Well, Egg-Shoes Me!: Presidents, projectiles & the press
By: Daniel Clark
On May 18, 2001, former president Bill Clinton was walking through the streets of Warsaw, when he was struck by an egg thrown by an anti-capitalist protester. But then, you already knew that, from the intense media coverage of the incident at the time.
Surely, you remember the way the press characterized Clinton’s egging as a karmic comeuppance for his eight years of evildoing. Certainly, you recall how they presented it as a fitting end to a failed and discredited administration. Undoubtedly, you recollect how they amplified the egger’s motives, and assumed that he spoke for all of Eastern Europe.
Remember how they described this event as a repudiation of Bill Clinton’s policies regarding free trade, NATO expansion, and the war in the Balkans, and how they portrayed Clinton himself as a pathetic schlimazel? No, of course you don’t, because they never did. In fact, the egging episode went virtually unnoticed by Clinton’s supporters and critics alike, just as it should have.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody of any political persuasion who tried to turn the anarchistic egg-tosser into a hero, or suggested that throwing things at President Clinton was a justifiable act. To his credit, Clinton denied his attacker the satisfaction of a successful stunt, by calmly removing his soiled jacket and continuing his walk undisturbed. The media simply reported what happened without editorial intrusion, and a day later, the story was gone.
When President Bush was targeted by a shoe-throwing Saddamite named Muntadar al-Zaidi, however, these same media could hardly contain their glee. The way it was reported, you’d think that Bush had committed some sort of an embarrassing gaffe. In reality, the only one who had done anything to shame himself was al-Zaidi. Bush, like Clinton, reacted coolly and went about his business; yet he, and not his attacker, became the object of ridicule.
The fact that al-Zaidi’s actions showed him to be an enemy of the United States did not stop American reporters from living vicariously through him, as they did by enthusiastically repeating his wimpy outburst, “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!” Harry Callahan, he ain’t, but he sure went ahead and made liberals’ day.
In case you couldn’t figure out for yourself why it’s an insult to throw shoes at somebody, helpful reporters were happy to explain. As quoted by the Media Research Center, CBS reporter Elizabeth Palmer condescendingly lectured, “In the Middle East, there’s no bigger insult than hitting someone with a shoe, a dirty object worn on the lowest part of the body.” In a sentence that read like it was clipped from a bad sequel to Pat the Bunny, the New York Times informed us, “It means that the target is even lower than the shoe, which is always on the ground and dirty.” It’s a good thing they didn’t cover the Clinton episode the same way, or they might have explained to us where eggs come from.
Obviously, there was no need for such expounding. It was merely a poorly disguised manner of editorializing. They might as well have told us that it’s insulting to call someone a dog, because dogs like to roll around in things that smell bad. There comes a point where the interpretation is more offensive than the original insult.
The reason al-Zaidi could get so close to the president was that he is himself a reporter. Hence the admiration of the American media, who must wish they could be so brazen in their lack of objectivity. Dave Lindorff, a contributing writer for Salon and The Nation, among other publications, wrote that al-Zaidi “did something that the White House press corps should have done years ago.” There are doubtless some in the corps who agree, but would never dare act on it, although if Helen Thomas were to cast off her shoes in their presence, it would serve them right.
Over the past six years in Iraq, our military has defied the defeatists by pulverizing two fearsome enemies, and throughout, the media have been loath to recognize any examples of American heroism. Now that they’ve finally found their hero, it’s somebody on the other side.
No matter how much conservative commentators lampooned and insulted Clinton, they were not about to take sides with a foreign, America-hating twerp against the President of the United States. That’s because conservatives adhere to the adage that politics stop at the water’s edge. To liberals, on the other hand, politics don’t even stop at the edge of madness.
Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.