Blogger Takes on WashPost's Juvenile Style Section Item on Fred Thompson

August 13th, 2007 2:42 PM

I saw this yesterday but didn't work up anything on it. Basically it's a lame Style section front-pager from Sunday that fixates on how dull/boring/lame/stupid-sounding the name "Fred" is, and what that means for presumptive GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

Fortunately Myra Langerhas of "Snarking Dawg" worked up a snarky blog post and so I thought I'd share that with you. Below is the relevant excerpt from Myra's August 12 entry "What's in a name?"

Myra began by quoting the first seven grafs of staff writer Monica Hesse's August 12 article and then laid out swipe at the author's biases and decidedly liberal cosmopolitan tastes, like joining a bunch of lesbians in "crashing" a "straight bar.":

In the swampy soup of hopefuls for the 2008 presidential election, there is a man with a funny name. (No, not that one.)

We're thinking of the one named Fred (Thompson).

Say it out loud. Do it. Fred. Fred. In the South, Fray-ud.


It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish.

Waterlogged paper towel.


Some simple searches of all of the tubes on all of the internetz clearly shows the source of Ms. Hesse's hostility towards the Fred. He doesn't attend many 'Guerilla Queer Bars' . He is certainly not cerebral enough to wite or even read a thesis entitled "Queering the Cannibal: Race and the Eroticizing of Consumptive Narratives in American Literature.". He might even drive an SUV.

So, ya know, he's just so outta touch.

Our wonderful and illustrious author [second from left] on the monthly Guerilla Queer Bar jaunt.

Update: Ann Althouse has a good take on her blog (portion in bold is my emphasis).:

Now, back to Monica Hesse. She wrote about the sound of names, and Robin Givhan got all that attention over writing about cleavage. It was mostly criticism, but attracting criticism can be a game worth playing. (Where's my sandwich?)

But the important thing is to do some good analysis! When it comes to politics and aesthetics, I want to stress the distinction between the subjective and the objective. The effect of the word "Fred" on a particular columnist is only significant if it tells us something about how it will affect people in general. What is the psychological effect of a particular name? Most politicians fly under the radar by being named Bill. But even "Bill" has the effect of no effect. Our minds are open to subliminal influence. Look at what care we take naming our babies. We want to give them the advantage of name that has a good subliminal effect on those who hear it. It's worth thinking about how various aesthetic aspects of a candidate -- including his name -- will affect the voters. Actually, talking about these subjective effects can help us make it conscious and therefore overcome the things that shouldn't factor into our decisions.

But there is an objective side to this. What is the candidate doing? Fred Thompson didn't name himself, but Hillary Clinton chose to wear that low-cut top. We should notice when politicians are trying to manipulate us, both so we can overcome the manipulation and because it tells us something about the person doing it. Not everything is intentional. I certainly assume Hillary knew exactly where her breasts were in that top. (The alternative explanation, which I reject, is that she -- and her assistants -- are incompetent.) But Fred has probably been called Fred for decades and has no real way out of being called Fred. It's just his name. It's nothing he's doing, just something that might affect us.