It has recently come to my attention that I can't read.
Well, more specifically, I can't read political commentary the way it is intended.
Look, you wouldn't go to an opera and ask "Why the hell are you singing that instead of just saying it? And you've sung that line six times during this chorus. Why not sing it once?" You wouldn't read a haiku and draft an angry letter to the poet saying "You didn't finish. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ORANGE BLOSSOMS NEXT!?!?!?????" You wouldn't watch Twelfth Night and grumble that it's totally implausible and that nobody would think Viola is a man even dressed that way. Nobody complains that Shirley Bassey doesn't divulge the entire plot to Goldfinger in the song of that name. That's because we've been raised and trained to suspend disbelief, appreciate the limitations of form and structure, and not impose our expectations about one art form on another.
I think that so much modern political commentary gets on our nerves because we're appreciating it the wrong way. We're looking for analysis and genuine insight. What we're getting is mostly preaching to the choir, opinion porn, and spittle-flecked rants. Hence political wonks spend a vast amount of time dismantling ridiculous opinion pieces, usually ones on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Take commentary about Governor Palin's resignation, for instance. You've got Maureen Dowd being Maureen Dowd, only more so:
As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability.
On the shore of Lake Lucille, with wild fowl honking and the First Dude smiling, with Piper in the foreground and their Piper Cub in the background, the woman who took the Republican Party by storm only 10 months ago gave an incoherent, breathless and prickly stream of consciousness to a small group in her Wasilla yard. Gobsmacked Alaska politicians, Republican big shots, the national press, her brother, the D.C. lawyer who helped create her political action committee and yes, even Fox News, played catch-up.
Isn't that far less irritating (which it is, whether or not you like Sarah Palin) if you see it as poetic self-indulgence and abandon the attempt to criticize it as serious analysis? Andrew Breitbart, naturally, takes it seriously and very angrily, and responds with artistically comparable bold brushstrokes of overgeneralization:
Primarily motivated by a desire to keep abortion "safe, legal and rare," female liberals in the media have carte blanche to do and say anything.
But since Mrs. Palin, a mother of five including a boy who was known to have Down syndrome before he was born, is a potent symbol of the pro-life movement, she is considered an enemy of the sisterhood.
Read either of those seriously, and you'll be pounding your keyboard and screaming "CITE? CITE? MOTHERFUCKER, WHAT'S THE CITE FOR THAT?" But once you read Dowd and Breitbart not as commentators but as poets or lyricists, your blood pressure will improve. It's better for you, and it's fairer to these simple artisans.
Having said that, I'm sure I'll be methodically fisking someone else's silly column before the end of the week. I don't know if it's art, but I know that I hate it.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017