Wonkette, I have a sort of love-hate relationship with. Part of that love, was perhaps due to Ana Marie Cox as Editor. I will not deny part of that love was due to the fact that she is a stone cold fox, bright as hell, and the tone she brought to the site was doppel-sessy.
But, since Cox left to pursue other things, the site has continued in the tradition that she set for them.
Recently though, there has been an undercurrent not just of discomfort, but just sheer nastiness that isn’t just Interwebs snark, but just plain mean-spiritedness.
I point to a recent bit on Meghan McCain, as a bellwether for sites to miss larger points in a rush to mock folks as a matter of course.
Meghan McCain, as a semi-public figure thanks to her father, and her own actions is a lightning rod for public opinion. Not terribly polished, and often rambunctious, she wades into debates and conversations with a lot of passion, and often enough, without a lot of prior thought. Not unsurprising for a gal her age, and given her role as an unofficial spokesperson for the GOP, and a section of the GOP that is often discounted and often under-represented.
Wonkette has taken a great deal of pride in pricking at her ego. That is what good journalists do, is to make sure that folks don’t believe their own hype. It is a valuable service that the Fourth Estate provides. Any time you think that folks are untouchable, there’s someone to take a swipe just to keep you honest.
But, in this instance, I have to give it up for a less jaded point of view of the incident. Not simply because I’m fond of the rambunctious verve that Ms. McCain injects into the media imprint of the GOP, but because I think that a less polished and less lockstep voice is necessary, but because the episode had central to it a call for help. And one that if it were any of ourselves, would we do less?
Suicide isn’t a joke. Showing concern, and taking steps even if we’re far, and it involves a stranger, is now something to be vilified and mocked? It’s a strange message, and it shows a bias that discounts actions from the source, as opposed to the actions themselves. The jaded Interwebs often assess statements, with a speed to be the first to snark, and show everyone how smart and hip you are. It’s part of the culture, but in this case, it falls a little flat, and while Wonkette often has some incisive perspective, in this case, I have to fall into the camp that it leaped a bit too far, a bit too fast to get the jump on folks to point fingers and laugh.
While Meghan McCain can certainly get herself into some hot water by wading into things without thought, and often with half formed opinions, they are, ultimately, exactly that: opinion. She isn’t an elected official, she is blogs and writes a bit here and there, and to take her to task for NOT being as fully informed as an elected official is an interesting disconnect.
Liz Cheney, we can take to task for her opinions and the policy she shapes. Not just in her vociferous defense of her father, but for her actual policy shaping in her office. We can look to Palin’s husband for using the ties of office for fun and profit. There are plenty of cases to point fingers and waggle them, but to take up an instance for showing care and concern–even it it is less than measured and professional than, say a suicide hotline–because someone contacted you, instead of a professional and to not be entirely jaded? That takes a lot of damn nerve.
We ask our public figures be something. We castigate them if they are too aloof. Too reserved. We chip away at the First Lady for pulling back on her public persona, and look for chinks at her efforts, because she offers less and less unscripted moments at a time when the focus seems to be to NOT detract from her husband’s efforts. Oh noes! She is a terrible human, because there is an awareness of being in the limelight as a public figure! And then, when another figure, who is thrust into the limelight because of her father’s Presidential aspirations, makes contact, and isn’t reserved, folks leap on that as well?
In this case, I can only shake my head a bit. While some folks may like or dislike a young woman for barreling into things, getting involved is supposedly what we hope for; not worrying about the media light, but doing the right thing when someone asks you for help, is that really a horrible thing?
In this case, I wonder if Ms. McCain had managed to show up at the door of this sad soul, and got them into counseling in her own car, if this would have been written about in scathing tones?
If we want our public figures to be more human, less polished, less reserved, then we need to lighten the fuck up on them when they do exactly that, and show some damn decency. And maybe lighten up on the filters that color opinion on who someone is, as opposed to what they’re doing.