Monday, February 22

A New Low In Low

Ross "Finger on the Pulse" Douthat, "Enquiring Minds". February 21

CORPUS Christi, hasn't Harvard demanded this guy's degree back yet?
Last Thursday, after weeks of hedging, the Pulitzer Committee acknowledged that the Enquirer’s extensive coverage of John Edwards’s double life — stories that were first ignored, then dismissed, and finally vindicated in the mainstream press — would be considered for investigative reporting and national news reporting awards.

By rights, the Edwards story should have been entered in the “public service” category as well. If the supermarket tabloid’s reporters hadn’t gone digging where other journalists declined to even tread, we might never have learned how close the Democratic Party came to nominating a truly disgraceful character for the presidency.

Yeah, thank God we avoided that ugly precedent.

Let's just take a moment to dispose of any actual issues which might be involved here, since Ross won't be touching on them (understandable, since the specter of S-E-X has been summoned from, you know, Down There):

• The Tsk-Tsk, Cluck-Cluck-Cluck Factor was turned up to 11 in Edward's case--not that Ross needs any, well, prodding--because of Elizabeth Edward's cancer. Not that she isn't a courageous woman--though, personally, I wish she'd used some of that courage to turn down a book deal--and not that I believe her health could have, or should have remained private. But I found that press conference extraordinarily creepy (not her fault; I'm sure she had other things on her mind). It was a fucking year before the primaries, for one thing; John Edwards couldn't suspend his campaigning for a few months? And it was guaranteed to be given the Full Oprah treatment, which couldn't hurt, eh? Who said anything about that then?

• We think Skepticism is always warranted, and cynicism justified by the preponderance of the evidence in any case you'd care to name, but look: if you've decided, retroactively, that John "Gunslinger" Edwards is the evilest man ever to come within several dozen percentage points of lasting more than one month in a major party primary, then there's one fact you ought to face. None of us has any control over the inner life of our candidates, and few of us have Ross' plerophoric ability to judge them so completely. What we can do, then, is not fucking go ass over teacup over these staged events, no matter how poignant or admirable or rich in symbolism (and there goes NBC's Olympic coverage). Thousands of people in this country wake up every morning facing the same, or worse; few if any have lifetime government healthcare, and many of those who do had to spend themselves into poverty first to get it. Somehow the mass-market empathy for Elizabeth Edwards--to be sure, a champion of public healthcare--didn't translate into Senate votes for taking care of people who really need it.

• Newt Gingrich, Ross? Is he less disgraceful than Edwards? Yet you seem willing to engage him in debate over the future of that Crime Family you both belong to.

Now, as we attempt to segue into what Douthat seems to imagine is the real issue--how the "reputable" Press' disinterest in John Edwards' character came this close to putting a man in the White House we later would have determined to be a serial philanderer, thereby requiring Congressional Republicans to grind the nation's business to a halt in order to read "fellatio" into the Record seven thousand times per week--a prospect which gives young Ross the shudders, no doubt--let us note that one man's "The mainstream Press totally ignored the story" is another man's "Yeah, because they were focused on his grooming practices".

We're willing to admit that some of this "The Press gives x a free pass" depends on your view of x, even though this is our stock in trade; the distinction, Your Honor, is that I'm not a paid fucking shill for either of the two major parties, and my belief about the national Press--that it defends not one "side" or the other, but the interests of its corporate bosses and the status quo its "personalities" bask in--is empirically demonstrable. I don't think the Press "ignored" the multiple questions about George W. Bush's character--and how'd that one work out?--in 2000 because of some simple-minded partisan bias of the type Mr. Douthat earns his living peddling. I think it did so because that's the way the Press works, generally, with a minor in "charges from what is euphemistically termed The Left in this country will be pushed back against more forcefully than those from The Right in no small measure because the whole Librul Media canard has played so well for forty years". For any of us the ideal Press scrutiny is the exact amount needed to topple our enemies and give our friends the benefit of the doubt. Patience is that virtue we admire in the driver behind us, but not the one in front. Douthat's Outrage meter is pegged by Edwards, but fails to register Newt. He's entitled; we're entitled to ask Why, and to ask the Times why he doesn't have to show his work.
It’s remarkable, in a way, that the Enquirer still exists at all, let alone that it’s enjoying a moment in the journalistic sun. In the age of Gawker, Twitter, and, a weekly scandal sheet seems quaint, if not archaic. And in an era when newspapers are fighting desperately for readers, you would think that the mainstream media — hemorrhaging subscribers and hungry for online eyeballs — would uncover all the really interesting scandals first.

But you’d be wrong. The Internet is very good at generating gossip, but lousy at the dogged work of transforming rumor into news. And the national press almost seems more uncertain about when and whether to probe into politicians’ private lives than it was in the days when The Miami Herald cheerfully ran a photograph of Donna Rice sitting side-saddle on Gary Hart’s lap.

First, this observation courtesy a guy whose "reporting" consists of linking to articles he's read, and, second, who can't seem ever to understand how far away he should stay from anything that happened more than six years ago. Gary Hart wasn't the guy who was caught due to the Media's clear-eyed sense of mission and dogged bone-sniffing; he's the guy who was caught because he dared the curs of the national Press to follow him and catch him at something. Meanwhile the Republican nominee-to-be, George Herbert Walker Bush, carried on an affair that'd been an open secret for years.

And, for good measure, chose Dan Fucking Quayle to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, which was more of a joke than a scandal, but should've been both. Quayle had only recently returned from a golf outing where he shared living arrangements with seven other Republicans and insurance lobbyist/demirep Paula Parkinson. Between the two of 'em you've got enough shady finances, malfeasance, draft-dodging, miching mallecho, and whiffs of soiled silk to've disgraced the character of a half-dozen national nominees. The Bulldog Press went sniffing around Kitty Dukakis' medical records.

Look, Ross boy, I don't expect you to know this stuff; I do expect that at some point you might recognize your lack and tread with some care. John Edwards is a detestable human being--though it ought to be noted here that it's your people, not mine, who claim to be in the forgiveness business--but he's not President of the United States at this moment not because he cheated on his cancer-stricken wife, and lied about it, and not because the National Enquirer happened to find some shit that stuck, for the first time since that Dingo did Eat the Baby. He's not President because Democratic primary voters, after the geek show in Iowa, didn't fucking vote for him. If you'd like to discard the cosseting fiction that this represents Democracy in Action, and that voters made an informed choice based on the issues, go ahead (but, for once, consider how it's going to play when the shoe's on the Right foot). But to suggest that sexual peccadilloes are a surer measure of character than, say, stealing from future generations to conduct an unnecessary war, or torturing captives in its pursuit, or listening in on private conversations just beggars belief, not to mention pointing out that had Edwards gained the Democratic nomination he'd be President today, thanks to the criminal mess of things your party made, whatever you think of its collective character.

One other thing: the real question here is "When did the Pulitizer committee lose its fucking mind, and is that evidence that whatever's going around is contagious"? Not that I expect you to ask it, Ross. At least until they're passing out statues to someone who did it to a Republican.


Marion in Savannah said...

The mere idea of that pasty little putz riding off at the head of a new panty sniffing brigade is enough to make me lose last week's lunch.

As an added bonus my word for verification is "roeark," which rather sounds like I just DID lose last week's lunch...

Anonymous said...

How does Edwards qualify as a "serial philanderer" ?

Wouldn't a "concurrent philanderer" be worse, except for the implication of orgies ?

D. Sidhe said...

At the very least, someone needs to make Ross shut the hell up till he learns how the industry that puts food on his own table works.

See if you can follow this, idiot: Newspapers are in the business of feeding readers to advertisers. That's their whole job. There may have once been some sweet-smelling whiff of public service in their charters, but that was demonstrably dead by the time editorial staffs were selling "Objectivity" to the rubes with a "New! Improved!" sticker on the shiny wrapper. Then they moved on to Balance, and for the same reason: because our advertisers, the people who actually give us money, demand eyeballs connected to readers who can be induced to fret more about the state of their teeth or their gardens than the state of the world.

Scandals, then, are only allowed if they do not cast our advertisers or ourselves in a bad light, and if they don't in any way lift the curtain on that dysfunctional machine we're currently agreeing to call democracy. People who are profoundly concerned about global warming don't remodel their kitchens, so there's a controversy that will only get reported when balance can be shaded to favor, or at least not damage, the "Don't worry, go back to shopping" viewpoint.

Likewise, scandals are only good for drawing in readers if they don't cost the paper advertisers by shedding light on their corporate wrongdoings, or piss off politicians who may otherwise do favors for advertisers (or the newspaper's owners).

Because, Ross, readers are a means to an end, not the goal itself. If they print National Enquirer stories, they get National Enquirer advertisers. At this point, all that's left to cut when the budget drops because Lasik4Less has never paid more than 300 bucks for a column inch in its life and ain't starting now is the collection of bow ties and simulated gravitas on the editorial page. Seriously, how many National Enquirer columnists can you name?

I don't expect Ross to be prepared to explain any of this to his readers, but someone probably should have explained it to him.

Sadly, this is why Doghouse will never get an editorial gig, either. Too damned smart and cynical for the room. The only market is for features writers, under whatever euphemism folks like Ross want to use for themselves.

If it helps any, and perhaps it doesn't much, nobody will ever adore Ross to the point of wanting to emulate him, and nobody will ever propose to him on the strength of his skill with words, and nobody will ever steal his best lines and feel kind of guilty about it because he deserves the credit. Nobody links Ross's crap except in disdain. Unfortunately, though, they do pay him a lot for it, which sucks.

VW: Flogra, which might be what Doghouse does to Ross. (And after I mistyped it, "inkine", which is definitely what Ross keeps producing.)

drip said...

Well, said D Sidhe they do pay him a lot for it.Maybe, maybe not. Do you know? I am curious what people like Douhat make. They probably have to join a union so there is a floor, but I bet the ceiling isn't that far away.

Steve said...

"When did the Pulitzer comittee lose its fucking mind..."

The answer is at least as far back as 1998, when they gave one to Steve Breen, the blandest, most pointless and least clever editorial cartoonist in the world, who for some reason every major print media outlet thinks is worth including in the weekly roundup of "wit."

In the course of looking up that date, I was further appalled to discover that the Pulitzer committee is so biased towards useless hacks that they gave him a second one this year. Can George Eff Will (thanks, Doghouse) be far behind?

Kathy said...

"hasn't Harvard demanded this guy's degree back yet?"

Well, it is glued pretty tightly to Dothat's Parent's bumper sticker. "Proud Parents of a Harvard Graddjiot" in colors guaranteed not to fade in sun or rain.

R. Porrofatto said...

Thank you, as always. I really don't know what Ross is on about. At least in the sense that Rielle Hunter doesn't look like Reese Witherspoon and is apparently not a fan of the pill, Edwards and Douthat are simpatico. Besides, if all this came out after Edwards won the nomination, they could have turned it into a Bristol Palin-like positive because everyone chose to have the baby that he and Elizabeth would love and cherish until she succumbed to cancer and a newly baptized Rielle (a twofer with the baby! Oh, gush!) took over as The Real Mom, transforming a tawdry scandal into an episode of Touched by An Angel promoting Christian Family Values. Then the Enquirer would really win the Pulitzer. Oh wait. I forgot, this would work only for a Republican. Never mind.

And what D. Sidhe said.

Julia said...

I think, though, the one person whose loathesomeness shines through like a beacon is the unnamed campaign aide (who I'm assuming, based on history, rhymes with "Go Skippy") who gave blind quotes to teh media afterwards to say that they knew all the time, but they were definitely going to do something to stop him if he got close to the nomination.

Because, let's face it, the little people don't really have any claim to their donations or their votes that compares to the needs of somebody's spokesmeatpuppet facing the prospect of honest work.

D. Sidhe said...

It's a guess. For all I know, they've trained a raccoon to go through his garbage a couple times a week and print whatever it comes back with.

But it's probably still more than they pay for investigative reporting.