“Nothing but a Bunch of Tea-Bagging Rednecks”

On last night’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann hosted actor-and-sometime-activist Janeane Garofalo to talk about Wednesday’s tax-protesting Tea Parties. And talk she did.

Or, rather, mock she did. Here’s Garofalo’s take on the tea parties—and the people who took part in them:

Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats. It’s not about taxes—they have no idea what the Boston Tea Party was about, they don’t know their history. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism, straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks. And there is no way around that.

I could note that Garofalo has a starring role on the current season of 24, a conservative-agenda-championing, cheerleading-for-torture show if ever there was one…but, really, hypocrisy is the least of the problems with last night’s “CAPITALIST TOOLS” segment. It wasn’t just the blanket accusation—that a whole swath of people are some combination of stupid, ignorant, and racist—Garofalo leveled last night, but also the glibness with which she leveled it. As if it wasn’t, in fact, an accusation at all, but rather an empirical truth.

The kind of reductive, moralistic mockery-of-the-other-side that Garofalo engaged in last night contributes absolutely nothing, and helps absolutely no one. It is not clever. It is not funny. It serves only to foment misunderstanding and resentment, on all sides.

And the fact that Olbermann sat there, last night, and not only enabled Garofalo’s ranting, but encouraged it, makes it all the more ironic—and all the more inappropriate—for the anchor to sign his show off with Murrow’s “good night, and good luck.” There was nothing good about this.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.