Young black activists roared their approval when Barack Obama recently greeted criticism on the trail by dusting off his shoulders, a reference to a rap song by Jay-Z called "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." The media covering the moment went crazy, too. Washington Post reporter Teresa Wiltz hailed Obama’s moves and called it a "seminal moment in the campaign, the merging of politics and pop culture," and noted the lyrics suggest "If you feelin’ like a pimp...go and brush your shoulders off."
So Barack Obama is feeling like a pimp?
Online at "The Root," a Washington Post website for African-Americans, Obama supporter and Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell was sky high. "Like every other hip-hop generation voter in America I went crazy when he did it," she wrote. "I almost couldn’t believe it. It was a perfect moment."
Harris-Lacewell read that moment as a sign of racial swagger and solidarity with "his base of young urban brown and black voters" and they loved it. "He displayed all the familiar self-assurance and bravado of the hip-hop emcee. The people who got it went nuts, while those who don’t know hip-hop just thought he was being funny and confident."
The video went viral and became a YouTube sensation.
ABC generously offered the Democrats a gift that the Republicans were not given in this electoral cycle – a two-hour debate, in prime time, on a weeknight. Not only that, it was hosted by former Democratic aide George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson. Left-wing bloggers promptly greeted this gift by smacking ABC in the mouth. Like an abused spouse, ABC responded by repeating all the leftist complaints on its airwaves and supinely saluting the impressive dexterity of the Obama campaign.
Question: What did ABC do wrong? Answer: For once it veered from liberal orthodoxy.
Question: Why did ABC feel the need to atone? Answer: Because it veered from liberal orthodoxy.
I confess that when the producers of Ben Stein’s new documentary "Expelled" called, offering me a private screening, I was less than excited.
It is a reality of PC liberalism: There is only one credible side to an issue, and any dissent is not only rejected, it is scorned. Global warming. Gay "rights." Abortion "rights." On these and so many other issues there is enlightenment, and then there is the Idiotic Other Side. PC liberalism’s power centers are the news media, the entertainment industry and academia and all are in the clutches of an unmistakable hypocrisy: Theirs is an ideology that preaches the freedom of thought and expression at every opportunity, yet practices absolute intolerance toward dissension.
Evolution is another one of those one-sided debates. We know the concept of Intelligent Design is stifled in academic circles. An entire documentary to state the obvious? You can see my reluctance to view it.
I went into the screening bored. I came out of it stunned.
Pope Benedict XVI is in America and, like his predecessor, is about to be treated to curiously bipolar coverage at the hands of the American press. While in-country, John Paul the Great received almost universally positive treatment. But up to the point the papal wheels touched down, the media reports were consistently critical – some verging on the savage – and when it was wheels-up, the press immediately returned to their old ways.
The tone this time around will not be so much “news” as the recycled template that our journalistic elite imposes on every papal visit to America in the last thirty years. The usual surveys will be taken off the shelves, dusted, and re-re-represented. Catholics are leaving the Church. Catholics who remain aren’t attending Mass. Vocations are dwindling.
Admiration for the movie star Charlton Heston poured out of the obituaries and appreciations when he died. He would say he was an actor, which he certainly was, but he was also a star, a riveting presence that could credibly play great men like Moses. But the story of Heston’s activism came like a cautionary note, that he used to be a civil rights hero, but then he wandered badly astray.
Many were struck at the similarities of the late careers of Heston and Ronald Reagan, two actors who became more conservative as the 20th century moved on, and both passed away through the long and difficult descent of Alzheimer’s Disease. Journalists and biographers who suggest a dramatic conversion of these two men – sometimes with a nasty implication that they cynically switched sides in the debate to keep their faltering careers alive – often fail to acknowledge how the political and cultural ground shifted under their feet, causing the leap.
Ted Turner was not only interviewed, but celebrated on PBS – on April Fool’s Day. The prank was apparently on PBS. It was as if Turner had a subversive mission, to prove that PBS isn’t just for smart people. True to form, Turner walked off a cliff of rhetorical excess on the "Charlie Rose" show, charging that global warming was going to grow so severe, that in a few decades, most of humanity would be extinct. "We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten -- not ten, but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals."
Washington Post writer Linton Weeks recently wrote a fascinating big-picture essay about the long, sad decline of sincerity and sentiment in America, symbolized by the public loathing of the 1975 Morris Albert pop song “Feelings.” It wasn’t merely the whoa-whoa-whoa chorus that drove the criticism, he suggested, but the mere act of the singer putting the heart on the proverbial sleeve that became phony, cheesy, hopelessly square.
It’s been said before that we live in an age of irony, and irreverence is king. But Weeks added the irresistible term “Snark Ages” to characterize it: “The revolt against sincerity -- the Snark Ages, still upon us -- began as a rebellion against corny, over-the-top displays of emotion in movies, songs, TV shows. But the rebellion spiraled out of control, and any public expression of emotion, no matter how sincere, was a target for mockery. Old war movies and romantic dramas, taken seriously the first time around, were consumed by a younger generation as farce -- as ‘camp.’”
The presidential campaign seems upside down, like a bad April Fool's joke. Suddenly, the titans of the liberal media are wondering out loud if Hillary Clinton should quit the presidential race, while Hillary is kindly greeting and grinning at every vaunted "vast right-wing conspiracy" media outlet from Dick Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a leading Hillary advocate, hailed Fox News as the fairest to Mrs. Clinton.
It is truly bizarre.
At the start of the new year, the dominant storyline was how the Clinton Juggernaut would eventually crush everyone in its path to the Democratic presidential nod. Certainly, Barack Obama's fundraising was matching hers, and his media clips were so sugary they'd make cotton candy seem bitter. But no one really believed Hillary would be where she is today, just three months later, finding herself hounded to go "home" to New York.
Barack Obama came to Philadelphia on March 18 not so much to address his poisonous pastor, Jeremiah Wright, but to talk vaguely of race relations. The news media swooned. No one was giddier than MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who rhapsodized that Obama’s speech was one of the greatest speeches in American history, worthy of Abraham Lincoln, and should be read by school children like "The Great Gatsby" and "Huckleberry Finn." This, after all, is the Chris Matthews who said he "felt this thrill going up my leg" over Obama.
Obama said he could no more disown Wright than his own white grandmother, whom he disparaged as mired in racial stereotypes. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos deemed that part of the speech an "act of honor" -- even if it publicly humiliated Grandma, and even if Wright’s record of paranoid ranting and raving about racism is anything but honorable.
It’s Damage Control Time for the liberal press. Count New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as one in the media masses who have been outraged, just outraged at the supposed conservative bigotry against Barack Obama. This "most monstrous bigotry" isn’t just about race, but also religion. Stating his middle name and Internet whispers that he’s a Muslim "are the religious equivalent of racial slurs."
Kristof concluded his March 9 column by quoting Martin Luther: "I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian."
Lewis Black is a stand-up comedian. His shtick is foam-flecked fits of rage and profanity. Amazon.com advertised one of his DVDs by promising "There's eye-crossing, teeth-gnashing, raspy-voiced yelling, and liberal use of the F-word." In his show at Washington’s Warner Theatre, Black complained the Kennedy Center refused their facilities on the grounds that he dropped F-bombs 42 times in his first hour-long HBO special.
With a record like that, it should be no surprise that he’s a star on Comedy Central, that venomous Viacom property that markets mockery of everything polite, charitable, and (especially) holy. Black is the star of a brand-new Comedy Central show, named "The Root of All Evil." Comedians act like prosecutors, with Black as judge, trying to determine which of two allegedly evil forces is worse. The battle for the debut episode: Oprah Winfrey vs. the Catholic Church.
This is the same hate-spewing channel that mocked the Pope on "South Park" and skewered Catholicism on the holiday special "Merry F—ing Christmas." Now, on the cusp of the Easter celebration, it’s Catholic-hunting season again.
For most of this decade, Eliot Spitzer has been one of the liberal media’s favorite public servants. Before being elected governor of New York in a landslide in 2006, he was hailed as the nation’s most powerful state Attorney General, the scourge of high finance. At "60 Minutes" on CBS, he was the "Sheriff of Wall Street." In the pages of Time, he was on their list of "Heroes and Icons" as "The Tireless Crusader."
While Spitzer was toasted by the national media elite for pursuing Wall Street chicanery, he’d also prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force. The New York Times recalled Spitzer "spoke with revulsion and anger" over a high-end prostitution racket uncovered in Staten Island in 2004.
How ironic that the Times would break the story that federal authorities had caught Spitzer on a wiretap, involved with a very high-priced prostitution ring called the Emperors Club. He was suddenly known simply as "Client #9." On a business trip to Washington last month, he registered at the posh Mayflower Hotel under the name "George Fox" (a donor of his) and arranged for a call girl to meet him there in a room on the eighth floor.
Newsweek magazine recently celebrated the latest trend in elite Northeastern colleges: sex magazines, complete with highbrow titles -- like "Boink." In applauding the shifting sexual mores of American youth, reporter Jennie Yabroff noted that these enterprising students "no longer see a distinction between their bedroom behavior and their publishing activities," and consider their sex-magazine careers in college to be building blocks for the business world.
"I continually tell my mom this is a great résumé builder," says Alecia Oleyourryk of her career publishing "Boink" magazine at Boston University. Newsweek now needs a sociologist to affirm the wisdom of these "young sexperts." Cue Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington. "Maybe their generation will take this a lot less seriously than we do," she says.
Now that Barack Obama is closing in on the Democratic nomination, some are wondering whether the media will be tougher in their coverage. There’s a better question: is it possible to be any softer? The media writ large have been sounding like they’re covering a messiah more than a man. So was Hillary Clinton right to complain that Barack Obama has been more celebrated rather than vetted?
Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton has been the beneficiary of so many cotton-candy profiles and “I Am Woman” honorifics that it’s almost impossible that her bad press will ever come anywhere close to balancing out her mountains of puff over the last 15 years. The “rough” press she’s been getting since Super Tuesday is merely the political prognosticators noticing she’s getting her clock cleaned by 18 to 20 points in a lot of states. Even so, she’s still being awarded softball interviews – like the latest in a long series of twinkly Katie Couric gal-pal segments on “60 Minutes.”
Thirty years ago I was fresh out of college, with no particular career path chosen, and decided I'd like to be a nationally-syndicated columnist. I'd learn rather quickly that before being one, one has to become one, and to qualify on that caliber one has to demonstrate a talent which this young man didn't possess.
Bill Buckley told me so. I'd penned a couple of practice pieces, one having something to do with Jimmy Carter's choice of Muhammad Ali as his ambassador-at-large to Africa, another on something equally memorable, and sent them to Bill, asking for his critique.
"The New York Times is not a supermarket tabloid," boasted their Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple when Gennifer Flowers first declared in 1992 that she and Gov. Bill Clinton had an affair. Even then, the line sounded laughable.
One year before, then-Times reporter Maureen Dowd penned a 2400-word front-page stink bomb passing along discredited gossip author Kitty Kelley’s unproven charges of something apparently too glorious to fact-check: an alleged long-time affair between Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra, including private "luncheons" that went on all afternoon at the White House.
Fidel Castro Resigns. That’s a fantastic headline, and should be cause for celebration. But just because the doddering dictator is stepping aside doesn’t mean that Cuba’s abandoning tyranny. And just because he’s leaving doesn’t mean the media are dropping their fictions about Castro, the Cuban "president." Glancing at a TV set, I caught this CNN screen graphic: "Fidel Castro Resigns: Cuban Pres. Rejects New Term." Where on earth is the media’s regard for accuracy?
A "new term"? This murderous despot has only had one, long, abusive term, and it’s lasted 49 years. Anyone who says otherwise, that the Cuban "parliament" would be setting another "election," is not just a useful idiot, he’s simply an idiot.
Hillary Clinton should be nobody’s idea of a paragon of civil discourse in the political arena. Her personal style of political warfare is ruthless, a bare-knuckles fight to the death. Ask Ken Starr. Her idea of employee relations is also rough. Paul Fray, an Arkansas campaign worker said she cursed him out with F-bombs and ethnic slurs after Bill Clinton lost his one race for Congress in 1974. A co-worker told NBC News in 1999 that he heard cussing from Hillary that night like he’d never heard before.
So it’s a little strange to see Hillary appearing so upset over MSNBC reporter David Shuster suggesting that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by Hillary’s campaign. Shuster was substituting as host of Tucker Carlson’s show and used the P-word as he suggested to liberal radio host Bill Press that it was wrong for the Clinton campaign to have Chelsea call supporters, but not grant reporters any access to her.
There’s one little three-syllable word that has been left out of most of the Democratic primary coverage on the TV: "liberal." We’re constantly told by anchors and reporters how the Republican contenders are fighting over the "conservative" vote and who’s more "conservative," and that’s true. But exactly the same fight is taking place on the left side, with the Clintons trying to suggest Barack Obama’s not sufficiently liberal (he praised Ronald Reagan!) and Obama trying to take Hillary’s Iraq war vote and turn her into Rumsfeld in a black pantsuit.
But the news media cannot routinely bring themselves to say that word, "liberal." Obama landed a major victory in the who’s-more-liberal sweepstakes. He’s been endorsed by MoveOn.org, the screechy hard-left group that distinguished itself last year by taking out newspaper ads denouncing our commander in Iraq as "General Betray Us."
You can tell a lot about how the news media feel about conservatives by watching how they talk about Rush Limbaugh. They want his influence curbed. They pine for the day his career hits the skids. They’re constantly looking for a moment where they can declare that conservatives no longer have – that Rush Limbaugh no longer has -- the Grand Old Party in a menacing trance. They don’t want Republican candidates seeking a Limbaugh endorsement.
Teenagers who tumble from the bed to a sudden pregnancy often face this reaction from the people surrounding them: These poor kids made a mistake, yes. But they don’t have the maturity to bring a life into the world. It would ruin their lives, and they would probably be irresponsible and resentful parents. Admitting their immaturity and having an abortion is the truly mature choice.
That might sound like a formulaic TV movie of the week. But then comes “Juno,” the quirky, arty film with a completely different take – and it’s taking the movie world by storm.
Every four years, the media try to offer the Republican electorate advice on what the GOP should do to achieve victory. Buyer beware: those eager to accept the media’s conventional "wisdom" ought to recognize that these are blueprints for Republican domination of Washington only if it’s a domination by the party’s liberal wing. Currently, the simmering stew of conventional "wisdom" suggests that Sen. John McCain is going to emerge as the obvious front-runner for 2008 because his is the winning message for Republicans.
All the recurring media love for McCain – he’s the only candidate who can go on Fox News and call journalists "Trotskyites" and the liberals all laugh – should remind conservatives why they distrusted him in 2000. His victory in the South Carolina primary warmed the hearts of liberal journalists everywhere. To represent the media giddiness, see Jill Zuckman in the Chicago Tribune. It was "a healthy dose of poetic justice as he beat his Republican rivals and vanquished the ghosts of his 2000 defeat under a barrage of scurrilous smears."
The concept of "sex education" has been a stomping ground for controversy for at least fifty years, probably as long as the apostles of "openness" have argued that parents in general do a terrible job of talking birds and bees with their offspring, and the public schools needed to expose children to a "frank" and "comprehensive" curriculum on How to Have Sex, complete with the pessimistic (or in their case, neutral) assumption that children will be irreversibly aggressive sexual beings.
All of which pales in comparison to what is not being taught on the Internet, where some outrageous amateurs have figured out how to outdo the bureaucratic "sex education" lobby. One new website calls itself "The Midwest Teen Sex Show." Its logo is a silhouette of two cows copulating. It is a series of infomercials for "comprehensive" adolescent indulgence.
The Democratic presidential race is turning into a snippy identity-politics battle waged around the question: Is America more racist or more sexist? Is America too racist to deserve Barack Obama? Or too sexist to deserve Hillary Clinton? Liberals think this is a real puzzler, since they assume America is bigoted both ways. It’s going to be a long, America-accusing election year no matter who wins.
This is nuts. Our system of laws in this country contains energetic remedies for discrimination against blacks and women. Discriminatory attitudes still exist in isolated, politically irrelevant pockets whose existence is then magnified one hundred-fold by those in the media who want this picture of discrimination to exist. Blacks and women simply are not as a rule denied their humanity, as evidenced by a black and a woman vying to become America’s next president.
If we don’t want this year to be an exercise in liberal accusation and intimidation, we should force the Democratic front-runners to answer a different question. If we want to identify the one segment of American humanity that is routinely disregarded, we should ask them: when will you recognize the civil rights and humanity of the unborn baby? When will America overcome this injustice of destroying human lives in the name of "choice"?
At what point, exactly, did we come to hate humans for having the arrogance to assume they are wiser than beasts?
The "we" in that equation belongs squarely to the camp of the loony radical left, which now broadcasts that hatred for humans on the Air America radio network. How low can this disgraceful failure of a radio venture go? One of their newest hosts goes by the radio name "Lionel." (His real name is Michael LeBron.) "Lionel" unfurled a rather unique take on the tragic incident at the San Francisco Zoo, where a tiger mauled a teenager to death.
He cheered for the tiger.
Then he cheered the death of Steve Irwin, the beloved "Crocodile Hunter" of TV fame.
The presidential nominating contest keeps creeping earlier and earlier into the election year. The Iowa caucuses are 16 days earlier than in 2004. The New Hampshire primary is 19 days earlier than in 2004. Before the first results, the media were already pushing the contenders around, predicting that most presidential campaigns are toast if they don’t win in one of these states, and in so doing, are only advancing that perception.
All the talk of reforming the primary system – to make it more logical, more rational, more regional, more representative, less tilted to traditional first states like Iowa and New Hampshire – all of these do less for a rational nomination process than reforming the reporters and pundits who want to declare the whole race over from the first shot of the starting gun.
In 2004, John Kerry was estimated to have sealed the winning number of convention delegates by March 11, and the conventional media wisdom was talking him up as the nominee after the primaries on February 3. By the 6th, the Reuters wire service put out a story headlined "Kerry Presidency Seen [As] a Boon for U.S. Markets." Soon, CBS and other media outlets started investigating and attacking the National Guard record of President Bush, as if they were following the orders of Kerry advisers. The general election seemed already under way.
For America’s celebrity-watching media, 2007 was the Year of Spears, about which we should breathe a sigh of relief that Western civilization survived. The year began with increasingly erratic Britney Spears popping in and out of rehab stints. Then she shaved her head in the spring, a move that screamed that the pop star’s moves were more crazy than calculated by publicists. The year ended with the news that Britney’s 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn Spears, a star of the children’s channel Nickelodeon, was pregnant.
Had the youngest Spears sister been cast as a tawdry teenage tramp on “Desperate Housewives,” her real-world behavior would be seen as less scandalous. But Jamie Lynn Spears has been a fairly wholesome star on Nickelodeon since she joined the kiddie sketch-comedy show “All That” at the tender age of 11. She’s currently the cool title character of the show “Zoey 101,” set at a boarding school, a show watched by millions of grade-schoolers. So much for role models.
Hillary Clinton has no right to complain that her friends and flatterers in the media are rough on her. But when Clintons hit rough passages on the road to victory, this is what Clintons do: complain. That’s too meek. They whine.
But she obviously feels wronged by the news media when her polls begin to slip and she looks at her Barack Obama’s worshipful press clips. In fairy-tale terms, Obama is Snow White, and Hillary is the vain and wicked queen peering into the mirror and demanding to know "who is the fairest of them all?"
The end of 2007 doesn’t seem half as depressing to the conservative faithful as it was in the beginning. Democrats captured the Congress, sure. But now it’s their approval ratings that are in the toilet, and worst still, their rabid leftist base has turned on them for not being rabidly leftist enough. The presidential front-runners are no longer inevitable, not even Hillary Clinton’s buy one-get-one-free ticket. The economy is fairly strong, regardless of the pessimistic media coverage. We’ve had another year without America being successfully attacked by terrorists. The surge is working.
All this good news is driving the Left nuts, and nowhere is this more evident than in the national media, which is making no attempt to shake off their collective gloom-and-doom tone. As the good news began emanating from Iraq this fall, the McClatchy News Service, lauded by media leftists like Bill Moyers as having the smart reporters who always thought the Iraq War was a fight without a point, ran this headline:
"As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch."
At the summit of national power, politicians and bureaucrats are terrified at the idea of endorsing the religious views of the majority of Americans. Our First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion, but many of our governing elites are taking it a step further, outlawing its very existence from the public conversation.
Congress can turn this into an unintentional comedy of manners. On December 11, the House considered a rather meaningless resolution "recognizing the importance of Christmas" – and nine members of the House voted "nay." The roll call of Grinches are, surprise, largely from blue states: Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke of New York were on the list, as were California’s Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey. The Politico newspaper applauded with "God bless them!"