Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Wars of the Magnolias

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“The bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict, and laziness.” –Jon Stewart

Courtesy of a softer world

The media will pretend to be fair and reasonable if we pretend to believe them.

Back in early May, the infamous ink-butcher George R. R. Martin submitted to an interview with Davie Itzkoff at The New York Times. There had been a public uproar over a rape scene in a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many in the fandom wanted desperately to know why such a compelling story as that of the characters of Westeros needed to be written in the free-flowing blood of continual atrocities. This (abridged) exchange followed:

Q. Some critics of the books have said that even if such scenes are meant to illustrate that the world of Westeros is often a dark and depraved place, there is an overreliance on these moments over the course of the novels, and at a certain point they are no longer shocking and become titillating. How do you respond to this criticism?

A. […]The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.

Alas, this post is not about the fictional intrigues of Westeros, but rather the real pathologies of the American politico-media complex. The setting is Mississippi, where a close and combative U.S. Senate primary had once been a test of rival philosophies of the Republican vision of government. Is the occupant of that contested seat supposed to bring home the bacon, see: incumbent Thad Cochran, or abide by Mississippi voters’ desire to limit government and promote economic freedom, see: challenger Chris McDaniel?

But that was before the media discovered its latest dark and depraved place for political titillation: the contemptible violation of Rose Cochran’s privacy by a plot of deranged hacks who happen to support McDaniel.

McDaniel and his campaign have denied any involvement in the crime. Given the predictability of the subsequent firestorm, it hardly strains credulity that any statewide candidate with sufficient intellectual acuity to be executed in Florida would have never sanctioned such hapless grotesquerie. More the point, no charges have been filed or suggested against McDaniel. Of course, police are investigating all conceivable possibilities, whatever their actual merits, but reasonable people don’t usually jump to conclusions because a cop won’t “clear” anybody publicly before an investigation is concluded.

If we opt not to be vapid, the lack of any compelling evidence against McDaniel in the Cochran scandal is much less incriminating, newsworthy, or even interesting than former Senate Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) trying to name a courthouse he had built with $100 million of his constituents’ money after Thad Cochran (whom Lott endorsed for a seventh six-year term) instead of one of Mississippi’s first black lawyers. If Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte) and other Very Serious People in the media were less vapid, they might even note that Cochran, who was first elected when my parents were toddlers, has had more government structures named after him than any other sitting member of Congress.  (By the way, I’m no expert in congressional naming etiquette, but isn’t getting your name put on multiple courthouses a tad greedy?) What a thoughtful use of our generously earmarked tax dollars!

At this point, even moderately responsible reporters might call into question Thad Cochran’s purported devotion to fiscal conservatism. The more inquisitive might additionally question Cochran’s interest in the people he was elected to serve. After all, the senior Senator spent half as much time in Mississippi as fellow Sen. Roger Wicker, yet used $35 million more taxpayer dollars doing it. How’s that for getting less for more?

If, despite all these more relevant or insightful topics, we feel compelled to dwell on the Cochran scandal, the media might at least wonder aloud—between all the inane musing about McDaniel’s invisible knavery—about Sen. Cochran. It is curious, after all, that the Senator has benefited immensely from exploiting a crime against his wife and is now avoiding the media.

Many of the insinuations against McDaniel, like from Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte), follow along the lines of this phrasing from Christian Science Monitor:

“Though no one publicly suggested McDaniel was behind the video, Mr. Kelly is a strong McDaniel supporter and there are pictures on social media of him and McDaniel together. In the early hours after the story broke, the McDaniel campaign also gave conflicting signals about how much it knew about the video and when.”

Or this one from MSNBC:

“Then things got worse: three more people were arrested on Thursday in connection with the break-in, including a state tea party leader with longstanding ties to McDaniel and an activist who had, according to The Clarion-Ledger, regularly co-hosted a radio show with McDaniel.

A lone blogger was bad enough, but suddenly law enforcement authorities were alleging a conspiracy that included prominent conservatives who knew McDaniel personally.”

It is certainly noteworthy that associates or supporters of McDaniel’s have been arrested for a serious crime. That fact is hardly any excuse, however, for implying without evidence that McDaniel must have been involved in something simply because his supporters were.

For perspective, Cochran’s close aide Kay Webber hosted at least two Democratic fundraisers  in her house in 2006 and 2008, when Republicans were skewered at the polls. Given that Cochran has long employed and traveled with Ms. Webber (on taxpayer dime) while also living in her house, where Democrats schemed to retake Congress and the presidency from the Party that Webber works for, there is an arguably stronger link between Cochran and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party than anyone has shown between McDaniel and the crime against Mrs. Cochran. If we’re casting aspersions on candidates because of their supporters, surely this story will break into a major scandal any day now.

I won’t hold my breath.

Perhaps at some point, somebody might remember that this U.S. Senate contest involves meaningfully distinct candidates with agendas and priorities that will influence national politics. But of course, that would involve substantively engaging the two candidates on their merits, and the punditocracy has little interest in such encumbrances as balanced reporting. Especially not when the narrative of every the day is embarrassing conservatives.

We shouldn’t be surprised; the internecine wrangling of a restlessly acephalous Republican Party is primarily old news in the Acela Corridor by now. Depending on your view, the “civil war” is over, and the media-preferred Establishment won—or else the fiscal conservative assimilation of the Establishment is more or less accomplished—and, anyway, how many different ways can lazy media hype the same “GOP implosion” storyline while doggedly eliding the philosophical merits of any candidate?

If we must take anything from this saga as conservatives—beyond, “Don’t be stupid”—it is a simple truth we’ve known all along: the media disdains and undermines conservatives, and it’s useless to whine about it.  I don’t know how the Mississippi race will end, but going forward, conservatives had better build and maintain a more functional outreach strategy than pleading or waiting idly for fairness from biased elites who have no interest in truly engaging the project of economic liberty and limited government. Among other things, that’s how we lose.


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A Legitimate End

Image courtesy of 'Around the Wicket Gate' by C. H. Spurgeon

“You’re all alone in a parallel universe, dude. You can take off your tie.” –Dracopol

Let’s start with the obvious: Todd Akin is an idiot. Indeed, his contemptible asininity renders his presence on the House Science Committee at once bemusing and disturbing. So before I continue, let’s all have a hearty laugh at his expense. I’m glad we all agree that Todd Akin is not fit to represent anyone.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s deal with the Left. Predictably eager to avoid their failed policies, our liberal friends want to make Akin a general indictment of the Right. Sure, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have abandoned Akin to his madness. And yes, Ann Coulter called on him to make the sacrificial play for the good of the Party, with the editor-in-chief of RedState being far blunter about it. And ok, the leader of the Party, Mitt Romney, did not mince words in condemning the congressman and rebuking the policy of forcing a rape victim to give birth. But the Family Research Council defends Akin, right? Surely, they must speak for the conservative movement! (Spoiler: they don’t.)

The defenders of the president would have us believe this election should hinge on fringe social positions pushed by a conspiracy of monomaniacal extremists. So let me make this clear: I do not support Todd Akin. In case the preceding paragraph has not made this obvious: the Republican Party does not endorse his inanity. Are there conservatives in Congress who oppose abortion? Of course. Do some of them have uncomfortably hardline views on the issue? Definitely. But you need only look to the failed Personhood Amendment in Mississippi to see there are limits to how far the pro-life movement goes. And some Republicans, albeit a small minority, are still prochoice.

The GOP is a diverse party, and reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which abortion should be legal and available, and how federal law should differ from state law. But Todd Akin is not normal. He is an invidiously cruel joke told at our expense to confirm every liberal reduction of conservatism to pathology. For his complicity in this, Todd Akin deserves and will get no sympathy from the Right. Duly have we cast him out to beg his fortunes from the streets, and duly will we move on beyond him.

I trust Akin will meet a “legitimate” fate. As for you, Mr. President, onward to November.

Update: Rep. Akin is refusing to bow out gracefully and has released an ad seeking forgiveness. That might be an easier pill to swallow if he were not insisting he meant “forcible rape” instead of “legitimate rape”. As surprises nobody who is not Todd Akin, this “clarification” does not remotely reduce the mendacious idiocy of his original statement. “Forcible rape” is the source of many unintended pregnancies, and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. Mr. Akin, if you won’t take “No” for answer, then do us all the minimal kindness of caging your unrepentant hostility to truth and good decency.