On Tuesday’s Countdown, host Keith Olbermann and guest Michael Moore sparked widespread outrage over their dismissive treatment of rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. An online protest ensued, and as Michael Moore ignored pleas for a correction, Olbermann tried to fend off criticism on Twitter. When he was unwilling to respond to legitimate questions regarding his handling of the allegations, Olbermann announced that he was quitting Twitter until the “frenzy” died down. If Sady Doyle, the woman who started the protest that forced him off Twitter, is any indication, he could be waiting a long time, and taking serious damage in the process.
The primary reason that people like Glenn Beck are somewhat immune to protests like this is that they’re generally carried out by people who already aren’t watching. Beck may say things that enrage people, but he’s not enraging the people in his audience. Fox News Channel can assess the effect of advertiser boycotts through the prism of his enormous audience, and make the calculation that the benefit outweighs the cost.
In Olbermann’s case, though, he has picked a fight with people who would normally be watching him declare spreaders of misinformation “Worst Person in the World.” Sady Doyle, the woman who started the #MooreAndMe hashtag, describes her sense of betrayal at being blocked by Olbermann thusly:
Number of Beloved Progressive Journalists Who Had Blocked Me On Twitter Yesterday: None, as far as I know!
Number of Beloved Progressive Journalists Who Have Blocked Me On Twitter Now: One. And it’s Keith Olbermann.
There’s no way to put a number on it, but it stands to reason that a substantial number of the #MooreAndMe protesters are also Countdown viewers, or potential viewers. Just as handling this properly could have been a big win for Olbermann, botching it so badly could hurt in ways he never imagined.
In her piece for Salon today (which bears reading in full), Doyle brings another key difference between Olbermann and Beck into sharp relief. Speaking about some of the misguided reactions she has gotten on Twitter, Doyle says:
One of the chief objections, from fans of Moore and Olbermann, is that Assange isn’t being charged with rape. “He was accused ONLY of consense.sex w/o a condom,” wrote Twitter user MariahWestwind. “u r all fucking retarded, really fucking dumb……….it was consensual sex and his condom broke which is a crime in sweden u fucking retards,” wrote a commenter on my blog, “Ralph,” who was sadly deleted. This is demonstrably wrong. It’s untrue. But Ralph, Mariah, and all the others have reason to believe it. Because they got the information from the news. They got it from Michael Moore. And they got it from Keith Olbermann.