Now... Aside from the fact that poetry "slams" are idiotic, and should be left to grungy basement college bars, the big controversy here is that Common has previously rapped about such engrossing topics as killing President Bush and whipping out an "uzi" and presumably attempting suicide-by-cop.
As you may have been told by basically every website & news network in the freaking country at this point, that stuff is bad, and has "outraged" conservatives and police officers and he shouldn't be allowed to visit the White House.
But what you probably don't know is how this all actually started... you totally should, though.
Cause it's funny, and because it's the best example I've ever seen of how the media fabricates its own material and its own news. It all started literally 10 feet away from my office at the Daily Caller, so I saw 100% of this unfold first-hand!
A few days ago, our White House correspondent, Neil Munro, had an idea for a story. The story was: Common was invited to attend a White House event, but Common has written and performed rap songs about unsavory topics which some people might not think appropriate for a White House guest. All, in my view, pretty fair points... Although, I personally like anything that removes the deification of the presidency and reminds people that the POTUS isn't anybody special at all.
So Neil wrote the story... And honestly, it's pretty much pure news. Check it out. As far as it goes, the story itself is simple and contains a series of indisputable facts:
- Michelle Obama invited Common to a poetry event.
- Laura Bush had a poetry event cancelled after criticism a few years ago.
- Common has rapped about killing police and former presidents.
- Here's a bunch of Common's lyrics transcribed from different performances.
Nothing really debatable in any of it. It's a silly issue, but it was unquestionably solid journalism. Neil didn't even editorialize in that first article at all. Sure, it's a jab at the White House... Neil is the White House press room guy for the Daily Caller and frankly, if more reporters were willing to take jabs at Obama's administration for real, we'd be a bit better off, so I say... Good for Neil!
By itself though, this story is not much more than a bit of humorous filler as far as i'm concerned.
But then something interesting happened. Neil's story got sucked into amachine of news & commentary fabrication... and I got emailed about virtually every step along the way.
The Daily Caller's communications director likes to send out emails letting the staff know about stories that get picked up by other news outlets, and Neil's little piece on Common utterly exploded over the next 24 hours. Here's a smattering of the subject headings of all the emails I received:
- HuffPost on Neil's Piece
- Chicago Tribune/LA Times - Conservatives decry White House invite to rapper Common
- NBC Chicago - Palin Knocks White House Over Common's Invitation
- The Atlantic Wire - The Latest White House Social Event Controversy: Common
- NY Daily News - Sarah Palin, Fox, Daily Caller, rip Michelle Obama's invite to rapper Common for poetry event
- Human Events - Michelle Obama's Poetry Slam
- WLS 890 Chicago - First Lady blasted for White House invitation to Chicago rapper
- Rolling Stone - Fox News Attacks Rapper Common Over White House Invite
- E! Why Is Sarah Palin Suddenly Bashing Rapper-Actor Common
This is great for us of course, so... Yay! But, let's stop for a second and take note of what's actually happened here. In almost no time at all, an article merely explaining what was going on became a partisan media circus in a matter of hours.
It's like one massive game of telephone. Neil Munro said something was happening. Another reporter at another website took Neil's article and added "conservatives are upset about it!", Fox News decides that indeed conservatives are upset and broadcast it even louder, more websites & news organizations repeat it, Sarah Palin chimes in, the DC Police Department chimes in... Suddenly what was essentially a minimally important issue gets passed back and forth by news organizations and is now a national headline.
It just kind of blows my mind.
But I think we should all be a bit more aware of this process, shouldn't we? How many people out there in the United States realize that the vast majority of "news" and "issues" we get fed on a daily basis are pure fabrications of the media machine in Washington DC?
Did you? Are you surprised by any of this.
I'd always suspected and complained about some of this stuff, but being here in the middle of it, it astounds me how incredibly powerful the process actually is and how influential the whole machine is on the rest of the country, and on the world.
Reporters go into journalism so often because they want to "change the world", and well... They do. Not sure many of them understand the power they wield though.