They kissed us in Tahrir Square but did they really mean it?
Since you can't smooch Facebook or Twitter, which also got a lot of the English-language placard credit from the Egyptian citizens who actually did the overthrowing, Valentine's Day came early last week for flesh-and-blood reporters from the U.S. networks and cables.
President Obama may have been a little slow on the Cairo adrenaline uptake. Journalists, on the other hand, flung themselves into the joyous mosh pit to be happily mauled and molested, soaking in the love like a kindergartner who gets the most V-Day cards in his class today.
NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was just one of those smooched right on TV in the ebullience of the moment. But few seemed quite as thrilled as the floppy-haired, Ralph Lauren catalog CNN hunk, Ivan Watson, swept away in the pulse of joy over a change whose future is certainly uncertain. Hugs, kisses and hand holding ensued. That was then, of course, and our Valentine sentiments can be fickle and fleeting. Will Ivan get any flowers or candy today, when it matters?
I'm not raining on the Cairo parade and am probably just jealous. No one kissed us in the streets of Manila 25 years ago as a thank-you for helping tip the boat of autocrat Ferdinand Marcos into the seas of exile. And we were just as seduced by the crowds, the infatuation with possible peaceful revolution. But reporters were less "personalities" then; the world around us did not exist, as one 60 Minutes producer once told me about his show, "to make our guys look good."
But they look good now. And just in time for Valentine's Day, so the love can flow unencumbered by the tangle of context, history and the longer narrative arc. "If you throw in too much complexity," Howie Kurtz said on his Sunday morning show, Reliable Sources about last week's press jubilation, "will you ruin my storyline here?"
That storyline was romance and exuberance, which is irrational by nature, but a perfect combustible combo for Valentine's Day. It is, like love, contagious. On Kurtz's show, Washington Post Mideast bureau chief Janine Zacharia called the coverage "breathless," and said people were "addicted to the pictures." How so much like the early days of romance is that?
Anderson Cooper, another CNN Love Boat captain, said he was speechless. OMG, thank you, Egypt. Anderson was also cuffed in the head by dark characters during one street scuffle, which was news on his air for three days.The Silver Fox was always "committed to a certain version of the story," says Newsweek Mideast editor, Christopher Dickey.
Isn't that how love is?