I watched entirely too much television as a child. I was a big fan of Saturday Night Live and loved the Emily Litella character. For those unfamiliar with Litella, she was played by Gilda Radner and was a little old lady who did commentary on the SNL Weekend Update segment. She was hard of hearing and was constantly confusing words. She would rant on and on, slapping the desk all the while, about one outrage or another until Chevy Chase explained to her that, for example, the report she heard was about bussing schoolchildren, not busting them. She would pause a moment, smile a sweet little smile, look into the camera and say, “Never mind.”
There have been quite a few “never mind” media opportunites during the Bush years. They range in significance from such incorrect stories as that of the plastic Thanksgiving turkey in Baghdad, to stories such as those of widespread rape and murder in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. Michelle Malkin once used a reference to Emily Litella when writing about the “Gitmo Koran flushing” story. Few of the “never minds” have gotten the prominent play that the original inaccurate reports received though. More distressing is that many of them have passed unrealized at all. Instead of even a “never mind,” too often we have gotten dumb silence.
So how does the media set a story straight, after it has peddled an alternate reality version for months or even years? Does it even attempt to do it? The blogger known as the Anchoress described the process, “.Once a narrative has been constructed, it’s damn near impossible to get the press to deconstruct it… On the rare occasions in which they are forced to deconstruct something on…page 13 of section A, rather than page 42 of section C…you see this sort of weird and toothless pudding, which in no way resembles the fevered and morally-outraged musings, rants and outright accusations of the last three years.”
There are plenty of examples that would fit the Anchoress’ description of fever pitched accusations and assertions followed by mealy-mouthed, and incredibly quiet corrections and retractions, but perhaps none so much as the Valerie Plame story. How does the news media reverse course on a story that it has reported for years as fact, when it learns, through new revelations, such as the recent one regarding Richard Armitage, that the storyline reported for so long was incorrect? Never mind?