Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Harry Whittington. That's the guy's name. Harry Whittington. Not just a lawyer. Not just a Republican donor. Not just a seventy-eight year old hunting partner. A man, hurt in a painful accident. A passionate advocate of prison reform. A crusader for the mentally handicapped. A husband and father and grandfather - a friend and neighbor - someone who is loved. Someone who matters. Is his condition stable? Good. But he had a heart attack - a pellet worked its way through his core and touched, actually touched, his heart.

So Leno, and Letterman, and that vapid odious idiot Helmut Crisp, can tickle themselves with their glib tongues, but this is a serious thing. That the VP was involved - in fact the proximate cause - is just weird. I should say, merely weird. If this is news-worthy at all, and it barely is, it isn't because a holder of high office is involved, however. That, after all, is what we call "gossip" - oh, did you hear?! - isn't it divinely juicy!?! This is news because a man who mattered to the people who cared about him has been hurt.

Harry Whittington doesn't matter to me. I should never have heard of him. He has in no way affected my life, in the slightest, to any degree. There is no plausible circumstance that he could have any meaningful influence in the lives of even the smallest fraction of those of us now who have heard - or not- his name. He is not news. At all, or at best, hardly.

Which brings us to a major problem, or perhaps only issue. How much of what we hear via the media is actual news? What is news, anyway? I use the casual and idiosyncratic definition of information about an occurrence that can influence my actions or opinions. It is, as I say, a casual definition. But it bears within it the idea that I must somehow be changed, by its hearing. So car accidents, or chases - or diets, or even sports ... these are things that some people want to hear about, but they are not news. There is a gravity inherent in the idea of news, lacking in this fluff. Our time is wasted in hearing it. At best, such items are news only in the sense that obituaries are news - they announce a distant and inevitable occurrence. More likely, though, is that they are prurient and petty, and appeal to what is lowest in our characters. If it bleeds, it leads.

For shame.

So that we hear of poor Harry Whittington is not inappropriate. One or two sentences, explaining the circumstances, and updating his condition. But that the waters should be red with blood by the media sharks ... no, that's not it. That the water should splash from the bowl as the minnows and clownfish school their way after some tidbit, well, it's somehow diminishing. It's like watching fat women fight over frilly underwear in the bargain bin. It's like seeing something petty and shameful. It's like watching the liar squirm in his lies, when he knows you know he's lying. It's quite a feat, to make what is technically true sound like a lie, but the media manages the trick. What should we expect from a "profession" - the world's oldest? - that primarily entails cherry-picking "quotes" to invent the story they want told. Media: that occupation the primary qualification for which is the substitution of integrity with ambition. Me first! These plastic headdresses. A pox on them and their tribe.

I don't care about Mr. Whittington, except to empathize with his hardship, and commiserate with his family. And Dick Cheney gives the appearance of being a strong and hardy man, but it can be no easy thing, to bring harm to a friend. But what I really don't care about, are the flaccid girdle-wearers who make sincere-seeming faces through their makeup into the camera, waving their hands and flapping their lips in a pathetic bid to distract us from real news.

Shameful, and pathetic.


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