Monday, November 29, 2010

I Hate to Say It, But Drudge Is Right ...

For over a year now, that pitiful scoundrel Drudge had been watching his once-remarkable influence wane on his Web site, which is nothing more than a collection of links to other people's work. But those links are carefully chosen -- curated, you might say, to present a picture of the world from the right-wing reactionary, faux-populism perspective.

I've always thought that Drudge was basically a very smart wire editor who could have worked for some crazed modern online manifestation of the old New York Mirror. That is said with some admiration.

Anyway, Drudge came back big-time this month, as he drove the furor on the TSA with deftly chosen links and the usual attention-getting headlines.

And he's right today, highlighting reactions to the amazingly quick cave by the media, which has abruptly changed narrative on this story because one element of it, the much-hyped "National Opt-Out Day" protest, failed to materialize at the airports on the day before Thanksgiving. (Politico's Ben Smith also makes the point about the Drudge effect on what Smith calls, I think correctly, as the "weekend collapse" of the TSA's new screening policies.

Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind, to allude to the classic 1936 New Yorker parody of the old Time Magazine by Wolcott Gibbs.

Unseen in the current media rewrite of the narrative (ahem) is the fact that Thanksgiving air travel was down to the extent that the TSA itself said it closed checkpoint lanes at airports. The TSA didn't say this, but anecdotal reports from travelers all over the country say that in many airports, the body-scanner lanes were the ones closed.

Other anecdotal reports say that TSA screeners over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period were friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and helpful, manifesting at least some elements of the Boy Scout Code, and most of the important ones at that. The great TSA patdown grope-fest that had horrified travelers in the weeks before Thanksgiving seemed to be in recess, as well.

One strong indication to me showing how this narrative was deliberately changed over the weekend is the way media reports dismissing the TSA furor now routinely mention old polls showing majority acceptance of the new TSA procedures, while ignoring new polls in the middle of last week that showed exactly the opposite.

We'll see how this plays out. The new Accepted Narrative includes a theme that says this reaction has been solely driven by right-wing media, which is nuts, and I could show you a couple of thousand e-mails to prove it.

But maybe there is a new environment at the checkpoints. The inappropriate patdowns, far more than the body-scan machines themselves, drove the fury. And I do give great credit to a brilliant PR campaign by the TSA (and again, this is said with some admiration).

And hey, whatever works.

[Meanwhile, the always compelling Mike Boyd has some hard-nosed things to say in his weekly essay today about the media and the sorry record of the TSA. Airport security, he says, "has been a pirate's chest of heavy gelt" for many who make dough off it.]


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