Friday, January 10, 2014

The Creepy Narcissism of RT Rybak & His Twin Cities Media Enablers

An unaccomplished public official, but lauded on the left (a common enough leitmotif), former Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak last week suffered a heart attack. This unfortunate event was, understandably and to a degree, covered by Twin Cities media. 

What was not understandable, or healthy, was the actual degree to which his medical issues were covered by the media and what was creepy was the actual degree to which the former mayor himself set the pace of narcissism. He could actually teach President Obama something in this regard and that really and truly is saying something. 

Rybak is adored by his fans on the left and his fans in local media; it's hard to tell them apart most days but media insist we take them seriously, as if they were not democrats with a byline, or, in this instance, a teenage fan base. I've long tired of it, as any reader of this blog knows. It is a continuous source of amazement to me, however, that media can pretend to itself that they are anything approximating objective or fair. It's like children at play who think the adults cannot see them. We do. 

The heart attack (various versions of how severe it was were bandied about on Twitter) enjoyed wall to wall local coverage. When it became clear that Rybak was going to be relatively fine (again, as these things go), the mood among Twin Cities media was positively celebratory. They wouldn't be invested in this man's dreadful failed record and threat of yet more political office seeking? Of course not. 

What was show stopping, though, was Rybak's astounding egocentrism in tweeting from his hospital bed: "My cardiac surprise/Gave me quite a start/But it proves this politician/Has a great big heart." 

No dude, it proves you have no class and a clinically pathological need to be the center of attention, even when your life may be hanging in the balance. This after years of supine coverage from our media as mayor of Minneapolis. RT liked, among other self-promotional stunts, to "crowd surf" the low information denizens of First Avenue concerts that are his and the DFL's base. Readers can find the images easily enough online; I couldn't bring myself to reproduce one here. Rybak tweeted the photo above a little bit after the quoted tweet. Shortly after that, he tweeted the same photo again only this time with the cover of GQ superimposed over it. The shallowness of the man runs rather deep.

This "poetry" tweet positively thrilled Twin Cities media and their squeals of delight left one wondering if there was a professional still remaining amongst them. From the evidence the answer appears to be not many. Eric Roper of the Star Tribune played the heart attack straight as a news story, though. Together with previous reporting earlier in the week by Rachel Stassen-Berger about the overwhelming political money advantage by the DFL in this state, I was left wondering if Patricia Lopez wasn't trying to gaslight me. 

At any rate, the rest of the media hens were of a piece in waxing histrionic about the former mayor's condition. Mind you, a civilized concern for the former mayor is altogether warranted. What's disturbing is the complete loss of proportion and the transparent political affinity with him. Many media tweets had the hashtag #PrayersForRT. Really? Progressives pray? Who knew; I thought they just channelled whatever "energy" was leftover from their own self-absorption. 

I'm pretty certain that if the mayor in question had been Norm Coleman we would not have seen prayer hashtags from the media and the usual cretins on the left (the activists, not the media) would delight in his health problems. It's not like we haven't seen this behavior before, again and again. MSNBC hosts are legion and come in many forms.

One hapless television "reporter" by the name of Jana Shortal (I'd never heard of her but I avoid all local tv unless I can't) tweeted that Rybak's heart attack was massive. That appeared not to be the case (initially) and she was roundly condemned for this understandable, albeit small, reporting error. 

To read her timeline for January 4th, though, is to have a view into the media borg that extinguishes your appetite for days. One lifelong employee of "public" radio (can you imagine the intellectual constipation?) told her not to worry, that "[w]e've all got stories to tell at the bar." Pity that bartender with those sad sacks thinking this constitutes some sort of war story. Another tv person, let's call him Ted Baxter because I do, encouraged her to buck up, calling her "solid" and so forth. Come, come, people, all this over the degree of the heart attack in the first three hours or so? One would have thought she had declared him dead and found in the company of a goat. Local media's lack of self-awareness, coupled with its hilariously high regard of itself, together with its sanctimonious Portlandia politics, constantly amazes, eventually repulses.

Of course Shortal corrected herself but not without the requisite self-abasement because she got it wrong about a democrat. If the error had concerned a republican, it would be just another day in Twin Cities reportage and her playmates in the sandbox would have paid it and her no mind. 

There is something profoundly wrong with a political culture and an enabling media that has our public servants treated as intimately as family and lovers. Gone is any critical distance between the Fourth Estate and those who claw their way to wield whatever levers of power they can. Instead, media being populated by democrats leads to their showcasing and promoting to levels of celebrity those democratic politicians they most favor. 

This leaves the rest of us awash in immaturity, in a civil society that resembles reality tv with a mob approach to fame. Rybak's Minneapolis is crime ridden, tax sclerotic and comfortable with its minority students being mostly uneducated. Those problems won't be covered by a media, like its preferred politicians, that just wants to have fun. 

Last night Rybak's successor, Mayor Betsy Hodges, decided to attend a showing of the movie "Die Hard" and tweet it. Squee redux: local media fawned and the Josh Barro infested Business Insider picked up on the non-story and ran with it. So here is yet another achievement gap for Minneapolis and the smug, self-satisfied elites who pretend to run it: most American cities have adults trying to run them while Minneapolis has, with cringe-inducing approval, a Romper Room teacher. 

As for the former mayor, nothing to yuk about about or preen. Rybak had not one but two surgeries for his affliction and Monday was discharged from the hospital with not one or two stents as previously reported but a silence inducing six. As a friend remarked to me, this is Dick Cheney territory. 

The death of the adult and the rise of the permanent adolescent has been remarked upon many times before now and by people far abler to sketch the story of this sort of cultural and political decline. Still, the recent demonstration of this decay in real time was a troubling reminder of how widespread the phenomenon has become. It bodes very ill for governance which requires a certain uniform sobriety and a language of maturity to deal effectively with the problems cities face, Minneapolis (on the edge of rapid decline) in particular. Media used to be a refuge, of sorts, for those remaining adults who would look to it for dispassion and rationality. Most politicians used to understand that, the perks of the office aside, which necessarily would include some media coverage, their jobs were rather serious and ought to be discharged with integrity and skill. 

Now both have become to our social fabric a sort of Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. Once torn this kind of fabric is exceptionally difficult to repair. It's too late to undo the corrosive effects of cheesy Minnesota political celebrity that RT revelled in but Mayor Hodges, in addition to being a different gender than her predecessor, could surprise us all by being a grown up. Here's to hoping she is capable of such and here's to hoping that Mayor Rybak recovers fully.