Remember when the White House Correspondent's Dinner was an event where you could make fun of the president, and call out the press itself for the dumb things it does? Those were good times. The rules in Washington are changing though, and these days, no side or faction has the market cornered on stupid. It's not surprising then that the stakeholders in Michelle Wolf's performance at the event are all pissed off.
Let's start with the press reaction itself. There was no shortage of butthurt and criticism on their part. The spirit of the event was certainly proper at first, in the desire to celebrate the First Amendment and the critical role of the press in a free democracy when it comes to holding politicians accountable. This is 100 times true when we have a sitting president who lies about things trivial and important alike. That's not my opinion, that is absolute truth. The compulsive lying is well documented, and not any less real if you like the like guy. That said, the press is probably the most guilty party responsible for giving the man a platform in the first place. It sells news to those who either embrace the world of lies or are outraged for it. (I'm looking at you, TV "news.") For three years now, they've steered clear of policy and character to focus on the shit show, and they're profiting handsomely from it.
Why is the press angry? Because Wolf called them out, and she's spot on:
"You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him."
As a trained if not practicing journalist, I'm horrified at what the profession has become, except for a few places. If you have to consult with some asshole talking head who comes on TV and makes a living as an asshole talking head "expert" to pontificate on the personality of elected critters, that isn't journalism. I know it's not as exciting and it doesn't take as much time to fill the news cycle, but when a Trump action is limited to another Twitter attack, there is no news. There is no policy being made. There is no governing. That's the story: The president hasn't done anything.
Meanwhile, the Trump sympathizers have their usual reaction, and it's largely based on things that weren't even said. Seriously, watch the video below. The context most lost was this assertion that Wolf attacked the physical appearance of Sarah Sanders. But not so fast... this is what she really said:
"I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies."
There are a couple of things here to talk about. First of all, Sanders has made a choice to lie for a man that regularly does it himself. That's on her. She's not being kept against her free will. Spicer had the good sense to finally get out. Second, it's a real stretch to contextually interpret that as an attack on her appearance. But if it was, can you honestly not see the insane hypocrisy? She represents a man who calls women fat pigs, feels free to "grab them by the pussy," makes fun of the disabled and makes jokes about women menstruating. Again, that's not my opinion, those are facts. Even if it were a personal attack, you're falling into the absurd "butter emails" trap of your own making.
Michelle Wolf was vulgar in response to a vulgar situation. I miss the simpler times where we could make fun of a president's dog or joke about a fairly benign policy position. We aren't in those times. Wolf's comedy wasn't far from what she's been doing on the Daily Show or her standup routines. The association had to have seen it coming.
What's really wrong with her performance is the realization that we have to accept that our political culture is broken on all sides. We have a morally bankrupt shit show in the White House, a White House that makes the fascist and authoritarian declaration that the press is the enemy. Meanwhile, said press is doing a horrible job at fulfilling their obligation to cover what matters, with truth and integrity. We're losing on all sides, and if you can't accept that, you're the reason it's so bad. Enough with the scapegoating. It's your fault. Sack up and take responsibility for it. Michelle Wolf didn't make it this way.