Mr. Greatest Generation, gracious as always.
Mark Leibovich, "Who, Us? Media Bashing 101". September 7
SARAH PALIN’S national opening last week was judged an unqualified success by the media elite, even though much of her debut speech Wednesday night was devoted to whacking the media elite.
IS that supposed to be some kind of a koan?
“I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone,” Governor Palin of Alaska said, drawing the wildest applause of what would be the raucous night of the Republican convention.
Okay, so we may as well start right there; we might find we can finish right there, too. I taped convention coverage specifically so I wouldn't have to sit through vast stretches of this sort of thing--the speeches, not the vapid post-speech commentary, I mean. I caught a little bit of Giuliani, the way you'd watch a high-school biology filmstrip about the mating habits of the praying mantis, i.e., just for the goo. I spent a little longer with Fred Dumbo Thompson, on the grounds that I believe he's the very personification of modern-day Republican party power: 1) it's impossible to decide how much of his political philosophy he truly "believes", and what percentage is attributable to a long-sublimated potty-training mishap or a prom date's derisive laughter; 2) it's next to impossible to figure out who buys that image of him as a man who feasts on 'possum and cream gravy twice a week when a glance tells you he berates the waiter if his '85 Romanée-Conti is still at cellar temperature; 3) he's a star, politically, without ever having accomplished anything even he can point to, other than raising money; 4) as such he's the poster boy for that "federalism" of which he is also perhaps the staunchest, and hence most plug-ignernt, advocate; and 5) he's perfectly described by Woody Allen's old line about John Mitchell (spoken on the cusp of Nixon's first inaugural): "I think when Trick or Treaters ring his doorbell he probably tear-gasses them." In fact, if Thompson loses Death Race 2010 to Dick Cheney he'll stand as the living embodiment.
Alas, on that night Thomspon's Mayberryisms had been penned by the writers of the Ken Berry version, so I skipped ahead to Commander Palin. And I skipped, and skipped, and skipped, and never found a two-sentence segment that wasn't met by uproarious applause. That speech was the "Freebird" of political theatre, and, as such, it's difficult to credit anyone who totted it up in the Unqualified Success column unless you know they also voted Skynnerd Best Band Ever in Rolling Stone's Readers' Poll.
I have since been subjected to more than one punditaster--Pat Buchanan comes immediately to mind--simply declaring the councilwoman had captivated "millions". And maybe she did, but Buchanan knows no more of the numbers, or the emotions welling inside, than do you or I. Meanwhile, that unqualified and (mostly) disproportionate roaring, of a sort last heard from a cattlebarnful of white people that time the Washington Generals got mad and kicked the Globetrotters' ass, signified what exactly? The last time these people got together they slimed a fucking war hero. Yes, they were given the opportunity to vent at Thuh Librul Media, but they'd've been stomping and hooting non-stop regardless, for the simple reason that McCain had selected an unqualified wingnut; the stomp lines were intended to drown out the first while trumpeting the second. See, again, Bush's first speech to a Joint Session, assuming you can get naked ladies out of your mind; it's the same thing, and it would have occurred if there'd been no previous coverage at all of Palin, her crackpot theology, her doctored record, or her Striking Good Looks. She got a wildly positive reception ex parte. How do you use that to judge her results, other than, perhaps, among the same Blood n' Guts Republicans who created the din in the first place? And, sheesh, she's a right-wing crank; did you really need to check the V-U meter to gauge their opinions?
Compare, naturally, Senator Obama (Things to Do Today: 1. Fire campaign staff) and the criticism of the response of masses of Germans (Things to Do Today: 1. Go back in time, retroactively fire campaign staff) who, whatever else might be said of massed Germans at a political rally, were not there as a partisan prop. I did go back this weekend and look at a bit more of Governor Adenoid's speech, just to see if my revulsion to her party, her ideas, her political and intellectual heft, and that guy in the back who kept yelling, "Sweet Home Alabama!" had colored my consideration of what I'd watched of her performance the next morning. On second look I think, if nothing else, Senator Obama ought to be glad he can now relinquish the title of Most Overpraised Political Orator of the modern era, especially since she went around him like Ursain Bolt. Isn't that self-same media elite which called her an Unqualified Success supposed to be, uh, listening to her and not the home-town crowd? She's not exactly awful, now that the Acting President has buried that bar so far in the ground we'll have to drill for it if we ever need it back, but Weekend Fill-in Sports Anchor on a Long Frozen Tundra Night on the Only Channel That Comes In Clearly would have been a good place to stop, talent-wise.
Speaking of them media elites, which is what we were supposed to be doing: somehow "That's just the White People cuttin' up; lucky for us they doan mean it none, and they'll be sorry tomorrow when they sober up" falls a little short of what I'd term "analysis".
We have played this video game before. Indeed, the Republican tradition of media-bashing goes back decades, at least to the convention of 1964 when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower called out "sensation-seeking columnists and commentators," and the Cow Palace in San Francisco burst into jeers and catcalls at the reporters there. The sentiment was immortalized in Richard Nixon’s vice president Spiro Agnew who memorably charged that many in the press corps were mere “nattering nabobs of negativism” — and for good measure — “an effete corps of impudent snobs.”
In other words, the bashers and bashees have been through this and know the drill. There was an almost homey familiarity to the ritual. And despite the hot words from the podium, it was hard to find a journalist last week who felt any unusual sense of siege or discomfort.
Krishna H. Vishnu, it's like finding it remarkable that a sixty-year-old streetwalker didn't blush when you propositioned her. The Librul Media stuff occupies the same position in American politics that anti-Evolutionism does: it continues to market the same empty PR blather, occasionally and transparently modified to seem up-to-date (and not, it must be stressed, to deal with new evidence; neither engage in an actual debate). Professional biologists finally tired of the blatant lies spread about them, fought back, and have won every battle. Journalists, meanwhile, seem to think that three generations of right-wing smears about them are "sorta fun". This is why we call Biology "a science" and Journalism "an abomination".
Too bad it's not harmless fun, not like noting that the front-page, graphic-bigger-than-the-piece, Week in Review examination of forty-year-old (excuse me) bullshit quotes, along with a strict cast of strict Republicans broken only by The Liberal Tom Brokaw, both Peggy Noonan, and Michael Murphy, just four days removed from their having inadvertently revealed to the world that they think the whole thing's a Big Fucking Playground, with Cake (Noonan is actually quoted from her Thursday mea culpa, minus the part about how she really didn't mean to be overheard saying Palin is a joke). Too bad it's actually managed to slant our news rightward over those past forty years (and look what that's accomplished!).
Isn't Journalism supposed to reflect on this sort of thing? Either the Right had a legitimate grievance over the coverage of Councilwoman Palin--in this we exempt the pregnancy story, as the Right has relinquished, for All Time, the standing to object to scabrous tabloid personal intrusions of whatever type, including the Toilet cam, not that we're trying to give anyone any ideas--in which case it ought to be addressed, or it was blowing smoke, in which case you ought to try putting up your dukes for once, and see if you might like the view from your own two feet once in a while.