Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gossip is an authoritarian's playground

The July 1 print edition (not online yet) of The Washington Spectator has an article about gossip columns written by Rick Perlstein. He looks at when gossip columnist Hedda Hopper appeared to rule Hollywood as the Queen of Mean. He mentions how she dissed "social problem" films and labeled certain actors as "homewreckers." Hopper was a pal with J. Edgar Hoover.

Perlstein explains:
Celebrity gossip is a fundamentally right-wing mode of discourse. … [T]he genre's work, fundamentally, leverages the pleasure of titillation in the service of policing "proper" decorum, a threat held above the head of anyone who would traduce the gossiper's arbitrary standards—a cynical manipulation of the mass amygdala, simultaneously enshrining the most conventional narratives of what counts as success in a capitalist society while dangling evidence of its precariousness for those who would dissent from the sanctioned canons of behavior. Ownership of a gossip sheet is an authoritarian's playground.

From there we move to the Trump campaign. Trump is a friend of David Pecker, current publisher of the National Enquirer, the gossip mag that doesn't seem to care a whole lot for truth. How friendly?

A year ago, when Trump entered the race for the GOP presidential nominee, the Enquirer had an article on Jeb Bush. There was another in September. Jeb's campaign seemed to never ignite. In October, Ben Carson briefly passed Trump in the polls. An article about Carson appeared in the Enquirer soon after. Bye Ben. Another appeared about Carly Fiorina after she had a great showing in a debate. Farewell, Carly. And one appeared on Ted Cruz just a couple days before the Indiana primary, after which Cruz dropped out.

Will Hillary Clinton be dragged through the pages of the Nation Enquirer in, let's see, October? Will it have any effect on the election? Maybe not, if the Enquirer readers are mostly Trump supporters anyway. Besides, the GOP has been hammering Hillary for 20 years now and she still manages to be ahead.

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