Friday, December 30, 2016

A Note on Kellyanne Conway and Bill Maher


Roberta, raising Bill Maher on my Facebook page, notes:
“She (Kellyanne)disturbs me greatly. I know she is doing her job well but not a job worth doing. It is frightening to me that Bill Maher congratulated her on her rise to a top position in the White House. Is integrity a thing of the past?”
I understand Maher here. It’s the same way that he responds to Coulter. He sees them partly through the lens of comediennes/performance artists working up their act, and remembers them from their days when they were nowhere. He knows how hard it was for him to scrape one’s way up to recognition, and sees that in them. Many may not know that Conway has been around for a long time–first as an almost robotically rapid propagandist in the 80s and 90s, obviously and with an entirely inward looking desperation crawling her way to significance, latching onto Fred Thompson and others in her utterly clear attempt at ascendancy.
There is some pity for this workmanlike, desperate scraping. For Kelly, there’s much of the inward perception of someone who’s “just doing her job”–taking the same pride in the election as a fierce middle manager would in winning a weekend in Palm Beach in a sales competition. She is also smart enough to know what she is doing, and morally flexible enough to quickly sweep it away with an “everyone does it” approach more suitable to a pharmaceutical copywriter than a Senior Adviser to the President.
I feel it too. I know she works hard, although I believe the display of her long-sufferingness is a practiced manipulation that she uses to evoke pity, allowances and advancement.
It’s not so easy to sweep away now.
I admire Maher’s work. Like Stewart, he rose from the world of stand up to bring a genuinely intellect that bridges the worlds of the most necessary and important ideas and the general public–and is one of the few who can bring them effectively, and have an authentic impact.
With people like Kellyanne, it is difficult. There is an affection, and a past. Now, her position is different. Here he has a nuanced but significant opportunity. With Coulter, he largely puts to the side the damage she might do for a type of “we all know this is an act” tenderness and pity born of relationship and understanding. They rose together, so to speak. For Coulter, who besides her adoring, otherwise unreading fans, is generally recognized as a type of invalid performance act, this does not amplify her harm.
For Conway, who now is in a position to cause actual harm, this will be a slightly nuanced shift here, but one that he can make–treating her both as the colleague and known (she has a number of these) but also acknowledging and then questioning her from the position of Senior Propagandist, Diffuser and Deflector that she now occupies. It is an opportunity for Maher for subtle but significant influence–and for the nation.