Monday, May 21, 2012

News of the Tautological, or, perhaps, "Bottom" Story of the Day? (Letter to Best of the Web Today, James Taranto's column)

Romney, Obama vie for female support  This was the Boston Globe headline that grabbed my eye yesterday as I passed the newstand, and it reminded me of why I dumped the paper after 40 years of readership. (In New England, one "takes The Herald" or one "subscribes to The Globe") I no longer have to be subjected to opinion pieces that are disguised as objective journalism, and, my wife must no longer endure random eruptions from the other room when I would read a particularly execrable item.
The "article" in yesterday's edition apparently, as it was placed above-the-fold and top-right, was the lead headline - deemed the most important story of the day, journalistically.  This is an example of a generic topic, prepared in advance, that could have been run any day recently.  Didn't any real news happen on Sunday? Has the Globe laid off their Sunday staff?  Par for the course at Boston's boring broadsheet. I didn't even need to read the piece to know the contents: One could be certain that "concerns" would be cited about "health care issues" or "access to contraceptives", as if all voting women have this as their top issue.  Obama of course would be seen as protector of these "rights" and "benefits" which Republicans want to withdraw in their "war on women".  Romney for his part would be reduced to "reaching out".
Well, curiosity got the better of me and I bought the edition.  This article, (and the similarly focused top piece in the same edition's Metro section [Senator Scott] Brown steps up focus on women), was a thinly veiled attempt to woo votes for The President, and readership for the sagging newspaper that used to be New England's flagship.  One can see the focus groups and surveys rattling around behind the lines - "Independent women" (you like to be called independent, don't you, huh huh?) will save the election and save the dying paper too, so we'll fixate on this category and their putative concerns.  This is The Globe as purveyer of identity politics.  I suppose it is simpler for the journalist, (or pol, or pollster) to assume persons' interests are defined by their category: woman, black, Jewish, seniors, Latino etc. Thus an article (or speech or poll question) can be matched to the presumed issue of interest: health care, race and entitlements, pensions, Israel, immigration. Not only is this style insulting, but also, as the National review headline put it, mind numbingly predictable.
As was the article itself. As I foresaw the writer (Michael Levinson, Globe staff) in just the 2nd sentence cited  women who were "angry about attempts to roll back contraception coverage, restrict abortion rights, and cut funding for Planned Parenthood...They perceive their rights are under threat" . Mitt Romney for his part, the piece goes on, has responded by basically ignoring these concerns, keeping the focus on economic issues, taxes and spending, as if the Repubs are too cheap to pay for that which women so desperately need (males, evidently, don't get sick and have no health worries).  Not having anything to say, Romney must be content with "deploying his wife as his designated emissary to the opposite sex" as if American ladies were a foreign country, and he needed a plenipotentiary and translator. 
The piece goes on to specify "benefits of the president's health care law" whose heretofore tepid support among the gals is attributed to lack of knowledge of "the features that specifically benefit them".  So, we learn from "video testimonials from, among others, a breast cancer survivor and a mother whose daughter was born with a congenital heart defect" that "the law guarantees that [women] cannot be charged more than men for coverage, that insurers cannot charge copays for mammograms and cancer screenings, and that women cannot be denied coverage if they are pregnant or have been victims of domestic violence."
Where do I sign up?
For "balance' a photo of Ann Romney (in a red dress) is shown. "Ann Romney has moved  beyond her usual role vouching for her husband, Mitt, as a family man" say the picture caption.
The article ends by hammering home the main point:
Mary Welch, 68, a retired high-tech consultant who brought a casserole and spent several hours calling women throughout New Hampshire, said it was important to educate them about the benefits of the law. She dismissed the idea that the law is a political liability for the president.
“I find,’’ she said, “that most people just don’t understand it well enough.’’

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