I often decry the cynicism of the press corps -- heck, I did it in my last post -- but allow me to make the case for some more cynicism in one particular case. Today, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, long a big fan of Sen. John McCain, washes his hands of the former presidential candidate, while still managing to fit in his column nearly all the tropes that made coverage of McCain so maddening for so many years. There's the gratuitous mention of McCain's POW past, lest we forget for a moment that what McCain endured 40 years ago makes him more honorable than the rest of us.
One of the unenviable tasks of the professional spinner is not only to put all developments in the best possible light for your boss or your side but to express optimism so boundless it often becomes inane. "You bet," says the press secretary for the candidate trailing by 20 points, "we're going to win this election!" "The congressman will be vindicated when all the facts come out!" says the spokesperson for the guy caught with a freezer full of cash. Journalists expect this, so they never go too hard on the spinner. After all, he's just doing his job, and we all know what the parameters of that job are.
A student studies on a computer in a library commons. (Flickr/Tulane Publications)
In the 1990s, when the World Wide Web was new, breathless news reports warned of con artists, pedophiles, neo-Nazis -- they were lurking in cyberspace. "And now, these vicious predators are seeking new victims … on the Internet!"
You may have heard of the heartbreaking and outrageous case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who has been convicted of adultery (which she denies) and sentenced to death by stoning. We might want to note, as we rightly condemn this kind of brutality, that the Old Testament mandates death by stoning for a large number of crimes, including worshiping other gods, not being a virgin on your wedding night (just for the ladies, of course), disobeying your parents, failing to keep the Sabbath, and -- you guessed it -- adultery.