Lawrence O’Donnell’s Fight Challenge Belongs in a Time Capsule

With such a glaring lack of integrity that we witness from the news outlets each and every day, it’s sometimes hard to hold out hope that things will ever change for the better. The national polls continue to reveal that the media is no longer trusted by a strong majority of Americans, yet we rarely witness any significant effort from the media establishment to clean up their act. Surely, there have to be influential people within the profession who both recognize the seriousness of the problem, and are willing to help fix it. There have to be people who believe that restoring public trust is important.

After all, one could argue that there is no more significant role in a free, democratic society than that of the media. They’re the ones who we rely on to keep us informed, and help us make decisions that effect not only ourselves and our families, but also our country. Being a member of the media should be something to be proud of. Speaking ‘truth to power’ should be a noble cause.

Yet, we don’t find a lot evidence to suggest that the mainstream news media outlets in this country value their responsibility the way they should. Biases that used to come in the form of selective reporting and subtle commentary under the guise of hard news have morphed into blatant, ideological advocacy.

I’m optimistic though. Whether it happens through attrition of the establishment media players, or perhaps some come to God recognition of the core of their failings, I have to believe that some semblance of media integrity will one day be restored in this country.

If that time ever comes, perhaps decades from now, I’d love to see the expressions on the faces of young journalism students whose professors open the old media archives to reveal to them just how crazy things got back at the turn of the century. The overt partisanship, the blatant double-standards, the glaring omissions of important news stories… I think they’ll one day be looked at as an eerie spectacle, similar to how today’s generation views the old, black and white public service films that taught people to duck and cover in the event of a nuclear explosion.

One of the videos I’d love for those students to watch is Lawrence O’Donnell’s recent fight challenge toward Tagg Romney, son of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. I think it sums up the media’s era of insanity quite well. We’ve become used to stinging criticism and the occasional unhinged rant on cable news, but I can’t remember ever seeing a member of the news media so obsessed with defending a politician that they actually wanted to throw down fisticuffs with someone who spoke negatively of them.

The debacle was nothing short of bizarre, with O’Donnell verbally taunting Tagg while putting forth his best effort to promote a childish tough-guy persona, complete with silly hand gestures. I must admit that I laughed at its absurdity, but there’s nothing funny about a grown man, billed as a media professional, behaving this way.

The kicker was the reason for O’Donnell’s apparent outrage. He took exception to tongue-in-cheek comments Tagg Romney made on a local radio station when asked how he feels when he hears President Obama essentially call his father a liar.

“You know… Jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him,” he replied with a laugh. “But you know you can’t do that because, well, first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because this is the nature of the process.”

Yes, that is what brought O’Donnell out swinging.

Now, I realize that O’Donnell is a commentator and not a news reporter. He’s not necessarily bound by the same set of journalistic ethics that we expect from those merely conveying the news. However, his name is a marquee brand of a national news organization. He represents a large cable news network. For such a person to actually go as far as to challenge a presidential candidate’s son to a fist-fight, on a nationally broadcast program, is nothing short of appalling.

Yet, the display really didn’t receive all that much attention. That’s disturbing in itself, because it shows a media tolerance for internal behavior resembling that of a mental breakdown. The news media standards are so incredibly low right now that this type of thing is actually deemed acceptable. Just a few years ago, even when George W. Bush was the president, and reactionary derangement of his presidency ran rampant, something like this would have been grounds for firing. Today, it’s just dismissed as passionate punditry.

It’s examples like this that demonstrate a disturbing lack of news media self-awareness in the year 2012. Though more and more insiders are slowly speaking out about the problem of media debasement, it’s clear we’ve got a ways to go.

I hope I’m right, in that this era will be looked back on with shame and mockery by future generations of journalists. Of course, the truly scary thought is that I’m wrong.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • Douglas Nestler

    I watched O’Donnell last night making his “commentary” for Mr. Obama. It was shameful, casting aspersions on any one who could possibly think differently, suggesting racism and hatred was driving the Romney camp. This is farce, his pandering and gutless remarks – watching MSNBC is like tuning in the old USSR.

  • Barney Manzo

    Vote for the ROMNEY/RYAN Team. Romney can bring real change to our economy that restores the middle class.

  • Catholicvoter

    I didn’t see this O’Donnell fellow and I’m glad I didn’t!  He sounds like he needs to take some kind of a pill and calm down.  Good article Daly.

  • Royalsfan67

    I first realized O’Donnell was unhinged back in 2004. During the election cycle when the swift boat controversy was all the rage, MSNBC had one of the authors on to debate O’Donnell. The entire segment, O’Donnell just yelled over and over, “You are a liar”. That was his whole argument. He yelled over the other man talking and no one made him stop (imagine that). Soon after he came out as an avowed Socialist. 

  • Let’s get down

    Hey Bernie Goldberg…I want to fight YOU!  Anytime, any place!  I will crush you like Jon Stewart did when you tried to get tough with him.  Tag is next on my list!!!!  HAHA!
    Now GO, F@ck, Yourself!

    • phantom

      Your attempt at humor or toughness fails.

      • Foxisbiased

        Very witty

      • Suckitbernie

        What didn’t fail was when Jon Stewart crushed Mr. Goldberg.  And I will fight you too!  Tag team.  Me and Lawrence vs the phantom and Bernie!  We could make millions!

    • CCNV

       Hate to burst your bubble, but this isn’t Bernie’s article. You get two more tries to figure out who really wrote this piece.

    • John Daly

      It always amazes me how the trolls can’t read who actually wrote the columns they’re trying to flame.

  • Mario__P

    I must admit, that segment did turn the corner into the odd and unexpected.

  • GlenFS

    Not to worry John, as soon as Romney is elected media will rediscover poverty, bad economic reports and difficult questions at press conferences.

    • JohnInMA

      They will also find a conspiracy at every corner.

  • JohnInMA

    Whatever O’Donnell is doing, it is working for the cable station as he battles for the #2 prime time spot (viewership) for that station.  And in this political season their ratings are increasing much more than CNN.  Who’s to know but I suspect MSNBC simply wants to drive eyeballs from CNN and perhaps prevent them from going to Current (??? does anyone watch yet?).  In their eyes, this circus may be effective.

  • RickonhisHarleyJohnson

    O’Donnell is one of those ‘out of reach’ bullies. He safely calls out people with the camera on, or when they’re not around. Wonder how many times he stood up for President Bush when much worse was said about him.

    • John Daly

      Didn’t some MMA fighter say something about wanting to choke-out Obama a while back? My guess is that O’Donnell was silent on that one. ;)

      • RickonhisHarleyJohnson

         Yep. The Secret Service showed up at his door, if I recall.

  • Bruce A.

    Is this the latest gimmick by MSNBC to get their ratings out of the toilet?
    With ratings like theirs I am wondering why Comcast or the stockholders are not asking why.

  • CCNV

    Why isn’t the Secret Service checking out Twitter threats to assassinate Romney?

    • Artlouis

       I recall an interview during the DNC, when one of the delegates said she wanted to go out and kill Romney. Do you suppose the  Secret Service followed up?

  • waynewon

    how come it is no wrong to want to swing on the president of he united states.

    • Artlouis

       It doesn’t appear that it meant it literally.

  • NS Sherlock

    What would be interesting is if Dish Network, Direct TV, cable and other providers just dumped these networks. At this time last year Dish had taken our local CBS off their schedule. They wanted people to call in and request it be put back on. I called in but I told them I was happy to not have to pay for it, and suggested NBC, ABC, CNN and MSNBC also be removed. I cancelled our Dish subscription and now get my news elsewhere.

  • Paul

     Who is Lawrence O’Donnell?  Am I supposed to recognize that name?

    • Artlouis

       He is either 1.) a commentator for MSNBC, or 2.) middleweight champion of Indiana.

      • CCNV

         Probably screams like a sissy.

        • Foxisbiased

          Fox is a biased organization relentlessly promoting an ideological agenda under the rubric of being a new organization!
          A relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.

          Bernie is the second to worst, behind Hannity!

        • CCNV

          Foxisbiased and Let’s get down are apparently joined at the brain. Neither can figure out that Bernie didn’t write this article (probably due to pillow talk). If they’d shut their mouths long enough to be able to use their eyes, they might be able to read. Then again, probably not.

        • Jibzv57

          Foxisbiased;
          Just a little advice… ignorance and stupidity are not a virtue…you may want to take sething for that….of course MSNBC is not biased at all is it spanky?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/2Q3UK3SZ23ED6FUW3X3MUO2TVM Daniel

      He’s on MSMBC.  I personally consider all their show host’s to be low life’s. How can anyone take Chris Mathews seriously.