line? what line?
Last month I read an article in The Times about the director of NBC’s Saving Jessica Lynch, Peter Markle. Markle and George W. Bush were frat brothers at Yale, “although they have not stayed in close touch since.” This isn’t troubling in itself. The line between our political elite and our media elite is blurrier than Andrea Mitchell’s face seen without the help of Alan Greenspan’s glasses. But it seemed funny when Markle was asked to comment on the war in Iraq:
… it is possible to get some insight into the war and, through Mr. Markle, into Mr. Bush. Mr. Markle does not know if the president saw “Saving Jessica Lynch” — the White House would not say last week — but he thinks his old buddy from Yale would have viewed it sympathetically.
“I think George is a realist,” Mr. Markle said. “I think he looks at the facts, and I think he’d look at it and say, `That’s a pretty accurate description of what happened.'”
Does the president know exactly what happened? Does Private Lynch? Does Markle? Most importantly, does Markle know what the president would think, and is that speculation really worthy of reporting in NYT’s “White House Letter?”
Did you notice that they didn’t renew HBO’s K Street? Apparently people already feel dizzy trying to find the line between politics and fiction. They don’t need a master of handheld camera work to make them even dizzier. Adding to my own dizziness was the fact that the viewer polls on the “K Street” web page were straight political opinion polls, as opposed to the other shows’ polls, which are about the characters and the stories. I guess it’s all part of the edginess, all part of drawing you in, but the Sopranos page doesn’t have polls about RICO laws or the merits of psychotherapy … the Sex and the City page doesn’t ask about single motherhood or promiscuity – though be sure to check out “What’s the best way to deal with gray hairs ‘down there?'”
This isn’t a right/left issue, either. Bill Moyers was Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary. Roger Ailes consulted to Presidents Nixon and Reagan before ascending to his rightful place as Chairman and CEO of FoxNews. Though my own politics forces me to point out that Bill Moyers would probably not have signed off on Fox’s pulse-pounding War on Terror Handbook, conveniently one click away from the web address foxnews.com/war. (For equal time, check out CNN’s super-slick page offering models of weapons – in 3-D!!)
We need a new hype-aware vocabulary for the way news, government-provided information and pure entertainment have been alloyed in the media supercollider of post-9/11 anxiety. Journoganda? Propatainment?