Wednesday, February 06, 2008

He's courting the Samoan blue-collar Vegan vote.

From time to time I've drawn fire for espousing points of view that are, shall we say, a bit detached from "real-world reality," as a critic of mine once put it. Plus I'm going back to a well that tends to strike regulars as off-theme, and generally elicits very little in the way of feedback (except for the people who write to say, "Would you please stop talking about that??") Plus-plus, on what's shaping up as a very busy day, I'm devoting energy to writing something on impulse (i.e. this) when I should be finishing my second post on our friend Eckhart Tolle.

I can't help it. It hit me like the proverbial ton last night as I watched the primary results, and I still can't get it out of my head this morning.

When are we going to stop categorizing people in terms of the partisan racial, ethnic or gender bloc they supposedly belong to, and that supposedly defines their respective outlooks on life?

If you watched any meaningful portion of the results last night on any channel, there was just no escaping it. I toggled from ABC to NBC to CBS to MSNBC to FOX to CNN and elsewhere; it was the same all over. We learned how blacks vote, how whites vote, how Hispanics vote, how women vote, how young people vote, how older people vote, how young blacks vote, how older women vote, how middle-class Hispanics (as opposed, say, to agricultural workers) vote, how white middle-class women vote, and on and on and on. Not only that, but we also learned what those respective blocs of people are thinking as they vote. (And if you can tell me convincingly how media types know this, I'll send you a box of Omaha steaks. Our pundits have taken their omniscience, which used to be merely laughable, to a new and more tragicomic level these days.)

Yes, I understand that the media are simply reporting on what is (though I do believe that they go into these fine demographic analyses "looking for" trends and plot lines, and that at least some of the time, they find way too much significance in random events). Yes, there are cultural divides that shape voting tendencies. But why does no one comment critically on this? Why is this not a major story line in itself, a la my piece on Barack Obama for the other day: Why is no one saying or writing that blacks should not be voting as blacks, that whites should not be voting as whites, that it is racist and un-American to even think in such terms? When a woman like NOW president Kim Gandy expresses a fondness for Hillary Clinton on the basis that "It's time we gave a woman a chance" or, better still, "We need a woman in the Oval Office," why does no one confront her? "What kind of thinking is that, Kim? If that same logic were used in reverse in a major corporation, it would be called gender discrimination. You'd lose your job over it." But no one says that. The reporter just nods and smiles and reports it, ignoring the fact that Gandy has just committed a sin far worse, in its reach and social magnitude, than anything Don Imus ever said about a handful of female basketball players.

When will people realize that thinking "I'm going to vote for somebody because he's black" is the same as thinking "I'm not going to vote for somebody because he's black" (or, for that matter, "I'm going to vote for somebody because he's white"). It's racism no matter how you slice it. And though the media, yes, are in the business of reporting reality, the tenor of today's political coverage goes far beyond reporting. It legitimizes and even encourages the "isms" as a class.

We cannot move forward to the fulfillment of Dr. King's wish ("content of character," etc.) amid a steady worsening in the divisive talk of race and gender and religion and any other demographic hooks the media can find to hang their analytical hats on.

In this season of Change, how 'bout we start by changing that?

And for those who right about now want to scream at me, WAIT A SEC HERE, STEVIE BABY, THAT'S ALL TOO EASY FOR YOU TO SAY, BECAUSE YOU'RE A WHITE GUY AND YOU'VE BEEN IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT FOR ALL THESE YEARS... I haven't been in the driver's seat all these years. I'm not "a white guy," and I don't self-identify that way. And I'm not Italian, and I'm not a Catholic, and I'm not even a "guy," except biologically.

I'm just Steve, and whatever "other white guys" have or haven't done has nothing to do with me.


Anonymous said...

I share your frustration Steve.

Why is such a simple concept so difficult for people to understand?


The Crack Emcee said...


In order for us to get to "content of our character", first we've got to star looking for content:

Hope you're feeling better man.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the nexus of fallout from two things:

1) 1960s Identity Politics

2) Marketing

Identity Politics likes to slice people into components. Divide and conquer.

But guess what? The same thing is true of MARKETING! You think MTV is for you -- or everyone?

Do you want me to get all misty and point to the days of the Ed Sullivan Show, when everyone could sit down and watch talent? You couldn't have a show like that today. We no longer look to cut across all age groups. We like our little targeted groups.

Did you ever see the PBS Frontline, The Merchants of Cool?

It's there in full on Veoh. It explains a lot.

Veoh Notes: To watch in its entirety, you must download VeohTV. If you want to keep it after downloading it, move it *out* of My Documents->My Videos->Veoh to another folder. It will download as a Flash video file, so you need something to play that. vlc does a great job: