“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So goes the line from the Jimmy Stewart-John Wayne tale, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Spread all over the interwebules this week was a hilarious account of how a slightly obsessed engineer revenged himself upon local porch-pirates by concocting a tempting fake delivered package and leaving it on his doorstep. Being technically quite adept, he booby-trapped the package with fine glitter, fart-spray and four telephones primed to record the resulting mayhem – which was as hilarious as the Daily Mail always promises, but rarely delivers. Honestly, I think the man could go into business, providing those dummy parcels for customers to outfit with their own cellphones, can-o-fart-spray and glitter with which to discombobulate parcel thieves. The Deity knoweth that local police departments usually don’t get serious about this kind of petty theft: where the law can’t or won’t get involved, there will inevitably be an opening for creative vigilantism.
The other leading story this week gives even more cause for cynical amusement.
That would be the downfall of Claas Relotius, a reporter for the German Der Spiegal newsmagazine, who arrived in Fergus Falls, Minnesota last year, for the purpose of spending three weeks in deepest Trumplandia among hick, stupid, fat Americans and filing one of those ‘conservatives-in-the-mist’ travelogues so beloved by national media organs with delusions of journalistic adequacy. Alas, it would seem that Herr Relotius might just as well have spent his three weeks in his cosy flat, surfing the internet and Google-maps street-view; it emerges that he got practically everything wrong about Fergus Falls, save the population, that it is in Minnesota, and the names of a couple of local restaurants. Not from carelessness, it appears; a couple of enterprising Fergus Falls residents were appalled and vexed in equal measure, and spent time and effort fisking the Relotius article, concluding without a shred of doubt that the man took a few pictures, talked briefly to some locals and flat-out pencil-whipped a fantasy Trumpland Fergus Falls, adorned with names and pictures intended to lend corroborative detail and artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Also rather obviously, (as has been pointed out by many of the commenters to the article) it was the narrative that his editors and readers back in Germany wished most sincerely to read, confirming all existing biases.
Frankly, this kind of journalistic malpractice is why so many of us now regard the national media outlets with extreme skepticism: after Dan Rather and the 60 Minutes TANG debacle, Jayson Blair, Scott Beauchamp and others examples of bias, favoritism and outright fraud, how could we not? Dan Rather tried to throw a presidential election with bogus documentation, Blair fantasized (and plagiarized) in the so-called national paper of record, and Beauchamp spun a whole cycle of bogus and unlikely military tales. These three and the like all told the tales that their editors and producers wanted to believe, and believed that their readership wanted to hear, if only to confirm their own prejudices, rather than report honestly and fairly. So after ten or twenty years or this – or even more, since it was much more difficult before the internet and widely-disseminated blogs, websites and discussion boards, to even unearth the like of such examples that I have listed – the news media’s credibility is comprehensively shot, and by the conduct of their own operatives. Which is ironic, since I daresay that the national media outlets are all mystified as to how come they cannot push the narrative in the direction they wish any more. Well – the diminishing number of those still in operation are mystified … but those of us who pay attention to such things are not.
(PS – the first three Luna City volumes in Kindle edition are on sale for .99 cents each through the end of December.)