By now, you probably know that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner went down on Saturday. A comedian, Michelle Wolf, made fun of political and media figures, and a backlash happened, and a backlash to the backlash happened. It’s an annual ritual, and the same thing happens every time. Watch the video here.
I’m not here to analyze Wolf’s performance—there’s plenty of that going around. I’m here instead to congratulate the WHCA for once again pulling off the rare political event that makes everyone happy. In our polarized times, that is no easy feat.
Conservatives are happy because it lets them feel aggrieved, which is the only thing they’re good at anymore. In the absence of any real suffering, they relish the chance to nail themselves to the cross. It’s a tough time to be a conservative these days—Trump has managed what decades of ineffectual Democratic opposition couldn’t, which is to wake America up to the fact that conservative policy in D.C. is 100% geared toward redistributing wealth from poor people to rich people and to codify the misery of the majority. It works so well because they combine this with ethno-nationalism for the (white) masses, but that lethal combo was supposed to be a secret. Now that it’s not, they’re going to lose big. All that remains as they prepare for the devastation of 2018 is their third-favorite act—wounded martyrdom. Michelle Wolf’s jokes let them feel once again that they’re being attacked by the liberal elite, even when they have to lie about the nature of the jokes. For example: It allowed this guy, who is the head of a very wealthy, very influential conservative lobbying firm, to pretend that he is not in fact a rich person of power (aka “elite”), but instead a poor beleaguered victim:
My wife @mercedesschlapp and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner. Enough of elites mocking all of us— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) April 29, 2018
#Resistance liberals are happy because it gives them a new celebrity to worship, and a new icon in whom to invest all their false hopes. The trademark of the #resistance is an absolute aversion to dealing concretely with any issue of substance—particularly if it relates to the economy—and transforming Michelle Wolf into a towering hero of free speech for doing the same exact same thing that every host has done for the past decade suits them to a T. Things were getting a little barren in the #resistance ecosystem, actually…rooting for Oprah to run for president didn't pan out, and it seems increasingly likely that Paul Ryan was not, in fact, a secret #resistance hero just waiting for the right moment to stage a full anti-Trump revolution. They were perilously close to the nightmare scenario of having to learn about healthcare, or something, but Michelle Wolf saved the day…at least for a week or so, until Mark Cuban says something vaguely anti-Trump and the crowds flock to his soap box.
Michelle Wolf is happy, because, well, obviously.
Liberal-ish pundits and capital-M Mainstream journalists are happy, because they too are allowed to reprise their most potent act—kowtowing to conservatives at the slightest sign of resistance. Rather than showing the tiniest modicum of backbone, these centrist starfish immediately fell in line to echo the message of the bad-faith conservatives, at whose hands they secretly relish being dominated. Take Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, who demanded an apology from the WHCA. Or take Maggie Haberman, who ignored the actual content of Wolf's jokes to wave the right-wing flag in the air and thus prove her precious objectivity, or something:
That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 29, 2018
Then there's Chris Cilizza, credulous both-sides poster boy of mainstream dullardry, who called Wolf's act “bullying.” Here's Albert Burneko of Deadspin on that:
It should surprise no one that Cillizza, an amoral rat whose professional existence, like Sanders's, is predicated entirely on cynical indifference to truth or fact or consequence, would recoil at that indifference being the subject of vocal scorn, or at the possibility of that scorn receiving praise from any sector of the public. The possibility that there might be even as mild a social tax as a hired comedian firing a few acerbic but harmless owns in your direction attached to the business of cosseting and flattering entrenched power must be scary for him, because he is a coward and because, if the well-earned opprobrium of actual real human beings can penetrate the social strata he's spent his life sliming his way into, it implies he might get his literal fucking head chopped off somewhere down the line, and that people will be broadly okay with that. But it isn't bullying. Michelle Wolf can't bully Sarah Huckabee Sanders any more than I can bully Chris Cillizza.
The identity-politics-at-all-costs mob is happy, because they were able to deftly weave a narrative wherein Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now a feminist hero instead of a serial liar propping up a hateful regime spearheaded by a man who brags about sexual assault because someone made fun of her looks (which they didn't).
Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable. I have experienced insults about my appearance from the president. All women have a duty to unite when these attacks happen and the WHCA owes Sarah an apology.— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) April 29, 2018
The media are happy, because we have a new clickbait-y topic to beat to death. Just look at the front page of Reddit politics, where ten of the top 25 stories—on a site meant to have a bunch of different stories—are about Michelle Wolf’s performance. Or look at Paste! We’ll probably run three different pieces on Wolf and the dinner today, including this one. Why cover something important, like protecting social security, when our frenzied hysterical political climate rewards this kind of substance-free, sensationalist topic? Let’s moralize, baby!
And finally, the public are happy, because in our long plunge to national despair, when we have tacitly given up on real reform, this gives us something new to yell at each other about. Hurray.