Friday, November 06, 2009

Bitter Pill

Quick, who's Mayhill Fowler?

If you're part of around 96% of America, the name probably escapes you. The other 4% -- comprised of die-hard political junkies, news reporters and anyone who makes it a point to never forget an embarrassing moment for the president -- will recognize Mayhill Fowler as the woman who inadvertently caused a 15-minute media firestorm back in April of 2008 when she recorded a speech by Barack Obama in which he said that small town America clings to guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiment out of a sense of bitterness for being perpetually screwed-over. The statement was shocking only for the fact that it was pretty much true, but that of course didn't stop the mainstream media from ramping up the noise level in its echo chamber of contrived conflict and Obama's political enemies from pouncing on the then-presidential candidate, claiming that he was some kind of snooty elitist who was out of touch with the average hard-working, easily malleable American.

In no time, a moment of audacious honesty and somewhat laudable insight that deserved a lot more consideration and a lot less indignation was suddenly transformed into -- wait for it -- "Bittergate."

I bring this up because I'm curious as to whether anyone with a brain would actually think that Obama's comment on the resentment some middle-class voters feel -- and where and how that sentiment is directed -- was one of the single most important moments of the 2008 presidential campaign. Well, 61-year-old Mayhill Fowler -- who overnight went from being a self-described "failed writer" to being the sagging face of citizen journalism -- apparently does. She's now written a book that partially deals with "Bittergate," one in which she coincidentally and not surprisingly paints herself as a sort of Woodward and Bernstein for the digital media age.

Obviously, I'm not going to diminish the importance of the work of many of the tirelessly dedicated, often unpaid bloggers and writers who make up the shock troops in the new media revolution; they truly are the future of journalism in many respects. But one of the ways that neophytes in any field give themselves away is by not being able to distinguish the truly spectacular from the merely mundane. The Obama "Bittergate" story was the political equivalent of a high-speed car chase: It was only a big deal while it was happening, and once removed from the context of breaking news it doesn't really hold up. Those who thought that Barack Obama was an overeducated snob who looked down his nose at the ignorant masses had already heard the dog-whistles from the far-right and therefore believed that long before he made the comment about bitterness, religion and guns; they'd continue to believe it even if Obama had never said a thing to confirm their preconceptions.

In other words, no, contrary to Mayhill Fowler's somewhat self-inflating hype -- and God bless her for quickly learning the game and understanding what it takes to milk that 15-minutes for all it's worth -- "Bittergate" was not in fact "The Story that Rocked the Obama Campaign." It was a quick blip on a radar screen that at the time was filled with a hell of a lot of static.

The Huffington Post: "Bittergate: The Untold Story Behind the Story that Rocked the Obama Campaign" by Mayhill Fowler/11.5.09


Anonymous said...

As I noted in an e-mail to Chez yesterday, what's great about this story is the circle jerk aspect with local columnist JD Mullane. Fowler presents him as a reporter when in fact is a columnist and as nutty a conservative true believer as you'll find in a state (slightly) above the Mason Dixon. In addition to "bittergate" he had a field day with Rev Wright and the "Whitey Tape" that he waited for like Linus anticipating the Great Pumpkin.

Tickled by the attention, Mullane reposted his original column today.

The conclusion is rich in hindsight - "Not that he will find too many people there who will vote for him. But he may find good company and learn why Pennsylvanians aren't buying what he's selling."

As somebody pointed out in the talkback, in the Presidential race, Pennsylvania went for Obama 54.7% to 44.3%

Mart said...

I am sure the tea partiers wearing "keep your laws off my bible and guns" t shirts don't understand why they make me laugh.

Lee said...

A book? Seriously? That's just dumb.

And when will Whateverthefuck"gate" finally die its long overdue death? We need a new scandal cliche. For this one, I propose "Bitter Dress". There are so many possibilities, for example: He got his bitter all over that dress.

Jester said...

Heh. Even that 4% number is probably over-stated a bit. I consider myself a die-hard political junkie and I couldn't place the name.

Elizabeth said...

I tried to read her post on HP yesterday. My goodness that woman is wordy. I couldn't get through it.

Thomas said...

Every time I cracked open one of her shit pieces during the campaign it made my brain hurt.

Like the chunky alto in the church choir who thinks god's given her a solo voice. A third of a note lower than everyone else.

mixtapetherapy said...

I know who she was and read her horribly written piece on HuffPo. I think she should be embarassed by the amount of self-aggrandizing she spuws out, which seems to be more of the slant of the book than what that moment really said about the campaign.

Anonymous said...

The "61-year-old . . . sagging face of journalism"? Nice.

Chez said...

If you come here looking for nice you're going to be seriously disappointed.

Anonymous said...

NOT. (As in not nice - even here.)

Chez said...