Staff editorial: Franken or fiction?

By Staff

With Al Franken’s Senate run becoming a major discussion topic in our college’s Minnesota home, it behooves us to shed some light on our modest corner of the truth in order to enrich this conversation.The Mac Weekly has had a long-running relationship with Mr. Franken, having had three encounters with him since early 2006. Given our own student body’s diverse composition of ironic posturers, committed Democratic partisans and activists who don’t favor working within America’s two-party system, we make few claims to an essential Minnesotan identity.

But this divestment of interest can slip easily into a disengagement that serves power, and can make for strange bedfellows.

“Minnesotans know what’s a joke and what isn’t,” Franken said in a recent New York Times interview. Was it a failure of cultural literacy when Franken did his damnedest to dress down a Mac Weekly reporter for challenging Democratic Party orthodoxy in Feb. 2006?

Franken’s characteristic comedic nonchalance dropped during that initial interview, much of which was spent on a disagreement of facts in which The Mac Weekly was later vindicated.

Mac Weekly writer Alex Park wrote in Oct. 2006 that “speaking with Al Franken, one gets the impression that he likes to laugh at you.” Franken’s demeanor smacked of carpetbagger condescension, and his flippancy may have been a dismissal of a student body that is less than 20 percent Minnesotan.

But if Macalester is made up of a similar motley crew of the condescending privileged, it’s also made up of many who have been forced to work through this attitude in the very act of being engaged outside of the Macalester bubble. To wit: sometimes it takes one to know one, and The Mac Weekly’s Franken Files have been filled with many such mirror moments.

With Franken’s quick acceptance and love notes from mainstream news outlets and their journalists, a certain orientalist brand of fetishization seems to be taking place, a yearning for an individual hero who can shake up the business as usual with which these journalists must occupy themselves on a daily basis.

We saw the limits of this lionization in the fall (and now return) of Don Imus, an obviously more problematic figure but one who occupies the same slot in journalism’s imaginary.

We saw in our initial interview that Mr. Franken’s world and theirs, and his practices within it, are not so different, but a spoonful of sugar can disguise more than medicine going down.