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Olbermann and the Politics of Terror

I’ve written before on the topic of using fear for political gain. A decent summary of my argument can be found here.

Recently, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC talked about this topic on his Countdown show in a segment called the Nexus of Politics and Terror. A transcript can be found here. Olbermann presented 10 instances where it can be construed that the current administration amplified terror warnings and/or announced that they foiled a terrorist plot very soon after a news story that has the potential to damage the reputation of the Bush administration comes out. You can watch that segment here.

A scientific study can be done on this. The question is whether the government can reasonably be said to announce terror warnings when the mainstream newsmedia present stories that are critical of the government and its War on Terror policies. There are all sorts of variables to consider, such as how long is the “response time” between the negative publicity and the government’s counter publicity. Also, what constitutes “negative publicity” and “government counter publicity?” And if we can arrive at suitable definitions of these terms, how do we measure the correlation between negative publicity and government response?

I think it is worthwhile to explore these issues, whether to debunk them as some form conspiracy theory, to substantiate to some degree the assertions made by Olbermann, or to raise new questions regarding the political uses of fear.

7 comments to Olbermann and the Politics of Terror

  • von

    God, I hate Olbermann. I mean…I really hate him. It’s like he can’t decide if he wants to be Jon Stewart, or a serious news person, and MSNBC is just letting him work it out on air.

  • Or it could just be that news articles considered unflattering to the government are so common that there’s no way on God’s green earth that a story that may show something that the government has done right could come out without someone “questioning the timing.”

    This story also presupposes some kind of government control over what the media chooses to publish and what it doesn’t. We’ve seen more than once in recent months that if there’s a story a media outlet wants to release (that the government doesn’t want known), there’s no stopping it.

    Questions of bias aside, the MSM publishes stories it thinks will sell the most papers/garner the most viewers/give it the most advertising revenue. We live in a 24-hour news cycle, where the import of a story takes a backseat to its salacious interest, and where anything, no matter saw small, can become news. The administration’s enemies will always find a way to “question the timing.” The best example is the recent conspiracy-mongering regarding Lamont’s primary win in victory: many prominent progressive pundits claimed that the terror busts in England were made to draw attention away from Lieberman’s loss, as if one had anything to do with the other.

    The vast majority of people who claim that the administration is politicizing the War on Terror for its own gain are the same people who simply don’t take the War on Terror seriously. I’m glad they’re not making the decisions. Hell, it’s not as if Bush can run for President again. The irony here is that the accusation of politicization of a serious issue is itself a politicization, and one that needs to be investigated more thoroughly in order to gain a better understanding of motive. As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation draws nearer, we’ll see more and more politicization of a natural disaster, just like we did when it was happening. And no matter what gets said or how he says it, when September 11, 2006 rolls around, the President’s enemies will accuse him of using the horror for political gain.

  • Kurt

    Wow, I didn’t know anyone watched MSNBC any more.

  • Joshua

    Well, in my cable system, it’s between CNN Headline News and Animal Planet, with regular CNN and Fox News at either end (and, a little farther off, C-SPAN). So, on the way to the better news sources, I stumble on MSNBC. MSNBC isn’t too bad and Keith Olbermann can be pretty funny at times. I don’t know why they put Animal Planet between MSNBC and Fox News, but because they did, I occasionally watch THE TOP 10 MOST EXTREME ANIMALS show, which is also a pretty good show

  • What the heck makes an animal “Extreme”?

  • Joshua

    Why don’t you watch the show and find out? It’s on about 77 times a week.

    I think it’s a show designed to get kids and easily amused folks like me to get interested in animals and stuff.

    I think we’ve gotten way off topic here.

  • Why don’t YOU watch the show and tell me about it?