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Caveat lector

15 September 2001

Our current howler: While cable slept

Synopsis: When the airwaves are devoted to Nonsense and Trivia, eventually something blows up.

Blinded by scandal
Arianna Huffington, Salon, 9/13/01

Who lost the World Trade Center? Eventually, fair-minded people will try to assess our lack of intelligence on Tuesday morning. But our lack of intelligence before Tuesday morning isn’t real hard to unpack. Over the course of the past ten years, we’ve increasingly devoted our public discourse to the pursuit of Complete, Total Trivia. When democracies run their public discourse this way, eventually something—somewhere, at some point—is going to go badly wrong.

We link you below to Arianna Huffington’s seminal piece from Salon. But before we do, here’s a question we were posing even before we read her fine column. How many discussions of international terrorism did you see on cable "news networks" this summer? The answer, of course, almost surely is "none," because we discussed Gary Condit all summer instead. In fact, you saw no discussions of anything serious because the boys and girls of our simpering press corps were rubbing their thighs about Gary and Chandra. Our Washington press corps has long been devoted to excitement, inanity, nonsense and trivia. How many discussions of terrorism did you see? There were no discussions, because your "press corps" had weightier things on its mind.

We aren’t saying that Tuesday’s events occurred because our pundits wasted their summer. (Although, of course, that’s possible.) But you can be perfectly sure of one thing; eventually, something was going to go badly wrong because of our inane public discourse. The Trade Center turned into rubble first, but something was going to come down in the end. For example, the budget discussions of the past few years have been public tributes to sheer inanity. The discussions of the SS surplus being conducted last weekend were an insult to human intelligence.

Your "press corps" is overpaid; vastly overpraised; lazy; dishonest; corrupt and unintelligent. Their work is a tribute to the problem of affluence; it’s long been clear that our overfed "press corps" is completely detached from the world’s real concerns. Why didn’t they discuss Warren Rudman’s report, which Arianna describes in her column? Simple—they had to discuss Gary Condit instead. And before that, what was the biggest event of the press corps’ last decade? Simple—that event occurred three years ago, when they learned that Clinton may have gotten ten blow jobs! (Of course, neither that, nor the Condit discussion, had anything to do with sex.)

So the culture war’s over, and Howard Stern won. Your Washington "press corps" is profoundly un-serious. Read Arianna’s piece, and think back on your summer. Why didn’t you hear about international terrorism? Larry, Geraldo, Paula—and Tim—had to discuss Gary Condit instead! And believe it—something eventually was going to fall because we’ve tolerated this group’s mindless culture.

Visit Salon’s incomparable archives: Why didn’t you hear about Rudman’s report? Be sure to read Arianna’s piece. The great, great Greek hits it right on the head. You know what to do—just click here.


The Daily update (9/15/01)

Warning: this item is NOT a parody: Should clearcut, obvious mental illness disqualify pundits from high standing on cable? Read the latest work of a cable pundit and see what you think about that.

For years, it’s been an off-handed joke; "if World war III broke out this morning, by paragraph 4 they’d be on Clinton’s sex life." Now we see the joke made flesh. Note also the use of Barbara Olson’s death to flatter the writer; the astounding description of airport security workers; and, of course, the closing suggestion that we force the Muslim world to convert. But this is the work of a major player in the past decade’s public discourse. Geraldo Rivera loves getting her insights. And remember—this is an example of the level of intelligence we were tolerating before Tuesday morning. To ruminate further upon such matters, you know what to do. Just click here.