WaPo’s media watcher extraordinaire Howard Kurtz writes today about the types of fawning “cool, hip guy/family” articles we’ve seen routinely from the mainstream media since the election of Barack Obama, something I’ve addressed in a couple of posts here. In his piece, Kurtz first notes a short list of the types of headlines and stories he’s read since Nov. 4:
Perhaps it was the announcement that NBC News is coming out with a DVD titled “Yes We Can: The Barack Obama Story.” Or that ABC and USA Today are rushing out a book on the election. Or that HBO has snapped up a documentary on Obama’s campaign.
Perhaps it was the Newsweek commemorative issue — “Obama’s American Dream” — filled with so many iconic images and such stirring prose that it could have been campaign literature. Or the Time cover depicting Obama as FDR, complete with jaunty cigarette holder.
Are the media capable of merchandizing the moment, packaging a president-elect for profit? Yes, they are.
What’s troubling here goes beyond the clanging of cash registers. Media outlets have always tried to make a few bucks off the next big thing. The endless campaign is over, and there’s nothing wrong with the country pulling together, however briefly, behind its new leader. But we seem to have crossed a cultural line into mythmaking.
“The Obamas’ New Life!” blares People’s cover, with a shot of the family. “New home, new friends, new puppy!” Us Weekly goes with a Barack quote: “I Think I’m a Pretty Cool Dad.” The Chicago Tribune trumpets that Michelle “is poised to be the new Oprah and the next Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — combined!” for the fashion world.
Whew! Are journalists fostering the notion that Obama is invincible, the leader of what the New York Times dubbed “Generation O”?
Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. “OBAMAISM — It’s a Kind of Religion,” says New York magazine. “Those of us too young to have known JFK’s Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us,” Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it “BAM-A-LOT.”
“Here we are,” writes Salon’s Rebecca Traister, “oohing and aahing over what they’ll be wearing, and what they’ll be eating, what kind of dog they’ll be getting, what bedrooms they’ll be living in, and what schools they’ll be attending. It feels better than good to sniff and snurfle through the Obamas’ tastes and habits. . . . Who knew we had in us the capacity to fall for this kind of idealized Americana again?”
But aren’t media people supposed to resist this kind of hyperventilating?
“Obama is a figure, especially in pop culture, in a way that most new presidents are not,” historian Michael Beschloss says. “Young people who may not be interested in the details of NAFTA or foreign policy just think Obama is cool, and they’re interested in him. Being cool can really help a new president.”
Yeah, and apparently the media have something in common with young people when it comes to not being concerned about policy details.
Kurtz goes on to gently chastise the mainstream media for its post-election glorifying of Barry Oh! but predicts that soon enough, the honeymoon will be over:
There is always a level of excitement when a new president is coming to town — new aides to profile, new policies to dissect, new family members to follow. But can anyone imagine this kind of media frenzy if John McCain had managed to win?
Obama’s days of walking on water won’t last indefinitely. His chroniclers will need a new story line. And sometime after Jan. 20, they will wade back into reality.
I’ll believe it when I see it – and that’s assuming it eventually happens. I have my doubts.
So does Jennifer Rubin:
The MSM championed Barack Obama throughout the primaries, clubbed his opponent, lauded him during the general election, and is now marveling at his transition. There’s no reason to stop now. If the mainstream media cared about unbiased reporting and exacting investigation, they would have made some effort earlier to balance the coverage. And now that the election of Obama has fulfilled their dreams and aspirations, why should they return to the humdrum tasks of quibbling with the press secretary, investing inter-agency squabbles, and questioning the lack of progress or the outright repudiation of campaign pledges? That might scuff up the President’s image. And it might put them on the outs with their hero.
Really, I think it’s too much to expect that the lapdog media will turn into attack-dogs or watchdogs anytime soon. After all, they have a President to help succeed.
We shall see.