The press coverage of the democratic presidential race has descended to one of those circles of hell wherein greedy appetites and exaggerated punishments exist side by side and without end. Did Barack Obama “snub” Hillary Clinton by turning his back on the New York senator as she sought to shake his hand at the State of the Union address on capitol hill? Who knows? What seems clear is that the Balkanization of identity politics has been a profitable story, particularly for the TV broadcasters, and that in turn, substantive issues are not discussed.
I continue to yearn for a dis-modern America where each of us is liberated from the symbolic and semiotic categorizations of the past. When individuals are reduced to symbolism there’s a very real chance that the hoary heads of discrimination and bigotry are doing most of the talking.
None of the reporters in the MSNBC or CNN crowds would easily admit to partaking in glib and discriminatory rhetoric. Yet the reduction of Barack Obama to a mere representation as “the black candidate” or the similar categorization of Senator Clinton according to her gender represents the most clay footed and witless symbolic obfuscation we’ve seen in this country since the reign of Lee Atwater.
I can’t say which I dislike more: the reduction of two fine candidates to racial or gendered inferiority or the money making feeding frenzy that this phony story has created in the media.
The writer William Gass once wrote that culture has completed its
work when everything is a sign. I have always taken that observation to
be chilling. Signs are static and often poorly drawn. I experience this
almost every day as a person with a disability. I deeply distrust
identity signage and I am appalled by the middle-brow clap trap that’s
oozing out of my TV.
Rightward types have long argued that “political correctness” is out
of control, particularly at our nation’s universities. I’ve always
argued that this position misses the point. No citizen of these United
States should have to suborn his or her full disposition beneath the
shape of her body or the pigment of his skin.
And so I say it’s not the academy’s fault that this fervid nonsense
is out of control. It’s a matter of latent racism and misogyny tricked
out in catchy televised sound-bytes.
Meanwhile the differences between Hillary Clinton’s health care
proposals and those that have been outlined by Senator Obama are not
discussed. Nor will the American television viewer learn a thing about
their respective views on what to do about Iraq or how they might shut
down Guantanamo Bay.
But the cost is much higher than they suppose.
The TV folks are making plenty of dough.