Righteous Indignation Is A Tough Sell

Keith Olbermann is a good writer and he has good writers around him. I’m a fan of his show Countdown and I agree with most of the things he says, even now in his hyperbole-filled rant phase. Yet, as a media professional I bristle at his delivery, of late.
For instance, I agree with the following sentiment, but I question the “You, sir” delivery:

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.
You, sir, have now befouled that spring.
You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.
You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.
For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.
And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

Tone is so important and sadly Olbermann’s tone is off. I find the didactic nature of it unbecoming in a man of his position. He sometimes acts like he’s operating a vlog nobody watches, not a prime time news show. An anchor can educate and persuade. I’m for that. My criticsm is about how he’s choosing to do it.
I sell ideas for a living. Maybe Olbermann sees his job differently, but I see him working hard to convince people of his POV, which means he’s selling. So I say to him and others like him (of all political bents), “Don’t berate. Sell!”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.