Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Of White Houses and Maisons Closes: Time for the press to get out of the boudoir

Cecilia ran off on Nicholas for another man. Then she came back. Nico was elected.

Cecilia hung around long enough for her husband to get settled into his new post, even extending a helping hand when the liberation of a convoy of Bulgarian nurses – wrongly accused of contaminating a Libyan nursery with the AIDS virus – provided an opportune publicity coup for the new French government. Shortly after, she liberated herself from the bonds of marriage, signing the divorce papers during the first round of the transit strikes – a protest fuelled by her spouse’s much-debated reforms.

Newly divorced, Nico was footloose and fancy free, making history as the country’s first single president. The market of A-list bachelorettes with designs on the first ladyship was at his disposal. But the razzle-dazzle of swinging singledom, was, perhaps, dampened by the force of ennui. And so, several weeks after severing ties with one woman, the statesman that some refer to as President Bling-Bling did what many a man of power and influence would do: he hooked up with a model, until death (or le divorce) do them part.

Meantime, across the Big Pond, another man of power and influence was indulging in the pleasures offered by a different breed of A-list, to the tune of $80,000 – the price of a significantly devalued piece of sub-prime real estate, but still more costly, in the end, than a good, old-fashioned cigar. Every man, after all, has his own manner of partaking in le plaisir.

The question is: who really cares?

Judging by the media, the sex lives of politicians are at the top of everyone’s mind – or at least they should be. In an era when we are all scrambling to sustain and conserve, why else would editorial boards worldwide sacrifice the trees and the energy necessary to transmit this information if they didn’t believe the public was in need of it?

True, members of democracies have the right to know when one of their officials is engaging in practices that are contrary to what they are supposedly fighting for. And, even in a country where privacy is still held in relatively high value, a presidential divorce – or marriage – should hardly be kept a secret. It’s the duty of the free press, which continuously battles within the limits of its freedom, to keep people in the know.

However, those of us who regard the old days – those when the media winked and turned a blind eye to the more promiscuous activities of those that it covered – with nostalgia, are finding the pool of intelligent, informative analysis evaporating. Recent polls in France, for example, showed that the French would like to hear less about Mr. Sarkozy and his romantic exploits, and more about what he’s actually doing – and not doing – for the nation. Sex scandals and high-level unions are amusing diversions, but what with global warming, the decrease in consumer buying power and, hey, the time it takes to tend to our own secret gardens, we’ve got enough to worry about already.

For those who disagree, there’s one more tidbit: worry not for Cecilia. She’s back in the States, and word has it that she’s engaged to – gasp! – her lover.