Howard Kurtz, the longtime Washington Post media reporter and CNN media-show host, inadvertently defined exactly what's wrong with our political culture when he was asked in an online chat about actress Sally Field blurting out in her Emmy victory speech that if women ruled the world, there'd be no [expletive deleted] wars. Kurtz said awards shows might not be the best slot for political analysis, "but she said it at a live news event, so in a way Fox was censoring the news."
This is "news"? Sally Field's incoherent rant, delivered after a series of stammers, is somehow on par as newsworthy with what your average senior diplomat, military officer, professor, public policy expert, or congressman has to say on the subject of war? Expertise means nothing. Fame is all, and grasping a national spotlight for a "zinger," even if it utterly fails to zing, is somehow the political highlight of the weekend.
This is not news. It demonstrates that a key measure we have for punditry in our political culture is fame, not a display of any brains. Field's emission wasn't simply underthought, but also deeply sexist. Remove the men from political leadership, and the world would never see another war? Can you imagine a movie star or TV actor mounting a national TV platform to say the world would be so much better off if women couldn't vote, or serve as world leaders?
At least Field's remarks were mercifully short. Celebrities usually embarrass themselves at great length. This often happens on Bill Maher's "Real Time" show on HBO. The rap star Mos Def (real name: Dante Smith), often honored by critics as one of those "socially conscious" rappers, recently unloaded a rant that seemed designed to demonstrate he was almost mentally unconscious. To wit, he claimed:
1. George Washington "and all them dudes" that founded America "was terrorists as far as the Queen was concerned."
2. "The Catholic Church's stance about child molestation is a form of terrorism in and of itself."
3. Was Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11? "Absolutely not...highly educated people in all areas of science have spoken on the fishiness around the whole 9/11 theory." (Presumably, this includes highly educated scientists like Rosie O'Donnell.)
4. Terrorism is a natural response to murderous American imperialism. "There are valid reasons even to a lot of terrorists' arguments - quote-unquote, terrorists' arguments - about why are they frustrated with colonial presence, imperial presence. The way that this government has pursued its foreign interests has been meddlesome, murderously meddlesome."
5. The American space program is a fraud, too. "I don't believe these [maternal expletive deleted] have been to the moon either."
This man doesn't need a microphone. He needs medication.
The same syndrome is encouraged online by sites like The Huffington Post, where loons like Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin have unloaded bizarre commentaries about the "crypto-fascist scum" running our government, and no one asks what made these movie stars so much more mentally impressive than a plate of mashed potatoes. When they're not mangling facts, these embarrassing celebrity pundits routinely malign conservatives as evil humans who have no shred of idealism and no fraction of sympathy for the common man.
A few days ago, the actor Richard Belzer unloaded his latest mini-term paper of political science on Arianna Huffington's wacky blog. "Conservatism is in its last throes if you will," he wrote, "twisting in the wind, dying like communism did because neither philosophy works by definition -- they both operate from the fraudulent premise built around contempt for and control of the people."
This is the same Belzer who appeared on Bill Maher's show last year boasting that he knows a lot more about Iraq, reading his alleged 20 daily newspapers, than the soldiers on the ground there, since they're losers, "19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job." Armed with his superior knowledge, Belzer then lectures conservatives about their contempt for the common American.
Not every celebrity is a nitwit. Some are wise enough to hire political tutors. But it's all the same to many in today's "news" media. Anything a celebrity says, no matter how moronic, is defined as news. Liberals use to say it was dangerous to leave the country to a befuddled actor like Ronald Reagan. Some still do even now, when proof of his acumen has been documented for the history books. But they are so fond of truly befuddled actors - like these.
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