Thursday, January 17, 2008
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.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:21 am