Those of you who relished Barney Frank’s health care town hall as much as I did might remember Griff Jenkins, the Fox News correspondent who narrated the event in a way that, um, confirmed the expectations of Fox News correspondents. Jenkins appears to be a rising star at Fox, and has been the network’s point-man for covering Tea Party rallies, the 9/12 march on Washington, and other carefully orchestrated spontaneous outbursts of populist dissent. After hearing his name, I initially assumed he was a biplane pilot in an educational children’s show. It turns out, though, that Griff Jenkins is a real person who actually does stuff, most of which is hilarious.
Primarily what he does is interpret real-world events in such a way as to conform to some sort of Griff Jenkins-concocted master narrative, whose relation to the truth is roughly the same as the Pope’s relation to a unicorn’s butthole. Here he is assuring us that the 9/12 march is A) completely real and B) totally diverse. “They’re old, they’re young, they’re black, they’re white,” Jenkins says, standing in front of roughly 500 old white people. Jenkins represents the next step in Fox News’s transition to an openly partisan, Entertainment Tonight-style format, in which events are treated like celebrities to which the Fox audience already has a defined relationship, and ol’ Griff is just very excited to meet them. “This is an uprising,” he says at about the :43 mark. “We are at the beginning of a political movement.” That’s why Fox News is the most highly-rated network, right there. Other 24-hour news outlets content themselves with reporting on the past and present, but Griff Jenkins reports on the goddamn future.
Maybe it’s that wonderful name, but I can’t really get mad at him. Perhaps, as Gawker suggests, it’s because he is calculated to appeal to hipsters, although that conjecture seems based entirely on his plastic-frame glasses and his vaguely droopy hair. Perhaps it’s because, when listening to others, his face gradually takes on the expression of a big dog watching television. Mostly, though, Griff Jenkins is bizarrely likable because he is so happy about everything. Even when he’s spouting vindictive nonsense—as when he encountered a picture of Barack Obama riding a bicycle, demanded to know where he was going, then answered his own question by suggesting that he was going to “buy a pocket protector for his nerd pencils”— he does it with an excitement that borders on euphoria, as if he is surprised to find himself on television. That’s pretty much an illusion. Before his gig at Fox News, Jenkins worked as a producer on Tony Snow’s radio show, and on Oliver North’s, which means he’s essentially an old pro at this point. It also means he’s spent a lot of time around men who can charitably be described as professional liars. Let’s not forget, while we’re talking about journalistic pedigrees, that North was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry.
To spend one’s life in the company of such men while simultaneously pursuing a career as a news reporter is to incur a titanic amount of cognitive dissonance, and it’s probable that Griff Jenkin’s mind is under enormous pressure. If his blog is any indication, Jenkins’s psyche is holding up like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The basic thrust of his argument—which, as near as I can tell, constitutes his sole blog entry—is that the economic meltdown isn’t so bad, because look at all the amazing stuff we’ve developed since 1980. After pointing out that “some in the media” have accused President Obama of waging a campaign of media terror to frighten the American people into supporting his economic stimulus package, he strikes an optimistic note: “Call me crazy,” Jenkins says, “but no matter how bad life ever got growing up, my mother always consoled me that ‘the sun will still come up’ tomorrow. And fortunately, she was right.” Griff Jenkins, you are crazy. While I am extremely glad that his mother was correct in her prediction that the sun would come up, I’m not sure if continued solar existence is our primary concern in the real estate/stock market/banking industry collapse. By way of cheering us up, Jenkins then presents a list of ten inventions since 1980 that make modern life bearable. Number 10 is “artificial hearts” and Number 5 is “DVDs.” His number-one marvel of the contemporary world is “a Starbucks on every corner,” finally answering the perennial question, “Who actually wants that?”
Griff Jenkins actually wants that, and somehow I believe that he actually wants whatever bizarro world he’s narrating for Fox, too. In a network of cynical panderers, Griff Jenkins is happily slurping down a second helping of Kool-Aid. He’s like those poor kids you see in footage of Tea Party rallies: too young and faithful to have arrived there of his own volition, and too happy to be part of something to consider the hideous mechanics of what he’s actually participating in. Griff Jenkins never had a chance.