Pardon me for a moment, because I would like us to pause for a second and think about the &%^ @#$ %*&^@#$ 2018 edition of the White House correspondents' dinner.
Wait a minute. What's the religion-news angle of this story?
Well, on one level there isn't one. However, I'd be willing to bet the farm (that's a common expression out here in flyover country) that the moral, cultural and religious views of people who laughed at what happened last night are completely different than those of people who were appalled by it.
Please note that I did not say "political" views. This really wasn't about politics. It was about culture.
Look, Donald Trump was and is a target-rich environment for lots of valid reasons. Anyone who has read GetReligion at all during the past 24 months or so knows that I was 100 percent #AntiTrump (and #AntiHillary too) and I still am. I think that Trump was unqualified to be president and, if evidence gained through testimony under oath (as opposed to waves of ink from anonymous sources) led to his impeachment, I would think that was a sobering, but positive, event for our nation.
This disaster in the public square was not about Trump. Play close attention to the nasty, personal attacks last night on several key members of this administration and their families -- in some cases because of their religious beliefs.
Again, this is not political for me. I am mad and sad today because this hellish event (a) helped Trump with his most loyal fans, (b) did further damage to American public discourse (obviously the Tweeter In Chief deserves blame too) and, most of all, (c) undercut efforts to defend journalism's First Amendment role in American life among news consumers in zip codes inside the two coasts. As a journalist, I am furious.
With all that in mind, let's turn to a new Axios bullet-list think piece by D.C. scribe Mike Allen, focusing on the #WHCD disaster. The headline:
Media hands Trump big, embarrassing win.
Amen, I say.
The following is how the piece ends. If you are a journalist reading this, grab a tissue -- for all of the wrong reasons.
Correspondents' association president Margaret Talev -- standing under a banner that said "CELEBRATING THE FIRST AMENDMENT" -- began the evening by saying:
"The journalists we’re celebrating tonight help keep our democracy healthy."
"We reject efforts by anyone, especially our elected leaders, to paint journalism as un-American, to undermine trust between reporter and reader, to cast doubt on the relevance of facts and truth in the modern age. An attack on any journalist is an attack on us all."
"This isn’t about protecting the business of journalism. It’s about protecting the rule of law."
The bottom line: Watch for big debate whether to end the dinner as we know it, and whether some news organizations announce they will no longer attend.
The 2018 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner should be the last.
It never has been a particularly good idea for journalists to don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun.
But in the current era, it’s become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility.
Trust in the mainstream media is low, a new populism has caught fire all over the Western world, and President Trump constantly pounds the news media as a bunch of out-of-touch elites who don’t represent the interests of real Americans.
The annual dinner -- or at least the optics of the dinner -- seem to back him up.
Read that whole piece and try to find any concern about the brutal Michelle Wolf attacks on people other than Trump, himself. Once you've done that, check out this piece from the other side of the Atlantic, care of The Guardian. Here is a rather low-key sample:
For some it was an excruciating, toe-curling experience. Conservatives were aghast when Wolf turned to the subject of abortion. She said of vice-president Mike Pence: “He thinks abortion is murder. Which first of all don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it, you gotta get that baby out of there. And yeah, sure, you can groan all you want, I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, you know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress.”
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, who was among the guests, did not escape the scathing humour. “Man, she has the perfect name for what she does. Conway. It’s like if my last name was Michelle tells-jokes-frizzy-hair-small-tits.
Read what you can stand. Then take a long walk and do some thinking.
Journalism deserves better than this. American public discourse deserves better than this.