By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Aug 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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Keith Olbermann's nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment is frequently funny, often mean and too frequently repetitive, constantly dumping on Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

They don't need any defending. It's just that they're far too easy targets if you're shooting from the left side of the political spectrum, as Olbermann does nightly on MSNBC's "Countdown."

But when somebody local makes the list, I think it's worth noting. And that's what I did last week when Jill Bader, the spokeswoman for Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign got the nod from Olbermann for her "re-tweet" that linked to a "Soul Train"-style song that was supposed to be a joke about President Barack Obama and high-speed rail.

She pulled it quickly, apologizing and calling her rebroadcast of a link from another campaign worker not "what I thought it was."

We can assume whatever we want, but all we have is Bader's word on it. And when you're in a public role like that, you're going to take heat for anything you re-tweet. Believe me, I think twice and maybe three times when I tweet, or re-tweet. 

Here's Olbermann's segment: 

Frankly, getting dumped on by Olbermann isn't a bad thing for a Republican. It's a badge of honor in our polarized political environment. It definitely doesn't hurt during a primary campaign. 

In the end, this really wasn't a big deal, despite attempts to turn it into something more. People who don't like Scott Walker in specific, or conservatives in general, dumped on Bader. Folks on the other side rallied to her.

I made no comment in my blog post, just noting what had happened. I'll tell you now the link did appear to me to strike a racial chord. There are countless better known songs about trains if that was really the issue.

While I thought it was racial in the context of Obama, I can't say it struck me as racist.

Take the video out of  the current political climate, and it's not racial at all. But with the left accusing the right of playing the race card against the president, the use of it in a Twitter crack about Obama is sure to raise the issue. 

Here's the video:

Still, in the end, I saw this whole thing as a relatively insignificant matter. And, as I said, all we have is Bader's apology and her word that she didn't mean to post the link.

Then the comments started coming in to my blog post, with a steady back-and-forth:

"How is this racist?"

"Of course it's racist."

"You liberals are this."

"You conservatives are that."

There were 28 of them, with some commenters posting repeatedly. Few had anything to add. And, of course, there is no resolution.

While all this grumbling centers on what I see as a political footnote, it's a good example of what public debate has become these days, whether it's about the proposed Islamic center a couple blocks from "Ground Zero" or any other issue that pops up. 

After nearly 16 years of getting paid to watch cable "news" and listening to talk radio, I think we're reaping their harvest.

In the cable news format, every issue has two sides and partisans from each side yell at each other with a moderator in the middle.

In the talk radio version, an omniscient host takes a position and everyone who disagrees is an "idiot," every competing argument is "ludicrous," and opinions are confused with facts.

Both styles have worked since the 1990s in generating ratings.

But they're completely ineffective in seriously discussing anything.

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.