Ana Marie Cox of the Guardian isn’t on our team. That’s fine. However, to label us the “jackass” wing of journalism only demonstrates the left’s inability to hold their own side accountable. She seems to feel that all of the criticism she outlines in her piece about conservative media are absent on the left. This Friday will mark the one year anniversary of Andrew Breitbart’s passing, and it seems Cox is frustrated, angry, and perhaps threatened by the legacy he left behind.
Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: Ana Marie Cox built her career on blogging jokes about anal sex at the reprehensible guttersnipe site Wonkette. She presented herself as a rambunctious youngster, but it turned out she was already pushing 30 and just naturally behaves like a annoying, hyperactive juvenile. Both Time and later the Guardian hired her in full knowledge of this colorful journalistic career.
Now that we’ve established Cox’s bona fides as a scribe and scholar…
First, there is no such thing as being “mean” in media. As Breitbart famously said, “truth isn’t mean. It’s the truth,” and sadly that characteristic fails miserably with left-wing journalists. It’s not mean to point out that Ana Marie Cox built her career on blogging anal sex jokes. It’s just the truth. It’s not mean to point out that Rachel Maddow seems content with airing edited video in order to smear Sen. John McCain’s remarks about gun control. Good Morning America edited First Lady Michelle Obama’s inaccurate statement about the tragic death of Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago because of time constraints. It was censorship.
Mrs. Obama claimed, “And she was caught in the line of fire because some kids had some automatic weapons they didn’t need.” This quote appeared online, but not on the February 26 interview with Robin Roberts.
However, when the interview aired on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, viewers heard the first lady said this:
“She was absolutely right. She did everything she was supposed to do. She was standing in a park, with her friends, in a neighborhood blocks away from where my kids grew up, where our house is. And she was caught in the line of fire. I just don’t want to keep disappointing our kids in this country. I want them to know that we put them first.”
ABC edited the response visually by using a cutaway in the middle of the answer of Ms. Roberts listening.
Cox wrote that the right-leaning media outlets have an MO that seeks to
be outrageous, scurrilous and completely unfair. And then, when you get a rise, just shrug and say: “What’s your problem: can’t take a joke?”
But for something to be humor, it has to be funny. And as comedy goes, the Free Beacon’s jokes have all the subtlety of Jackass. The only difference is that instead of creating dubious hilarity at the spectacle of their self-inflicted pain, they’re using equally ridiculous stunts to laugh at yours. Clinically speaking, we call people with that attitude “sociopaths”, but in the political realm, [Michael] Goldfarb’s [founder of the Washington Free Beacon] punchlines – emphasis on punch! – are just the latest iteration of a burgeoning style of discourse whose practitioners have become influential enough to deserve their own designation.
So, editing video to smear – or convey a false narrative – is fair and accurate, Ms. Cox? To smear James O’Keefe as a racist, who you also criticize in your column, without proof isn’t scurrilous? By the way, Salon.com, who published the piece from left-wing journalist Max Blumenthal, printed a correction stating:
The Feb. 3 “James O’Keefe’s Race Problem” reported that O’Keefe, the conservative activist arrested on charges he plotted to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phone lines, helped plan a conference on “Race and Conservatism” that featured white nationalist Jared Taylor. The freelance photographer who attended the event, and snapped O’Keefe’s photo there, now says the right-wing provocateur helped out at the conference, but cannot confirm that he helped plan it. The story has been corrected.
The article also said that O’Keefe was terminated by the right-wing Leadership Institute in 2008, after videos were released of O’Keefe calling Planned Parenthood and offering to donate money to abort black babies. He was let go in 2007. Leadership Institute co-founder Morton Blackwell told the New York Times O’Keefe “wanted to do sting operations that would affect legislation; he made some calls which have been covered in the news media to Planned Parenthood. That was beyond the scope of what we had hired him to do. We are an educational organization. We are not an activist organization.” Blackwell says he told O’Keefe to choose between his job and his activism, “and he said he was committed to the activism,” according to the Times. The date of O’Keefe’s termination has been corrected, and Blackwell’s explanation has been added to the story.
Cox also slams O’Keefe for using “highly selective cuts,” which is the seat of irony. Besides the examples I listed above, MSNBC was caught editing the recorded testimony of Neil Heslin, whose son was a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy, on Capitol Hill. Contrary to what the media reported, he wasn’t heckled during his testimony.
MSNBC has a history of editing video to slam conservatives. In 2009, MSNBC edited out a black man carrying an AR-15 rifle in order to engage in racial commentary about the Tea Party. In 2012, they edited out Mitt Romney’s comments about the perils of too much regulation in business, and cut to him discussing the checkout process at the WaWa Deli in order to portray him as out of touch. Lastly, let’s not forget how NBC edited George Zimmerman’s 911 call to make him sound racist.
However, Cox’s conclusion to her piece that left me aghast.
…the perversity of this post-Ann Coulter generation is that they believe the world is run by nerdy liberal elitists , that their antics are a righteous rebellion instead of an attempt to assert the law of jungle. Perhaps it is true that liberal nerds have made great strides in governing – certainly, our president is one – but the reactionary insurgents’ anti-establishment pose, which goes along with shoving a camera in someone’s face, breaks down when you consider the actual policies advocated by the guy behind the viewfinder. Policies that, say, continue to suppress voting rights of minorities won’t make them punk rock heroes.
The only thing remotely disruptive about the material generated by the Bratbarts is its incivility. In itself, that is simply a style, not an argument or a critique. Incivility can be OK: I am a big believer in disrespecting those in power, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with being flippant – there are times when it is the only proper response to authority. As journalist and defender of the lowbrow Gilbert Seldes put it:
“Comedy is last refuge of the nonconformist mind.”
But confusing satire and hazing? Mixing up muckraking with misinformation? Revelation with subterfuge? Laughter with cruelty? Those are the tactics of would-be authoritarians, not outlaw liberators.
Of course, Cox had to boot-lick Obama towards the end. It’s a sign of respect for the great one, which ironically comes before she professes her advocacy in disrespecting elected officials. I’m sure she will be equally harsh on the Obama administration, which has “made great strides” in collecting names for kill lists, convincing the New York Times to withhold information about drone bases, and blowing away Americans abroad with drone strikes. The legality of which is still in dispute.
Lastly, when the liberal media went “birther” on Sen. Ted Cruz (R- Texas), isn’t that a form of hazing? Isn’t insinuating his Canadian roots a cruel exercise in “revelation with subterfuge?” Isn’t that “mixing up muckraking and misinformation? Cruz happens to be a conservative sticking to his principles, and his Canadian roots are an extraneous detail since he was born to an American mother, making him eligible to run for president. Yes, in 2016, we could possibly see a Cruz candidacy.
So, Cox thinks that we on the right sit at the “mean” table in media. Then again, if the liberal media didn’t act like “jackasses” themselves – we wouldn’t be so angry.