I’m glad Regis dumped TailBook for Chitter. I realize that animals wanted our own social media site, but TailBook was not the ideal choice of names. My cousins, the site developers, said they considered calling it TuftsBook, but thought that too limiting as most animals don’t have ear tufts. I understand their point, but the TailBook name created all sorts of Not Family-Friendly issues. But mostly I’m glad because I’m also on Chitter, so it’s easier to keep in touch. He cheets me during breaks from rehearsing for the BPI spring theatre production of The Gardener’s Lament (“Forgot my lines just like Rick Perry”) or even while he plays Squires of Squirrelcraft (“Found the Pecan of Power!”). That explained the sound effects from his room. Yes, we sometimes use Chitter even when we’re both at home.
I also use Twitter, both to chat with friends and keep up with my research on 21st Century Political Nuttitude. I follow friends, political activists, humorists, reporters, and some news feeds. One of my favorite news feeds is memeorandum, who post links from a wide range of political stories on a single website. They also tweet each new entry, which alerts me to stories I might otherwise miss.
And so it was that, while scanning the Twitterverse this morning, I came upon Jamelle Bouie’s essay in The American Prospect titled Politics of Resentment, with this nutgraf:
Newt Gingrich rode to victory in South Carolina on a wave of anti-minority, anti-media, and anti-Obama sentiment.
Lest you wonder, nutgraf is not a term invented by squirrels. It’s newsroom shorthand for “nutshell paragraph,” a sentence or two that summarizes the story. As for why it’s not spelled “nutgraph,” that’s because graph is newsroom shorthand for “graphic,” meaning photos or other art. But I digress.
Bouie was in Charleston on Saturday when Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, and interviewed several Gingrich supporters at his campaign victory party. They of course spoke glowingly about Gingrich, but Bouie was struck by the subtext of their support, concluding:
In the meantime, we should remember this moment. On the basis of his attacks on journalists, minorities, and the president, a thrice-married, disgraced former lawmaker has won a primary in the heart of Republican country. Either this is a fluke, or the moment when the GOP embraced its worst impulses.
Gingrich certainly likes to bash the media. He tore into moderator Juan Williams in the debate last Monday night, and again on Friday. He exploded at John King in another debate on Thursday for daring to ask about revelations by Gingrich’s second wife. In his victory speech Saturday night, Gingrich again railed against “media elites”, saying they were trying to force Americans “to quit being Americans” and accusing them of “anti-religious bigotry.” To hear Gingrich tell it, you’d think the media were antisocial.
In fact, those “media elites” are so anti-Gingrich that he appeared on three Sunday morning talk shows yesterday. In fact, Gingrich has been on NBC’s Meet the Press 35 times. He was that show’s most common guest in 2009, the first year of President Obama’s presidency, a year when Gingrich neither held office nor had declared he would run for office.
Gingrich’s attacks on “media elites” are a case of biting the hand that has fed his public persona – and maintained his his huge speaking fees – since he left Congress in 1997, the first Speaker ever punished for ethics violations. The Atlantic‘s Elspeth Reeve is not the only reporter to ponder whether Gingrich is using the free media exposure of his presidential campaign as a book tour. The Wall Street Journal even noticed.
And of course by yelling at the media, Gingrich prompts other reporters and pundits to discuss whether it was wrong to ask a question Gingrich criticized, which means even more free media for … Gingrich.
And yes, I’m doing the same thing here.
The difference is that if Newt Gingrich ever deigned to an interview with me, and were he to criticize me as he does other reporters, I’d tell him to stuff his deeply, profoundly, fundamentally pompous pronouncements where the sun doesn’t shine. I have that luxury because I don’t have to worry about keeping my job. BPI won’t find another roving reporter to work for free tuition at an institution that doesn’t charge tuition.
But other reporters do have to keep their jobs, so they can’t call Gingrich on the hypocrisy of fuming at the media who keep him in the public eye. They have to let him call them names, because they’re expected to behave like professionals. And Gingrich knows reporters can’t respond in kind, so he can insult them at will.
Gingrich knows how to play the ‘antisocial media’ game. But that doesn’t make him a “fighter.” It makes him a bully.
Good day and good nuts.