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A MEDIA SCANDAL A DAY KEEPS THE RATINGS IN PLAY: Media Priorities Assure that Real Crises Will Not Be Covered


New York, New York: When I grew up, one of the most popular TV shows was “What’s My Line?,” a quiz with stars guessing what contestants did for a living. It was fun, upbeat and positive.

Today, on TV News channels, the theme has shifted to “What’s My Scandal?” with a predictable focus on wrongdoing in high places. It’s tendentious, moralistic and negative.

The other day it was revealed that a Bush Administration official, Randall Tobias resigned after revelations he had consorted with prostitutes in Washington DC. He insisted that there was not even any sex, but it didn’t matter. It was his turn to play the perennial victim of a sex scandal. And he’s not alone.

Former CIA Director Porter Goss quit after questions were raised about “poker parties” he attended. Reported the Progress Center at the time. “Guests would gamble, socialize, and sometimes receive prostitutes; according to Harper’s magazine, the festivities “began early with poker games and degenerated” into what one source described “as a ‘frat party’ scene – real bacchanals.

None other than Iraq liberator Paul Wolfowitz is having his name dragged through the muck because its been has been revealed that he used his position to advance the fortunes of his girl friend.

The salacious suggestions of improprieties here gets the Maureen Dowd’s of the world snickering and critics of the Administration finger-pointing. Unfortunately, there’s more attention being paid to this apparent ethical lapse by the man at the top of t he World Bank than the permanent scandal that is the Bank itself.

Bank watchers make this point, as the New Yorker reports: “Many people at the World Bank remain suspicious of Wolfowitz. He has suspended loans to developing countries that he regards as corrupt-among them Chad, Kenya, and Bangladesh-while expanding the bank’s activities in places where the United States and its allies have intervened militarily, including Lebanon and Iraq. “Karl Rove would be proud: the man whom the world associates with the war in Iraq has recast himself as the crusader for good governance and development,” Manish Bapna, the executive director of the Bank Information Center, a not-for-profit organization in Washington that monitors the bank’s activities, said. “But inside the bank there is still a perception on the part of some staffers that his real agenda remains hidden, and that it reflects priorities from the Bush Administration.”

What we are seeing once again is an almost exclusive focus on individuals, hardly ever on the flaws of institutions. It is the “mistakes” of the system that are questioned-never the system itself.

Our media remains fixated on misdemeanors, while ignoring felonies.

The Don Imus scandal is another example. Don’s hate-mongering speech was well known for years but tolerated and ignored, especially by all the book promoting “face-time on TV” whores that he stacked his program with. Intelligence was not what the word “I” in I-Man referenced. Don was not undone not by pangs of conscience in the suites of media power but, according to insiders at least, his racist remarks became big news because it was a “slow news week.” If some other scandal was more outrageous or exploitable at the time, Don would still have his show.

Meanwhile, far more serious scandals that affect so many more people don’t appear to have the traction or soap opera potential to rivet media interest. Part of the reason is that they are more complicated, require explanation, and expose big money or real power.

For example:

Who is probing why federal regulators at the SEC and compliant Democrats allowed nearly two million families to fall into the sub-prime mortgage noose and now face foreclosures?

Who is looking into the real accounting of our ever expanding wars of terror, with the ongoing squandering of government resources and the transfer of billions from the public treasury into private hands? We know that war profiteers are greedy, but who is supposed to be watching the public purse?

Is it the old story of foxes guarding the chickens? And , you can be sure, these foxes, are not being investigated by FOX.

Even when the Feds are paying attention, the agencies they monitor resist efforts at accountability and transparency. The scammers at Homeland Security are particularly egregious in this regard. The GAO, the agency charged with overseeing government spending complains that they get a runaround and resistance when they try to track their expenditures.

Perhaps it’s time to redirect the TSA White Shirts from searching luggage to inspecting the files of the corrupt agency that employs them.

And what about the larger manipulations of the stock market? Bloomberg reported the other day about trading of upwards of $6 BILLION in PHANTOM shares that don’t exist. Companies are being allowed to buy back their shares with debt at record levels.

The American dollar has been depressed in value to help big companies sell worldwide. Its drop in value may drive overseas tourists to the poor house but it enriches those who make stuff in low wage countries. It’s also a factor in inflating the market and driving up the Dow to ever higher levels.

The Street.com recently carried an interview with money maestro Jeremy Grantham who manages Dick Chenery’s portfolios and worries that all the debt that’s also driving up the Dow can trigger a worldwide bust, “The more leverage you take, the better you do; the better you do, the more leverage you take. A critical part of a bubble is the reinforcement you get for your very optimistic view from those around you.”

This delusion fed by euphoria and media hype is precarious to say the least reports Brett Arends, “Grantham says we are now seeing the first worldwide bubble in history covering all asset classes. Everything is in bubble territory, he says.”

And bubbles can be counted on to burst. That’s what bubbles do. And when they do, there will be hell to pay. That’s history, not a mystery. But this, at least for now, is NOT a scandal since everyone is doing it and few in the media are treating it as a massive mess in the making.

Now if Grantham was only consorting with one of those DC prostitutes in some lurid honey trap, then we’d have a story. If biggies were screwing in the market, (preferably as captured on videos posted on YouTube) rather than millions being screwed by it, the networks would be all over the story. You can bet on it.

News Dissector Danny Schechter is “blogger-in-chief” of Mediachannel.org. His latest film is “IN DEBT WE TRUST; America Before The Bubble Bursts” (Indebtwetrust,com). Comments to [email protected] .

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