Breaking news or: What puts eyes on screens…

The President of the United States has contracted the Great Plague.

There’s very little I can say about that that hasn’t been pummeled to death by the media in the last sixteen hours. What I am interested in, though, is the approach to covering this news story. I very quickly lost track of how many “below the fold” stories, tweets, and talking heads were taking great pains to spin it not so much as a health or politics story, but as a “national security crisis.” 

Yeah, about that. 

Look, I know that makes for sexy, sexy headline, but let’s not pretend this is a Cuban missile crisis or Berlin blockade. It’s not a foreign decapitation strike that knocked out the first 47 people in the line of succession. It’s not a cyber-attack against our critical infrastructure. It’s an old man who’s come down with a nasty bug. 

Yes, that means we dust off the succession planning and continuity of government documents. It might even mean we hustle someone off to set up housekeeping at Dick Cheney’s secure, undisclosed location. It could even mean ginning up the military to conduct a few small display of strength exercises as a reminder that we don’t turn off the lights just because the current occupant of the Oval Office has the sniffles, has heart surgery, or even gets shot.

The president having COVID-19 is a legitimate news story, but it hardly heralds the collapse of the institution of the presidency let alone causes the entire executive branch to seize up… but I don’t suppose that kind of story fills column inches or puts eyes on screens.

News of the world tonight…

I just did a quick check of the headlines a few minutes ago and as expected, most of the major outlets are still running something about pot-smoking kids as the lead story. Another link on CNN was a story about a baby whose nose was chewed off by rats. I can’t help but think that if there these are stories that make the news, there are probably more examples of similar experiences out there that have simply never made it to tape. These stories appear to be the latest confirmation of my pet theory that the collapse of a civilization occurs exponentially more quickly than its rise. Using the year 1900 as a baseline for the start of the “American Century,” the rise took approximately 125 years. With parents who allow their young to have appendages removed by rodents and get stoned with the family (while the mother was apparently cranked out on pain killers according to the report I heard on news radio), I’m guessing we have maybe 25-30 relatively good years left before the scale is completely tipped and the inmates have achieved the critical mass needed to take over the asylum.