Scandal fatigue...

Peter Daou points to a disturbing trend Americans currently face: scandal fatigue. Daou recalls a blog entry written by Steve Benen which chronicled Bush-related scandals that had occurred in the span of one week. Daou writes,


Each of these stories constitutes a full-blown crisis that would have caused a massive firestorm for any other administration. But a cursory glance at the online editions of national papers and news outlets as well as a scan of the major cable news nets would lead you to believe that the most important piece of news today is that a British man accused of killing his wide and child will return to the U.S. to face trial.
Our senses are being overloaded, our levels of outrage have peaked. But then in comes Cheney's trigger-happy hunting foray. Suddenly, a nation's attention is united. So, are we being distracted from the real news? The continuing defense of illegal warrantless wiretaps, FEMA's scandalous response to Katrina, force-feeding at Guantanamo, former CIA officials pointing to improper use of intelligence, or being fired for opposing torture, Cheney's involvement in the Libby leak, the budget.

It's hard to wrap your mind around this kind of inhumanity and egregious leadership. There's just no rationalizing it and it's hard to see any immediate end to it. No laughs there. But Cheney shooting a lawyer? Hilarity ensues. There's an almost slumber party slap-happiness to the jokes. You find yourself giggling even before Jon Stewart gets to the punchline. You were waiting to laugh. And I think this reaction has everything to do with the American public having some sense of the level of scandal that surrounds this administration. Give us something human to hate and to mock.

Daou's point is well made: Once journalists, activists, and politicians (who give a damn) discover a scandal, it is their responsibilty to follow through, to push it to its "ultimate conclusion." Along with vigilance to the facts, it's also important to focus on the (in)humans behind these scandals. That's what makes them real, that's what makes allegations stick.

The Czech novelist Milan Kundera says that, "He learned he could recognize a person who was not a Stalinist by his laughter -- the ability to laugh was a sign that someone could be trusted, for it signified irreverence, a refusal to take history and its policemen seriously. Ever since then, he says, he has been 'terrified by a world that is losing its sense of humor.'"

There's no shame in reveling in Cheney's front-page blunder. Just as long as you turn to page A12 to find out what's really going on.
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