"Mouthpiece Theater" Drops Its Curtain Forevah

Last Friday, I wrote about a charming episode of the Washington Post's "Mouthpiece Theater," a glorified vlog featuring WaPo reporters Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza dressed up in smoking jackets and trying to be funny while commenting on the news, in which they mused about what types of beer different public officials would drink and suggested Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's brew of choice ought to be "Mad Bitch."

At the time I noted: "I'd love to hear the Washington Post explain how they feel confident their reporters are giving balanced coverage to female public figures when they're willing to unabashedly use sexist slurs in public."

Unsurprisingly, that question has not been answered. Instead, they just shitcanned "Mouthpiece Theater."
Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli killed the satirical video series Wednesday after harsh criticism of a joke about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, which prompted him to pull the latest episode from the paper's Web site Friday night. The Post staffers who appeared in the videos, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza, agreed with the decision and apologized in separate interviews.
And, then, naturally, totally undermined their apologies by accusing the people who complained of being oversensitive hysterics who ruin everything!
As for the dozen videos they have made in what was designed as a summer tryout, "it's clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief," Milbank said. "My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that's what I should do. I'm sorry about the reaction it's caused, but I think it's important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don't take enough risks."

...Both men, who frequently appear on television, became high-profile targets, particularly among left-leaning bloggers but also on such outlets as Twitter.

"It's a brutal world out there in the blogosphere," Milbank said. "I'm often surprised by the ferocity out there, but I probably shouldn't be."
Emphasis mine. Cillizza added that "people have every right to be offended." Gee, thanks. He also notes in his own piece about the video that he learned "name-calling is never the stuff of good comedy" (give that man a cookie) and says: "I can only hope that those who have enjoyed reading the Fix, following me on Twitter and Facebook and watching my occasional television appearances can follow the age-old maxim: to err human, to forgive divine."

Now, I used to get the Fix delivered via email, and I've canceled it and will no longer be reading it. It's not a matter of forgiveness or lack of forgiveness; it's about the fact that I don't believe a journalist who uses a misogynist slur and just brushes it off as a joke gone wrong, who comes no closer to a genuine self-examination than "the content in last Friday's video as it was inconsistent not only with the Post brand but, more important and personal to me, the Fix brand which I have worked so hard to cultivate," is someone I can trust to report fairly on half the population.

Someone who doesn't know on his own that it's profoundly inappropriate to call the Secretary of State a mad bitch clearly has some deeply internalized shit that he needs to work out, and I don't see that happening here. In fact, what I see happening here is the usual sweeping of Important White Men's bigotry under the proverbial carpet, with tired justifications that reflect an antipathy toward acknowledging privilege:
Signaling that their standing at The Post remains unaffected, Brauchli praised both reporters. He called Cillizza "an enormous talent and someone who is closely followed and admired by a lot of journalists and people in politics. .... Dana writes a terrific, very funny and usually very popular column on Page 2. He's an equal-opportunity offender, and from time to time everyone's mad at him."
Well, if you're talented and popular, who cares if you're a misogynist, right?

Anyone who still uses the term "equal-opportunity offender" needs help. There's no such thing, because people in this country don't have actual equal opportunities yet. And until they do, making fun of women for being "bitches" is never going to be "equal" to making fun of men for anything.

That disparity is a basic concept one must grasp in order to have even the most rudimentary understanding of how institutional prejudice functions in this country. That it's a concept which evidently remains elusive for the WaPo's Executive Editor is, quite frankly, frightening.

And it doesn't say much for their ability to cover fairly any marginalized people.

Contact the Washington Post's ombudsman.

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