I have very specifically not weighed in on the Matter Of Meghan McCain's Twitpic on these pages for a couple of specific reasons. First: when I saw the picture in question -- a risque image of McCain holding a Warhol biography -- I naturally assumed that this Columbia graduate had intended it as a clever and charmingly self-aware post-structuralist meditation on the nature of celebrity. But secondly, and more importantly, when I heard about all the uproar, I didn't think it to be much of a story: See, there's this thing called the internet that people use to record their lives and thoughts and opinions, that internet is filled with really mean and misogynistic and foul people, those mean and misogynistic and foul people really suck, so it goes. Into every life, a little rain must fall, grouped by hashtags.
But today, in the Daily Beast, McCain describes what happened as a "minor media scandal," so, here I am. First question: is this a media scandal? I think failure to disclose the entanglements of on-air commentators is a media scandal. Networks cutting backroom deals to tamp down back-and-forth criticism is a media scandal. L'affaire Letterman is a media scandal. The New York Times's shoddy attempt to insinuate that Senator John McCain was entangled in an extramarital romantic relationship is -- or should be! -- a media scandal. But this incident seems to me to be a garden-variety Twitter dustup, magnified solely by the fact that one person involved is a media infotainer, who doesn't believe she has "anything to feel ashamed of," and will tell you that, on multiple platforms, in case you missed it.
McCain says that it's "the media that are the real boobs," and "the media that [has] a problem with my body." I don't think this premise is correct! I think that the "real boobs" here are the rapacious dicks that populate the internet and sent her vicious messages on Twitter. They use a "medium," but they are not "the media." McCain, elsewhere, complains that CNN offered a "special segment on [her] twitphoto drama," but am I missing something here? So did The Daily Beast, authored by Meghan McCain. And I don't know... it seems like Meghan McCain is judging Meghan McCain pretty harshly, saying it's "not the smartest thing I have ever done" and that she'll have "to be more judicious" in the future.
It's all so confusing, because the person who has the firmest hand on the way "the media" is dispensing with this saga is the one casting herself as its victim. Over at Double X, Noreen Malone opines, "The problem is that she's trying to have it both ways."
McCain seeks reinforcement at every turn, which is why she has developed an apparent addiction of sorts to Twitter, with its instant feedback, its false but warming sense of community, and, of course, the easy launching pad it provides for fame. And so now, even though the feedback's turned bad, she can't quit Twitter--really, she's amped up her presence, twittering all day Thursday with Lohan-esque hysteria about how upset she is, how she'll quit the service, and who's persecuting her now. But her Twitter compulsion also seems pathological and more than a little sad.
It all gives her a reason to write, of course, manufacturing for herself digital straw men who she can take down in her column.
And, in putting this to bed over at The Daily Beast, you cannot help but notice the way she attempts to advance herself, with specific references to her favorite straw men:
For years I have struggled to accept the fact that the way I look in a tank top comes off more "sexual" than a flat-chested woman. And once again I was reassured by the media that someone with my cup size should always be covered up. Or what, I'll be seen as a slut? It's pathetic we can come so far in so many ways, but when Rep. Aaron Schock or Rep. Jeff Flake post pictures of themselves without their suits on--and their shirts, for that matter--they are proclaimed "hotties." But put me in a tank top and I am suddenly an embarrassment to the Republican Party and women everywhere. The double standard is infuriating.
Hard to miss how this neatly condenses most of McCain's pet issues: "pro-sex" conservatism, body-image issues, changing the perceptions of the GOP, double standards, Aaron Schock's hotness (link to her Daily Beast item strategically included)... I don't know whether to be dismayed or relieved that the issue of gay marriage didn't get shoehorned in there, somehow.
Of the incident, McCain says: "But it's just not worth the drama it caused." Yes. Well. Is it ever? All the same, her piece's own tag cloud seems perfectly content to take lemons, and make the sort of lemonade that Google likes to quaff:
It used to be, "say whatever you like about me, just spell my name right." Now it's "say whatever you like about me, just be sure to maximize the search engine optimization."