Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a celebrity.
Andy Warhol assured Americans that they'd all get their 15 minutes of fame. But he neglected to mention how quickly infamy could follow.
By now, "Joe Plumber" of presidential debate fame is wishing that he'd never been caught on tape quizzing Barack Obama about his tax proposals, which led to Joe becoming a motif -- a stand-in for the average American -- at Wednesday's presidential debate. And that, according to an unwritten but immutable law of contemporary American culture, meant he had to be dragged into the gutter and exposed as a fraud.
Bespeaking the sickness and cynicism of our times, the "mainstream" media didn't ask whether the man on the video had a point -- didn't wonder whether Obama's agenda would hurt the little guy. It instead set to work picking apart the "plumber" persona, in an attempt to belittle, discredit and destroy this everyman icon, resulting in stories like this one, in which we learn that Joe isn't a licensed plumber and owes $1,200 in back taxes.
Tomorrow we may learn that Joe had a nasty divorce and owes child support; or that he has lousy credit; or that he was busted for smoking pot at the age of 23. Through a weird twist of fate, and through no plan of his own, Joe's life has suddenly become an open book, into which the media can pry with malicious impunity. All because he dared ask the Democrat in the race a tough question on camera.
To today's media, every icon must be smashed with a hammer, every hero dragged down from his pedestal. And all the better if the target is of, or on, the political right.
Does anyone else wonder what the story would be if "Joe Plumber" had instead been "Wanda Welfare Mom," confronting John McCain over his indifference to the plight of the urban poor? What if it had been "Frank the Foreclosed Upon," asking McCain why he had done nothing to stop the bank from taking his home? My guess is that there would be no media effort to air Wanda's or Frank's dirty laundry; all their bad choices and human flaws would be forgiven and excused. Far from being the subject of a media inquisition, they'd be honored guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show or "The View."