- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
Millions of you turn to this blog site every day because you feel I will offer you insights that will help you make sense of the world. I know this. It’s a humbling responsibility. And frankly, the enormity of it forces me to offer a confession. Today I reviewed the morning papers as I usually do (online, sans paper) and watched the early broadcasts of TV news organizations and I have got to admit it, I find everything pretty confusing.
- The Michael Jackson memorial service will cost the City of Los Angeles $4 million. That’s their official estimate. I would bet you my copy of the “Thriller” album that the costs are considerably higher and they can’t bear to admit it. Why? Well, because California is broke, right? So here we have a government that is strapped for cash forking out for the public funeral of a multi-millionaire…an event that is likely to sell hundreds of thousands of records the profits of which go straight to Jackson’s family.
- On top of this, isn’t this the same local government that spent hundreds of thousands trying to prosecute today’s hero for child molestation? Whose case was made more difficult because today’s hero paid millions to buy the silence of children with whom he had some sort of interaction…one that was worth millions to keep covered up?
- Also baffling: in a bizarre twist on a bizarre case, in order to defray the costs of memorial, the NAACP is, according to MSNBC, trying to raise funds from their members and supporters. Am I getting this right? The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is pulling out the stops to raise money for an individual who actually spent a small fortune testing the boundaries of medical science in order to actually cease being a person of color?
- And, back to California being broke, yesterday its credit rating dropped to two notches above junk status. This is an economy that were it that of a country would rank 8th in the world. This is a failing government that controls an economy larger than that of Russia, India, or Brazil. (Not to mention, Canada, Mexico or Italy.) And yet here in Washington, I get no sense of urgency on this. We do company bailouts. What’s our policy going to be on state and city bailouts?
- Meanwhile, while the media’s attention is focused on the Staple Center in Los Angeles, the President of the United States is meeting with the prime minister of the world’s only other nuclear superpower. This story is less important than the media canonization of the guy who actually invented the concept of celebutard (someone famous primarily for doing really stupid things) and whose greatest accomplishments consisted of making high-pitched noises come out of his food hole. Want to get a sense of what it must have been like to be in the room with Vladimir and Barack? Take a look at the video of them settling in before the cameras for their joint statement this morning. Yikes. Calling all body language experts. There was none of that George W. Bush staring deep into each other’s eyes you can rest assured about that.
- At the same time, roughly the same number of protestors was likely killed in Western China as in Iran a couple weeks ago, and the global outrage-o-meter is barely stirring. Apparently Muslims killing Muslims is worse than Muslims and Han Chinese killing each other which proves what? The media believes in the multiplicative power of Muslims in weighing the value of a story? Or could it be that China is too big and important to too many people to be called out on its abuses? When will we realize that we can’t actually have a strong relationship with a country and a spineless one at the same time? For the United States, for example, our shared interests with China and the strengths of the relationship need to be strong enough to endure the airing of our differences or they are meaningless and the relationship will ultimately be doomed by the tensions that are not aired.
- Meanwhile, sitting in his gilded Vatican palace, the Pope has issued an encyclical striking out against greed. The encyclical, while assailing the ethical lapses that caused the current global economic meltdown, makes no mention of hypocrisy however. This might be seen as a lapse given the Church’s financial record over the years, including but not limited to the failure of Banco Ambrosiano, a bank it owned. (Although one has to wonder if they had access to a higher power that guided the Vatican treasury away from investing in derivatives, which they reportedly eschewed.) Interestingly, the encyclical also warned against the perils of mismanaged globalization…an interesting switch since arguably the Catholic Church was the world’s most important early force for globalization, a fact which largely triggered the reformation. (Well, the globalization thing and the financial excesses and ethical abuses of senior church officials.) And, confusingly enough, noting all these ironies and twists, the message of the Pope’s encyclical about better ethics and distribution of wealth seemed timely and useful.
- Similarly confusing to me was the fact that in the wake of the United Nations latest impotent, paper condemnation of North Korean missile tests that one could not hear a wave of laughter rippling around the world. But then again, perhaps everyone was too busy figuring out which of the 16 television networks that were scheduled to be carrying the Jackson memorial they would be watching. Fortunately for us all, the Security Council, according to an AP report quoting its current president Ugandan Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda, “will continue to closely monitor the situation and is committed to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution.” What a relief.
- Finally, while all the above surprises me, one last thing that I find a bit bewildering is the number of things that are utterly unsurprising that pass for news. Just to take a couple of utterly predictable examples from today’s Washington Post, “Post-Bankruptcy GM Will Have Work Cut Out for It,” “Pottermania Grips London for World Premiere” and any story that discusses the arrest of former DC Mayor Marion Barry.
David McNew/Getty Images