When you're writing something shorter than the Encyclopedia Brittanica, it's crucial to limit the scope of your subject to something that can be dealt with justly in whatever the length of your piece.
That helps because it keeps things from getting too out of hand, and it keeps you focused on the details. The problem is that I have no subject in mind right now, and therefore have no details or arguments to organize. It doesn't make for compelling reading.
What to deal with? The immigration debacle? The Duke rape allegations? Donald Rumsfeld under fire from retired generals? The state of things in Iraq? Osama Bin Laden releasing a new hit single?
Truth be told, I haven't looked into any of these subjects beyond the occasional perusal through Internet headlines and stopping by MSNBC (since it's on the channel next to The Learning Channel, and TLC has shows like "The 160-pound tumor").
And watching TV news, I've learned that the lion's share of time is devoted to stories that, while shocking, have little or no impact on anyone outside the community where it's taking place. A perfect case in point here is the rape allegations levelled at the Duke University men's lacrosse team. As the story develops, we're treated to up-to-the minute details from the vigilant corps of reporters camped out near the Blue Devils' home. All the network news outlets are tripping over each other to get "exclusive interviews" with individuals connected to the scandal in whatever way... usually family members or former employers.
Not to downplay the seriousness of rape, but does this story really merit the kind of coverage it's getting? I submit that it does not. Allegations of rape are made daily -- what makes this case so special as to mobilize the national media?
Well, throw the Duke lacrosse team into the mix, and suddenly we've got something that transcends news -- we've got drama. That means that every detail, every new development, every unforseen move by the defense or prosecution is a new episode in a new TV mini-series. And lord knows we need something to follow until the new season of "Rescue Me" comes on.
Is a civil war going on in Iraq? Michael Yon says yes, and that it's been going on since before we ever darkened the doorway. I don't think it's a secret that Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds don't make good roommates for each other, and haven't for quite some time. Anyone still clinging to the hope that bringing democracy to Iraq would turn it into Superhappyfunland should probably do a little reassessment.
Should Rumsfeld step down in light of the criticism levelled at him from retired generals? Well, would it matter if he did?
It's tough in times like these to come up with anything worth really digging up. So for me, for now, it's back the 160-pound tumor.