ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Pissing off Anderson Cooper by mattsteinglass
September 4, 2008, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Media, President

I was just thinking about this very odd moment on CNN earlier: Paul Begala pointed out that people in small towns like the one he’s from are mainly concerned with concrete issues, particularly economic issues, not with the kind of culture-war narratives Sarah Palin just speechified about, and they’re not really likely to vote for someone just because she says she’s from a small town and the other guy is a cosmopolitan from the big city. “They’re not sitting around looking for a way to vote to piss off Anderson Cooper,” Begala said. I thought it was a nice little joke that Cooper should have taken with some modest self-deprecation, but Cooper instead gave Begala an icy stare and said, “You’re saying I’m a big-city cosmopolitan, I don’t understand what you’re referring to,” or something like that.

Obviously, Anderson Cooper is a big-city cosmopolitan:

Cooper was born on June 3, 1967 in New York City, the younger son of the writer Wyatt Emory Cooper and the artist, designer, writer, and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II of the prominent Vanderbilt Family of New York.

But equally obviously, it’s extremely important to Cooper that people not think of him that way. He’s supposed to be an everyman, and an image that places him firmly on one side of the culture war Sarah Palin wants to re-launch would threaten his ability to serve the role of the neutral TV on-camera news personality. So for Begala to point out that Cooper is, in fact, a big-city cosmopolitan threatens his ability to play the role he wants to play just as much as it would for Begala to say Cooper is gay. In fact, for a moment, that’s what I thought I had just seen — an innocent jibe by Begala which Cooper had over-interpreted as a knowing reference to the possibility that he is gay. Cooper responded with that same kind of shocked hostility, the barely repressed fury of a closeted man who thought he had a gentleman’s agreement that no one would bring this up in public.

The thing is, this situation is analogous to the straitjacket which a self-declaredly “impartial” media generally finds itself in, trying to deal with a populist political party that denigrates “the cosmopolitan big-city media”. The media tries to pretend it’s not being bullied, that when a political candidate gets up and lambastes cosmopolitans, experts, intellectuals and the media, that’s just a rhetorical stance which the media should neutrally report to see whether it will go over well with the voters. But that’s not what this sort of rhetoric is. It’s a bullying tactic. It’s like the scene in the locker room when the homophobic quarterback looks at that one willowy wide receiver everyone suspects is gay and starts making faggot jokes, forcing the guy to go along and tell a faggot joke of his own. It’s a strategy for beating the fags and nerds back into their place of rightful submission. Same deal used to be true of the one black player in the old days, the white quarterback telling a nigger joke to the otherwise all-white team to see whether the black player would laugh, or would do something “uppity” so they’d have an excuse to beat him down. Or of the first woman on the factor floor, or the first Jew in the frat, or whatever. This is what Sarah Palin was doing in her speech, bullying the news networks back into submission. And it seems to have worked.

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“The media tries to pretend it’s not being bullied, that when a political candidate gets up and lambastes cosmopolitans, experts, intellectuals and the media, that’s just a rhetorical stance which the media should neutrally report to see whether it will go over well with the voters. But that’s not what this sort of rhetoric is. It’s a bullying tactic.”

Matt, I seem to remember your recent post on those who cried victimization once they deservedly lost an unearned position of status or power in society (which they held due to their race, religion, etc…). Are you seriously arguing that the established media are victims in this case? You should re-read your previous post in light of those in the media that have brought this derision on themselves by abusing their claims to objectivity.

I also would like to comment on your correlation of criticizing the media and anti-intellectualism. In this context, intellectualism is not to be confused with intelligence but rather to be seen as an assumed air of moral superiority due to positions held, a sort of faux-intellectualism.

Comment by Mal Armstrong




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