Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Senate Candidacy of a Bearded Marxist

Twenty-five years ago, an Amherst University senior named Chris Coons wrote an article on a subject that hits pretty close to home: How conservatives drove him away.

It's a well-written, thought-provoking article, in which Coons, who describes his pre-Amherst ideology as a product of his "sheltered, privileged, and politically conservative background," discusses the semester he had just spent in Kenya. A country like Kenya, it seems, is in many ways an extreme version of America. Wealth inequality is staggering, and the key to success most often cited by the rich—hard work and perseverance—is perceived by the poor as a load of fantastical nonsense. Granted, there's no doubt that America's image of itself as a "land of opportunity" has a more solid basis in reality than Kenya's, but we still face many of the same blah blah blah CHRIS COONS IS A COMMITTED MARXIST AND HE'S TRYING TO INFILTRATE THE U.S. SENATE!!!

That last paragraph just got a lot more interesting, didn't it? Probably because of the subtle tonal shift toward the end, which was my impression of what happens when Fox News latches on to a story:
On his September 16 show, Sean Hannity said "some unpopular Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to support Delaware's 'bearded Marxist' "—without mentioning that the title was based on what Coons called a joke that his friends made. On his radio show that day, Glenn Beck called Coons a "Marxist" and a "staunch anti-capitalist." On The O'Reilly Factor on September 17, both Beck and Bill O'Reilly claimed that Coons is "a Marxist" and "admitted it." On Fox & Friends on September 18, Eric Bolling said O'Donnell's "opponent now is a self-described Marxist."
It'd be a waste of time to go through all the reasons why this is absurd,[1] so I'll just mention my favorite: Coons is only in the news because his opponent is in the news, and his opponent is only in the news because virtually everything about her is insane.[2] I suppose Fox News, in accordance with the latter half of its famous slogan, just feels the need to balance things out.

Still, it should be noted that Fox is in a tough spot here. If they treated both candidates fairly, the coverage would be unbalanced, and if they focused on the actual issues, the coverage would be boring. So priorities have to be evaluated and compromises have to be made, and when that happens "The Democrat Senate candidate is a Marxist!" is going to win out every time.

1. The most obvious being that the "bearded Marxist" thing is a joke, and that we know this not from Coons's answer to a reporter's question, or from a campaign press release, or even from common sense speculation—we know it because the joke is explained in the article itself.
2. A quick top-seven list: (7) "Barack anti-American," (6) pretty much everything to do with her personal finances, (5) "homosexuality identity disorder," (4) her campaign's attempt to spread the rumor that her primary opponent is gay, (3) "there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting" creationism, as there is for evolution, (2) "I dabbled in witchcraft," and, of course, (1) "the Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can't masturbate without lust."

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