Friday, January 11, 2008

Chris Matthews and His All-Boy Revue

Brothers in slime

Media Matters' Jamison Foser let fly on Chris Matthews this evening, pulling together an exhaustive summary highlighting the entire decade of egregious, stupid, out-of-left-field misogyny that he's been heaping on the heads of America's female politicians.

The whole text is worth reading -- it's a devastating picture, seen in its entirely, and it makes it painfully clear that, in an era of women speakers, women governors, and quite possibly the first woman president, Tweety's brand of twisted altar-boy misogyny no longer has any kind of place on the nation's airwaves.

Just in case some of you don't quite entirely understand how deeply offensive some of Matthews' leering, condescending cracks are, I'd like to put the sensible high heel on another foot and see how truly ridiculous it looks. Let's imagine that Matthews has been on the air for ten years regularly spouting comparable bilge about politicians from another group.

Let's consider, just by way of example, about how far his career might have gone if he'd been saying pretty much the same stuff about African-American men.

Imagine that, back in 2001, Matthews got on MSNBC and said of Colin Powell: "I hate him. I hate him. All that he stands for." Or that he told the Hardball audience: "Colin Powell bugs a lot of whites. I mean, really bugs guys like me on occasion....let me just say this, he drives some of us absolutely nuts."

Consider what would happen if he referred to Jesse Jackson as a "black devil," and likened him to Step'n Fetchit, who "steals whatever's not nailed down because he can." Or called him "Willie Horton." Or described white politicians who endorse him as "self-hating ni**er-lovers." Or described his walk as a "strut." Or wondered aloud if white troops would take orders from him, and laughed when his respondent called him on it. Or called him "uppity" -- on at least two occasions.

How would people respond if Matthews showed the same salacious interest in the intimate details of the Obamas' marriage as he has in the Clintons'? Media Matters says they counted 90 questions on the matter over seven programs -- and then gave up counting. What if he badgered Obama aides on whether or not Michelle would be "a good girl," or guilty of "misbehavior," and warned that she'd better "watch it"?

What would the reaction be if Matthews became obsessively fixated on Andrew Young's "ambition" -- to the point where he asked a guest eight consecutive questions about whether or not he's "ambitious"? Or if he accused Young of being "anti-white" and insisted that "he should just lighten up on this racial 'the whites are coming to get me' routine?" Or if he wondered aloud how Young could serve as an ambassador without "shucking and jiving" for the president?

Every single example above is an exact racist corollary to some sexist remark Matthews has made to or about a woman over the course of his career.

A guy says this stuff about black people, and everybody gets it. He's a bigot, infected by so many stereotypes that he's unfit to comment on matters of national importance, and unworthy of a single moment of the country's precious airtime. Newscasters don't make it to the national level if they're they least bit prone to saying this kind of stuff on the air. Don Imus lost his job over saying things like this about black women, and that was a good day for everybody but him. In 2008, serious people just don't talk that way about African-Americans any more.

But, evidently, you can still get paid several million dollars a year by getting on national TV and talking this way about women, and nobody will ever think to call you out on it. Matthews has been spewing this patronizing, insulting anti-woman crap, year in and year, out, for as long as he's been on the air -- and, to anyone's knowledge, he's never even had his hand (or face) slapped (an oversight which, no doubt, a few of his female guests have been sorely tempted to correct). It looks damned ugly when you read it in black and white -- but, because he's talking about, well, y'kno, just the girls, it's written off as boys-will-be-boys locker room stuff. We're supposed to take it as just an essential piece of his Philadelphia Irish he-man charm -- part of what makes him an attractive on-air personality.

MSNBC needs to hear, loud and clear, that this is not charming, nor attractive, nor even acceptable in this day and age. (Even FOX News won't go this low -- Bill O'Reilly's on the record saying that Matthews' recent comment on Hillary's success being a result of Bill's cheating was an unacceptable attack. When BOR takes you to the woodshed on on-air propriety, you know the bottom is well in sight. Looming ahead: diplomacy lessons from Michael Savage.) A new generation of women is rising to power in this country; and if Matthews is too ossified in his sexism to get with the program (and, at 62, if he hasn't gotten over it now, let's not hold our collective breath), then he needs to give up his seat in front of the camera to someone who doesn't think that strong women are "scary" and the men who admire them are "castrated."

I've said before that Matthews' equally bizarre fetish with the outward trappings of masculinity is creepy enough. Put that up alongside his sheer and all-too-obvious terror of women, and you've got just a steaming pile of weird psychosexual shit going on that has absolutely no business coming into anyone's house during the dinner hour. I mean: eeewww.

This man needs to retire. You can tell MSNBC that here.

And in the meantime, now that we're all absolutely clear on just who this guy is, no woman who values the dignity of her gender should ever consent to appearing on his show. He wants to make his show -- and the country's politics -- into an all-boys club? Fine. Let him have it -- and the ratings that go with it. This year, with so much of the energy around women candidates, women campaign leaders, women commentators and journalists, just let him try to play Hardball all by himself.

It seems to be the way he prefers it anyway.