Susie Madrak, in her review of Boehlert's new book, cuts to the chase more crisply than I did the other day:
Perhaps it will help matters if I point out the only blog reviews to date have been written by the bloggers who also protested the treatment of Hilary Clinton in last year’s primary. Which raises an interesting question: Is discussing even the possibility of sexism in the liberal blogosphere the third rail? Looks like it. ...
But the book does have a few flaws. Boehlert takes great pains to list the charges of sexism in the primary without really investigating them; for instance, I can’t imagine why he let it pass when a male blogger claims there was no sexism on his site because he didn’t allow his commenters to call Clinton a "cunt" or a "bitch." (Because, of course, we all know there’s simply no other language that could possibly demean women.)
My point - that the A-List and A-List-wanna-be bloggers were on message with the major media, not in opposition to them - is most clearly demonstrated by the way in which sexism was not simply tolerated, but deliberately and aggressively deployed, first in the primaries and again in the general campaign. I also think that we have to focus on class and liberal disdain for "low culture" as something that amplified the misogyny.
Somerby has always been clued in to this mix, though he often overwhelms the fundamental argument with his exhortative style. Today, though, he sets aside his usual arch delivery and delivers a sharp, uncompromising critique of the fauxgressive media celebrities and the pseudo-liberals who love them.
Bob starts with an insightful, critical, yet also sympathetic report on Marion Barry casting the sole dissent from the D.C . city council's bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Bob makes clear his own disagreement with Barry, and his hope that Barry's assessment of the effect of the vote on D.C.'s black community is wrong. He then asks why there is little attention being given to Barry's opposition and arguments outside of the D.C. Metro area, specifically among the "progressive" media. Indeed, why not? This is a significant political figure making a strong argument about a possibly violent rejection of a cause near and dear to liberal hearts, an argument that has resonance in California where Proposition 8, enshrining anti-gay bigotry in the state constitution, was strongly supported by African American voters. This is a serious point of contention among traditional constituents of the Democratic Party and needs to be understood and dealt with.
What do we get instead? The trivialization of the issue compounded by blatent misogyny, courtesy of Keith Olbermann. A long but excellent excerpt, all emphasis mine:
But it’s funny, ain’t it? You haven’t heard squat about Barry’s “ugly words” on your “progressive” cable news channel! But last night, The Dumbest Person in the World devoted another lengthy segment to ridicule of Carrie Prejean, an insignificant 21-year-old who recently made the mistake of saying something about same-sex marriage which Olbermann has never even bothered describing.(For the record, her view on the matter seems to resemble that of Barack Obama. And that of Hillary Clinton. And John Kerry and Al Gore.) The big nut went on for almost seven minutes mocking Prejean—and her breast implants. But it’s funny, ain’t it? You’ve never heard a word on this program about the things Marion Barry said.
Of course, the reasons for that are obvious:
Olbermann doesn’t have videotape of Barry walking around in a two-piece swim suit. And Barry is an older man, not a younger woman. As Olbermann has made dumb-foundingly clear, he seems to live for the opportunity to ridicule young women. He never says boo about older man—perhaps understanding they could come to his studio and engage in conduct which might require him to obtain a sphincter implant.
Olbermann’s a woman-trasher—a genuine nut on this matter. And no, we hate to break the news: He doesn’t do “progressive” television. He seems to do work designed to capture the eyeballs of well-meaning young liberals. And for some ungodly reason, he does television which has long been devoted to the ridicule of women’s brains and bodies. Marion Barry doesn’t count. An insignificant creation of Donald Trump quite incessantly does. ...
For sheer stupidity, we strongly recommend last night’s buffoonish segment, devoted to the eternal dumbness of Miss California. (To watch the segment, click this.) Olbermann plays you every way but blue, citing those breast implants two separate times (including in his opening paragraph) and failing to tell you why Prejean might be upset about the way she’s been treated. (He always forgets to explain this.) You see, in the world of “progressive cable,” calling a young woman a “c*nt” and a b*itch” isn’t worthy of comment —if she fails to hold pseudo-progressive views, that is. “Where are the feminists?” Laura Ingraham inquired. We would broaden her limited framework: Where are the progressives?
Oh, we forgot! They’re dragging their knuckles and sucking their thumbs, watching a 50-year-old nutcase get his eternal jollies. And drive his rating among the demo, putting millions of bucks in his pants.
Where are the "progessives" indeed.
The Incomparable One turns the criticism of the media around to those who eagerly consume it and who are proud to count Olbermann as one of their tribe. Bob asks what Eric Boehlert danced around but couldn't quite bring himself to ask, what Susie and BTD (among others) have asked, which is why are liberals so comfortable with Olbermann's and others' use of liberal politics to engage in crude misogyny?
With Prejean, as with Gov. Palin and in an oblique way with Hillary, the mysogyny is twisted together with a culture critique that tries to have its cheesecake and spit on it, too. The high-minded disdain evinced by (mostly but not always) men like Olbermann allows both the critic and the audience to manhandle stereotypes of "low" women, simultaneously creating what is low and implanting those reviled qualities into a disposable other, inviting each other to ogle, manipulate, possess and indulge in those despicable (yet deeply desired) aspects under the guise of rejecting them. We can't just talk about Prejean's opinions - we also have to stare at her (false, deceitful, whorish) breasts which serve as proof of her shallow character, her vanity, and her desire to be fucked over. She's just asking for it!
We lose sight of the real political challenge, the deep division within the Democratic coalition about our commitment as a party to equal rights, and we are assaulted by yet another misogynistic T&A drool session masquerading as political commentary. In the end, Somerby is less criticizing Olbermann than he is those who watch him with admiration, thinking that this is somehow progressive.
To think you can engage in this kind of misogyny and be progressive is simply false.