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Sunday 29 August 2010

Fiddling The Figures

Politics is a tribal business in the UK. In the USA, it can be far more so. So it has been in the retelling of yesterday’s “Restoring Honor” rally, fronted by potential GOP 2012 hopeful Sarah Palin, and the increasingly wayward Glenn Beck, “star” of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

The rally, held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and at the same place, had already been ridiculed beforehand, most notably by Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who titled it “I Have A Scheme” (video available on 4OD HERE).

Whatever the content of the speeches, there were inevitably arguments about the size of the turnout. As with TV channel ratings, this is the true test of Beck and his rally. And, while the organisers had a permit for 300,000, a survey done for CBS news has put the figure at a mere 87,000. But I’ll cut GB some slack here, and credit him with a round hundred thousand.

Million man march it was not. But, for true believers, this is no problem: get the quote out there, say it often and loud, and it will stick. The quote from the Beck faithful was that he got, in person, twice as many people as Olbermann gets tuning in. Well, is it true, and what is the significance of the comparison?

Last month’s ratings had MSNBC’s Countdown (Keith Olbermann’s show) at around a million viewers: it was the top rated MSNBC show, just ahead of Rachel Maddow, whose show airs immediately after Countdown. So the quote is blatantly untrue: it’s not twice as many, but a tenth.

But then, so what? What is the problem Beck and his followers have with Olbermann? Ah well. Keith O is a real irritant to Beck, who has sniped back for more than a year that MSNBC are about to fire him. Bit of a long notice period, Glenn. What Beck really doesn’t like is Olbermann’s characterisation of him as “Lonesome Rhodes”, the main figure in the film “A Face In The Crowd”.

Lonesome Rhodes gets to the top in broadcasting through deploying a folksy, everyman persona, while really despising his audience, who he regards as suckers. The parallel with Beck is obvious, and Beck doesn’t like it. Hence the attempts to ridicule Olbermann, which, sad to say, are not working.

And, as Beck and Palin try to appropriate the legacy of MLK for their own ends, there will be more mention of Lonesome Rhodes on Countdown.


Anonymous said...

You omitted to mention Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tim Fenton said...

@1, Your point is?