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.
“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.
For perspective, Cochran’s close aide Kay Webber hosted at least two Democratic fundraisers in her house in 2006 and 2008, when Republicans were skewered at the polls. Given that Cochran has long employed and traveled with Ms. Webber (on taxpayer dime) while also living in her house — where Democrats schemed to retake Congress and the presidency from the Party that Cochran works for — there is arguably a stronger link between Cochran and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party than anyone has shown between McDaniel and the crime against Mrs. Cochran. If we’re casting aspersions on candidates because of their supporters, surely this story will break into a major scandal any day now.
I won’t hold my breath.
Perhaps at some point, somebody might remember that this U.S. Senate contest involves meaningfully distinct candidates with agendas and priorities that will influence national politics. But of course, that would involve substantively engaging the two candidates on their merits, and the punditocracy has little interest in that. Especially not when the priority of the day is embarrassing conservatives.
We shouldn’t be surprised; the internecine wrangling of a restlessly acephalous Republican Party is old news in the Acela Corridor by now. Depending on your view, the “civil war” is over, and the media-preferred establishment won — or else the fiscal conservative assimilation of the Establishment is more or less accomplished — and, anyway, how many different ways can lazy media hype the same “GOP implosion” storyline while doggedly eliding the philosophical merits of any candidate?
If we must take anything from this saga as conservatives — beyond, “don’t be stupid” — it is a simple truth we’ve known all along: the media disdains and undermines conservatives, and it’s useless to whine about it. I don’t know how the Mississippi race will end, but going forward, conservatives had better build and maintain a more functional outreach strategy than pleading or waiting idly for fairness from biased elites who have no interest in truly engaging the project of economic liberty and limited government. Among other things, that’s how we lose.