On a slow news day when there's no solid gloom or doom to report on the national security or domestic economy fronts, why not run a couple segments on bad stuff that, well, might happen?
That was the Today Show's apparent strategy this morning. First up was a piece on possible terrorist attacks on US shopping malls. A bleary-eyed Steve Emerson, Today's terrorism expert, looking like he had better things to do in Aspen, CO, went along for the ride with Katie Couric.
Well into the segment, Today had to admit that there was no evidence that any attacks on shopping malls had been attempted or even planned. But that didn't stop the show from offering up a predictable array of security guards purposefully making their rounds, banks of closed-circuit security monitors, and two lame shopper-in-the-street interviews with a man and a woman who both confessed that they don't worry about security while shopping in malls.
The only item of real interest was the factoid Emerson offered up to the effect that Israel has foiled as many as 100 attempted attacks on malls in that country. Katie provided some unintentional comic relief when she fretted that the show's highlighting of the issue might draw terrorists' attention to the possiblity of shopping malls as targets, adding "not that they're watching [the show] or anything." Increasingly, that's been Today's problem - not being watched enough, by terrorists and non-terrorists alike.
Then it was on to a pre-emptive strike on the economy, and in particular to the possibility that the boom in the housing market might be coming to an end. Once again, it's not that anything very tangible has happened, but hey, in the face of lots of good economic news lately on W's watch, the MSM can always hope that something will go wrong.
And of all the economists, from all the newspapers, that Today might have chosen, who is cited to cast a pall over the housing market? Why, none other than the egregious Paul Krugman, W's notorious bete-noire from the NY Times. Krugman has apparently detected a "hissing sound" in the housing bubble, emanating from the direction of San Diego. But as in the shopping-mall-terrorism piece, Today was forced to exit on a whimper, acknowledging that despite the dread signs detected by Krugman in San Diego, prices nationwide are at all time highs and many markets across the country continue to boom.
For Today, the drumbeat of bad news in W's America must go on, even when there's none to report.
Finkelstein has degrees from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts "Right Angle," a local political talk show. Finkelstein specializes in exposing the bias of NBC's Today Show.