Battlepanda: Disrespectful, no. Clumsy, yes.


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Disrespectful, no. Clumsy, yes.

As soon as I saw a clip of Coretta Scott King's funeral on TV, even before getting filled in by the commentators who mentioned it quickly enough, I thought "Crap. Wellstone."

Not that I think there is any impropriety in talking politics at King's funeral -- politics is what her life stood for. In fact, as Scott at Lawyers, Guns and Money reminded us, even Wellstone's funeral wasn't the Wellstone Funeral as it got constructed by the right-wing noise machine over tiime. But while I don't think talking politics at her funeral was wrong or inappropriate or disrespectful in any of the ways the Right want to paint it as, I do think that it was a bum move, and indicative of a tin ear for media and public perceptions on the left.

Think back to Ronald Reagan's funeral with the riderless horse and all that jazz. Nobody mentioned anything specific about his politics, certainly nothing specific about his political enemies. Instead, they probably did a better job of elevating their politics in the minds of the public by concentrating the entire event on elevating the man. Now, I'm not saying that they did this with calculation -- Reagan is a revered figure of the right. But it was effective nevertheless. After all, people know what Ronald Reagan stood for, just as they know what Coretta Scott King stood for. The classy thing to would have been to honor her life and her achievements and trust that the audience could make the connection between her values and current affairs instead of spelling it out in zingers.

And yes, I do know that it was a long ceremony and 95% of it probably was just all about Coretta. But I think we've seen this game played often enough to know that the media is going to concentrate on that other 5%. This means that what could have seemed perfectly appropriate to attendees who saw the whole ceremony would come across as a relentless partisan rally to the much, much bigger audience who only experienced the occasion through clips on cable news shows.

UPDATE: Obviously, I have a short memory. Russ of Pam's House Blend have a post that provide the quotes that shows Ronald Reagan's funeral was very political indeed, with pointed references to current affairs. Obviously, then, there is a lot of media double standards going on, where a liberal funeral is with politics is portrayed as disrespectfully opportunistic and a conservative funeral with politics is portrayed as honoring the man's life in politics.