Published in The Enterprise, 3-16-98 

Rising Above the News Media’s Salaciousness

by Rocky Anderson

“I wish you would concentrate on my issues. I don’t come every day.”

Those were the words of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last Wednesday as he scolded reporters for inquiring about the so-called White House sex scandal during his meeting with President Clinton – a meeting held to discuss the recent massacre of at least 80 Albanians by Serbian police.

If President Clinton exposed himself to Paula Jones, if he engaged in sex acts with Monica Lewinsky, if he groped Kathleen Willey – then he is an unfaithful husband who exercises terrible judgment and engages in disgraceful behavior.

But how disgraceful our own behavior is when we join in the media’s obsession about every unseemly act by politicians and celebrities, while we turn a blind eye and deaf ear toward those who are suffering the worst kinds of hardships, many of which we could prevent or help to resolve.

Just who we are and what have we become when the main topic of conversation so often is about such things as the latest “revelation” concerning Monica or Paula? Where, really, are our priorities?

Just think about it. Following years of butchery, gang-rapes, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, and wholesale torture, the killing and terror in the former Yugoslavia continue. The President of the United States and the United Nations Secretary-General meet to discuss possible solutions – and what do the rabid purveyors of sensationalistic trash (sometimes known as journalists) do? They call out their mindless questions about “Fornigate,” demonstrating contemptible disregard for those who live in misery and terror every day of their lives because of the failure by the international community to put an end to the horror.

Millions of people spent countless hours learning every detail of the O.J. Simpson case, while ignoring the holocaust in Rwanda. Everyone seemed to know everything about Kato Kaelin and the modeling career of Paula Barbieri, yet how many knew (or cared) that more than 500,000 people were killed during 1994 in Rwanda – a country where 80 % of children saw the murder of their own relatives and more than one third witnessed rapes or sexual assaults?

We can excoriate the news media for their salaciousness and superficiality. But what about ourselves? We know about Monica Lewinsky’s past boyfriends, about her ambitions to earn her “executive kneepads,” and about the alleged personal notes and e-mail messages between President Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky. But how many of us know (or care) that 45 of our Mexican neighbors, in Acteal, Chiapas, were slaughtered last December – or why?

We may know the lineups for every NBA team, but how many of us know (or care) about the malnutrition in Appalachia and our nation’s inner cities? Or about the open slavery market in Mauritania? Or about the kidnapping of young girls to turn them into sex slaves in India?

After a close loss by the Utah Jazz in a quarter-finals game, Frank Layden was approached by a friend who commented, “Tough loss, Frank! What a tragedy.” Characteristically putting the right perspective on it, Layden responded, “It wasn’t a tragedy; it was only a game. Bosnia – now there’s a tragedy!”

We could all use a better perspective. Sporting events are games and entertainment; the President’s sex life is the President’s sex life; and movie stars are simply actors and actresses. Misery, slavery, hunger, terror, oppression and murder affect millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world every day. And they are no less our brothers and sisters than those who live next door or across town. We can help make matters better for them by learning about what is occurring in our world, then taking action, each in our own way, to contribute toward a solution.

Those who are in need deserve better from those of us who can help. And we each deserve better from our news media, in order to be informed about the crucial issues of our day and not to be diverted by the sanctimonious tripe we have been reading on the front page for the past several weeks.

Imagine the person or other being – religious or otherwise – you most revere saying, “I wish you would concentrate on my issues.” Do you think President Clinton’s sex life would be one of those issues? Or would they more likely include helping the poor, the terrorized, the orphans, the uneducated, and the oppressed among men, women and children throughout the world?