The Modern Epic of Denunciation

The media is driving the story line but we all are caught up in the moral drama.

We seem to have entered a period of nonstop mutual denunciation. This is particularly useful to the media, which can fill pages and airtime with nonevents that reporters and pundits invent and then cover. It is useful, too, in providing simple moral guidelines by which a person can establish superior virtue without having to do anything.

.. Yet Democratic condemnations of Al Franken began flowing within minutes of the story’s breaking

.. Pundits speculate that Republicans would prefer Roy Moore to lose his Senate race because, if he wins, he will be hung around their necks for years. They will be called upon repeatedly to denounce him, repudiate him, distance themselves from him. Like Odysseus, they will be on a long, difficult, epic journey. Unlike the “Odyssey,” however, their story will have no end or point.

What mainly drives the events of the “Denunciad,” as the gods do the “Odyssey,” is the media, which has discovered an endless fount of news—a sort of fire hydrant of youth. Suppose that Person X makes an inappropriate remark, and you are a news director charged with covering the story. By itself, it’s liable to fade pretty quickly, yet there are 24 hours of live updates to fill.

.. The people doing the reporting—CNN is particularly adamant about this—insist they are merely providing facts: It is an objective truth that Mr. Trump hadn’t condemned Mr. Moore, or that some senator hadn’t repudiated Mr. Trump’s non-condemnation.

.. But, objectively speaking, many other things didn’t happen today either. Editors don’t pluck other non-occurrences from the ether and then send people out to cover them. Why is Mr. Trump waiting so long to condemn the Hells Angels rally in Nowheresville? The president hasn’t denounced North Korea in the past six hours: Does that signal a change in policy?

What the “Denunciad” demands, rather, is a public performance of self-righteousness—a moral dramatization.

.. America’s very own national epic, like England’s “Dunciad,” seems mostly to deliver lessons about how concerned we are with keeping up appearances and establishing some sort of moral pecking order.