Cox Deep-Sixed; Drudge Work; Moore Really Is Less

by Jonah Goldberg

COX DEEP-SIXED
Pretty soon we’re going to find out that for all of these years it’s been the Chinese stealing just one of our sweat socks from the dryer.

James Risen and Jeff Gerth of the New York Times report this morning that the sock-stealing bastards are on the verge of deploying a new long-range nuclear missile, the Dong Feng-31, which is based on stolen U.S. designs — and contains absolutely no MSG. But don’t worry. The Dong Feng-31 unlike Dong Fengs 1-30 and Kung Pow Chicken 1-12, has a child trigger lock. So, the Chinese would be very unlikely to use the thing by accident. In fact, it would take a serious act of war, like maybe blowing up one of their embassies, before they’d even consider it.

Oh, right.

This would all be pretty funny if it were about the Chinese stealing our mascot before the big game. But these are nuclear weapons we’re talking about. They are far worse for the environment than urban sprawl and the ozone layer.

This administration is freaking out about checking the backgrounds of bubbas at gun shows, but it doesn’t give a damn about checking the backgrounds of actual spies. One suspects that we’d get a lot more action out of the FBI if the Belgians posted the president’s medical records on the web (yes, I am irresponsibly raising the issue of Belgian hegemony again).

We don’t know what else the sock-stealing bastards have taken from us because the Cox Report has apparently been buried in Jimmy Hoffa’s crotch. And while there seem to be more leaks on Capitol Hill than in Darryl Strawberry’s septum, it would be nice to see the whole thing at once. On Wednesday, the co-chairs of the Cox Committee, Representatives Cox and Dicks, were supposed to brief the Senate on their report. But the Democratic leadership told Dicks that if he participated there might be room for him in that Meadowlands speed-bump time capsule along with Hoffa, the Cox Report, and Kathleen Wiley’s cat. Okay, I have no evidence that they threatened Dicks with physical violence. But one does wonder why he would co-write a report detailing evidence of Chinese espionage and then cooperate in its burial.

Unless the Chinese have promised to return his socks.

DRUDGE WORK
Last night, Matt Drudge reported that Richard Berke of the New York Times was going to pen a story about how President Clinton was coaching Al Gore on how to loosen up on the campaign trail. This morning the story is a little different. The front-page headline reads, “Clinton Admits Concerns As Gore Campaign Stumbles.” In the sixth paragraph, Berke explains that “The president telephoned the Times tonight after learning that the newspaper intended to publish an article citing his worries … that the Gore campaign was floundering.”

Now it is possible that Clinton’s call had nothing to do with Drudge’s advance scoop of the Times story. It’s possible that the White House had been alerted to Berke’s angle by more conventional means. But it is very unlikely. And assuming Drudge did tip off the White House, it raises an interesting question. Is it right to exclude the role of Drudge in the story? The White House reacted to a news account about the Times coverage and then tried to change the gist of the Times story. Where’s Howie Kurtz when you need him?

This is far from the first time the press has treated Drudge as an invisible 800-pound gorilla. Throughout the Lewinsky scandal, television reporters would refer to “sources” and “rumors in Washington” when they were obviously referring either to stories from Drudge or to buzz surrounding stories from Drudge. They would refuse to mention him by name because Drudge is not a member of the elite guild of journalists.

Indeed, Drudge’s penchant for scooping other publications with their own scoops drives the suede elbow-patch media nuts. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in protest Bernard Kalb of CNN’s Reliable Sources stops stealing his clothes from Dustin Hoffman’s wardrobe for All the President’s Men.

I have long argued that Drudge’s ability to report other reportage as news is the single best example of the post-modern nature of the web (I wish I could come up with a better word than post-modern — like “superfreaky” for example — since it really doesn’t mean anything anymore, but I can’t find one). Millions of Americans knew about Juanita Broaddrick before the “news” reported her existence. The question was no longer will the networks “break” this news but will they validate it? It’s not just scandal stuff. Speeches, statistics, first-hand accounts are so available that for the first time, millions of people become freelance media critics. If you don’t believe me you should read the hundreds of e-mails I get. The question becomes not what is reported but how. Is the Times going to lead with China or Littleton? Will they compare this or that to Watergate?

This merely highlights a reality. The news has never been totally objective. In fact, the whole idea of “objectivity” came fairly late in journalism. Technology that afforded a “you are there” feel made the old style of personality-driven “journal”-ism obsolete.

But there is a real danger of the web feeding cynicism. The suspicion that the elite media packages their news is far easier to confirm. Already news consumers can compare and contrast the coverage of various events with a button on their remote controls. The print media are so slow they get put into a position of offering meta-analysis of the news. When the Times fails to mention the Drudge connection — even to discount it — they feed the perception that the big press is about controlling rather than presenting the news.

MOORE REALLY IS LESS
Now, speaking of unfettered and unfiltered media, the New York Post’s “Page Six” reports this morning that professional jackass Michael Moore has set up a camera to spy through my parents’ living-room window. It’s at a very bad angle and you can’t see much — even if there were much to see. You can see for yourself at www.iseelucy.com (link defunct) or read about it at www.nypost.com.

The host of some show on some channel nestled between the Mexican soap operas and George Foreman’s grill, Moore seems to believe he is making a clever point about invading privacy or something. I don’t really get it, and I’m pretty sure that Moore doesn’t either. Moore is really a very dumb, dishonest, hypocritical, and mean man (I highly recommend Matt Labash’s June 8, 1998, profile in The Weekly Standard). He has apparently concluded that publicity is a substitute for making a point. Hence his desire to be introduced on television shows as “the only white man in America” who believes O.J. is innocent.

Still, if snapping pictures of my dad doing the New York Times crossword puzzle or the family cat chasing flies on the windowsill is Moore’s idea of a serious argument or payback of some kind for Mom’s sins as the spider queen of the vast right-wing conspiracy, then I think I will breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe things could get really ugly and he could take out a nasty classified in The Village Voice.

One would think that this would be the kind of fat pitch I’d at least try to knock out of the park. But to be honest, I’m too tired and he’s too pathetic. Maybe Monday, he’ll still be pathetic, but I’ll have caught up on my shuteye.

YUP, I THINK I’LL SHIRK A LITTLE RESPONSIBILITY HERE
I’m also too tired for Corrections and Clarifications. That’ll have to wait ‘til Monday too.