The media suck
I have no beef with the way the media went after the Townshend-Internet child porn story in early January. It was legitimate news, and since it starred one of the greatest rock icons, it got plenty of play. The two days worth of juicy coverage was pretty much standard operating procedure here in the modern age, driven as it is by the media’s insatiable mandate, granted with glee by the ever-voyeuristic public, to drag our most famous people through open sewers of slime, dreck and filth. It’s the price celebrities must pay, after all, for having lots more money and far better sex than the rest of us.
My beef with the media in this case is with the follow-up, or rather, the lack of it. There has been an important piece of news in the Pete story recently, one that goes a long way toward clearing the hideous taint of pedophilia from his previously good name. The media, typically, don’t do a damned thing with it. As someone who has for years received great joy, inspiration and pleasure from the words, music, and deeds of Mr. Townshend, this gets me very chapped indeed.
Here’s the statement Townshend put on his Web site in early February: “You may recall that among the media frenzy of a couple of weeks ago, representatives of the Internet Watch Foundation told the press that they had never heard from me. I, of course, know that I did communicate with them several times last year and they have now supplied to us copies of my e-mails to them, one in August and the rest in November. My lawyers have written to the founder of the I.W.F., Mark Stephens, who was adamant that they had never heard from me, asking for an explanation.”
The I.W.F. is the organization that looks for kiddie porn on the Internet, and Townshend’s alibi with Scotland Yard hinged completely on I.W.F. acknowledgement of his notifications. Now that the I.W.F. has finally corroborated Pete’s version of the story, the chances of him ever being charged with any crime seem minute. Total exoneration seems probable.
But since the media has been too bored or indifferent to give this brief but reputation-saving development the same coverage it gave to the original muck work, 90 percent of the news watchers of the world will still think, the next time they hear Townshend’s name, “Oh yes, Pete Townshend. He’s that horrible pedophile from some loud old rock band.”
That’s just not right.
I want very much for his name to be cleared. You may not give a damn about the guy. Fine. This column, ultimately, isn’t about him. It’s about a nasty little process that’s running amok, that being the nasty little way the media can throw a bucket of shit on somebody and then scurry away without taking the responsibility to clean up the unfortunate mess.