Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just Asking

 Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I ask forgiveness for I have stooped to the lowest level of pop journalism, joining the ranks of Today Show host Matt Lauer and all the other bottom feeders.

In my world, granting ink to Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the renowned White House state dinner party crashers, is comparable to writing about the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who picket funerals of our military war heroes.

All crave the publicity, good, bad or indifferent. The Salahis have been granted their 15 minutes of fame. Now, they are milking it for a bonus 10. The couple appeared on the Today Show Tuesday with host Lauer playing straight man.

The thrust of the interview can be boiled down to this.

Crashing the White House state dinner last November "was a huge misunderstanding" and being stopped by the Secret Service outside the second White House dinner in a limo with television cameras last week was "an unbelievable coincidence."

Right. Here's the video attached to the Washington Post story and you can check it out yourself.

Why, one may wonder, am I worked up over an event I have managed to avoid like the plague?

For one, my brother who lives in France and has a good nose for news, asked how a couple could break through Secret Service security without an invitation in hand and crash a state dinner. Good question. White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers resigned but the investigation continues. I doubt there's much priority placed on that probe.

Since then the Salahis have popped up all over the dumbing down television markets with appearances on reality shows and, gee whiz, a chance at NBC's new version of "Housewives of Washington D.C."

My interest has now shifted to that of a social psychologist. The question now becomes why do people fawn over people who thrive for publicity such as the Salahis?

Certainly, there is a market for that, a buck to be made. TV producers of the morning shows are not stupid. In that competitive market where ratings are the only numbers that mean anything, people like the Salahis feed the beast. And visa versa.

Are the Salahis that entertaining? I suppose, if you live in a world seeking escapism from the razor blade of life.

Television is a wonderful medium of which not all of it is a vast wasteland as the late FCC chairman Marshall McLuhan once observed.

But way too often it creates the news rather than report it. I recall my days as a reporter for the afternoon daily in San Diego covering the Vietnam war protesters. At one event, about 300 sat docile at a corner near the Interstate 5 freeway. The minute the CBS affiliate Channel 8 truck arrived, they all jumped into action, chanting and waving their protest signs. Suddenly, in a stroke of genius that got them on the Evening News With Walter Cronkite, they burst down the freeway off-ramp and dashed across the freeway.

We see that same scene repeated today with boycotters and the Tea Party sign wavers.

That I can understand even though I think we would be a more civil people without TV cameras and those hand-held things that have become popular for the citizen journalists who film anything that moves and wind their way onto U-Tube.

But, forgive me, Father, I don't understand people such as the Salahis. I'm led to believe Tareq has a job with the Virginia Visitors Bureau. Is he moonlighting, or what? And, Father, forgive those who follow their escapades.

Hail Mary ...

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