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War Of The Magnolias: The Trial-By-Media Of Chris McDaniel

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Anthony Rek LeCounte
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      Anthony Rek LeCounte

      Anthony Rek LeCounte is a Yale-educated conservative who wants the kind of bold, innovative, pro-growth governance that Barack Obama forgot about three years ago. He blogs at Token Dissonance.

Back in early May, the infamous ink-butcher George R. R. Martin submitted to an interview with Davie Itzkoff of the New York Times. There had been a public uproar over a rape scene in a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many in the fandom wanted desperately to know why so much blood had to mar the compelling Westeros story. This (abridged) exchange followed:

Q. Some critics of the books have said that even if such scenes are meant to illustrate that the world of Westeros is often a dark and depraved place, there is an overreliance on these moments over the course of the novels, and at a certain point they are no longer shocking and become titillating. How do you respond to this criticism?

A. […]The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book. As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.

Alas, this post is not about the fictional intrigues of Westeros, but the real pathologies of the American politico-media complex. The setting is Mississippi, where a close and combative U.S. Senate primary had once been a test of rival philosophies of the Republican vision of government. Is the occupant of that contested seat supposed to bring home the bacon, like incumbent Thad Cochran, or abide by Mississippi voters’ desire to limit government and promote economic freedom, like challenger Chris McDaniel?

But that was before the depraved media discovered its latest source of political titillation: the contemptible violation of Rose Cochran’s privacy by a plot of deranged hacks who happen to support McDaniel.

McDaniel and his campaign have denied any involvement in the crime. Given how predictable the subsequent firestorm was, it hardly strains credulity that a statewide candidate with enough intellectual acuity to be executed in Florida would have never sanctioned this kind of hapless grotesquerie. More the point, no charges have been filed or suggested against McDaniel. Of course, police are investigating all conceivable possibilities, whatever their actual merits, but reasonable people don’t usually jump to conclusions because a cop won’t “clear” anybody publicly before an investigation is concluded.

If we opt not to be vapid, the lack of any compelling evidence against McDaniel in the Cochran scandal is much less incriminating, newsworthy, or even interesting than former Senate Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) trying to name a courthouse he had built with $100 million of his constituents’ money after Thad Cochran (whom Lott endorsed for a seventh six-year term) instead of one of Mississippi’s first black lawyers. The Very Serious People might even note that Cochran, who was first elected when my parents were toddlers, has had more government structures named after him than any other sitting member of Congress. (I’m no expert in congressional naming etiquette, but isn’t getting your name put on multiple courthouses a tad greedy?) What a thoughtful use of our generously earmarked tax dollars!

At this point, even moderately responsible reporters might call into question Thad Cochran’s purported devotion to fiscal conservatism. The more inquisitive might also question Cochran’s devotion to the people he was elected to serve. After all, the senior senator spent half as much time in Mississippi as fellow Senator Roger Wicker, yet used $35 thousand more taxpayer dollars doing it. How’s that for getting less for more?

If, despite all these more relevant topics, we feel compelled to dwell on the Cochran scandal, the media might at least wonder aloud — between all the inane musing about McDaniel’s invisible knavery — about how the senator has benefited immensely from exploiting a crime against his wife and is now avoiding the media.

Many of the insinuations about McDaniel, such as from Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Acela Corridor), follow the lines of this phrasing from Christian Science Monitor:

“Though no one publicly suggested McDaniel was behind the video, Mr. Kelly is a strong McDaniel supporter and there are pictures on social media of him and McDaniel together. In the early hours after the story broke, the McDaniel campaign also gave conflicting signals about how much it knew about the video and when.”

Or this one from MSNBC:

“Then things got worse: three more people were arrested on Thursday in connection with the break-in, including a state tea party leader with longstanding ties to McDaniel and an activist who had, according to The Clarion-Ledger, regularly co-hosted a radio show with McDaniel.

A lone blogger was bad enough, but suddenly law enforcement authorities were alleging a conspiracy that included prominent conservatives who knew McDaniel personally.”

It is certainly noteworthy that associates or supporters of McDaniel’s have been arrested for a serious crime. That fact is hardly any excuse, however, for implying without evidence that McDaniel must have been involved in something simply because his supporters were.