Another White House Correspondent’s Dinner has come and (thankfully) gone. In case you were wondering, no… I was not invited. Again. But I did manage to get through some of the “highlights” today and there really wasn’t anything surprising, enlightening or even newsworthy if we’re to be honest about it. But seeing the responses not only from our own readers in the open thread last night, but from the commentariat around the web and the cable news shows, that’s hardly a minority opinion. It’s a big, fancy dinner and drinks event at a posh location where politicians, media spokesmodels, comedians and Hollywood celebrities get together and act silly. But if there’s one thing the media loves talking about, it’s themselves. Time Magazine was quick to round up The Funniest “Jokes” from Nerd Prom this year, at least among those told by the President and this year’s featured guest, SNL’s Cecily Strong. You can judge for yourself. There was at least one funny one by Barack Obama in there which caused me to smile, so I suppose it wasn’t a complete waste of virtual ink.
On the weather and the media: “The polar vortex caused so many record lows they named it MSNBC.”
I suppose some observers have to read something significant into the meeting. It certainly seemed to be a bit of a disaster to Doug Mataconis.
One important factor, of course, has been the extent to which Hollywood and Washington, with some help from New York City of course, have developed what can only be called a bizarre incestuous relationship wherein people in both communities seek to cozy up to “famous” people solely for the purpose of being seen with famous people. That relationship existed in the past, of course, most prominently during the Kennedy and Reagan Administrations, but it really didn’t start becoming a big thing until the Clinton Administration, and it was during that period that the custom of media companies inviting famous or, in many cases, famous for a moment, people to the Correspondents Dinner. This practice has gotten so out of hand in recent years that various media companies seek to one-up each other with celebrity invitations, and news networks such as CNN and MSNBC feature “red carpet” coverage that starts two hours before the dinner as if this were the Academy Awards. It is self-absorption that borders on the pretentious and the annoying, and it has now become such a big thing that it is impossible to watch cable news or log on to Twitter on the day of the dinner without seeing virtually non-stop coverage of what, when you get right down to it, is nothing more than a trade association dinner.
Look, I’m not saying that this event is something honorable or somehow important to our democracy, but I also just can’t get that worked up over the larger meaning of it all. You can talk about the rather incestuous relationship between the Fourth Estate and the people they are ostensibly supposed to keep an eye on but that’s pretty much a dog bites man headline by this point, isn’t it? And yes, setting up a literal red carpet for well dressed people to parade down as if they were actually Hollywood stars rather then the guardians of democracy is obscene. But hey… it’s This Town. If you’ve spent more than ten minutes out on the streets of DC or in the halls of the power brokers who reside there and not seen some serious obscenity you’ve led a charmed life.
And has it ever been some sort of startling revelation that having the press and the government yucking it up over plates of rubber chicken was a bad sign? Heck, even the New York Times figured that part out years ago. And when you can’t live up to the same standards as the Gray Lady in terms of journalistic or governmental integrity, the ship has not only sailed, but sunk to the bottom of the bay before making it out of the harbor.
The point is that the Nerd Prom is an embarrassing mess, but to call it a disaster or some sort of destructive influence on our nation is giving it far too much credit. It’s a spectacle, but at least it’s out in the open and what villains there may exist to be found are easy to locate. I’d be far more worried about what goes on in the cloak rooms of Congress and the news rooms of the media entities present at the big party when nobody is watching.