On the weekends I wash dishes at my uncle Jeremy's breakfast restaurant, Colbys, downtown. It's a great way to make a little extra money. I walk there and I'm back by the early afternoon. Also, I mean, not to brag but, I'm good at it. I'm like a champion dishwasher. It's about getting a rhythm going. But anyway.
The New Hampshire Primary is on Tuesday, and in all likelihood it will be the last interesting day in the GOP campaign. Mitt Romney will crush it (they love him here) and then Rick Santorum will fall off the map again and Newt Gingrich will find some kind of self-important excuse to abandon the shell of his campaign for the good of the country.
And everyone will forget about New Hampshire and the rest of the GOP field simultaneously. For most of the country it will feel like this all only took a few minutes. But here, on the ground in New Hampshire, we've been enduring the gladhanding and the campaign events for MONTHS. By Monday you'll be saying you're over it, but we've BEEN over it.
On Monday Buddy "Also Ran" Roemer walked into my uncle's restaurant, which is tiny little place, and announced who he was and his intentions. He left in short order (GET IT? SHORT ORDER?) but it was the last straw for my uncle. Jess, one of the long-time servers there, made up a sign in crayon and hung put it on the door: NO POLITICIANS, NO EXCEPTIONS. It should be noted that this isn't the first time this policy was spelled out. In August Rick Perry came to call on Colby's patrons and Jeremy added a note to the special board (next to the standard rule of "No Cell Calls In The Dining Room"): "And No Politicians." But this time the rule caught the attention of the Seacoast Online.
“I find it incredibly rude,” said Colby, who said his political views are as liberal as they come. “I also find it amusing that they talk about how the economy and small business is so important, yet they are OK with creating a disturbance that impacts my small business.”
Having owned the small downtown restaurant since 2003, Colby said, his business model is only successful if he is able to turn over its 28 seats in an orderly fashion. He said that is hard to do when a politician barges in and interrupts customers as they dine.
“I don’t appreciate Joe Blow coming in here and whoring around the dining room for votes,” he said.
In my family we're all particularly proud of that last quote (which ended up in the headline when every Fox Affiliate picked it up). And the story should have ended there, but it was picked up by The Portsmouth Herald, and then the local TV station, WMUR. And then FOX 25 news out of Boston. And then the AP. My uncle just got off the phone with the Washington Post. I want to note three things.
1. To some extent you can probably blame a slow post-Iowa news cycle for the exponential growth of this story (I've counted 31 stories on Google News so far, up from 25 earlier this afternoon). But I also think people are latching onto it, almost subconsciously, because they're frustrated with the endless hysteria that has characterized the media coverage of the campaign so far. We've seen Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and now Santorum launched into the stratosphere for almost totally abstract reasons, then shot down again like clay pigeons. It was Romney all along; this has been a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing but a need for ratings. And people are sick of it! By carrying this story, media outlets are fueling a fire that mostly burns for them (I would say they are doing this unwittingly, but nobody self-loathes like the media).
2. Matt Taibbi wrote a great book called The Great Derangement, which is about the way modern culture allows us to only hear what we want to hear. If I'm a liberal I can watch liberal TV shows and read liberal blogs and pat myself on the back all day long without ever having to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes with a dissenting opinion. That trend is absolutely real, and it used to be our fault as consumers, but it isn't anymore. There was a time when we could have done something about it. But that desire--the desire for the news media to do nothing but affirm your beliefs--has changed the other end of the equation. The CNN notion of objectivity now is to say "Some people are saying the earth is round. But others say the earth is flat. We'll tell you each argument and LET YOU DECIDE." That's no coincidence. If CNN came right out and SAID the earth is round, and that two plus two does not equal five, they would lose ratings. So they don't say it. It's HYSTERICAL that rumors about Obama's birth certificate still abound, and I mean hysterical in the most denotative sense of the word. Thinking about it makes me feel like I am LITERALLY going crazy.
Anyway, all of that is a very long introduction to the simple fact that a lot of people have latched on to a single phrase in that original Seacoast story: "as liberal as they come." Look at the comments on that article, and at the ones on Eater National, who also picked up this story. People are finding a way to see this not as apolitical frustration, but as a dastardly liberal way to "dismiss the First Amendment." First of all, anonymous commenters: I think you'll find that First Amendment law gets pretty muddy when it comes to privately owned businesses. Second of all: this kind of reminds me of that Stephen Colbert joke that reality has "a well-known liberal bias." Only Republicans are running right now, and therefore being apolitical is a liberal value. UGH. On the Colby's Facebook page this morning, my uncle noted a woman who called to say she was offended and never coming in again. "Please reconsider!" he wrote. "I would LOVE the opportunity to offend u in real life." Again, I am very proud. But the point is: people are ridiculous. Someone on Mediaite (in the comments) is even trying to accuse them/us of racism, I think!
3 . Perhaps my favorite (and by favorite I guess I mean LEAST FAVORITE) thing about this whole story is getting to watch the factual errors multiply across the various news outlets that pick up the story. These people get PAID to write, and they can't be bothered to fact check a goddamned thing. Even the simple attribution of the story got botched almost immediately. Seacoast Online did the initial reporting, which was then mirrored by the Portsmouth Herald. But by the time the AP picked up the story, Seacoast had been cut out of picture altogether, with the Herald getting all the credit (also kind of funny: one of the Herald's reporters has been turning up on the Colby's Facebook page, responding directly to fans of the restaurant making fun of them for sucking. Oy). Jess, the server who made the sign, has been given all sorts of bizarre job titles in different articles--even odds says by Saturday Jess and Jeremy will have been merged into one person.
It's fun to watch this story grow, but being so close to it also allows you to see, in stark relief, a lot of the problems with both the local and national media today. And the 2012 campaign has really only just started. God help us.
Previously: Carajo, Un Balazo!