Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shame on You, Huffington Post

Mythology to the contrary, the mainstream media suffers from an exasperating lack of progressive voices. As Eric Alterman convincingly demonstrates in his 2003 book “What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News,” if anything television networks, major newspapers and the radio giants like Clear Channel are dominated by conservative, if not reactionary, voices.

That’s why I’ve always enjoyed reading the online journal “The Huffington Post,” which has offered genuine debate on issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict and has given the occasional actual liberal, as opposed to the usual pale imitations like George Stephanopoulos and David Broder, a real voice.

That’s why I was distressed to read this recent item on the “Huffington Post” website:


“[The] yearly federal budget deficit is over $250 billion and the trade imbalances are setting records every year. There is no end in sight.

And today, our Dear Leader has vetoed a bill that would help 4 million American children at the lowest levels of our ‘booming’ economy have access to elementary health care, saying it is ‘too expensive.’

And after all of this obscene heartlessness toward American kids and profiteering on the killing of innocents abroad, our Dear Leader sends his cute little blonde Italian-surnamed spokesmodel, Dana Perino, to tell us these words in regard to trying to find a way to pay for the bloodbaths:

’We've always known that Democrats seem to revert to type, and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything.’”


Yes, Dana Perino some day will have to answer to a higher power for serving as a shill to such a corrupt and clumsy regime. However, this post, written by Joseph A. Perino, is sexist in the extreme. I recall no previous articles on the “Huffington Post” website describing what the previous White House flack, Tony Snow, looked like. "Post" writers haven’t speculated whether or not James Carville is “cute.” Nor have attractive men in politics like John Edwards been condescended to as “spokesmodels.” (This might be because the pickings are awfully slim. As someone once archly observed, “Politics is show business for ugly people.”)

Perhaps it is naïve to expect real progressives and their mainstream liberal sometimes allies to be above sexism. After all, the previously mentioned Eric Alterman, in the just cited “What Liberal Media?” book, feels the need to comment on Axis spokespersons Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham’s looks. (Alterman refers to Ingraham as a “leggy” and “pretty blond ex-clerk” who “had the good sense to wear a leopard-skin mini-skirt for a 'New York Times Magazine'” cover” while Coulter is referred to as a “blonde bombshell pundette.”)

Such talk would be crude and condescending if it came from Rush Limbaugh, and indeed far worse has. (Limbaugh once referred to one of Louisiana’s senators as “Cute Little Baby Fat Mary Landrieu.”) We should expect more, however, from the relative progressives at the Huffington Post. They should either comment on the physical appearance of all reactionaries or refrain from making patronizing comments only about the attractiveness, or lack thereof, of fascist women.

Dana Perino has far worse to answer for than being “cute.” such as for letting loose with this whopper in response to a “New York Times” story this week revealing that after publicly disavowing the use of torture techniques on terrorism suspects, the U.S. Justice Department issued a secret finding endorsing methods such as head slaps, submerging suspects in freezing temperatures and treating prisoners to simulated drownings known as waterboarding. “"The policy of the United States is not to torture,” Perino lied “The president has not authorized it. He will not authorize it."

There are so many substantial critiques to make of the Bush administration and its flunkies without resorting to a locker room mentality. You can rest assured that, should she win the White House, right-wingers will obsess over Hillary Clinton’s appearance as a substitute for discussion of her policies. The left can and must do better.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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