Here We Go Again

11 November 2007

Back in 1999-2000, the media created a narrative of Al Gore the liar. Things such as his non-existent claim of having invented the Internet took over the major news networks as a major focal point of their presidential politics discussions. It became the "conventional wisdom."

Hillary Clinton recently spoke at her alma mater Wellesley, and made the following comments:

The world class faculty and staff who push you and challenge you, those late nights and long lunches where you challenge each other and learn from each other, the camaraderie that develops when smart, ambitious young women come together in a community of learning. In so many ways, this all women's college prepared me to compete on the all boys' club of presidential politics.


This was a place where you could try out all different kinds of leadership styles, where you could ask for critique and support from your friends and the faculty with whom you had an ongoing relationship. It was a place that truly did prepare women to make the best choices that we thought were right for our own lives.

Nothing sensational here. She absolutely did not say that people were picking on her because she is a woman. Nor did she say that people should vote for her because she is a woman (in fact, she's explicitly said the opposite). All she said was that the "all women's college" (it is) gave her the leadership skills to compete on the "all boys' club of presidential politics" (she is the only female among 17 contenders, and the first really serious female contender ever - this statement is simply an accurate description).

Nonetheless, there is a new narrative about how Hillary Clinton is playing "the gender card." The implication is that she's either a wimp, or unfairly using her gender as a shield.

According to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, this is an "anti-male thing," and "she should just lighten up on this gender -- 'the boys are coming to get me' routine."

According to MSNBC's Tucker Carlson:
TUCKER CARLSON: She clearly is playing the gender card -- "You can't hit a girl."


Women are angry at men in a lot of ways. They don't say much about it, but they are.

BUCHANAN: Holy smokes.

CARLSON: And she's pandering to that resentment and anger, and it's wrong.

PRESS: I think men have a reason to be angry at women based on what Lorena Bobbitt did.

CARLSON: Well, I couldn't agree with you more. No man would ever defend the corollary. But women are like, "Oh, I understand why Lorena did that." I mean, they're really mad. And she's taking advantage of it.

According to the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, "Sometimes when Hillary takes heat, she gets paranoid and controlling. But this time she took the heat by getting into the kitchen."

According to FOX News' Mort Kondrake:
This idea of using this gang of theme and the gender card that she is playing may work in the Iowa caucuses. And her staff says this is all about Iowa, and something like 55 percent of the Iowa caucus goers are, apparently women. So if she can get the lion's share of them and split up the guy vote, then she obviously wins.

But I think it is very unattractive for a general election candidate, who wants to be the Commander in Chief of the free world, to be saying 'They're ganging up on me!' I mean, this is the NFL. This is not Wellesley versus Smith in field hockey.

However, the most egregious and ridiculous distortion came from ABC News. After Nancy Pelosi explicitly disagreed with this narrative, ABC ran the horrible headline "Pelosi: Clinton Camp Played Gender Card." Even though that was the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Pelosi said (go ahead and read the article itself if you don't believe me). To highlight their shitty journalism, ABC included the following graphic:

When did the retards take over network news?

Moreover, who will point out the seriously flawed narrative at play here? At MSNBC, it seems unlikely that any of their talking heads or newsmen will say anything. If anything, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, and Chris Matthews have proven that they will do the opposite. The only liberal talking-head over there is Keith Olberman (despite Bill O'Reilly's claims that NBC is "in the Democratic party's pocket"). He might say something, but he has a limited audience. Over at FOX, I wouldn't recommend holding your breath waiting for such coverage. Sean Hannity, etc. are gonna hit the "I'm a girl" meme pretty hard, and the only hope over there is that an invited guest will point out the insanity at play here. Over at CNN, I don't suspect you'll see much coverage, either. Instead, they might (at best) cover it with their usual he-said-she-said reporting ("Some say Clinton is playing the gender card... others disagree"). You can probably expect the same from major newspapers, if anything at all (it's also worth noting that they probably have less influence on these narratives than the television shows). Although they're already proving themselves to be awful at covering this.

The Wall Street Journal pushes the "gender card" meme:
According to The Politico, a "debate" is "churning in feminist circles, where some women's activists said she had every right to invoke sexism and gender stereotypes as a defense on the campaign trail--and predicted that this tactic will prove effective against fellow Democrats and against a Republican, if she is the general election nominee"

The New York Times:

Shortly after the Democratic debate, when Mrs. Clinton came under attack, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign posted a video on her Web site called “The Politics of Pile On” that showed short clips of the men at the debate.

On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton went to her alma mater, Wellesley, and said, “In so many ways this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys’ club of presidential politics.”

The same day, her campaign sent out a fund-raising appeal condemning the men’s actions at the debate and saying, “Hillary’s going to need your help.”

Mrs. Clinton was swiftly criticized on the Internet and by some female columnists for wanting to have it both ways, projecting herself as a strong leader but then complaining of mistreatment by men.

This was one of the more maddening treatments. First, the NYT describes the video as showing "short clips of the men at the debate." That is an absolutely horrible description of the video, transparently intended to create the impression that the video is about gender. It's not. You can watch it here.

The thing is that it's so obviously not about gender. Nowhere does the word "man," "woman," "gender," "male," or "female" appear. Her point was simply that her opponents had recognized her as the frontrunner (she is) and started to go after her (they did - as anyone who watched the debate realizes). This was not about gender, but about making her opponents look like they're playing catch-up. Her opponents just all happen to be men.

Second, her remarks at Wellesley (as I've repeatedly said) obviously do not amount to "playing the gender card."

Third, I haven't seen this fund-raising letter, but if all the New York Times can cite in support of its narrative is that it condemned "the men's" (read: her opponents, who all happen to be men) actions, then it seems like a pretty thin branch on which to hang one's coat.

Finally, it's not "some female columnists" "on the Internet." It's horrible articles like this one that reinforce and spread these horrible narratives. It's not "some people" and it's not "the conservative media." It's awful, lazy, careless journalists like this one.

UPDATE: Has anyone seen any coverage of Hillary Clinton's newly released climate and energy plan? I haven't (not outside the world of blogs, at least). This seems like the kind of substantive issue that people should be writing and arguing about (rather than her "gender card," her "Chinese" clapping, or how much she tips at a restaurant). If you see any serious coverage, please pass it along.

UPDATE II: A recent Marist poll indicates that these empty narratives might be taking their toll in New Hampshire.

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