Michele Bachmann and the Corn Dog Media Circus

Michele Bachmann corn dog.

Michele Bachmann eats a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair. Photo: Toby Harnden

A presidential candidate eats a corn dog. No biggie, unless that candidate is a woman and she happens to look like Michele Bachmann. The featured image here needs no commentary. In question are today’s media ethics and dynamics.

When I first saw a picture of this lady eating a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair yesterday, my first reaction was “and this is why the Royal family never eats corn dogs in public.” I expected a few gossip magazines to pick that image up, dissect it, compare it with cheap porn, you name it. But I didn’t expect more reputed publications to follow the same path.

I don’t really get why a presidential candidate eating a corn dog is news, and why it is entertainment. I don’t get why journalists in their right minds would write something to insinuate that Bachmann was “blowing the corndog” or “sucking the footlong patriotic corndog of freedom.” After all, at the Iowa State Fair, eating corn dogs and funnel cakes is a tradition. But these are not the main issues. I take issue with some journalists’ idea that Toby Harnden should be fired for publishing the photo.

Let me elaborate: this is not the only “outrageous” picture of Michele Bachmann and the corn dog. There is another similar picture, showing Michele Bachmann eating a corn dog from her profile, in circulation on Reuters, main stream media and many blogs. That image didn’t get so much flack – and it’s no better than Harnden’s. Is Harnden’s particular snapshot “sexist,” or are we programed to see women like this in most natural circumstances? Bachmann ate a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair to show the people around her that she respects their traditions. No one can eat a corn dog with “grace.” But, Harnden published the picture, and according to some, made sexist insinuations:

Driving away on a golf cart with her husband Marcus beside her, Mrs. Bachmann stopped to buy a foot-long corn dog – a chicken and beef sausage in deep-fried batter. After applying mustard and allowing Mr. Bachmann to take the first bite, she chomped into it with gusto.

I don’t know what is worse. That Harnden published the picture, or that he concluded his Fried food and retail politics at the Iowa State Fair editorial with the cited paragraph. But in the true spirit of the inverted pyramid, that piece of information is the least important in the news. Except that… it’s not. In fact, Harnden made the news focus on the infamous corndog from the title. Bachmann’s status as a Straw Poll favorite came in second.

Regardless, the depiction of Bachmann eating a corn dog is not sexist. It’s what you want it to be. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – this picture is the clear reason why. The problem is not Toby Harnden. The media should take issues with people who imagine a sex act when they see a woman eating a corn dog, banana, or whatever cylindrical-shaped food, for that matter.

On another note, Michele Bachmann should be grateful for the infamous picture. Now her name is an international trend. Perhaps not for the reasons she was hoping for, but she can pick things up from here. First comes the brand, after all.

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