Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Sin Eater

Anna Nicole Smith has finally been laid to rest in the Bahamas. For weeks the media has been breathlessly following the story of her death, the subsequent wrangling over her body, and the question of her infant’s paternity – one would think that this woman did something incredibly important to merit this kind of media attention. One would be wrong. Ms. Smith was yet another cartoon blonde with big fake breasts, willing to live her tacky life on the pages of tabloids. The media created her, and are now wringing every last dollar out of her corpse.

Anna Nicole Smith didn’t interest me. I didn’t, and still don’t care what happens to her. I don’t care who the daddy is – but I can’t escape the obsessive media coverage of her unremarkable life. I don’t want to know about Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Paris Hilton either, but we are all fed a relentless diet of gossip about these silly, self-indulgent women, on the televised news, in the print media, and on the internet. The Associated Press recently engaged in an experiment – they imposed upon themselves a seven day ban on stories about Paris Hilton. No one complained. In fact, many people contacted them to thank them – said they wanted more serious news, more world news, and less celebrity twaddle.

What does and does not make the news is unpredictable. Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, GOP pin-up girl Ann Coulter said something quite offensive about presidential candidate John Edwards. She said that she had wanted to comment about him, but, “it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word f*gg*t, so I’m kind of at an impasse.” There were hundreds of journalists and political operatives present, and it was all caught on television cameras, but oddly, it attracted almost no initial media coverage. It wasn’t until bloggers and Democrats began slamming Anthrax Annie that it became a news story.

Coulter is a guest at this event every year. In 2006 she distinguished herself by making comments about “rag heads.” There was a minor dust up about that, but not nearly the same as she managed to create this time. Coulter is trying to weasel out of her statement by saying she didn’t mean it as an anti-gay slur – which might hold some water if she didn’t use it so often. She has referred to Al Gore as a “total f*g” and even went as far as to suggest that Bill Clinton was probably gay. Bear in mind that Coulter is in her forties, and has never managed to get married. It’s curious that she chooses to sling these slurs at Gore and Edwards, both devoted family men.

It’s even more curious that the Republican Party continues to use her as a mouthpiece. Oh, they say that Annthrax is just an “entertainer” and shouldn’t be taken seriously. In fact, they blame those of us who despise her bile spewings for giving her some kind of credence. The fact is, however, that they buy her books in bulk, so that her poorly written diatribes make the best seller lists. And they invite her to events like CPAC, knowing full well that she’ll make offensive comments. The right loves Ann Coulter, and not just because she makes a better pin up than Barbara Bush Senior. They love her because she is their sin eater. She can say all of the really offensive things that they would love to say, but don’t dare to. The GOP can sit back and laugh, while she gives voice to their prejudices, and they don’t have to take any responsibility for it. Coulter will do and say anything to get publicity for herself – so it’s a win-win situation for all of them. The losers are the rest of us, the folks who are weary of this kind of nasty politicking.

Republicans in NH are still whining that Democrats won big in November because of President Bush’s unpopularity, and the unpopularity of the war in Iraq. Both the president and the war are exceedingly unpopular, but that’s not the only reason the Democrats one so big. One reason that isn’t picked up at all in the rather right leaning media of our state is that people are fed up with attack politics. The Union Leader’s story of the two GOP warmongers who whined because Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter returned their phone calls is an example of that kind of attack. A search into the seamy underbelly of NH political blogging will reveal a lot of really disgusting discussion taking place, where the Congresswoman is routinely referred to as a “moonbat” and much, much worse in some places. In 2002, Jeb Bradley ran a TV ad that made fun of Martha Fuller Clark for being a slightly jiggly middle aged woman. Bradley is trumpeting his intention to run against Shea-Porter again, so we can expect to see him engage in that kind of nasty sexist attack again. The Republicans don’t just hate our new Representative because she’s a Democrat.

It’s also interesting to note what news isn’t covered. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been spending a lot of time in NH, with little media attention. He isn’t calling anyone names, he isn’t attacking anyone – he just quietly takes principled stands and sticks to them. He’s not afraid to take a position, he’s not a waffler, and he’s not mean spirited. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak 3 times in the last few weeks. He’s far more confident and more relaxed than he was in 2004, and he’s still speaking about peace, free trade, health care, and education. He is the only presidential candidate that I’m aware of who is in favor of marriage equality. Despite all that he has going for him, the media pointedly ignores him, and most people don’t take his candidacy seriously. It’s a shame, because he has a lot of great ideas. Those ideas should at least be brought to the national table for all of us to discuss.

Maybe Kucinich should claim to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. Imagine the publicity.

“Journalism consists largely of saying, “Lord James is dead” to people who never knew Lord James was alive.” Gilbert Keith Chesterton

No comments: