Well, 2010 is at an end, so it's once again time for the First Annual list of Stupidest.Lists, including the Award for Stupidest Annual Award. Along with pornography, stupid political opinions, pornography, stupid products, pornography, stupid social media, pornography, stupid videos and pornography, of course, one of the main consequences of the the explosive growth of the internet is stupid lists. So, this year, for the first time, we at the Inaugural Annual List and Award for Stupidest Annual List and Award were forced to limit the number of lists and awards under consideration. There's just too much stupidity out there for our Award Council to even try to catalog, let alone assess in the careful and expert manner such a prize demands.
Therefore, we restricted our consideration to lists and awards listed and awarded by supposed professionals working for major media outlets. Some stupid guy putting up some stupid list on some stupid personal blog doesn't qualify. This is for two reasons: 1) The professionals ought to know better, and 2) It prevents this First Annual List and Award for Stupidest Annual List and Award from itself qualifying for the list.
So, without further virtual ado, the virtual envelope, please! Coming in at Number 10:
Say huh, what? What the hell is an "Internet Truck," some dray for moving bits and bytes along the information highway? A truck wins a glorified online poll and that's enough to inspire an actual press release from Chrysler Headquarters in Michigan bragging about it? I knew Chrysler was in trouble, but I didn't know they were that desperate. Whenever the Treasury Department gets around to issuing stock, I'd rate it a sell.
Number 9 is really stupid, and it would've rated higher except it was written by by foreigner who may not quite get the rhythms of the American political cycle:
That's just wrong. It's not really even a matter of opinion. Whether President Obama had a successful year or a failure, or, more likely, numerous successes and failures, the fact is, he started the year as President of the United States and he ended the year as President of the United States and he's going to be President of the United States for at least two more years. The biggest losers of 2010 were in fact the Blue Dog Democrats in the House of Representatives. Because they, you know, lost--as predicted by yours truly at the beginning of the year:
Blue Dog Democrats are essentially doomed. . . .Their careers are over, or all but over, even if a few of them hang on this November. Their in national politics is about to collapse.
That Biggest Loser theme will be picked up again later. Meanwhile, the Stupid is rising, Number 8:
8. Twitter: Biggest Tweets BP Oil Spill, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Stephen Colbert in 2010 - ABC News
Now really. Doesn't that title say it all? But let us dispense with the obvious stupidity of any list that has "BP Oil Spill" and "Justin Bieber" categorized together and consider the source. ABC's flagship news broadcast expended valuable resources and devoted precious airtime basically re-retweeting Twitter's list of retweets. One could, as always, blame the shallow and stupid content of the "news" media on the public's appetite for the shallow and stupid, but that's no excuse. It's still shallow and stupid.
We need to shake that off immediately, so on to Number 7:
Took too long already on that pair, so straight on to Number 6:
Okay. You can stop now. Boring, predictable, derivative, safe, repetitive, stupid. How hard is it to make fun of Justin Beiber AGAIN? If we don't already have enough of Snooki, don't we have enough of having enough of Snooki already? Not to mention once more the Deepwater Horizon Disaster somehow being categorized with Katy Perry's Sesame Street cleavage. We'll resist the temptation to call this list a FAIL!
Now that we've separated the wheat from the chaff, let's get down to the meat and potatoes of stupid. Lightweighing in at Number 5 we have:
5. Time magazine's Full List Person of the Year 2010
We in the Award Council actually don't have a very strong complaint about the choice of Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year. Not that the choice wasn't stupid. Of course it was. It just wasn't notably more stupid than any other Person of the Year selection for the last decade or two. Yeah. We get it. Computers are changing our lives. Again.
Our major complaint is with the stupid value system implied by the runners-up and People Who Mattered. The most significant continuing news story of 2010 was the continuingly recessed or depressed economy, particularly on the jobs front. Yet, the "Unemployed American" got blown off by two paragraphs of dry numbers. And the most important single event was obviously the Gulf of Mexico Disaster. The Chilean Miners were a wonderful story, and the Award Council was riveted to the coverage, but at the end of the day, it was a one-day story, and a story that isn't especially unusual or unexpected. There's no better example of Time's surrender to the shallow and sentimental over the substantive and significant than their decision that the Chilean Mine was more important than Deepwater Horizon.
Our blood is beginning to boil and we haven't even mentioned the Tea Party coverage yet, so better change the subject to Number 4:
Christine O'Donnell, Republican nominee for United States Senate from Delaware, got the #1 Quote of the Year and two of the Top Ten. Newsflash: She's not that important. She was never that important. The only people who think Christine O'Donnell is that important are Christine O'Donnell and the major media outlets--whose coverage of O'Donnell and the Tea Party movement itself was doubly atrocious.
What's intriguing about that coverage is that it's atrocious from either or both ends of the spectrum. From the left, you see a mainstream media covering a so-called "movement" that's supposedly new and fresh when it's actually simply another iteration of a strain of right-wing populism that goes back probably 180 years in American politics, and in the contemporary sense, is simply a re-branding of the Republican base. If you look at the polling, for instance, you'll see that the number of self-identified Democrats who also self-identify as Tea Party is almost exactly the same as the number of self-identified Democrats who vote Republican in Presidential elections. As Blackwater is to Xe, so Republican base is to Tea Party.
From the right, however, the sense is that the mainstream media's coverage of their movement is characterized by patronizing and condescending mockery and ridicule. Good sense, because it is. The sum total is that the major mainstream media covered the Tea Party as if it were a joke that was the most important thing that ever happened in politics. If the Tea Party is a joke, the news media need to drop the subject and let the comedians deal with it. If the Tea Party is important, they've earned the right to be treated respectfully by supposedly neutral observers.
Speaking of mockery and ridicule, time to go to town on Number 3:
The good thing about this superficial, stupid, pointless list is that it's a perfect exemplar of its superficial, stupid, pointless source, Politico. The bad thing about it is that it's superficial, stupid and pointless. Most of the videos are simply excuses to mock the amateurish performances of local candidates who were set to lose their elections, and did. Exactly one of their Top Ten videos can be even remotely regarded as having had any substantive consequences, the video of Representative Bob Etheridge's (D, NC) tantrum that contributed to his eventual defeat. Politico helpfully informs us that, "After the election, it was revealed that GOP operatives were behind the video." In other words, Politico itself got suckered in all the coverage they gave the story at the time. They seem proud of that.
As proud, apparently, as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake seem to be of the monstrous stupidity that comprises the list at Number 2:
There's about ten things wrong with this Top Ten--basically, it's ten more or less random days chosen from the year with a declaration of who won that day's 24-hour news cycle. They should've just made it a "Top Three Hundred Sixty-Five" and listed the Fix's daily stupidities in numerical order. But the Award Council paid particular attention to two days on this list: Scott Brown's victory in the special election for United States Senator from Massachusetts on January 19 and the signing ceremony for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23. Note what the Fix says: Scott Brown's election was expected to be the demise of health care reform. But it wasn't. So what was important about that day turned out not to be important. Therefore, it's important. According to the Fix, anyway, although the Council had trouble limning the logic.
And, of course, the Fix doesn't seem to notice that the signing ceremony for comprehensive health care reform was about, er, comprehensive health care reform. Nope, what the Fix found so important about that day is that the Vice President whispered an F-bomb into the President's ear.
And .... Drumroll. Spotlight. The Number 1 champeen most stupid Annual List for the year 2010 is:
1. Who Had the Best (and Worst) 2010? It's been a year of notable highs and lows for some of America's politicians.
National Journal wins by a fair margin simply because they're supposed to be the media outlet that is most substantively policy-oriented and most dedicated to understanding the enduring operation of the political system rather than getting caught up in the silly ephemera of the day-to-day sound-byte battles. Yet, they discarded that sensible approach and surrendered to the same level of stupid one expects from Politico or the Washington Post. And even at that, they did a lousy job of it. Having declared Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour a big winner on December 16, the next week they had to throw out their previous obsequious praise (sadly, no doubt reducing the amount of free booze he gives them) to account for Barbour's doltish comments about the Civil Rights era in his hometown.
But the real problem with the list is with two of the women on it, #2 "winner" Sarah Palin and "Biggest loser" Nancy Pelosi.
Now Sarah Palin had an excellent 2008 and a very good 2009 in policy and politics, first becoming a national figure, then using her profile to affect the national civil discourse. But she didn't actually do very much in 2010; in politics she probably changed the outcome of a few Republican primaries, but she won some and lost some in the general election, most famously failing in her home state attempt to defeat Senator Linda Murkowski. Otherwise, on politics and policy she tweeted and facebooked a few things that were of interest primarily because the mainstream media arbitrarily decided they were of interest. Oh, and she invented a word. Her real 2010, however, was dominated by her celebrity, not her politics. She starred in a reality-tv show and her daughter starred in another one. That's nice for her and her family, but it's not show business that National Journal is supposed to be covering.
But the ultimate stupidity of this list relates to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It is true that, unlike Obama, Pelosi will have begun the year as a Constitutional officer and end the year in opposition to the incoming Speaker John Boehner (rightfully tabbed as biggest winner), so she did in fact lose something. But she also won something this year: A sixty-year battle by the Democratic party to enact a right to health care coverage into federal law. And a seventeen-year battle for the rights of gays to serve in the military. It's like National Journal forgot that the reason for winning elections is to advance policy goals, not to simply win another election. Both she and the President explicitly stated that enacting health care reform was worth losing an election for. And so they enacted their policy preference and paid a price they were willing to pay. How is that losing? Sounds more like value given for value received. And strangely enough, I bet the Republicans like that trade off, too.
In fact, it seems like the only people unwilling to make that trade were the Blue Dog Democrats for whom self-aggrandizement and winning elections is the sole purpose of politics. For which attitude, they lost.
Making the United States of America the big winners this year.