Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Silly Season Never Ends

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Journalists used to have a term for the slow news period of mid- to late summer, when legislatures are often in recess, there isn't much going on, people are off on vacation, and newspaper readership is down.

They called it the "silly season." During the "silly season," according to the online source Wikipedia, "to retain (and attract) subscribers, newspapers would print attention-grabbing headlines and articles to boost sales, often to do with minor moral panics or child abductions."

These days, however, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable demand for more sensational stories, it seems as if the silly season never ends.

Case in point: Frequent Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin recently ramped herself up into a state of high vigilance and threatened to go to war with Dunkin' Donuts over -- a scarf.

Yes, that's right, a scarf. It seems that, in a recent Dunkin' Donuts ad, the cute but oppressively peppy Food Network host Rachael Ray was wearing a black-and-white scarf. A rather fetching fashion accessory it was, too, if the photos are to be believed.

But the niceties of fashion mean little to Ms. Malkin where the Global War Against Jihad is concerned. She charged that the scarf was not a scarf at all, but was rather the same type of terrorist headgear worn by such villains as the late Yassir Arafat and the evil minions of Hezbollah.

The fact that the scarf was worn around Ms. Ray's lovely neck rather than over the head and across the face as one would expect from a suicide bomber made no difference to Malkin, who referred to the neckwear as "Jihadi chic" and "hate couture." She wondered, "Is this really worth boycotting Dunkin' Donuts over?"

Apparently that thinly veiled threat was enough to cause DD to say, "Eh, it's just not worth it," and pull the ad, whereupon Malkin and a dozen other bloggers declared victory over the forces of politically suspect fabric patterns. I feel a lot safer now.

Then there was the matter of the Obamas' fist bump. At a rally after the final primary, when it became clear to everyone that Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee, Obama and his wife Michelle appeared before a wildly cheering crowd of 20,000 people. They exchanged a quick embrace, then touched fists, then Michelle gave her husband a smile and a thumbs up before exiting the stage.

I've seen that fist-bumping gesture at least a hundred times, and not just from black people. I've always thought of it as pretty innocuous.

But that was before it was used by the Obamas, whose smallest gestures are now analyzed for signs that they're part of the Great Black Racist Conspiracy to keep us white folks down.

I bet you never knew there was such a thing. Neither did I, frankly. I never knew how oppressed I was until it started looking like Obama was going to win this nomination. But the Right has set up a constant drumbeat that it is the Obamas who are the real racists.

Since Obama is of mixed race, this apparently means that he hates at least half of himself. I don't know why this makes right-wingers so angry. After all, one of the defining characteristics of the people who call themselves conservatives in this country is that they profess to love America while loathing and fearing at least half of the people in it.

Anyway, the claim is that the nation's first mixed-race presidential candidate is a racist, and signs and symbols of it are apparently everywhere. The "terrorist fist jab," as Fox News anchor E.D. Hill called it, is apparently some sort of coded signal. Or something. It's really hard to figure out what some of these people are talking about sometimes.

As near as I can decipher it, the right-wing position is this: It's OK for Barack and Michelle Obama to be black. But let them, or even anyone around them, do anything that could remotely be considered "acting black," or let anyone who's ever been around them express any dissatisfaction with the way African Americans have been treated in this country, and it's time to circle the wagons, boys, because it means that Jeremiah Wright and an army of angry Negroes are coming to take your stuff. And they'll be aided by Arab terrorists.

Obviously, this idea is silly, which is why commentators like Hill and columnist Cal Thomas try so hard to sugarcoat it, until they let go with one of these Freudian slips. Thomas' reference to the bump as a "Hezbollah fist jab" was quickly removed from his Web site, and E.D. Hill's show was canceled.

But there are plenty of other fearmongers out there, and in the never-ending silly season that is the modern media circus, we will no doubt see them raise their silly heads again.


Stacey Cochran said...

On the subject of fear mongers, I was in Detroit on Thursday to lead a workshop at a Borders up in Birmingham. Anyway, so I rented a car from Avis at Detroit Metro. Probably the worst rental car experience of my life.

At any rate, they had a sign near the counter with red "news headline" style font. It read "Detroit Area Freeways Closed" and then the ad (which didn't look like an ad, but a press release of sorts) suggested that you rent Avis's new WP2 Garmin Navigation Unit, which would help "Avoid the Closed Freeways."

I have my own Garmin, but I couldn't help but feel a twinge of panic because I only had about an hour to get from Detroit Metro to Birmingham, and it was like five-thirty PM on a Thursday.

My fear that I would get stuck in traffic and miss the bookstore event was real, and I almost rented Avis's secret special WP2 Unit (it had the skinny on all the down freeways afterall).

Long story short, in the next 24 hours I drove on practically every freeway from Detroit Metro up to Birmingham down to Ann Arbor, and I didn't encounter a single "down" freeway.

My point? (Aside from telling an amusing anecdote)... Fear works.

In advertising and in politics.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Off topics here, but that is one cool cover on your new book.

becky h said...

First off, congratulations, Dusty, on the awesome BREAKING COVER reviews. I hope sales go through the roof!

I too read about the Fox commentators' horror over the scarf incident and the Obama fist bump and was slightly amused.

I wear scarves because they are a current fashion trend and I like them, not because I want to make a political statement.

And my 17 yo son says that the high-five is old news and that the fist bump is the current acceptable way to congratulate someone.

Evidently the Fox commentators aren't as up-to-date as they'd like everybody to think. I prefer to think of them as just stuck-in-the-past old fogies. Unfortunately there are others who hang on those commentators' every word, because they're old fogies who don't think for themselves.

Now I'm not so amused any more. It's sad that so many people believe everything they hear on Fox News (or any news outlet) without considering other news sources. It's scary that so many people follow without questioning why.

Randy Johnson said...

I came to the conclusion long ago that all of Fox News(I use that phrase loosely) was the silly season 24/7.
Michelle Malkin seems to be the worst and is what the internet terms a troll.

David Terrenoire said...

Welcome home, Dusty.

As the party of Jeff Gannon, Mark Foley and Larry Craig, it's no surprise that the GOP and their surrogates at Fox News are obsessed with fashion scarves and lapel brooches.

Caveat said...

It must be awful to be so consumed with fear about every small innocuous detail of life that you are basically a blubbering bowful of jelly most of the time.

Malkin should seek counselling - and so should whomever pays her for her one-trick schtick.

On second thought, that would mean no more skewer jobs at Sadly, No!, so maybe not.

And for fear-mongering in media (and what passes for government these days), you just can't beat the domestic dog. Guaranteed hit generator and troll magnet, not to mention revenue booster. Media's best friend is old Rover.

Caveat said...


"..whoever pays.."


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