October 2, 2013

There’s a debate over class and privilege playing out in the media over the government shutdown. Today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sam Stein of the Huffington Post engaged the argument of conservative commentator Bill Kristol that the events of this week are not so dire, as broken down by Mediaite’s Evan McMurry. “The Republican House can move on a genuine human emergency. But a one- or two-week shutdown is not going to be the end of the world,” said Kristol.

“Unless you are on nutritional assistance,” said Stein.

Clearly Kristol didn’t brush up on his government-shutdown basics. As reported in Forbes, about 9 million mothers and children rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for “healthy food, breastfeeding support, infant formula and other necessities dispensed at clinics nationwide.” The WIC program in Utah has already stopped allowing new applicants, writes Forbes. “There are health consequences when mothers cannot provide food and nutrition for their kids,” an advocate told Forbes.com. “There’ll be no infant formula and no breastfeeding support. If the baby doesn’t latch, that’s it.”

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart addressed the same theme in his show last night, ripping Fox News for making light of the shutdown’s consequences. “If you believe the Democrats, it’s time to go out and buy the potted meat and Tang and get in your survival bunker,” said Fox News Radio commentator Todd Starnes on a recent episode of “Hannity” on Fox News. Host Sean Hannity, responding to the quip, foreshadowed Kristol’s shutdown talking points: “People think it’s the end of the world. It’s not — just like ‘The Sequester,’ wasn’t a big deal.” (Go here to watch the clip.)

Addressing himself to Starnes’ comment about protein and fruit-flavored drinks, Stewart went profane: “I know that for you, potted meat and Tang is shorthand for [expletive] you wouldn’t possibly imagine eating unless there was a catastrophe. But for the people actually affected by the government shutdown, it’s the [expletive] they eat but can no longer afford.”

Another great moment in this week’s romp of overprivileged media played out on the set of Fox News’s new afternoon program “The Real Story” with Gretchen Carlson, formerly of the wretched “Fox & Friends.” Carlson welcomed fellow rich person Donald Trump on the show and proceeded to scold NBC News for instructing people on how to understand Obamacare. “NBC right now is going to help launch Obamacare, actually telling people this week how to sign up for it, how to make it easier,” said Carlson. Would Carlson like to voluntarily surrender her own health insurance, if she finds it so scandalous that others are getting it?

The cure for all of this is reporting: Go out and find people who are affected or not affected by the health care law and the shutdown. And shut up the pundits and the cable hosts. Why should anyone trust them to evaluate what’s going on in this country?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.