Growing up, I always had a certain picture in my head of reporters - the men were hard-nosed, with a cap pulled down low, scruffy, unshaven and unafraid to get into the face of the powerful. Even female reporters, I assumed, just had to look pretty at the office, at night they would do whatever it took to get their story as well.
Today - well, things have changed a bit. Now the reporters themselves see themselves as the powerful they once wished to bring down; hobnobbing in the salons of the rich and famous made them see themselves as one of them. So this new class of elites, once paid to defend the powerless, now work as full-time flacks for those who give them the status boost they so deeply crave.
Perfect case in point is Robin Givhan's column in today's Washington Post; a sneering put-down of the lower to middle class rabble who dares show up at a town hall meeting without understanding what the correct fashion etiquette is for debasing yourself before power:
It seems safe to say that of the hundreds of thousands of style guides currently for sale on Amazon, not one of the didactic, shop-your-closet authors was prescient enough to outline the appropriate attire for those public occasions when good citizens decide to behave like raving lunatics and turn lawmakers into punching bags. What does one wear to a town hall meeting on health care when the sole reason for attending is to shout down one's congressman like a peevish teenager in the midst of a hormonal rage?
Well, the media has just given anyone who questions government authority a new label, folks - we're evil, we're un-American, we're Astroturf, we're...petulant teenagers! And quite poorly dressed, to boot:
By and large, the shouters are dressed in a way that underscores their Average Guy -- or Gal -- bona fides. They are wearing T-shirts, baseball caps, promotional polo shirts and sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arm. They wear fuchsia bandannas and American-flag hankies wrapped around their skulls like sweatbands. A lot of them look as though they could be attending a sporting event and, as it turns out, the congressman is the opposing player they have decided to heckle. If not for the prohibition on signs and banners inside these meetings, one could well expect to see some of these volatile worker bees wearing face paint and foam fingers, albeit the highlighted digit would be one expressing foul displeasure rather than competitive rank or skill level.
Givhan seems to believe that if all the protesters showed up in suits and ties, they'd get better answers:
Would they compel more lawmakers to rethink their positions rather than merely repeat, again and again -- in a voice that has the tone of an impatient kindergarten teacher -- the same core points?
The stunning cluelessness about how regular folks live and work - once the bread and butter of any aspiring journalist - is now typical for the new media elite. Less and less people work in suits now than at any time I can remember. Take it from me, Robin G. - I take a bus to freakin' New York City every morning, and out of the forty-odd guys on the bus at any time, maybe - maybe! - four of them are wearing suits. And I'm one of them. And I hate it. And on summer weekends, I wear shorts, a t-shirt, and as little footwear as possible. And in the winter, jeans with a flannel shirt. Almost everywhere. And if you don't like it, you can ask me to leave your home, or your place of business. No one ever has.
So for Givhan to suggest that maybe if we all put on a suit and tie - long dresses and heels for the ladies, perhaps? - then maybe the folks we pay to represent us might actually listen to us - is a tremendous expression of ignorance and loathing for the people she is claiming to be writing about. What's she's really saying is that we don't deserve to be spoken truth to, or even honestly represented, until we become more like her, and the congressmen who rob and cheat us.
Sorry, Robin. I don't want to be in your filthy club, but gee - thanks for your "advice", anyway.
I'll just keep my baseball hat and New Jersey t-shirt on, and fight from the outside to take you and my congressman down. The difference is that once we win, I'll let you in my club no matter what you choose to wear, and I will listen respectfully to your views and answer you with honesty and respect.
Of course, if you guys did that for us every now and then, maybe we wouldn't have to show up at your place with our pathetic middle-class values and dress code.
Hmmm...Wanna make a deal...?