Richard Cohen: Outrage Muppet

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 12 2013 11:56 AM

Richard Cohen: Outrage Muppet

The Manichean relationship between Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and his occasional readers on the Internet is perhaps summed up best by a series of 2013 Gawker headlines. From time to time, the replacement-level punditry of Cohen includes (or is entirely based on) some sexist or racist trope. The Internet, often led by Gawker, notices. 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

So, today, a Cohen column about ... I'm not sure, something about "taking the Internet express to Iowa" to muse about 2016, is given the Hamilton Nolan headline "Richard Cohen has written something insane about interracial marriage." This follows in the steps of:

Advertisement

That last column was part of Cohen's short-lived outrage over Edward Snowden's leaks. Months later, Cohen wrote a piece about how he'd been wrong about Snowden. This got plenty of traffic and buzz, but emphasized Cohen's role in the media firmament. He's not terribly bright or influential. (You don't see him in those posses of columnists ushered in to meet with the president). He is what I will term an Outrage Muppet: He exists to make the Internet angry.

This isn't a new role. Decades ago, the Outrage Muppet would appear on The Morton Downey, Jr. Show or talk radio, to say incindiary or ignorant things. The self-selected audience would get cathartically angry. Nothing's changed since then, except the ever-easier access to offensive material. To steal a line from a friend: Twitter getting angry at someone is like a congressman saying a prayer. It's a meaningless ritual that needs a hook.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?