Sunday, August 23, 2009
COPS 'N' ROBBERS
We've been thinking a lot lately about why the Capitol press corps has ignored Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Corbett's failure to charge any Republicans in the "Bonusgate" investigation.
It took an out-of-town reporter at a small newspaper to ask the obvious question that elicited his near-admission. The comment provoked quite a stir in Harrisburg's little corner of the blogosphere. Yet not a single mainstream media outlet picked up the story and even the Sun-Gazette buried the lede.
Anyone who's read All The President's Men is familiar with this phenomenon. The ink-stained wretches who covered the White House full-time didn't pursue the story because it simply didn't fit the narrative. It took a couple of relatively inexperienced guys to figure it out because they didn't know the narrative.
Sociologists call it confirmation bias. Scientists call it paradigm paralysis. We call it laziness.
Journalists like a story that is simple to tell. They like good guys and bad guys, black and white, victims and villains. They don't like ambiguity or nuance, which don't lend themselves to clever headlines.
The "Bonusgate" narrative is solidified for the Capitol press corps. The roles of hero and villain were cast long ago. If the occasional inconvenient fact emerges that doesn't fit the storyline it's examined only briefly, then discarded.
To acknowledge that Corbett has used his office as a political tool not only threatens Corbett's status as the hero, it threatens Veon's status as the villain. And that may be the more frightening prospect. Ethical ambiguity is haaaarrrd, y'all.
The inconvenient fact is, Corbett has had more than enough time to construct a case against anyone in the General Assembly he intends to charge and in fact, has done so. But as long as he claims the investigation is continuing, he keeps the General Assembly cowed and the press corps placated.
They're so placated, in fact -- so happy to have their biases confirmed and their paradigms paralyzed -- that they can't bear to retrace the moldy trail of breadcrumbs that lead them there in the first place. Breadcrumbs such as: The other shoe is about to drop! and The next round of charges will shock the conscience!
We really prefer our emperors clothed.
At this point, the only thing could result in additional charges is a public outcry that could threaten his gubernatorial campaign. Without any media scrutiny, such an outcry is unlikely. He probably can't believe his good fortune. Neither can we.