion or ideology.

This happens everywhere, prejudice, bigotry, intolerance, xenophobia, fear and hatred of the “other” are universal. … Only one who has totally gone beyond the limitation of their finite self, and realised their identity with the Supreme, will no longer project their ego-ideal onto those they identify with, and their shadow onto all those they choose to scapegoat, whether out of prejudice picked up from parents or peers or social condition, or whether these are people who have slighted or insulted the object of ego-identification, or who even if they haven’t are paranoidly misinterpreted as wanting to or actually doing so.

Prolonged failure to acknowledge one’s shadow can lead to what Jung termed possession:

A term used to describe the identification of consciousness with an unconscious content or complex. The most common forms of possession are by the shadow and the contrasexual complexes, anima/animus. A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps. Whenever possible, he prefers to make an unfavorable impression on others.

What sort of impression does this Olbermann critic prefer to convey?

According to Gerhard Wehr, those possessed by their shadow act out in the voice of the shadow without consciously choosing to do so and often without realizing this is happening. He mentions that mob psychology can make one particularly vulnerable to shadow projection. Psychology of the mob may be the best explanation for why those most likely to misinterpret criticism of the Bush administration as an attack on the troops, are the very same people who defend actions that would increase US soldiers’ exposure to danger and who refuse to support improvements in veteran benefits.

According to Wehr, an essential step towards the path to what Jung calls individuation, is to acknowledge when one is projecting or being possessed by one’s shadow, and refusing to let our personality be dominated by this. Many cultures have historically provided spiritual support for this journey through shared rituals. Many are starting to believe that modern western civilization fails to provide this much needed support. Perhaps all the scapegoating that pundits carry out night and day over mainstream media are a reflection of a society lacking in meaningful ritual. Through shadow projection visible enemies are conjured up so that the mob can commence a verbal stoning of the devil. It is as if the unindividuated have substituted their own inferior rituals as a release for a spiritual calling for inner reflection that they refuse to acknowledge and yet cannot ignore.

Keith Olbermann explains once again why we have Godwin’s law. This time Tom Delay is the target.

It was only last month when Olbermann gave Condi Rice a history lesson on why her Godwin transgression was so serious.

Olbermann’s obsession with the bad Hitler analogies invoked by the right has a long track record. When Rumsfeld was still in a position to entertain the press he likened his role to those who fought Fascism, but Keith Olbermann challenged this view of history, comparing his absolutism about Iraq to that of the Neville Chamberlain government in Britain who appeased Hitler based on faith rather than evidence.

Before moving up to such big fish Keith Olbermann practiced his Godwin Law enforcement skills on smaller fry such as the conservative talkshow host, Bill O’Reilly. In defending the US actions at Haditha, Iraq in 2005, Bill cited the events of Malmedy during World War II where a war time massacre occurred. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, he was in effect equating US soldiers with the Nazis.

For the record, it was at Chenogne that US soldiers shot German POWs. Many believe that this was in retaliation for Malmedy. Perhaps Bill O’Reilly found “Malmedy” easier to pronounce/remember.

Keith Olbermann now recommends anyone tempted to invoke a poor Nazi comparison to go do some ressearch on the Internet (his favorite search engine must be Google, despite working for MSNBC). I’ve already done some of that research for them and found what could be a fitting successor to the Nazis when it comes to historical analogies:

The Stasi – sounds like Nazi and plus, they’re German – East German to be precise. They maintained a civilian network of informants both home and abroad. Their domestic spying operation is estimated to have had 1 in every 50 citizens collaborating with the secret police, monitoring politically incorrect behaviour.

The Stasi compiled dossiers on East German citizens. The files found after the regime fell would make a stack 112 miles high. (And God knows how much material had already disappeared; in the final days before the Berlin Wall fell, the Stasi destroyed paper with such manic enthusiasm that every shredder in the country burned out, forcing agents to cross to the West on one last hard-currency shopping spree.) Virtually every living person in East Germany had a file in the Stasi archives, up to and including Communist Party chief Erich Honecker—who, when the files were declassified by the government of the new unified Germany, quickly asked to see his.

The Stasi knew everything about you, including your smell. Its agents routinely broke into apartments to steal soiled underwear, which it would store in sealed jars, to be used later by sniffer dogs prowling the sites of illegal meetings.

The agency was authorized to conduct secret smear campaigns against anyone it judged to be a threat; this might include sending anonymous letters and making anonymous phone calls to blackmail the targeted person. Torture was an accepted method of getting information. They employed sleep and sensory deprivation in the interrogation process. Does this sound like someone you know today?

Despite all this surveillance the Stasi failed to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall, though they did manage to realise the Orwellian nightmare. The problem of the vacuum cleaner policy for national security is likened to finding a needle in a haystack by adding more hay. Agents get swamped with too much information they waste valuable resources investigating dead ends.

The caveat with any historical analogy still applies. One can only take it so far before the parallels no longer hold up.

On Monday, a mainstream US news outlet (NBC) finally calls the war in Iraq a civil war. Of course this has led to a “civil” war of words within the media. Jon Stewart lampooned this debate (John Oliver played devils advocate) on The Daily Show. Meanwhile, The Colbert Report shows that the warmongers tend to be very selective of when analogies between the various wars are deemed appropriate.

PS. YouTube still has the Comedy Central purge in force, but MSNBC doesn’t seem to mind at the moment. Let’s see how long that Olbermann clip lasts. One can still find some persistent Daily Show and Colbert Report clips on the Net if one knows where to look.

How the mighty have fallen. The American media are still digesting the mid-term election results, but some have found time to poke fun at the predicament in which the neocons have found themselves. (Keith Olbermann samples a wide cross section of comic political commentary.) But I think CBS’s Craig Ferguson of the Late Late Show had one of the best:

This guy has hidden talents — he folds an origami crane much faster than I can.

PS. Do check out the YouTube comments: “if u watch the bottom of the screen it isnt his hands its sum1 else filmed ova the top” Well, no shit, Sherlock! Award that commenter a Vote Republican button.

In the 1970’s, an appetite-suppressant candy was being marketed to Americans by the Dep Corporation, and was made available in chocolate, butterscotch, caramel and peanut butter flavors. They decided to call their product, AYDS, a name which seemed innocent enough at the time during which it enjoyed strong sales.

What a difference a few years make.

By the mid-80’s fear of the human immuno-deficiency disease, AIDS, pervaded western society and sales of the now unfortunately named dieting product plummeted. Changing circumstances can quickly render proven marketing slogans lethal to one’s goals. This is the fate that befell the warmongering campaign phrase “stay the course” this week as the flaws in the current US policy in Iraq became too big to hide. Progressive blogs and YouTubers were the first to ridicule the revisionist way this policyshift was announced. Keith Olbermann drew attention to the self-contradictory spin (i.e. lying) a number of different times on his show, and his latest eulogy to the now defunct rhetoric nicely summarises the developments of the last week:

However he did forget to mention one member of the “coalition of the willing” who also once used the phrase that everyone now avoids like a bad disease — Tony Blair (used twice in his statement while standing side-by-side with George W. Bush).

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