Whatever. Everyone's Doing It
Whatever pretty much sums up the attitude of disgraced CBS News bingo caller Dan Rather since being caught using bogus sources in 2004. In his zeal to despoil presidential candidate George W. Bush, Rather and his CBS colleagues used faked documents in an exclusive report alleging that Bush had dodged active service in Vietnam. Instead, Rather reported, Bush got preferential treatment from the Air National Guard
The report was timed to run just before the 2004 election. Much to Rather’s chagrin, Bush eventually won in a narrow vote over Al Gore.
When Rather’s trickery was exposed, Rather lost his perch as America’s top TV news anchor. Now, a new film, Truth, seeks to vindicate Rather, blaming instead the CBS corporate suits and Republican right for his fall. In the view of Robert Redford, who plays Rather and produces this pantomime, the purity of Rather’s mission in demonizing Bush absolved him of piddling details such as accuracy. (Redford displays the same Whatever approach whenever an infidel exposes the illogic of his Climate Change propaganda.)
Better for Redford to have called the film Whatever. Or, to borrow a popular meme: Rather Lied. Truth Died.
Whatever also pretty much sums up the testimony of Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton before the Congressional committee looking into how the U.S. government let four of its employees — including an ambassador — get killed in 2011. That would be the committee that discovered, among other things, that Clinton was running her own email server as secretary of state, exposing classified material to hacking by foreign governments.
Whenever backed into the thicket of her contradictory and opaque record, Clinton gave a tetchy exasperated “whatever” look meant to convey her annoyance at being asked to square her words with her deeds. Faced with her quotes acknowledging that she fabricated a Benghazi villain from a video producer, Clinton shrugged and said she didn’t see the same meaning in her plain speech.
Whatever. It was all reminiscent of her immortal blast from an earlier inquisition, “At this point what possible difference could it make?”
Whatever was also on display in New York where city councillors decided to name a park in the city after Ethel Rosenberg, the spy who was executed along with her husband in 1950 for passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. How can we be certain she was a spy? Because the Soviet documents released later showed them proudly discussing their moles’ activities. (Not very flatteringly, BTW.)
The Rosenbergs were traitors of the first order. But Whatever. Like the mass murderer Che Guevara, Ethel has been appropriated by radical progressives in service of the greater good. What are a few quibbling details about passing secrets when Bernie Sanders’ revolution awaits at the city gates?
To be balanced, Whatever is also Donald Trump’s byword for when he ventures into the deep weeds — which is approximately ever 20 minutes. As in, accuracy is for suckers, so can we just move on? So far, Whatever seems to have become Trump’s force field, repelling the annoying questions about Trumps’s beliefs — which do more open-field running than Barry Sanders.
From every side of the political argument, we have entered the Whatever era. Keep the facts roughly within the ball park and move along. Media stars such as Rather or Brian Williams are too busy on Fantasy Island to parse every fact in a story, so why sweat the details?
There was a time when these risible fibs were more than a Robert Redford laugh line. That would have been the time when the mainstream media employed experienced editors and producers to survey copy or vet TV scripts. I can well remember spending the better part of three days with the inimitable Danny Henry, CBC’s libel lawyer, poring over the most minute details of an expose on deposed hockey crook Alan Eagleson.
Why? Because Whatever didn’t cut it. Your reputation didn’t rest on the orthodoxy of your political PPV. It rested on your accuracy to detail, your loyalty to the facts.
Now? “Based on real events” seems to be close enough to pass the spitballing of public attention. Just as well. Newspapers and television networks can’t afford dedicated editors anymore.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster