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Posts Tagged ‘Anderson Cooper’

Be authentic. What does that even mean, anyway? Not a whole hell of a lot, according to Stephanie Rosenbloom in this Sunday’s New York Times. The word, she says, has been watered down to the point of meaninglessness, like so many white wine spritzers. Everyone from Anderson Cooper to Sarah Ferguson to Katie Couric to Michelle Bachmann to the Pope have claimed the descriptor, generally while in the service of selling themselves. (Sales. What’s more inauthentic than that?)

And, as Rosenbloom’s piece points out and as we’ve written before, we’re complicit in this faux-thenticity, too. Think about your Facebook profile–and now imagine what it would look like if it were truly authentic. Take mine, for example: instead of that cute profile pic of me smiling broadly in New Orleans alongside a status update alluding to a highbrow day of writing, my pic might show me sitting at my computer, in the chair I’ve spent so much time in, I’ve literally worn the finish off of it. And if I were to be authentic about it, today’s status update–rather than being glamorous, pithy, or intelligent–might read: Unshowered. Writer’s block. Dining on a spoonful of peanut butter. Had I documented my status last night, I would have seemed the epitome of uncool, when my neighbor’s band practice inspired not my admiration of his creativity or his nascent musical skills, but a lengthy debate on whether or not to call the cops. (I didn’t. Score another one for inauthenticity. They were more terrible than they were loud–and they were window-rattlingly loud.)

Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Peggy Orenstein once confessed that, while spending some glorious time with her little girl listening to E.B. White reading Trumpet of the Swan, a nasty thought intruded: How will I tweet this? She admits that the tweet she decided on (“Listening to E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan with Daisy. Slow and sweet.”) was “not really about my own impressions. It was about how I imagined—and wanted—others to react to them.”

Marketing folks might say we’re branding ourselves in our profile pictures, our status updates, our tweets. We say that maybe we’re feeding the iconic self, the self-image we’ve constructed, which, in ways big and small, is the face of our great expectations. (She’s kind of a tyrant, too.) So why do we do it? Are we so desperate for approval that we’d rather pretend to be someone else than our, ahem, authentic self? Women, after all, are raised to be pleasers. Do we feel guilty about veering off the pre-approved path? Where did we become convinced that the faux is any more acceptable than the real? And why, oh why, do we so readily buy into the idea that the images everyone else is presenting are any more real than our own?

Why is it so hard to embrace the idea that, as Wavy Gravy–he of LSD and ice cream fame–put it, we’re all just bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride?

…which is well and good in theory, but who wants to admit to being a bozo? We have images to uphold! And whatever your role, the performance is remarkably similar. Someone asks how you’re doing; you say fine. You ask her; she says fine. Fine, then! We worry what other people think (though we’d never admit it), and, of course, we want to be happy, confident, competent, and successful. So we pretend we are. And, compounding the issue is the fact that the happy, confident, competent, successful self is the self everyone else shows to us, too, which compels us to keep our dirty little secret under even deeper wraps. If she (and she and she) has it together, what the hell is the matter with me??

It’s the open secret Rumi wrote about (and to which Elizabeth Lesser makes beautiful reference here), yet, centuries later, we still feel compelled to keep. And that’s understandable. Who wants to admit to being afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed, clumsy, neurotic, or prone to saying the wrong thing? The thing is, though, all of those things are part of the human condition–and those things and the good things aren’t mutually exclusive. And so why should claiming them be a negative? On the contrary: I think there’s a promise of something pretty awesome that comes when we’re able to own it all. The sky doesn’t fall, but, like the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz, the blinders do.

And then what might we see? Well, for one thing, maybe a willingness to own our complex, dualistic, not always delightful but utterly human nature can make our choices a little bit clearer. With no one to impress, no images to uphold, we’ve got a lot less to factor in. There’s a freedom there. And power, too: because when we are willing to come out of the I’m Fine! closet, maybe our friends will join us. And that, I’d bet, would make for one hell of a party.

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And that’s why many people are apparently appalled.  Not necessarily because CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan was surrounded by an angry mob in Cairo, and beaten and raped.  It was because she was taking unnecessary chances.  (Read: risk-taker)  She was doing it to advance her career (Read: ambitious).  She was daring to go where she did not belong.  (Read: brazen)

While none of the naysayers have been so brutal as to come out and say she got what she deserved, the fallout from the news of her hideous assault has been almost as ugly as the assault itself.  Here’s the background via the New York Times:

Lara Logan, the CBS News correspondent, was attacked and sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo on Feb. 11, the day that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced from power, the network said Tuesday.

After the mob surrounded her, Ms. Logan “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers,” the network said in a statement. Ms. Logan is recovering at a hospital in the United States.

The evening of the attack, Ms. Logan, 39, the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, was covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square in central Cairo with a camera crew and an unknown number of security staff members. The CBS team was enveloped by “a dangerous element” within the crowd, CBS said, that numbered more than 200 people. That mob separated Ms. Logan from her team and then attacked her.

Heinous, right?  And yet.  Comments on talk radio and the interwebs Wednesday were cascading into blame the victim mode.  NPR, for that matter, had to take a number of comments off its site completely, and issue a plea for civility.   Meanwhile, according to Time.com,  reporter Nir Rosen, a fellow at NYU, resigned from his position at the university after he sent an ugly tweet suggesting that Logan was some kind of brazen careerist, trying to outdo CNN’s Anderson Cooper (who had been beaten in Cairo a few days before) and capped it with this:

“at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger”—a reference to his criticisms of Logan over her coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over at Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams (we love her) took on Rosen and others, too.  (According to Williams, Rosen also tweeted this:  “It’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention [Logan will] get.”  Yeah, ugh.)  She also added this, referring to yet another hater:

And the ever-heinous [right-wing blogger and Fox News regular] Debbie Schlussel was quick to jump on her regular line of racism, noting how the assault happened in a “country of savages,” because that never ever happens anywhere else, and it’s never committed by light-skinned people! She then twisted the knife by going after Logan herself, saying, “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows… How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.'”

Need we go on?  Yes, lets.  Grazing on some talk radio on my morning run, I heard similarly ugly — and thinly veiled — comments that suggested Logan had put herself in danger because she was trying to play like the boys.  Among them?   “What was she doing there anyway?”  “Didn’t she know the risks?”  And the worst, from a woman who suggested that the difference between a woman who might be assaulted while simply walking though a park (Read: innocent) and Ms Logan was that Logan was doing it for work.
As in, shamelessly ambitious.  Girls, you know, aren’t supposed to do that.

But here’s the thing.  If she is shamelessly ambitious, who cares?  Are we not over that?  If she took an unnecessary risk — and nowhere does it suggest that she did — isn’t that what foreign correspondents are paid to do?  Right?  But that’s not the point.  Or at least not mine.  At the midpoint of the protests in Tahrir Square, when things started going ugly, reporters were roundly encouraged to get the hell out of Dodge.  Many stayed.  Including Anderson Cooper.  He was beaten up.

We called him a hero.

P.S.  Within minutes of posting this, we got an ugly comment suggesting that Logan got what she deserved.  We have declined to approve it.

photo credit:  CBS

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