Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On Matt Lauer: "But Her Emails" As Misogynistic Pretext

Here is Hillary Clinton, in an excerpt from What Happened:
"[Matt] Lauer promised the [Commander in Chief Forum] would be an opportunity to 'talk about national security and the complex global issues that face our nation.' That's exactly what I wanted. With Election Day just two months away, it was time to have a serious discussion about each candidate's qualifications to be President and how he or she would lead the country."
Clinton goes on to detail how she loves talking about foreign policy and looked forward to demonstrating that she was ready to be Commander in Chief, unlike Donald Trump, who was "dangerously unprepared."

Yet, when she took the stage with Lauer, who was moderating the one-on-one discussion, she describes how he interrupted her to talk about the media's favorite topic of the 2016 election:

"I've been around the block enough times to know that something bad was coming. Lauer had the look of someone proud of himself for having laid a clever trap.
'The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half, and in particular concerning your use of your personal email and server to communicate while you were Secretary of State, Lauer said. 'You've said it's a mistake. You said you made not the best choice. You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn't it more than a mistake? Why wasn't it disqualifying, if you want to be Commander In Chief?'"
This line of questioning comes in the context of the US media covering Clinton's "emails" for 600 straight days, even though the FBI found no criminal wrongdoing.

It also comes in the context of multiple senior staff members in the Trump Administration using a private email system, something that has been known for almost a year now with barely a blip on the media radar. It also comes in the context of the State Department remaining "dangerously understaffed" because Donald Trump doesn't seem to know or care about the importance of diplomatic positions to our national security.

In What Happened, Clinton describes the media's reckless pursuit of false equivalence between herself and Trump. Everyone knew that Trump would have difficulty answering even the most simple questions about national security or foreign policy. Yet, Matt Lauer and the mainstream media helped blur the important distinctions between the candidates by exaggerating the importance of "the emails."

So, there's the pursuit of false equivalence, but there's also the reality that, as I wrote back in March, our political narratives are disproportionately written by men, "who receive 62% of byline and other credits in print, Internet, TV, and wire news."

I didn't know it then, but something of a reckoning was headed our way.

As Melissa noted earlier today at Shakesville, Matt Lauer has just been fired after an allegation that he sexually harassed a colleague, in what may not have been an isolated event.  I strongly believe that the way men treat women reveals how they think about women specifically, and gender and power relations more broadly. These views, in turn, shape the way they speak and write to and about women.

That is to say, once again, misogyny is a national vulnerability. I believe this was on display, on all places, at the Commander In Chief Forum, where a man deigned to express concern about our national security while his treatment of Hillary Clinton on the public stage undermined it.

"But her emails" was always about misogyny.

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