Last Friday, as American journalists looked forward to an evening's well-earned drinking, one lone truth-teller gritted his teeth and inwardly hissed, "Not on my watch." He was wearing a tan suit and standing near roses as he said this. There was a Poison song playing in his head, and he saw words emerge from his mouth in bullet time, so the president couldn't dodge them.
The man was "Hector" Neil Munro, Daily Caller journalist, a bedouin traveler of the desert of the real, a satirist from the British Isles who used to publish as "Sucki." He interrupted Obama's Rose Garden announcement that the US would stop deporting some younger illegal immigrants. Take the bitter red, white and blue pill, America.
Munro's outburst flouted decades of press-conference convention and was widely considered rude and inappropriate on both sides of the serious political divide. Politico even rounded up quotes from right-wing bloggers who condemned Munro.
The most common attitude was that this was a moment. Those bloggers noted that Munro was morally correct to demand a response from a president who's been stingy with his press conferences and prefers to select one-on-one interviews. It's a fair grievance and one that should be taken up by the "sober" center and angry left, because right now the complaint rings hollow coming from a blogging community where Obama's actual answers to questions needlessly obstruct the site-traffic dynamite of "made-up shit Black Hitler said between penning college transcript forgeries."
Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson effused, "Our job is to find out what the federal government is up to. Politicians often don't want to tell us. A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro." Lost in Carlson's DC-brah circlejerk à deux are two basic facts: one, that Munro's jackass routine only served to briefly impede the president's directly telling him what the federal government is up to; and, two, that it's incredibly easy to "get the story" when you make it about yourself.
Meanwhile, over on MSNBC, Salon's Steve Kornacki suggested that the disrespect toward Obama was of a piece with the historical Republican perception of any "liberal" president as inherently illegitimate, a phenomenon dating back to JFK. ("Usurpers," naturally, haven't "earned" respect.) Other guests asked whether a white president would be accorded the same disrespect. Indeed, it might not have been a coincidence that the first outburst of interrupting Obama, from Joe "YOU LIE!" Wilson, also concerned the racially charged issue of immigration and came from a representative of the state of the John McCain "black baby" robo-call and saying "states' rights" with a lot of winking. Maybe there's enough racial components to discuss here; Rush Limbaugh certainly belched something to that effect.
On the other hand, discussing whether this moment meant something overlooks the fact that, for Munro and the Daily Caller, these negative reactions are a null event. Apart from driving more pageloads, it's a teflon irrelevancy. When you hit a new low, that's just another benchmark reached if your goal is constantly to sink to the occasion.
Alex Pareene already described Carlson's descent into site-traffic humping sleaze. (He also had more about Munro here: anti-vaccination articles! General dickishness!) Like a prep-school wank who completely misunderstood pimp culture, he's picked the worst possible exotic tie to wear and seems to sell sex as something fascinatingly icky that should preferably be conducted in an odorless, non-moist, click-here way. His site features Drudge-bait headlines that sell ideas not present in the articles they top. The Caller also led the Trayvon Martin-related "when's the white man gonna get HIS justice?" backlash so lustily that you could almost see the parts of articles where someone settled for "thug" after the wicked high of thinking "gangbanging hood trash."
Apart from the race-baiting and headline sleaze, there's probably nothing more illuminating about the Daily Caller than the fact that there's actually a page with the words "This is the Daily Caller handgun. Read about it and win it."
In the past, plenty of news sites had their own official guns, including:
- ESPN: Tim Tebow Shotgun Read Option
- Esquire: Blackhead Gun
- Bloomberg: Sonic Crowd-Dispersal Gun
- GreatBigFatPerson.com: Jame Gun
- Ebony: Moses Gunn
- TheBlaze: 6.5 × 52 mm Italian Carcano M91/38 Bolt-Action Rifle
But now the Caller is the only one left. When you're stuck way out at that kind of journalistic terminus, nothing matters, not even being a few months away from running, "This is the Daily Caller leather bikini bitch on a motorcycle. Click her ass to hear real mechanics using automotive sex metaphors."
This is where Neil Munro works, padding out an archive of dead-thought conservative disingenuousness. His Twitter bio cheerfully lists his career stops: at glossy lobbyist brochures Defense News and Washington Technology, then at the National Journal, a Beltway organ that people call respectable because that's the polite adjective you use instead of "doesn't matter." And now the Caller, something with less gravitas than the Washington Times. We have arrived at Insipidity Base on planet Who Gives a Fuck.
While the Beltway punditocracy has learned over the last few decades that there is no career offense that's actually unpardonable, the right has internalized that immunity concept more strongly than the left. Unprofitable outrage merely bumps you a few celestial spheres outward, away from light and consequence. At no point is anyone in real danger of not having a job. Even if you call Steve Doocy's kid a pussy and start raving about reptiloids, World Net Daily will be there in the distance.
This is the real margin that Munro was working on, while standing outside, looking like annoying and puffy Studio 60 Matthew Perry, acting like Chandler Dingus. An orbit as distant as the Daily Caller is almost unbound by any gravity, hurtling into a moron void without the danger of colliding with a body of significant heft.
The best thing that can happen when you're Neil Munro is that your general nastiness spikes ratings, makes you profitable and calls you home. Anything less doesn't even register. Otherwise, in that kind of space, nobody with paychecks can hear you scream like an asshole.
"Mobutu Sese Seko" is founder of the blog Et tu, Mr. Destructo?
Image via AP.