Diddling While Society Burns

Want to hear something really creepy?

General Tommy Franks, the man who led American forces into Iraq, confessed recently in an interview with Cigar Aficionado that, were there to be another terror attack on American soil, the Constitution would likely be tossed aside in favor of martial law.

Think about that for a second: Someone sworn to support and defend the Constitution from its enemies is cavalierly brushing it aside on the off chance another terrorist kills a couple thousand Americans. A “mass casualty event” like the World Trade Center attack, while killing a statistically insignificant portion of the population (over 42,000 people died in auto accidents in 2002, more than eight times the number of casualties on September 11), would abolish any level of freedom the American public thinks it has left.

Every fear would become reality: a government spying on of its citizens, lack of civil liberties, manufactured news, endless war. And while the Bush administration and the PATRIOT Act have laid the foundation for all of these nightmare scenarios, without the Constitution it would be a cakewalk to enact the loss of liberty. It’s already started to happen. A recent protest against free trade in Miami ended with a complete breakdown of police restraint and brutal attacks on people exercising their rights. Embedded reporters even likened Dade County to war-torn Baghdad.

A lot of things seem to slide by our “fair and balanced” Fourth Estate. To wit: President Bush’s visit to England. Despite only one tepid speech that repeated the same generalities heard in every other delivered by our Grand Poobah, Bush didn’t do anything. He sure didn’t speak to the members of Parliament, where vocal critics of both the war and Tony Blair would undoubtedly berate and mock Bush. And when hundreds of thousands of British citizens gathered to topple a Bush statue in the same manner Marines toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in April, it isn’t reported by the American press.

Consulates in Turkey are bombed. Submarines are equipped with long-range nuclear warheads. Inquiries into September 11 are being hassled by the Executive branch. All important issues you’ll hear little to nothing about. Why?

Because Michael Jackson was picked up on child molestation charges.

CNN devoted hours of live video footage to the subject, including (but not limited to) the ultra-slow helicopter footage of Jackson surrendering himself and pointless commentary from Elizabeth Taylor. And the local Los Angeles media outlets act like they’ve never spoken about anything else. Wow.

Let me be clear: I do not care one iota about Michael Jackson. He has allegedly done what thousands of pedophiles do every year — abuse and victimize children. Funny thing, none of these other cases get surrounded by a frenzied media blitz even when the crime is more violent, the victim more in need of public outcry.

Are the parents of the boy complete knotheads for disregarding every parenting instinct they have? Absolutely. Should their profit-motivated idiocy be paraded about on every television news program? No.

Kobe Bryant sleeps with someone other than his wife. An athlete committing adultery or even rape? What a shock!

Scott Peterson killed his wife Laci possibly because he was a closeted gay, or because he had a mistress, or because he wanted to buy a new truck and she wouldn’t let him…

Do you see where I’m going with this?

These “stories” have been rammed down the public’s throats in 2003. Page after page of newsprint. Television reports. Radio discussion. We as a society are made to believe that these are the most important things we need to know. And we need to know about them all the time.

Remember Chandra Levy? She was the young woman whose disappearance in 2001 led to the downfall of California Congressman Gary Condit. Her face and the investigation into her whereabouts overshadowed everything else — including several prominent warnings that a terrorist attack involving airplanes would likely occur that fall.

Does anyone remember when Levy’s body was found? Probably not — the pump-and-dump mentality of the press hyped the first part of the story but not the last. Sure, the initial “reporting” undid Condit because of his sordid affair with an intern, but who’s been charged with her murder? And since when is it a crime to have consensual sex?

There are things in this world that are more important than whether or not Michael Jackson fooled around with a little kid. The American government’s intrusions on the liberty of every man, woman, and child should be front page news and the top story of every news program. World politics are complex, but the average Joe doesn’t know anything about it because of the media’s concerted effort to ignore substantive topics.

Celebrity gossip has its place. It’s human nature to talk about those in prominence and pick apart their lives. But that place is on shows like Access Hollywood or in the tabloids, not “legitimate” news sources that feign credibility. It certainly shouldn’t be used to counter-program against relevant issues that would shock and concern any citizen.

When a former general of this country’s armed forces flatly admits that martial law is just around the corner, Judy Woodruffe’s lead story for the hour shouldn’t be an analysis of Michael Jackson’s mug shot.