Saturday, March 19, 2011

Merrily Singeing As The World Burns [Anthony McCarthy]

I haven't been paying attention to the sons and daughters of Narcissus, the DC press corps, much this week, being distracted by events in Japan, Libya and the ravaged working classes in the United States, so I'm not certain how much coverage the annual Gridiron Club dinner has gotten. But you don't really have to know much about what went on to know what the real news it generates, because that news has been the same every single time it's been given.

At the dinner the gaudy glitter, such as the Washington press corps, is dragged out to sparkle in the lights of some DC ballroom or other, it doesn't much matter which one. The entertainment is provided by the wits of the press, making mild fun of themselves, the government officials they're supposed to cover and events related to their alleged profession. While an outsider who is aware of the reality of what they're joking about, the humor is anything but funny, As mentioned here recently, when politicians make decisions, people really do die, sometimes many of them. But war, cuts in assistance, incompetent - or more often - indifferent address of safety issues and emergency response, ... it's all fuel for the fire of the DC media, who, while the less that filthy rich America burns, hold fast to that commandment of the Gridiron Club "Singe but do not burn".

Here's how Susan Page put it in her speech of the night:

The Gridiron’s third and final rule: The Gridiron may singe, but it never burns. This is a rule that does still apply. We don’t mind making our dinner guests squirm in their seats during our performance on stage. But we don’t want to make you so mad that you stand up and walk out.

Heaven forbid anyone might take any of it seriously enough to go look for the vomitoria.

I haven't dealt with the rather putrid appearance of the servants of The People at the Gridiron, though it's been expected that politicians and cabinet members will not only attend but speak, joking among themselves and the assembled members of the fourth estate. Those appearances are frequently in terrible taste, they are sometimes pathetically unaware that those acts of government they're talking about devastate and end lives on a wholesale basis. While a long post could be written about that aspect of this display of decaying imperial capitol life, it should be remembered that it's not the politicians who institute it. If a president didn't show up or if one of the two parties decided to not participate, that absence would be punished by the very media that commands their presence. And it's not a politicians job to keep journalism honest.

The DC press corps is corrupt by choice, they are well paid enough so that many of those you could name are in the tax bracket which befitted from Barack Obama's* tax deal in the lame duck session last year. They break the most obvious requirements for doing their jobs, not reporting on people they socialize with, being above the appearance of suspicion. The second rule of the Gridiron, according to Susan Page, is that reporters are never present, which is probably good since by participating in the Gridiron event, an alleged journalist has given up any right to being expected to be trustworthy when they report on their guests. The media, like every other profession, is not competent to police itself. The American media, the freest it's ever been, has devolved into a corporate servicing sewer, in no place is it worse than in Washington, due to a mixture of servicing the establishment and the deadly seriousness of what that establishment does here and around the world.

So, as we were horrified at the news of the world this week, that news was the subject of light and cynical entertainment for a gathering that would have taken the late, great Jack Levine to depict. He could have drawn a series of sketches, such as those they used to have back when cameras were banned from courtrooms. The accounts of the festivities remind me of Levine's great "Welcome Home", painted just after World War Two ended and the soldiers came home. I can't say more than he did.

* About Barack Obama's political skills, this sums it up rather neatly.