Howard Kurtz, the longtime Washington Post media reporter and CNN media-show host, inadvertently defined exactly what's wrong with our political culture when he was asked in an online chat about actress Sally Field blurting out in her Emmy victory speech that if women ruled the world, there'd be no (expletive deleted) wars. Kurtz said awards shows might not be the best slot for political analysis, "but she said it at a live news event, so in a way Fox was censoring the news."
This is "news"? Sally Field's incoherent rant, delivered after a series of stammers, is somehow on par as newsworthy with what your average senior diplomat, military officer, professor, public policy expert or congressman has to say on the subject of war? Expertise means nothing. Fame is all, and grasping a national spotlight for a "zinger," even if it utterly fails to zing, is somehow the political highlight of the weekend.
This is not news. It demonstrates that a key measure we have for punditry in our political culture is fame, not a display of any brains. Field's emission wasn't simply under-thought, but also deeply sexist. Remove the men from political leadership, and the world would never see another war? Can you imagine a movie star or TV actor mounting a national TV platform to say the world would be so much better off if women couldn't vote, or serve as world leaders?
At least Field's remarks were mercifully short. Celebrities usually embarrass themselves at great length. This often happens on Bill Maher's "Real Time" show on HBO. The rap star Mos Def (real name: Dante Smith), often honored by critics as one of those "socially conscious" rappers, recently unloaded a rant that seemed designed to demonstrate he was almost mentally unconscious. To wit, he claimed:
1. George Washington "and all them dudes" that founded America "was terrorists as far as the Queen was concerned."
2. "The Catholic Church's stance about child molestation is a form of terrorism in and of itself."
3. Was Osama bin Laden was behind 9-11? "Absolutely not. ... Highly educated people in all areas of science have spoken on the fishiness around the whole 9-11 theory." (Presumably, this includes highly educated scientists like Rosie O'Donnell.)
4. Terrorism is a natural response to murderous American imperialism. "There are valid reasons even to a lot of terrorists' arguments -- quote-unquote, terrorists' arguments -- about why are they frustrated with colonial presence, imperial presence. The way that this government has pursued its foreign interests has been meddlesome, murderously meddlesome."
5. The American space program is a fraud, too. "I don't believe these (maternal expletive deleted) have been to the moon, either."