Throwback Thursday: “Lonesome Olbermann” Plays the Snobbish Culture Card

griffithKeith Olbermann really ripped into Glenn Beck tonight. I didn’t tape it, and I don’t want to wait for the repeat, but trust me, KO ripped into GB. But there’s a problem: In attacking Beck so feverishly, Olby let slip more of his own persnickety persona. It seems that Beck committed the great crime, in Olbermann’s eyes, of misspelling the word “oligarchy”–the Fox man left off the “c.”

Is that a big deal, or not? Most people would say “no.” But instead, KO made a huge deal out of it, and then went into a generalized diatribe against Fox News viewers. You read that right: Olbermann didn’t just attack Fox News (his usual term is “Fixed News”), but went after Fox News viewers. Nothing really new there, either–Olbermann has called them “racists” in the past, and tonight he added, “stupid,” I think. You get the idea.

But tonight Olbermann used another telling cultural reference. He repeatedly referred to Beck as “‘Lonesome’ Rhodes.” Who? Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes was the character played by Andy Griffith in the 1957 movie, “A Face in the Crowd.” The Rhodes character is a genial, southern-fried, entertainer, who gets his own network TV show, only to be revealed, at the end of the movie, as a bad guy. Indeed, he is revealed as a nogoodnik on live television, to the horror of his gullible fans, thus destroying his appeal and ruining his career.

“Face” is a good movie, directed by the great Elia Kazan, but at the same time, it is undeniably a film for snobbish liberals, the kind who look down on a) TV and b) Middle America. In this Hollywood telling, those Middle American TV watchers are portrayed as simple-minded boobs–the kind who would fall for a vaguely Elmer Gantry-esque huckster such as Lonesome Rhodes. It’s nice that at the end of the movie the “booboisie” is rescued from its ignorance by the egregious nastiness of Lonesome, but as the film makes clear, Lonesome’s rottenness had to be spelled out for the full folks watching him on the boob tube. Spelled out IN BIG LETTERS. Otherwise, the simple dolts never would’ve figured it. (Although, of course, the movie audience is in on the truth about Lonesome all along during the film.) That’s snobbish liberalism for you, in 1957.

And a half century later, in 2009, nothing has changed. Olbermann assumes that the Fox audience is dumb–heck, he says that they are dumb.

But the question, for 2009, is who is the real demagogue? Who thinks that his audience is dumb, so dumb that it will fall for anything? It seems to The Cable Gamer that it’s the MSNBC audience that is being duped.

Oh sure, MSNBC watchers think that they are in on the joke–that by watching “Countdown,” the folks at home can join in on the snobbish fun. But of course, for the smug world of Manhattan-based liberals, ordinary Americans aren’t welcome, even if they are fellow liberals. For the Town Car Crowd–Olbermann and his coterie of usual-suspect guests, Lawrence O’Donnell, Arianna Huffington, Howard Fineman, there’s no need to include any superfluous ordinary Americans, the kind who have no business being in the Hamptons. (Dana Milbank and Richard Wolffe are no longer invited to Olbermann’s televised Republican-bashing fest.)

No, instead, MSNBC fans, the vast majority of them, will be stuck paying higher taxes, waiting in line for health care, and being left unemployed by cap-and-trade legislation, if that disastrous legislation passes. And at that point, the MSNBC masses–the ones without trust funds and TV contracts–will realize that they can’t afford to insulate themselves from the consequences of limousine liberalism, for the simple reason that they lack limousines.

As for Olbermann, when he curls his lip and snarls at the camera, who thinks that he is just making fun of conservatives? It’s obvious that he is mocking everyone, channeling his own inner H.L. Mencken. (Yes, Mencken was a conservative, for the most part, but above all else, Mencken was a snob, who appealed to the smart set without regard to ideology–because the shared ideology was epater la bourgeoisie.)

Does that make KO “the worst person in the world”? Well, I report, you decide. But I think that Americans of all “political colors”–red, purple, and, yes, even middle-class blue–will soon enough figure out what the real Olbermann is like. The camera doesn’t lie.

So if there’s a Lonesome on the airwaves, it’s Keith Olbermann, not Glenn Beck. His own “Lonesome”-like meltdown is coming. It’s just a matter of time.

That’s a screen grab from “A Face in the Crowd,” above, suitably updated.

Original comments:

Anonymous said…
you,ve nailed keith! i have felt for yrs that keith is just playing his audience to see how many people he could dupe with his “righteous indignation” at all things “not progressive”. he reminds me of a marxist organizer from the fifties–all rhetoric and hate, with no concern for any but his ideology.

Jim Sullivan said…
I happened to catch the show last night. My wife was working late (she won’t let me watch it because I turn purple and my BP skyrockets).

I think what was worse than the Glenn Beck Diatribes was the shameless demogoguery regarding the Healthcare Reform Bill. Disgusting.

Anonymous said…
But the idiot too stupid to duck getting on a train hurting that 4 chin head of his forgot to mention of course that Beck “C” out intentionally to get to his point on Friday that the “C” was for all of Obama’s FASCIST CZARS. Oralwomann, dumber than a brick and his viewer’s, all 2 of them, dumber than shit

Anonymous said…
This article is crap. You and the Fox News viewers are the ones who are the brainwashed sheep. Keith Olbermann is just exposing how vile, hateful, and crazy Glenn Beck and the rest of the right wing radicals over at Faux News really are. Keith is exposing the truth behind these slimeballs over at Fox that everyone else is afraid to criticize. Obviously, you are a radical conservative yourself for writing such nonsense in this article defending the scum over at Faux News. People who watch crazy maniacs like Glenn Beck or any of the other conservative extremists on Fox and actually take them seriously are dumber than shit! Fox News is designed for poorly educated rednecks who do not know a damn thing and are too stupid to think for themselves. Keith Olbermann’s job is to point out the blatant lies and right wing propaganda that the corporate assholes over at Fox brainwash their poorly educated viewers with.

John said…
Glenn Beck is Lonesome Rhodes! He poisons people’s minds and alienates them from not only truth but also race and culture and truth! And he does it by lying. So old KO did exactly what he is there to do, and that would be come out with the truth about the crap that the right likes to talk about and start talking back to their snide remarks and lies. Not enough liberals do it. Listen to all you conservative airheads who just badmouth and talk and talk and talk. Lie and lie and lie. Twist everything and anything. Keith is one of the few who steps forward and does it back. But his talent and key is that he just repeats what you guys say. Anyone watching Faux “News” is not too bright. Even conservatives know that they lie all the time. So long, Lonesome Rhode followers.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 31 August 2009

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