Sunday, September 24, 2023

"Jackass" With a Cell Phone


I follow The Tennessee Holler ("Always Yell the Truth!"), which is the liveliest progressive citizen journalism anywhere and a great source on what's really happening in the corridors of power in Tennessee state government. That's just next door to Watauga County, and we ought to keep up with the neighbors. 

It's hard to imagine a more nakedly obvious bunch of control freaks than the Republican caucus in both NC House and Senate, but the Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature run a competitive race for "poster child of white dickishness," particularly in ousting two Black reps from their seats for being uppity, and more recently twiddling thumbs during the special session called by the governor to consider gun reforms in the wake of the Covenent School shooting, which happened almost exactly a year ago. The Holler has been there in the legislative building with iPhone and microphone to record some of the most galvanizing displays of conservative arrogance ever recorded anywhere.

The creator and pretty much sole reporter for The Holler, Justin Kanew, got the full press profile by reporter Alejandro Ramirez. Kanew's background as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and a staffer for National Lampoon obviously conditioned him for the smart-aleckiness he has on display covering the legislature. He came back Tennessee from the West Coast in 2016 and almost immediately ran for a congressional seat in 2018 as a Democrat, galvanized by the first years of the Trump administration, but he got whipped for Congress. He then hatched the idea and started The Holler in 2019 as a platform where he could get his aggressions out and crusade for progressive causes. He has the reputation of confronting Republican lawmakers assertively, even rudely at times, shouting questions at their backs when they run away from him. "He's a jackass," one bigwig said (our jackass, I thought, and we need more).

Ramirez samples Kanew's reportorial style: During the special session this year called by the (also Republican) governor to pass gun reform measures to help preclude more school massacres, large crowds of gun reform advocates including parents of Covenant students, converged on Nashville to protest the inaction of the legislature. The Republican supermajority ordered State Troopers to block off access to one of the public galleries, and water fountains were turned off despite the summer heat, Kanew took himself to social media with a photo of state troopers blocking access to the House chamber with a bold caption: “Today at the Capitol is by far the most un-American fascistic day we have seen, by far.” That Instagram post went on to receive more than 2,800 likes in one hour.

Ramirez reports that The Holler had two major scoops in 2023: "The first — and more salacious — was exposing Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s flirty emojis on racy photos of a young gay man. The second was a leaked recording of a closed-door House Republican meeting following the expulsion hearings of the Tennessee Three, which was full of infighting."

He's a muck-raker, no doubt, but we need muck-rakers, especially in the current climate of authoritarian over-reach where more power is the only thing that satisfies their everlasting thirst to punish. "His confrontations can feel more performative than informative," writes Ramirez. So what? 'Tis the age of performance, and the truth has to go social to prove it exists.

1 comment:

Red Hornet said...

Kanew doesn't do damage, but he documents it.