What generated the Anthony Weiner scandal?
Nick Beaudrot argues that it’s a supply-side problem. Because Congress and the president are gridlocked, no one expects real policy changes or major legislation to emerge from the 112th Congress, and so the media has to invent news stories.
I disagree. The recent showdown on current-year spending and the continuing showdown over the debt limit are major congressional stories, and are being treated as such. Unemployment and other economic news are also significant and newsworthy. Meanwhile, United States troops are engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and the rest of the world is generating what must be historically above-average levels of news.
No, what I think is driving this one is demand-side. Three cable nets, something resembling 24 hours a day: they need stuff to talk about. Anthony Weiner isn't taking up space that would otherwise go to legislation; he's filling a hole that would otherwise go to murders, or perhaps weather events. And the overkill on coverage is similar to the overkill on coverage of murders, or runaway brides, or the balloon kid. Indeed, it's demand-side in two ways: they have all that time to fill up (cable net demand for stories), and there's an audience out there that apparently craves this sort of thing.
The other side of it is that this sure seems to me to be a highly entertaining story. No, it doesn't pass Paul Waldman's "important" test, and as I said earlier the overkill sort of ruins it, but really -- wacky behavior by politicians is good fun to watch. It's not important, it doesn't matter, but so what?