Desperation drives divisive “War on Women” narrative

The Todd Akin controversy has buoyed Democrats’ “War on Women” narrative to a prominence not seen since last winter.  But even prior to Representative Akin’s “legitimate rape” utterance, the party and its allies have been stoking an unfounded fear that Republicans are out to take women’s reproductive rights away.

Consider this 30 second Moveon.org TV spot from a couple weeks ago.  Go ahead and click, it’s a must-see.  The theme is class war, but there’s an out-of-the-blue jab about birth control at the end.  If the NRA is guilty of drumming up a fear of “gun grabbers,” MoveOn.org has one-upped them with the invention of the “pill grabber.”  The childish tone and groundless substance of the ad–it cites a recent, highly speculative Tax Policy Center study–insult the intelligence of all but the most ardent leftists.

Another ad from early August, approved by President Obama, features a montage of women who “think” Romney is “out of touch” and “extreme.”  One chides, “this is not the 1950’s.”  All the while a wind instrument registers gentle yet overwrought notes of concern.  A woman concludes the ad by saying “I think Romney would definitely drag us back.”  With these words, what else can the viewer envision but a grunting troglodyte, club in hand, taking women forcibly to his patriarchal cave?

And now with the Akin kerfuffle, Sandra Fluke has egged on Obama supporters with the idea that Romney and Ryan are in “lockstep” with the Missouri Representative.  But this allegation cannot stand after a Factcheck.org refutation of a recent Obama “Truth Team” claim.

Yet a real undercurrent of popular fear exists.  We glimpse it in Virginia Heffernan’s recent piece on Akin’s comments.  She offers this take on John Edward’s divisive “two Americas” rhetoric:

The twist is that in this election year one America is female and the other male. In the female one, rape—nonconsensual sex as designated by the party that didn’t give consent—is everywhere, wrecking lives and making sexual harmony impossible. In the male America, “rape” is a subject of jokes and pontification. It’s a trope to be employed wantonly with the boys and judiciously when you’re trying to seduce women.

Herein Heffernan amalgamates the gross offense of comedian Daniel Tosh with that of politician Todd Akin.  She condemns American men to the prevalent stereotype of the perennial adolescent.  Anything they say on the matter of rape must be a joke or mere “pontification.”  For the sake of civil discourse, we must refuse the implication that race, sex, or any other status can on its own disqualify one’s views from consideration.

For those who would transcend sensationalism in an attempt to understand what Akin said, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto has shed some light.  Here at least is an effort by a brave man to do more than call Akin’s remarks “antediluvian” or reflexively blame “junk science.”  Taranto does better to label the doomed Senatorial candidate “Middle Ages Man.”

Make no mistake.  Akin went beyond his ken of understanding and properly merited a massive rebuke from his own party.  Given the swift and wide disowning this week, is there really some greater malevolent shadow at work among men, Republicans, or whoever else Democrats have being pointing fingers at?

The AP has been excessively charitable in interpreting Democrats’  fear-based, divide-and-conquer strategy as “pointillist” in nature.  But when the party and those who imbibe their views regularly invoke images of cavemen, boorish adolescents, and pill grabbers, it’s not out of line to conclude that, far from “Hope and Change,” it is desperation that drives today’s Democratic party.

Paul Ryan: naive, inexperienced?

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

C.S. Lewis

As far as I know, neither I nor Virginia Heffernan is a philosopher in the professional sense, but I would submit that Lewis’s dictum is just as valid for bloggers.  And so it is that I must report on the Yahoo writer’s latest hit piece, because it is bad blogging.

Like her other columns, Heffernan’s latest meanders through obscure pop culture references, though fewer than usual.  This time, the most outlandish example is of some dusty blue book that every American must have owned circa 1970.

The author’s alternately snarky and earnest jaunt down memory lane serves an end of course.  In this case, it is to tie herself to her subject, the estimable Paul Ryan.  He is one year her junior, and as such is the first of Generation X to contend for the vice presidency.

The face of inexperience?

Heffernan proceeds to portray her college years as a perigee where she flirted with but ultimately moved away from a Jack Kempian conservatism.  Looking for bonus points with those harboring an unflattering memory of the Reagan years, she offers television character and teenage Republican Alex Keaton as a possible analog for Mr. Ryan.

By the end of the piece, it is clear than in so many words Heffernan has endeavored to say that compared to herself, Paul Ryan is naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world.  But for all of her musings on Generation X, she’s only managed to grasp the one elementary tool of commendation that the relativistic, existentially-driven Baby Boomers left behind: anecdotal evidence, the mere telling of personal experience.

Heffernan supposes that Mr. Ryan never faced a hard day in his life.  Meanwhile, she had some undescribed encounters that delivered her from a simplistic, uncaring worldview.  Maybe she saw a sad, hungry puppy shivering by the side of the road.  That is why, unlike the experientially impoverished Mr. Ryan,   she was able to grow out of an infatuation with that extreme ideology called fiscal restraint.

What a condescending take.  Did Heffernan fail to research that Paul Ryan discovered his father dead in bed when he was 16?  Or that his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother moved in for care shortly thereafter?  Indeed, the teenage Paul Ryan worked at McDonalds.  Those earnings, along with Social Security survivor’s benefits, allowed him to go to college.  And when he got there, he supported himself further with a side job selling hot dogs for Oscar Meyer.  Does this sound like some sort of silver spoon background, or the picture of naivete conjured by fictional teenage Republicans of TV yesteryear?  Contrary to her boast, it is Ryan, not she, who is the old soul.

Rather than offer commentary of value, Heffernan merely pollutes the national conversation with solipsistic bubble gum blogging.  She permits her readers to dismiss the latest Republican candidate as heartless, aloof, and extreme.  And in the same moment, they are left with fond recollections of leg warmers and ’80s prom hair.  Given the state of the entertainment establishment, this is hardly a novel achievement.

As I’ve warned before, Yahoo! News is more an entertainment outpost than an outlet for truth.

ABC News: Romney might be a felon

ABC News is running hard with an unsubstantiated accusation that Mitt Romney might be a felon.  At the time of this post, it’s square and center on their homepage.

Earlier in the day, a less virulent form of the story parlayed–seemingly from out of nowhere–factcheck.org’s smackdown of Team Obama’s outsourcing charge into a suggestion of Romney’s culpability:

But, as fact checkers note, Team Obama does not provide any specific evidence to back up claims that Romney was actively managing Bain between 1999 and 2002.

If they had, Romney could be liable for felony charges in court for lying in sworn statements.

The follow-up story by Matt Negrin makes clear reference to a Boston Globe report and White House campaign fodder suggesting a possible crime.  Yet, Devin Dwyer’s earlier report, deficient in these references, ends up looking like a random mulling of counterfactuals.  If more mainstream journalists followed Dwyer’s pattern, we might see some other hypotheses regularly floated as objective reporting:

If the unemployment rate were two percent lower today, President Obama’s campaign would not be in such rough shape.”

If President Obama attended church regularly, fewer people would be confused about his religion.”

If President Obama had chosen a Fat Tire instead of a Bud Light for the Beer Summit, he might have locked up the LGBT vote.”

Dwyer’s report can be consigned to a bin of recent, poorly written pieces, among which we can include Virginia Heffernan’s universally indecipherable response to Ann Marie Slaughter’s work-life balance essay.  If nothing else, it shows just how eager mainstream reporters are to associate Republicans with criminality.

William-Sonoma Republicans: The Exotic Other

I’ve been reading Yahoo! News for years.  Once upon a time, they relayed to the net denizen a spartan diet of AP and Reuters articles.  Now, they’ve cultivated their own crop of value-added content.  The term “value” must be used advisedly here.

You’d think that when it comes to presidential campaigns, journalists should be delving deep into the issues.  But the currents of today’s media markets dictate other priorities.  Take Mitt Romney for instance.  Instead of scrutinizing his policy positions, Yahoo!’s The Ticket blog has waged a systematic campaign of making Romney and his wife Ann look bumbling, aloof, and inscrutable.

Every time the Yahoo! bloggers post, the news spin is so swirly and the story so inconsequential.  In the hope of highlighting his awkwardness, one January post was dedicated in large part to Romney’s hurling bags of Cheetos to unfriendly journalists on his campaign plane.  When the primary came to Arizona, the fact that Romney’s supporters’ signs appeared to be hastily printed on resume paper figured prominently in another post.

And then there were multiple reports on Ann Romney’s Pinterest account.  First, that she followed no other Pinterest members.  Should we really expect more tech savvy from a grandmother in her sixties?  I don’t even have a Pinterest account.  Then, one Viriginia Heffernan took up a wordy post to scrutinize why Mrs. Romney would pin Anna Karenina on her Pinterest board.  Seriously, do we have a misallocation of journalistic resources here?  In magnifying and dragging out these silly details, this crack team of liberal bloggers is hoping to quash Romney’s chances by a death of a thousand embarrassing paper cuts.  The all-too-cool President Obama certainly doesn’t get the same treatment on The Ticket.

To top it all off, one of Heffernan’s latest contributions catalogs for us the traits of what she calls “William-Sonoma Republicans.”  She cites an old story by the Los Angeles Times to launch her own confused musing on The Other: in her case, middle and upper-middle class Republicans who support Mitt Romney.  You can’t help but suspect a bit of journalistic retaliation when she tries to cast this Other as a counterpart to the “sushi-eating, Volvo-driving” latte liberal.  How exotic is this strange group of people who would support Mitt Romney?  Among their most salient traits: they live in large suburan houses, take pride in their living spaces, and–most shocking of all–cook food in their own kitchens!

The nadir of this journalistic exposé comes when the author consults the William-Sonoma website. Noting that it prominently features an Easter sale, she concludes erroneously and with lament that the clientele is meant to be exclusively Christian.  She plays up an ad that suggests W-S customers might like to eat leg of lamb with sea salt and shallot butter.  I’m sure lots of Jews, Muslims, and atheists wouldn’t mind a bite of leg of lamb in April either.  And if having an Easter sale signifies some sort of oppressive exclusion, Heffernan had better not look at the transcript for the White House Easter prayer breakfast.  How far overboard can a liberal blogger go with her disdain for traditional lifestyle and faith?

We shouldn’t blame the media for their failure to cover the substance of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  After all, they have to pay the bills somehow.  Just remember to do your homework before you go the polls in November.  Hint: Yahoo! News won’t help.

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