Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, September 2, 1996

The unabashed nerve
of media exploiters

SOMETIMES, I love this job. I get to read the Star-Bulletin while it is still warm from the press run, so I was among the first in Honolulu to learn about naughty Dick Morris. He served as President Clinton's top political adviser until last week, when a tabloid revealed his alleged dalliances with a $200-an-hour call girl.

The story made my jaw drop in disbelief - not because Morris reportedly showed the prostitute advance copies of speeches written for the first lady and vice president, or that he told her about possible life on Mars before NASA officially announced it, or that he even let her eavesdrop on chats with the president.

Morris had the audacity to state, in response to the allegations, "I will not subject my wife, family or friends to the sadistic vitriol of yellow journalism."

To which some cynics might inquire, what's with the double standard? Wasn't the infliction of not-quite-white journalism on other people's wives, families and friends considered his forte?

Morris was as mercenary as they come. He worked for the Republicans, the Democrats, and, until recently, Bill Clinton. As long as he was paid, Morris' loyalties swayed like coconut branches in the breeze.

His specialty was strategizing what message the public wanted to hear. His motivation was to win votes for his candidate of the moment. And the vehicle to get this deed accomplished was none other than exploiting the good-old/bad-old press. It's the media, stupid.

And now Morris has the nerve to place the onus of his professional downfall on the same messengers that he so shamelessly okole-kissed and manipulated all these years? What goes around, comes around, baby.

Actually, this is not an uncommon tactic. In Hawaii, former Mayor Frank Fasi is a master of the blame game.

On the one hand, Fasi freely excoriates the two Honolulu dailies, a.k.a. "The Monopoly," for being "the worst newspapers in the nation and possibly the world" when they run unflattering stories about him or his campaign.

Conveniently, though, when they run unfavorable facts on Fasi's political opponents, he's quoting from the front pages and waving newsprint around like it's the Holy Bible.

Fasi is the Burger King of bureaucrats. But he can't continue to have it his way. Either the papers carry the gospel or they don't. Fasi should make up his mind.

That advice goes double for O.J. Simpson, a real cry-baby when it comes to the American media. His latest lament - given most recently in a paid speech to a church congregation - is that American's most famous former defendant is being persecuted by journalists. They won't leave me alone, he blubbers.

THEY won't leave HIM alone? Is he kidding? Simpson wrote and marketed a book while in prison, hired defense attorneys who leaked information like a sieve during the so-called trial of the century, and produced a video as soon as he was sprung. The purpose: to sway public sentiment to his side.

Now that public sentiment is firmly rooted against Simpson, however, it's got to be somebody's fault. The almighty purveyors of information, the media, must not be getting the right data across to improve his image.

Actually, there are several words to describe what he and others of his ilk want to be disseminated: propaganda, publicity, puffery, promotion, hype, take your pick. And all too often, they succeed - unwittingly facilitated, in part, by journalists like me.

Sometimes I hate this job.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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