Do not underestimate my disinterest, for it runs deep and true. I have spent my fair share of time as the White House Correspondent in DC, where my independent voice in the press corps has brought its fair portion of turbulence. And yet, in witnessing the exercise of power up close, I have come to appreciate the vast gap between the reality of the situation and the image projected in popular culture.
Recently, I attempted to watch “The Diplomat” on Netflix, but was quickly dismayed by the degree to which it departed from the reality of US-UK diplomacy, let alone foreign policy more broadly. Rather than offering an insightful look into the international relations, the show was little more than an exercise in pulp fiction. The writers fashioned a preposterous plot around Russia framing Iran, a notion so absurd it defies belief. And as if that weren’t enough, they also portrayed Marine One landing before the British residency in London, as if it were the South Lawn at the White House.
Sadly, however, such exaggerations are not far from the reality of politics, where optics and political theater often take precedence over genuine substance. This was perhaps most apparent in a recent incident involving President Biden, who was seen at the press conference in Rose Garden holding a preview of questions submitted by LA Times reporter.
Karine Jean-Pierre was quick to explain it as standard protocol – briefing the President on the reporter who would ask the question, which happened to differ from the one asked. But is that truly the case? If one question was submitted for a preview, surely, others must have been as well, only not captured by the still camera that zoomed in, one too many times.
It is difficult not to be cynical about the degree of manipulation and control exercised at the White House.
And so it is that I find myself declining to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Though I could easily purchase a table and invite a host of celebrity friends as a member of the WHCA, I see little reason to celebrate press freedoms these days. It is a farce, and I would rather spend my time watching Netflix. Next year perhaps there will be a change, and true freedom of the press will be celebrated.
Verily, it’s all fiction.
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