So I was sitting there watching Charles Osgood, the thinking-man's Charlie Gibson, and trying to work up the energy to propel myself somewhere else. (I'm not gonna bother checking anybody's bio. My recollection is that Osgood, who gives the impression of having been one of Murrow's boys, actually came on the national scene in the early 70s--late enough that the bowtie seemed an affectation, early enough that it wasn't a sad, "Lookit me, I'm an against-the-grain Conservative" George Will piece of political theatre--first as a smart guy, then filling the near-vacuum of News Whimsy, which it turns out was empty for a reason. Gibson turned up slightly later, as a sort of 70s ABC News version of the Bright Boy, which is to say, a CBS smart guy marked down 30%. He then morphed into David Hartman without the head injury.) And they managed to hook me on a story about the World's Largest Muskie, and dammit, I swear that "hook" thing there was accidental. This even though I was clearly informed that before that story came up I'd be watching a paean to Rod Fucking Stewart, Worst Recording Star in the History of the Gramophone.
What no one bothered to mention was that CBS Sunday Morning now features the witless wit of one Ben Stein, former game-show host and longest continual Nixon apologist not interrupted by a stretch in the Big House, in a segment called "Commentary". I do not know why a program which barely brushes up against any actual news needs a Commentary section, or why, if it does, that spot should permanently belong to Ben Stein, who should be required to pay for such a spot like any other political ad. Witness:
Naturally, like every other American parent, I am troubled indeed by the revelations about Mark Foley sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage Congressional pages.
"But..." I shout at the screen.
"But..." says Ben:
I am stunned about the amount of attention the subject is getting in the national media. It's 24/7 on all the cable news stations, all over major front pages, and leading the network news. I agree it's a big story, but let's put it in perspective:
There's a war on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Something roughly like of 1,200 civilians each day are being raped and or murdered or dying of disease or hunger in that war. Millions have died, and very rarely does anyone in the media mention it.
In Darfur, Sudan, there is an ongoing genocide, taking thousands of lives every day, while the world does nothing, and I mean nothing.
The security situation in Afghanistan, which we thought we had conquered a few years ago, is collapsing. Half of the country is enemy infested. Our commanders there are begging–yes, begging–for more troops, planes, and helicopters, and their pleas are going unanswered. The Taliban, which sheltered Osama bin Laden, is resurgent all over the nation. If we lose there–and we are losing — Osama bin Laden has beaten us — again.
Okay, obviously this is bullshit. Ben Stein knows it's bullshit, and CBS knows it's bullshit, and presumably every last viewer of Morning, none of whom has tuned in to be updated on African genocide they know or care little if anything about, but could probably do with a little gratuituous sex once breakfast was digested. And all of the above know that Ben Stein is doing his damndest to portray the Foley matter as a sex scandal, and one whose only news value is its titillation factor, when everyone knows better. And we need not even mention the three-four dozen Missing Blonde Teens of the Month which have elapsed while not a peep issued from Mr. Stein.
Nah, I'd already discounted that, as they say on the Street. The thing that struck me was that Ben Stein, one of the biggest feces-flingers in the Monkey House when it comes to news coverage of Iraq and the War on Terra (he who called Abu Ghraib "frat-boy hijinks") now warns us that we may lose Afghanistan for want of serious news coverage.
* Don't bother. I know.