Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dennis Dale makes a few distinctions

... Alas, what remains of the moneyed press increasingly exists not across an antagonistic divide from the powerful, but is fragmented by the same factional rifts and insulated by the same elite prejudices. Big Media is an adjunct of the ruling class. This, combined with its connoisseur's appreciation of the art and artifice of politics, renders it congenitally incapable of distinguishing political maneuver from statesmanship. Which brings me, finally, to the subject.

It's become difficult to tell where the President's political skills leave off and Big Media's credulity begins. The mistaking of platitude for profundity and condescension for compromise has become downright pathological in the age of the Wonder Brother. Never has so little awed so many so much.

This incapacity increases as our democracy matures, a consequence of age, accelerated by the Obama effect, the increasing viability of the Fox News/MSNBC model of advocacy journalism, and the much deserved disrepute into which the Republican Party has fallen. If independence is our measure of health, the fourth estate, having endured a fitful adolescence and the disillusionment of middle age, is entering its dotage. As is the case with the aged, it's intellect is no longer supple and its biases are irrevocably set; it's less and less able to control its utterances for the sake of decorum; it grows fonder of sentimental kitsch. The press' gushing over this or that vaporous issuance from President Obama is the equivalent of the kitten and puppies calendars decorating an old folks' home. Correct that; the various artistic representations of Obama are precisely equivalent.

So when President Obama directly addressed abortion in his speech at Notre Dame, what we witnessed wasn't a brave offer of compromise--the president made certain there would be no change in his decidedly uncompromising support for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand in every municipality in the country. Offering meaningless, self-congratulatory expressions of compromise unattached to substance in such a way is an act more often described disapprovingly as nerve, not bravery.

The relevant thing about the speech was the venue, and the complete surrender of a former bastion of opposition to the cruel, calculating expedience of the president's position, abandoning (to use the president's sort of language) the powerless and voiceless to the vocal and demanding. I presume the president is familiar with Ralph Ellison's concept of "invisibility"; this would be the defining feature of the unborn child (though the president's insistence on abortion goes beyond unborn to unwanted, as he will not sacrifice the good graces of Planned Parenthood to compromise on behalf of children who survive extraction). The president's definition of abortion as a "choice" is unremarkable in our low, dishonest age after all. No; contrary to the adulatory response from the president's vast amen corner, what we witnessed wasn't a marvel of rhetoric or magnanimity, but a decisive application of power.

Condescension is a form of disdain. The president took his position on abortion, a position the church once insisted was unconscionable (some things aren't open to compromise--rather this used to be true; compromise is sometimes a low, degrading thing, just as "unity", another favorite of the president, is sometimes tyranny) and planted it like a flag in the heart of what was once one of its grandest institutions. To the cheers of its children. And what remains of the press, mistaking political gamesmanship for statesmanship, hasn't the ability left to notice.

Dennis Dale, Condescension and Credulity