Saturday, July 10, 2004


I'm a pessimist. I always presume that the candidate I like won't win the election. In 1992, I did not allow myself even to consider the possibility that the elder Bush might lose -- until the tabloids turned on him.

The specific moment of samsara came when the Weekly World News' beloved space alien endorsed Bill Clinton. Remember the space alien? In a succession of cover photos, he posed with Poppy, then with the Ferengi, then with Bubba. In these shots, the alien always seemed the same size as the candidates, even though Perot was shorter than Clinton and Bush.

Now, I'm not saying that anyone (outside of certain counties in Mississippi) has ever taken the Weekly World News seriously. In general, though, the tabloids -- the ultra-goofy ones as well as the sorta-maybe-sometimes "serious" ones -- serve a propaganda function.

For what it's worth: Ten years ago, a former writer for the National Enquirer -- whose name I cannot reveal because I do not recall it -- confirmed my suspicion that virtually all the tabloids have a political agenda. Yes, I know that most people scoff at the credibility of these publications -- but so what? They still offer an incessant series of headlines screaming the guilt of a Condit while ignoring any troubling material in the background of a Schwarzenegger. In the business of perception management, pure repetition of an idea can outweigh concern over credibility.

Whenever talk turns to tabloid bias, conspiracy buffs of a certain stripe will remind us of the background of Generoso Pope, former owner of the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News. Hint: He had previously worked for a "Company" some refer to as the Cigar Importers of America.

Now, I told you that to tell you this:

A couple of weeks ago, the National Enquirer ran a story with a cover headline reading (if memory serves): "BUSH SEX SCANDAL!" The article itself simply rehashed the "Washingtonienne" wackiness discussed in loving detail by Anna Marie Cox, a.k.a. Wonkette. I'd say the story was up her alley, but she might use the occasion to proclaim once more her preference in alleys.

The scandal -- at least what we know of it thus far -- doesn't really touch the oval office. Yet a quick glance at the Enquirer headline gave the impression that W uses hookers.

Hmmm. Has Poppy's whelp lost the tabs? If so, then maybe -- just maybe -- Kerry has a chance.

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