Lawrence O’Donnell Has A Problem

I’ve struggled for sometime with whether to bother responding to the views expressed by Lawrence O’Donnell (presenter of the ‘The Last Word’ on MSNBC) in the video below.

O’Donnell took over the time slot recently vacated by Olbermann’s ‘Countdown’, and follows similar format, though O’Donnell, an ex-White House staffer, is less succinct than Olbermann and often keeps his guests waiting, expounding his own opinions at some length while they wait patiently, in some far off studio, for an opportunity to speak.

Perhaps, it’s simply that O’Donnell prefers the sound of his own voice to anyone else’s.

In the clip shown below, O’Donnell blasts the American media for its ‘saturation coverage of the royal wedding in England’, while America is still embroiled in three wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, US politicians continue to argue over the debt ceiling, and Japan’s doomed reactors are leaking radioactivity.

Take three and three-quarter minutes of your life to watch what he has to say:

One reaches a point where it has to be considered that O’Donnell is beginning to lose his mind. He accuses the US media of only covering the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton out of remorse for the American revolution.

He then goes on to insist that because of the British defeat by the colonists in the 1775-82 War of Independence, “we set in motion the beginning of the end of the British Empire”. O’Donnell actually used the word, “we”, even though his ancestors would still be living in Ireland and never took any part in the American revolution.

His knowledge of British history is surprisingly lacking. While the loss of the American colonies irked George III, it was the French usurper, Napoleon Bonaparte, who drained the coffers of the British Empire. He was much more instrumental in its eventual demise than ever was America.

“The British crown has spilled more blood around the world, and caused more oppression and suffering in the world than any other regime still standing.”

It’s at this point in his monologue O’Donnell truly allows his Irish prejudices to shine through. No-one with any knowledge of the British Empire would defend the tactics used to achieve it. The world was up for grabs, the strongest nations were hell-bent on purloining the biggest share, and Britain just happened to have control of the seas at the time and fought off France, Spain, and Holland, to attain the lion’s share.

After eventually dealing with Napoleon, and when the American colonies had sunk economically for Britain, the British Empire turned its attention to Africa, and in particular to supplying the Americas with what it needed most – African slaves.

America, with its bloody history of slavery, remained one of the main economic supporters of the British Empire until the civil war eventually put an end to the trade.

A clue to O’Donnell’s obvious hatred of the British comes with the first ‘artist’s impression’ of those oppressed by the British Empire: an image of Irish peasantry starved out of their homeland by the potato famine of 1840-47.

It is totally wrong, however, to blame the British monarchy for this occurrence, as O’Donnell appears to do, as by the time of the Irish famine power had long since passed from the monarch to parliament. For the famine of 1840-47, blame for inadequate action by the British government should fall squarely on the shoulders of Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, and not Queen Victoria.[1]

Not for an instant, would I condone the actions of wealthy British landowners in Ireland, or the government that supported them, but to denigrate the present British monarchy for the oppression of a British government two hundred years ago reveals a mind beset by unnatural prejudices.

O’Donnell truly loses it when he refers to the British Monarchy as ‘a joke’, and tries to convince his viewers that, like him, no-one in (to quote his words) ‘the colonies’ has any interest in the upcoming royal wedding, using a video clip from a now obscure, second-rate, American comedian who once had a successful sitcom, to emphasise his opinions.

Seinfeld is entitled to his beliefs, just as O’Donnell is entitled to his. Being a mildly successful comedian does not automatically bestow one iota of intellectual credibility on a person anywhere. Except, perhaps, in America.

A few facts O’Donnell and Seinfeld are apparently not aware of:

The British monarchy is an integral part of that nation’s culture. ‘Culture’ is not a word heard frequently in the USA. This is because there is no culture, unless one includes plastic Disney characters, the empty-headed, drug-fueled world of Hollywood, or an unnatural obsession with firearms.

O’Donnell credits America with driving the first nail in the coffin of the British Empire, yet the British Empire is alive and well, and now known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. The head of the Commonwealth is Queen Elizabeth II. The Commonwealth comprises fifty-four nations, including one whole continent and one sub-continent. It has a combined population of 2.1 billion people, covers 21% of the world’s landmass, and has a combined gross domestic product of $10.6 trillion.

Every member of the Commonwealth is a voluntary member. There are no British gunboats parked off India, or Australia, or Canada, or Bangladesh. No military arm-twisting is involved. Each member recognizes the advantages of membership, and the British monarch as its head.

The British Empire was imposed by military might, like every other empire that preceded, or succeeded, it. It was a product of war. The British Commonwealth is a promoter of peace and cooperation between its member nations.

Compare that with the latest empire to rise up on this planet.

O’Donnell said:

““The British crown has spilled more blood around the world, and caused more oppression and suffering in the world than any other regime still standing.”

Except, perhaps, the latest.

The country now known as America was taken, by force of arms, from the indigenous population. Cesarini, in his work, “Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, Routledge, 2004. (p. 381)” states:

…in terms of the sheer numbers killed, the Native American Genocide exceeds that of the Holocaust”

Those that weren’t exterminated were herded, like cattle, into reservations and left to live, or die, in poverty and degradation.

America’s incursion into Vietnam in the 1970’s, it’s use of chemical defoliants and other lethal chemicals spread with impunity and without thought for the consequences on an indigenous population (or, even its own US military), resulted in the deaths of between one and two million Vietnamese civilians. Agent Orange, and other products of death, continue to produce Vietnamese birth deformities to this day.

The American Empire holds the glorious ignominy of exploding the only nuclear bombs ever used in anger on the planet: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945. The exact figure for deaths will never be known, but they range from 99,000 to 200,000.

The first Gulf War produced between 20,000 and 35,000 civilian deaths in Iraq and numerous others due to American led sanctions against that country, and the invasion of 2003 is still producing casualties: perhaps, up to one million dead, certainly in excess of five million displaced.

America’s imperialistic designs in Afghanistan are still ongoing, and its 800+ military bases worldwide ensure military control of other nations throughout the globe.

As you read this, pilot-less drone aircraft are indiscriminately delivering death from the skies on innocent Pakistanis and Afghans on the North-West Frontier.

The American Empire has long surpassed that of the British in terms of the death and destruction it has unleashed on the rest of the world. It registers civilian casualties as ‘collateral damage’, slaughters with impunity, and has resurrected physical and mental torture as an acceptable method of interrogating those it considers its enemies.

Great Britain has been a monarchy since King Egbert in 802. Over many centuries it has evolved to become a parliamentary monarchy, with political power devolved to its representative government. This does not, however, relegate the position of British monarch to that of ‘a joke’, as O’Donnell would like us to believe.

Having lived both in a monarchy and a republic, I have no hesitation in defining the former as a vastly more mature form of government than the latter. One has only to study the state of today’s US political leaders to realize the huge problems facing its government.

The royal wedding on April 29th is a moment of British history. British tradition and pageantry is recognized and enjoyed throughout the world. The US media is covering the wedding in great depth for one reason, and one reason only: the advertisers who finance the US media know that many millions of Americans will be tuning in to watch.

It’s a pity that Lawrence O’Donnell and Gerry Seinfeld are too mean-spirited to join them.

[1] “Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807 – 1886)” BBC History

[1] “The Great Hunger” The History Place, 2000

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2 Replies to “Lawrence O’Donnell Has A Problem”

  1. Some excellent points you make there, RJ!
    I haven’t watched MSNBC for several months, apart from the odd 10 minutes, infrequently, so was unaware of the rant of L. O’Donnell ’til now.

    As you say, he went way over the top (trying to emulate Olbermann I suspect) yet I doubt Keith would have said/felt the same about this topic as Lawrence obviously does.

    Holding grudges (and that’s exactly what he’s doing) about stuff that happened centuries ago is dangerous, and pointless.

    He’s simply attention grabbing, on the same level as Beck, Hannity, and the rest.

    I’m not a royal fan at all, but find ALL of O’Donnell’s words distasteful and quite unnecessary.

    So the couch potato American public likes to watch and chat about spectacle – they do it all the time about all kinds of things…sport, celebs, gossip. This is just the most recent example. He’s right that Americans ought to be more engaged on political matters, and be able to see what is in their best interest – but they’re not and likely never will be because they have been brainwashed by the media of which O’Donnell is a part.

    I think you should lodge a complaint RJ.
    I’ll second it.

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