Noonan fears reports on ‘nuts and yahoos’

NOONAN FEARS REPORTS ON ‘NUTS AND YAHOOS’…. In her latest Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan complains that we’re likely to see major news outlets characterize “a lot of these new Congress critters [as] a little radical, a little nutty.” (via Steve M.)

The media is looking for drama. They are looking for a colorful story. They want to do reporting that isn’t bland, that has a certain edge…. The mainstream media this January will be looking for the nuts. […]

The point is when they want to paint you as nuts and yahoos, don’t help them paint you as nuts and yahoos. It’s good to keep in mind the advice of the 19th century actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who once said, speaking in a different context, that she didn’t really care what people did as long as they didn’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.

That would be the advice for incoming Republicans: Stand tall, speak clear, and don’t frighten the horses.

To bolster the point, Noonan pointed to coverage of the post-1994 elections, when the media “focused their cameras on people who could be portrayed as nutty, and found them.” Apparently, rascally news organizations told the public about members of Congress, their notorious remarks, and their controversial actions.

How outrageous. Journalists reporting on ridiculous members of Congress and their antics? The nerve of these political reporters.

Of course the real problem here is not the one Peggy Noonan identifies. The issue is not news outlets taking note of radicals and extremists in Congress; the issue is the presence of radicals and extremists in Congress. Noonan seems to think there’s something untoward about shining a light on “nuts and yahoos” in positions of great power in the federal government. I’d argue that shining a light on them is one of the reasons the media is supposed to exist.

The amusing part of all of this is what Noonan seems to accept, but is unwilling to acknowledge: she knows that her party has just elected a whole legion of lawmakers, many of whom are mad as a hatter, and she’s worried about the embarrassment that comes with public recognition of their madness.

When Noonan counsels them — “don’t help [reporters] paint you as nuts and yahoos” — there’s a degree of fear here. The column effectively urges far-right extremists who will now help shape federal law not to be themselves, because that would be embarrassing for everyone.

Noonan added that in the wake of the ’94 midterms, this “spirited” group of Republican lawmakers didn’t have “a conservative media infrastructure to defend them,” an issue that has since been resolved. But that’s not especially satisfying, either — as Steve M. put it, “Because they shouldn’t have to suffer consequences once we learn that they believe such things, right?”