The Media Coverage of Kamala Harris and Bluetooth is Ridiculous
In coverage of Vice President Kamala Harris, we’ve seen some real doozies this year.
There was the New York Post story in April that claimed “Heroes Are Everywhere”, a children’s book published by the VP in 2019, had been distributed in welcome packages to “thousands” of migrant children arriving in the country. This was entirely false, and the reporter who wrote the story resigned and claimed she had been pressured to do it in a rather startling thread.
In a pair of stories a few weeks ago during the Veep’s diplomatic trip to Paris, some in media felt it necessary to lean into the trivial.
While visiting a lab at the Pasteur Institute, Harris pronounced the word “the” as “thee” in emphasis, which is not an uncommon thing to do in the States. In response, some in media openly wondered if she was mocking or mimicking French accents. Here’s a delightful summary of the incident from The Daily Show:
Let’s pretend for a second that VP Harris meant to mimic a French accent in a very brief manner during a moment of levity with her hosts. I guess my question is… why does it matter? Are there French people who took offense to this?
The implication seems to be that VP Kamala Harris is uneducated and rude toward French speakers, which is a curious thesis given that she spent her adolescence in Québec and speaks the language with conversational fluency.
This was followed by a second story surrounding the Veep’s purchase of cookware at a Parisian shop. She and First Gentleman Doug Emhoff stopped by E. Dehillerin—where Julia Childs bought her cookware—to pick up a few items. Harris is known for her advanced culinary skills, so this seemed like a fun and innocent detour on the way out of town.
Instead, her purchase, with her own money, of between $375 and $600 in cookware (there are conflicting reports) sent conservative media into a temper tantrum, which is especially odd given that they worship the throne of a guy who famously shits in gold toilets and blew as much as $140m in taxpayer money on his personal golf trips.
Oh, but friends, we have a new contender in this clown show.
Last night, the journalists behind Politico’s West Wing Playbook thought it wise to publish a story on the VP’s preference for wired headphones—because she’s concerned over the vulnerability of Bluetooth-enabled devices like AirPods—and then fleshed out the piece with an insinuation that she’s being paranoid.
On Twitter, reporter Alex Thompson, one of the folks on the byline, echoed this part from the piece: that some aides felt VP Harris was being “a bit paranoid” over security and attached it to an anecdote over Harris, then California Attorney General, instructing her staff not to leave visitors alone in her office.
The critical bit about her ordering staff to not leave visitors alone in her office—the Office of the Attorney General of California—seems especially absurd. It’s a legal office. It’s a government office. There are confidential documents. Someone left alone could plant a listening device. So many operational security concerns.
It doesn’t make sense.
So, let me attempt to summarize this: VP Kamala Harris is now being criticized for using wired headphones instead of Bluetooth because she's worried about security risks and this is bad because... we don't want a Vice President who goes the extra mile in national security?
What a surprise that the folks who were obsessed with the national security implications of Hillary Clinton's email server are now pushing that VP Kamala Harris is being "paranoid" for declining to use Bluetooth tech because of its security vulnerabilities.
How very surprising.
Anyway, here’s some solid reporting from Scott Bixby, Shannon Vavra, and Adam Rawnsley for The Daily Beast about how the VP is quite correct in her concerns. No less than the NSA has advised government officials to disable their Bluetooth capability entirely:
The U.S. government, via guidance from the National Security Agency’s defensive cybersecurity branch, recommended last year that if users want to avoid the risk of data exposure seeping out to unwanted eavesdroppers, they ought to disable Bluetooth altogether, according to an agency document.
It’s weird what happens when journalists do the necessary work of journalism.
I’ve seen some people online imply or hint that the folks at West Wing Playbook intended this as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, playful reporting, perhaps even an attempt at parodying the way in which VP Harris has been needlessly criticized this year over trivial matters.
Let's pretend for a second that the VP wired headphones story was an attempt at oddball news or levity, writing a tongue-in-cheek article to generate social media outrage. How is that not irresponsible on the part of journalists? How is that engaging the public in good faith?
Whatever your valid criticisms of the Vice President’s job performance — at best, these trivial stories only undermine that important discussion, and at worst, they enable the racism and sexism faced by VP Harris.
I’ll leave you with what a good friend of mine texted me after the reading the story last night. She said: “It’s clear Harris didn’t do anything wrong by wearing wired headphones, so why is this written as though she did?”
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Hi, I’m Charlotte Clymer, and this is Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, my Substack. It’s completely free to access and read, but if you feel so moved to support my writing, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription: just $7/month or save money with the $70/annual sub. You can also go way above and beyond by becoming a Founding Member at $210.
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