Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Palm Reading

Sarah Palin used crib notes for her post-speech Q&A at the Tea Party Convention last weekend. This is stupid because people generally stop resorting to them after high school. It's absurd because it was for a Q&A, which is supposed to be unscripted and off-the-cuff, albeit in an entirely different fashion. It's hypocritical because Palin had just criticized Obama for using a teleprompter, which is elitist because she pretends she can't afford one, or something. It's horrific because this stupid, absurd, hypocritical woman wants to be President of the United States of America and millions think the same and apparently see nothing wrong with this picture.

Many people got a laugh at her expense. The best, naturally, were Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

They're comedians, we expect that of them, and they do it very well. We don't expect it of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:

Certainly not from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

I might expect this sort of thing from Rachel Maddow, but only because she's made a name for herself in obnoxious snark. I'm not a viewer and so I can't name a particular instance, but this Ben Hyman NPR piece highlights what I'm trying to say:

Maddow’s journalism is of the fact-checked, responsible variety, and her interviews are sharp and engaging. If she wanted to play it straight, she probably could. But she almost always starts her pieces by smirking her way through a snarky gem of an introduction, as if to say, “Really? Can you believe this nonsense?” Her style is grounded in a skepticism that all too often turns out to be deserved. When Maddow uses snark, she is mapping the uncharted space in journalism between Walter Cronkite and The Daily Show.

Hyman doesn't see anything wrong with this. But why are we mapping the gulf between Walter Cronkite and The Daily Show? TDS is already the comfortable medium between Cronkite and Conan, with the baggage attending such journalistic limbo, do we really need a journalist of all people muddying the waters further? We go to these people for information, not half-baked zingers, and given the limited time television affords each night, any time spent on the latter and not the former is time wasted. It looks petty. Maddow's smugness is symptomatic of MSNBC generally, which itself is caught between the hyper-nationalist Republican zealotry of Fox News and the middling uselessness of CNN. It's turned a fire-breathing liberal like me off from the network, and to see that attitude making its way into the mouthpiece for Obama (who has always been the adult in the room) is extremely dismaying.

I have little doubt that Obama's people have some very colorful opinions about Palin and the opposition. MSNBC's staff leaves no doubt whatsoever. But there are places for such views to be aired. Private conversation; blogs (especially the free ones that almost nobody reads); and The Daily Show and Colbert Report. There, at least, the jokes are actually funny.

Perhaps the saddest part is that Palin herself got in on the joke; at a Sunday speech she had, "Hi Mom!" written on her palm. The circle is complete. Perhaps this is will become routine: Palin does something grossly unbecoming of the office she seeks, people who know better laugh at the stupidity of her actions, and she rebounds, joining in the laughter, without ever having to address how inappropriate she was in the first place and using the incident as red meat to whip up her base about condescending fake Americans. And so we continue on, all the while amusing ourselves to death.

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