When better than on a #ThrowbackThursday for The Cable Gamer to run across a surprising reappearance from those thrilling days of yesteryear? The Cable Game 1.0 debuted over 15 years ago. Its mix of inside gossip and pointed snark ignited speculation about who was behind it. The speculation increased exponentially when, some years later, it suddenly closed up shop, disappearing entirely (except for the echoes that could be accessed via the WayBack machine).
And that’s where “New Free Games” comes in. That’s what the header says but the URL tells a different story: “newcablegame.blogspot.com.” At this address you will find hundreds of posts from the original Cable Game blog. Here’s one about Bret Baier. The blog’s treatment of Keith Olbermann was relentlessly unsparing. There’s a handy search box to find posts about your favorite (or unfavorite) cable personalities of the time. A drop-down menu divides the posts into months, but your Cable Gamer couldn’t get it to work. Interspersed with classic TCG posts are occasional entries about video games. No, we don’t know why.
If you want a stroll through cable news history you could do worse than visiting this site before it, like the original, unceremoniously vanishes. Here’s an item involving a fellow named Stelter at the New York Times. The last sentence is eerily prescient.
Checking out MSNBC the last few days there has been a lot of tut-tutting over something Donald Trump said in a Bloomberg interview. Jeb Bush had claimed that George W. Bush “kept us safe,” and that inspired The Donald (belatedly) to respond:
When you talk about George Bush, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.
This simple declarative statement was like the shot heard ’round the world, as Trump opponents and the media (that may be something of a redundancy) leaped to the claim that Trump “blamed Bush for 9/11.” Now The Cable Gamer is no supporter of Mr. Trump and never will be, but she did learn English in grade school and understands the meaning of words. And to say something happened during Bush’s term does not equal “blaming Bush” for it. The purposeful misconstruing of someone’s words is a transparent trick taught in Political Hackery 101, yet because people are blinded by loyalties it seems to work every time. (The treatment of recent remarks by Rep. Kevin McCarthy is another example.) And so an order was placed for several days’ worth of recriminations and heated chatter, and it was served up on your favorite cable channel.
The beauty of this sort of faux controversy is that it can easily be reversed when the situation demands it. So while Maddow can feign astonishment at how Trump “blamed Bush” for 9/11, what happened when Dana Perino said something like what Jeb said about Bush 43 keeping us safe? Media Matters pounced, and eventually showed up on their affiliate network with Lawrence O’Donnell to reinforce their print attacks on Ms. Perino. This MSNBC door swings both ways: it can hit Trumpites and anti-Trumpites alike!
Of course the elephant in the room that MSNBC avoids is their own history in “blaming Bush” for 9/11. Unlike Trump, who said he is not blaming Bush for 9/11, MSNBC actually “went there,” repeatedly. And we’re not just talking about Touré and his insistence that a missile hit the Pentagon. We’re referring to Lawrence O’Donnell, who said George W. Bush “invited” the 9/11 attacks. Lawrence O’Donnell still has his nightly prime time MSNBC show.
And we’re talking Keith Olbermann, comparer of the Bush administration to the Third Reich, who not only blamed George W. Bush for 9/11, but developed his own intricate conspiracy theory: Bush created and announced nonexistent terror threats to increase Republican turnout in elections. It was a smash on extremist websites like Prison Planet as well as the usual suspects among the far-left. This screed, frequently repeated and updated, was replayed during other programs, both opinion shows and ostensible “news” hours. Its perverse lunacy remains unrivaled in the annals of cable news nuttery.
Unlike O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann does not still have his nightly prime time MSNBC show. But wouldn’t you know it, MSNBC may be trying to get him back. And just when Jeb Bush is running for President! It seems like a remarkable coincidence, but just as there is no crying in baseball, there are no coincidences in The Cable Game.
It’s not enough that MSNBC has a serial liar anchoring the biggest news stories on the network. Now, according to the latest scoop from the always-connected Joe Concha, they’re toying with the idea of bringing back their flagship “news anchor,” Keith Olbermann. The Cable Gamer knows all about him. The previous incarnation of this site occasionally cross-posted with Olbermann Watch, whose made it their mission to chronicle (and ridicule) Olby’s world of smears, falsehoods, and outright lies. And no matter how bad you think it was, it was even worse.
Olby attacked Scott Brown with a flat-out false accusation, and never corrected it. He invented and doctored quotes at will to suit his purposes. He lied about facts as required to fit his spin. Olbermann Watch assembled year-end reviews that documented dozens more of the worst.
But it wasn’t just OlbyWatch that was onto Keith’s scam. Other sites, including some on the left, nailed him as well. Bob Somerby detailed how “cosmically wrong” Olbermann and David Shuster (who played Robin to Olby’s Batman) were on a story they gave huge play to. Tommy Christopher nailed Keith for smearing Alan West. And Johnny Dollar notes how quickly an Olbermann Lie spread through the echo chamber.
Mr. Dollar, a sharp Cable Gamer on the topic of Fox News, has documented scores of untrue Olby attacks on FNC, often a nightly feature of Countdown. And when Eric Burns on Reliable Sources said his attacks on Bill O’Reilly were “completely substantiated,” Dollar quickly assembled a plethora of contrary examples:
- Item: Olbermann attacks O’Reilly by lying about what he said.
- Item: Olbermann uses a phony quote to attack O’Reilly.
- Item: Olbermann lies about O’Reilly’s Haiti coverage.
- Item: Olbermann uses doctored quotes to smear O’Reilly and Rupert Murdoch, after being called out does it again.
- Item: Olbermann makes up an attack by O’Reilly, who hadn’t even mentioned him.
- Item: Olbermann doctors an O’Reilly quote to smear him as sub-human.
- Item: Olbermann makes up an O’Reilly quote he never said.
- Item: Olbermann falsifies a quote and lies about an O’Reilly guest.
- Item: Olbermann gets nearly everything wrong in attack on O’Reilly and Jesse Watters.
- Item: Olbermann uses deceptive editing to lie about O’Reilly.
- Item: Olbermann attacks O’Reilly with fraudulent quote; followup.
Dollar goes on to cite Olby attacks on Brit Hume, Neil Cavuto, Major Garrett, and other Foxers. And as bad as some of these write-ups make the “journalism” of Keith Olbermann look, it’s even worse when you see it with your own eyes:
Because of his ego and intransigence, Keith rarely corrected or apologized for his many falsehoods. Instead, he would lie about his own words, or flat out deny he said what he clearly did say:
Do you see why The Cable Gamer thinks rehiring this congenital liar is the worst idea MSNBC could possibly entertain? And we’ve only dealt with his truthfulness, not all the other disturbing elements that are part and parcel of having Olbermann infest your cable news operation, like the temper, the days in the bathtub, the hypocrisy, and the name calling and personal attacks.
MSNBC has enough of a hill to climb with Brian Williams’ credibility problem. Adding Olbermann to that mix would take the simmering honesty question and splash it onto an IMAX screen. In 3-D no less. It will make MSNBC The Place for Prevaricators. They will regret it.
The Cable Gamer has always been a fan of James Wolcott. Of course, Wolcott is no conservative in the partisan political sense, but he does seem to have an instinct for excellence and justice of a kind. And as Plato explained 2500 years ago, that’s the true test of a virtuous conservative.
So while nobody likes snobs, snobbery has a larger social value if it serves to uphold and enforce standards. Every month in Vanity Fair, and just about every day in his blog, Wolcott, in his own sly style, seeks to elevate the best and execrate the worst. And so obviously, Wolcott has no sympathy for the likes of Keith Olbermann, or any of the rest of the mean-spirited left-wing yakety yaks at MSNBC. But hey, don’t take my word for it—here’s the proof, from his latest column in the June issue of VF (yup, the one with Miley Cyrus inside):
The garrulous MSNBC host and Gatling gun Chris Matthews was so egregious in his anti-Hillary slant that he apologized after receiving a coast-battering storm of critical backlash, and colleague David Shuster was put in the penalty box after asking if Hillary had “pimped out” daughter Chelsea.
That’s pretty bad. But of course, you-know-who always wins the prize for wretched excess. Here’s what Wolcott wrote next:
Keith Olbermann would later outdo both with an excoriating “Special Comment” on his MSNBC show that accused her of being complicit in the race-baiting of Obama: “Voluntarily or inadvertently, you are still awash in this filth.”
“Awash in filth”? Words fail me when it comes to adequately challenging Olbermann’s unique ability to turn over-the-top vilification of others into even more over-topping self-congratulation.
Happily, I can always rely on Wolcott to help adjudicate wreckless and wrecking rhetoric. Indeed, in his piece, Wolcott goes on to deliciously dish Andrew Sullivan, who would seem to have a crush on Barack Obama, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Happily, the whole article is online, VF seems to have changed its editorial policy of late. Yay!
As such, Wolcott reminds me of George Sanders, pictured above, who won an Oscar for his 1950 portrayal of a wily theater critic in the classic All About Eve. Here’s a bit of Sanders, in his best-ever character:
“My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theater—as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field.”
That’s good neo-Wildean wit—tinctured, of course, a tiny touch of knowing self-loathing. But in fact, The Cable Gamer believes, critics—honest critics, at least—have a useful keep-’em-honest function. The diabolical DeWitt is a case in point—he has a streak of divine justice in him. As fans of the film recall, DeWitt catches the conniving Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter) in all her lies. It seems that Eve has lied not only about her devotion to aging stage diva Margo Channing (Bette Davis), but also fabricated her entire background. Eve isn’t really Eve, and she even lied about a fictional boyfriend, “Eddy,” who was killed, she averred, in World War II. The vile truth about Eve is all too much for even a cynic such as DeWitt, who confronts her in the film’s climactic scene. In particular, DeWitt denounces Eve for her lie about “Eddy,” calling that “a slur on our dead heroes and the women who loved them.” (That’s from memory, anyone who has the exact quote is welcome to correct me.) But the point here is that DeWitt understands that the bitchy and backstabby world that he lives in, and revels in, is only made possible by the real sacrifice of real Americans. And so DeWitt is a sort of Platonic Guardian, allowing lies about little things, but making sure that the truth is told about important things. And nothing is more important than war for national defense. It’s their sacred memory, DeWitt knows, that must be protected. And the solemn reverence of loved ones is also not to be trifled with. The collective maintenance of civilization must always trump individual ambition.
And so it is with Wolcott, who uses his writing skills to preserve some decent sense of reference and proportion. That’s decency made all the more pointed, of course by a wicked wit. Thus Wolcott jibes that Arianna Huffington has turned The Huffington Post into “the celebrity clubhouse of Obamamania.” And going further, Wolcott arches an eyebrow as he observes:
The majority of Huffpo’s high-profile contributors were so over the rainbow about Obama that it was as if they had found rapture in the poppy fields and were rolling around on their backs like ladybugs.
I have little doubt that Wolcott will attack some other target next, including, perhaps, some figures that I like. And so I reserve the right to disagree with Wolcott, even as I have forfeited my right not to adore him, Like the fictional DeWitt, the real Wolcott is always entertaining, and always compelling.
As I said, I am a fan.
Reposted from The Cable Game, 3 May 2008
Last week we took a look at the first hour of MSNBC’s freshly-minted 3:00 pm “news block.” Today we tackle 4:00 pm to see how fair and balanced yesterday’s hour was. In this case, everything you need to know about the coverage is what you know about the people providing it.
The hour was anchored by Ayman Mohyeldin, former Al-Jazeera correspondent, best known for claiming that “American sniper” Chris Kyle went on some sort of beserk “killing sprees” in Iraq. In that memorable rant Moyheldin also cited Kyle’s “racist tendencies” toward Muslims (who are not even a race, but now The Cable Gamer is just being picky).
The first story (Ferguson) was covered by another one of those MSNBC “correspondents,” Trymaine Lee, who wrote for The Huffington Post. His smooth professionalism was especially impressive when he suggested that the presence of police “provocated” violence.
Next up, Donald Trump’s remarks, or more specifically Hillary Clinton’s statement about them (which was played for viewers who hadn’t seen it a dozen times already). The fair and balanced panel: lefty Eugene Robinson (a fave on Olby’s MSNBC show) and Clinton crony James Carville. The latter earned bonus Lean Forward points by subtly inserting the familiar talking point that Fox News “created” Trump. That this is said with a straight face on an NBC channel (the broadcast network that aired 14 primetime seasons of The Apprentice) is testament to how gullible they think their audience is.
It wasn’t all agit-prop. One block had relatively straightforward reports from two actual NBC correspondents (Chris Jansing and Richard Engel). But then it was back to Ferguson with the only guest a local politician (Dem, naturally). Moyheldin helpfully played a clip from Hillary for her too. On MSNBC there’s a Hillary clip for every occasion.
What remained of the hour (ending with a taped package on Frank Gifford) was unremarkable, except of course for what it didn’t contain. Like everything that preceded it, there was no Republican, conservative, or libertarian guest, analyst, or commentator. It was another one-sided “hard news” hour that fully earned the “Lean Forward” designation plastered on MSNBC’s screen.
Jeff Bercovici has been a Cable Gamer fave since TCG first ran across him at Conde Nast Portfolio, and so she was happy when he landed on his feet at Daily Finance. But wherever he goes, he is always interesting and provocative—a trend-spotter. A case in point is this piece on the erosion of Keith Olbermann. As Bercovici observes:
Ratings for Olbermann’s Countdown have been soft recently, and the 8 p.m. shows on CNN and HLN have narrowed the gap. In the important demographic of adults 25 to 54—the group advertisers are looking to reach—Countdown was down 44% year-over-year in January. It averaged 268,000 viewers in that demo, only 3,000 more than Nancy Grace’s show on HLN, and 12,000 more than CNN’s Campbell Brown. Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor dominated the hour with 964,000 viewers age 25 to 54, and was the only cable news show in the time period to increase its audience, by 55%.
And Jeff adds this, too:
But there are also more subjective signs that Olbermann’s stridency and lack of proportion are alienating some of his natural allies. Quite a few eyebrows elevated last week when Jon Stewart, in a parody of one of Olbermann’s “Special Comment” segments, called out the newsman for going way over the top in his denunciations of Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts. The criticism was all the more remarkable, given that Stewart and Olbermann usually take the same side on most issues, especially when it comes to Fox News and the Republicans.
To which TCG would add, “Don’t forget, Olby is crazy, and craziness has a way of catching up with you.”
Which means, of course, that Olbermann won’t simply fade away. He has too much of a sense of self-proportion—or self-disproportion—for that. And so TCG repeats her long-held prediction: KO will KO himself. He will go out with a bang, turning some slight, real or imagined, into a duel-worthy incident that requires him, as a matter of honor, to give the suits at MSNBC or Comcast a piece of his explosive mind—and temper.
He won’t go gently. He will rage, rage, rage against the dying of his ratings. And finally explode, like a bomb.
Reposted from The Cable Game, 29 January 2010
Cable Gamer Joe Concha broke the story last week that MSNBC was scotching some of its daytime opinion line-up to increase the hours dedicated to news coverage. And readers of The Cable Game know we broke the story months ago that MSNBC’s “news coverage” is in fact a thinly-disguised variation of its opinion programming, even to using failed opinionizers as born-again “reporters” and “correspondents.”
Who here remembers Alison Stewart? She was a utility news correspondent at MSNBC back during Olbermann’s heyday, and when the King refused to get out of the bathtub, Ms. Stewart would often be pressed into service to sit in the OlbyChair and anchor Countdown. And amazingly it came off pretty much like every other Countdown: the same rigidly one-sided guest list, the same topic obsessions, etc.
It was hard to take Ms. Stewart seriously as a capitol-J journalist after that. It would be like Bret Baier filling in for Sean Hannity and spending the week playing Obama montages, tossing a football, and deriding the “Obamamania Media.” Can you imagine what how “media critics” would roast Mr. Baier for a stunt like that? Funny, nobody raised an eyebrow when Alison Stewart did it.
Well, MSNBC is up to their old tricks again. They don’t have many real journalists, but that doesn’t stop them from compromising the integrity of the few they do have. And so Richard Lui turns up substituting for none other than Melissa Harris-Perry and co-hosting her opinion show! Teaming up with online opinionizer Janet Mock, Lui got to preside over one totally biased segment after another, expounding on such heady topics as the twitter fight between Taylor Swift and Nicky Minaj and the lessons it teaches us on “how feminism is different between white women, and black women, or women of color.”
The line between news and opinion? It was always a bit blurry at MSNBC, but now that their news anchors host opinion shows on the side, the line is officially nonexistent. And just in time for more “hard news coverage” in the daytime line-up. “Lean Forward” lives on.