Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guess the Secret Word

We’ve had our disagreements with the Dearborn Press & Guide. But the hometown paper deserves credit this week as the only media outlet that bothered, in its coverage of Lisa Brown’s vagina, (pun indifferently intended) with the crucial fifth W of the   5 W’s of reporting: who, what, when, where, and WHY.

Both the national and local coverage of the ludicrous events among Lansing Democrats last week in the capitol building tacitly affected cluelessness as to why a state rep would be sanctioned to a day of silence for the utterance of a mere “anatomically, medically correct term.”

Not so the P&G, or at least its special writer, Charlie Crumm, who understood the situation from the get-go:

When can you say “vagina” on the state House floor?
It's not the word itself, but how it's used, apparently.
Rep. Lisa Brown, a West Bloomfield Democrat, ended her remarks Wednesday on legislation regulating abortion clinics in Michigan by saying that she was flattered that “you're so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” 

“It was thought that reference crossed the line and he gaveled her,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.  

“It had nothing to do with their gender, it had nothing to do with their religion. It had nothing to do with the topic itself,” Adler said Friday. “The fact that they said vagina on the house floor isn't a problem.” (“When can you say vagina? West Bloomfield House Democrat banned from speaking”).

Yes, of course,  it’s how it’s used – and why.  Brown abused her speaking privileges using it to insult her opponents in a crass and uncalled for manner just because her side lost.  It would have been hard to take coming from a bratty 13-year-old -- let alone a lawmaker. Brown should have been gaveled down, and I’m glad she was.

Similarly, when Brown’s colleague in juvenile mouthiness, Rep. Barbara Byum, had to throw her bit in by hollering “Vasectomy!,” Crumm also managed to report the other  side of why she was silenced:

Byrum, an Onondaga Democrat, was ruled out of order Wednesday when she attempted to introduce an amendment.
“There are times it’s been done by both sides,” Adler said. “Byrum had an amendment we considered not germane. She was not recognized. She started yelling on the House floor.”

“Rep. (John) Walsh (the Speaker Pro Tem) gaveled her down for her actions.”

Crumm only did what a competent reporter should do, which is report both sides of a controversy. It shouldn’t be outstanding in itself, but in this case it does stand out; not a single news account about this I looked at last week was able to manage it.

Most typical was Laura Berman at The Detroit News, who’s been a columnist in this town since the Boxer Rebellion. In order to stay solid with the hoo-hoo sisterhood, she had to play  “let’s pretend” really hard to come across as being a complete stranger to the notion of legislative decorum.  Blithered Berman last week:

Maybe there's an unwritten rule that Michigan legislators can't utter the word "vagina." Only last week, in a column for Dome magazine, 14-year former legislator Maxine Berman (no relation to me) revealed that she had never heard the word on the House floor. 

Ye gods! To think that in this modern age of the horseless carriage and penicillin there’s still a deliberative body somewhere that attempts to pass laws while never uttering the word “vagina”! No wonder no one’s been able to pass historic legislative initiatives like the Green Jobs and and Vagina Protection Bill, the Vagina Rights Act, and the Vaginal Dream Act of 2012?

And of course all right-thinking people would like to know how the all-male, paternalistic, sex-hating old-boys club Republican caucus in the Michigan legislature would like it if they’d been denied a century-and-a-half of floor speeches discussing their penises, penises, penises?!

Anyway, Lisa Brown, who has lied outright throughout this entire thing, was still insisting that she had no idea why she was gaveled out of order.

“Both Rep. Byrum and I were gaveled down without cause yesterday while voicing our opposition to the Republican’s war on women here in Michigan,” Brown said on her web page Thursday. “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office.”

As polemical indicators go, “regardless of their reasoning” leaves no room whatsoever to hope that whatever follows will be reasonable. We’re very touchy about First Amendment violations here at DU; but when controversies come up, the reasoning of the participants simply has to be a factor.

In this case, reason hasn’t a damned thing to do with all this, which is why Pulitzer-studded NPR thinks Eve Ensler showing up to do a free performance of the Vagina Monologues is a relevant development in the story.  To put it delicately, Lisa Brown has done nothing but talk through her “anatomically, medically correct term.”

And the idiot media just have to play along.


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