EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (including those of you who’ve opted not to get “Reader” tattooed on your back for fear I and this “news”letter will one day go the way of Jill Abramson),
I have breaking news!
My dog is quietly sleeping on the couch! That’s right, she is a warm puddle of furriness. Earlier this morning she rubbed up against me and asked me to feed her. Even weirder, when I asked her to sit, she didn’t. She just stared at me as if I owed her money.
My only regret is I don’t have video of this amazing activity. For if I did, I’m sure The Today Show and Good Morning America would lead with it.
I can only reach that conclusion given the global hysteria over a cat that attacked a dog that was attacking a small boy. What I mean is, if one cat out of a billion acts like your typical dog, surely when a dog acts like a typical cat, it should also be big news.
Of course, that wouldn’t happen. Why? Because we expect dogs to be dogs. Not all dogs are heroes, of course. Not all dogs follow commands. Some dogs even do bad things, like attack little kids in the driveway. But these are exceptions to our expectations. Every day some dog somewhere protects a member of his family. Every day a dog does amazing things when asked. Every day millions of dogs do less-than-amazing things like sitting or fetching or rolling over.
But here’s the thing: When a cat does it — BOOM — everyone applauds like finish-line huggers at the Special Olympics. Put a video of a cat fetching a ball up on YouTube and it will rack up views like notches on Bill Clinton’s headboard.
This hero cat is a celebrity now for doing exactly what you’d expect of a family dog.
You know what this is, right? It’s the celebrifying bigotry of low expectations.
I don’t mind giving this cat her due, though who among us doubts that her motives could have been less than pure? Maybe the boy was her protein-rich “rainy day fund” as it were, “Hey Dog, I’m saving the bald baby monkey for later!” Maybe the dog and the cat worked out this whole stunt in advance to make her look good. Who knows?
All I ask is you see things through canine eyes for a minute. How would you feel if you saw this fawning coverage of a cat doing a dog’s job as proof that “cats rule and dogs drool,” as Sally Kohn put it? It’s the story of the prodigal son all over. Dogs do the hard work of being mankind’s wing-mammal in this world, and all it takes for everyone to gush over cats is one (alleged) instance of feline heroism?
What’s Next? Equal Kibble for Equal Work?
Indeed, Kohn’s ode to the feline is a classic liberal response. She takes a statistical outlier or anecdote — in this case a single cat with canine virtues — and declares it emblematic of her preferred group (cats in general). She then uses this anecdote as proof that all traditional understandings and arrangements viz-a-viz cats are inherently bigoted and unfair. Kohn writes:
Think popular culture, the heroic dogs immortalized in our stories. There’s Lassie. Benji. Rin Tin Tin. Old Yeller. Toto. Should we count White Fang? Anyway, can you think of a single famous fake cat hero besides Puss in Boots?
And in real life, dogs get plenty of good press. Man’s best friend and all of that. Cats are denigrated, treated as less than, relegated to old women and semi-ironic decorations on sweatshirts. Grumpy Cat. Or nasty and creepy, like Mr. Bigglesworth. Or the Siamese cats in “Lady and the Tramp” — you know, the movie with the heroic dog couple. Or stupid, like Sylvester. “Dog lover” is a compliment. “Cat lady” is not.
It couldn’t be that dogs are heroic in our stories because dogs are reliably heroic. It must be that there’s some unfair bias against cats that is to blame. Because as we all know, if cats were allowed to compete for traditional dog jobs they’d get them. Level the playing field and cats will run ahead of the fastest man into battle. Cats will jump out of planes and helicopters. Cats will work night and day to find fallen comrades. It’s all about the glass leash! Why do the Koch brothers keep cats down?