I often find myself almost shaking my fist at the TV screen when “news” shows “report” on Hillary Clinton.
On any given morning, the scrolling headlines at CNN include questions about whether Hillary is on her way to losing the Iowa Caucus and whether Bernie ‘we think you’re a rock star’ Sanders will be the winner there. When the topic is Hillary and her political future, or her lack thereof, networks gather some talking heads to weigh in on what they believe she is doing wrong, and have a “debate” – Oh, whatever will she do?! Bernie is nipping at her heels?! Is her campaign done before it gets started?!? Oh, woe is Hillary?!
You can also almost set your watch on how long into these segments someone will, just for good measure, throw in a ‘why she’s too old just’ barb, even while ignoring the fact that Bernie is four years older and already in his seventies.
But back to Iowa.
The Iowa Caucus. The one that’s three months away. The one that only determines about one percent of the electoral votes in a presidential race. The event that has virtually no predictive weight about who eventually becomes president. Yet here we are, watching “news” channels as they pound the drum of faux political analysis to fill air time instead of covering things that are really impacting our lives now — like what, if any, impact there will be on our economy as a result of Greece/Euro-zone debacle or the precarious nuclear arms talks with Iran?
So why do they do it?
There really is only one reason — eyeballs. Ratings. Website clicks. That’s why there is so much writing and spinning about Hillary who, as far as voters are concerned, is the most admired woman in America.
Hillary hate is good business.
But here’s a question — what if we stopped feeding that beast? If we stopped clicking or watching or sharing the semi-outrageous, half-truth hand-wringing commentary, they’d stop producing it.
In a recent article by Jonathan Allen, co-author of recent book about HRC called HRC, Allen admits he wants to be a good journalist, but he wants to sell books — and the Hillary as evil narrative does that:
“But the easier way to [to sell books] — proven over time — is to write as though the Clintons are the purest form of evil. The same holds for daily reporting. Want to drive traffic to a website? Write something nasty about a Clinton, particularly Hillary.”
So what’s a girl to do when she’s got a Hillary book due to hit the shelves in a week? Write more stories with a headline like the one I gave this post? I wish I had that in me, but I don’t.
What Allen’s piece doesn’t address is why there isn’t a ‘good for the goose, good for the gander’ rule for other candidates. We’ve had 17 GOP presidential contenders at one point, yet no journalistic fist-pounding on issues like Chris Christie and “Bridgegate.” Isn’t someone trying to track down Bridget Anne Kelley to find out what really happened? I know if I was still a daily reporter covering this campaign, that would be on my ‘to do’ list. And how about pushing Jeb Bush more on Donald Trump and the outrageous claims he is making about Mexicans coming across our borders? Jeb, as the father of Latino children and husband of a Mexican-born woman (who Trump has called an “illegal Mexican”), has an extremely personal stake in that craziness, yet he’s merely said he’s “personally offended” by Trump’s statements and wants to focus on real immigration issues.
Sounds to me like this is Jeb’s Michael Dukakis moment, yet there’s been no media criticism of his tepid family comeback that feels like it was meant to pander to conservative voters.
I have to guess that the answer to my not-so-rhetorical question is because those stories won’t get the clicks and the eyeballs like Bill and Hill. Our feelings about the Clintons are so uniquely visceral and conflicted, that you just have to say their last name and the word “scandal” and Voila! Click magic!
Hillary Clinton has become the political equivalent of the cute kitten video — everyone watches it, it gets shared with friends and even though we know that kitty can’t possibly be that cute all the time, we hope that it is so we keep going back for more. Hillary coverage isn’t meant to inform us; it’s meant to distract us from the things we ought to be focusing on, yet we can’t turn away. We can change that, but not until we get over our fixation with faux scandals … and kittens.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist, journalism entrepreneur and founder of The Broad Side. She is also the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox, already an Amazon #1 Hot New Release! You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger and on Facebook.