It has been quite a surprise as well as a joy to watch the usually follow-the-crowd media take down one of their own and the right-wing attack machine in a series of televised sorties. Of what do I speak? Just the backlash against E.D. Hill (aka Edith Ann Tarbox) and the Fox Not-News Network for her inflammatory tease about Barack and Michelle Obama's loving little (what even the most boring grandpa in middle America now knows as) "fist bump."
I'm not going to repeat the comment here except to say the incendiary "terrorist" word was thrown as a bomb suggesting a possible ulterior meaning for this physical expression of buddyness that even a Budweiser commercial told us more than a year ago, already wasn't hip. For God sakes, fist bump has already been wikied into Wikipedia:
The fist bump (also called the fist pound, knuckle bump, and other names) is a type of friendly gesture similar in meaning to a hand shake or a high five. It is performed by two people tapping their fists lightly. A bump also can be known as a symbol of giving of respect. Fist pounds can also be followed by various other hand and body gestures, but may be part of a dap greeting.
Time has already published an article on the history of it.
Did Hill write her own material, or was she reading some Fox writer's script on the FN-N teleprompter? Media Matters and MoveOn.org have shown us for months how right-wing media, especially Fox Not-News, starts a scurrilous rumor with just such a comment as Hill made and that eventually the either desperate or dumb traditional media begins flogging whatever-it-was as if it was a substantive issue. In which case, Fox Not-News has triumphed again. The conservative fear monger's job is done. Their mission has been accomplished as others carry on the smearing work, and the public is pounded with it.
But surprise surprise, that didn't happen this time around! Team Obama demonstrated their finesse as they moved into action with Barack and North Carolina Governor Mike Easley fist bumping their greeting the next day. Jimmy Kimmel wasn't far behind. Then Michelle properly hailed all the ladies of The View with their female fist bumps. The traditional media didn't want to be left out. They recognized it was important to catch up to cultural speed and cover this attack on the Obamas and hipster life in the way it deserved -- by getting in on the fun -- and so joined in with other entertainers and just regular folk with their own fist bump hellos. Here's a sampling on this YouTube video:
You can see from this that if Hill had been better prepared for her unjournalistic smear she might have discovered this clip of that nutty Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as Borat) fist bumping with a giggling Pat Buchanan.
We all know the problem of Fox being a vehicle for right-wing attacks -- and if you haven't seen Outfoxed, rent the movie -- and we all know journalists need jobs and Fox is one outlet. We also understand the failure of American journalism leading up to the Iraq War and since then. This campaign season has shoved many examples in our faces, and we have seen the mounting corporate pressure these journalists have received in the last decade to do their bosses' bidding -- at the expense of reporting what they know to be the truth. Where does accountability come into play? Who is ultimately responsible?
Later the same day that Hill made the incendiary comment on her show, America's Pulse, surprisingly, Fox canceled it. (A sign of Rupert Murdoch's admiration/respect/whatever it is for Obama?) Hill is an award-winning broadcast journalist, and I have no idea where she stands ideologically, but if she spews or reads that swill because she needs a job then she must be desperate. If she says it with glee, then maybe she's jealous of the warm loving relationship Barack and Michelle obviously share. According to Wikipedia, Hill has been married three times and has five children (and is stepmother to three more). Where are all those conservative family values the right wing are always wearing on their sleeves?
Team Obama snuffed out this political smear by making fun of it, and the media got the point and did the right thing by pointing that out. I would hope that we can see more of this than their going with the vitriolic Fox flow. How can we get the message across that what Fox Not-News is selling is pure unadulterated fear that has been destructive to our country as well as to the rest of the world?
I live in Paris and a friend told me about an email she'd gotten from an old friend. When I read it, I said it must be a joke. My friend then sent other emails from the woman, and I saw that it wasn't. This is the kind of thing that the right-wing attack machine is spreading. It hurts not only American citizens but everyone on the globe:
Give me a heads up when you come back home again. Also, would love to hear from you about your impressions and any experiences of the Muslim threats to take over the world, starting with Europe.
My friend responded the same way the Obama team rebutted the fist bump -- with humor. She sent back an email saying she hadn't encountered any examples of Muslims trying to take over the world -- "unless you count my Moroccan cleaning lady insisting on rearranging the furniture."
Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more of her work, check out www.betharnold.com.