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March 16, 2009

Meghan McCain and the Painful Death of Journalism

The Daily Beast is indeed a strange animal. Like some kind of editorial haven for sloughed-off media pseudo-personalities, Tina Brown's resurrection project proves you no longer need to know what the hell you're talking about to be published, as long as you stick to populism. Meghan McCain, for example, would like you to know the election killed her libido.

John McCain Campaigns As Election Day Nears
McCain, daughter of failed Republican presidential candidate and certified media maven John, has been a recurring "blogger and storyteller" for the Beast for a few weeks now, in which time she has addressed "why old people don't get the internet" (it's controlled by liberals) and why smash-mouth harpy Ann Coulter is a smash-mouth harpy (she's cult-y; still better than Stephen Baldwin). I understand; McCain's young and willing to say crazy things about Republicans. But really, journalism is suffering a cruel and depressing death as it is. Why stock the New Media cavalry with boyfriend problems and, from elsewhere in the Beast oeuvre, polemics on male enhancement?

Like your cousin up in Hyannis Port who insists he's not a racist because his caddy is black, McCain assures us that she in fact does "have many friends who openly voted for Barack Obama (many of them also didn’t)," and this is not The Issue. Indeed, she confides in us the complete existential schism that American democracy has opened up within her: "I have become something I used to despise: people who let politics dictate his or her attraction to someone." Well put.

Are her quibbles completely inaccessible? Of course. Do they bear conspicuous similarity to the 1998 Disney classic, My Date With the President's Daughter, starring the brother from Boy Meets World? They do. But that McCain has this audience at all is symptomatic of the Daily Beast's issue at large: Its disposable content mill churns out mealy-mouthed commentary with more emphasis on the supposed luminary who's writing it than on actual message. Am I supposed to be impressed that they got Pat O'Brien, mustachioed and nasal entertainment reporter, to defend Jimmy Fallon's nascent late-night career? What could the take-away be in a post edgily titled "Is God Evil?" (Spoiler: Yes. Religion is divisive).

The sadness that pervades the site is not Meghan McCain's closeted racism or newfound asexuality (she is unattracted to anyone who voted at all!), but that this editorial model is most likely the future of journalism. Incidentally, The Daily Beast's moniker comes from the fictitious paper of record in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, which, among other niceties, revolves around media sensationalism and its desperate manufacturing of its own news. Interesting choice.

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