MARY KATHARINE HAM: This Vanity Fair Lionization Of The Press Is Why Everyone Hates The Press.
The press thinks it’s just observing, but it’s also a character in this drama. It has a picture of itself, honed by none other than Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, speaking truth to power and bringing down a presidency for the good of the American people. During Democratic administrations, the kind that don’t beg for bringing down, the Redfords and Hoffmans of the press are content to take a few years quietly indulging in some small, indy projects, playing an important but smaller role in our democracy. When a Republican president is elected, however, they’re back to big-budget summer blockbusters all day every day.
What is this “Vanity Fair” feature, after all, if not a standard “Vanity Fair” feature usually reserved for an A-list box-office star? The press is happy to be that invigorated, energetic star again, now that America has elected the kind of power to whom it loves to speak truth. There they are, auditioning for “All the President’s Men” in their tasteful Anne Klein dresses and schlumpy suits. At least we are spared the wide ties and plaid pants.
But of course – as Ace of Spades wrote in “The MacGuffinization of American Politics” in the early days of Obama’s second term, the press covered Obama like he was Indiana Jones in search of the Ark of the Covenant:
Watching Chris Matthews interview Obama, I was struck by just how uninterested in policy questions Matthews (and his panel) were, and how almost every question seemed to be, at heart, about Obama’s emotional response to difficulties– not about policy itself, but about Obama’s Hero’s Journey in navigating the plot of President Barack Obama: The Movie.
As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero’s emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.
Again and again, Matthews and his panel focused not on weighty questions of state, but on what toll these important-sounding MacGuffins took upon the Star of the Picture, Barack Obama.
Matthews was not terribly interested in hearing about the problems with Obamacare, or how Obama planned to address them.
But he was very interested in learning how Obama was coping with the challenges.
Now that The Hero is out of office, and his successor defeated, who in the original cast left? The media! And thus, having vanquished The Hero and his successor, Trump must be the baddie. So naturally, the media have concluded that they’re now the beleaguered good guys, protecting the town (DC in this case, as opposed to the western’s hardscrabble frontier village) from the evil interloper.
Of course, most of us would much prefer that their hero was Jack Webb – “Just the facts, Mr. Spicer/Mr. Miller,” but in the media’s heart of hearts, they see themselves as a cross between Harrison Ford and Redford and Hoffman. As MKH wrote, “At least we are spared the wide ties and plaid pants.”