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The Outrageously Ageist Media

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category_bug_ageism.gif The late-night TV hosts haven't let up on ageist jokes about 71-year-old, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. What’s doubly awful about them is that some are funny in the sense of being well-crafted jokes with a good, surprise punch line. One of Jay Leno’s makes me laugh every time I think of it (it’s hard to forget), and every time I do, I’m ashamed of myself.

That the jokes are funny is what’s so insidious about them. When we laugh, we feel good which takes the sting out of disrespect and prejudice. And if those likable, late-night guys say these things, a certain number of people believe it must be acceptable.

And thereby, ageism spreads.

Although the news media isn’t telling jokes about it, age is on their minds too and they appear to believe that “elderly” is the proper word to describe older voters. I caught Keith Olberman, Chuck Todd and some others on MSNBC who were reporting the primary returns from Pennsylvania Tuesday night referring to the “elderly vote,” not realizing for a nanosecond that the word is offensive to many elders.

It’s an ongoing battle, that word “elderly”, which I’ll let go for today to take up cudgels against a newspaper column (brought to my attention by Marion Dent of As the Beat Goes On) written by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann. It was published yesterday in the New York Post, on Morris’s website, at other places around the web and in whatever number of newspapers carry his syndicated column.

You remember Dick Morris, don’t you? He was Bill Clinton’s trusted advisor and 1996 presidential campaign manager until he was forced to resign (on the very day Clinton was accepting the nomination on the stage of the Democratic National Convention) for allowing a prostitute to listen in on his telephone conversations with then-President Clinton. It's said she was naked during these calls which gives a more literal meaning to bare-faced political lies than we are usually accustomed to.

Since then, Morris has published a book or two critical of the Clintons and these days, he uses his newspaper column to trash Senator Hillary Clinton. But elders are taking a licking too as Morris uses us as a club with which to bludgeon Hillary.

Here are some excerpts from yesterday’s column about Senator Clinton’s prospects for the Democratic nomination following the Pennsylvania primary. Morris begins almost blandly, noting that “…the Keystone State electorate is dominated by the elderly who are staunchly for Clinton.” Then:

“Older voters are flocking to Clinton as fears mount of what Obama might do as president mount (sic). But those under 45 – less focused, perhaps, on race – are moving toward Obama.”
“Of the 50 states, only Florida has a higher over-65 proportion of its population. But there’s a key difference: Florida’s elderly moved there – Pennsylvania’s are the folks that are left after the young people moved away.

“Pennsylvania Democrats, in other words, suffer from future shock. They welcome old, established ways and embrace dynasties happily because they are so familiar.”

“But don’t expect the open primaries of Indiana and North Carolina to behave like Pennsylvania’s geriatrics. Both states are younger.”

So according to Dick Morris, elders as a group are feeble, racist troglodytes, but at least there aren’t enough of them to do harm to the Obama vote in two upcoming primaries.

It’s been a long time since we have used it, but this foul stuff begs for the "patented TGB Bias Test" wherein we substitute the word women or blacks for old. Obama would be spending the rest of this week defending himself again for another person's words if Morris had written:

Older Women voters are flocking to Clinton as fears mount of what Obama might do as president mount (sic). But those under 45 men – less focused, perhaps, on race – are moving toward Obama.”


“Pennsylvania Democrats blacks, in other words, suffer from future shock. They welcome old, established ways and embrace dynasties happily because they are so familiar.”

Dick Morris can be dismissed as a bottom-feeder and I hold his editors accountable for allowing his slime to be published. Political demographics, including age, can be discussed without embedded bigotry.

Ageist rhetoric will only get worse when the general election campaign gets underway. I doubt either an Obama or Clinton campaign will be able to resist using Senator McCain's age against him. So it will get ugly while at the late-night shows, the age-joke beat goes on.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson walks us through the marital experience of Shopping Alone - or not.]


Although we do receive national broadcasts, here in Kansas, I (not being a TV news/humorist-watching person) only receive the ones on radio. Perhaps it is just my "hearing", but the old/elderly and race biases seem to have escaped the radio news broadcasts although, sadly, the sex/gender biases have not. Thanks for keeping me posted (without my having to suffer through the TV presentations!)

One thing I've noticed is that most of the comedians taking aim at McCain are no spring chickens themselves (i.e., Leno, Maher, and Letterman all have to be pushing 60 or more). It reveals a lot of fear and self-loathing.

I do know who Morris is and also don't think highly of him or his opinions, but have read his columns now and then but not that one. Most of the commentators are trying to figure out why the old are voting for Clinton in higher numbers. I just read a column from the UK making the case for it being bigotry and that Americans aren't ready to vote for a black (according to polling of Americans).

So many of the possible reasons like age, race and gender are un-PC; so commentators struggle with trying to interpret it without offending somebody. Looks like age is the least worrisome to them. and someone being old doesn't seem to worry voters as much as them being young.

The thing with elder jokes is that they often are based on truth. Racism isn't and I don't personally think gender is but elders have certain universal characteristics which sure some don't follow but they don't go back to race or gender but are a product of the body wearing out.

Naturally those jokes aren't true for everybody, but I get elder jokes in the mail from my elder friends and we laugh because we recognize ourselves in them. When we get together we talk about what it's like as things begin to change due to aging, and we laugh again.

It's a shame that the pluses of aging don't get more publicity (which is one of the things that something like Time Goes By does), but at least aging is something everybody, no matter what race or gender, will face.

Google just gave me 2.3 million hits on "McCain too old." It's going to be brutal. Democratic strategists believe ageism is their best weapon against him, and they are probably right. So everyone else who is old is going to have to catch the fallout.

"McCain too crazy" only yielded 1.8 million hits. "MCCain too angry" came in at .6 million. Those are the memes I'd like to get going.

Remember how Ronald Reagan turned the age issue against his opponent in a debate? It's classic because it was so spontaneous and unscripted. He turned to Mondale after Mondale had made a disparaging remark about Reagan's age and said, "I won't hold his youth and inexperience against him."

I really don't think age will ever come up in a debate again after that.

P. s. I do hope my memory isn't failing me again and Reagan's opponent was Walter Mondale.

I just discussed this on my blog this morning but I was referring not just to media but to, surprisingly, Barack Obama who gave an interview to CNN dismissing his loss there to the fact that the demographics of Pa. were the older group.

But here is the ultimate truth: our numbers could decide this election, no matter who the candidate. They, and the media, and all of us, should wake up to the reality of this statement. And, we should smirk quietly to ourselves and be proud of the power we have!

Dick Morris was always a jerk—but a jerk wonderfully gifted in self-promotion. It seems that neither his gift nor his basic nature has changed.

If memory serves, the Clintons took a lot of heat in the '90s from their mere association with Morris. Now, in America's amnesiac way, the same people who criticized the Clintons then will now embrace Morris as an authority provided he continues to trash the Clintons.

Dick Morris IS a bottom-feeder. A manipulative, bottom-feeder and proud of it.

I have yet to hear Obama make an ageist comment and I don't think he would. Unlike others running, he seems to be about inclusion.

Here's your older voters story, Ronnie:

I tell jokes about myself all the time- (I've been doing it all my 3 score & 10} I joke about my lack of hair (perhaps I should say "absence"), my mislaid short-term memory, my delayed response on the tennis court and elsewhere, and obviously, my age. ("you should have seen me when I was 60")
I don't think Letterman's self-deprecating humor is based on fear and self-loathing but rather he has a keen sense of humor and enjoys himself - sometimes at his own expense.

"Politically Correct" is an invention of humorless academics and others who take thesmelves much too seriously. It's like my dad told me " Don't take things too seriously and especially don't ever take yourself seriously"

Getting old is a big joke, laugh at it so you don't cry.

Comedians just like MANY politicians are not always serious. Both of these groups have positions to take to either get more votes or in the case of comedians try to make more people laugh. I say don't take it personally and just enjoy everyday life! :>)

I don't know how old Prissy Dicky is, but I'm sure he ain't no spring chicken either. I don't understand why these broadcasters have this smarmy, arrogant douche bag on their shows. They just can't get enough of him. He should write for the "News of the World" rag paper.

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