Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Black Dyke got it just right

The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules.

Thus allegedly (and laconically) did Christopher Hitchens call out Wanda Sykes over her undiplomatic and sarcastic “humorous” jabs at all things Republican at the White House Correspondents' Dinner a few days ago.

He is half right. Ms. Sykes is indeed black and (by her own admission) a dyke. It is highly likely that someone did tell her the rules, she just didn't play along.

Nor does Mr. Hitchens. I suspect I am the one missing Hitchens' own satire. Perhaps it was this repulsive idea — that adulatory, sycophantic, even fawning media elite who go to sleep nightly with Beltway-ese language tapes and rise the next day to insinuate themselves farther up Obama's backstory still find it necessary to vaunt (and flaunt) their insider status with a yearly orgy of self-important stroking disguised as stand-up comedy with the very people whom they are paid to investigate — this idea which impelled the usually expansive wordsmith to encode his nausea in two short satirical sentences.

A judge cavorting with a prosecutor would be disbarred. Why do journalists get a pass? Obama calls it torture, yet the New York Times cannot?

The real zinger was when Obama got real at the end of his roast. Crudely speaking (if Obama could speak crudely, which I doubt): “Your industry pimped itself out and lost the trust of the people, who then took matters into their own hands. Now you're crying to me. Sorry, can't help you.”

A credulous press is a threat to our democracy. Bloggers like me know this. Most journalists do to. And then there are the White House Correspondents who prefer their gossip served up first hand in the East Room, where propaganda offends less than rearranging the seating chart. Their paymasters in turn have learned from Limbaugh that in large part the American people are intellectually lazy and chronically incurious and want their prejudgments confirmed by self-selected “news” sources.

So what? If you can't pay for the ink and paper, stop printing (and go online). If you can't pay the correspondent to propagate (as in, propaganda) the words of others, facilitate the countless volunteers who actually want to research a policy (and and not the one making it). Who cares if Obama is for healthcare reform, the question is whether I am for healthcare reform (and if so, which kind?) Any journalism worthy of the name should at least help me decide that I need to decide such things.

This noble quest is now in the hands of bloggers, many histrionic, most partisan, all opinionated. Still, readers are only one Google search away from every side of any issue. Bloggers compete in a truly free market for your attention, and “even though we cannot affirm that the products of mimesis are invested in the panoply of existence” (i.e. even if we're just bullshitting you), a quick survey of opinions (and their sources) quickly sieves fact from fiction.

Did the Black Dyke get it wrong? She wasn't the one voting against my same-sex marriage. She did not worry that in embarrassing Sean Hannity (or herself) she might (heaven forbid) also be embarrassing Barack Obama...unlike the access-craving sheeple in the audience.

If the label "Black Dyke" seems incomplete, perhaps it is because you were secretly thinking "Uppity Black Dyke" and wondered why Hitchens censored himself (and Wanda Sykes). Clearly Sykes has no problem with this designation, for it is the calling of truthseekers. Uppity is exactly what journalists should be, upending the cherished decorum of smugness pervading the Inner Circle who have forgotten that at the heart of Correspondent is the verb "respond". Uppity White Fag is what I aspire to be when one day I get the chance to speak to such a large and influential audience as Wanda Sykes did. Meanwhile, I will settle for Lonely Voice Crying out in the Wilderness.

Love is patient, love is kind. But the truth is jarring and rude. It imposes on friends and turns on its own.

I suppose the Fox News table could have walked out on Sykes' ungracious contumely. But then they would have missed the after-dinner schmoozing, and that would have been such a waste of privilege.

6 comments:

yosephus said...

Well said. Hitchens' contention that "the president should be squirming in his seat, not smiling" really shows what a dick he is. All presidents smile during the "roast." If they have any self-control, anyway. If they're not oversensitive because there are so many hilarious but unfortunately true cuts to make. If Bush squirmed it's because he was a worm. And Colbert got slammed in the press for making him squirm. This is clearly a special moment in history for satirists: the shitheads out of power are STILL shitheads and it's only now, now that we have leadership that considers competence a virtue, that we can truly laugh without the caveat that if we weren't, we'd be crying.

Dan Weston said...

Well said.Wow. Who knew I said all that? I must be smarter than I thought!

I guess satire really is my calling.

yosephus said...

Ah, no, dahlink, you didn't say all that, I was adding my two cents. What you said, however, was eloquent and vindicating, opening the door for me to chime in (hope you don't regret it now). Seemed like all over the Huffpost and other heavily-trafficked blogs there were all kinds of troll-powered flame wars going on, and here you were with your statement easily making far more sense of the situation and no one commenting. I felt I should honor your achievement. Then I got all mouthy and went a-ranting on my own trip about that Hitchens thing. Mouthy went a-ranting and he did write, uh-huh. Anyhow, didn't seem right your smart paragraphs not getting comments when a bunch of pajama screeds were barfing all over the bandwidth. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Oh Christopher has got a bug up his arse, as he doesn't see many "atheist" voicing in this election, other than himself. Sometimes those who are discriminated against or excluded from "valuable input" seek to make themselves known by hanging with the "ilk" of our human species, and using the same rhetoric of old to fit in "somewhere"

He is snobby and smallminded in labeling and thinking inside the box "only thinking".

Was he seeking to have someone agree with him on anything? Even if it means trying to slur or smear. Wanda isn't ashamed of what she is. She's American and there is freedom to be whomever or worship whomever, WE want.
ie. Christopher Atheist Hitchens.

Go back to Morning Joe, if he'll have you.

Dan Weston said...

@ yosephus,

You don't owe me an apology, but thank you for offering one. I responded as I did only to avoid the appearance that I was retroactively stealing credit for the points you made.

Dan Weston said...

@ Anonymous,

Don't you think it's possible that Hitchens was (at least also) trying to ridicule the Liberal Elite in the room for being made uncomfortable by someone so far outside their comfort zone (and that of the TV viewers)?

Maybe his real message was that Americans are feeling too good about electing an eloquent, "clean", "well-behaved" half-black man when they are uncomfortable with Sykes? "Following the rules" in the South is code language for knowing your place (racially).

These were not my arguments (one focus per post) and I was going for the Elite Privilege aspect, but Christopher Hitchens is rather clever, and I don't discount the possibility that he (unlike me) can hit several targets with one zinger.

Atheist, yes. Small minded? Unlikely. Thinking inside the box? Not the Hitchens I have read. I strongly opposed Hitchens' position on the Iraq war, but he speaks with a moral clarity (without a God delusion) that Dennis Prager only dreams of doing!