We’ve seen it all at Vox.com. The bridge from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The missing everglades. The American Revolution as a really bad idea. The Hong Kong democracy protesters using “hands up, don’t shoot.” The routine and virulent anti-Semitism. But yesterday, for a few blessed hours, Vox.com redeemed itself.
It all started with an attempt by TalkingPointsMemo to start a leftist gang-bang of Jeb Bush over a speech he gave:
In response to a young woman’s question about how to empower immigrants as Americans, Bush said at an event at a Cedar Falls, Iowa diner that multiculturalism should not be the goal.
“We should not have a multicultural society,” Bush said. “When you create pockets of isolation, and in some cases, the assimilation process has been retarded, it’s wrong. It limits people’s aspirations.”
He said Americans’ national identity is defined by the “set of values that people share,” rather than race. Bush also said learning English is an important part of the assimilation process.
From the perspective of a normal person this is the kind of stuff you would expect to hear from a politician. But the left, being who they are, love to pick at a word used correctly and make it into a scandal. So the ever-ready hack, Josh Marshall, pointed out the word ‘retarded’ to get it rolling:
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 22, 2015
Thank heaven, Bush didn’t use the word niggardly.
For the record this is Jeet Heer:
who, based on this, should also probably refrain from using the word “retarded” and “assclown.” (He has since deleted all his tweets on this subject).
In a follow up he said:
5. In the current case, “retarded” is a very, very potent insult. So much so that the slur overwhelms other dictionary meanings.
Finally, cooler heads prevailed and Zach “Imaginary Bridge from Gaza to the West Bank” Beauchamp sounded like an actual adult in a roomful of third graders screaming “poop!” In an article titled The Jeb Bush “retarded” controversy is everything wrong with gaffe journalism:
This isn’t just about one bad TPM post. It speaks to a bigger reason why our campaign coverage is so terrible.
Journalists know that controversial statements from major politicians can be huge news — remember Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” or Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape?” So they have an incentive to scrutinize each and every comment they see, especially from presidential candidates, to try to see if there’s something there. Opposition research groups, like American Bridge, are only too happy to provide them with raw material.
But this can go wrong quickly. Not everything that might be a gaffe is actually a gaffe. Yet the attention that real gaffes get, as well as the demand for speedy web publication, can cause media outlets to pull the trigger on questionable gaffe stories. Then the conversation shifts to whether the media outlet in question screwed up, wasting even more of everybody’s time.
People are always complaining that politicians speak in sound bites and inoffensive platitudes, but this outrage cycle is a big part of the reason they do that. When your every word is picked apart by gaffe-watchers, you can’t afford to speak too candidly or off the cuff.
So in honor of the occasion when the online left has done something so blindingly stupid that even Zach Beauchamp notices, we reset the Vox Lost Credibility sign. But I expect this to be a temporary situation.