At the Scoop, Courtney Bender explores the media’s reporting of the Miss USA pageant and finds that “reading the coverage of Rima Fakih is a bit like going down the rabbit hole”:

There is not one story but rather a half-dozen. Most seem like old chestnuts, and at first glance each seems to have limited relation to the others. There is, of course, the story of the hometown girl inspiring others. Fakih says, “I want Michigan to know that my title should be a significant symbol that Michigan is going to go right back to where it was.” And there is, related, the story of the immigrant made good: Fakih is the first immigrant to win the title, an “Arab-American” and “Lebanese-American” who, as the AP reported, symbolizes “a victory for diversity” during an age of stereotyping.

Because she is from Dearborn, Michigan and also Muslim (or possibly half-Muslim, or perhaps a “Muslim who celebrates Muslim and Christian holidays”) there are of course other stories as well. She is a cultural bridge. She is a weapon. Or she is a terrorist – her family connected to Hezbollah. Or she is a Muslim whom Hezbollah rejects because she shows too much skin. Or she is the most recent opportunity for humorists to show how crazy Americans “wing-nuts” are in their attempt to link her to terrorism.

But before we get distracted with those Muslim and Lebanon stories, let’s remember that there is also the story of this beauty pageant’s quite forthright embrace of the objectification of women, and perhaps their exploitation. So there are pictures from  a pole-dancing competition and commentary on connections between swimsuit competitions, underwear modeling and soft porn. An NPR commentator grouses, “The decline and fall continues.”

But wait. This is also a story about another sort of immigration – the illegal kind. Miss Oklahoma, the first runner-up in the pageant, was asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, and gave a diplomatic answer. But the story circulates that she lost the competition (to an immigrant!) because her answer was “un-PC.” Fox News weighed in: “Conservative answer = Points lost. Liberal Answer = Brownie points.”

One might think that this multiplicity of stories shows the happy complexity of the event as well as journalists’ ability to report it in many ways. We might rejoice that it’s not just one story. But on second look, it appears that the stories resonate with one another more than we might expect.

Read the full post here.