Reliably Partisan Blogging is Reliably Awful
So, don’t think I’m picking on Ed Morrissey here, because I’m not,exactly. But this morning I came across this: “Coakley misspells name of state she wants to represent.” And maybe we should all stop and talk about it for a second.
Yep, that’s right: there’s a typo in the name of a state in the boilerplate legal fine print at the bottom of someone’s campaign ad. And someone noticed. And someone else blogged about it. The campaign pulled the ad, presumably to correct it. And then Ed Morrissey wrote about it some more, crowing about having a screencap that preserves the filthy crime for all eternity. And then the whole thing ends up with a sentence that drips with that heady mix of both insincerity and pretentious patriotism that seems so unique to political flaking:
Maybe Coakley ought to know how to spell her state’s name before asking voters there to send her to Washington to represent them.
Now, do you think that Morrissey, a conservative blogger for Hot Air, really believes that the candidate (Martha Coakley, a Democrat running for the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy) actually typed this text herself? No. That she can’t spell the name of her state? No. That she ever really even looked at that text, or that any politician regularly does, or even that their staff does? No. That the random ad production firms that politicians hire to produce their commercials more or less likely to miss typos depending on what party they’re working for, or even that particular campaigns more or less likely to catch those typos? No. That it reliably tells us anything at all about candidate Coakley, Democrats, Brown, anyone related to this story? No.
I’m not even sure he expects his readers to come away thinking that he sincerely believes any of these unspoken implications. In other words, there’s no substance here, and it doesn’t even seem like anyone thinks there is.
No, the whole point here is simply an excuse play a couple of quick emotional beats: to toss concepts like incompetence, or stupidity, or rushed-elitist-cappuccino-swilling-too-lazy-to-read-your-own-ad-copy whatever the heck out and associate them with someone Morrissey has decided he doesn’t like, and doesn’t want you to like. It’s an example of just how entirely insubstantial something has to be before it’s excitedly declared a gaffe these days, and how gaffes have become nothing more than the regular bong-hits of back-patting partisan pique.
Now I don’t think Morrissy is an especially bad person for it, or even exceptional. Nearly every political blogger of every stripe plays into this little game to greater or lesser degree: the only two major variations are the degree of lockstep partisan consistency and the degree of sheer, winking smugness with which it’s done. Heck, nearly every human being indulges in precisely this sort of irrationality regularly. It’s just that in political blogging, it’s become a particularly painful routine trope.
But look: does it really have to be? It’s always going to be with us to some extent. I’m sure to do it myself. But… seriously folks. It’s boring to read. It’s thoughtless. It’s not even in the least sincere. It’s just people rooting around aimlessly for daily excuses to keep thinking nasty things about other people to reinforce what they already believe for other, usually much more coherent reasons. It might be human nature, but let’s at least admit that it’s an embarrassing part of our nature.
I should also note that Morrissey is, in fact, pretty clear why he’s inclined to be so perfectly nasty about this… because Democrats did it to Dan Quayle 18 years ago.
And, he’s right: they did. Of course, Quayle personally misspelled his word (potato), and did so very deliberately in the act of correcting a child who knew better. That, at least, gave the gaffe a arrogant comic quality that a random Coakley-associated typo has none of.
But still, what happened with Quayle was ultimately just as ridiculous. The potato incident, along with a bunch of other verbal gaffes became the defining elements of Quayle’s entire public career. And that, frankly, is pathetic.
Everyone’s guilty, but we can all do better.