The Final Countdown: A Eulogy

by | January 23, 2011
filed under Feminism, Politics

by Taylor Lewis

I have this thing for acoustic covers of songs. I used to live with a musically gifted roommate who would play a melancholy send up of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” He played it for my amusement because he knew I loved “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.” The show was cancelled on Friday, after eight years.

I started watching Countdown in my second year at UVic after finding Youtube clips of Keith’s “Worst Person in the World” segment. I was 21, and hadn’t fully established my beliefs on gender, though in first year I had become enamoured with works such as “The Subjection of Women” by J.S. Mill. He was the first male voice with a platform to suggest that the current treatment of gender was a hinderance to the progression of our species. In 1851 he married essayist, Harriet Taylor. Marriage at the time being a legal contract by which a man acquired a woman, Mill had this to say about it:

“I… feel it my duty to put on record a formal protest against the existing law of marriage, in so far as conferring such powers; and a solemn promise never in any case or under any circumstances to use them.”

When I found those clips on Youtube, I thought I’d found a modern-day J.S. Mill. Olbermann gave Rachel Maddow a platform to speak up. His special comment on Proposition 8 (the referendum that overturned a law allowing gay marriage in California), won a GLAAD award, and shifted the narrative on gay rights back in a positive direction. To read the comment is to see emotion and logic fused into an ethos so reminiscent of Mill.

In his comment Olbermann says, “I don’t have a personal investment in this. I’m not gay… And yet to me this vote is horrible.” While I do feel I have a personal investment in gender equality, I agree so wholeheartedly with the sentiment that when we care about each other’s battles, we all win.

In December of last year, Olbermann fell out of favour with a lot of feminists when on Countdown one evening he and Michael Moore were dismissive of the rape allegations against Julian Assange, stressing the importance of Assange’s work. Both Moore and Olbermann gave inaccurate information about the rape charges against Assange, which Olbermann later refused to retract on his show.

Jarrah Hodge, my friend, was one of the many people tweeting Keith asking him to retract and issue an apology. Keith’s reaction? He blocked her from Twitter. He blocked a lot of feminists from Twitter. He also called them unreasonable, and hateful, and all those other labels that people attach to feminism.

It’s not like Jarrah or any other feminist was suggesting Assange didn’t deserve due process. They were merely pointing out that just because you like what an alleged rapist does for a living, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the accusations of his or her alleged rape-victim seriously. And Keith Olbermann reacted by shutting up the very people who support his show.

Which is now off the air.

Jarrah got me a Countdown with Keith Olbermann mug for Christmas. She said, in her post about being blocked, that she regretted getting it for me.

After censoring the voices of feminists everywhere, Olbermann had this to say, quite pompously, about the whole ordeal: “Feminism has no greater supporter in TV news than me.” And with those ten words, I was done with you, Keith. To suggest feminism has no greater supporter in TV news is to suggest that either all of the people who you censored aren’t real feminists, or that feminism has no great supporter in TV news at all. I’m going with the latter.

When you said those words, you made it more difficult for people like me to be feminists. When I have identified as a man concerned with gender equality I have received weird looks from people, I have been told I’m just seeking approval, and I have been labelled before any conversation could happen. And just as you made it harder for me to speak up about my feminism, I think you made it harder for female feminists to trust their socially competent male counterparts. In that respect, you made it harder for people to come together, which is the opposite of what you did in your Prop 8 commentary that once defined my view of you.

I will always remember Countdown as the television program that brought to my life a social conscience and passion that has been a catalyst for some of the best human interactions I’ve ever had. But it appears, Keith, that my feminism has outgrown the need for the platform you once provided. It appears, sir, that I have outgrown you.

Thank you, for everything.

Good night and good luck.


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