Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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Scandals vs. Shaggy Dog Stories

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Virginia Republicans have tried to neutralize the corrosive effects of the Star Scientific scandal by making noisy claims that Terry McAuliffe has been engaged in tons of scandals of his own.  Not surprisingly, the media has latched on to this bone like a pack of hungry dogs.

But this only reflects the media's careless failure to define what it calls a "scandal."  Right wingers happily exploit this weakness as they have so successfully since the 1990s, when they spent millions to spread nasty rumors about the Clintons.  As radio legend Garrison Keilor told the National Press Club in 1994, the so-called "Whitewater Scandal" was not a scandal but a "shaggy dog story" whose "point is its pointlessness":  

"What apparently is a long, winding circumstantial joke that the teller keeps complicating by tossing in new, unrelated elements [...] The American people are sitting on the bleachers waiting for the elephant to come out and all we see are the guys selling cotton candy," he told the assembled press: "That's you."

Today in Virginia, Cuccinelli's right wing supporters -- led by the Koch-funded Franklin Center and its affiliates Watchdog.org and Cause of Action, to whom he has outsourced his opposition research -- are spreading a bunch of shaggy dog stories about Terry McAuliffe and declaring them "scandals".  And the media, as in this shameful reiteration of Franklin Center innuendos by the Washington Post, are doing little more than adding their bylines and publishing this dreck.