Reminders of the mainstream media’s egregious political double standard vis-à-vis liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, come on an almost daily basis – the latest being last week’s New York magazine, the cover of which features a head shot of John McCain smack in the middle of a concentric-ringed bulls-eye board accompanied by this charming teaser copy: “Target: Bush-Backing, Surge-Loving, Economically Clueless Geezer.”
Just try to imagine the frenzy of outrage that would ensue if a right-wing journal – the only realistic analogy, as a glossy upscale mass-market magazine catering to urban conservatives is beyond the imaginative powers of even a Tolkien or an Asimov – were to put on its cover Barack Obama’s face in a bulls-eye, along with the words “Target: Jeremiah Wright-Backing, Surrender-Loving, Foreign Policy-Clueless Slickster.”
The scenario is preposterous, of course, but if it did happen, the liberal blogosphere would suffer a nuclear meltdown and publications like … well, like New York magazine would immediately commission articles on such an incendiary, and potentially tragic, choice of words and imagery and what it says about the scary intolerance – the “bitterness,” if you will – of Red-State America.
Meanwhile, The New York Times would torture readers with a numbing slew of front-page news and “news analysis” pieces (think Augusta National Golf Club circa 2002-2003) on American bigotry, Republican sleaziness and the approaching racial apocalypse; a string of tremblingly indignant editorials – as only the Gray Lady can do tremblingly indignant – on conservative hatemongering and the national healing that would come with a Democratic administration; and at least one column each on the new intolerance in political discourse from Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd, and even Anthony Lewis, the latter eminence brought out of mothballs for just such occasions.
Speaking of double standards, Obama’s condescending remarks about middle-class small town voters and their values are, of course, a precise reflection of what liberal elitists have been thinking and saying for decades (with relative impunity in the private sector and on college campuses but great cost at the presidential ballot box), even though similarly sweeping – and demeaning – generalizations about any subgroup on the liberals’ endangered species list invariably result in an explosion of self-righteous denunciation of the sort outlined in the preceding two speculative paragraphs.
There’s something in the liberal mindset that causes otherwise intelligent and rational people to view small towns and their residents (in fact, anyone – anywhere – whose political, cultural and religious values are commonly thought of as small town or traditional) with inordinate fear and loathing.
It’s why Hollywood, the epicenter of pop-culture liberalism, has long portrayed “townies” in a more or less sinister light and more often than not in need of some manner of amelioration provided by their big-city superiors.
In his 1979 book The View From Sunset Boulevard, Ben Stein devoted a chapter to “Small Towns on Television.” While a few of the writers and producers Stein interviewed had some positive things to say about small towns, the general attitude was highly negative and derogatory.
“There are a lot of dumb, violent people in small towns,” declared the producer Garry Marshall (he of such brainy fare as “Happy Days,” Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy” and the intellectual feast called “Joanie Loves Chachi”).
One unnamed producer told Stein that small towns are “the kinds of places where the Ku Klux Klan could grow today … right now.”
Asked whether she saw small towns as “frightening,” the late producer Meta Rosenberg “at first said ‘No,’ and then added, ‘Jesus, they did vote for Nixon.’”
Indeed they did. As, in 1972, did the majority of Americans in 49 of 50 states. Twelve years later, Ronald Reagan, another Republican reviled by the left, scored another 49-to-1 knockout (with Minnesota taking Massachusetts’s place as the lone entry in the losing column.)
In the eyes of liberal elitists, unless we pull the Democratic lever, we’re all small-town Americans.
(Note to readers: This column was also posted on Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, where the Monitor’s alter ego is a regular contributor.)