Dylan Byers, the dumbest media-news reporter in the business, has been thinking a lot during the past 24 hours about the difficulties of being a man. The Politico, America's worst media outlet and Byers' employer, reported yesterday afternoon that President Obama had called California attorney general Kamala Harris "the best-looking attorney general in the country" at a fundraiser. Even as The Politico started and amplified a fuss over the president's remarks, according to its usual mechanical fuss-making protocol, Byers wondered what the fuss was about:
How did it become so difficult to call a woman good looking in public?— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) April 4, 2013
Some people tried to explain it to him, but it didn't go well, maybe because many of them were women, and women are oversensitive and irrational about issues such as how men talk about women, so Dylan Byers has a hard time discussing things with them. Or something like that:
when we became full humans and not objects RT @dylanbyers: How did it become so difficult to call a woman good looking in public?— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) April 4, 2013
@zerlinamaxwell So it is no longer acceptable, under any terms, to publicly compliment a person for their looks in public?— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) April 4, 2013
Eventually right-wing nepotism baby John Podhoretz jumped in, meaning John Podhoretz was at least transitively defending Barack Obama. Bros before hos, obvs.:
Unfortunately, it looks as if further explanations from women might not get much of anywhere. Not through any fault of your own, women! But there you have it. For these occasions, Gawker offers a special Mansplainer feature, in which a male writer will try to put things in terms other men might listen to.
So, OK, fellas! Why can't you talk about how foxy-looking that lady is—you know which one, right, the foxy one? That lady. Dag, she's fine. What's wrong with stating a basic fact, out loud, in public, so everyone can agree?
Because it's rude, you idiots. Because what you're saying is: Let's stop thinking about her and start looking at her—everybody here in this room, have a look, check her out. Check it out.
People don't actually like being looked at that way, on those terms. "I wouldn't mind a nice compliment," you say. The heck you wouldn't, guys. Pretend a compliment on your looks is a cheeseburger. Who doesn't like a delicious cheeseburger? Dudes love cheeseburgers.
Now suppose that every time you asked for anything, all day long, you got a cheeseburger. Hey, good morning, sleepyhead, here's a cup of cheeseburger to wake you up. Lunchtime is a cheeseburger with a cheeseburger. Smoke break: Light up a cheeseburger. Get home and open that envelope from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and instead of your new license, they mailed you a cheeseburger. Looking for the remote? Have a cheeseburger.
Some of these are really inherently unappetizing cheeseburgers, too, by the way, cold school-lunch gristleburgers with unmelted cheese, but that barely even registers, because no one in years has even asked you if you want another fucking cheeseburger. You're a dude; you get cheeseburgers. Everybody give this dude a cheeseburger!
And then the president of the United States comes by, and he praises your professional performance—as you do richly deserve, on your merits—and then he says, "Give it up for the cheeseburger guy!" and he shoves a cheeseburger in your mouth, in front of everybody.
(We're going to keep this simple and not even get into the discussion of how, for centuries, men's opportunities and their value in society were more or less entirely determined by their perceived appetite and aptitude for being fed cheeseburgers.)
And so the other dudes who have had way too many cheeseburgers in their own lives are like, Ugh, even the president, and then Dylan Byers asks, Why can't anyone order a simple, delicious cheeseburger anymore without people making a big controversy out of it?
Or specifically, as we wipe off the grease and move away from our metaphor, he writes today that there has been "a fair deal of debate over an individual's freedom to compliment the looks of another in public."
For a person whose job is to think and write about the media, Dylan Byers has a remarkably confused notion of what it means to have the "freedom" to say something. People are free to say all sorts of things, and other people are free to get upset about what they've said, and to say critical things in return. It is not an infringement of the Bill of Rights for someone to point out that you're being an asshole. Donald Trump is not in jail, nor is he barred from expressing himself, even though he is an idiot and a pig. The Politico is at liberty to keep on publishing strings of words typed by Dylan Byers, even though he is worthless.
And the President of the United States is not, in his public discourse, an "individual." As an individual, I can go ahead and say that Vladimir Putin is a creep and a thug, and that Russia would be better off without him. If Barack Obama says that, it's a problem.
So the president apologized. However friendly and cheerful Obama's personal relationship with Harris may be, he is a powerful executive, who was speaking in public. And there are lots and lots of less powerful but still powerful men who also are quite sure that they have great professional relationships with the women around them, and that everyone will understand that they, too, mean absolutely no harm when they express themselves, either.
And often enough, those men are wrong.