Scoot: Why the story about Roy Moore and teenage girls is so big

November 16, 2017 - 4:56 pm

A post to my Facebook page – SOTA (Scoot On The Air) – mentioned that if I was spending so much time talking about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore then it must mean it was a slow news day. That post reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of why some news stories are so widely covered and generate intense conversation.

Let’s start with the premise that “news” is “entertainment.” That means that if the goal of the “news” – or shows that talk about the news – is to attract an audience and generate revenue, then it is logical to assume that the news media would be governed by the same principles that create and define any form of “entertainment.”

In theory, the elements that create compelling entertainment as also the elements that create compelling “news.”

Consider the current intense coverage of the Roy Moore story. The story includes the elements of sex with underage girls, conflict in the judgment and criticism of the judgment based on information from witnesses, the defense of political ideology, and a messiah-type character using God and religion to justify behavior most consider abhorrent. It is also a story about basic good vs. evil. How could a story with all of these elements not produce a compelling storyline that would attract mass appeal attention?

Many of the posts on the SOTA FB page made the point that it is not fair to judge Roy Moore as guilty with no evidence or no conviction. I can’t speak for everyone, but at no time did I ever say that Roy Moore was “guilty.” Ever. The information that the investigation has yielded, so far, is reason for many to conclude that Roy Moore should not be a senator in the U.S. Senate. Concluding that Moore is not fit to be a senator is not saying that he is “guilty.” Guilty is a legal term and is not congruent with skepticism of an individual based on information. And a diverse list of Republicans who have made the same judgment continues to grow.

Belief in the information from women who tell detailed stories about Roy Moore’s unwanted sexual aggression toward them is not a stretch. The Washington Post is included in the category of the “liberal media” which means many will never take it seriously. News outlets, like the WaPo, have exposed the wrongdoing of Democrats and Republicans. Would those conservatives quick to discredit a news outlet be equally as quick to discredit the same news outlet that had a damaging story about a liberal politician?

From early media reports, many conservatives were quick to believe the initial story about President Clinton engaging in sexual activity with the young intern Monica Lewinsky. Many Democrats instinctively defended the President based on their political ideology. Hillary Clinton and other female politicians actually defended Bill and blamed Monica for presenting the opportunity for a sexual encounter as if a man is not at fault when a young female simply offers sex.

And so it is with the case of Roy Moore. The instinctive defense of Moore is generally drawn along party lines. To be fair, there are those on both sides that either defend or criticize Moore from the available information from witnesses.

On my talk show Wednesday afternoon, a caller who said he is from the area of Alabama where Roy Moore was a district attorney and a judge reported that Democrats had been calling women in the area and offered them money to say that Roy Moore was sexually inappropriate with them when they were teenagers. I told the caller I didn’t believe it. Then he said that he has talked to people in the area who confirm the story about the offer of money to concoct a story about Moore.

After the show, I learned that a fake robo-call was made to residents of Alabama from a man claiming to be from The Washington Post who was offering thousands of dollars to anyone who would say Moore was sexually inappropriate with them when they were teenagers. The call was proven to be fake.

What seems to be logically impossible, or, at least, improbable, is believed by the gullible who are guilty of seeking confirmation bias over actual facts. As much as the WaPo is bashed by many Americans, it is simply not believable that a news outlet at that level would make such a offer to find damaging information about a politician. Yet, as I witnessed, there were those who not only believed it, but criticized me for not believing it on face value.

We have been told that the greatest threats to this country come from Islamic militants, North Korea, Russia or outside entities with weapons. I suggest that a powerful threat to America lies in the opposing sides of ideological differences. The art of confirmation bias is destroying America. Facts matter less than what is hoped to be true.

Confirmation bias breeds hypocrisy and that is tearing us apart. We can have different opinions, but those opinions must be based on facts and what is actually true – not that which is hoped to be true because it confirms an individual’s bias.

The heated debate over the allegations against Roy Moore is an example of the “stand your ground” mentality in America. Many who believed they had a right to “stand their ground” based on their view of life are currently in jail.

The story of Roy Moore is a story about sex, a power struggle and sheer conflict involving a renegade individual who uses his Christian beliefs to defend actions that are condemned by much of society. Of course, it is going to attract a lot of attention and generate a lot of talk. It’s a classic drama!

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