2010′s Most Overblown News Stories

December 30th, 2010 at 1:07 am | 57 Comments |

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Remember when an unknown pastor in Florida planned to burn a bunch of Qurans? Or when that television host managed to get a bunch of people to hang out on the Washington Mall in the summer heat? Or when that crazy woman who ran for Senate hogged all the media attention even though it was obvious to everyone that she was going to lose?

2010 saw many events that history may end up regarding as only moderately important, getting far more media coverage than they deserved. Here, in no particular order, are the most overblown media events of 2010.

1. Unknown Pastor Terry Jones Threatens to Ruin America’s Relationship with the Entire Islamic World

The “Ground Zero Mosque” definitely deserves recognition for receiving far more attention than it deserved. Far from being a towering monument to jihadism and sharia law in the middle of downtown New York, the Cordoba House has still not seen any construction and it’s unlikely that its backers will ever raise the money needed. (The latest news is that the developers are being sued by Citibank for $100,000.)

If the media’s coverage of the mosque was incendiary, its coverage of Pastor Terry Jones and his plan to declare 9/11 to ve “International Burn a Quran Day” was mind boggling. A little known pastor in Florida had managed to grab the attention of the media in a month when it seemed that nothing else was worth reporting. Adding bizarre insult to injury, Jones also managed to make himself The Single Greatest Threat to America’s relationship with the Muslim world, leading to condemnation of the threatened burning by General David Petraeus and a personal phone call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to get him to cancel his publicity stunt.

2. People With Too Much Time on Their Hands Descend on Washington D.C. and Use the Metro

2010 became the year when marches and rallies in Washington D.C. jumped the shark. First the Tea Party marched onto Capitol Hill to protest the healthcare bill.  Then they came back on Tax Day; then again on 9/12 (the 2010 9/12 March was smaller than the 2009 one). For those of us who actually live in Washington and who find the prospect of activists clogging up our Metro system unappealing, this was bad enough. It only got worse when Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart decided to join in the fun.

Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor” was big, controversial, and completely forgettable. Does anyone actually remember what Glenn Beck said that day? Does anyone who doesn’t regularly watch his television show care? Tea Party rallies can at least claim some sort of metric of success, such as money raised for the Michelle Bachmann reelection fund or congressional phone lines clogged. This is not the case with Jon Stewart’s own stunt.

Stewart and Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” was hardly an improvement on the Tea Party rallies. Not only did Stewart get even more tourists to clog up the Metro system, he also decided to hold his rally in one of the most inaccessible parts of the National Mall, with only a small number of video screens and mega-speakers set up to handle the overflow. What did this rally achieve? Aside from a series of magazine profile pieces and a chance for Rachel Maddow to ask him sanctimonious questions?

3. Christine O’Donnell: Did You Know She’s Not a Witch? (And by the way, Alvin Greene is Strange.)

Christine O’Donnell is no friend of FrumForum and there is an important story to be told about how O’Donnell and the Tea Party have caused serious harm to the Delaware GOP (watch FrumForum for this piece in the near future!). Even though it was obvious she was going to lose, and despite Delaware’s primary being among the last of the election cycle, Christine O’Donnell still managed to be the most covered candidate of the midterms.  More Americans are probably familiar with O’Donnell not being a witch than they are with Marco Rubio or Rand Paul or any other candidate who actually ended up winning their Senate race.

Criticism should also be directed at the coverage of South Carolina Senate candidate Alvin Greene. While there was a legitimate story to be told about how the Democrats failed to get their preferred candidate nominated, the media instead focused on Alvin Greene’s antics and personality, creating many uncomfortable and exploitive TV moments.

4. Why Can’t Obama Stop the Oil Spill With His Bare Hands?

This one is a bit counter-intuitive. While it was worth covering the Gulf oil spill, In the long run, it appears that while the Deepwater Horizon explosion was a short term crisis, many of the long-term effects seem to have been exaggerated. (As both FrumForum’s Tim Mak and the Weekly Standard have reported.)

In addition to the media over-hyping the damage from the spill, it also found time to ask itself a useless question: Why Can’t President Obama Single-Handedly Plug the Oil Leak? The Cult of the Presidency was on full display.  Maureen Dowd asked the question that only pundits dared to ask, why can’t Obama do the one thing guaranteed to stop the spill: Show us that he really cares?

As Dowd knows, presidential emotions are the most important issue to discuss, not whether Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is displaying exceptional competence in his handling of the actual crisis.

5. Scandal of the Century: Liberal Academics and Wonks Send Emails to Each Other

The foundations of Big Journalism were shocked to their core when it was revealed that many bloggers and policy wonks in D.C. were on an email listserve founded by Ezra Klein called “JournoList”, and that they used this listserve to complain about politics and the media.

In hindsight, the listserve does not seem to have been the best idea and perhaps better behavior could have been expected from some of its members.

But in the conservative movement, it was much more than that.  It was a “A Watergate of epic proportions in the newsroom” warned Andrew Breitbart.

Because it truly is a scandal when the editor of The Nation is emailing his friends about how the media is not liberal enough.

6. Bedbugs – The African Killer Bees of 2010

Despite living in the richest and most powerful country in the world, Americans have an irrational fear of insects and pests. Back in the early-90s, America recoiled in horror from the threat of bees. Specifically, Africanized “killer bees”. The “Africanized” bees are really a hybrid of African and southern European bees that were accidentally bred in Brazil. From there they worked their way up the continent before getting closer to the United States. Culminating in a national scare as the media showed maps of a Killer Bee Army slowly expanding out from Mexico.

In reality, the threat posed by the bees to humans was much more mild.

But Killer Bees are from the 90s. The newest threat is a bedbug invasion.  To be sure, there has been an increase in both reported and confirmed cases this year, but enough to give alarming warnings that bedbugs are “invading” America? Just because more people are calling exterminators because they believe they have bedbugs doesn’t mean they actually do.

Not only was the spread of bedbugs much more mundane, bedbugs themselves are just a nuisance, not threat to anyone’s life. They cause welts and sores but they don’t carry or transfer disease. This is what we call a “First World problem”, unlike malaria.

7. Not-So Worthwhile Republican Initiatives

When Republicans are pressed to say exactly what their big ideas are, they respond: “Have you ever heard of the Paul Ryan Roadmap?” This isn’t an exaggeration, Rep. Kevin McCarthy said this explicitly on Fox News: “Could you only imagine with Paul Ryan being chairman of the Budget committee? Not only would we have the power, but Paul would outsmart the president each and every time.”

Ryan’s roadmap is an important document that raises important questions. It also offers one solution to the problem of Medicare entitlements. However, when Republicans try to come up with other ideas… the results are less impressive.

Does anyone remember Eric Cantor’s much vaunted “YouCut” program?

How about the “Pledge to America”?

Though perhaps the one initiative that came and went without anyone remembering it had to be the “Mount Vernon Statement” from February.  It’s OK if you never heard of it — nobody has.

8. England’s World Cup Team

The prediction:

In actuality, the USA won the group, and England were the runner-ups. The American team’s overall performance was an improvement from their last World Cup appearance in 2006, while England continues to cling to their 1966 World Cup victory with little to point to in recent history.

9. The Recovery Summer

From a White House memo, dated June 17, 2010:

The Administration today kicks off ‘Recovery Summer’, a six-week-long focus on the surge in Recovery Act infrastructure projects that will be underway across the country in the coming months – and the jobs they’ll create well into the fall and through the end of the year.

From the most recent data on the unemployment rate, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (+39,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

It’s been said on FrumForum many times before but it’s worth repeating: “If you give a number, don’t give a date. If you give a date, don’t give a number.”

10. Levi and Bristol Preserve the Sanctity of Traditional Marriage

Presented without comment:

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57 Comments so far ↓

  • anniemargret

    ccpatriot: Does your user name imply that we liberals, right of center Democrats are not ‘patriots?’

    Just wondering. Your attack on our worldview is in direction relation to the ‘un-American’ barbs we’ve been listening to since Bush and Cheney took over and threw against a majority of this country.

    Maybe the best course of action for both parties is to stop using the ‘patriot’ meme as a moniker. I think we are ALL patriots.

  • anniemargret

    sublime33: ‘It is this contempt of science that alarms me about the Republican party.”

    I second that. And what about tapping into educated and articulate and intelligent for a change. They have gone from William Buckley to Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.

    Good Grief.

  • anniemargret

    ccpatriot: Get off your high horse.

    My husband (OCS) served during Vietnam. My cousin was a Navy pilot during Vietnam. My Dad was a staff sargeant who won the Bronze star during WWII. My uncles swam in the bloodied waters in the South Pacific. My boyfriend of 23 years of age died in a jungle in Vietnam in ’68.

    Keep your patriotism. There are millions who served and many are from big cities, big towns, small cities, small towns, children of immigrants and shock upon shock, many were from the Democratic persuasion. We love our country as much as YOU.

  • anniemargret

    ccpatriot: One more thing. “Your President?”

    Excuse me, but this is a representative democracy. We elect our President. He is President of these United States. Get over it. Your guy/gal lost. You’ll get your chance again…maybe.

    IN the meantime, if you are such the big patriot that you claim, you would honor the president for being President, even if you dislike him personally or politically. I despised Bush/Cheney’s policies, but I never claimed or would claim, that he ‘wasn’t my president’
    or refer to him as ‘your President.’

    That’s a disgraceful thing to say.

  • anniemargret

    DEconservative: I would venture to say that the Delawareans were ‘afraid’ of CO, so much so that they overwhelmingly voted her out!

    Thank God for sanity.

  • anniemargret

    Can we please add Sarah Palin’s reality show hype to the above list? Like we have to hear about how she shot an elk…for what? so she could look ‘tough’ to her fans….?

    Talk about boring. Talk about idiocy. This is woman who pretended she was going to run (“I’m ready!”) to be the Vice President of the U.S.

    She was not’ready’ to be V.P. Not anywhere ready to be Prez.

    Ready to be in Hollywood.

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