Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Why the outrage over Michelle Wolf's performance and the W.H.C.A. Dinner?

After all, she was hired to provide satire, and that's what she provided. James Poniewozik in the NYTimes:
Was Ms. Wolf’s set vicious? Absolutely. (She called Ivanka Trump, for instance, “about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.”)

But was it gratuitous? Not at all. It drove mercilessly toward its themes: that this administration lies; that its female members are covering for a sexist president; and that journalists have enabled it all with breathless coverage.

Those are points of view, and not ones that anyone needs to agree with. But comedy’s job is to have a point of view, to pick a hill to die on and defend it with furiously thrown pies. Comedy is not a Page A1 news analysis. It is not its job to call the other side for comment or throw in a “to be sure” paragraph for balance.
If Trump were mentally or physically disabled and Wolf had mocked him for that, then, yes, that would be over the line. But he isn't and she didn't. He may be enormously insecure, narcissistic, megalomaniac, and have problems with the truth, and she got him for those.

Jack Goldsmith has a piece in the Weekly Standard that's meandering in the right direction. It's about norms, norms of the Presidency and of the press that covers it. Trump, of course, has shattered the norms of the office, and so the press, in response, has broken its norms in covering it:
The media’s relationship with the president has also been marked by norm changes. Its chummy and largely protective rapport with JFK has changed to a more adversarial posture over the decades, culminating in the Trump era with a historically oppositional attitude toward the president.
And so, by stages, we arrive at:
It is part of Trump’s evil genius that he elevates himself by inducing his critics to behave like him . “In lots of reporting, particularly on television commentary, there’s a kind of self-righteousness and smugness and people kind of ridiculing the president,” Bob Woodward correctly noted earlier this year. Woodward later added that many reporters covering Trump had "become emotionally unhinged." In the context of the Trump presidency, an unusually strident comedy routine at the marquee journalist event, followed by claims that Trump deserved it, furthers the perception that the press hates Trump and is out to get him. It lends credence to Trump’s attacks on the bias and shortcomings of what he calls the “fake-news media.”
 The context has changed so that it's hard (for some) to tell that, after all, she's joking.

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