Everything Wrong With The Daily Caller’s “Syria-sly Hot” Listicle
It takes a certain kind of disgusting for a news editor to look at millions of people suffering through one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and think, “Hey, that’d make a great cheesecake listicle!” And yet, it’s just an average day for Tucker Carlson’s gleefully offensive Daily Caller, which ran the grotesque “13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately [PHOTOS]” in their entertainment section today.
“While a growing list of governors are claiming they won’t allow Syrian refugees to enter their states, we think these women might make them change their minds. They are Syria-sly hot,” wrote the site’s entertainment editor, Kaitlan Collins, as a prelude to lifting a dozen come-hither shots from an Instagram account called Syrian_Girls.
As a media critic, I choose my battles carefully. As part of that strategy I try to avoid feeding The Outrage Industrial Complex, rewarding sites like The Daily Caller with traffic when they troll feminists or progressives with intentionally odious headlines and bigoted content designed to generate angry clicks. That’s why I’m not linking to their OMG!SuperHottttRefugeesAmIRite? gimmick, and why I’m not targeting them with a petition, either of which would just give Carlson & Co. what they want — more eyeballs.
It’s not like we can expect high-level discourse from a right wing news site that ran a free gun giveaway contest for subscribers as a lead-up to the 2012 election, reported on Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby as a “sexy” “smoldering” “smokeshow” with “‘crazy girl’ eyes” during the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, and has advocated weakening laws against domestic violence. This kind of a stunt is almost expected from a site whose founder, Carlson, unapologetically promised copious “semi-SFW” sexed-up slideshows of women because, “We care about traffic.” (Some of you may remember Carlson as the bow-tied bloviating star of many “worst-of-Election-2008 coverage” lists, when the then-MSNBC host snarked, “I have often said, when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs” during a segment about novelty “Hillary Clinton nutcrackers.”)
If that’s true, why am I writing about today’s refugee ridiculousness at all? Because it’s important to at least register for the public record how journalistically irresponsible it is for any news outlet (even a bottom-feeder site that prides itself on clickbait) to exalt in this level of abject gender, race, and nationality-based dehumanization of 4,289,792 registered refugees and nine million Syrians displaced from their homes since their country’s civil war began in 2011.
“It is a crucial part of our anti-terrorism strategy that we work in partnership with the refugees . . . the dehumanization this article is contributing to will serve to worsen the problems,” wrote Bitch Media editorial intern Kirstin Kelley in a yet unpublished letter to the editor asking The Daily Caller to take down this piece. Kelley, who has a masters in terrorism from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, noted that:
“These refugees have lived through horrors you can I cannot comprehend… Make no mistake that your ‘funny’ post about refugees being great eye candy makes it considerably harder for us to empathize and work toward a solution that will ultimately cripple Daesh’s ability to recruit in the west.”
There are many journalistically relevant angles to the Syrian refugee story: news reports, features, and commentary could run in the domestic policy, foreign policy, election, or economic sections of any outlet. Just about the only section where this story doesn’t fit is the entertainment section. It’s bad enough when human misery, poverty, violence, misogyny, and death are used as fodder for hack comics’ punchlines, but comedians don’t have any particular set of ethical standards to uphold. Journalists, however, do. And while I’ve long maintained in interviews and public appearances that the Daily Caller is so regularly inaccurate that it can hardly be considered journalism, they package themselves as a legitimate conservative news site, and are treated as such within the media landscape.
I recognize the trap of calling attention to this “Syria-sly hot refugees” piece, as did assistant Salon editor Jenny Kutner in her response to The Daily Caller’s Mosby “smokeshow” inanity (“The post is offensive. The post is grotesque. The post is likely on the Internet for the sole purpose of getting people like me to write criticism like this for websites like this one.”).
Still, as a media critic, I chose this battle because it’s important for public debate to include not simply the predictable, canned outrage The Daily Caller desires, but a reminder that The Daily Caller is a piss-poor mockery of journalism and should never be considered anything else.