Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guido, Lewinsky, Drudge

Today, my one-off lunch date Guido Fawkes celebrates - and how often does he do that? - the tenth anniversary of Matt Drudge's breaking of the Monica Lewinsky story. This was, for Guido, the media equivalent of the storming of the Winter Palace. The gatekeepers of the old media were overthrown by the citizen hacks of the net. Drudge, Guido notes, now earns '$500,000 a month and... lives in an exclusive penthouse in Florida.' (An exclusive penthouse? The use of estate agents' language suggests Guido may be losing his grip.) Of course, he's right - Drudge was the great precursor. But I would draw his attention to an important rule recently stated by Alex Ross of the New Yorker. He calls it the 'Snakes on a Plane' rule - 'Things invariably appear more important on the internet than they are in the real world.' Instant worldwide publication sounds exciting enough until you realise it amounts to little more than tossing a cup of water into the ocean. Furthermore, I am not convinced that the massive increase in political babble caused by the internet serves anyone's interests. The pol-bloggers, for example, all get tremendously excited by these campaign funding scandals, but stand back for a moment and you will see how fantastically trivial they are. In fact, in retrospect, the Lewinsky business seems pretty damn trivial. The creed of the expose culture - that it will make the world a better place by stopping people behaving badly - only has to be stated to be itself exposed as an absurdity. The simple truth is that exposes are fun and politicians are easy targets. Of course, we should expose their shortcomings - but, as we see with Brown, the important shortcomings are not about money and sex but about character and intellect. The expose culture takes our eyes of the ball.


  1. It used to be said that Tory scandals were to do with sex and Labour's to do with money. Judging from those of the last few years it still seems broadly true.
    Maybe with the blurring of the boundaries between political parties it could be used as a guide to whether someone's a Tory or a Labourite by what kind of scandal he gets involved in.
    It seems to me that
    (1) the more babble about wrongdoing the less the wrongdoer is held (or holds himself) to account, and
    (2) how much of the recent wrongdoing consists of politicians breaking their own, largely unnecessary, rules.
    Can any of your readers, Bryan, help me to understand the second of these aspects of modern political life.

  2. Wise words mate. Churchill was a drunk and Lloyd George a shagger. In the grand scheme of things this has been overlooked, as it should be.

  3. Drudge really is no better (or worse) than your average tabloid, isn't he? As for taking the eye off the ball, it never occurred to me that all that many people had a clue as to where the ball was in the first place, or where it came from. Vast majority don't care, either.

    Agree that the polibloggers tend to overdramatize minor scandals and overstate their importance. At the same time, they almost unseated one sitting Senator, caused the resignation of the GOP Senate Minority Leader, forced the eventual resignation of Dan Rather from CBS News, to name a few famous scalps. Pretty heady stuff, I think. Their greatest influence is the ability to raise millions of dolalrs in very short time spans from tens of thousands of neophyte donors virtually unreachable by hitherto standard party operations. How much difference that has made is debatable, but some of them have managed to secure for themselves rather nice accommodations at some rather impressive political tables.

  4. Flimflam about politicians' predilections, or about their generic petty corruption, is as unenlightening as celebratory gossip. Its rise and rise has accompanied a vertiginous decline in discussion of the structural problems of our society.

    One is reminded of the old slogan that whoever one votes for the government wins! And governments of left and right seem incapable of getting to grips with society's ills.

    Indeed, a very good case can be made for saying that the war-mongering wretches are the very cause of much of the ill in this world.

  5. "One off lunch date"? Is that a hint that it is my turn to buy?

    Exclusive penthouse contrasts with low rent apartment. You know us tabloid types talk about love-nests not flats, exclusive penthouses not top floor apartments...

  6. 'Expensive' would be enough. And, yes, it's a hint.

  7. Do you know I cam 258th in Iaian Dales list of political bloggers?

    I have only just realised by the way that this blog actually has at least something to do with Bryan Appleyard.. so sorry for any rubbish I have written. I am not the real Mutley by the way - he lives in a retirement home in Florida with Lady Penelope, and the gay ones from the Keystone Kops.

  8. I think "exclusive" means his is the only top-floor apt. Sometimes there are two or three there. Unless, of course, it's just a hyperbolic error, like "a wealthy billionaire," in which case it's lazy writing.

    Oh, Monica... I wonder what has happened to her? What happened to her -- what she did, and then what the media did -- show how truly orally-fixated our culture has become.

  9. I am not convinced that the massive increase in political babble caused by the internet serves anyone's interests. The expose culture takes our eyes of the ball.


    To me the blogosphere is not just a post-historical phenomenon, but a psycho-riddled stratum of the collective psyche. It’s ability to globalise instant snippets of information into punchy political paragraphs, is an advantage that can easily be turned back on itself.

    See Dreamy’s current Blog on this, boys - chop chop!!!

  10. Oh, Monica... I wonder what has happened to her? What happened to her -- what she did, and then what the media did.

    Oh, Susan...I believe you forgot to mention Bill C.? And what he did, rather than the media.

    "NO, I did not have sex with THAT WOMAN !

    A cad I can suffer. But a fake liar I have no time for. He could move himself to tears with his own speeches, but had none for that woman Lewinsky who, with nobody but ghouls for company, would surely have considered her own suicide.

    But then, who would not expect the average President to be cynical about that type of bereavement in a country that could not even convict O.J.Simpson.


  11. Oh Selena, I read your blog which you say is on this subject, but I'm afraid your compulsion never to use one word when ten will do - although proving what appears to be your thesis that narcissism has taken over in our modern virtual world - means that I have struggled to discern a meaning to your outpourings.

  12. Selena, dear, you don't know nuttin' about America if you want to link Bill Clinton's peccadilloes to O.J. Simpson's. In the case of O.J., he was acquitted NOT because he was innocent, but because a largely black jury was redressing a long history of black men being WRONGLY convicted of crimes.

    As for Bill: His failing was a moral one, not a criminal one. If you know any politicians, or even highly ranked legal figures like judges, you will soon discover that moral precepts are the first thing to go out the window among those who make laws. I would say, having been for a little while a court reporter on Capitol Hill, that sexual misdeeds are rampant there. Why? Because they can.

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