If you take corporate media’s word for it, MSNBC host Tiffany Cross delivered a devastating blow to Meghan McCain in a Saturday monologue. If, however, you watch the video without the media’s trained-seal mentality, Cross’s attack looks a lot more like a missed dunk—wildly confident but totally off the mark.
Nevertheless, journalists rolled out a slate of approving headlines about Cross’s “slam” over the weekend, exposing how reflexive their blue-check click-bait muscles are when anti-conservatives affect a you-go-girl tone and pick on their favorite targets. It’s a shame, really, since we rely on the fourth estate to provide a balanced rendering of politics and culture, but they can’t see two inches past their own bias.
This case study exemplifies that problem given the utter incoherence of Cross’s argument. On “The View” last week, McCain insisted on the benefits of “meritocracy,” posing a question to her colleagues: “We’ve only had one Asian American host co-host this show. So does that mean that one of us should be leaving at some point, because there’s not enough representation?”
On Saturday, Cross attempted to rebuke McCain by first insisting her definition of “identity politics” was wrong, then proceeding to use the same definition. In a truly excellent impression of a high-school-know-it-all, Cross said the term “identity politics” was originally intended to describe “black women’s struggle at the nexus of race, gender and class oppressions,” accusing McCain of “warp[ing]” that definition to support her own “clumsy and ill-informed thoughts.”
Speaking of definitions warped in the service of a narrative, Cross then immediately proceeded to assert that terms like “soccer mom” and “Joe The Plumber” are also examples of identity politics, as though it were a novel observation the rest of the country is too stupid to understand. Of course they’re identity politics. What they are not, however, is “identity politics” as defined by Cross just moments earlier, narrowly describing “black women’s struggle at the nexus of race, gender and class oppressions.”
— The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross (@CrossConnection) March 27, 2021
So on the one hand, according to Cross, McCain’s broad description of identity politics is ignorant because the term “identity politics” is a strictly historic but useful descriptor of intersecting oppressions experienced by black women. On the other, Cross will use McCain’s (and society’s) broader definition of “identity politics” when it’s useful for a vapid clap back.
It’s either a really dumb or a really bad faith argument to suggest opponents of “identity politics” don’t also dislike when the concept is invoked to benefit groups of any racial category. I’m leaning towards the former.
Worse yet, Cross then casually put horrible words in McCain’s mouth, pivoting to address the “preposterous notion that somehow being a woman of color suggests that you aren’t qualified.” McCain, of course, said absolutely nothing of the sort. She did make the same argument intellectuals of all races have made for years, that a person’s racial background should not factor into their qualifications for most positions, which is completely consistent with the opposition to “identity politics” she made earlier.
I haven’t even mentioned the weirdly personal nature of Cross’s monologue, including a montage of McCain—who talks about her life for a living—mentioning her father on television, along with an attack on her hairstyles. Spare me the complaints of whataboutism; we all know the left would be charging Cross with sexism and incivility if their ideological affiliations were reversed. Instead, they’re applauding it.
I’m all for media mouthpieces wielding sharp elbows. Hold powerful people accountable. Tear down elite corruption without fear or favor. Cross should feel as free to level her bad arguments as I feel to critique them. I happen to know and like McCain, but the ideas of anyone hosting a major television show are fair game for debate.
Still, it’s kind of a sad statement on the quality of the argumentation in the legacy media 1) that an MSNBC host brought such a weak and shallow case onto the air and 2) that her industry peers reflexively amplified it, despite the obvious problems.