…coming out of the United States Congress. At least so far. And for my money unless and until things get serious with some asteroid or some other doomsday scenario pans out, nothing is going to take its place.
Yet the only really informative coverage this story – the financial crisis and banking scandal – is getting is from the Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.
Sometimes the media pick up on a story and play it big. Huge, even. The Army-McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s, the Watergate hearings of the 1970’s, the Iran-Contra hearings of the 1980’s, the Clarence Thomas hearings of the 1990’s. The media were riveted, even if not everyone else was, but a lot more people paid attention because that’s what the media was doing. Historically this is, of course, the power of the media: to “shape” public opinion. Some would say “create” public opinion, which they can kind of do, too. Or at least they used to. Although in the latter case in can often backfire. The media never really got what it was out for in the Iran-Contra affair or the Clarence Thomas matter. They had toppled president Nixon in 1974. They haven’t repeated that kind of feat since.
Part of the problem, I think, is narcissism, which has increased among the media elite just as it has increased culturally in general. Being self-referential and self absorbed, the media can’t tell the difference bewteen a story that is really important and a story that takes on the semblance of importance just because they consider it to be important. That was at least part of the reason president Reagan survived the Iran-Contra scandal whereas the Watergate scandal – grounded a two bit petty crime by comparison – toppled Nixon: the media went all out, thinking Watergate history was going to repeat itself. The public saw Oliver North‘s testimony in huge numbers and were no longer convinced that the relentless media narrative had the heroes and villains properly identified in the script.
In any case, the financial crisis represents a new anomaly: a huge, nay incredibly huge story with the potential to topple presidents and federal reserve chairmen and even the federal reserve itself – in other words, change everything in political terms – and it’s basically being ignored.
The great thing about Taibbi – well, one great thing among many – is that when you read his stuff you know that the lazy media explanation about their utter incompetence here – namely that such stories have “no legs” because they’re “too complicated” for the simple minded public to understand – is a detestable lie. Just read Taibbi’s stuff. He has a talent for telling the story, but he’s not the only talented writer working for major media companies. They could easily play this story up successfully if they wanted to. The point is, they don’t want to. I know the reasons, but I’m not going to go into that right now.
The point, for present, is that you should follow the financial crisis on Taibbi’s blog and a few others that I have linked to on the blogroll. And of course here on this blog, too. Because that’s another reason the media failed in the Iran-Contra scandal, and failed in the Clarence Thomas hearings, and haven’t really made any similar attempts since: the landscape has changed, their power has waned, the internet came along and now it’s a lot more difficult – maybe impossible – to marshall public opinion the way they could 40 years ago.
That’s probably a Good Thing. And it provides an opportunity for someone like me and other bloggers to perform an important service for the public, even if they’re paying no attention (at present) and many of them don’t want to hear. I needn’t remind many of the readers here that this has often been the case with stories that later turn out to be huge.