The very concept of trivia doesn’t exist!

MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2013

Major pundits couldn’t hear Snowden’s complaint: Whatever one thinks of Edward Snowden, he has made a good observation about the way his actions have been covered.

This weekend, on Fox News Watch, outgoing host Jon Scott quoted what Snowden has said. First, though, he played tape of Dick Cheney calling Snowden a traitor:
SCOTT (6/22/13): Former Vice President Dick Cheney there on Fox News Sunday, calling NSA leaker Edward Snowden a traitor for his actions. Snowden went public again this week reacting to Cheney`s comments and criticizing the media coverage. Part of what he said, "Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history."

Judy, what do you think of his remarks?
Might we paraphrase? In the statement Scott quoted, Snowden said the coverage of his actions has tended quite heavily toward the trivial. He said the mainstream press corps was more interested in his smokin’ hot girlfriend than in the substance of the program on which he released information.

Snowden said the press has tended toward the trivial. Scott asked a panel of pundits what they thought about this remark.

The first to opine was Judith Miller. This is what she said:
MILLER (continuing directly): Well, Edward Snowden, welcome to Celebrityhood! For better or ill.

Look, he has become a genuine folk hero to a lot of people under 30. If you look at the 17-point drop in the president’s popularity among that group, Edward Snowden is responsible for that. And I’m sorry, but he is not going to like a lot of what is written about him.
Did Miller understand Snowden's remark? He didn’t say that he “didn’t like” what has been written about him. Paraphrasing, Snowden said a great deal of the coverage has tended toward the trivial.

Miller didn’t seem to understand what Snowden had said. But as he continued, neither did Scott—and neither did Big Jim Pinkerton, to whom Scott turned next for comment:
SCOTT (continuing directly): Yes, and he thought there was what, going to be universal adulation in the media?

PINKERTON: Right. I think Snowden, as a naive narcissist, has the emerging narrative following up. Look, he is on his way to being Philip Agee, who was the notorious CIA agent who ratted on the agency and got Americans killed in the process, and ended up living out his life in Cuba, where he died under Castro.
Like Miller, Scott acted as if Snowden had complained that the commentary wasn’t favorable. Pinkerton also skipped past Snowden’s point, although parts of the Nexis transcript don’t make much sense. (Fox didn’t post tape of the segment.)

Watching this program, we were struck by a long-standing point of interest. The very concept of trivial coverage is virtually non-existent within the upper-end press corps.

They understand the claim of bias. They understand the claim that they got some factual point wrong. But the notion that they’re wasting their time on trivia?

Our journalists tend to twist their heads when they hear this claim, like the RCA Victor dog.

Miller, Scott and Pinkerton all seemed to miss Snowden’s point. Now, though, Scott raised a new question—and Kirsten Powers, who is pro-Snowden, backtracked to his original critique:
SCOTT (continuing directly): Kirsten, for you, the former vice president’s comments got this reaction from Snowden. He said, "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American." You took that on this week.

POWERS: Well, I just—I think his complaint is completely valid. It’s that people are focusing on things that, whether he was a high school dropout or his girlfriend, or these things that really have nothing to do with the issue, in an attempt to smear him. And even this “narcissistic” thing, you know, it is like—I guess he should have gone into TV or something. You know what I mean? It is not—

I mean, seriously. We work in the most narcissistic industry in history, sitting around pointing fingers at this guy, who basically gave up everything, you know, and had to flee the country because he thought it was so important to expose this information, which has not caused any damage to the United States. That’s the other thing that we keep hearing about, all this alleged damage that has been done. And a lot of good has already been done.
Like the other pundits before her, Powers skipped the question she had been asked—the question about Cheney’s accusation of treason. But at least she showed that she understood the concept of trivial coverage.

Dating back at least to the Clinton-Gore years, our political discourse has tended to drown in a sea of trivia. Why was Gore wearing those three-button suits? A long string of very major flyweights very much wanted to know!

But our “journalists” rarely show any sign of understanding the concept of trivial coverage. There is no shiny object so pointless that it can’t distract our mainstream reporters—or our emerging liberal world, if one wants to be honest.

Why are they wasting their time on trivia? Major journalists rarely seem to understand the concept, even when the critique is directly stated and they’re asked to comment on it.

So it goes as a gang of players strut and fret in Studio A, pretending to conduct a discussion. That said, major kudos to Powers.

“We work in the most narcissistic industry in history,” the spot-on analyst said.


  1. Can you stop your petty hating on Maureen Dowd for just a goddamn minute and focus on something important, Somerby?

    Oh wait. Wrong thread, er, I mean wrong meds.

  2. Well Fox was more balanced than CBS in that they even mentioned Snowden's point of view. CBS did nothing but discuss at great length how important it is to capture this heinous criminal and how failure to do so is jeopardizing relations between us and several major nations.