07.16.08 It’s Humor, Stupid!

NEW-YORKER-COVERGATE is out of control!  First came days of uproar about the cover itself, including the Obama campaign’s we-are-not-amused response.  And now comes the response to that response, in the form of ruminations that Obama’s apparent inability to take a joke might disqualify him for the presidency. 

Check out Maureen Dowd’s incisive analysis in today’s New York Times:

At first blush, it would seem to be a positive for Obama that he is hard to mock. But on second thought, is it another sign that he’s trying so hard to be perfect that it’s stultifying? . . .

If Obama keeps being stingy with his quips and smiles, and if the dominant perception of him is that you can’t make jokes about him, it might infect his campaign with an airless quality. . . .

He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food — a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama’s convention have hired the first-ever Director of Greening. . . . She in turn hired an Official Carbon Adviser to “measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed.”

The “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines, The Journal said, bar fried food and instruct that, “on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include ‘at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.’ (Garnishes don’t count.) At least 70% of the ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel during transportation.

Is Dowd really suggesting that being green and eating right are, uh, bad?   And that they’re bad because they’re, uh, not amusing?

Here’s Dowd’s coup-de-grace:

Bring it on, Ozone Democrats! Because if Obama gets elected and there is nothing funny about him, it won’t be the economy that’s depressed. It will be the rest of us.

So, we’ve got Maureen Dowd quoting the Wall Street Journal — paragon of working-class values and unbiased analysis — to weave an anti-intellectual assault not only on Barack Obama, but on the whole bloomin’ Democratic Party.  And, even better, she’s drawing on rhetoric dating back to Poppy Bush (who campaigned in 1992 against “Bozo and the Ozone Man”) to do so.



Here’s the letter I sent to Dowd this afternoon:

Awww, Maureen — can’t you do better than today’s column, “May We Mock, Barack?”

The column smacks of the classic right-wing populist attack on intellectualism in general, and liberals in particular (“elitists!”).  This from the corporate GOP-underwriting elites on Wall Street!

Yeah, it would be nice if Barack Obama could cut it up a little more.  

On the other hand, we’ve got a chance to wake up from an eight-year bout of “don’t know shit about the world ‘cept what I just made up, but boy am I fun to be around.”

Do you really mean to suggest that humor is on par with good judgment, decent ethics, and a little COMPETENCE, when judging a potential president? Wouldn’t once-burned, twice-shy-variey common sense argue for trying something other than the goofy frat-boy type this time around?

Your column draws on and feeds into a vein of know-nothingism that has been cynically used for generations by the powerful to induce the weak vote against their own interests.

I just don’t get how it could possibly benefit Americans to choose the funny guy over the smart guy or to have the media encouraging the poor gullible fools to do so. Thanks so much for your help, Maureen.

Media idiocy and irresponsibility.  There’s a theme that could keep a young blogger busy!

©2008 Keith Berner

Explore posts in the same categories: Media/Journalism

One Comment on “07.16.08 It’s Humor, Stupid!”

  1. Leon Morse Says:

    The main problem is that Maureen’s mixing her messages there. Kind of a rookie mistake. Go ahead and make light of Obama for the humor thing. Fine. But as you point out, Keith, then there’s this odd transition into the catering and carbon counting. It’s related through “prissy,” I guess. But overall it sounds more or less reasonable. I think the food part is something that any caterer worth their salt could accomplish and the carbon counting part is definitely something events need to begin to consider. I think it’s setting a good example of corporate responsibility (even though not a corporation in this case, but you get the picture).

    Now I just hope that the Obama campaign will take advantage of beer from New Belgium Brewing Company. Just up the road in Fort Collins and a wind powered brewery, at that. And there’s plenty of other good stuff from nearby. I don’t want to hear about “locally made beer” from (CIA slush fund giving) Coors or Bud (AB has a brewery in Fort Fun).


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