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The Washington Post's Robin Givhan, continuing on her crusade to bring shame to the Washington Post, journalism as a trade, and fashion writing, turns her attention to Elena Kagan.

This is the quality of reporting involved: Kagan has a conservative personal style. This might not seem like much of a scoop, given that in the second paragraph Givhan stipulates that:

The other men and women who have gone through this process have not been daring in their wardrobe choices either. There hasn't even been a pair of artful eyeglass frames in recent memory.

And yet, 1100 words on Kagan's conservative style.

We learn that she is frumpy, and that everyone in Washington is frumpy. And yet her frumpiness is somehow different and worthy of examination. Therefore we learn that as she does not cross her legs. "She doesn't appear to ever cross" them, according to Givhan, who has apparently not given the photographic record as close a look as has DougJ at Balloon Juice, who offers a picture of Kagan with her legs crossed. DougJ, though, is just some blogger who lacks Robin Givhan's analytic ability and is therefore not qualified, as is Givhan, to state with confidence that because Elena Kagan does not cross her legs either at the knee or the ankle, even when someone else in the room is doing so, she is a non-conformist.

And of course, what "non-conformist" means here is "woman about whose sexuality there will be endless and irrelevant public debate," Kagan's sexuality being the thing Givhan is trying to infer from the cut of her suit and the crossing of her legs.

This attempt is justified yet again by the tautology all media organizations these days lean on when they are called out for blatantly painting gossip and innuendo as "news." Particularly when it's pretty obvious that the subject of the "news" wouldn't be getting this treatment if she were a straight white man. This is the script: "It's news because people are talking about it. Therefore we must report on it." Who is talking about it? "Uh...people." Press them further and it becomes clear that these people are reporters in other news organizations, only because the Beltway media never wants to admit that its obsessions are in fact unique to the Beltway media, those obsessions get projected outward.

So the pretense here is that people in coffee shops around the country are talking about what Elena Kagan is wearing. I'm not being rhetorical about that, by the way. Givhan actually conjures up the image of people in coffee shops trying to determine if Elena Kagan is a lesbian based on what she's wearing. Still more: is she a Birkenstock lesbian or a Portia de Rossi lesbian? People! In coffee shops! They wonder this stuff!

No, they don't. Most of them don't know who Elena Kagan is, let alone that there are rumors that she's a lesbian, and still less do they have the first clue what accessories she wears. This piece isn't just stupid gossip posing as cultural analysis, it's stupid gossip that shows how very parochial a place Washington DC is.

One final note: The coffee shop comes in the defensive section of the piece. Givhan used to be shameless in her gratuitous misogyny and flagrant idiocy, but lately she's devoted a few paragraphs in her stupidest pieces to trying to cover her ass. What she consistently misses is that even the most important topic treated in a stupid enough way will draw scorn. You don't have to write about something other than fashion to be left alone, Robin. You just have to stop being offensive and puerile.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue May 25, 2010 at 06:30 PM PDT.

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