Saturday 4 December 2021 – La Minute Monocle
We might be a little late for the party but this week we watched Impeachment: American Crime Story. It’s a 10-part drama about the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair, and you can see it from all angles: President Clinton, Hillary, Linda Tripp (known at the time for recording her conversations with her colleague naive Lewinsky), Paula Jones (who had accused the president of sexual harassment), Juanita Broaddrick (who alleges Clinton raped her) and, of course, Lewinsky.
In 1998, the story of Lewinsky, the young White House intern who became involved with the president, dominated the news and threatened to end Clinton’s tenure. In the end, he and Hillary seemed to get away with it relatively unscathed, while the women he had been involved with were ransacked.
While this is only a version of events and a drama, it does something unsettling: It makes you look back on a long-standing story and reflect on your role as a viewer or reader of newspaper. The push to impeach Clinton was undoubtedly partisan (and, meanwhile, he was doing really good things at the time, like helping to secure a peace deal in Northern Ireland), so many people somehow wished that the case disappears. And the infamous cigar story and the semen stained dress was also a bit too sordid for you to build much empathy for anyone involved. But looking back now, you wonder how we resisted, as commentators, comedians, and writers mobilized to destroy Lewinsky and protect the Clintons. We even feel Linda Tripp, who is judged by the media as much on her weight and her appearance as on her faults as a friend of Lewinsky.
In 1999 I went to a friend’s birthday party and Monica Lewinsky was there. It was a packed house and I couldn’t think of anything to say so I never got to meet her. I would like to know.
We have a new editor for the Americas and while you’re reading this he’s sitting on a flight to Los Angeles (hopefully not dozing off but rather writing a list of all the stories that it will pay off for me). His name is Chris Lord and you might recognize his name as he worked for us before, both in London and as head of our office in Istanbul.
He was stationed in the city in July 2016 during the failed coup attempt but left on weekends to stay on the Princes’ Islands in the Bosphorus. He had to hitchhike in Istanbul on a boat owned by a supporter of President Erdogan and arrived to the roar of a renegade fighter jet buzzing over the city. For some reason he decided to come back to London and then left Monocle for a four year job as news producer for BBC Radio 4 (as well as finishing a book with photographer Jon Tonks – see our picks below). But I have now attracted him again.
The United States remains our biggest market for magazine sales and radio listeners, so it will be great to have it in the field and expand our coverage in the United States. And Chris also has the stamina to keep up with long news stories and the ability to step back to see where the real story is. He would have been a good addition to the team of Accused. You can reach out to Chris with story ideas (and even LA restaurant recommendations) at [email protected].
Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon
Another story we need to take a step back from is Omicron’s. The whole world is on epic hold as we wait for scientists to return to us with clear evidence of the transmissibility of this variant of the coronavirus and whether it is a greater threat – or not – to our health than the previous variants. At the moment, we just don’t know. But that certainly didn’t deter UK politicians from giving breathtaking conflicting advice.
For now, however, it will be up to us as individuals to follow our own paths over the next few days; doing what we feel comfortable with while always making sure to listen to the needs of those around us. This week I found myself in a bar way beyond my usual bedtime, attended several events (doing side flow tests before rocking), traveled on the Tube (in my mask ) and everything was fine, thanks. Of course there are risks but I’m tripled and certainly don’t need ministers telling me who to kiss (that’s a pretty short list of options) or whether to have a drink in a bar . My behavior will change with science.