I have been a fan of Keith Olbermann for a long time. His show on ESPN a few years ago was an excellent combination of sports and morality, looking at how we can expect our sports and entertainment to reflect our values and represent something bigger than itself. He is well-spoken, clearly very intelligent, and always brings evidence to back up his claims.
After bouncing back and forth between sports and politics (my two favorite passions), Olbermann finally arrived at GQ, where he began a web series. As the 2016 political season ramped up, he began to direct his attention to stopping Donald Trump, using argumentation and data to structure his attack.
I loved what he was saying. To hear a political analyst use sound argument to call out the ridiculousness of the election was fascinating and entertaining, and spoke to many of the issues I had with what America was creating. His refusal to hold back his opinions was exactly the kind of authenticity and honesty that so much of what others were hoping for from their analysis of the events of the past year. Olbermann identified his bias and used it to show a vitally important idea, one that resonated with me.
Then, the election happened. After a year of hoping that this was some kind of stunt, Americans woke up having elected the least experienced and most scandal-prone president in the history of the country. Worse still, it became clear that he had won the electoral college without the popular vote, meaning more Americans had voted for the loser than the winner. In essence, Trump would be ruling without a mandate.
As the country began to come to terms with a president-elect that did not represent a unified country, Olbermann’s tone changed dramatically. He became determined, committed to finding ways to resist the ideologies he did not believe in and to demand that the American government not sink to the level of Trump’s campaign.
His passion has not wavered. In fact, listening to his web show, he speaks with more conviction than almost anyone I’ve ever heard. His willingness to say what others won’t set him apart, and makes his role as a dissenting-opinion all the more focused. And yet, that focus has grown a life of its own, blinding him from any other ideas or approaches.
In that regard, Olbermann becomes a symbol for what can happen when dissent becomes anger. His rhetoric has begun to take on the same venom that his opponents have used for months. His desire to object and resist have placed him at the forefront of the liberal radicalism that serves as an opposite extreme to the alt-right.
Keith Olbermann has become an example of what happens when a much-needed opposition to the ruling government stops making an argument and just begins to scream. Even in his legitimate claims against Trump, he is delegitimizing himself to too many who disagree with him, damning his ideas to fall on deaf ears.
We need a strong resistance in the next four years. We need to ensure that the American government reflects the needs of the American people, and we each have a strong role in letting Trump and his government know what is and is not acceptable. While Keith Olbermann has done a good job of using his voice to attempt to demand representation, he has also become a cautionary example for what happens when we let our passion turn into anger. If we have any hope of actually having a positive impact on our country and our world, we need to be careful to stay on the rational side of the dissenting line.