Journalist Michael Hastings, 33, died last Tuesday in a fiery LA automobile crash that has the internet buzzing with theories about governmental murder plots.
I know people just love, love, love conspiracy theories, but this one seems fairly weak. There were witnesses, and Hastings’ car was going close to 100 miles an hour in a suburban zone at 4 AM. He was also a habitual abuser of alcohol, which figures in some of his writing. Contrary to the idea that conflagrations such as the one that engulfed his car, and powertrain ejections such as occurred right before the fire, could never happen to a well-built Mercedes that hits a tree broadside at 100 mph (as Hastings’ car appears to have done), they can and they do, although it’s not common (see many of the comments here if you don’t take my word for it). There are also much easier ways to kill someone and hide it if the government wanted to do so, and more pressing targets than Hastings as well.
Although I’ve criticized Hastings’s writing in the past, that’s not really what this post is about. I extend deep sympathy to his family and consider his death tragic at such a young age. I’m writing this post, though, not to talk about his death, but because I am fascinated by something I came across that I’d missed earlier, which appeared in a book he wrote about the 2012 Obama campaign.
The book might even be an interesting one; I don’t know, because I haven’t read it. It’s called Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign, and you can read more about it here, including the quote that grabbed my attention:
One of those off-the-record moments [with the press during the 2012 campaign] was an event where President Obama joined reporters for drinks while the campaign was in Orlando, Fla., an event that Hastings partially details in the book.
“The behavior of the assembled press corps was telling. Everyone, myself included, swooned. Swooned! Head over heels. One or two might have even lost their minds,” Hastings writes, as each reporter had a chance to speak personally with the president. “We were all, on some level, deeply obsessed with Obama, crushing hard, still a little love there. This was nerd heaven, a politico’s paradise, the subject himself moving among us — shaking our hands, slapping our shoulders!”
It’s not as though we didn’t already know about this sort of thing. After all, haven’t we joked for years about “tingles” Chris Matthews of MSNBC and “pants crease” David Brooks of the NY Times? But there’s something about the above quote that still sent a shiver of horror down my spine: the blatant, bizarre, hyper-emotionality and near-eroticism (Hastings, by the way, was not gay) of the attraction.
I can think of no equivalent in modern politics in America. I certainly can in other countries, but would risk invoking Godwin’s Law if I did. The best example in this country I can think of would be JFK, and even then, although the press liked and respected Kennedy (and even loved him, in a sense), the emotion seemed to be more about Kennedy’s wit and humor than anything else.
I simply cannot imagine what it is about Obama that gets people going this way (and yes, I understand there’s a racial element of attraction to a cool black guy, but that doesn’t really explain the depth and weirdness of it, IMHO), except to say that it’s clearly something non-verbal. I believe it has been operating with Obama for virtually his entire life and has worked to his very great advantage. Quite a few people have always reacted to him as though his mere presence were almost supernaturally attractive, as if he exuded a kind of force field that made them—as Hastings so well put it—practically swoon.
It’s a dangerous phenomenon. I believe that Obama understands it and cultivates it, too. And no, I don’t think it’s actually hypnosis, although it works in some powerfully suggestive manner. It also takes advantage of the fact that so many journalists today are very young writers (like Hastings) who have done almost nothing else for a living, and so they seem especially susceptible. In the mid-20th century, reporters for major publications used to be uniformly older and to have had more varied prior experience in life and the world—more hard-boiled and hard-nosed, and less susceptible to swooning hero worship, although they were hardly immune to respect and liking.
Hastings reveals that [one evening] the president spent “over an hour” with reporters who later stayed up late buzz[ing] over every detail of the evening.
“Did this inform our reporting, did seeing the man in the flesh, in a somewhat staged and casual setting, provide new, deep, and lasting insights?” asks a reflective Hastings in his book. “Yes, I would say, but again, I’m not at liberty to share.”
Later, Hastings detailed campaign journalists’ jealous protection over the details, as members quickly reminded him that the event was “off-the-record.”
Much to the ire of his fellow reporters, Hastings revealed that the event occurred – a month later.
Even though the event itself was off-the-record, Hastings argued, the press corps had a duty to report that the event occurred, adding that the behavior of his fellow reporters, wasn’t necessarily off the record either.
Naturally, Hastings was chastised by many of his campaign colleagues for revealing some of the precious details of the event.
“The fear was that the White House would collectively punish all of us by revoking the already limited access or, worse, Obama might never come down and hang out with us again,” Hastings writes.
Campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki, Hastings notes, was furious and angrily phoned his editor Ben Smith for publishing details of the event. In response, the Obama campaign banished him from the campaign plane for a week.
That’s the way this White House works on the press: engender hero worship bordering on the hysterical, and then use the threat of withdrawal of the chance to be in the loved one’s presence to compel compliance.
Sick. Dangerous. And it explains quite a bit, doesn’t it?
[NOTE: It reminds me of the title of Bernard Goldberg’s 2009 book A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know the content, but from the description at Amazon Goldberg appears to be describing the media’s liberal/left bias that caused reporters to lean so heavily in Obama’s direction in 2008, fail to report on his many flaws and his sordid history, and therefore enable his election.
But while this is all true, and important, I’m talking about something else—something more emotional and deep, something that interacted synergistically with the liberal biases Goldberg describes and accentuated them immensely. We are all reaping what was sowed.]