Once upon a time, children, long before video games, and even before television, there was a game called “pinball.” The idea was to shoot a ball into a mechanized bounce enhancement environment — usually painted with an incongruous theme — and see how many bounces that you could rack up.
An old rollover odometer-style counter kept your score, and it made loud sounds and bells rang.
This is the nature of our zeitgeist.
Google News gives us the mainstream buzz, and shows us how one article on the Associated Press wire is endlessly reprinted in newspapers from the Mighty of the East Coasterners’ glass-tower’d cities to the dinky of the West, like Caspar’s Wyoming Eagle-Star-Tribune (I may not have that precisely right) and the Idaho Falls Journal-Independent-Register. (ditto)
And, in the blogosphere it’s pretty consistent: a story hits the “instant media” and within moments, long dissertations appear, assigning blame, excoriating the purblind idiocy of the Other Side, and are as ephemeral as the morning dew.
In such culture, the pinballs that stay bouncing the longest have the greatest currency, and, for the first time, fame AND fortune are somewhat (tenuously) connected, where before, fame and fortune have rarely been on speaking terms in our History. (Indeed, fortune was used to purchase relative anonymity, save for the occasional society column items, spoon-fed to compliant ‘journalists.’)
John D. Rockefeller actually invented the modern “image” campaign, when he hired some folks to rehabilitate his public perception as an unreconstructed bastard who’d eat old Scrooge as an after-dinner mint in any business dealings.
They decided that what old John D. would do would be to carry a pocketful of dimes, and give dimes (which actually bought quite a bit, then) to boys on the streets. And make sure that he was photographed while doing so.
The photos were aggressively marketed and the new “image” took hold.
But there was no inkling of a concept that fame was an actual commodity, which could be traded for cash and prizes.
Now, we drop pinball after pinball into the media bumpers, and see which ones stay afloat the longest: everything from White Chicks in Aruba, to disappearing toddlers; from “crazy brides” to the Hilton/Spears Rehab Follies.
Whatever we can get to bounce around the longest, using the flippers: Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber are two prime examples of this. Trivial creations of a superficial and cynical media corps(e).
But, soft. Media Matters has saved me a huge amount of work ( since this draft was begun on December 12), noting:
Fri, Dec 12, 2008 7:56pm ET
Media Matters: Media pick up where they left off 8 years ago
by Jamison Foser
To anyone who lived through the media feeding frenzy of the 1990s, during which the nation’s leading news organizations spent the better part of a decade destroying their own credibility by relentlessly hyping a series of non-scandals, the past few days, in which the media have tried to shoehorn Barack Obama into the Rod Blagojevich scandal, have been sickeningly familiar.
Whenever reporters think — or want you to think — they’ve uncovered a presidential scandal, they waste little time in comparing it to previous controversies. Yesterday, CNN’s Rick Sanchez tried desperately to get the phrase “Blagogate” to stick — the latest in a long and overwhelmingly annoying post-Watergate pattern of ham-handed efforts to hype a scandal by appending the suffix “-gate” to the end of a word.
Sanchez’s efforts to create a catchphrase aside, the criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich this week isn’t the Watergate of the 21st century — though it shows signs that it may become this decade’s Whitewater.
Right about now, you may be scratching your head, trying to remember what, exactly, the Whitewater scandal was. Didn’t it have something to do with a bank? Or a land deal? But didn’t the Clintons lose money? How did the congressman who shot the pumpkin fit in?
But Whitewater is quite simple, when it is understood as it should be — as a media scandal, not a presidential scandal…. [emphasis added]
After giving Ronnie Ray Gun and George “Herbert Hoover” Bush a pass, the brave media hounded Bill Clinton for eight years with bogus “scandals” that effectively prevented him from ever fully taking office.
And now, after giving George W. “W is for War Criminal” Bush an eight year pass, they are already priming to do it again.
Listen to the Sunday Times (of London — owned by Rupert Murdoch):
Republicans are salivating at the prospect of tying the president-elect to the notoriously corrupt Chicago machine in which he forged his career. Grover Norquist, an influential conservative tax reform lobbyist, said: “If Obama wants to be squeaky clean, he is going to have to cut all his Chicago friends loose. His chief of staff has fingerprints on the murder weapon.” …
Er … right.
And this, from the Murdoch-owned New York Post:
JOURNALISTIC CITIZENSHIP — Here’s something to cheer in the otherwise sordid tale of disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. — Turns out his alleged crimes might have never come to light – if not for a commendable display of journalistic citizenship by the Chicago Tribune….
Er, the REPUBLICAN Chicago Tribune … ?
And, isn’t that their JOB?
As quickly as we can enmesh and mire the not-yet Administration in “scandal” and cripple it with phony charges, the sooner we can continue giving a complete pass to the most blatantly criminal administration in American history. The sooner we can sweep war crimes under the carpet by burying them in parking citations.
Here we goddam go a goddam gain. Deja vu for another successful Iran-Contra coverup. Once more into the breach, dear fiends [sic].
Just keep feeding those steel balls up to the bumpers and see what we can get to bounce around the longest.
Pinball is again the national media sport, even as editorial cartoonists go the way of the passenger pigeon, and newsrooms are depopulated as fast as dinosaurs did, according to the fossil record at the IR layer boundary.
But at least we have our famous chicks to bear the weight of Civilization, the Paris Hiltons, the Britney Spearses, the Madonnas, the Ann Coulters, the Michelle Malkins.
Because the faceless editorial directors (the ones who have studiously ignored eight years of war crimes, profiteering and corporate looting) have suddenly decided to start dropping their little steel balls on phony scandals, to “prove” what great “journalists” they all are, and, thus, show that THEY weren’t complicit in the criminal administration of the last eight years.
Much like they did in 1993, when they began hounding the Clintons with phony “Whitewater” charges — charges for which there was never any evidence of wrongdoing, even though they imprisoned James MacDougall who died in prison, having turned “states evidence” and Susan MacDougall who refused to.
Already, noises are being made about turning the Blogojevich scandal into something somehow about Barack Obama.
In a pig’s eye.
Bad moon risin’; trouble on the way.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chicago Tribune actually may have BLOWN the case for the feds by prematurely breaking the story they’d been sitting on since October [emphasis added]:
… Members of Fitzgerald’s team are livid the scheme didn’t advance, at least for a little longer, according to some people close to Fitzgerald’s office. Why? Because had the plot unfolded, they might have had an opportunity most feds can only dream of: A chance to catch the sale of a Senate seat on tape, including the sellers and the buyers.
The precise timing of Tuesday’s dramatic, pre-dawn arrest was not dictated by Fitzgerald, nor was it dictated by the pace of Blagojevich’s alleged “crime spree.” It was dictated by the Chicago Tribune, according to people close to the investigation and a careful reading of the FBI’s affidavit in the case.
At Fitzgerald’s request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.
Gerould Kern, the Tribune’s editor, said in a statement last week that these requests are granted in what he called isolated instances. “In each case, we strive to make the right decision as reporters and as citizens,” he said.
But editors decided to publish the story on Friday, Dec. 5, ending the Tribune’s own cooperation deal with the prosecutor.
Consider what had been dangling in front of FBI agents and federal prosecutors one day earlier.
The next morning, on Friday, Dec. 5, it all came crashing down for the FBI agents underneath the headphones.
The Tribune’s front page screamed: “Feds taped Blagojevich; TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: Adviser cooperated with corruption probe, sources say.”
Blagojevich read the same headline. “Undo” that “thing,” the governor allegedly told his brother, according to the FBI. And just like that, the meeting was off, only one day after it had been put back into play.
There appear to have been fears in Fitzgerald’s office that those caught on tape might now seek to “undo” other “things.” …
Had it not been for the Tribune’s Dec. 5 story, the meeting Blagojevich’s brother was arranging might have proceeded. Mr. Blagojevich is quoted as citing the story, in the affidavit, then calling off the meeting….