Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Third Rail

For me, that third rail is proving to be the 2008 Election. I cannot read or hear or watch a piece of coverage without shorting out. Smoke comes out of my ears; my hair stands on end; and I'm sure my blood pressure must soar to the Jackpot mark. And that's a shame, because this was supposed to be the election cycle where I finally got my oar in. I covered politics in the past, but with the end of my journalism career, I've had no viable outlet. Until ByJane, that is, and the legitimization of political bloggers. At the beginning of the primary season, I was set to go. I had my credentials from the Huffington Post and I planned a season of thoughtful, considered impartial posts which would focus on a meta-analysis of political coverage. By so doing, I thought, I would enable people to make those Informed Decisions that are supposed to guide us, rather than the ones solely derived from Emotional Appeals. A worthy cause, don't you think?

Well, ha! And ha! again.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it because from the gitgo, I was overwhelmed by the overwhelming amount of opinion that was passing for news. I was overwhelmed by the myriad of ways in which different reporters would by virtue of an introductory statement or a closing one signal their emotional attachment to That Which Is Supposed To Be Unsaid, their preference for one candidate or another. Staci Schoff of A Mommy With An Attitude talks of that in her post today, and I'm going to quote a good bit of it just because, because I want to:
All of that is to say nothing of how irritating it is that every time the media's beloved Obama eeeks out a win in a state, the media cheers at the top of its lungs that he's pretty much won the nomination nee the election in November. And every time Clinton takes a state by a landslide the media headlines say, "Clinton wins -- why won't she just quit?" And if that doesn't work they just ignore the fact that it's fine to point out that the demographic group we refer to as "black" is overwhelmingly supporting Obama (and certainly it doesn't make them "racist"), but if the (much larger) demographic group we refer to as "white working class" is supporting Clinton then that's racist. I like it even better when journalists go out of their way to point out that those people didn't have the privilege of going to college, as if democracy should only be for the people who are smart enough and rich enough to not have to flip our burgers and pump our gas.
And yes, I realize that Staci's own political preference is obvious here, but then, she's not passing herself off as a journalist, is she?

So I've managed to avoid another aneurysm by just not paying too close attention--when I could avoid it. I managed to ignore the so-called legitimate press, but I couldn't really forego BlogHer for the entire primary season. And BlogHer has its own punditry, doesn't it? I'm proud that our coverage was so, so fulsome. Way to go, everyone, for making BlogHer's political coverage viable. But did it have to be so, so pundit-ridden? My sense on reading the coverage on the site is that if I'm not for Obama, then I'm a blithering idiot who should turn in my Girl Credentials.

And now that Mr. Obama is the presumptive Democratic candidate, this tone continues. Two posts from yesterday snared me and I couldn't resist touching that Third Rail. Catherine Morgan wrote a post stating that given John McCain's positions, no woman could possibly find a reason to vote for him. Go read it, as well as the on-going comments (including the lone guy who so eloquently advised Clinton supporters considering voting for McCain, that "if you cut off your nose to spite your face, it makes it easier to stick your head up your butt." Nice going, James. I always love when the men add their little soupcon of wisdom and wit to BlogHer.)

The other post that got me was from our very own Pundit Mom, who actually wrote a rather, sort of, lovely essay about Hillary leaving the race. She raises the dreaded spectre of sexist coverage which I then countered with my theory of the Death Kill of Pundits. She agreed with me (lovely lovely Pundit Mom) and then she asked, "Do you think pundits pushing their own agenda was because more were men trying to view Clinton through a male lens?" To which I answered all that you have read above as well as this:

No, I don't think the problem was a preponderance of male pundits viewing Clinton through a male lens. The problem was gender-neutral; it came from the women as well as the men. I think the problem is rather more complicated. Let me see if I can boil it down a bit:
  • We are in an age where everyone can and does have their fifteen minutes of fame. Thus, those who are already legitimate must outdo the hoi polloi in order to get attention.
  • We seem to have recovered from the so-called civilizing effects of the Enlightenment. We're now just as nasty, just as vile, just as insulting as The Tatler, et al.
These two things (and some others that are tangential) combine to create SuperPundit: he or she who is clever and educated and thus has the background (or at least the research skills) to come up with The Perfect Putdown or The Especially Effective Encomium. Such remarks are money in the self-esteem bank for SuperPundit; they are, in fact, the Supreme Validation. And given the breadth of the social network these days, SuperPundit has an audience that is limitless (not to mention always up for a chuckle or a fight).

So here I am, lolling about on the Third Rail. I'm considering closing the comments because, well because this is my blog. I get to say whatever I want and you don't. That begs the question of why, after all this time, I'm throwing myself back on the Third Rail. Because, of course, I'm a former SuperPundit myself--and therefore, I know of what I speak.

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So--whaddaya think?