JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 30, 1998 / 4 Iyar, 5758

Larry Elder

Larry Elder Who's faking whom?

THIS JUST IN: The Jerry Springer Show is "fake"! Springer unmasked! America outraged!

Excuse me, but isn't the media calling Jerry Springer "fake" sort of like Jeffrey Dahmer calling carnivores immoral?

Sixteen former Springer guests appeared on the tabloid TV show Extra and ratted Jerry out. Springer's people urged guests to fight, they claim, and even demanded a per-show fight quota -- four.

I feel faint. First, Milli Vanilli. Then, the Shroud of Turin. What's next? The World Wrestling Federation? The Great Pumpkin? The Loch Ness monster? The middle-class tax cut?

Look, does anybody with an IQ 2 points above plant life actually believe that magically, on cue, these Springer guests suddenly go Tyson without coaching or prodding? Furthermore, who cares? When NBC's Dateline some years ago "exposed" a truck defect, in part by rigging it so that it would explode on impact -- that's fake. When a Springer guest throws a chair at his ex-lover's new boyfriend -- that's entertainment.

As Springer guest alum Irv Rubin, the chairman of the Jewish Defense League, put it, "Where else can you punch out a Klansman on national television and not get sued?" Yeah, plus meals and a nice hotel room, all "comped."

But let's talk about what's fake. The Washington Post recently reported that 54 percent of the American people feel Clinton should resign or be impeached if perjury allegations prove true.

What says the Gallup Poll, arguably the most prestigious and influential? According to Investors Business Daily, the Gallup Poll is no longer asking about perjury! In January, shortly after the Monica Lewinsky eruption, Gallup quite properly asked, "If it turned out to be true that Bill Clinton lied under oath about having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, how serious would you consider this matter?" The answer given by the majority -- "very serious."

But suddenly, Gallup stopped asking. Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said, "As the situation unfolds, and as the story continues to develop, we look at different aspects of public opinion. It's how the news cycle works. Our role is to measure public opinion based on how the story unfolds."

Thus, we get Gallup's re-tooled April 1 question, "Finally, in your view, should the investigations into sexual allegations following Bill Clinton continue, or should they stop now?" Wait. What happened to questions about perjury? Witness tampering? Subornation of perjury? Obstruction of justice? Ah, the "news cycle" dictates Gallup's questions. So the White House spin ("it's about sex") and the Clinton defenders' Ken Starr bashing ("partisan overzealous prosecutor") shape the headlines, which, in turn, shape Gallup's questions. Got that?

Look at how the media markets the latest Clinton scandal -- "Zippergate," "Monicagate," "Sexgate," as opposed to "Perjurygate," "Witness Tampering-gate," "Subornation of Perjurygate," "Obstruction of Justicegate." So who's putting on whom? At least with Springer, we know we're being had.

Take the Los Angeles Times. An article about House Majority Leader Dick Armey called him a "hard-line conservative." OK, then, surely the paper calls capital "L" liberals like Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Maxine Waters "hard-line liberals." Nope. In fact, in the last several years, the L.A. Times used the expression "hard-line conservative" over 70 times. "Hard-line liberal"? Twice -- and once in an article about Mikhail Gorbachev. Hard-line liberal? Apparently that went out with the eight-track tape and the Nehru jacket.

Remember the Brady bill debate over a five-day waiting period before one could purchase a handgun? Newspapers and electronic media routinely called organizations like Hand Gun Control Inc. "gun-control advocates." The National Rifle Association? Well, it's the "gun lobby." Advocate, good; lobbyist, bad.

During Clinton's first-term attempt at national socialized medicine, over 500 economists, including one from the liberal Brookings Institution, sent the president a letter. Don't do this, they said, a government health-care takeover leads to rationing, inefficiencies and diminished innovation. The media yawned.

Now, imagine a letter drafted by 500 doctors telling us that salad causes brain damage. You know what's next: "We interrupt this program for the following news bulletin ... "

But the same biased media loves ripping the sheets off someone like Jerry Springer.

My advice to Jer: Admit it. Don't go down the "we-don't-think-cigarettes-cause-cancer" path traveled by the tobacco execs who testified before Congress. They should have said, "Yeah, the sticks cause cancer. Read the package." Check out the cable ratings for World Wrestling Federation. You think the WWF-ers care whether Stone Cold Steve Austin follows a script?

Comparing Jerry Springer and the unbalanced "news media" coverage of Clinton scandals, debates on gun control, affirmative action, health care and the "social safety net," who distorts and manipulates more? Springer or much of the mainstream media? At least Jerry winks at you when he's cashing his check. Besides, what other program makes you feel that good and laugh that hard while helping you put your comparatively minor problems into a little perspective? Besides, it ain't


4/16/98:To spank or not to spank

©1998, Laurence A. Elder