April 19, 2006

Fixing Old Trama Through Cable News

Jack Shafer, media critic for slate, finally captures what is so compelling about the Olbermann-O'Reilly feud:

As if set on an elementary-school playground, the Olbermann-O'Reilly feud sets the sassy class wit against the bruising class bully. Nicholas Lemann's recent piece in The New Yorker pegs O'Reilly's height at 6-foot-4, and the big mook probably weighs in excess of 225 pounds. Often when interviewing guests in the studio, O'Reilly leans into them from across his table, squinting like Clint Eastwood and finger-jabbing in the direction of their chests as if his next move might be a punch or a thrown brick. He browbeats, accuses, dismisses, and intimidates like a young ruffian.

Olbermann is big, too, bragging about his size 14 feet on the air. But it's his wit and his eyes, not the threat of a sucker punch, that do the damage. Cutdown artist supreme, he has said of nemesis O'Reilly, "If he didn't do personal attacks he would be a mime."
In O'Reilly, Olbermann finds the perfect target of his sarcasm and sadism: somebody bigger and more powerful; somebody who takes his bait and runs every time he casts a line; but also somebody who can't fire him or make him miserable enough to quit. That O'Reilly and Olbermann compete in the same time slot is pure gravy for Olbermann. That his ratings are up in recent months is a maraschino cheery on top of the gravy.

Who doesn't want to see the bully taken down? Its a basic need that I aquired sometime in Junior High. Why shouldn't my news-watching help heal old pains? Shows that do more than inform, they heal.

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