In defense of being mean | Helen Ubiñas

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Comedian Michelle Wolf entertains guests at the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) dinner at The Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

If I had a dollar for every time someone called me mean, I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere sipping a Corona instead of writing this column while I nurse a cold café con leche in a drafty neighborhood coffee shop.

And if I had a dollar for every time the person hurling that supposed insult at me really meant that I had uttered a truth that they didn’t want to hear, and often in a way or a tone that offended their sensibilities, I’d be able to bring along a few friends.

Speaking of friends and beer, I’d love to befriend comedian Michelle Wolf and buy her a round in honor of all the truth she dished out at the White House correspondents’ dinner.

Because while it was not mean, it was pointed and often painful. The truth, as the old saying goes, hurts.

And one of the most painful truths of her monologue was this one, directed rightly and squarely at the Fourth Estate.

“You helped create this monster and now you are profiting from him.”

Zing.

In hindsight, she should have gone in even deeper on the reporters who wasted no time coming to the defense of the Trump administration’s mouthpiece, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when Wolf said “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,” she mused, before concluding, “It’s probably lies.”

Instead of letting Sanders stew in that truth, reporters rushed to make the barbs about appearance — as if having a smoky eye is an insult. (It so is not. It’s on my bucket list, for crying out loud.)

Some couldn’t even bring themselves to admit that Sanders lies on behalf of her boss for a living. Chris Cillizza, CNN’s editor-at-large, said Sanders “misleads on the regular.” Add that word to “alt-right,” “racially insensitive” and a host of other mealymouthed language reporters use to step on the truth.

But eye makeup is so much easier to talk about than the lies the American public are now fed on a regular basis, or the fact that Washington messengers care more about access than accountability, they’d rather be liked than be right, and that they normalize the absolutely abnormal.

Reporters rushed to call Wolf’s performance appalling, outrageous. A couple of things — have any of these folks ever been to a comedy show? Also, did they skip middle school? Because that’s where you learn that you can’t nice someone out of hating you.

The head of the correspondents group said she regretted the monologue. You know what every citizen should be regretting right about now? Falling for all the news organizations’ grand declarations of truth-seeking in their pleas to support the products that employ some of these spineless journalists.

Trump, who skipped the dinner to hold one of his rallies where one of his rabid supporters yelled at the press — calling them “degenerate filth” — in turn called Wolf’s performance filthy.

Really, dude?

 

Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University and author of “New New Media” put it perfectly.

“Nothing wrong at all with being mean if you’re honest, and your target is political. Democracy relies on clear and honest criticism of all kinds. The people need maximum information, as long as it’s true. A false and Puritanical sense of propriety only gets in the way of that. Kudos to the comedians and anyone with the courage to speak her or his mind.”

You know what we should all be outraged about?

A president and his enablers who methodically and pathologically are dismantling our democracy, targeting people because of their ethnicity and sexuality and religious beliefs, tearing families apart under some dystopian immigration plan while completely ignoring — except when they’re cosigning the behavior because I mean, there are “good people on both sides” —  actual threats to our country and safety: made-in-the-USA white male terrorists.

You know what’s really offensive? It’s the devastating truth that Wolf ended her speech with, that “Flint still doesn’t have clean water.”

But also, that nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still being treated with Trump’s paper towel-approach on aid.

That American citizens were so afraid of losing even an inch of their privilege that they hid their sexism and racism behind economic anxieties and a vote for Trump.

That the Justice Department quietly removed the section headed “need for a free press” from its guidelines.

That so many of our most powerful watchdogs have turned into lapdogs.

Watchdogs have teeth, and when what they are charged with protecting is in danger — in this case, our democracy — they are supposed to growl and bark and, if need be, bite.

If that makes me mean, well, God bless America.