I would say WaPo seems to be acting like an irresponsible youth, but it's too old. Can I say maybe it's having a senior moment...or would I have to apologize over a beer?
Two of the Washington Post's journalists are apologizing today (following publisher Weymouth's snafu last month) for a crack which was effectively about serving our Lady Secretary a drink called "Mad B---- Beer."
And now they're in trou-ble, I relate in a singsong, as executive editor Marcus Baruchli cancels the entire Mouthpiece Theater series, a comedic - well, a comedic mouthpiece, hosted on the WaPo site and described as "Political commentary from two of the biggest maws in Washington."
To visit the "who does it hurt" bar, apparently it hurts women in action in the media. Or so one would conclude from the letter sent by the organization Women, Action, and the Media, which called the joke "sexist" and "tasteless."
What is the interplay between ethics and comedy? Comedians are the negotiators of the entertainment world, expected to push past the limit - and yet there is hell to pay when they push too far. (This problematizes the issue of a "limit," but that's the subject for another line of philosophical inquiry altogether. Or a calc class.) Or should this instead be considered an issue of the relationship between journalists - especially when venerable news organizations are their, er, mouthpieces - and comedy?
I am going to venture into dangerous territory, the territory called Speculation (you know, where all your oxen die on the Oregon Trail) and say that I think WAM (what an acronym! Wait, do I need to apologize for that?) would call the crack against H. Clinton sexist and tasteless whether it involved a mouthpiece, codpiece, any other kind of piece (especially given the implied links to prostitution and gun violence) or the lack of any piece at all.
And I would be inclined to agree. First of all, there's just so much more to make fun of when it comes to Clinton and beer. Am I the only one who remembers Clinton's shot-of-whiskey-with-a-beer-chaser photo op (warning: link is actually a video) while on spring 2008's campaign trail? Or that Obama responded, "Around election time, the candidates, they just can't do enough. They'll promise you anything, they’ll give you a long list of proposals. They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer."
But secondly, and more seriously, while I don't curl up with a political correctness blankie at night, nor do I think serious media organizations can or should ignore social movements still working to correct centuries-or-millenia-old inequalities. A responsible media recognizes that it's not just about the political backlash, but the social backsliding possible and implicit in jokes about gender, sexual orientation, and race.
Though I must admit it's a tough line to draw. After all, I did briefly consider how AA must have felt. Our president issues a public invitation to drink beer? What's next, swatting flies?