Wednesday, October 11, 2006


[Posted by reader_iam]

I love words. Love 'em. The little ones, the big ones, the formal ones, the slang ones, and most especially the arcane ones. Especially when the latter are whipped out as a shield to deflect the spread of bigger, harder questions.

The Washington Post this morning reviews the history of the release of the Foley e-mails and IM's, providing a generally sorry view of of how influential forces in media and politics alike ill-serve us.

My take on what has now become a convoluted soap opera of political charges and counter-charges is still relatively unsophisticated:

***Foley (about whose sexual orientation I couldn't possibly care less) is a sleazy jerk whose actions, insofar as I am concerned, fall into the generalized category of sexual exploitation and/or harassment; that is, from a position of power, he essentially went a-preying among the lowliest, most vulnerable "help." Whether his targets had been male or female, 16, 17 or 18 (or even older, under my paradigm), his behavior was inexcusable. That's that, as far as I'm concerned, and I couldn't care less whether his life has been ruined. Frankly, he's "lucky" it didn't come to that sooner.

***Clearly, taking a larger view, there is a real problem with how the page system is being managed.

***Clearly, some politicians from both sides of the aisles have had questions relative to this for quite a while (up to a period of years).

***Clearly, those who had those questions didn't take them seriously enough for whatever reasons. Both sides look bad.

***The Press is no white knight in all of this. On the specific issue of the e-mails involving Foley, some news outlets had the information for up to a year but sat on it, for whatever reasons. Perhaps there were good reasons to pass up the specific story, and perhaps not; but what really disturbs me is that apparently no one thought through the larger implications and asked the questions that should have gotten reporters off their butts:

Is there a problem with the page system? Given past problems in Congress, do we need to take a closer look to see if young people are being exploited? Are politicians (note: not Democrats, not Republicans, but politicians) and their staffs paying insufficient attention, overlooking questionable behavior, or even outright looking the other way?

Journalists fell down on the job here, by my lights. They didn't pursue the obvious, or at least not with any sense of urgency. I don't buy the "it takes time to cover these things" argument; far more complicated stories have been covered fairly extensively in less time. It's a matter of priorities and allocating resources, not some sort of existential difficulty factor. To claim otherwise simply makes journalists look silly, stupid and self-serving. For crying out loud, have the courage of your decisions.


Back to the issue of words. Isn't Ken Silverstein's choice of "vaingloriously" simply marvelous? And marvelously backsplashing, in terms of the issues regarding the media which I just raised?
"There was never a plan to undermine the GOP or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested," Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper's, said on the magazine's Web site yesterday. "I know this with absolute certainty because Harper's was offered the story almost five months ago."

Silverstein said his source was a "Democratic operative," the same source that had provided the e-mail exchanges to the St. Petersburg Times in November 2005. Both the magazine and the paper declined to publish a story. But the source "was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party," Silverstein added. "This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley's behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages."

Oh, the glory of the vain!

vain·glo·ry (vān'glôr'ē, -glōr'ē, vān-glôr'ē, -glōr'ē) pronunciation
n., pl. -ries.

1. Boastful, unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments or qualities.
2. Vain, ostentatious display.

[Middle English vein glory, from Old French vaine gloire, from Latin vāna glōria, empty pride : vāna, feminine of vānus, empty; see vain + glōria, glory, pride.]

Also, boastfulness: outspoken conceit.


Something else jumped out at me in this article:
Two of the primary sources who delivered the instant messages came forward this week to clarify their motives. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear that exposure would leave them open to harassment, especially from bloggers.

But not from the media generally, huh? Because reporters would never, you know, descend en masse upon the subjects of or potential sources for a news story. What a self-serving--dare I say "vainglorious"?--little phrase to throw in at the end of that latter sentence.

To be clear, it's the job of journalists to pursue sources and stories diligently, and that does, in fact, sometimes require swarming en masse. I fault members of the media far less for that, I think it's fair to say, than your average person would. It's simply the nature of the beast, and the price we pay in order to have the wonderfully free press that we do (and which I wouldn't trade for the world). But let's not get all hoity-toity and "more protective and sensitive than thou" about it.

After all, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."