By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Perhaps not surprisingly, Ibish's phone isn't ringing off the hook with editors eager to publish his piece.
Though Christopher Hitchens's new book on Clinton is called No One Left To Lie To, Press Clips has to wonder, given the media's ongoing deference to the ever-changing explanations for the bombing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. In the past eight months, we've gone from the plant being owned by Osama bin Laden to being partially owned by bin Laden to being the property of a man the U.S. government characterizes as a terrorist and "agent" of bin Laden's, Saudi businessman Salah Idris. Buried on the back pages of The New York Timesand The Washington Postlast week were short stories reporting that the government, rather than present any evidence of Idris's nefariousness in court, wasn't challenging suits brought by Idris to unfreeze his U.S. assets. "American officials have stood by their assertions that soil samples obtained clandestinely from the site tested positive for traces of Empta, a chemical used in the production of VX nerve gas," wrote the Times. After its much ballyhooed joint endeavor with Frontline, in which the PBS show and the Paper of Record poked enough holes in that story to liquidate it, one would have hoped for the Times to dispense with dignifying this hoary tale once and for all. But as the government has also alleged that the Iraqis were in on Al Shifa, perhaps keeping all the bases covered is best; it's probably only a matter of time before Milosevic emerges as an Al Shifa investor, too.
It would be nice to think that, after mass-murder coverage that put youth culture through the wringer, local news outlets might refrain from lurid reporting that harks back to Reefer Madness. But, carrying on in the grand tradition of William Randolph Hearst ("MARIJUANA MAKES FIENDS OF BOYS IN 30 DAYS"), WTTG-5, Washington's Fox News affiliate, presented a report last Wednesday night about "the underground of raves," rife with "pulsating music, illegal drugs, even sex." Declining to provide any historical context about young-adult drug use such as the fact that, since the 1920s, teens have played with everything from liquor to pot to coke to psychedelics to whippets, etc., yet the Republic is still intact the report relied largely on snuff-film grade hidden-camera footage and a matter-of-fact but righteously indignant voiceover from reporter Elisabeth Leamy. Her "revelations" about a drug that lends itself to a cool sensory experience were punctuated by images sure to inspire horror in the hearts of suburban parents everywhere: teens blissfully stroking each other's faces and shoulders, grinding teeth on pacifiers, and badgering bartenders for water.
The most arresting revelation of the "investigation," however, came when the camera lens was trained on security personnel: off-duty D.C. cops who, Leamy noted, "have full arrest powers even when they're off duty," Yet (as the footage showed) they steadfastly decline to take action against Ecstasy-popping ravers. And this, Leamy later intoned, "even though [Ecstasy] has killed at least 10 people nationwide." Tempting as it is to point out that more people died from lightning strikes last year (OK, we yield to the temptation), what Press Clips found most appalling was that a key contextual fact was left out until the postreport anchor- reporter chitchat: In the District of Columbia, Ecstasy isn't illegal. Due to a nearly 10-year-old typo in D.C. law, cops have no legal authority or obligation to arrest X users. But no matter; suburbanites living outside the Capital of the Free World will now sleep better knowing that, in a city coping with poorly trained, trigger-happy cops to negligent care for the mentally incapacitated to a street-drug problem exacerbated by the lack of treatment programs, Fox 5 brought down "the rave underground."