Matt Taibbi calls it African Campaign Safari. The game involves tracking back to the first usage in campaign reporting of a particular word or phrase that then gets used ad nauseum by the media.
You’d like to think that’s not the way it works, but it is. It’s always the same thing. One week, out of the blue, somebody uses a line once. Next week, it gets used three times. By the third week, fifty or sixty times by fifty or sixty reporters.Bob Somerby proves to be an excellent player in Where Do Storylines Come From? in which he tracks back the recent upsurge in popularity of kitchen sink-throwing (Clinton the sink thrower, Obama the moving target) and shows how it has become a Standard Familiar Point in campaign reporting and analysis.
Usually you don’t spot it until that third week, when you suddenly start seeing it everywhere…. [and] you start scratching your head, wondering, “Jesus, where the hell did this come from?”
That’s when you know it’s time to play AFRICAN CAMPAIGN SAFARI. You’ve got to go find the source of the Nile.*
That “kitchen sink” statement has now become a standard way of trashing Clinton’s campaign. It’s often attributed to Clinton’s staff, as [Joe] Klein does here. Last week, even before reading Klein, we’d become curious about where this familiar script-point began. Through the magic of Nexis, we traced it on back. For those who want to examine the Pleasing Group Novels they’re handed, this is where story-lines come from….[I’m such a tease: go read the rest of Somerby’s post to find out the identity of the original culprit.]
Throw/threw the kitchen sink was new to me and, judging by queries on some word usage sites, to a lot of other people as well. Obviously it represents the evolution and further hyperbolization of the already established hyperbole, everything but the kitchen sink.
But if Hillary Clinton did indeed throw the kitchen sink at Barack Obama during the Pennsylvania primary, doesn’t that mean she’s got nothing left in her arsenal?
Or is there a huge supply of kitchen sinks waiting to be thrown, each with a different tactical purpose? Or maybe even smart sinks, heat-seeking sinks, unmanned aerial sinks, nuclear sinks?
Okay, here’s your homework assignment for the weekend: Find the media source of the Nile for crazy uncle as used in reference to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
*From Spanking the Donkey, page 291.