Media Events overtake News

Media Events overtake News September 7, 2006

It’s hard to keep up with all the interesting and important news out there, when the world seems to be buzzing about almost nothing but Bill Clinton and pals trying to shut down a movie and the seemingly-ever-ascending Katie Couric.

I mean, there are some very big stories out there, like,

1) The revelation by President Bush yesterday that we have managed to thwart numerous attacks by terrorists. Or the acknowledgement by the press that President Bush has reframed the whole issue.

2)That secret CIA prisons manage to interrogate effectively.

3)The news that US and Coalition Forces have today handed over control of the Iraqi army to the central Iraqi government. That’s no small story in an age where the narrative is “quagmire,” but it’s not on anyone’s front page.

4) The story of the Green Party Candidate for Governor of New York would support the death penalty as long as it would kill President Bush.

5) The unexpected news that Joe Lieberman is getting Democrat hugs from his Senate colleagues, who must see some writing on the wall, somewhere.

I can tell from my site meter that the posts generating the most traffic over the past few days have all been about Couric or The Path to 9/11 – the film Clinton is (quite stupidly) freaking out over.

“So, Anchoress, we’re reading Clinton and Couric and not the other news, so what?” You are asking. Well, you could phrase it “we’re wallowing in sensationalism and marketing hype, and what’s wrong with that?” and that might answer the question.

I think all of this attention being paid to these stories says something about us as a society. We really are – as Bono would say – “sliding down the surface” of things. We like the glittery flash-and-dash of the Couric stories, we like the gossipy, squirminess of the Clinton one, and we like to choose sides – to feel like we belong somewhere – and both stories sort of give us the chance to do that, and to be both voyeurs and players. These are very adolescent fixations. We are like children feasting on ice cream and ignoring the dry meatloaf on the plate. Ice cream goes down easy. Meatloaf needs slicing and chewing, and wants ketchup. It’s too much work. If we can wheedle out of eating it, we will.

Well, alright. I like ice cream as much as anyone (rather too much, my thights would declare), but I’m concerned that too much is being overlooked, that information is moving so quickly we’re not even getting half of it and what we are getting is freeze-dried, processed, packaged and taken on the run. I don’t know how much is being digested, but there is an election coming up and we seem to be feeding on junk and leftovers, rather than on what is substantial and fortifying and nourishing. That is going to be reflected, I think, in our elections and thus in our future.

The other day I wrote a serious post on what I think is going to become a more and more pressing matter in our lives over the next few years, that of forced conversions. It has barely been read at all, and that’s a shame. The threat of forced conversions in our future is not a fun read or an easy subject matter to want to focus on, it’s definitely brussel sprouts meant to be shoved into a napkin and disposed of later. But we saw two newsmen forced to convert under threat of death, and we saw most of the world shrug at it, and that matters. If things go badly for our side and well for the other side, forced conversions are going to become something we really have to deal with – which means we need to think about them, and foment our personal “policy” on them, now – not later. It’s important to talk about. So are all of the stories I enumerated above.

I’m as guilty as anyone of wanting to read the glitz and gossip, and I’ve certainly written extensively on some of it. But perhaps tomorrow, I am going to take a breather from the sensationalistic and lightweight stories (both of which are really media events rather than stories) and pay more attention to the weightier stories that take a little thought, to which a little grim attention must be paid. Right now, it honestly feels like really only George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and Stephen Harper are doing that. If we expect a great deal from our leadership – and we do – then we owe them, and the things they are working on, a bit more than a passing glance as we hurry to slide down the surface of things.

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