sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Media Queen Bees . . . or Wannabes?
(Or, Fast Times at Beltway High).
There's a nice back and forth blogversation between Digby and (the wonderful) Sara Robinson at Orcinus about the sudden return of what's been dubbed Kewl Kids/Mean Girls (horrible-high school-flashback) journalism. Digby starts out talking about how folks are almost instantly back to operating on Clinton Rules Redux:
They are partying [on MSNBC] like it's 1999. Norah O'Donnell, Lawrence O'Donnell, Mary Ann Akers and some other person I don't know have just spent half an hour discussing the fact that Nancy Pelosi ruined her own honeymoon and now it is really quesionable whether she can lead. . . . After a thorough discussion of how hapless the Democratic nerds have already proven to be, Mary Ann Akers whispers that reporters all over town are "loving" this story. It's so much fun! . . . The spite girls are back in town. It isn't so much a matter of substance. . . .That's not the problem. It's that the patented 90's style smug, juvenile, derisive Kewl Kidz tone is once again ooozing through everything they say. . . .Sara responds with excellent advice on how to respond - to Bring On the Angry Liberals, Redux:
Back in the 70s, when the GOP were the media's angry loonies, they played into it without apology. By their analysis, there was plenty wrong with the country, and their rage was totally justified. . . Their willingness to look angry made them look strong, full of conviction, and worthy of respect. This was a huge part of how the Republicans turned the PR tide in their favor in the late 70s and early 80s . . . It will work for us now -- but only if we consistently, reliably, choose firm defiance over spinelessness every time, and make it clear that they're taking the risk of devastating public humiliation every time they open their giggling mouths . . .Moving on, she stops to actually look at the Kewl Kids and Queen Bees, noting that
The image of the mainstream media as a gaggle of adolescent Kewl Kidz giggling and sneering in high school hallways has been in circulation as a stock lefty blogger meme for a few years now. But I don't know that anyone's really stopped and taken a look at the deeper implications of that analogy -- or the possible solutions it might point to, especially what we know these days about "relational aggression," which is what this precise form of bullying is called when it happens in schools.Indeed, she proceeds to not only do just that - via parenting websites and Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes - but also adapts anti-relational-agression strategies into a list of strategies liberals can use. Digby bounces off her post with some additional talk about Shrinking the Kewl Kids. Meanwhile, Gleen Greenwald has a detailed post on the Beltway Attacks on Nancy Pelosi, pointing out how
She's not even Speaker yet, and they've already pronounced her to be a bitchy, vindictive shrew incapable of leading because she's consumed by petty personal bickering rather than serious and substantive considerations. And all of this is based on nothing.He goes in to demonstrate how what's being said is mostly "all based on giggly chit-chat and gossipy garbage that has no legitimacy other than the fact that they all repeat it in unison on television and in print," or (however regrettable) standard-issue Washington politicking. On top of that - and this is the big point for me -
that's to say nothing of the fact that the Hoyer-Murtha race is being depicted as some sort of sign of hateful Democratic in-fighting that shows Pelosi has lost control, even though Republicans are mauling each other for every single House leadership position, all of which are hotly contested.See, I'm less picky than Digby, who doesn't mind the substance, but the tone. Certainly I'd prefer an aggressive and substantive fourth estate that would help root out corruption and misgovernment across the board, but if the media just felt the need to sound like a bunch of bipartisan high school Heathers - as he depicts Maureen Dowd in his Shrinking post . . . Well, it's not the best thing for democracy, but I think it would be a relatively simple matter to marginalize them in favor of Serious News for Serious People (left or right), and lessen the damage. Thing is, that personality type just inherently doesn't work this way, and for years now they've decided that the GOP is their BFF - Republicans Rule, Democrats Drool! And all this despite apparently knowing just who these guys were, if the editorial director of of CBSNews.com is to be believed (via Kevin Drum):
This is a story I should have written 12 years ago when the "Contract with America" Republicans captured the House in 1994. I apologize.Mean Girls and Kewl Kids with a big honkin' crush on 'roid-raging Chess Clubbers . Very, very odd.
I feel I should add some sort of original though here at the end of all this, so: I'm not a very good political junky, and for a while I've tended to avoid the cable political gabfests and such (since it's not really fair to make my wife put up with non-stop spittle-spray screaming at the tv screen for too long - not that she would), but I've been watching a fair bit around the election, and . . . Hmm, not sure how to put it, the sense I got. It's not that many of these folks think that the Democratic victories are illegitimate, not exactly . . . More like it's very much not in the natural order of things, that the world turned upside down (-allegedly the tune the British played during the surrender at Yorktown).
And that gets us back to Sara's point, because the wider context for that kind of standard middle-to-high school aggression reflected here is in the growing pre- and adolescent need to fit in, to find and be assured of one's place, the near-frantic enforcement of conformity (sometimes in nonconformity, granted . . .), the deep desire for peer approval. Of course, now they're in the adult world, the rewards - both monetary and social - are much higher, but the dynamics seem bizarrely the same. And that's why, perhaps, they're not just eagerly shifting to anti-Republican sniping. The "fear of the growing horde of furious right-wing letter-writers [that] eventually conditioned every news editor in the country to involuntarily wince before saying anything nasty about these people" that Sara and others have mentioned, the constant drumbeat of "Liberal Media Bias!!", even all that post-presidential-election pontificating about Red and Blue America (I blame Brooks! - but perhaps that's a bit of a bee in my bonnet) - it's all been very powerful. It's quite arguably convinced the mediafolks, on a very basic and internalized level . . . not even that Republicans are cool, but that Republican dominance, movement conservatism is the Real America (tm), the Natural Order of Things, the Way It's Supposed to Be. Any change is a temporary abberation, like peasants and Fools getting to act like nobles and kings for a day - something humorous, mockworthy . . . and, if it threatens to be an actual change, almost frightening. How will one know how to act, where one stands? (Which isn't to say, of course, that there aren't other considerations, down to the nature of media consolidation, corporate ownership, and the learning curve for bread-buttering.)
This has to stop. It's not good for the Democrats, sure, but more importantly, it's not good for the country.
And really, when you get down to it, the preening media types so aren't the Kewl Kids or the Queen Bees. Those roles have been filled by others, generally in positions of political power. They're either - going by Wiseman's article on Girl's Cliques: What Role Does Your Daughter Play over at iVillage, the Sidekicks
She notices everything about the Queen Bee, because she wants to be her. She will do everything the Queen Bee says. The Queen Bee, as her best friend, makes her feel popular and included.or the Wannabe:
She will do anything to be in the good graces of the Queen Bee and the Sidekick. When two powerful girls, or two powerful groups of girls, are in a fight, she is the go-between. However, the other girls eventually turn on her as well. She'll enthusiastically back them up no matter what. She can't tell the difference between what she wants and what the group wants.Meanwhile, to bounce off that site's Clique First-Aid Kit, there's been a good bit of Democratic and/or liberal strategizing that sounds more than a little like "[v]ictimized girls [who] mistakenly think, if they were just prettier or thinner, then they wouldn't be teased" (which is not to make light of the girls' situations). If we just weren't so pro-choice, if - as Amy Sullivan keeps telling us - we just were more religious, why, maybe they'd like us, they'd really like us! Uh-uh. Now, one can argue the pros and cons of various policies & strategies, big tents & local races, etc., etc, etc - but playing into this sort of narrative is just ridiculous. As has been repeatedly pointed out (and is true in the sadly non-metaphorical case) it's not really about us. For example, as everybody always tries to tell Amy, however the Democratic Party should approach religion, the whole notion of (apparently) hordes of anti-religion politicians speechifying about Dawkins and trying to ban Christmas is just ideological bullying (as well as base-meat). Like all good lies, there is a piece of truth buried inside it, but it's one that many Americans might well consider in a different light. And so on.
posted by Dan S. on 12:38 PM | | link
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