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Following the Lewinsky press barrage

February 01, 1998

Following the Lewinsky press barrage

It's funny how one thing leads to another. I was listening to our government's latest reaction to Saddam Hussein the other night when I found myself thinking about bugs.

Bugs. They're everywhere. Iraq is making them, every government with a gross national product of over $1.89 is listening through them, and organic gardeners are buying good ones to keep the bad ones away.

That led to thoughts of bug bombs, both the global and basement varieties. From there my mind wandered to bugging in general, and the press coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky prime time soap opera, which for some has turned out to be a public relations bomb.

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That thought came at the very moment I switched over to a TV newsclip of reporters and photographers mobbing one of the lawyers in the Whitefly scandal, as I call it. I think it was Lewinsky's attorney, but I'm not sure because I couldn't see him.

He was hidden behind a crush of bodies on tiptoe, leaning into him in unison. His face, when I did get a glimpse of it, was distorted by criss-crossed lengths of tubing - microphone extensions which allow reporters to get so close to their subject that on a windy day they can pick up the sound of the hairs rustling in their nostrils.

Whoever it was kept telling the press corps that he didn't like metal stuff poked in his face. I think he also said something about the fact that they were sucking up all his oxygen, but I'm not sure, because it was hard to hear him through the grunts of photographers jostling for position.

The press corps didn't hear him, either. They had taken to squabbling among themselves. Some were telling others to back off. Others, perhaps sensing an eerie similarity with the bull run at Pamplona, backpeddled out of fear they would be trampled to death by the pursuing horde should the object of their scrutiny manage to move in their direction.

I empathized with the poor lawyer-person, whoever he was. You see, I don't like it when people bug me, especially when they get in my face. There's a limit to up close and personal. For me, that limit is about three feet in any given direction.

The poor guy on TV kept trying to say something, which I assume was what the press wanted him to do to begin with, but he couldn't get their attention because they were too busy yelling at each other.

Rather self-defeating, I thought.

I thought this man handled himself with excruciating control, when with but one sweep of his arm he could have knocked them all down. They would have fallen like babbling dominoes.

I decided to change channels. I was empathizing so much with the lawyer that I was having trouble catching my breath. It wasn't healthy.

As it happened I switched to a Washington station showing footage of a photographer writhing on the ground after being struck by a limousine carrying someone tremendously important in Whitefly - could it have been Monica Lewinsky herself? Unfortunately, the contents of the car were impossible to discern, because the media's huddled masses didn't permit a clear view.

I might add that when the news anchor asked whether the photographer was badly hurt, no one on the scene seemed to know. Nor was it reported - at least on that broadcast - how the accident happened. Was the man but an innocent bystander? Was he hunkering on the hood of the vehicle trying to get a better shot? Your guess is as good as mine. Poor guy just wasn't the story that night.

He reminded me a lot of a dangling, writhing participle.

I was thinking about the media's uncivil obsession with Whitefly when I read Friday about how a Lewinsky lookalike got tired of being besieged by the press, and decided to dupe reporters into following her.

She purposely exited the federal courthouse where a grand jury is investigating Whitefly. Besieged by a crowd of TV cameramen and reporters, she denied sleeping with the president, (we can only assume she wasn't lying) and then ran from the gathered crowd. Like Lemmings, they followed her for a block and a half.

The media bit, and the lookalike ate them alive.

How humiliating.

Funny, but that scene didn't bug me a bit.

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