Wednesday, May 4, 2011


You might have seen Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers headlining the annual journalist-politician-celebrity centipede that goes by the name The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. You can find the video here. The only reason to watch the video of Meyers' performance, or at least the first few minutes, is because right after his April 30th bin Laden joke, you get to see a real performance: Obama's. Watch it up to about 2.21. Watch Obama. Is there the slightest hint, the slightest tell, the slightest indication? No. Nothing. It's impressive.

The following day, Donald Trump gave his typical ruffled, jowly, insistently vulgar performance, complaining about Meyers and how he botched several lines, but Trump was no doubt still sore from the sharply-pointed, but hardly surprising, jabs clobbering him about his silky mane. Trying to create a ruckus and not yet aware that his presidential campaign circus was going to be interrupted by something a little bit more newsworthy, Trump critiqued Meyers as follows:

“I thought Seth Meyers, frankly, his delivery was not good. He’s a stutterer and he really was having a hard time.”

Naturally, CNN found the Stuttering Foundation's president for a comment:

“Shame on you, Mr. Trump,” said the foundation's president, Jane Fraser. “We at the Stuttering Foundation find it discouraging that in 2011, Donald Trump has chosen to use the word 'stutterer' in a derogatory fashion, something to be made fun of, to describe Seth Meyers' speech at the annual White House Correspondents' dinner.”

I have an ethical question for any journalists out there. If the president of the Stuttering Foundation stutters when she's giving a statement, do you transcribe the stutter?

I've been thinking about journalistic ethics over the past few days. The one thing that has made me really livid - other than losing two, yes two, memory sticks, with decades worth of work on them including my most recent stuff (yes, I can hear you sighing with relief) - the one thing that made me more livid than losing my two memory sticks with my magnum opus - no, there's more than one magnum opus, there's many, I should probably say my opus dei (you're sighing with relief again) - has been the "journalism" about the role of torture in what I have been calling the very brief capture of Osama bin Laden. This "journalism" is epitomised by CNN's "Senior Political Analyst", Gloria Borger: equivocal, frustrated with the facts, but most of all fair and balanced in that it is equally insipid and insidious. There have been some weak rebuttals to this resurgence of weak-kneed, wobbly-souled journalism, which occupies a sort of banal suburb of thought where evil outcasts can live in peace, and at least one stronger one, though even it is somewhat tainted.

It would be interesting to compare the phony equipoise of Borger's brand of journalism, which is a performance in and of itself, an enactment of a crass, even trivial, interpretation of the role of objectivity, with a much denser, but also lighter-spirited, sense of unease that is performative as a process - see, for example, Jon Stewart's ten minutes on the very brief capture of Osama bin Laden from May 2nd or, by way of, this by Adam Kotsko.

No comments: