I‘m no fan of Vice President Cheney or his boss. Still less am I enamored of the media, liberal and illiberal. They are, for the most, enablers of power, props to the politicos. So long as they’re being treated as the demigods they believe they are, they act like lap dogs to the Big Dogs. Did not the “presstitutes” enable the invaders of Iraq? You bet they did, with the liberal Judith Chalabi of the New York Times in the lead.
Dare to disturb the delicate symbiosis between these parasites and their host, as the veep did, and the fleas make the fur fly. For close to a fortnight now we’ve been subjected to media grand mals over Mr. Cheney’s accident. Or rather, over the delay and circuitous way in which the press found out that he had accidentally shot Harry Whittington during a quail hunt.
Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” admitted, unabashed, that Cheney and his handlers messed with his colleagues’ (read: ME, ME, ME) collective sense of importance, by briefing a local newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, first. He justified their ensuing mindless fits of pique with these vainglorious words:
No wonder the [media] went crazy after learning of the shooting accident from a Texas paper… Cheney is telling the men and women assigned to cover the White House that they are irrelevant.
Come now; did the likes of Alter and NBC’s David Gregory need Mr. Cheney to tell them that? We can all agree that the press’s irrelevancy credentials are well-established and beyond reproach. The persistence with which they kept this relatively unimportant event in the headlines proves the point.
Alter’s was not the last word from “Newsweek” on the topic. Evan Thomas wowed his readers with who in Washington returned his calls, and how many members of his genus (reporter) per square mile accompanied Cheney on his retreats (none).
Look, the shooting may have been handled inefficiently and Cheney, it would seem, was both negligent and incompetent. However, this misfortune is almost immaterial in the grand scheme of things—Iraq, Darfur, debt and deficits, and the Danish cartoons, which the stumblebum press failed to publish or process.
The news nincompoops are fast becoming “irrelevant,” because they have no allegiance to objective truth and journalistic standards; only to their perches. Furthermore, for them to protest being treated dismissively is the ultimate performative contradiction—not that different from the contradiction the stampeding Muslim mobs present. The latter have been acting as terrorists to protest that their prophet was depicted as a terrorist; the former have been acting as idiots to protest being treated as irrelevant.
I counted a couple of “Time” Magazine features that used the shooting to psychologize, à la Oprah, about the Darth Vader of politics and his penumbral extracurricular pursuits (hunting, eating beef). Any half-wit with a vaguely normal range of affect, however, has to know that Mr. Cheney’s mishap, not that uncommon among hunters (our shooting instructor, who lives to popularize guns, told us he never goes hunting and advised the same) must have devastated all involved, including the VP.
Jonathan Alter closed with this bit of condescension:
The media often focus on relatively unimportant, easy-to-understand stories as metaphors for shortcomings that the normal conventions of the business (and the inattentiveness of the audience) make hard to convey.
Yes, the sages that slept with their sources at the onset of the extravaganza known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”; who subjected their readers and viewers to a perspective on the war as monochromatic as the green of night-vision optics, and who routinely privilege spectacle over substance—these stellar reporters are now, and for the benefit of us bumpkins, focusing their acute powers of observation on the symbolism of the veep’s accident.
Fiddlesticks! The media have not concentrated on this story as a service to the public or to the truth. Their coverage of the accidental shooting of Whittington has been entirely self-referential and self reverential. This was about them, and nothing else.
I can think of many material, not metaphoric, stories that would benefit the mulcted and misled masses. This was not one of them.
More to the point, members of the media ought to report about reality, not act out on their immense egos and limited powers of abstraction by assigning “symbolic” meaning to relatively minor events.
©2006 By Ilana Mercer