“Political reporting” means “royal court gossip”

The media excitement over a sleazy new "political" book reveals the real function of our press corps

Topics: Media Criticism, 2008 Elections, Game Change, Political Books, Washington, D.C.,

"Political reporting" means "royal court gossip"President Barack Obama walks towards the podium to speak about plans to thwart future terrorist attacks after an alleged terrorist attempt to destroy a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)(Credit: AP)

No event in recent memory has stimulated the excitment and interest of Washington political reporters like the release of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s new book, Game Change, and that reaction tells you all you need to know about our press corps.  By all accounts (including a long, miserable excerpt they released), the book is filled with the type of petty, catty, gossipy, trashy sniping that is the staple of sleazy tabloids and reality TV shows, and it has been assembled through anonymous gossip, accountability-free attributions, and contrived melodramatic dialogue masquerading as “reporting.”  And yet — or, really, therefore — Washington’s journalist class is poring over, studying, and analyzing its contents as though it is the Dead Sea Scrolls, lavishing praise on its authors as though they committed some profound act of journalism, and displaying a level of genuine fascination and giddiness that stands in stark contrast to the boredom and above-it-all indifference they project in those rare instances when forced to talk about anything that actually matters.

This reaction has nicely illuminated what our press corps is.  The book is little more than royal court gossip, churned out by the leading practitioner of painfully sycophantic, Drudge-mimicking cattiness:  Time‘s Mark Halperin.  And all of the courtiers, courtesans, court spokespeople (i.e., “journalists”) and hangers-on who populate our decadent little Versailles on the Potomac can barely contain their glee over the opportunity to revel in this self-absorbed sleaze.  Virtually every “political news” TV show is hyping it.  D.C. reporters are boasting that they obtained early previews and are excitedly touting how intensively they’re studying its pages in order to identify the most crucial revelations.  Just try to contemplate how things would be if even a fraction of this media energy and interest level were devoted to scrutinizing the non-trivial things political leaders do.

You Might Also Like

Revealingly, one of the sections receiving the most attention is the microscopic examination of the sexual proclivities of John Edwards, his marital conflicts with his wife, and their various personality flaws.  That reaction is predictable and, obviously, predicted, which is why the lengthy excerpt they released focuses on those matters. Notably, the Edwards scandal was relentlessly pursued and first “broken” by The National Enquirer, and I defy anyone to read the book excerpt on Edwards (to the extent you can even get through it) and identify any differences between the book’s tone, content and “reporting” methods and those found in the Enquirer.  Meanwhile, Matt Drudge — crowned by Halperin and the co-author for his prior book, Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris, as The Ruler of The World of Political Journalists — has been (in return) screamingly promoting the book non-stop for days, as has Drudge’s cloned, adopted child, Politico

This is the most revealing aspect of this episode.  The National Enquirer, Matt Drudge and Politico aren’t aberrational extremes in our press corps.  As Halperin and Harris correctly noted in calling Washington journalism “The Freak Show,” they are at its epicenter, leading the way.  The reason there is such a complete merger of interest among low-life tabloids, Matt Drudge, reality shows and the Washington political press corps is precisely because they are indeed indistinguishable — merged.  Even for people who thought that John Edwards’ sexual activities were relevant when he was running for President or vying for a high administration position, at this point he is a completely destroyed, discredited non-entity with no political future, and mucking around in the life of him and his wife is pure sleazy voyeurism.  Subjecting the Edwards to this sort of vicious, judgmental scrutiny is a cost-free activity, which is why so many are so eager to engage in it.

The real value of a book like this lies in the opportunity it presents for Washington’s elite class to distract themselves and everyone else from the oozing corruption, destruction, decaying and pillaging going on — that these same Washington denizens have long enabled.  With some important exceptions, that is the primary purpose of establishment journalism generally.  Even better, the book lets our media and political elite — and then the public generally — feel good about themselves by morally condemning the trashy exploits of Rielle Hunter and the egoistic hypocrisies of the irrelevant John and Elizabeth Edwards.  As The Nation‘s Chris Hayes so perfectly put it:  “Just when you think the news cycle can’t get any stupider, Mark Halperin publishes a book.”  All imperial courts — especially collapsing ones — love to occupy themselves with insular, snotty trivialities.  As this book and the excitement it has produced demonstrates, providing that distraction is exactly what our press corps most loves to do and what it does best.  The media sleazebags who turned Bill Clinton’s penile spots, cigars and semen stains into headline news for two straight years haven’t gone anywhere; they’re actually stronger and more dominant than ever.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>