politics

Who Are You David Brooks?

Posted in politics, pop culture on February 13th, 2014 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Who Are You David Brooks?

I used to like the interchanges between Brooks and Shields on NewsHour. Brooks brought a non-contentious manner that infected Mark Shields, an extreme ideologue. The discussions were civilized, mostly convivial. Brooks sometimes had insights, which stood out, given the usual yenta level commentary in the media. Brooks brought the class and Shields brought the sex. (That great comparative actually refers to Astaire / Rogers, but it really doesn’t work with the two tired fellows, even as amusement, does it.)

Brooks changed into….I actually don’t know what he is now. Even when Brooks has an observation that has some weight or edge it is delivered with all the life force of Harry Reid. Brooks really doesn’t care. Brooks thinks academic guild talk is the same thing as being smart. He thinks the oligarchy is a meritocracy. I simply stopped listening.

This is Brooks meditating on politics:

…politics is different from academia. In academia, you use words to persuade or discover; in politics, you use words to establish a connection. Academia is a cerebral enterprise, but politics is a physical enterprise, a charismatic form of athletics in which you touch people to show you care.

Well, if so, what? A “charismatic form of athletics?” Almost none of those connections, if they mean anything, is true. Academia uses words to persuade or discover? More, academia conveys, right now, ideology shorn of insight or depth or balance. Much of academia infuses resentment politics and destroys critical thinking.

I wondered if Brooks was subject to the same syndrome he observed in those who run for the presidency and lose: they change, said Brooks about such fauna. He meant they declined and became extreme neurotics. Al Gore was a particular target of this observation.

A similar fate has befallen Brooks, who didn’t lose the presidency but has become fat and happy in the fields of the oligarchy. Brooks’ major insights seem to be, “He’s humble, he’s modest, I’m optimistic…” To which Judy Woodruff would respond, “So, is this good for Obama. This is good for Obama, right? Okay, let’s go on…”

House of Cards: Brit and US

Posted in politics, pop culture on February 10th, 2013 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on House of Cards: Brit and US

You’ve got to give it to Netflix. Their going full bore, with an independent production of House of Cards; their offering it, at least the first 13 episodes, all at once. Impressive, in conception and execution. You go Netflix.

The BBC House of Cards was wicked. At least, that was how we remembered it. So we’ve begun watching it again after binge watching the newly released Netflix version.

Thirteen episodes (and more to come) of Kevin Spacey being an American Old FU. That was the character’s name, a political whip as well, in the English version: Francis Urquhart.

We were prepared not to like the American version, but it turned out, after several doubts were quelled, to be very good. The writing is sharp, the characterizations darker in a way very different from the Brit version; in general, more frankly seamy, less surrealistic. The directing and production values of current high quality.

This is a different time, more is allowed and expected on TV dramas, and the American political stage is so much larger and more disturbing. The writer of the novels, Michael Dobbs, an advisor to Thatcher, is now a member of the House of Lords. Baron Mike is a very clever fellow. He understands the Machiavellian lurking just beneath the surface in politics and is devilish in taking it one step further.

Spacey would not have been my choice for the part, although the producers said he was their first choice, as was the rest of the cast. Spacey has an amorphous presence and a purring, voice-over quality to his speech that lacks Ian Richardson’s flintiness. But Spacey finally managed to slither satisfyingly, adopting the reptilian stink eye.

Kate Mara, the 24 geek grrrl, is very good as the at-least-as-ambitious-as-everybody-else blogger / reporter. Everybody is a careerist zealot, everybody ruthless, no good guys. Just what you like in pop entertainment. House of Cards satisfies that cynicism we have about politics, politicans and the “media power elite.”

But that is the real problem in updating the story and resetting it in America – they left out the obvious references to Obama, to the American media. The pathological symbiosis between those two players in real life produced a brain-dead journalism in the last two elections; a celebrity press without honor and a self-absorbed individual, with no leadership skills, winning the presidency, a second time no less, in one of the dirtiest campaigns on record.

As an example: Did you see Steve Kroft’s Obama interview on Sixty Minutes? This interview was paradigmatic of the current political mess, where ideas are not challenged nor discussed; a spectacle of journalistic self-immolation. The whole circumstance begs for parody.

Mara’s character should have been a very young NYT “reporter,” acting instrumentally as a campaign propaganda minister. Just like in real life. There could then have been an old style Ben Bradlee type appalled at what his newsroom had become; appalled at the support higher-ups offered the superficiality. The hardly virtuous past meets the poisonous present.

I don’t think those Ben Bradlee types exist anymore in the American media, which is really a celebrity press, good at erecting media personality constructs, not good at critical thinking.

Supernatural Presidential Debate, 1

Posted in politics, pop culture, Uncategorized on October 3rd, 2012 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Supernatural Presidential Debate, 1

Well, with the first presidential debate less than two hours away, it feels it is time to quote Supernatural.

Dean explains to angel Cass the way things are:

When humans want something really, really bad, they lie. That’s how you become president.

We’ve been binging on Supernatural @Netflix, just to drown out the media nonsense – the tendentious, shallow, ego strutting of it all – the candidates and the media pundits and “reporters” alike.

This is actually an important election, with looming difficulties ahead for the country and the world, but instead of this rousing serious debate, you get same old. The inflexible formula always wins in the popular culture.

Just before switching to Netflix we saw Jim Lehrer being interviewed on PBS about his oh so dramatic hosting duties at previous debates. This warranted a book.

That sums it up: the press interviews the press. No insights. Just, Zelig was there.

The media loves debates. It puts them completely in control. They ask the questions. They condescendingly smile as the candidates struggle to stay on script; the media has the power. They spin the interpretation afterward. Again and again.

Unelected, unselected, except by TV executives and faux news directors; with no real calling or honor of an objective  profession, they determine the outcome. If we had the Supreme Court in 2000 picking a president, we now have the media smugly ascendant.

The Supernatural episode we just finished watching is titled, “The End”.

Orwell’s Diaries

Posted in politics on September 5th, 2012 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Orwell’s Diaries

This NYT review of Orwell’s collected diaries has interest because Orwell wrote them.

Plain spoken and truth telling Orwell rang clear like a bell. He hated authority, nationalism (that changed) and stupidity. The reviewer points out Orwell’s love of the particular: Orwell was a realist. A master of brilliantly clear prose; Animal Farm, like Swift’s A Modest Proposal, arguably a minor work of genius.

The corruption and hypocrisy of do-gooders was so cogently expressed by Orwell it is hard to believe they continue to be so hysterically present in public life – you would think they would be embarrassed. The single big answer still rules. Nuance long ago died in one of the garish cracks of pop culture.

Look at the mess of the current American election. A clueless, tendentious celebrity press and cut and paste candidates. Isaiah Berlin’s understanding of the excesses of even good motives should be required reading for “journolists”.

Sometimes realism like Orwell’s devolves to bitterness though, the poetry being discarded with the bathwater.

What separated Orwell out was his lack of ideological confinement. He was independent, far seeing, and an intense observer. Often those who can focus most robustly on the present can seem clairvoyant, the present containing a future which can be grokked with the balance of objectivity.

The reviewer says,

He had been an antimilitary socialist in the late ’30s, convinced that only a revolution could set Britain right. Now, with those German bombers above, he realized he was a patriot after all. But what kind of patriot? He continued to hate the upper classes and the injustices of capitalism, continued to believe in the necessity of revolution. Insofar as patriotism was equated with God, King and Country or, worse, the preservation of the British Empire, he was against it.

No surprise that Hitchens wrote the introduction. Hitchens had described his father as one who despised the upper and lower classes equally.

[Orwell] placed his faith in common people, who went about their lives without the need for Big Ideas, practicing what he saw as the common people’s singular virtue — decency. Decency didn’t require an idea, let alone an ideology, for validation. It was the morality of the here and now, available to everybody. “One has the right to expect ordinary decency even of a poet,” he said.

The ponderous sentimentality and condescension of “common people” does not sit easily, even when ascribing the idea to Orwell. Few people are common, although many find it safer to be conventional and conformist in their public face.

The reviewer says, “[Orwell’s] caustic remark that “a humanitarian is always a hypocrite” sounds a note too sour.”

Not really. Just look at the current political convention.

Music Is Better; Agitation Nation

Posted in ideas, politics on May 4th, 2012 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Music Is Better; Agitation Nation

I’ve been so submerged in creating the just announced books for the Kindle it is like coming up for air. And then you hit the daily blab. I sometimes have to remind myself to listen to music.

If you pay too much attention to the political news it can drive you nuts. It doesn’t matter which side is perpetrating its fraud. It is just so transparent what their motives are and so transparent in tactics. The enablers are worse than the candidates. Sometimes I think the most discouraging thing is that attack politics seems to work. Like ads for products, the selling of a politician is a finely tuned craft which somehow groks the public mind. Think Machiavelli. Both presidential candidates seem more intent on winning than on thinking – of honorably representing a distinct point of view.

It is especially distressing the media hasn’t decided to take an oath of objectivity. I really don’t think the press has any idea what that might mean anymore. You just have to read between the lines and try and expose yourself to a dose of each side that doesn’t kill you. There is no one in the middle. The whole congealed mass of steaming protoplasm: of politicans, of the press, of the commentators, of interest groups, is really one stinky mass, with little difference underneath. Theoretically, this should be a crucial moment, where the definition of the society is clarified, in a debate that offers the real benefits and deficits of each approach. Instead, given we have a celebrity press, we have personality battles, personality attacks.

Under any circumstances there are limited options for any party. We’ve got no bucks. In addition, the country has its own momentum, buffered by a civil service which, in this sense, serves a useful purpose in its slow, bureaucratic reaction time. And we have a blessed system which dampens drastic change with forced introspection.

So with agitation nation ringing in my ears I’ll listen to Alabama 3 or Horowitz playing Scarlatti. It doesn’t matter. Music is better.

And that is what this recent study corroborates:

“These findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry in the brain. ..To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that an abstract reward such as music can lead to dopamine release. Abstract rewards are largely cognitive in nature, and this study paves the way for future work to examine non-tangible rewards…”

Charles Murray and Social Fracture

Posted in ideas, politics on February 11th, 2012 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Charles Murray and Social Fracture

This review of a new book by Charles Murray lays out an interesting landscape of sociological speculation.

The takeaway is that the privileged classes are really the hard workers with the good family values and not the white working class:

It is that [… the liberal elites] have lost the confidence to preach what they practice, adopting instead a creed of “ecumenical niceness”.

That is good: ecumenical niceness. Murray is describing that familiar condescending goodness that those calling themselves liberal affect. I’m a nice millionaire – please tax me, Mr. Obama. Very reminiscent, in demeanor, of 19th century English imperialists who viewed the third world with benevolent arrogance. Of course this is the worst of the liberal visage, and ignores the true goodwill that is the heart of classical liberalism: that the government can help its citizens, and should. The sure tip off is the word “preach”; an ugly assertion of a moral superiority that is just too lax and ingratiating to share the truth the elites understand.

The whole arena of sociological thinking has become a minor industry. Theories, laden with meme friendly declaratives, are presented with the authority and aura of science, but are really suggestive studies about very hard to define qualities in human beings. Hard working, IQ, elite status – becomes a sludge of accusation that divides the country. Ad hominem attacks invariably come from such thinking, and is validated by the misuse of such studies as these; just as the imperialist had his and her social Darwinism.

But although these speculations start with studies, their speculative nature is soon lost to commentators, who state the ideas with the Authority of Truth. You can’t argue with numbers. Why not assume there is something other than ill will at the root of every disagreement?; that truth might be a destination which travelers together must parse, requiring a journey of cooperative effort, and a destination which it is understood will never be fully achieved.

Brooks on Rose

Posted in ideas, politics on December 23rd, 2011 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Brooks on Rose

It was immensely fascinating listening to David Brooks on Charlie Rose the other night. Brooks instantiates the standards he espouses. You don’t feel he is thrusting his ego at you when he talks about ideas. He isn’t trying to prove he is smart and has all the answers. He sorts things out and provides some nuance. “Nuance,” there’s a quality that long ago evaporated into the ether.

It was a wide ranging discussion that seemed to be generated by a roundtable Obama has yearly as Obama sorts out what direction he wants to take. Brooks gave his own take, presumably what he told Obama:

He feels that Obama sees himself as an FDR progressive; that the Democrats tend toward parsing policy to install that agenda. Brooks feels the times are too different to apply the FDR model. The vaunted “vision thing,” as they used to say about Bush, or Bush said about himself, is not Obama’s strength. Brooks felt it should be.

Brooks feels that the country needs to feel hope which comes from a clearly defined destination for the society. He feels the sense of motivation has been lost as the sense of unfairness has grown. Whether on the Right, who despise entitlements as vitiating motivation, or the Left, who despise Wall Street, it amounts to the same thing finally. The country is enraged. It’s a Howard Beale world these days. People are mad as hell and they won’t take it anymore. More plainly: people who play by the rules don’t see the results of their hard work pay off fairly; or see others get the same or better without effort, or with unfair connections to power.

Along the way he touched on the toxic effect of the popular culture (although he didn’t feel it had any decisive effect – I disagree – it is primary). He mentioned an idea Mickey Kaus had some time ago, – that the status, or respectability as Brooks calls it, of middle class attainment is the real goal for many rather than great wealth, as junk culture would suggest.

Brooks also engaged in some goofy theorizing: he felt “creativity comes from networks”- his examples were Steve Jobs and Picasso. I won’t go into the Steve Jobs reference, but as to art: Brooks thinks Picasso brought the defaults of African Art into the mainstream of western art. By this estimate Picasso networked African Art. Hmmm.

Cultural issues are more complex than politics. Picasso’s work could as easily, in its cubist manifestation, be thought of as an absorption of scientific ideas of the time, as a Newtonian, logical universe, became the probabilistic chaos of quantum physics. Such scientific and philosophical ideas do enter art, even if artists don’t realize it themselves. The surface absorption of African Art, and it was a shallow, undigested inclusion, is a surface manifestation of the groundbreaking work of Picasso. But even with the drifting analysis of creativity, Brooks said many insightful things.

The takeaway: Brooks feels that entitlements, tax reform, and the culture of the family (family values – Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s emphasis) are the principal issues in reviving America. He didn’t say it with any cogency, but he clearly doesn’t think Obama has the chops to deliver on either a vision for the future of America, or an insight into the essential issues facing the country. In other words, Obama would be a disaster if re-elected. This has been plain for a long time.

Brooks never did address his complete failure to see Obama as the media construction he is; Brooks’ failure to identify early on Obama’s dissociated self-absorption, his dubious affiliations, and cynical center, are discrediting for a commentator. Brooks said Obama is more liberal than he understood. But what he still doesn’t understand is that Obama is just going with the flow -just another cynical politician who wants to be elected but has no idea what he wants to do, and is liberal when he wants hoots of approval from the crowd. No core values, just career. This is probably just as true of Romney.

Brooks’ ideas could be summarized as a renewal of Isaiah Berlin, where the emphasis is on having many ideas, with flexibility being the primary value, rather than a single “feel-good” delusion that will inevitably fall apart or turn dangerously sour. And has.

Hitchens Dies

Posted in politics, writers-poetry on December 16th, 2011 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Hitchens Dies

At 62, Hitchens died far too young. His curmudgeonly, or “contrarian”, as he would have it, angle on the politics of our time, was a blessed commodity in a consensus society like America. Toward the end he rejected the contrarian label, wanting to be thought more substantial than that. But well-articulated contrarian notions are invaluable to a society in correcting course; one of the great strengths of freedom is that allowance for difference.

The current sheep on the left and right, which is what they are, conformists all, repeating slogans without nuance, trivializing and attacking ad hominem, seem nearly a different species from Hitchens, who was polite, but never seemed to ingratiate or seek the kindness of friends. He believed in reason, an odd preference in the political realm, but quite effective in debate.

Remarkably, Hitchens had a surprising array of friends – differing in any and all ways from his own ways of thinking. This most likely came about because of his mother, who, arguing with his father, a father who disdained both working class and upper class, said that, if there was to be an upper class, then Christopher should be part of it. Hitchens managed conviviality to those with whom he disagreed.

He gave a wonderful voice to those who agreed with him. He said things well, with intelligence, crafted almost as though written. It is no surprise he could write fast and on a moment’s notice. Writing for Hitchens must have been like taking dictation. It was an admirable facility which he possessed.

I’m sad to hear of his passing.

Some snippets from around the web:

Michael Totten:

He was the greatest writer of our time who could talk off the top of his head better than most of his colleagues can write.

Ron Radosh, an admirer:

Christopher was a bundle of contradictions, a “contrarian” for life as he put it himself, a man who was charming, witty, a wonderful guest and raconteur, and a man who simply could not put up with hypocrisy and tyranny. I miss him greatly, and like so many others who knew him only from his writing, mourn his loss. R.I.P. And if you meet St. Peter and he asks you why you were not a believer, like the late Sidney Hook, you can tell him: “You didn’t give me enough evidence.”

David Frum about Hitchens’ wit:

He especially liked gallows humor. When the nurses asked him, in that insinuatingly cheerful way they have, how he was feeling that day, he’d answer, “I seem to have a little touch of cancer.” If he was late to emerge from his living room to see you because of the exhaustion and nausea of chemotherapy, he’d excuse himself with, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I was brushing my hair”–of which of course there were only a few wisps left.

Perhaps most resonantly, remembered by his brother , Peter Hitchens (a traditionalist/conservative Brit most distinct from Hitchens’ fiercely independent mind):

We got on surprisingly well in the past few months, better than for about 50 years as it happens. At such times one tends to remember childhood more clearly than at others, though I have always had a remarkably clear memory of much of mine. I am still baffled by how far we both came, in our different ways, from the small, quiet, shabby world of chilly, sombre rented houses and austere boarding schools, of battered and declining naval seaports, not specially cultured, not book-lined or literary or showy but plain, dutiful and unassuming, we took the courses we did.

Articles at the Atlantic

We will miss you Chris, even though we didn’t know you; you raised the level of the debate and reminded us, in more than a few ways, of what it means to be civilized.

The Rich Say Tax Me on Newshour; NBC and Chelsea

Posted in ideas, politics, pop culture on November 16th, 2011 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on The Rich Say Tax Me on Newshour; NBC and Chelsea

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, an organization which advocates more taxes on those earning a million bucks or more, had its advocate on the Newshour today. It is a fascinating subject. I’ll meander a bit…

The individual doing the advocacy on the Newshour had started many businesses in California. He seemed an admirable man. Not like that ingratiating rich guy who in a public meeting with Obama said, “Please raise my taxes.” Obama himself seemed slightly disgusted by this deferential showboating.

But the Newshour millionaire had more substance. It’s difficult to disagree. Since at least Clinton, America has been drifting into a banana republic. It is hard to have a political democracy and such a level of economic inequality. (But to be clear, the tax raise on the rich is purely symbolic, a cup of money in an ocean of debt. Symbolism though, has its value here.)

This is pretty much what the Tea Party and the Occupy movements are protesting. Lawrence Lessig said that the mistake these movements made was letting themselves be co-opted by the political parties, because those parties are both vitiated with advocacy for privilege. At the beginning, the Tea Party said it was not allied with any party, but the media made sure that was suppressed until partisanship tainted the point the Tea Party was making: we are spending more than we have.

And then there is the exacerbation of the current system: the rich can afford advocates, and those advocates install themselves as counselors and advisors and politicians. And politics is money. So the balance gets further tilted to the advantage of the rich, and of large corporate entities. (Obama’s principal issue in Congress was campaign finance law, which he eschewed as he went off to raise close to a billion bucks. He is doing it again right now. So much for principle.)

The media is all for the tax the millionaire slogans. And, of course, Brian Williams and crew, as a particularly annoying example, are enormously wealthy. But it makes them look good…until you look at their own behavior:

Chelsea Clinton is now at NBC News, playing journalist. NBC is giving her a feel-good role; so it doesn’t seem they have hired someone on the basis of wealth and fame and connections. That’s democracy at NBC, with Brian Williams, Rockstar NewsReader @Rock Center.

Noblesse oblige – the responsibilities of inherited privilege – does not exist as a value for the wealthy anymore. Anonymously given good works have morphed into high visibility public work for charities and photo-ops – more publicity than substance. That is, the very same advantages given to the very very wealthy in the tax codes, is also installed in the popular culture.

ornament4

Walter Russell Mead:

… the increasing sense that this country is run by a hereditary celebrity class is one of the most corrosive and dangerous forces eating away at our common life.

It is a sorry picture: self-anointed journalist mandarins, bringing us self-replicating privilege rather than rewarding ability or having any discernible set of objective standards; in some cases, joining the very movement they are charged with covering.

ornament4

My own take: tax the millionaires. Japan, at least at one time, was at a salary comparative of about a 3X ratio of CEO to factory worker. America needs to move toward a psychologically balanced approach to wealth, without destroying incentive. The millionaire on Newshour seemed to indicate such balance would cause no decline in motivation.

But there should be more: inherited wealth should be taxed substantially. Obama, and this organization of rich “folk,” should say, most honorably, my money does not go to my children. My money goes to an organization helping children. Isn’t that what Warren Buffet is doing in his stated intention about the dispensation of his wealth? Wouldn’t that get Americans out of the starting gate at least on the same racetrack? Didn’t Bill Gates state such an intention himself?

…and don’t forget campaign finance laws to keep the system about more than money.

Did the president just quit?

Posted in politics on July 30th, 2011 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Did the president just quit?

In government Our Leader and a Republican party held hostage by ideologues have gone together from pathetic to disturbing.

Jon Stewart about President Obama’s…

…plea for Americans to make the case for compromise directly to their members of Congress.

“That’s your idea, call your congressman?” Stewart chortled. “Did the president just quit?”

Irresponsibly diddling with the fate of an already weakened economy, the pols appear to have lost their minds. Obama declared himself the “only adult in the room”; the self-sanctification characteristic of this paper thin narcissist. Boehner, not able to wrangle the extreme right wing in his own party eructed a proposal that said, “I give up”; the extreme right does not care if pedal-to-the-floor might not be wise as we approach the cliff. They have their principles. Obama is more worried about re-election (his own extreme left) than developing skills as a president. Obama has two birthday parties (for himself) scheduled for Wednesday – you can tell where his mind is…on Obama.

Political Activism: Carr About Olbermann

Posted in ideas, politics on June 19th, 2011 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Political Activism: Carr About Olbermann

Sometimes you feel there is a built in craving for conflict, like a craving for sweets. The audience for public debates and WrestleMania crowds aren’t that different in their emotional needs. If boredom or depression loom, those internecine venues can issue a siren call. No one is immune to the occasional shot of adrenaline.

The value of public political debates has devolved to vitriol. The left loves bigotry accusations, the right loves socialist accusations. Tough dads become the focus, saying respectively, you have to have compassion or be practical.This article says there actually is some grudging respect for each other in the political activism sphere. The article indicates it is more the mechanics of activism that is admired in their adversary, rather than a respect for commitment:

“We’re trying to compete with ActBlue but they’re way, way ahead of us. We’re playing catch-up,” said John Hawkins of Right Wing News. “Their panels are for advanced activism. This is basic, for getting into activism.” A sign in the hallway of RightOnline advertised “proven technology used by millions of Democrats.”

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Speaking of this, David Carr’s NYT media blog did an excellent job nailing the Keith Olbermann phenomenon.

Olbermann is the left’s answer to Glenn Beck. I haven’t listened to Beck, but my guess is that Olbermann is funnier, more clever, but more deeply neurotic. Some of his former colleagues say the estimate of Olbermann’s difficult personality is overstated, but they miss the point; it is not as colleague, but as demagogue that Olbermann vitiates the debate.

Olbermann, like many fanatics, projects his own problems onto his opponents. He politicizes his emotional problems, and luckily, at least for the deplorable Charlie-Sheen-break-down-in-public MSM spectacle machine, Olbermann has no self-correcting mechanism. The frontal lobe has stopped filtering, if it ever did. That is key to Olbermann’s success in the mob culture.

“Each time [Olbermann] came into conflict at a job, he managed, through skill and a bottomless appetite for payback, to advance his career,” says David Carr @WaPo.

With MSNBC…

[Olbermann]…left [MSNBC] with no fanfare and no notice to his staff – he spent months nursing grudges on Twitter and plotting his return. …[Olbermann’s] knack for forming toxic workplace relationships has followed him wherever he goes…Charley Steiner, who worked at ESPN with Olbermann, is quoted as saying that he might have been a genius, but “socially, he was, well, a special-needs student.”

Carr says that Olbermann is, “The one who likes the camera,” – more than the audience. Carr gets it. He understands that it is not about ideas with Olbermann types, but rather an infantile need for attention. Olbermann has contempt for the audience, as do all narcissists, except as the audience willingly plays the role of anonymous sycophants. The conventions of celebrity culture have troubling consequences when political activists form around narcissists but significant issues are being discussed. When politics adopts those pop culture defaults of hagiographic cults, values are traded-in for ego.