Ed Driscoll

Fast Times at MSNBC High

David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun has a great metaphor for the current state of MSNBC — “it’s a weird, little, liberal prep school:”

And in case you missed it, Maddow Friday night called for Olbermann’s reinstatement. And as she whined her way through her what-he-did-was-wrong-but-Fox-is-worse-so-reinstate-him-now complaint, MSNBC came sharply into focus.

It’s not high school with cable TV salaries, as one news executive once explained it to me trying to account for the adolescent behavior and attitudes of its hosts. No, it’s a weird, little, liberal prep school. It’s not very good academically, but it cost lots of money to get in. The editor of the literary magazine is Olbermann, and his protege is Maddow, the poetry editor. And now, the poetry editor is upset because Keith was suspended for breaking one of the school rules.

And she’s so upset she’s going to demand his immediate reinstatement. But what is she going to do if he is not reinstated? Nothing, because that would involve paying a price, however small, for her convictions. And if she walked off in protest, who would publish her self-absorbed, snarky poems?

Poor MSNBC President Phil Griffin, having to play headmaster to this crew of emotional 15-year-olds.

Oh, and by the way, listen to her faux high rhetoric, “Let this incident lay to rest….” It’s like she and O’Donnell think they are writing the Gettysburg Address instead of hosting cable TV shows viewed by minuscule audiences compared to those watching Fox News. Let’s call it the rhetoric of false self-importance. Really, in all the seminars I had to take to earn a Ph.D. I never heard one person talk the ridiculous hotdog way O’Donnell and Maddow do on these videos — and a lot of the folks in those seminar rooms were pretty smart. This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about posturing on TV.

As Zurawik writes, MSNBC President Phil Griffin is playing headmaster, but do his students recognize his authority? Note this telling quote from a 2008 New Yorker magazine profile of Olbermann, as spotted by Hot Air’s Allahpundit:

Remember, this is the guy who once said of MSNBC President (then Senior VP) Phil Griffin — the same exec who suspended him today — “Phil thinks he’s my boss.” Having now received a humiliating reminder that Phil really is his boss, the modern-day Murrow may conclude that a man of his stature simply can’t bear the indignity of a chain of command, and thus off he goes. Which, under these particular circumstances, would actually be too bad, because this whole “scandal” is ridiculous.

Which is why, at Ace of Spades HQ, Gabriel Malor writes, “I’m Getting a Shirley Sherrod/Juan Williams Feeling About This Olbermann Thing:”

It looks to me like NBC pulled the trigger on Olbermann before they even examined how common it is for commentators to make political monetary contributions aside from their obvious nightly political expressive contributions. Which puts this in the Shirley Sherrod — “rush, rush, fire her before the teabaggers react” — category. If they really have a rule that applies to a commentator like Olbermann, it’s a stupid rule. We already know he supports libtards. Duh. I hate to break it to the NBC execs, but no one expects journalistic integrity from Keith Olbermann and no one’s is upset that he doesn’t have any.

Which also puts his suspension and possible firing in the Juan Williams category. They were looking for a reason to ditch Olbermann. Could be his low ratings, his embarrassing on-screen behavior, or his treatment of others at NBC. Could be a combination of all three. But its probably not his support for Democrats. That was obvious before.

In a follow-up post, Malor adds, “Politico’s Playbook (their daily emailed news brief on politics) says it was ego that slayed the jackass:

Network sources tell Playbook that Keith Olbermann was suspended because he refused to deliver an on-camera mea culpa, which would have allowed him to continue anchoring “Countdown.” Olbermann told his bosses he didn’t know he was barred from making campaign contributions, although he is resisting saying that publicly. Olbermann may not hold as many cards as he thinks. He makes $7 million a year and MSNBC’s prime time is not as dependent on him as it was before the addition of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, who make considerably less.

Which does point out one minor flaw in Zurawik’s prep school analogy. Parents shell out the big bucks, and kids endure prep school because they know it will likely lead to bigger and better things later in life. Where is Olbermann going to go where he’ll continue to make $7 million a year? CNN or Headline News could hire him to steal MSNBC’s small ratings edge; but I doubt they’d pay out that amount of money, which is approaching the level of big three network news salaries. I bet Roger Ailes would be willing to pay a fair chunk of money for a Geraldo/Greta-style show and for the fun of watching Olbermann grovel, but after years of Nazi analogies, could Olbermann actually work there?

Which brings us to the conclusion of Zurawik’s post:

As I said yesterday, I am glad MSNBC suspended Olbermann, but I will judge the channel’s sincerity by how long he is off the air. I am guessing today that “indefinitely” could be as short as a week or two. And that would be a joke suspension.

Hey, it’s a joke network, so it all works out.

Related: I meant to link to this earlier in the week, but couldn’t find a slot for it. On Wednesday, after watching MSNBC beclown themselves throughout election night, Zurawik chastised MSNBC for  “‘Pumping Irrational Fear’ Into Viewers,” as Lachlan Markay writes at Newsbusters.