“Only thing we shoot down here is the birds and Democrats,” joked the guide assigned to our vehicle on my first hunting trip some years back at a ranch near San Antonio. I looked at the sweet old guy like he was from Mars.
A college friend had invited me down. He has a tattoo of Texas on his ass, which our other friend thought was a good idea to reference in a wedding toast that went something like: “Note for friend number one’s new wife re weight fluctuation. Sometimes that tattoo of Texas looks like Puerto Rico and sometimes it looks like the Austro-Hungarian empire.” Which created some laughter, some uncomfortable cowboys, and a lot of champagne chugging. Cultural mash-ups are not always easy, but they are instructive.
I managed to get invited back to the ranch a few times and actually shocked people in the hunting vehicle last year; they call it the “land yacht” because you drive with a boat throttle and boat wheel on a raised flying bridge sort of thing. They were shocked because I succeeded in putting lead up the ass of quail in full retreat. Yes, the little guy was indeed fully airborne. And you know what? I liked it. The rest of the covey was safe from me as I fumbled with the remaining shotgun shells and tried not to fall down in the mud. A skilled BBQ chef wrapped that little sucker in bacon, and this Philadelphia Jew ate it up like a Snickers bar.
We had some wine and also told some political stories. One was about Clayton Williams, who lost the Texas governor’s race when he repugnantly said rape is kind of like the weather—”just sit back and enjoy it.” The other was about a nasty fellow named Earl Butz, who was Richard Nixon’s Agriculture Secretary until he told some reporters that all black people in the country need is “loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place to shit.” Also repugnant. Though drunk people might still snicker at the audacity and not necessarily be labeled racist.
So what the hell does this have to do with the media having shit the bed in the great election of 2016? Well, I helped run a big national news outlet at ABC and am building a new one now that makes a point of promoting a different worldview. I can feel very smart media guys and venture capitalists whom I respect get scared when we publish videos with folks saying things such as “I’d like gay people in line with me, on equal footing, just not at the front of the line,” or “I’m not sure I want my 60-year-old mother to have a big shvantz in her face at the swimming pool locker room.”
Yes, the pollsters should be sent to re-education camps or back to school—or maybe stick to working for corporates. But instead of doing seminars and retreats and hand-wringing, the 30,000 people in the national press corps and the progressive, predictable digital upstarts should all take a week each month and rotate through new offices in Austin and Charlotte and Scranton and Kansas City. They don’t have to go hunting. A beer or a meal away with someone whom they’ve never met will help. It will never happen, but that’s how a company like Vice created a new voice a few years back. The hungry eat the lunch of the smug and predictable. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Steve Alperin is the CEO of Free Media