By MARC MCDONALD
From time to time, in the news media business, there will emerge a story that journalists will say "has legs."
A story with "legs" tends to completely dominate our nation's public discourse for months at a time. More often than not, by the time the story has run its course, virtually every American will be sick and tired of the topic. (Recall the O.J. Simpson case).
A good example of a story with legs was the Monica Lewinsky story. This is a story that got "above the fold," saturation, round-the-clock coverage for 18 seemingly never-ending months. The media obviously believed it was a major story with legs (although the American public obviously disagreed---Clinton enjoyed strong approval ratings in the high 60s, even at the height of the "crisis").
By the time this story wound down, virtually everyone in America was long since tired of the topic. (It's interesting, because the media has long claimed that it serves up news stories that "the public wants." And yet, who, outside of a few right-wing partisan hacks really wanted to read about the Monica Lewinsky story day after monotonous day for a year and a half?)
Progressives these days are no doubt wondering if the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame story will have legs. Will the mainstream media continue to pursue this story, day in and day out, and give it the coverage that it deserves?
I think this story, as important as it is, will fizzle out soon, as the mainstream media looks elsewhere for its "flavor of the month" news cycle fix. No doubt, the next time an attractive white woman winds up in peril somewhere, the media will latch onto that story and drop the Rove story.
The fact is, the media has given the Bush White House a free pass on everything for the past five years and I don't expect the Rove case to be any different.
The media's agenda these days is pretty much dictated by the right-wing's powerful noise machine, which pretty much obliterates any real dialogue on the issues that impact the lives of ordinary working Americans.
The corporate media would have us believe on most days that the most important issue in our society right now is the plight of yet another attractive young white woman in distress somewhere. (Never mind that a similar story involving say, a frumpy middle-aged black woman, would never be similarly regarded as national news).
And meanwhile, hugely critical stories impacting the lives of every American receive virtually zero coverage in our nation's media. To name but three examples:
1. The U.S. has gigantic and growing, unprecedented trade and fiscal deficits that a growing number of economic commentators say imperil our nation and threaten to implode the value of the dollar: a massively urgent story that critically impacts the lives of every single American.
2. The U.S. is currently experiencing a rapidly growing divide between rich and poor that is unprecedented in world history. This astonishing polarization of the classes (which began around 1980 and is rapidly picking up steam today) has been completely ignored by the media.
3. The U.S. public schools system is in what can only be described as a major crisis. The U.S. school system as a whole is in fact the worst in the industrialized world. It's hard to imagine a story that has a greater impact on America's future.
The above are merely three major stories that the media neglects; there are many others.
I'm willing to admit, in the overall scale of things, the Rove story might not be that important compared to say, America's titanic fiscal deficits, or America's worst-in-the-industrialized-world school system. But it'd be nice to see the media (for once) not give the Bush White House yet another free pass.
I mean, this is the same media that never gave Clinton a pass on anything (even if it was a non-story that was pitched to the media by Clinton's enemies).
Thus, we got massive, saturation coverage on "stories" like the time Clinton supposedly held up air traffic so that he could get a haircut. That story got weeks of heavy coverage (and it was only later that it emerged that the incident, in fact, never happened at all, as the FAA later confirmed).
Virtually every critical story that ever appeared on Clinton, in fact, turned out to have no basis in reality. And yet, to this day, many Republicans are convinced that the most bizarre, outlandish tales about Clinton are true: that he had people murdered in Arkansas; that he had a hand in the death of Vince Foster; that he had a chance to capture Bin Laden and instead let him "get away."
Therefore it's quite frustrating for progressives these days to watch as Bush escapes responsibility for anything he's ever done, simply because the media refuses to hold him accountable for anything. Bush can lie through his teeth all day and he confidently and arrogantly knows he'll get away with it, because the media will never have the balls to challenge him.
So if you waiting for the media to fully examine the Rove/Plame case, and to tell the American people the truth about this story, don't hold your breath.
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