Oprah and Sarah: Sista/Girlfriends
Two Self Important Airheads
Is Oprah Wynfrey the Queen of Mindless Chatter?
Although I have long considered Oprah Wynfrey a highly articulate airhead I have refrained from saying so in public. I thought her omnipresence in the media as an elegant, eloquent, black woman who invented herself and rose from poverty and racist oppression in Mississippi to dominate the television talk show format was such a positive image for my daughter and other little black girls growing up in a culture that devalued their humanity was all good. When others complained – which includes virtually all of the highly educated women I know, black and white – at how “light-weight” and “frivolous” her concerns are, I played past their complaints because I thought Oprah was serving the greater good of racial uplift through setting an example of black female empowerment.
While Oprah sycophants dismissed her female critics as “haters,” I knew they had a point. I just remained mum on the matter. But her decision to have a muddled headed verbal arsonist who whips up racial animus for political gain like Sarah Palin on the show, and never ask her a single serious question, was the straw that broke my silence. Of course, any careful examination of Oprah’s public statements and programming choices would suggest that my concerns are at best a secondary consideration for her. Oprah’s eyes are on a different prize: To be the undisputed Queen of Talk Television as reflected in the Neilson ratings. No matter what!
To this end she has forgone marriage and children; the Oprah show appears to be her entire raison d’etre. Hence if the price of being the “Queen Of Talk” is to avoid talking about anything truly controversial – like the raging health care debate or the epidemic of teenage homicides in her back yard – then she’ll talk about incest among privileged white folks and chat with Jenna Jamison about what it’s like to be a porn star. In fact, anything that avoids having a real conversation about the pressing issues that are tearing our country apart will do if it garners ratings. I think that the decision to have Jenna Jamison on to discuss making porn movies rather than Michael Moore discussing ‘Capitalism,” his seminal movie critiquing our economic system and the reasons so many people are winding up on the junk heap of life despite having been hard workers and law abiding citizens, is the height of obscenity! I believe this in spite of the fact that I don’t necessarily find pornography obscene. In fact I enjoy it a lot more than I did that burlesque of an interview in the Oprah /Sarah show.
I have been monitoring Oprah’s show ever since Barack Obama, the brilliant silver tongued Chicago pol whom she anointed “The One” in a kind of mystic revelation to the nation, in order to see if she makes any attempt to help the millions who watch her better understand the complex issues they must make decisions on. Day after day I watched in vain hoping against hope for some contribution from Oprah to the grand controversies raging about us: but no dice.
It seems that the dramatic fall in ratings for her show – 7% over the summer, putting her fourth in some markets where she had always been in first place – plus a double digit decline in her magazine’s circulation have made the Queen gun shy and terrified of the hatred displayed by the untutored white mob. Many of whom are among her most loyal fans, people who are so stupid they believe Barack Obama is a socialist and a fascist. They don’t understand that these systems are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum!! And for all I know neither does Oprah, especially since she would never learn that critical difference based on her reading list.
A race for ratings appears to be the only reasonable explanation for the soft ball interview she gave to Sarah Palin. Unless you believe that Oprah really is as stupid as she appeared to be. Although I have no evidence to support this speculation; I am convinced that Sarah Palin was invited on the Oprah show for two reasons: To repair her image in the eyes of her Republican fans – she seems to have adopted her fellow Chicagoan Mike Jordon’s amoral axiom “Republicans buy sneakers too” – and to seize the opportunity for a ratings spike from the mindless mob that will tune in to see her. We’ll see if the gamble pays off. In the meantime however, she is alienating people of principle who are fighting on life and death issues and feel she should use her powerful platform to have some substantive discussions on these critical questions. Frankly, whatever her reason, if she cannot speak on the great issues of the day – abandoning the media discourse to ignorant unprincipled barbarians like Limbaugh and Hannity – then she is irrelevant!
That irrelevance was never more obvious than during Oprah’s Sista Girlfriend gabfest with the Alaskan barbarian. There are some questions that any self-respecting journalist, or media interviewer who desires to be taken seriously, must ask of this highly influential but divisive political actor and right-wing pop icon. Oprah fell far short of this minimum essential standard. And lest anyone think this is only the opinion of a far left democratic male, I suggest that they go to CNN’s archives and look at the 7: O clock hour on Tuesday morning where a panel of women evaluated the Oprah-Palin interview. The women represented Republicans, Independents, Conservative and Libertarian but no Democratic women, because they are presumed to be biased.
All four of the women thought the interview was an embarrassment. The conservative called it “boring;” the Libertarian thought it devoid of any substantive political ideas; the Republican pointed out that in a book of four hundred pages only thirteen pages deal with policy issues, which she said was “telling,” as was Palin’s lack of substance in the interview. The Libertarian woman said “She was well spoken and looked nice but it stops there.” All of them made it clear that they wouldn’t be buying the book. Lee Ann, the Independent, who is African American and accused her of “trivilizing the decision some women make to have abortions,” said: “I’m being fiscally conservative right now!” The reaction of these women was dismissive to the point of condescension: and justly so.
How could Oprah not ask Palin about the incitement of racist hysteria and blood lust in that white mob in Strongsville Ohio? The video is on You tube for all the world to see. I keep it book marked among my favorites so that I can call it up and look at it whenever I hear people carrying on about what a nice misunderstood lady Sarah is. Palin has described her self as a pit bull with lipstick, well that’s synonymous with a vicious bitch with painted lips! And her behavior lives up to her self-description. How could Oprah not ask Sarah about her claim that President Obama’s health care plan will put senior citizens to death – as well as myriad more slanders that demand interrogation from any interviewer with a modicum of journalistic skill and integrity?
Oprah loves to crow about her days as a news woman, so it is reasonable for the viewer to expect some attempt at journalistic probing, some attempt to ask the kinds of fundamental questions that would shed some light on why we should care about this moose hunting Alaskan shrew cum political opportunist and far right snake oil salesperson. Why didn’t Oprah ask her if she still believes that sex education in our public schools should be confined to “absence only” preachment? Why didn’t she insist upon knowing whether Sarah agreed with her followers who question whether the President is a natural born American? Why didn’t Oprah want to know if Sarah agreed with her Tea Party supporters that the President is a NAZI and that his healthcare reform program is the equivalent to the system of NAZI death camps? And at the very least Oprah should have insisted that girlfriend tell the nation if she thought that it was a good idea for poor dumb rednecks to show up at public meetings wearing guns – even at appearances by the President.
Alas, not one of these questions emanated from the lips of “The Queen Of Talk!” She didn’t even take the opportunity to tell Sarah that the questions Katie Couric asked her would have been asked by any legit journalist conducting the first interview with someone who had just been selected as the vice presidential candidate of a major political party and thus could one day perchance become president. So any thoughtful person must ask: What was the purpose of this interview? I can fathom no reason for this embarrassingly shallow Sista/girlfriend chat beyond mutual self-promotion;which is, I suppose, about all we can expect from two meglo-maniacal airheads. At least now we know that Ophra’s big head is swollen with conciet not pregnant with knowledge. Like Plato’s sophist, their virtue is for trade: Ain’t no shame in these dames game!
I was once told by a top programming executive with a major media conglomerate that the most successful talk show hosts are not much smarter than their audience. They speak the same language, share the same concerns and are amused by the same entertainments. And while I cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim as a general proposition, in Oprah Winfrey’s case it is undoubtedly true. Yet she is often passed off as a woman of substance by those who care not a whit about intellectual gravitas or cultural integrity. Making money, commerce not culture, is the object of their project. And by this measure Oprah, like the rotund Rushbo, is a very big success indeed. But I have concluded that she is irrelevant to those of us struggling for equity and justice in this country. As a girlfriend of mine aptly put it: Oprah is white America’s Mammy!
Harlem New york
November 17, 2009