If Michael Kelly and Tim Russert were alive today, they would be sickened and appalled to see the shambling madness that has descended upon their profession, most particularly as it manifests in the obsessive and whirling mania regarding Sarah Palin.
When it gets to the point that Jonathan Chait has to marvel at his instincts to defend Palin, that’s a measure of their madness.
Let’s begin at the beginning: on January 8, a madman in Arizona, listening to nothing but his own head–there is not a shred of evidence that anything else is true–aimed point-blank at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, fired, and then emptied his automatic weapon into the crowd.
That story is quite horrible enough.
Within minutes of the event, certain persons with certain political agendas delivered their talking points to the media, declaring–while knowing nothing at all about the shooter or his motives–that Sarah Palin was directly responsible for this mayhem, and had blood on her hands, because she used words like “target,” referenced Giffords and posted an electoral map with what looked like scopes upon it.
The press, as obedient to the stimuli as Pavolvian dogs, instantly ran with those talking points, without taking so much as a second to wonder why their messenger was busily scrubbing similar graphs and Giffords-referencing rhetoric from his own site.
Misreporting Giffords death, unsure of anything about the shooter, mostly disinterested in the stories of heroism that helped to end the gruesome attack, the media lined Palin into their sites and pulled a trigger. They called in all the usual suspects and the narrative rang forth: Sarah Palin–and by extension anyone who agrees with her, supports her, or works in alternative-but-non-liberal-media–was the deliverer of death to America.
With their villain in place, the press was quick to make a hero of the local Sheriff, an elected Democrat who expressed sentiments in support of the narrative (and appears to have something to hide), but was willing to take the back-slaps that were still going unexpressed toward the real heroes.
Many of us who are not emphatic fans of Sarah Palin–and even some who vociferously dislike her–have watched the press with jaws-ever-dropping. A democrat operative who, within hours of Gabrielle Giffords’ entrance into the crucible, pondered about how the Democrats needed to be “deft” in their political exploitation of the tragedy, and no one in the press expressed disgust at his words; his identity–or hers–remains protected.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand–who released a brief, appropriate statement of prayerful support for the victims, and said nothing more–was excoriated in a manner so out-of-control, so wild-eyed and over-the-top that it was reminiscent of the press in the aftermath of her 2008 speech at the Republican Convention, where they had resembled nothing so much as fulminating beasts of rage, unable to hold back their frustrated howls.
Some of them, beginning to realize that the narrative is backfiring with the public, are trying to get to the end-game, which is the putting into place of their long-desired restrictions on speech, gun-control measures the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”
Others, not so savvy, are still trying to beat down Palin with any available rock. Yesterday, they were complaining that she was “hiding” from the media, who insisted on making her part of a story to which she had no connection.
And so, today, Sarah Palin–probably aware that she was damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t–made a statement. It was actually a very good, if a trifle long, statement. Immediately upon her delivering it, the media, like jackals went on the attack. ABC news, in a breathtaking example of cognitive dissonance, wrote: “Sarah Palin, once again, has found a way (!) to become part of the story. ”
The (!) is mine. The press hauls this woman into the story, makes her a focal point of it, and then asserts that she has inserted herself into it. Staggering.
Other talking heads were spittle-spewing over Palin’s use of a very common phrase that had actually been all over media they day before thanks to Glenn Reynolds’ essay in the Wall Street Journal: “Blood libel.”
The press had almost–almost–been forced to put their Palin-toy down, but those two words–which had not offended when used by Reynolds, or by Andrew Sullivan in the past–gave them something new to bite on. “Blood libel!” “Palin still using violent rhetoric!”
And the Palin-madness–a madness unto rabidity–is reinvigorated.
“Today was supposed to be set-aside for the victims,” someone posted on twitter, “Palin decided she is one of them.”
No. Sarah Palin made a statement that was contextual, relevant and appropriate to the day. The press, if they really wanted to put the day aside for the victims, could have simply reported that Palin made a statement, and moved on. In truth, they could have utterly ignored Palin’s statement altogether, because she really is not part of this story.
But they did not, because they cannot. Where Sarah Palin is concerned, the mainstream press and the political pundit class are like 14 year olds obsessing over the social order of the cafeteria, and especially that stupid new cootie girl, ewwww.
They are the spiteful, malevolent and immature teenagers in “Carrie,” armed with pig-blood and just looking for any opportunity to pour it.
They are repulsive in their clique; one wants to take them by their shoulders and shake them and say “grow up! GROW UP!”
They are also stupid. They are stupid because they favor instinctive damnation over intellectual discernment. If they had simply reported the horrific story of Arizona’s chaos, without passion, without prejudice, and followed its course, like professional journalists, Sarah Palin would not be on anyone’s mind today. She would not be garnering the sympathetic defenses of people like Chait, or Charles Krauthammer or Alan Derschowitz or even little old me. This event would have transcended Sarah Palin–and all of their hate–as it should have.
But they are owned by their hate. On the furled lip and malicious smear of one small man, the mainstream media let lose the dogs of their own hellish madness; they have exposed themselves, in a shocking way, as unthinking automatons, incapable of reason, interested only in establishing a framework or a narrative that will destroy those whom they hate, and uphold those they love, and there is no middle-ground for thoughtful wondering.
There is only the pig-blood in a bucket, ready to be released or stayed on instruction. If that metaphor is not true, then the members of the mainstream press should wonder why–in the parlance of the very truthiness to which they subscribe–it feels so accurate.
My first heroes were journalists. With the passing of Mike Kelly and, perhaps, Tim Russert–those departed contemporaries of today’s media, whose memories are shamed by the current crop-on-top–the pickings for real, grown-up, intelligent, curious and reason-processing journalists who have the courage to think and speak beyond the established narrative, has become very slim, indeed.
UPDATE: Kyle A. Roberts on the Christians’ best response to vitrol and violence
UPDATE II: Been waiting for days for the “finally, have you no decency” moment. This might be it