Archive for Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Levy case reflects badly on media

August 1, 2001

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If it turns out Chandra Levy has been hiding under a bed somewhere, alive but embarrassed to death by all the fuss she's caused, the history of journalism will have to be rewritten with some damning conclusions.

Even if it turns out she was the victim of a cruel fate in which Rep. Gary Condit played no part, it will reflect no credit on the craft. It is hard, in fact, to imagine any outcome of this case in which journalism, especially TV journalism, will have covered itself with glory.

Notice that the coverage reached the level of a piercing shriek just as we headed into July, always a notoriously slow news month. Another aggravating factor has been the rise over the last several years of the all-news TV channels.

Because they must fill so much time and do it with young, good-looking personalities who may not have brains to match, they do so with exceedingly uneven results. In television's mentality, it is simply unthinkable that anything is legally unknowable whether it's O.J. Simpson's culpability or JonBenet Ramsey's murderer.

The number of uninformed pseudo-celebrities willing to make fools of themselves while going on TV to yak mindlessly about this case is astonishing. They included Lanny Davis, Bill Bennett and even a former attorney general of the United States, Richard Thornburgh, who admitted that he had "nothing terribly profound" to say but confessed "everyone likes to be asked their opinion."

These are the sort of people who'd sooner walk down the street naked than not be on TV. If one could but see Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey, Dominick Dunne, Cynthia Alskne, Laura Ingraham, Susan Estrich, Victoria Toensing, Ann Coulter, Joe DiGenova all the usual, self-promoting suspects commenting on this case parading around with no clothes on just so they could get on the Fox Channel so they could blab their theories of what happened to Chandra. Or, if they hadn't a clue, wing it with gratuitous comments about the relevance of the sex life of a Democratic congressmen.

We have already seen the unexemplary sex lives of several Republican congressmen paraded during the Clinton impeachment debates. All it told us was that middle-aged legislators sometimes behave like billy goats a trait they have in common with much of the human and goat population and they looked like raving hypocrites when at the time they got caught they were yelling hysterically for Bill Clinton's scalp.

Just imagine if Clinton's salivating enemies had been able to imply a missing intern and even murder among his crimes. If I recall, even Gary Condit took a self-righteously sanctimonious view of Clinton's sex life at about the time he was getting a reputation as one of Capitol Hill's most fun-loving swordsmen.

Some day this nation will reach a level of maturity in which we finally realize that everybody in America lies about sex even if it's only about the unconsummated sex acts they've secretly drooled to commit. You'd have thought we'd learned this when that saintly goody-goody, Jimmy Carter, confessed to lusts as base and carnal as those that have shipwrecked the careers of some of those who acted on them.

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