My initial response to the punk iconography surrounding the launch of Breitbart California was to dismiss it as weird, silly, and a transparent attempt to ape the left and appear “edgy.”
But you have to make allowances for shtick. If the goal was to be provocative — to get people talking — then this campaign has been a success. Madonna owes her entire career to finding ways to offend and arouse the public. Miley Cyrus (the apparent inspiration for the Pelosi image) is following in her footsteps. And so, too — in a way — is Breitbart.
At some point, political news became a form of entertainment. You and I may lament this, but this is the world in which we live.
This is all to say that it’s not something I would have done, but then again, who says everything has to appeal to me? When someone offends your aesthetic sensibilities (I reasoned) you’re not legally required to comment; I may not like your shirt, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to devote 500 words to it. So I kept my mouth shut.
Not everyone did, of course, and the pearl clutching is even more annoying than the “artwork” itself. For some reason, liberals — who typically like to let their freak flags fly — who defend (and lionize) everyone from Larry Flynt to Howard Stern — have a problem with this.
Confession: If a liberal outlet had run a similar picture, featuring Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, a lot of conservatives would be OUTRAGED today (I would likely view it as silly and childish and a product of cultural degradation — and, yes — a transparently cynical attempt to be provocative.)
But again, the interesting thing is to examine who is offended here. And it is not the usual suspects. It is not the prudish “fragile flower” crowd.
Let’s take the usually irreverent Ana Marie Cox as an obviously interesting example.
I actually like Ana Marie Cox because she’s funny, flirty, and (again) irreverent. But when it comes to Breitbart, she is (to borrow a page from Andrew Breitbart’s book) suddenly full of righteous indignation.
— Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox) April 7, 2014
This seems surprising when you consider how Cox made her bones in this business.
Here’s how Eric Alterman described her in Why We’re Liberals: “Though she was a putative liberal, her reputation rested almost exclusively on her experience as the editor of a D.C. gossip Web site, Media’s ‘Wonkette,’ where her posts included reports on the ‘ass-fucking’ antics of a young Republican congressional aide…”
Now, maybe Cox is getting more conservative these days? It happens. Who knows? Maybe she’ll team with Tipper Gore in an attempt to label such images…
Or maybe — just as I wasn’t keen on commenting about this story initially — this is an example of Cox’s selective outrage.
For someone who clearly harbors delicate feminist sensibilities, it’s easy to see why these graphic images would offend her.
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UPDATE: I don’t remember a lot of liberals being offended by this portrayal of Michele Bachmann: