My brain hurts. I had cable news on my television most of today, and too much of it consisted of yammering about the closest thing they could find to a hot-button story: Chip Saltsman’s Christmas mix CD featuring “Barack the Magic Negro.”
Never mind that the story broke three days ago, or that there are dozens and dozens of more important items on the menu of our world’s horrific buffet. No — clearly, the words “Barack the Magic Negro” are going to produce a visceral reaction in the TV-viewin’ audience, and so MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and CNN’s Rick Sanchez dutifully forward-promoted and repeated the phrase “Barack the Magic Negro” over and over — appropriately shocking and offending themselves each time. “Magic negro?”
I have nothing to add to their in-depth outrage — except to wonder whether a cable news anchor hosting a discussion on the subject should at least be aware that “magical negro,” offensive as it may sound, is nevertheless a critical term, popularized by filmmaker Spike Lee, which describes a certain type of stock character employed in novels and films.
Shouldn’t the news anchor know this — and possibly have read the Los Angeles Times op-ed by David Ehrenstein entitled “Obama the ‘Magic Negro’“?
Well, at least Rush Limbaugh got all sorts of credit and notoriety today, without having to write or perform a thing.
Meanwhile, I have been catching up on a few items myself — one of which is a piece from last Friday, “Dave Barry Year in Review: Bailing out of 2008.” It’s pretty funny, once it gets rolling. Barry’s summary of the fall financial bailouts had me laughing out loud — and he, too, endows Barack Obama with a magical power:
A mesmerizing speaker, Obama electrifies voters with his exciting new ideas for change, although people have trouble remembering exactly what these ideas were because they were so darned mesmerized. Some people become so excited that they actually pass out. These are members of the press corps.
The story that has really made me pause to think, however, is yesterday’s Politico article by Carol E. Lee: “Obama bristles as the bubble closes in.”
Lee reports on how the relentless scrutiny of the media and the Secret Service has tightened around the president-elect, and observes that he may already be subtly lashing out in frustration over his vanquished privacy. The whole account is an interesting glimpse of both the man and the office, but there is one anecdote that intrigued me:
After ordering a tuna melt on 12-grain bread, Obama approached reporters and placed his hand on the shoulder of pool reporter Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, who was scribbling away in his notebook.
“You don’t really need to write all that down,” Obama said.
Was Obama being aggressive — or was he making a deeper observation?
The hand on the reporter’s shoulder could suggest that Obama was not trying to convey “Cut that out!” but that he was actually saying, “You don’t really need to write all that down.”
As in: “You don’t really need to record the tuna or the twelve grains of the sandwich, because they are ridiculously trivial details. One day, you are going to die — but right now you are a reporter covering the next President of the United States of America at a time when the entire planet is caught between extreme adversity and a faint glimmer of hope, and you are wasting this unique vantage point and all of your experience and education on describing the ingredients of some silly sandwich. Perhaps you ought to stand back a little, reassess the situation, and try to think of a way to employ the skills you possess to deliver something useful or enlightening to the world.”
Maybe Obama was trying to hint a subtle lesson to Rucker, and to the rest of the press as well. Possibly his little declaration was a sort of Zen kōan on how the members of the press — just like the bankers and the government officials — have led us into serious catastrophe by completely failing to do their jobs, satisfied instead to distract us with incendiary phrases and spinning doodads and celebrity ephemera.
Or, maybe Obama was just being a jag.