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Our Political Obsession With the Trivial

I was left absolutely baffled by the fact that so many of my Facebook friends on Sunday felt the need to post a picture of President Obama getting a bear hug from some guy in Florida. I have no idea why they thought this was important or notable, or what conclusion they were drawing from it, but they were mirrored by virtually every major political blog and newspaper too.

Why the hell does anyone care? I have no idea. But between the president’s fans thinking this was worth promoting and the Republicans who are allegedly now boycotting the guy’s pizza place over it, I’m just left scratching my head. Seriously? This is news? This is something anyone should give a shit about? Why? I mean, for crying out loud, Politico did a whole article about the guy who did it, noting his workout regimen and how much he could bench press — and has him opining on whether Obama is in better shape than Paul Ryan.

If I were the reporter assigned to write that story, I would want to tell my editor to insert it somewhere painful. At a time when we’re facing a huge range of serious problems, we’ve got political reporters writing stories about pizzeria owners giving a politician a hug. Of course, that same “news” outlet has had several articles over the last few days about who Nicki Minaj is or isn’t endorsing. Why would anyone care?

I mean, seriously, what a fucking ridiculous country we live in. We obsess over every utterance that comes out of the mouths of Kim Kardashian, Snooki or some pituitary moron who calls himself The Situation. Sometimes I want to move to a deserted island.

Comments

  1. cry4turtles says

    My guess is the fact the guy is/was a Republican. Doubt Obama gets very many hugs from them. Perhaps it’s the anomaly factor?

  2. d cwilson says

    The only value I could see from that picture was that it was a “feel good” moment between the president and a citizen. Given how dreary and depressing this campaign has been, I thought it was nice exchange, worthy of a footnote, but that’s it.

    Sadly, the hugger is now facing a boycott from conservatives for straying from the herd.

  3. Michael Heath says

    Of course I agree the media completely fails to cover issues at a substantive level. However some human interest stories can be reported and deserve legs while journalists also and simultaneously cover serious issues.

    I like the picture and think it provides a compelling lesson I hope Republican politicians learn from, while having near-zero confidence they will learn this lesson in this era of Palinism. And that is there are still Republican voters who love their country far more than they love either conservatism or the Republican party; where Republicans at the national level are effectively pushing Republicans out of the party unless they abandon their loyalty to the country to serve conservatism and the GOP. This picture’s optics resonate that not all Republican voters are buying that promotion (the man picking up the president is a Republican who voted for Obama in 2008 and intends to in 2012 as well).

    It’s also an oddball sight, we’re not used to seeing presidents picked-off the ground. Last evening I saw a man on a road bicycle riding through an intersection I was sitting at. He was going about 35 mph since it was a slight down-hill grade. That’s not all that rare, what was rare was that he was an Amish man in his sixties, with long gray hair and a long bear wearing the traditional Amish attire, including work boots. It was about 53 degress out and raining as well where he had no coat on, just hauling ass. That’s a picture I wished I’d taken and since it’s worth a look similar to seeing a president lifted off the ground in a bear hug.

  4. says

    Well, it WAS a totally frivolous waste of column-inches — until the reich-wing boycott turned it into another clear proof of Republican bigotry and mindless intolerance. Now it’s relevant.

  5. blf says

    @3: From memory, Yes, the guy was and still is, but said he voted for Obama last time and will again this time. (Due to triviality of the whole thing I’m not gonna bother digging up a citation.) I cannot recall to what extent the incident was staged. As far as I can recall, he knew Obama would pop in, but at that point my memory fails, including having no recollection of why Obama’s campaign knew of the guy.

  6. Chiroptera says

    When I first saw the picture, I just thought it was like an LOL cat. Just something people thought was funny and were passing it around. Hell, I think it was kind of funny.

    Then, as the Bee points out, the Right Wing decided to use it to show off just how absurd (and even dangerously absurd) they really are.

    Funny pictures of Obama getting hugs: I admit that in a sane and healthy democracy, it shouldn’t be news.

    On the other hand, I think that in this case, it is a good thing to remind us (as if we needed reminding) how the US is not a sane or healthy democracy.

  7. says

    I think the obsession with the trivial comes from the fact that for a lot of people, politics has nothing to do with substantive issues anyway and is all about tribalism. And something like a picture of Obama getting a bear hug reinforces that more than something like a discussion of policy differences.

  8. Jordan Genso says

    I do not care about stories like the “bear hug”, but I can’t say that journalists are wrong to cover them, or that they don’t provide a positive impact.

    I think one of the biggest political problems in our country is that too few people pay attention. Now bear hugs are not anything they need to pay attention to, but if the story serves to garner someone’s interest who otherwise would be paying no attention at all, the story could serve as a gateway for them to better discover the issues, and the country would benefit from that potential consequence.

    Granted, that positive consequence is unlikely for any given individual, but with the vast numbers of people who need to start paying attention to the issues, it’s worth a shot. And for everyone else that views the story as pointless, we can ignore it.

  9. says

    FWIW, it had to be staged. Given the paranoia that passes for “political discourse” on the ReiKKKwing, the security people that surround the PotUS are not letting anyone who isn’t thoroughly vetted within striking distance.

    “I was left absolutely baffled by the fact that so many of my Facebook friends on Sunday felt the need to post a picture of President Obama getting a bear hug from some guy in Florida.”

    Ed:

    You wrote a post about “bears” not too long ago…

    Michael Heath:

    “That’s not all that rare, what was rare was that he was an Amish man in his sixties, with long gray hair and a long bear wearing the traditional Amish attire, including work boots.”

    Was the “long bear” gray too, or the more usual brown or black?

  10. d cwilson says

    And that is there are still Republican voters who love their country far more than they love either conservatism or the Republican party; where Republicans at the national level are effectively pushing Republicans out of the party unless they abandon their loyalty to the country to serve conservatism and the GOP.

    Aside from the fact that there really isn’t anything conservative, in the original sense of the term, about the current GOP, I think the problem is one of myopia. The national GOP cannot see anything past what serves their short term political advantage. The sequestration deal is a perfect example. Last year, they were crowing about how Boehner “got 90%” of what they wanted in terms of cuts. Now that they’ve realized that they may have to abide both the agreed upon cuts in defense spending, they’re completely losing their shit.

    This is also reflected in their campaign strategy, which is basically, “You hate the black guy, right?”, but they have no policy ideas to offer in place of Obama’s. To use the Underpants Gnomes analogy, their electoral strategy is:

    1) Hate Obama
    2) ????
    3) Profit!

    This is why I find it so sad that the hugger is being boycotted. We have a party that hates the current president far more than they love this country.

  11. d cwilson says

    As for whether or not it was staged, I’m sure they knew he was going to hug the POTUS beforehand, otherwise, the Secret Service would have pinned him to the floor. Whether or not they expected the hug to be so enthusiastic, I have no idea.

  12. Michael Heath says

    d cwilson writes:

    Aside from the fact that there really isn’t anything conservative, in the original sense of the term, about the current GOP, I think the problem is one of myopia.

    The findings by Bob Altemeyer, but more importantly since he’s one mere researcher, all the findings reported in Chris Mooney’s latest book fully and convincingly supports what we observe now is predictable behavior by conservatives. Conservatism in the U.S. could very well have evolved to some other outcome, e.g., the attributes demonstrated by British conservatives, but what we encounter now in the U.S. is a predictable outcome of conservatism.

  13. regexp says

    Trivial things have always been reported on in political campaigns to “prove” one thing or another. I reminded about Bush Sr. being “astonished” about grocery scanner technology. Which was complete bullshit. But it didn’t prevent someone who wasn’t even there from writing a story about it and having it picked up by everyone to show how Bush was “out of touch”.

  14. dingojack says

    Anyone else appreciating the 13 comments on how ‘uncomentworthy’ this is, in the last 75 minutes?
    :) Dingo

  15. Ben P says

    I’m with you Ed. Only problem is, are there enough deserted islands to go around?

    There are plenty of deserted places if you don’t mind some cold weather. There are parts of the Yukon river basin where you can very easily get multiple days travel from your nearest human neighbors.

  16. daved says

    I seem to recall that one reason the Obama campaign picked this guy (Van Duzer) was that he’s got a foundation that raises awareness of blood shortages and encourages blood drives. So, nice public-spirited fellow, just the sort you want to show is on your side.

  17. Michael Heath says

    The hugger reported his bear hug was spontaneous. The visit to his place and with him was planned in advance.

  18. Rodney Nelson says

    Of course, that same “news” outlet has had several articles over the last few days about who Nicki Minaj is or isn’t endorsing.

    What’s a Nicki Minaj?

    Never mind. If I’m too lazy to google it, then I don’t really care.

  19. Trebuchet says

    If the hug was indeed spontaneous, what the media should have run was the Secret Service agents cleaning the crap out of their pants!

  20. Brandon says

    Isn’t there sufficient bandwidth for media outlets to cover both silly personal interest stories and substantial policy issues? I don’t frequent Politico, but I’m under the impression that there’s plenty of dense, wonky columns there for those that want to read that material.

  21. roggg says

    Forget politics. Western culture is obsessed with the trivial, period. If it wasn’t Obama getting a bear hug, it could easily have been Kristen Stewart kissing somebody else, or whatever food item Lady Gaga is wearing today. Politics is not immune from the cult of celebrity.

  22. bobaho says

    Anyone else appreciating the 13 comments on how ‘uncomentworthy’ this is, in the last 75 minutes?

    Tone trolling knows no bounds :^p

  23. neonsequitur says

    It’s “Joe the Plumber” 2012 edition, but this time they might have found a real person. As for all the facebook comments, I am *never* going to forget gems like Well if he likes Obama he can’t possibly make a good pizza! That’s some right-wing internet non sequitur gold right there.

  24. tynk says

    I am surprised no one else has pointed this out…
    Romney is out of touch. We know that. He has no idea who or what middle class is. Most people have the over enthusiastic relative who give bear hugs when excited. This story is relevant because it make “common” people like us feel like Obama is not beyond our understanding.

  25. John Phillips, FCD says

    The visit was preplanned because the pizza guy promotes blood drives, very successfully by all accounts, but the bear hug wasn’t. The reason the Secret Service probably didn’t have kittens is because the pizza guy visited the WH earlier this year due to his blood drive work. It’s all in the article linked to.

  26. donalbain says

    @9: What are you talking about?

    I am talking about our hosts tendency to remind us all of how is is above all the trivial stuff. Lots of people put an amusing picture on facebook, but not Ed. Ed is too clever for all that. And people getting excited about a political convention? No.. not Ed. Ed is too brainy for that.Its just classic hipster bollocks, just applied to politics instead of entertainment.

  27. dingojack says

    Donalbaned – have you been visiting those witches again, or were you just born with the ‘ultra-hip’ ability to read minds?
    Dingo

  28. zmidponk says

    You know, when I read the first sentence, I thought that maybe it might be the Religious Right getting upset by blowing this up into a ‘gay moment’ involving the President, because the guy was gay or something. That would at least make some kind of sense, given their warped and paranoid views on homosexuality. However, there is no mention of this guy being gay, but there’s still calls for boycotting his place from the Right, apparently simply because he bearhugged the President.

    All I can say is WTF?

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