Ed had his say about the WHCD earlier this afternoon and I’ve had mine, over and over, in various annual threads since 2006. Let me add two thoughts. One: For better and for worse, the atmosphere is different when there’s a Republican in office than when there’s a Democrat. When the GOP holds the White House, there’s an element of suspense that the comedian hired to deliver the keynote will crap all over the president the way Colbert did to Bush in 2006. No chance of that for the next four years, but that means you can watch tonight for the laughs with little fear of feeling annoyed tomorrow. Two: Brokaw’s right that this is a narcissistic freak show, to the point where attendees have had to invent self-deprecating slang for it to distance themselves ironically. I’ll never agree, though, that it poses some sort of threat to the media’s credibility. To repeat a point I made last year when Brokaw started his yearly kvetching about the WHCD:
Does anyone really believe that the vast majority of the public even knows what the WHCD is, let alone has some strong ethical objection to it? In a way, his assumption about the public significance of the event reflects the same sort of Beltway myopia that he’s criticizing.
In fairness to Brokaw, arguably he’s making a more subtle point — not that the public is reacting negatively to the WHCD but rather that the press itself is more apt to cocoon itself in Beltway culture because of sleazy networking and stargazing opportunities like the WHCD. If I thought getting rid of their prom would help peel away that cocoon, I’d take his side. But I don’t. The media is an industry and it’ll have its own industry culture whether or not everyone puts on tuxes one night a year and gladhands the Real Housewives of D.C. or whoever semi-ironically on the red carpet. Pauline Kael once said she didn’t understand how Nixon had won since no one she knew had voted for him. I don’t think nerdprom was her problem.
There are lots and lots and lots of reasons to distrust and dislike the media, especially if you’re a conservative, but I’d bet not one in 100 people surveyed at random would name the WHCD as one of them. Not five in 100 would even know what the WHCD is. To treat this as some sort of problem is, however inadvertently, to minimize their real sins. No one would care about them spending an evening posing for pictures with the “Duck Dynasty” guys if they didn’t need to be browbeaten into covering the Gosnell trial. Have a ball tonight, water-carriers.
The show gets rolling at around 9 or 9:30 ET with Obama and then Conan O’Brien as keynoter, but the red carpet (yes, really) has already begun. If you want to watch any or all of it, it’s airing live right now on C-SPAN. The only really notable attendee I’ve read about today is NRA President David Keene, who’ll be a guest of the Washington Times. Expect plenty of uncomfortable reaction shots from him once O and O’Brien get rolling on the gun-rights lobby.