Thursday, April 21, 2011

Working Blue

Anyone have any idea what this means? Here's Derek Wallbank of MinnPost, describing the state of Michele Bachmann's current fundraising:

Michele Bachmann, quite frankly, has a pornographic amount of money. $2.8 million in the bank right now, despite her congressional committee spending more money in the 1st quarter of a non-election year ($787,000) than some campaigns will spend in an entire cycle. However, you can spend three-quarters of a million dollars without killing the bottom line when you raise $1.7 million, I guess.

Emphasis mine. So I ask, innocently of course, what makes an amount of money "pornographic?" If Bachmann had, say, $1.4 million in the bank, would her total be merely "ribald," or perhaps "bawdy?" And if she had $700,000, would that be "chaste" or even "prim?"

I ask the question for a couple of reasons. One, it's my solemn duty to bust Wallbank's chops, because he's actually a pretty decent reporter and there's a fair amount of useful information and analysis at the link. But I also ask because what gets described as pornographic is such a subjective thing. The most famous example was the observation of the late Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, in a 1964 case:

In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain "hard-core" pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it . . . "
Perhaps where campaign money is concerned, Wallbank knows it when he sees it, too. But ought we to trust how he sees it?

The larger issue is what makes the word choice so interesting. As we are reminded, the blue-nosed Puritan killjoys among our cohort are always hot to ban the prurient and the pandering, because Puritan killjoys know that prurience has no redeeming social value. As the wags always note, there are plenty of Puritans out there who like their prurience just fine, so long as they can keep it from public view. As a dedicated wag, I can vouch for that.

The Puritans of the Left are always disapproving of money and ostentatious displays of wealth, of course. It is especially bad form for someone like Bachmann to have a pile. Whatever you think about Michele Bachmann's politics, she is a genius self-promoter and has done an excellent job leveraging her career. She is also a genius at driving bien pensants crazy. Those two factors are inextricable and are the formula for her success.

The thing about pornography is that it is illegitimate. If there is evidence that Bachmann is getting her money Duke Cunningham-style, that would be one thing. Bachmann gets a lot of her funding from individual donors. Are they somehow illegitimate too, because they have chosen to lavish their resources on Bachmann?

I don't expect Derek Wallbank, or anyone else, to answer a series of rhetorical questions. I would hope that Wallbank and his colleagues might think about how their word choices resonate, though. I'd wager his column will probably net Bachmann even more money, and I'd hate for a respected journalist to be an unwitting participant in a pornographic enterprise.


Night Writer said...

I suppose it's perspective. $2.8 million given to a conservative lightning rod is pornographic, but the $1.7 million that sluiced into Kloppenburg's campaign is alms.

Isn't it intereresting that the Puritans on the Left wag nary a finger at what you put into, or do, with your body - or whatever you can talk anyone into doing with their body - but get indignant at what you do with your money. I wonder why that might be.

Bike Bubba said...

On the bright side, if money could indeed be pornographic, then we could expect that young men would quickly learn to hang on to it.....but on the down side, those of us who are not young men would start refusing to handle it.

That said, bizaare argument from the left. I agree that there is far too much money in politics, but that's caused by how much those campaign contributions can buy. Duh.