Saturday, April 08, 2017


You let a woman like Margaret Sullivan into the media boys' mancave, and of course she's going to harsh their buzz by writing something like this:
The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” declared Fareed Zakaria on CNN, after firing of 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night....

“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times headline.

“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”

Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” — without apparent irony.

... Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?
Sulliovan doesn't point out that all of these fawners are male, but I will. (The Times story Sullivan cites was written by Mark Landler.) I'm not saying that media women never dote on a president at war -- think back to Fox News during the Bush years -- but if someone in the press whose job it is to be neutral or skeptical suddenly turns into a cheerleader when bombs are dropping, that figure is almost certainly going to be a man. (See Chris Matthews on "Mission Accomplished" day.)

I think, in part, this is because journalists aren't the jocks, going back to their high school days. They weren't the ones scoring the winning touchdown -- they were the bespectacled nerds writing about it. They also weren't the genuine weirdos (my crowd in high school), who owned their social and gender non-conformity. The journalists wanted to be accepted by the big men on campus -- and they still do. (This is also why male journalists regularly rib one another on the air about their NFL loyalties, and why even public radio treats March Madness as worthy of an extended news feature every day for a month. Committed sports fandom is assumed to be normative.)

Also, journalists confined to East Coast TV studios, Beltway corridors, and presidents' media planes apparently still consider war reporting to be the glamour end of the profession, even though it's no longer 1944 and someone like Joe Scarborough is a bigger star than whoever's standing in a flak jacket in Mosul right now reporting for NBC or CNN. Recall that both Brian Williams and Bill O'Reilly have pretended to be braver war correspondents than they actually were. I don't understand how watching bomb-drop video clips on a studio monitor in New York D.C. makes you Ernie Pyle, but I guess for them it's the next-best thing.

The press needs more women, as well as more men whose loins aren't reliably stirred by any American war. For now, we have this instead.

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