Thursday, April 3, 2008

Boom Boom. Out Go the Rights.

Rarely will you see me defend any Air America host, but in this case, I think it's more than justified. At an event sponsored by a San Francisco affiliate for Air America, Randi Rhodes unleashed a string of insults and profanity aimed at Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferarro. And, thanks to modern technology, it was posted on YouTube.

And, thanks to modern technology, Rhodes has been suspended indefinitely by Air America.

I could speak to the irony of the situation (and, believe me, my irony meter is already stuck at 11 because it's, like, one higher), but in thinking about it, there's a deeper story. Some posters on the New York Times message board connected to this story blamed the "corporate-controlled media" for not putting Hillary under as much scrutiny as she deserves. The poster was on the right track, but didn't quite make it to the station. The media play a role, but not from the corporate end.

Think about who really makes the day-to-day decisions at a newspaper, even one owned by a major conglomerate. It's not the CEO; it's the Editor In Chief. Only in rare occasions have corporations put pressure on their media subsidiaries to kill a story or soften it up so the company didn't look bad. Most of the time, the suits and the reporters don't rub elbows in the break room.

Instead, the reason, I think, most media outlets aren't holding Hillary Clinton accountable is because the editors and even some of the reporters identify with her and her husband. The people in the editorial chairs or out on the "big ticket" political beats are around the same age as Bill and Hillary. They probably hold most of the same positions, travel in the same ideological circles, have similar educational backgrounds, and so on. These kinds of connections, especially in an era where politics is highly personal, cannot be overlooked.

Also, keep in mind that these folks are of a generation that is highly self-aware and egocentric. To be fair, we all are on some level, but the Baby Boomers are Zen masters at both. In some bizarre way, to the Boomers, Bill and Hillary represent them and everything they hope and wish for. As a result, there will always be a bit of a disconnect whenever Bill and Hillary do something that most people would find beyond the pale.

Along with this is the desire to be seen as hip and cool. Yes, gentle readers, even 50 and 60 year olds want to know they haven't lost touch with their youth. If they want to travel in the most elite circles, rub elbows with the rich and famous, and maybe become mini-celebrities themselves, they will do anything to get on and stay on the guest list. Considering Bill and Hillary still command quite a bit of attention, the Boomers will not do anything to torque off the hosts with the most.

What does this have to do with Randi Rhodes? Plenty. Air America execs want to be invited to the best parties, so they will do anything to squash negativity towards their golden ticket to the best parties. The saddest part of all of this is that what Rhodes said is the very essence of what makes America great every couple of years: a spirited, free-wheeling debate on the issues of the day and the candidates running for office.

And it all got tossed aside so some people could have access to the power players on the left. Sad, really.

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