Thursday, December 14, 2006


Removing The Stinger

by digby

Maureen Dowd does a spectacular Queen Bee Kill today of both Clinton and Obama, basically calling her a sexless schlub and him a metrosexual cipher. With her usual original insight she notes that Clinton is a woman and Obama is black and then ends the piece with this darling little observation:

So there is a second question, perhaps one that will trump race and gender. It's about whether he's tough and she's human.

Told yah. Democrats are a bunch of bitches and girly-men --- the kewl kidz are sharpening their claws to do the GOP's dirty work for them again.

Via TPM, I see that Jeff Greenfield has responded to the blogosphere's exasperation athis story comparing Barack Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mode of dress. Just as his fellow entertainer Rush Limbaugh always does, he claims he was joking and that bloggers are hotheads, trying to feed their blog beast with silly stuff like this.

I figured there was no way on planet Earth that anyone could possibly take such a presentation at face value. I was wrong.

Nobody that I know of was suggesting that he meant it at "face value" which I guess would be that Obama and Ahmandinejad's similar mode of dress means that they have similar political views. What I criticized was the sub-text of such remarks and how these remarks are common right wing tools used to slander, demean and trivialize their opponents. The fact that Jeanne Moos also did a "funny" riff that day on Obama's middle name "Hussein" (that was far more revealing of people's bigotry than anything else) what you saw was this subtle theme emerging that implies both that Obama is superficial on the one hand (look at his GQ clothes!) and also somewhat exotic and foreign --- not to be trusted. Enough "jokes" like this and over time people will develop an uncomfortable feeling about Obama's "style" and his exotic name without even knowing that they have it or where it came from. That's how these subtle themes work.

Greenfield even mentions the Daily Howler as one of the critical bloggers --- the Daily Howler that wrote the book on the trivialization and character assasination of Al Gore with the very same shallow, schoolkid nonsense that Greenfield pulled on Obama, (which Greenfield implies are completely different things.) This thesis has been rigorously explored there and in the rest of the blogosphere and its conclusion is one of the reasons why the blogosphere has exploded. Far from being a little sideline we indulge in when we need some filler, it is one of the reasons we exist.

We have found, among many other things, that there is an obsession among the press corps with a very peculiar form of gender stereotypes which they affix to the political parties. This may be a function of what seems to be their terminal immaturity (and perhaps it has simply become reflex after all this time), but it is also part of a long term political strategy on the right to paint the Democrats as being odd, untrustworthy, hysterical, overly sensitive and soft --- what neanderthals think of as traditionally negative female characteristics. Not only does this narrative feed into these negative sereotypes, which benefits traditonal power structures in general, it feeds into a positive male leadership archetype, which has been appropriated by the Republican Party. It is what allowed a halfwit, manchild to be elected as a "grown-up" while the real adult was derided as some sort of Blanche DuBois character who had lost his grip on reality. The kewl kidz laughed and laughed while the rest of stood there dumbfounded and paralyzed at this bizarre interpretation of reality. We aren't paralyzed anymore.

Is it a sin, in and of itself, that Greenfield trivialized Barack Obama for his wardrobe and compared him to a holocaust denying psychopath? Not really. Is it a major goof for Jeanne Moos to simultaneously go out on the street and ask people if they think his "weird" middle name means that he can't be elected? Probably not.

But you'll have to excuse us hotheads for reacting strongly when we see these things because the last time the media decided to have "fun" and tell "jokes," this way, enough people believed them that it ended up changing the world in the most dramatic and violent way possible. We are in this mess today at least partly because these people failed to do their duty and approached their jobs as if it were a seventh grade slumber party instead of the serious business of the most powerful nation on earth.

I don't know what is wrong with them and their social construct that makes them so susceptible to this, or why they fail to see how this bias toward phony Republican machismo distorts political reporting, but it's a big problem for this country. Whatever their psychological or political motivations, we cannot take the chance that these narratives will go unchallenged again. Bad things happen. Wars. Torture. Dead people.

Somebody in this culture has got to be the sober, factual, reality based journalists and it only stands to reason that those who are trained and paid to be sober, factual, reality based journalists would fill that role. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are very good at political humor. (Even Dennis Miller is funnier than Greenfield.) The late night comics do a great job at skewering politicians. Leave them to it.

Until the mainstream press recognizes the extent of their laziness and gullibility --- or pay a price for their political bias --- we will keep reminding them and their audiences of their transgressions even if that makes us thin-skinned hotheads who are trying to fill blogposts. We all have our jobs to do.

Kevin Drum responds to Greenfield too.

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