Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The arrest of John Mark Karr two weeks ago in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey was undoubtedly newsworthy. With all its twists and false leads, the JonBenet case has been nothing if not intriguing. For 12 days the media continued the story to the point of obsession — MSNBC covered it to the exclusion of everything else, it seemed — with almost nothing new to report. Then came Monday’s news from the Boulder County, Colo., district attorney’s office that Mr. Karr would be released for lack of evidence.

What does it say that the only newsworthy items in the entire episode were Mr. Karr’s arrest and subsequent release? Was the Karr arrest simply another case of the usual August lull in the newscycle?

In part, yes. Last year’s Great August Story was left-wing activist Cindy Sheehan’s absurd campout near the president’s Texas ranch, which, much to the dismay of Mrs. Sheehan, was interrupted only after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Remember the Summer of the Shark? That was 2001, when the media hyped shark attacks, despite the widely acknowledged fact that the season’s attacks were no higher than previous seasons’.

But in both cases something much larger and historic loomed on the horizon. We can only wonder what will interrupt Karr Coverage. But let’s consider some possibilities. Tomorrow marks the deadline for Iran’s compliance with a Security Council resolution demanding it cease all uranium enrichment activities. Iran’s response has been to inaugurate a “heavy-water” nuclear reactor and test fire a new long-range missile.

What else? Twenty Iraqi troops were killed in a drawn-out battle with Shi’ite militiamen in southern Iraq Monday, while nine U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad over the weekend. Does this mean Iraqi forces are finally standing up or that the situation is spiraling out of control? Meanwhile, the United Nations has finally come to some agreement on the international force to be stationed in southern Lebanon, after France shamefully withdrew its pledge to lead the mission. But the force will fall far short of the 15,000 troops mandated by the Security Council cease-fire. Either development could lead to events that make the arrest of one individual living in Thailand totally irrelevant.

Like Nero during the burning of Rome, the mainstream media love to pluck their harps in the midst of impending crisis. It was only later that Nero blamed the fire on the Christians. Whom will the media decide to blame?

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