MSNBC reported that General Peter Pace is being replaced as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then they immediately announced that they would continue coverage of the Paris Hilton residence where reporters and paparazzi (is there a difference anymore?) were waiting to stalk her as she returned to court. This is where the priorities of our media lie and it is repulsive. The general who is responsible for the whole of the military establishment, in a time of war, has been ousted and the media is more obsessed with surveilling a Bel Air residence where NOTHING is actually happening.
At 10:00 am PDT, all three cable news nets led their top-of-the-hour newscasts with…PARIS! The same thing occurred at 11:00 am. In between there was a short press conference by Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, announcing that Pace was sacked because…
“The focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future. And further, that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious.”
It would be nice if the press sought to examine these statements. Gates is essentially saying that political expediency trumps military necessity. The President often claims that decisions about the war would be made by generals on the ground, but in this case it is the administration’s fear of bad PR that is the deciding factor. Unless, of course, this isn’t the real reason for Pace’s dismissal. Pace’s tenure has hardly been replete with success and his recent letter of support for a pardon for Scooter Libby is a breach of protocol. But the press is too preoccupied with gossipy trivialities to explore the more consequential questions raised by the shake-up at the Pentagon.
After the Gates press conference, all three cable news nets went right back to Paris. An hour after the Pace announcement the TV press were all following an LAPD squad car down the L.A. freeways to the court downtown. It has always perplexed me that anyone would be interested in watching a vehicle from the air that might have someone in it, but who cannot be seen. The media could just point their cameras at any squad car they want and say Paris is in it. Of what journalistic use is this video?
And yet, they will continue following this car until they get to the court where they will set up camp to film more of NOTHING while Paris and the others are inside. And they will do this instead of trying to analyze the significance and impact of the dumping of General Pace. Well, maybe preventing these pundidiots from pontificating about matters of real importance is actually good thing.
As an addendum, Paris was taken screaming from the courtroom as the judge ordered her to be returned to jail. Whatever happened to her promise to serve her sentence and be a good role model? Never mind, don’t answer that. I bet we still won’t get much news about Pace.
To those who would complain that articles like this one perpetuate the problem, I would offer this distinction: It is not the “Paris” story that is important – it is the “judicial inequality” story that is important. And it is the story of the media’s irresponsibility that is important. What the media is covering is not judicial inequality or journalistic integrity, but celebrity melodrama.
Update: Paris now agrees with me that the media’s preoccupation with her travails is misplaced. She has released a statement saying that she will not appeal the judge’s decision and adds…
“I must also say that I was shocked to see all of the attention devoted to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials. I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things, like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world.”
Obviously that statement was composed by her lawyer or agent or other representative. I doubt that she has ever addressed Iraq publicly before. And I doubt that she was either shocked or displeased by the attention her ordeal received. Still, at least her handlers are exhibiting some social sensitivity.