5.08.2009

freedom fries, french's, fox

Thought I would share a bit of insanity from the country of my birth, as reported in today's Globe & Mail.
The United States is in the midst of a devastating recession, mired in two overseas wars and grappling with a swine flu outbreak, but conservative critics are assailing President Barack Obama on another pressing issue: his choice of burger topping.

Dijongate is in full force, with Fox News and a conservative blogger leading the charge against the President for his choice of the apparently un-American mustard atop his cheeseburger during a recent impromptu lunch stop with Vice-President Joe Biden.

There's no evidence of wiretapped hotel rooms or a Deep Throat lurking in the shadows, but there are indeed accusations of a cover-up. MSNBC, apparently, edited out the President's request for Dijon in order to help Mr. Obama maintain his "man of the people" street cred.

Fox's Sean Hannity has been telling his viewers that MSNBC, and reporter Andrea Mitchell in particular, are trying to hide Mr. Obama's Dijon-loving ways from the public.

Mr. Hannity has been referring to the President's lunch as his "fancy burger."

"It was Grey Poupon, which is equally snotty," alleged one commenter on Mr. Hannity's website.

William Jacobson, a Cornell law school professor who has also been blogging about Dijongate, noted that Ms. Mitchell "didn't mention one arugula-like fact" about Mr. Obama's order earlier this week at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.

Prof. Jacobson said the MSNBC video of the stop at Ray's cuts out just as Mr. Obama asks for Dijon.

"MSNBC edited out the audio when Obama ordered his Hell Burger just at the moment when Obama asked for Dijon mustard," Prof. Jacobson wrote in a post yesterday entitled "Thou Shalt Not Mock Obama's Mustard."

"Now, I have nothing against Dijon mustard, but the image didn't fit with the image being spun by the White House and MSNBC. Dijon mustard on a Hell Burger had a very John Kerry-ish quality about it."

It all harks back to those silly days of "freedom fries," the name given to French fries by hawkish conservatives in 2003 when France expressed strong opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The French stand resulted in a call from American right-wingers for a boycott of French goods and the removal of the country's name from products. That left America's best-selling mustard - French's - in a bit of a quandary.

French's, in fact, figures prominently in a Dijon-related anecdote Mr. Obama chronicled in his book The Audacity of Hope.

He told the story of his first tour through Illinois, when he ordered Dijon on his cheeseburger at a TGI Friday's.

His panicked political aide assured the waitress that Mr. Obama didn't want Dijon at all and waved her away, thrusting a bottle of French's at him.

"As the waitress walked away, I leaned over and whispered that I didn't think there were any photographers around," Mr. Obama wrote.

The anecdote underscored Mr. Obama's thoughts on the absurdity of focusing on non-issues in politics.

"What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial," he wrote.

One commenter on Prof. Jacobson's blog yesterday mocked Dijongate: "Wait till the right finds out he eats guacamole, then he'll be seen as a pro-immigrant nut job. God forbid he ever takes a bite of hummus!"

As much as this is amusing in a head-shaking kind of way, it's also horribly sad.

23 comments:

James said...

And remember, the Republicans are the "Party Of Ideas"!

Speaking of the great minds of the GOP, apparently Joe the Plumber is leaving the Republicans because they're too liberal for him.

redsock said...

Fuck-tards obsessed with Mus-tard.

impudent strumpet said...

Is Dijon mustard something special in the US? Like it isn't on the grocery store shelf right next to the bright yellow kind, just down from the ketchup and relish and pickles?

L-girl said...

"Is Dijon mustard something special in the US?"

Nope. They're just insane.

A certain minority of USians think the President should be a redneck like them, or at least pretend to be.

Plus, they're insane.

impudent strumpet said...

Dear Fox News:

For the convenience of us foreigners trying to follow the ever so important political goings-on in your esteemed nation, please provide a chart of which condiments are and are not acceptable and why.

M@ said...

Hey, would you want to have a beer with a guy who has Dijon mustard on his burger? Me neither. So why would I vote for him for president!?

Though I liked this: "What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial." It's almost like there's an adult in charge now.

redsock said...

If we can't trust him to eat his burger like a real American, how can we trust him to run the country?

***

I wish Obama would say something like: "Hey, at least when I eat my food, I don't choke on it and hit my head on a table."

Joe Grav said...

This is just... LOL

L-girl said...

From Jason Linkins at HuffPo: Obama Mustard Attack Becomes Full-Blown Right-Wing Talking Point.

This writer was nice enough to link to me and I get several visitors from it: here.

M. Yass said...

As I understand, this restaurant offers several choices of off-the-wall cheeses, toppings, etc.for their burgers. In the video I saw, Obama asked for "just a plain cheeseburger" right before he asked for a "spicy mustard."

Sounds like a man of the people to me.

L-girl said...

"As I understand, this restaurant offers several choices of off-the-wall cheeses, toppings, etc.for their burgers. In the video I saw, Obama asked for "just a plain cheeseburger" right before he asked for a "spicy mustard."

Sounds like a man of the people to me."

You might be right - you probably are. But the point isn't what condiments Barack Obama likes on his burger. It's why are we reporting on this as if it's news, and why are we judging the POTUS on his condiment choice, and what is wrong with the fucking media in that country???**
Which I know you know.

A Conformer said...

I have to say, that this story is actually perfect. I can't think of anything that describes modern political culture better. It's like something out of a Don Delillo book. And the inclusion of freedom fries, another grandiosely dumb moment in US media history, seals the deal. There's a lot to be learned from this. It's the perfect metaphor.

BTW, I find myself hoping that there IS a conspiracy to dumb down the audience as much as possible, and that this is part of their cutting edge tactics. Because otherwise, people are just plain stupid (and I'm not talking about the audience here. Well, mostly not)

James said...

I find myself hoping that there IS a conspiracy to dumb down the audience as much as possibleCharles Pierce has expanded his essay, Idiot America, to book length. Pierce's premise is that

The rise of Idiot America [...] is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of the intellectual elites that Richard Hofstader teased out of the national DNA, although both of these things are part of it. The rise of Idiot America today reflects — for profit, mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power — the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good.PZ Myers comments on the book at Pharyngula.

L-girl said...

The US education system is an absolute disgrace. The US MSM is the same. Those two combine to produce an ignorant populace. This is definitely true.

It's purposeful in one sense, as an ignorant populace is easier to control. But it's also a byproduct of capitalism, not an end in itself. Neither education nor smart journalism turns a profit, and profit drives all in the US.

I guess the unintentional and intentional dovetails nicely here, and works in favour of the same interests.

James said...

It's purposeful in one sense, as an ignorant populace is easier to control. But it's also a byproduct of capitalism, not an end in itself. Neither education nor smart journalism turns a profit, and profit drives all in the US.The head of CBS (I think it was) used to say, "I don't need CBS News to be profitable. That's what I have Jack Benny for." But that approach is dead.

The US's hysterical anti-Communism has resulted in a country which is largely blind to the fact that, while the free market works quite well for some things, there is a pretty significant class of goods & services for which it is inherently inappropriate. These include health care, education (and good journalism is essentially ongoing education), and so on. They are something that a healthy society needs everyone to have -- even if they can't afford to pay market rates for it.

redsock said...

Many decades ago, H.L. Mencken coined the term "Boobus Americanus" to describe the average citizen.

And:

"All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man; its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. ... One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable ..."

L-girl said...

That GREAT Mencken quote reminds us of something we often forget. Everything that is happening now in the US is an extension of what has always been. THe same trends and tendencies have always been there - it's just all gotten so much worse.

It's also not just in the US! It's just so much more blatant and obvious there. The more comfortable the society, they worse the ignorance, it seems. The void of consumer culture.

A Conformer said...

I guess the unintentional and intentional dovetails nicely here, and works in favour of the same interests.I'm reading "A People's History of the United States", by Howard Zinn (as if you don't know...) right now. That dovetailing describes the way he sees a lot of the reasons and circumstances in which most of the awful events/processes/ideologies/whatever in US history came into being.

The head of CBS (I think it was) used to say, "I don't need CBS News to be profitable. That's what I have Jack Benny for." But that approach is dead.Kind of beside the point, but that reminds me of Foucault's Pendulum (Eco), where Garamond, the main character's publisher, has a real, quality publishing house right next to one that is only meant to generate profit to be able to sustain the other. It's a bit more complicated than that, and is one of many great and ingenious (and, if I may say so, genius) parts of the book IMO (I laughed out loud at the idea and description several times), but that's the relevant gist of it.

A Conformer said...

It's also not just in the US! It's just so much more blatant and obvious there. The more comfortable the society, they worse the ignorance, it seems. The void of consumer culture.Yes, I made sure I didn't write "US political culture" in my original comment exactly because of that. As far as I know, it's rampant, maybe even world-wide. At least in places where people have the sweet and sour "luck" to have access to mass media and popular culture.

L-girl said...

"I'm reading "A People's History of the United States", by Howard Zinn (as if you don't know...) right now."

Yay! Zinn is a huge hero of mine. And very old - still very active in all the movements - but will not be with us much longer.

Even though that book highlights so many evils that the US Empire has perpetrated, it also shows how regular people have resisted and fought for freedom, throughout history. It's so heavy... but also so inspiring.

In other news, Foucault's Pendulum is on my own reading list.

A Conformer said...

Even though that book highlights so many evils that the US Empire has perpetrated, it also shows how regular people have resisted and fought for freedom, throughout history. It's so heavy... but also so inspiring.That's the main thing I'm getting from it at the moment (I read 250 pages yesterday, during a 10-hour 4-flight session, and am up to the chapter "the other civil war") is how much resistance and (mostly unsuccesful, at least in the large sense of the word) rebellion there used to be in the US. It seems like today it's either very rare, unreported, or just much more underground and nuanced. Probably a bit of each.

In other news, Foucault's Pendulum is on my own reading list.It's in my top 5 favorite books, I'd say. Along with Eyeless in Gaza by Huxley and 3 hazy and interchangeable ones (does that mean it's in my top 2? I don't believe in choosing one favorite, but maybe I have to admit I have one, well, two).
BTW, I wonder: have you read "The Open Veins of Latin America", by Eduardo Galeano. In some way, it reminds of Zinn's book. And it's a fascinating, hard, tear- and rage-inducing book. Maybe that's why it reminds me of A People's History... They just make you wish that Columbus had just drowned en route, or that the original "Indians" had lived up to their supposed, imagined savagery and massacred the Europeans that first arrived to America. How dumb is it to find yourself rooting for one side while reading a history book?

L-girl said...

"how much resistance and (mostly unsuccesful, at least in the large sense of the word) rebellion there used to be in the US. It seems like today it's either very rare, unreported, or just much more underground and nuanced. Probably a bit of each."

It's not very rare - it's pretty commonplace, but not on a huge scale, and not integrated into society the way it seems to be, eg, in France. It's more "these are the people who protest".

It's MASSSIVELY unreported, and obviously purposefully so.

"BTW, I wonder: have you read "The Open Veins of Latin America", by Eduardo Galeano. In some way, it reminds of Zinn's book. And it's a fascinating, hard, tear- and rage-inducing book. Maybe that's why it reminds me of A People's History..."

I haven't read it. I've heard of it but now I will put it on my list and make sure I read it.

"They just make you wish that Columbus had just drowned en route, or that the original "Indians" had lived up to their supposed, imagined savagery and massacred the Europeans that first arrived to America. How dumb is it to find yourself rooting for one side while reading a history book?"

I do the same crazy thing.

I think, what could the world have been if the Columbus and Pizarro and Cortez had said, who are these people, and what can we learn from them? How can we trade and enrich each other's cultures?

*sigh*

L-girl said...

Ofer, since we're talking about books in two different threads... Lest you think I gush over every book I read, I only write "what i'm reading" posts about books I like or love. I decided that no writer deserves a bad review just because a book isn't for me, or not for me at that particular time. So "what i'm reading" is really "books or articles i've loved since i started blogging".