When it comes to stories, most of us prefer tacky over technical. Tacky trumps substance. Or these days, attack-y Trump deflects substance. That certainly could explain the decidedly non-substantive high interest in Jeff Bezos, one of President Tweet’s favorite targets. (True, there are thousands of favorite targets on Trump’s list.)
Normally, Bezos does not generate sordid fascination. The founder of Amazon, he is the richest man in the world, and he does own The Washington Post, as any reader can tell you after being treated to that disclaimer in parentheses every time the Post does a story about him or his various diverse business interests.
He’s also famously publicity-shy. These days, though, the Post has been riddled with parentheses as the paper joins media everywhere in chronicling the Bezos Scandal Chronicles. They contain some typical elements of moral turpitude in the cyber age: sex, divorce and explicit text messages that somehow got into the hands of a sleazy tabloid that has adapted to modern times by frequently obtaining what was supposed to be intimate communications.
Those communications between Jeff Bezos and his paramour included very private pictures, including private-part selfies. Secretly fooling around has been with us since the beginning of time. That is, until technology made secrecy obsolete. Of all people, Jeff Bezos, who is one of the inventors of online everything, has decided to fight back. He hired a famous security guy to investigate how the National Enquirer got hold of his lurid stuff, and who peddled it.
Then, and this gets really wild, the normally reclusive Bezos wrote a blog where he intimated that the scandal might have some political motivations and that furthermore, the Enquirer was trying to blackmail him into not pursuing that angle. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” wrote Bezos. Implied is a desire to see if Donald Trump “crawls out,” that somehow Trump was, uh, colluding with his old buddy David Pecker, who it just so happens is chairman of the media company that owns the Enquirer.
He’s also admitted to federal prosecutors that he killed unflattering stories about the Trumpster for a long time. Was this another example of his being a Trump chump? However, there might be a more mundane, not so lurid explanation: What if the Enquirer’s alleged vendetta against Bezos was not bawdy but business? Consider this: Amazon is experimenting with cashierless stores. The shopper would pick up his or her food or merchandise and, through the all-intrusive miracle of technology, leave the store without checking out.
The transaction would be recorded somewhere in that spooky “cloud.” But think about where tabloids like the Enquirer are read and sold. That’s right, the checkout counter, the very same checkout counter that would be eliminated by this legalized shoplifting. How freaky is that? But no more so than the ability of the National Enquirers of this world, along with all social media, to tear down all personal space barriers.
Yes, I know, wouldn’t we prefer our boilerplate sex scandals, particularly when they might be motivated by vengeful powerful people with names that rhyme with “rump” and “wrecker”? Wouldn’t we love to add a dollop of illegality to the mix? But perhaps there is a substantive explanation. Gee, I hope not.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.