The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Discrimination Against the Ugly? Expect a Class-Action Lawsuit by Smitty and Me

Posted on | August 29, 2011 | 33 Comments

Conclusively demonstrating that aesthetically impaired Americans suffer economic disadvantages, an academic writes in the New York Times:

A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?
We actually already do offer such protections in a few places, including in some jurisdictions in California, and in the District of Columbia, where discriminatory treatment based on looks in hiring, promotions, housing and other areas is prohibited. Ugliness could be protected generally in the United States by small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could be allowed to seek help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies in overcoming the effects of discrimination. We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly.

You laugh, but it’s really no laughing matter — although, 20 years ago, I myself used to laugh at the beauty-pageant finalists who, during the interview segment of the competition, would tell the emcee that their career ambition was to be a television news anchor.

Print journalists have an instinctive contempt for the overpaid show-biz of TV news and tt never occurred to me, during the first dozen years of my career as a journalist, that anyone gave a damn what a writer looked like. Then I arrived in Washington, where journalists are often also TV commentators, and was shocked to discover the advantages enjoyed by the camera-friendly.

Of course, telegenicity isn’t entirely about good looks. There is a certain skill involved in the TV pundit’s game: Staring into a camera while speaking with persuasive confidence is not an inborn talent, but an acquired skill, as I learned on a few occasions when I was interviewed about some of my Washington Times articles that made national impact. Watching video of those interviews was excruciatingly painful: Not just my homeliness, but the “uhs” and “umms,” my tendency to glance off-camera while collecting my thoughts, my natural “wired” energy resulting in herky-jerky motions like Kramer on Seinfeld.

Seeing how embarrassingly bad I was on TV actually increased my appreciation for those who are good at it. When you see Michelle Malkin on one of those “remote” interviews — i.e., when she’s doing the stare-at-the-camera thing in a Colorado studio while being interviewed by a Fox host in New York — you have no idea how much effort is involved in what she’s doing: Speaking coherently, while listening through an earpiece to the audio of a host you can’t see, and all the while gazing at that camera lens as if conversing with friend.

To seem “natural” during such an unnatural experience may look easy, but that’s just it: Like a virtuoso guitarist who plays a blistering solo while happily rocking onstage, the good TV performer has practiced relentlessly to make it look easy.

Whey Donkey Cons was published in 2006, the publisher offered to pay for “media training,” but I told the publicist not to bother trying to book me on TV, rather to pitch my co-author Lynn Vincent for TV appearances, while I would take as many talk-radio guest spots as they could book, because I’ve got a face for radio.

OK, so fast-forward to a few weeks ago, while I was in Iowa, where I got an earful from a friend who accused me of envy for having slung a bit of Twitter snark when Hot Air hired Tina Korbe. Being in no mood to accept criticism from my friend, and considering the accusation of envy as particularly insulting, I responded with a rant explaining myself.

Hot Air advertised its plan to hire a third blogger on a bulletin board site, at which time a longtime friend — a grizzled veteran of online New Media — called to tell me he had seen the ad and was thinking about applying. He asked if I was going to apply and, if not, would I recommend him for the gig? My response was no, I wasn’t going to apply and, while I would be more than happy to recommend my friend, I strongly believed he would be wasting his time by applying.

The logic of that analysis: Surely such a prestigious position — Hot Air being one of the highest-traffic sites on the Right — could have been filled without a help-wanted ad. It seemed to me that (as is so often the case in such situations) this “cattle call” ad was pro forma, a token gesture perhaps required by corporate policy, and in all likelihood they already had in mind the person they were going to hire for the job.

Besides, I told my grizzled friend, if Hot Air wanted to hire me, they knew where to find me. The very fact that they had advertised the position was ample indication that my application wasn’t welcome.

The longtime veteran of New Media with whom I had that conversation was not the only one of my blogger buddies who were interested in the Hot Air gig. Many people applied for that job and my discouragement against getting their hopes up did not entirely console my friends when they found themselves rejected as unworthy.

This was the essence of the explanatory rant I shared with my friend in Iowa who accused me of envy based on my Twitter snark about Hot Air’s hiring of Korbe as a decision based on Rule 5.

Envy? No — an objective assessment of the commercial incentives which I perfectly understand, even though I also understand how these incentives are directly disadvantageous to my own professional career. How could I possibly object to Hot Air doing exactly what I would have done in the same situation, namely hiring a pretty face to represent the organization on TV? So I don’t resent Korbe at all — I’ve linked her work a few times — but do resent that Hot Air had to go through the motions of advertising the position, as if  the job were open to any blogger, before hiring Rob Bluey’s former assistant, barely a year out of college.

The friend who scolded me in Iowa said, “Well, they had to do that — EEOC regulations.” And I said that this was a good argument for abolishing the EEOC, but cold comfort to the rejected applicants. Jerry Wilson expressed the cynical view:

It’d be nice if the powers that be in conservative media, all of whom happen to be men, would admit the painfully obvious truth. Given the opportunity, over anyone and everyone else they will pick the sweet young thing. Every. Single. Time.

As for my own personal feelings, who cares? While I’m often accused of unfairly hurting other people’s feelings, no one ever seems to care about my feelings. I’ve long ceased to expect anything except insults from anyone, and those expectations are seldom disappointed. So I’m not planning to sue anybody for my ugliness, which isn’t anyone’s fault.

Smitty, on the other hand, is a tort lawyer’s dream. If there were affirmative action for the ugly, Smitty might have graduated from Harvard Law and become President of the United States by now. IYKWIMAITYD.

UPDATE: Jerry Wilson responds on Twitter that I am ”much more gracious about Ms. Korbe’s hiring” that he is, but why not be gracious? One might as well envy an NBA player for being tall as to resent a pretty girl for being pretty. Permit me to quote the late Neil Postman on the aesthetic essence of television:

Television, naturally enough, is biased toward compelling visual imagery, and in almost all cases the charms of a human face take precedence over the capabilities of a human voice. It is not essential that a TV newsreader grasp the meaning of what is being reported . . . What is essential is that the viewers like looking at their faces. To put it bluntly, as far as TV is concerned, in the United States there is not one sixty-year-old woman capable of being a newsreader. Viewers, it would appear, are not captivated by their faces. It is the teller, and not what is told, that matters here.

This is simply the reality of television. We may lament the fact that the aesthetic values of television influence the hiring of writers — i.e., because of the publicity value of having one of your writers appear regularly on Fox News or some other TV show — but we cannot blame TV producers for preferring camera-friendly commentators, nor blame publishers for wishing to hire writers with such potential. If we were producers or publishers, we would do the same.

We cannot resent the world for being the way it is. Or if we do, we are no better than liberals chasing after the ridiculous illusion of “social justice.” So unless we wish to see a lot of ugly people on TV — think of The View, minus Elizabeth Hasselback — there is no point complaining that the medium prefers pretty people. (And I say that at 3:20 p.m. ET, while Shep Smith is on Fox News.)

UPDATE II: Linked by tall, handsome Steve Eggleston, and also by Nice Deb, who calls Smitty “kinda cute.” As advertised, Deb is indeed very nice, but certainly no more honest than me. (Sorry, Steve.)

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/LisaGraas Lisa Graas

    oh…..my.

  • http://twitter.com/Jerry_Wilson Jerry Wilson

    Welcome to our world, Lisa.

  • http://twitter.com/sdo1 Steve in TN

    So you’re saying you have a face for radio and a voice for print?

    Please include me in the class action…

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    I think Smitty is a rather handsome, trust-worthy-looking sort of fellow, like Charles The Kraut Hammer.

    As for you, Stacy, my friend: even if you wanted to sue, you could not, as chopped liver has no standing in the courts.

  • Cube

    Rush has talked about affirmative action for Uglo-Americans for years now.  Mostly as something undesirable.
    http://dailyrushbo.com/rush-was-right-affirmative-action-for-uglo-americans/

  • http://zillablog.marezilla.com Zilla of the Resistance

    I don’t think you’re ugly, and correct me if I’m wrong, but some of your excellent post seems like a warning of a dark mood coming after you. I hope I am wrong.
    I used to be hot, I made good money just by being hot, as a bartender, nearly 20 years ago. I am not so hot now, although I can be marginally attractive if I put some effort into it, most days I don’t even look like I ever once was good looking. 
    Life happens, exterior beauty is fleeting, if they made this a new entitlement, everyone except for those with lots of money to spend on their looks will qualify for compensation. Maybe that’s the point though, break the system by overloading it.

  • http://wyblog.us/blog Chris Wysocki

    There’s a local restaurant / bakery chain which runs sports ticket give-a-ways on their Facebook page. You can win Yankees / Mets/ Jets / Giants tickets by posting  a picture of yourself buying or  eating at one of their locations. They randomly select one winner from all the pictures posted.

    I’m sure that it’s purely coincidental that the “random” winners are quite often cute young girls with large, er, bubbles.

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  • Anonymous

    PURELY coincidental, nudge nudge wink wink!

  • Anonymous

    “a warning of a dark mood coming after you”

    Thanks for the concern, but the dark mood moment was in Iowa, when I was getting my ear chewed by a friend even while (unbeknownst to the friend) I didn’t have enough money to pay my airfare back home. The economic disadvantages, as I say, are quite real, and an intimate acquaintance with poverty is not good for one’s temper when accused of “envy.”

  • Anonymous

    Right. And they think people can’t see through things like that, but of course the winners have no cause to complain.

    As I say, I understand this completely. Many, many years ago — i.e., I’m absolutely certain the statute of limitations has long since expired — I was working at a newspaper that had an opening for a reporter. For about a week, applicants would periodically visit the newsroom to be interviewed for the job by the city editor. One day a very attractive young brunette came in for her interview and, as soon as she’d left the office afterwards, the business editor and I cornered the city editor: “Hire her!”

    He actually did hire her, by the way. She proved to be an excellent reporter and her mini-skirts added a wonderful decorative element to the office. IYKWIMAITYD.

  • DaveO

    Similar with military promotions, including the Navy: official photos/portraits are required for every promotion packet. Officers who fail the test of being photogenic don’t get promoted.

    So Smitty’s making it beyond Ensign is testament to him having friends in high places.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    So does this mean that Jennifer Aniston will have to date by lottery pick now?  Will Bar Refaeli will have to use Affirmative Action to choose a new beau?

    And what of the poor, used up, dessicated old party girls who can no longer turn a head, but only stomachs, like Mo Dowd? 

  • Anonymous

    Jennifer Aniston will have to date by lottery pick

    Never had any particular fascination with Ms. Aniston. Not to knock her, but I’d rather my ticket be entered in the Christina Hendricks or Natalie Portman dating lottery.

    Of course, I’m married now. Back when I was single, however, my dating choices were usually quite random: Whatever girl danced with me in whatever honky-tonk I happened to be in on any given night. And as that eminent social scientist Mickey Gilley observed, the girls all get prettier at closing time.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously Smitty works harder than any admiral.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know DaveO, have you SEEN some of those folks?

    Of course, the photo is a cynical weeding-out device even without that. If an officer doesn’t keep it current – including awards, the boards toss them aside on the assumption that if they don’t care, why should we?

  • Anonymous

    Aha! The genesis of Rule 5!

  • http://zillablog.marezilla.com Zilla of the Resistance

    No it isn’t. I had my dark mood the other day, also poverty related.  I wish I could have been more helpful to you while you were in Iowa!

  • DaveO

    Without doubt, but once he crosses the rubicon and wants O-5, he’ll need to join the Hairclub for Men. And get Naval Aviator’s wings. Admirals are suckers for Naval Aviator’s wings.

  • Anonymous

    We have finally arrived at the end.
    Some 40 years ago, consumer advocate, Ralph Nader predicted that “ugly” was the final frontier of citizens rights.
     

  • DaveO

    For the Army, an officer will reach the rank of Brigadier General based on his/her photo and 150 seconds. 30 seconds is alloted for each promotion packet (the 5 promotions: O-3, -4, -5, -6, and -7). Looking at the picture counts for over 20 seconds each time (so 100 seconds). Record, accomplishments, locations and duties served = less than 50 seconds.

    Leadership of our combat forces is determined by a photo and 150 seconds.

    Occasionally we get lucky with an Odierno, but usually we get the handsome devils who couldn’t lead their way out of a paperbag with powerpoint directions.

    Heh

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  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, us guys don’t necessarily get better at closing the deal at that point in the evening.

  • http://norunnyeggs.com steveegg

    No offense taken. I’ve been known to break cameras even before I get my meathooks on them.

  • http://thatmrgguy.wordpress.com/ Mike

    So what you’re saying is that, like a lot of us, you’ve left the bar with a twelve  pack Ten…woke up the next morning and had to chew your arm off to keep from waking her up? I’m just sayin’ ;)

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  • http://twitter.com/ThatChristyChic Christy Waters

    So who are the bureaucrats that will decide if you’re ugly enough to receive legal protection? I mean, do you have to be circus freak-ugly, or just slightly odd-looking?

  • http://twitter.com/ThatChristyChic Christy Waters

    So who are the bureaucrats that will decide if you’re ugly enough to receive legal protection? I mean, do you have to be circus freak-ugly, or just slightly odd-looking?

  • http://twitter.com/Weirddave0 Dave

    This is OT, but I’ve been behind on reading blogs lately and I wanted to take issue with something you said in a thread that’s now closed for comments.

    In this thread, you said in a reply “We’ve seen the results of on-the-job training from the last three
    elected from Congress:  Harding, Kennedy, and Obama.  All were disasters
    in one form or another. ” Kennedy and Obama, sure, but Harding? Do you know your history? The way he handled the Wilson recession was masterful, leading directly to the Roaring Twenties (compare and contrast with Hoover then FDR in ’29). A disaster? Harding is neck and neck with Ronald Reagan and his own Veep as the finest president of the last 100 years. If we’d elected Harding instead of Obama, we’d be two years into a massive economic boom by now.( His CABINET now, that’s another story)

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know there was a handsome quotient in the Navy.  My late stepfather was a Navy officer in WWII.  He was also a dead ringer for Charlton Heston.  Had he stayed in the Navy after the war, perhaps he’d have become an admiral, too!  He did get to date Rita Hayworth, so I guess there were a few other perks to wearing those nice white unis.

  • http://www.haemet.blogivists.com Roxeanne de Luca

    How does one go about getting those nice cushy gigs that only go to sweet young things?  Or am I too old for a “sweet young thing” job?  Or does one have to be far more attractive than I ever will be to get one of those jobs?

  • http://thatmrgguy.wordpress.com/ Mike

    Never having seen a picture, I can’t say. But from your exemplary writing, I’d say you qualified hands down. ;)

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