Aside from the current dalliance into anti-Trumpism, there is nothing the media cares more about than itself. That would be entirely understandable at P.J. Clarke’s after a hard day’s reporting, but this isn’t about the ordinary griping about how hard they have it or how unfair it is they aren’t loved and appreciated, and since many don’t actually “go” to work anymore, and wouldn’t know P.J. Clarke’s if they tripped on it.
This is about using the unique tool of the media to express their self-adoration and obsession, and in the process of doing so, say the words out loud that we believe to be the case but usually can’t prove. In defending his colleague, Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle did it. He said it out loud.
Sonmez kept both eyes on the truth — or more precisely, on one particular truth, namely that somewhere a woman was experiencing this outpouring of adulation for a man who choked and lacerated her during an encounter that she called a rape, and which he acknowledged was very much like one.
Somnez’s suspension without pay lasted about a day before the cries that it was the wrong response caused her superiors to reinstate her. It was the right thing to do, just as it was the right thing to do for her victim, who unfortunately wasn’t given the same consideration. But I digress.
Was it “the truth — or more precisely, one particular truth”?
I’ve never met my Post colleague Felicia Sonmez, but I’ve read enough of her work to know that she’s crackerjack.
What this means, “crackerjack,” is significantly unclear for someone who gets paid to use words. Is he saying she’s a good writer, meaning wordsmith, or a good thinker, meaning what she has to say is smart and thoughtful, or both, or something else entirely? By using the word “crackerjack,” he conveys some meaningless positivity without actually informing the reader of anything. On the other hand, he ascribes credibility to her, which is only necessary if she brings no credibility to the table on her own. If you believe Von Drehle to be credible, then trust him when he says Sonmez is “crackerjack,” because Sonmez’s cred doesn’t speak for itself.
After the crash, she swung a 20-pound sledgehammer at the Bryant story, tweeting a link to a detailed report of the highly credible rape accusation lodged against the hard-court hero in 2003. When I say “highly credible,” I mean that Bryant himself admitted that he engaged in rough sex with his accuser, choked her so violently that she had bruises on her jawline and left her with multiple lacerations. In a statement, he acknowledged that he could understand why she thought he had raped her — even though the encounter seemed consensual to him.
The “credible” accusation keeps rearing its ugly head, meaning that it’s not incredible. That doesn’t make it true. Not her truth. Not his truth. Not truth at all. He’s right that she wielded a sledgehammer. Journalism, in the right hands, can be a scalpel, but few reporters are that good with words, or care enough to try. So they swing sledgehammers, reflecting their competency at communication, because it’s easier and, when one’s real purpose is to destroy one’s enemies, it’s very effective.
Von Drehle’s apologia, despite its efforts to rationalize Sonmez’s bludgeoning her “truth” through the sort of vagaries employed these days when arguing to a credulous cadre of member of the choir, fails to confront the problem. Sonmez swung her sledgehammer of truth immediately upon learning of Kobe Bryant’s, and his daughter’s, tragic death. She heard the name Kobe and had to, just had to, make sure everyone remembered the one most horrible unproven* accusation against him.
In the life of Kobe Bryant, was this the foremost event, the most important bit of news, that it had to be information immediately broadcast about him upon his tragic death?
Sonmez is of the ilk for whom rape is the center of the universe. So what if Kobe did a million wonderful things? He was accused of rape, and there is nothing more important to Sonmez than that. So what if it was only an accusation, because she believes, and that makes it her truth. So what it it was unproven, because Von Drehle says it’s credible. Of all the things that Kobe Bryant was and did in his life, this was the most significant “truth.”
And that this woman, and others like her, victimized by other accomplished, admired, even celebrated men, should not be resected from the stories of those men’s lives.
The alternative to swinging the sledgehammer of “truth” when the only “news” at that moment was of a tragic death is hardly “resecting” this from the full recap of Kobe’s life. It’s not making it the primary reaction, the first thing that must be said, lest upon the breaking news of death he not be smeared despite everything else he was and did.
Sometimes, the hammer of truth will break hearts and smash propriety. That makes it an imperfect tool. Still, it’s the best one we have.
If the best the media can do is swing a sledgehammer for lack of the competency to use a scalpel, that doesn’t speak well of the Fourth Estate. Maybe he’s right, that there just aren’t many journalists capable of using words well anymore. But more likely, the problem is that journalists no longer give a damn about whether they’re using a hammer or scalpel, but about wielding it for the sake of an obsessive, perhaps even delusional, need to destroy in the name of their “truth.” For Sonmez, that obsession is rape, and she believes, and if there is any whiff of rape about any person whose name comes up, she must swing her sledgehammer.
Yet, maybe this is just Von Drehle doing his best to salvage the ruined credibility, the damaged discretion, of his colleague, for whom an unproven rape accusation must be foremost in this time of #MeToo and wounded women’s feelings. Maybe Sonmez realizes that her obsession with rape uber alles was wrong and misguided? Nope.
Putting the sledgehammer of the mainstream media into the hands of someone who believes her obsession with rape trumps all other news, all other facts, because it’s her “truth,” is not the “best one we have.” Sonmez wasn’t wielding any “hammer of truth.” Neither is Von Drehle. There was no “truth” here that needed to be said, and this pathetic rationalization reveals, because Von Drehle said it aloud and Sonmez endorsed it, that they will swing their “hammers of truth” to vindicate their personal hatred and obsessions to destroy their enemies, and that’s good enough for the media.
*That sex occurred wasn’t denied. That it wasn’t consensual is unproven. The “victim” has chosen not to pursue it, even if Sonmez couldn’t let it go, and even if Von Drehle has decided that it’s his place to impute pain to the victim upon Kobe’s death where the victim has said no such thing.