It's News, Right? [Updated]

Thank God for the JonBenet story. We may not be getting any closer to solving the disaster in the Middle East, but at least we didn't have to hear much about it last week. Hezbollah, Hamas, Sunnis, Shiites, Iran, Iraq, it's all so complicated, such -- as Bush says -- "hard work." If the administration can't understand it, how can the media be expected to?

Yes, I know: that the media jumps full-bore into a lurid story is not that surprising. But as much as we may have expected it, the sheer obsessiveness and monotony of the JonBenet coverage were still shocking.

If you turned on the television at all last week, you simply could not avoid it. And you couldn't help but notice how difficult it was for the "news anchors" to keep the lid on their glee. There was giddy relief at no longer having to remember the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas or the status of the "unity" government in Iraq.

In fact, it was interesting how long it took before TV anchors began mentioning the fact that there may be serious questions regarding this confession. After all, it's even harder to justify the wall-to-wall coverage if the "confession" may actually be fake.

Also amusing is how when the cable newsers go into full-sleaze mode, they still try to maintain the outward appearance of being "newspeople." "This is a story you heard first on MSNBC," said MSNBC's Dan Abrams. When NBC News president Steve Capus announced that Dan Abrams would become the new head of MSNBC, he was asked if, under Abrams, MSNBC would become a crime channel. "That's not part of the plan," he replied. But that was before JonBenet's killer was found -- or possibly not found.

Another story last week that did not involve a "Six-Year-Old Beauty Queen" was the news that in July the death toll in Iraq was the deadliest since the start of the war -- over 3400 people, or about 110 a day. I don't know if any of these 3400, or of the tens of thousands who have been killed since the beginning of the war, were prepubescent beauty queens, but with numbers like that, it wouldn't be out of the question. Maybe MSNBC can be "first" on that one, too.

In the meantime, the only people happier than the cable "news anchors" must be Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld. When you've basically screwed up the world, and you're headed into a heated anti-incumbent election, it must be a gift from heaven to have a story that, essentially, shuts down the delivery of news.

Plus, we get to see -- again, and again, and again -- that footage of a heavily made-up adorable little girl lasciviously prancing around. Because it's news, right?

Cartoonist John de Rosier graphically nails the point of this post here.