Just Above Sunset Archives
26 May 2003 Mailbag
Press Notes: A few of us have been arguing online over what gets covered in the press and why, and what kind of stories have "legs" and what kind of stories die quickly. Here are some "mid-stream" comments from a friend who used to be in the news business.
The answer is that the media tends to try to guess if there's a substantial number of people out there that gives a flying whatever about this story enough to make it worth keeping it alive from day to day. While I personally didn't care about, say, the OJ story after the first or second day, there apparently were plenty of folks who expected to tune in the next day, and the next, to find out "whatever happened to that investigation into that nice-looking African-American ex-football player who runs through those airports on TV, and is now accused of killing his white wife?"
Actually, there seemed to be any number of combinations of people who were intrigued by that story for any or all of the factors that I listed, all of which made it all more compelling a story to keep going. Me? I tried to avoid the story and stopped watching the news for awhile, but truth be told, I came back later and became sort of a OJ junky near the end. But at the same time, I do find the media does cater to folks who have a lot more interest in these stupid stories than I do.
Between you and me, I'm personally with you completely on the Clinton impeachment story. But it's important to understand that Hillary was spot on when she credited a "vast conservative conspiracy" for keeping the Clintons in the news. I was somewhat shocked when I saw the skeptical public reaction to her claims, but then, I had been watching these anti-Clinton guys up close and personal for years in the JFORUM on Compuserve. I had no doubt that some millionaire named Richard Mellon Scaife, a neighbor of Alan's (and I suspect a close drinking buddy) was behind this whole thing. (Don't call your lawyer, Alan; I'm just kidding about the drinking thing.)
In any event, there was definitely a cadre of Clinton haters who, for fun and/or profit, would keep blowing enough smoke about the Clintons over the years that sooner or later, just enough people would think there was a fire behind it. After time, all it took was a little perjury trap, hidden in full public view, to tip the scale.
Could this work in reverse? Could someone do to Bush what they did to Clinton? They're welcome to try, but frankly, I doubt they'd succeed.
I think there's a mistaken tendency to attribute balance in the comparisons of Liberals and Conservatives. Clinton, to those on the right, was a "draft dodger," in spite of his professed principled resistance to fighting a war that was wrong. But how excited did these same people get about Dan Quayle's refusal to go fight a war he was in favor of, not even pretending to do this on principle but instead because he had something more important to do (study for a career in law). Or today, do these same people have a problem with George W. Bush's stated preference, at the time, to not join in combat overseas, then going AWOL for a year? Conservatives, seeing Clinton having said he didn't inhale pot, call him a pothead, but go silent on Bush's skipping a drug test when he was in the military, and his later absolutely refusing to answer questions about his alleged cocaine use.
The truth is, Conservatives get pissed off pretty much only about whatever Liberals do. And Liberals don't get that excited about anything anybody does
In other words, things are not equal on the left and right. If they were, you'd have to have a whole coven of liberal folks who don't really care about the truth, trying to rake up the kind of muck on Bush that might turn up an impeachable offense someday. In fact, Liberals just don't have it in them for that kind of work. Liberals are cooperators, not competitors. As has been pointed out time and time again by Conservatives, Liberals don't have the patience to fight to the death for their own side of the argument. Liberals eat their own. For whatever reason, there are no leftist Rush Limbaughs. If liberals were just like conservatives, but a mirror image, you'd see as many successful left-wing talk radio shows as you do right-wing.
But I do wish you luck. If anyone needs to be impeached, it's not someone who plays doctor with some woman well past the age of consent, then tells fibs about it, it's someone who wages "perpetual war" as a way to make himself a perpetual "wartime president". (Talk about giving a story legs! These people make journalists look like kindygartners!)
Except, of course, that this can't really be a "war," because if it were, all those people being held unconstitutionally without charge would be "war criminals." This is precisely what the American people need to find unacceptable. Otherwise, we will all be in big, big trouble.
On a less serious note, from Canada a friend sends along what's going around the net these days, more variations on "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?" It's been sent to me several times.
GEORGE W. BUSH
We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either with us or it is against us.
There is no middle of the road here.
The campaign to remove the road-crossing chicken from power is proceeding entirely on schedule. He will not be able to cross THAT road again after our troops shock and awe him into submission.
Now at the left of the screen, you clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
We still have no reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed full access to the other side of the road.
MOHAMMED AL-DURI (Iraqi ambassador)
The chicken did not cross the road. This is a complete fabrication. We don't even have a chicken.
This crossing was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.