Saturday, July 09, 2005


I'm certainly no fan of the pointless catty Robin Givhan style columns in the Washington Post. On the other hand, they do serve a fairly useful purpose in the age of media celebrity - they occasionally turn the media gun onto media figures in a way which they aren't used to. The press thinks nothing of trashing the personal lives and characteristics of celebrities, which is perfectly fair to the extent that celebrities use their personal lives and image to promote themselves. In the age of media celebrity, it's a rather unfair double standard to assume that members of the media are immune from the kind of pointless scrutiny of their lives which they themselves regularly subject others to. Imagine the squeals if Maureen Dowd's evil twin gave Maureen Dowd the Maureen Dowd treatment twice a week in the pages of a major newspaper - the press would consider it a threat to the Republic itself, arguing that they couldn't possibly do their important jobs if they themselves had to submit to that kind of public humiliation.

So, consider this Steve Lovelady post at CJR, where he somewhat paternalistically complains about Givhan's discussion of Judith Miller's courtroom attire, which was pointless but rather mild, really. Lovelady writes that Cooper wouldn't have gotten similar treatment. There's probably some truth to that, women are always considered to be more "fair game" for this kind of thing. But it isn't entirely true, as, for example, Bolton got the Givahn treatment awhile back:

John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, desperately needs a haircut. It does not have to be a $600 Sally Hershberger cut. Bolton simply needs the basics. Tidy the curling, unruly locks at the nape of his neck, tame the volume at the crown, reel in the wings flapping above his ears, and broker a compromise between his sand-colored mop and his snow-colored mustache.

He needs to do this, not because he should be minding the recommendations of men's fashion magazines or grooming experts but because when he settled in before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week to answer questions about his record, his philosophy and his intentions at the U.N., he looked as though he did not even have enough respect for the proceedings to bother combing his hair -- or, for that matter, straightening his tie, or wearing a shirt that did not put his neck in a chokehold. Bolton was one wrinkled suit away from being an insolent mess.

These are not flaws or imperfections of nature. This is not a cruel attempt to hold an everyday man to the standards of an airbrushed model or a nipped and tucked actor. This is a matter of personal style.

Bolton sat across from his questioners with a thick, dull slab of hair positioned diagonally across his forehead. It is tempting to say that he has a sloppy schoolboy's haircut, but that would malign studious young men and suggest that they are dismissive of propriety and the importance of making a good public impression. Looking back to Bolton's school days at Yale, one notices that he was better groomed in his younger years. In his 1970 class book photo, Bolton essentially has the same haircut, but his locks are not drooping over his forehead as if he'd stepped from the shower and shaken his hair dry in the manner of an Afghan hound. His tie also appears to be straight. Thirty-five years ago, his shirt fit. (Perhaps it is the same shirt?)...[it goes on]

Judith Miller isn't just Judith Miller, Ace Reporter, she's also Judith Miller the media celebrity. When people cultivate celebrity, they also invite the celebrity treatment. Deal with it. I don't remember too many complaints about the obsessive attention paid to Martha Stewart's trial and prison attire.

And, it isn't as if Givahn is going through Miller's trash or doing the extreme paparazzi thing.