The Daily Beast Begins to Bottom Feed

by A. Jay Adler on May 27, 2012
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The Daily Beast provides some thoughtful journalism and opinion, but increasingly it and its editor, Tina Brown, offer sensational nonsense. Newsweek isn’t making money yet – better draw more eyeballs. So we get the crudely philistine “The 13 Most Useless Majors, From Philosophy to Journalism” or the sucker punch at controversy of Newsweek’s “The First Gay President,” the reaction to which the Beast is happy to tally in perpetuation of its own manufactured story. And since the assembly line is running, why wait for an actual Bush-Gore II? Six months before the votes are counted is not too early for Michael Medved’s “How Another Electoral Split Decision Could Divide America.”

On that subject of manufactured stories, the Beast’s own Michael Tomasky, one of its thoughtful writers, just railed against “the Media’s Foolish Elizabeth Warren Witch Hunt,” in which only the meme-producing and feeding media and the campaign of Scott Brown share any interest. The same day, fellow Beast Lloyd Grove, who said once of his time as a gossip columnist, “Yeah, it turns out I had a knack for writing superficial items with scurrilous intent,” authored “Obama Has a Mean Streak and He Turned It on Romney This Week.

But there was something darker and sharper lurking just below the surface, in Obama’s facial expressions, body language, and mocking tone of voice: Not to put too fine a point on it, but the president has a mean streak.

“He does have a very biting side to him, which he inherited from his mother,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Maraniss, whose much-anticipated Barack Obama: The Story will be published next month. The late Ann Dunham “could be very sarcastic, but she never addressed it to people who were vulnerable,” Maraniss continued. “Obama has got that style that comes out when he’s in combat or competitive.”

Did you get that? Obama can be “biting.” Ouch. You so mean. Sarcastic? Oh, how cruel. (Maranis says the mater meanness never turned it on the vulnerable, which presumably excepts Romney, but never mind.) Returning to one of his prime pieces of evidence Grove offers,

Let’s return to the “prairie fire” moment, around 28 minutes into the videotape of Obama’s speech. The president’s tone drips with sarcasm, especially when he shouts the phrase “prairie fire!,” raising his left arm in mock-alarm, and punctuates the gesture with a suppressed giggle.

Obama is sarcastic again, raising his arm in “mock-alarm” and – brace yourselves – suppressing a “giggle.”

Will the nation survive this assault on its sensibilities? Mock alarm and suppressed giggles? The President is a role model to children, you know.

Grove presents several other such feeble illustrations, punctuated with journalistic-like resort to “expert opinion.” Said political scientist Larry Sabato, the “pundit with an opinion for every reporter’s phone call” (“need a quote/do not tarry/call UVA and ask for Larry”), drawing, in opining on Obama’s vicious eye rolling, on his deepest political scientese,

In Iowa, Obama “was on an eye-roll—which is what the cool kids always do,” Sabato went on. “They eye-rolled at me a lot when I was in Catholic school and it still hurts after all these decades.”

And you thought bullying is a recent phenomenon. The literature on the damage mean, mean eye rolling can do is extensive. Imagine if Sabato – who might otherwise have gone on to some order of success – had once been tackled to the ground by a gang of homophobic boys and had his hair cut off.

Come to think of it, it’s really the eye rolling and the mock alarm that bite. So deeply.

Grove even resorts to psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, who analyzes the debate moment when Obama “bared his fangs” at Hilary Clinton by stating coyly that she was “likable enough.”

I’m sorry to have to have reported that to you. Perhaps I should have forewarned. Are you all right, dear reader? I don’t recall if that psychic body slam came before or after Clinton, on Sixty Minutes, questioned by Steve Croft about Obama’s Christianity, replied (with shifting eyes – far crueler, according to my psychiatrist, than rolling ones), “As far as I know.”

That is pretty much Lloyd Grove’s case for the story of mean-streak Obama. I do not know what level of output he might be contracted for. I do know – we can see it Daily – that the Beast has diminishing standards for what it is passing off as journalism. For Grove’s piece is simply garbage, the political equivalent of Charlie Sheen carrying Brienne of Tarth‘s love child on the cover of the National Enquirer.

Widely reported in the Obama years have been FDR’s words in announcing the Second New Deal,

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

That was mean. No account of whether Roosevelt rolled his eyes, feigned mock alarm or- I still cant’ get over it – suppressed a giggle.

Obama killing Osama bin Laden – that was really mean.

More mean, please.

Why, I’m probably being mean to Lloyd Grove right now.

He’ll get over it. (Even if Larry Sabato won’t.)

AJA

 

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