In the well-named No Country for Old Hens, Doctor Zero talks about the execrable Helen Thomas. For years and years we were told she was the Dean of the Press Corps. Dean of the Nut Jobs, if you ask me:
Fellow Green Room contributor Karl’s fine roundup of media reaction to the Thomas retirement includes a quote from Jonah Goldberg of National Review, making the point that Helen Thomas has been “a nasty piece of work” for a long time. Why did the White House press corps spend decades reserving an honorary seat for an ancient lunatic? Press briefings are a structural chokepoint that new media can’t bypass – there are only so many seats available, and only so much time the President and his spokespeople can devote to answering questions. What purpose was served by allowing Helen Thomas to squat in one of those precious seats like Jabba the Hutt’s nasty little imp, hooting and screaming incomprehensible insults at everyone who got tossed into the monster pit?
A portion of the blame lies with every Administration – Democrat, Republican, and Whig – which tolerated her presence, when they could have asked for her removal, or simply shoved her into the back of the room and ignored her. The White House refrained from doing this as a courtesy to the media… or, perhaps, as a concession to self-important journalists who loveopportunities to hail their colleagues as First Amendment martyrs.
This is the kind of cozy, elitist collegiality that transforms the mainstream media into an arm of the epic super-government they worship. The media might be only the Fourth Estate, but it’s the estate us common folks have to cross, in order to learn anything important about our ruling class… and the grounds of that estate are dotted with exclusive lawn parties we are pointedly not invited to attend.
The fall of Helen Thomas is a sign the New Media have crashed those genteel lawn parties, clad in combat pajamas and digital beer hats, asking rude questions about the hosts and laughing at their sputtering indignation. The New Media doesn’t stand on ceremony. Its elder statesmen, talk radio pioneers like Rush Limbaugh, have spent their entire careers being insulted and disrespected by the mainstream press. The same political and opinion elite that indulged decades of insane prattle from Helen Thomas, politely ignoring some of her worst outbursts, was quick to trumpet fraudulent accusations of racism against Limbaugh for things he never said, to paint him as unfit for association with a professional football team. Such relentless assaults build thick skin, and sharp wits. The New Media breeds gladiators, and has little patience for deans and doyennes.
The dinosaur media love to rewrite history. Anything that doesn’t fit a preferred media narrative is quickly flushed down the memory hole. They don’t quite realize how completely the New Media has foreclosed this option. Bloggers find everything, and forget nothing. Pathetic attempts to edit the Helen Thomas narrative are already popping up… and shriveling away in the withering heat of Internet search engines. For example, take Tommy Christopher’s pathetic attempt to claim Thomas’ colleagues were filled with righteous indignation over a story conservative blogs dragged them into covering, and the controversial remarks were a shocking aberration that nobody in the press pool was “prepared to hear.” Here’s Helen Thomas on terrorism, from January of this year:
I was trying to find out why, why, what’s, look, we’ve been in this war, eight, nine years, against this so-called terrorism. And I do say “so-called” because in the newspapers, if you read, you read about the militants, you don’t read about us bombing everybody, and never really explaining why, and going into three, four different countries, Middle East, Africa, and so forth. Who are we? And why are we doing this?
Here she is from January 2009, holding forth on the way those dastardly Zionists hold President Obama’s puppet strings, just like they controlled each of his predecessors:
I think that Obama, during the campaign, made many promises, as every president, potential president does to Israel, that they seem somehow bounded by their promises, promises to uphold all Israeli goals. I don’t see how the U.S. can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death.
This is the creature Tommy Christopher professes to have “admired for years,” and respects for “setting an example for the Bush-era press corps,” which Christopher hilariously thinks “gave W. a years-long pass after 9/11.” Sorry, Tommy. Anyone more observant than the average member of the Washington press corps heard nothing surprising out of Helen Thomas this past week.
The old media hands waving farewell with copies of their dying newspapers, as they watch Helen Thomas shuffle off the national stage, must adjust to the new reality of an online America that no longer trusts them. We’re not interested in gatekeepers and packaged narratives any more. We believe in the importance of an honest media that simply reports the news and allows us to make up our own minds. We’re out of patience with blackouts anddoctored photographs.
The press never tires of telling us how important their job is. They should spend more time doing it, and less time bending their knees at ceremonial seats reserved for their mythic heroes. The free press of a vibrant republic, at risk in a complex and dangerous world, is no place for doddering royalty.