I was a little shocked to see the massive headline that adorned my hometown paper – The Oregonian – yesterday: STATE REP DRESSED AS WOMAN ENGAGED IN SEX ACT IN ADULT BOOKSTORE.
Of course my first reaction was, “oh boy, they caught another closeted horny gay Republican. And although that was true, it really isn’t the real story here.
Despite the fact that this was probably the largest headline I had ever seen in the Oregonian (the last time they used a typeset this large the Japanese had just surrendered) – it was really just a non-story with a particularly salacious subject. A male state representative from Eastern Washington with a penchant for dressing up like Cher and spending time with buffed male porno actors had gotten into a little hot water. And even though the event occurred hundreds of miles from The Oregonian’s home base – in a different state – and had little or no effect to Oregonian readers, it was just too nasty a story for the paper to ignore. So, in a day when American soldiers were dying in the Middle-East, children were being slaughtered in Darfur, billions were still missing from Iraq, and the world was being dried up by global warming, The Oregonian decided instead to report on cross-dressing, and along the way destroy the life of some poor guy from a little town in Washington.
Of course, this is wrong on so many levels. The fact that the Pulitzer-prize winning Oregonian degraded itself in such a manner is a shame and an insult to its readers, but also another indication that journalism in America is all but breathing its last breath.
Of course, we are all fascinated with the sexual exploits of our politicians, and I am sure it sells a lot of papers and magazines. But the truth is – unless a politician’s actions somehow negatively impact their ability to do their job, or break the law, it is really none of our business how they spend their off hours. I would much rather have a President who blows off steam late at night by dressing up like a pony while the First Lady rides him around the Oval Office, than a President who illegally conspires to take away our civil liberties.
Sure, sexual activities are newsworthy when they are clear indicators on the Weasel meter. I want to know when my elected official is a blatant liar, or uses their position to attack others while secretly enjoying the activities they condemn. But right now we desperately need talented people to enter public service, and conducting public witch hunts to sell papers potentially scares off those that could help us the most.