The madding crowd has claimed another meaningless scalp, and it couldn’t be happier about it.
The internet exploded on Thanksgiving after Congressional staffer Elizabeth Lauten criticized the First Teens for their less-than enthusiastic attitude at the annual Presidential Turkey Pardoning. Yesterday, nearly a week after the offending Facebook post, Lauten resigned her job rather than allow the backlash to harm the reputations of her boss and fellow staffers.
Anyone who has ever worked for an elected official knows that the slightest slip up can quickly turn from foible to gaffe to complete professional nightmare. In terms of self-preservation, staffers are defenseless, which makes them easy targets and a mess-free launchpad for a larger agenda. Let’s be clear: the Right has engaged in plenty of staffer-shaming over the years, but it’s been a long time since a member of a Congressional office has been so completely and utterly destroyed over comparatively mild Facebook commentary.
The media’s (both old and new) scalping of Elizabeth Lauten started on Twitter, blossomed in the quirky world of internet news, and then roared to life as mainstream news outlets roused themselves from their tryptophan stupor to engage in some serious journalism.
Since that night, Lauten has been targeted online by both the mainstream media and private citizens, and doxed by professional “journalists” at home and abroad. In an act of ruthless messaging, the White House took charge of the situation and pitched the story to national news outlets.
We’re now at a point where no one knows what Elizabeth said, and furthermore no one cares what she said; her rude comment has been twisted and transformed into a rabid attack on the First Daughters, and there’s no amount of commentary that can unring the bell.
I’m not sure that crying “media bias” completely covers what happened here, but Peter Roff of US News and World Report hits the nail on the head when it comes to highlighting how the media and the public at large reacts to smear campaigns against the relatively unknown:
What this particular staffer said about the president’s daughters was pointed and less than flattering. It was also nowhere near close to the underhanded, disdainful, uncharitable remarks made by elected officials, media types, journalists and Democratic surrogates about the Reagan children and the adult children of Bush 41. Or what was said about Bush 43 daughters Jenna and Barbara and the entire Palin clan, children and grandchild alike. They, we are told, are all fair game because they had done things that caught the public’s eye – or at least did after the newspapers, blogs and television networks pushed the story on them. Seems to me that standing next to your father when he’s officiating at a White House event rises to the same level; it may even exceed it. Once again, we have an example of the bias that exists in the media concerning those on the left.
The problem isn’t just the media; the problem lies in the mob’s hunger for justice against perceived wrongs (no matter how slight,) and the willingness of those in power to turn that hunger against the powerless. This wasn’t just an overblown reaction; it was a punishment, and a warning.
It was a hit, and it’s not the first time the left has used this tactic to clean up the news cycle. Coined “the GOP Lawmaker Principle,” it applies to staffers too, and it’s ugly:
As the national electoral plight of Democrats increases, so does the incidence of stories about obscure state Republican lawmakers.
Sure, state lawmakers are important. One of the grand ironies of politics is that people are more likely to know the politicians they’re distant from (the president) than the ones with portfolios that cover them at the micro level (school board members). Every Congress contains a substantial number of former state legislators, and in this age of declining local media, not many of them have been scrutinized.
But as a rule, if you see the phrase “GOP lawmaker” in a headline, your click will usher you into a world of back-benchers from Bismarck and Jackson and Dover and Sacramento, not the people currently threatening to take the Senate back from Democrats. The Lawmakers are anonymous until they screw up, and when they do, they are often easier to grab hold of then, say, front-running South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds. If the lawmaker were famous, his name might make it into the hed. But he’s not famous, so the story is about right-wing insanity that happens to come from a politician who may or may not represent you—click to find out.
The Democrats needed a distraction from their dismal polling numbers and foundering policy platform, so they targeted Lauten—a human sacrifice laid upon the altar of political desperation, professionally slaughtered so that the Obama Administration could guarantee itself a short reprieve from a damaging news cycle.
It’s sick, and not at all unexpected. The moral of the story is that, given a need, they will find you, they will target you, and they will not stop until they have utterly destroyed you.
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