“She’s only 28 years old, and at this time last year she was working as a bartender!”
I left my morning eggs to briefly fry unsupervised and poked my head around the kitchen wall to see what all the fuss on television was about. The way the local anchor said the word “bartender,” I thought that someone from the service industry had become the first human being to fly with no help at all from any sort of artificial propulsion. Like a superhero.
Rather, the news was that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—a political neophyte and democratic socialist who, in addition to various qualifications that naturally complement a politician’s duties, was indeed recently tending bar at a tapas joint in Manhattan—rocked an entrenched incumbent US congressman in a significant primary upset, further igniting an ongoing dialogue about how far the Democratic party should and could move to the left.
Don’t get me wrong. Ocasio-Cortez is every bit the promising anomaly that sympathetic media is making her out to be, and what she has accomplished in New York—her district includes a swath of my native Queens—should be studied and admired. All I’m saying is that journalists and talking heads should act far less surprised about the candidate’s experience mixing mojitos, like this kicker from Business Insider: “28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was bartending last year—now she’s likely becoming the youngest congresswoman in history.”
As anyone who’s worked in food service before knows well, slinging grub and suds is only half of what they do. The rest of the time, they are dealing with the foulest quirky selfish pigs you can imagine, entitled animals who act as if they’re more important than the working-class people propping their world up. In other words, it’s fantastic preparation for going to work with greedy DC pricks who are accustomed to doing nothing and being applauded for it. Plus there is the practical aspect of having a food service pedigree—unlike members of Congress, who get pay hikes and excellent healthcare no matter how bad they are at their job, when you wait tables or tend bar you need to actually put in real effort if you want to make a buck. If only more elected politicians had to work under that kind of pressure.
What am I ranting about, anyway? In two phrases: lazy buzzwords, clickbait. As necessary as summarizations can be to reduce a complicated situation to a simple headline, sometimes such sensational shorthand comes at the expense of the subject, as I believe happened with Ocasio-Cortez, who is also a BU grad, by the way.
Do I have a solution? Not really, but I did think of a more accurate headline: “Longshot congressional candidate who thinks that sick people and immigrants should be treated humanely elected to office.”
Now that’s something I would click on. How about you?
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.