Chairman Ted: Enough Excess Attention on the Texas Buffoon

When I woke up Thursday morning we had a functioning government again, and what seemed to be a new Chairman Mao. Everywhere I looked there was a picture of Ted Cruz. Pretty soon, I calculated, there would only be pictures of Cruz in America…just like Mao. There he was on Huffington Post, on the Daily Beast, on Raw Story, where he was called “The New Republican Party.” Even one of AlterNet’s editors was about to use him to illustrate a Tea Party story. Please. Give me a break.

If I am not mistaken, the resolution of the semi-crazed government stalemate was resolved primarily by senators Reid and McConnell; President Obama apparently hung tight, and majority leader Boehner is now officially licking his wounds. Twelve female senators (there are 20 in all) were given credit for bridging the gaping parties gap, and pushing for solutions that would end the brinkmanship with default looming very large, and the government on the sidelines for 16 days.

So there are maybe 20 people who were primarily responsible for the agreement, and their pictures would have made sense illustrating the story. Ted Cruz? He pretty much had nada to do with it. Notice, in all the shenanigans, Obamacare wasn’t on the table—it faded away days ago, as Cruz should have.

But somehow, editors across America thought that the mug of Ted Cruz summed up the entire situation. In fact, Cruz had to sit quietly on the sidelines, voting with 17 other Republican senators against the agreement as they were, to put it mildly, seriously outvoted. Experts figure that the Tea Party represents about 15 to 20 percent of the electorate. So that is Ted Cruz’s constituency. But from the publicity and attention heaped on the guy, you would think he was the leader of the semi–free world.

Cruz-mania reinforces a basic principle of politics and media in America. Say the craziest things, which have very little to do with reality—or what most people think—but if you look and sound good while you are doing it (the governor from Texas only looked good), you will be showered with attention. Glenn Beck got tons of coverage during his phase of media overkill, but he didn’t quite look the Hollywood part.

Isn’t it kind of weird that Cruz looks like Joseph McCarthy, and pictures of him make you think you are back in the ‘50s? And isn’t it funny that when Cruz was at Princeton and considered the best college debater in the country, nobody liked him? Well, maybe one or two people did. And now? Well, he’s popular with maybe 15 percent of Americans. 

I call this the Coulter Syndrome. Back in 2006, I managed to write an entire article about Ann Coulter without mentioning her name. The piece was titled, "The Tall Blonde Woman in the Short Skirt With the Big Mouth," and I referred to her as TBWSSBM. I pleaded with journalists—many of the progressive ilk, or who at least had some conscience—who seemed irresistibly attracted to this woman who uttered racist, homophobic, violent or inane things pretty much every minute she had the public mic. I remember David Carr, the intrepid media writer at the Times, calling her a “Word Warrior.” Gawker understood my frustration, saying “Carr was providing Coulter with the media oxygen she so desperately needs.” 

I pleaded to everyone who should know better and say no to catnip: Stop kissing this woman’s butt because all you are doing is reinforcing the behavior, and on top of that helping her make millions with her bestselling book.

So many people in the progressive media world refuse to accept that when you criticize the Cruz/Coulter ilk for their outlandishness, repeating over and over again the things they say, you are just doing their work for them—getting their message out, and making them more popular with their fans. I wish it were different.

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