Thursday, August 26, 2010

The White Wings of Icarus Fall Silent

Arianna Huffington is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. She fancies herself a powerful voice in the world of American Progressive politics, and I suppose she is, although I’ve always doubted the liberal credentials of someone who was closely-knit, literally and figuratively, into the framework of Newt Gingrich’s political philosophy throughout the 1990s. People change, yes, but lasting, believeable and genuine change is often of the calibre which occurs slowly, almost imperceptibly, throughout a number of years – much in the way the conservative former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, evolved from a conservative jurist into the liberal conscience of the Court.

So pardon me, a natural secularist, if I found Huffington’s Damascene conversion from hardcore neocon and Gingrich neophyte into a fully paid-up member of the Progressive Populist club, practically overnight, more than a bit difficult to swallow.

Even harder to accept was the ease with which the liberal media readily accepted her within their fold. More than Mitch McConnell “taking the President’s word” that he’s a Christian, the media elite embraced this woman as one of their own.

She certainly has been making the rounds – from Morning Joe to various appearances on CNN, with stops in between on Ed Schultz’s and Keith Olbermann’s echo chambers, as well as a quasi-regular stint on ABC’s This Week – especially when there’s an opportunity to criticize whatever the President has said or hasn’t said, has done or hasn’t done, which hasn’t met her personal standard of excellence. And then, there’s always the opportunity for her particular brand of argumentum ad hominem. I believe her favourite reference to the President is “Nowhere Man.”

Don’t get me wrong. Politicians were made to be criticized, their feet being fashioned to be held to the fire by the people who elect them; but – Lordy! – according to Arianna Huffington’s political perspective, it’s amazing that the President is able to walk down the street and chew gum without tripping up. There’s criticism, there’s nitpicking … and there’s cherry-picking.

However, I’ve noticed, during yet another summer of discontent, that Madame’s been curiously quiet of late, starting right about the time of the Shirley Sherrod/Andrew Breibart incident.

In an interview printed earlier in the year in Wired magazine, Breitbart amply credited Huffington as being his mentor, saying she’d taught him everything he knew about his particular type of journalism – which is, at best, described as “press hackery” and, at worst, as a variety of ratfucking: shady, oblique quotes from anonymous sources, phrases and sentences taken out of context and spun with a view to imparting a message completely different from the original, and loads of nuanced criticism, which never offers any alternative suggestions, but always ends with a sneer and more than a dollop of condescension.

Needless to say, the interview went viral in the age of the internet, and more than a few of the many people who comment regularly on Huffington Post were quick to point out, not only the association between Huffington and Breitbart, but also the fact that Breitbart was the co-founder of HuffPo, himself.

This guilt by association was just enough to jog some memories of Huffington the virulent neocon of the Nineties – neophyte of Newt and the founder of a website dedicated entirely to securing the impeachment of one President William Jefferson Clinton, Democrat. It was also enough, for awhile, for several commentators to slam accusations of “Breitbart journalism” against certain of her regular reporters, each time their “reporting” proved to be shoddy and inaccurate – which was quite a lot.

The dots were connected.

Huffington never referenced Breitbart, and, although her site offered many and varied articles concerning Shirley Sherrod, Fox News and the Obama Administration, with most of the blame being heaped heavily onto the President’s shoulders, she never offered up a word, distancing herself from this man and his shady practices, never reassured her adoring gaggle of fans that she totally condemned what he’d tried to do. She simply ignored the name Breitbart altogether, as if he didn’t exist in her fragrant world of expensive facials, debutant balls and speaking up for the “small people.”
It seemed as though Arianna, for once, had lost her mighty voice.

And now, with all the kerfuffle surrounding the Park51 incident in New York, all the not-too-cleverly disguised innuendo insinuating that Muslims, as a whole, are to be feared, vilified and persecuted, we’ve yet to hear Mrs Huffington expound upon this. The verbal attack on a construction worker, trying to thread his way through the New York mob, who appeared to “look Muslim” didn’t raise a whimper of protest from Arianna’s throat. Nor did the fact that recent polls reveal an increasing number of people seem to suspect our President is a Muslim. These are ordinary people who believe this, the sort of people for whom Arianna claims to speak, especially in her recent book, which has yet to climb onto the New York Times best-seller list.

Arianna, who always speaks the truth (according to her dittoes), should be guiding and enlightening these people to the contrary.

Instead, she’s uncharacteristically silent.

Sometimes silence reverberates more astoundingly than a plethora of loud and gratuitous criticism, and sometimes silence can be interpreted as tacit assent.

In days of yore, in the Nineties when the budget was balanced and everyone believed they had money in their pockets, Arianna was the First Disciple in the Church of Newt Gingrich. Now that Newt’s likening the Muslims to Nazis, one wonders if the sheets Arianna might be thinking of donning are made of designer-labelled white linen.

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