(Alleged!) Extortion at the Post

The Times is confused about the scandal at the Post. On the one hand, it regards it as titillating gossip. Thus the montage of gossipy photos and the nut-graf dismissing the story as the gossip that everyone is buzzing about. On the other hand, the giant front page display, dominating the page. A picture of Anthony Haden-Guest (on the front page at last!) where I am expecting to find a sheet-draped corpse outside the Baghdad mosque. Because, after all, this is a federal investigation.

The Times confusion is understandable. We’ve always known that Page 6 plays favorites, it’s hard to take the thing seriously. Years ago I heard an editor say they couldn’t print a certain item, it would piss off their friend, and the Post needed friends&#151they were the sources for their nasty items about their targets. So from a reader’s standpoint the page was always compromised and what did it matter whether there was money involved.

Of course the money makes it truly sinister. Makes the Post characters far more intriguing. Throws a window open on the entertainment culture. An important story. God knows, maybe it will bring the conservatives down?

I’m reminded of my (latest) literary idol: Muriel Spark. Dame Muriel believes that almost all human relations can be boiled down to one principle: blackmail. In her greatest tales, you will always find someone who purports to believe in one ideal or another blackmailing another. Even Sandy in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It is Spark’s bottom line on human nature. And now the Post has revealed itself, as a fine Muriel Spark plot. Oh right&#151allegedly.