Big Bird, Meet the Grouch

Cable flips out over Obama’s “offensive gesture”

Mr. Obama, we know things are getting rough out there on the campaign trail. We know campaigning can take its toll on one’s patience and judgment and sense of human decency and everything. But now you’ve gone too far.

Oh, you know what we’re talking about. That thing you did during your speech last week. You lifted your finger to your face, and you, you know, “scratched.” Sure, it might have looked innocent enough. Faces itch sometimes, whatever. But we know what you were doing. We know why you used your middle finger to do it. Mr. Obama, you Flipped the Bird. And, on behalf of Hillary Clinton—obviously, the intended recipient of your crude gesture—we are Very Offended. Is this what things have come to?

Or, um, scratch that. What actually frustrates me is that “Did Obama flip Clinton off?” is really a question we’re discussing right now—that Campaign 2008, among its other silly sideshows, has indeed given us BirdGate. (Is this what things have come to?) Jon Stewart and his “Senior Black Correspondent,” Larry Wilmore, brilliantly skewered a clip of one of the BirdGate-creating MSNBC segments on last night’s Daily Show; their send-up is very much worth a watch. Still, to appreciate the MSNBC segment’s fully glory (read: inanity), it’s necessary to watch the flip-out in its entirety (this one courtesy of Media Matters):

“Hey folks,” Contessa Brewer concludes, a note of don’t-blame-the-messenger in her voice, “they don’t call this the silly season for nothing!”

She’s right about that; silly season it is. But, um, Ms. Brewer: it’s silly season because you’re making it that way. BirdGate is a distraction because you’re letting it be. We know things are getting rough out there on the campaign trail. We know covering the campaign can take its toll on one’s judgment and everything. But still.

Oh, and for the record, caught from another angle: two fingers!

So: No flip. Only flipping out.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.