A major government contractor screwed the taxpayer out of $100 million and nobody cares. But let a government seminar caterer charge $16 for a muffin and the Orcosphere blows up.
So says Greg Sargent:
So what does this tell us? First, conservatives have a media apparatus that they can use to force certain stories into mainstream awareness when they find those that tell a tale they want people to hear. It doesn’t always work — for instance, their efforts to get everyone to care about the New Black Panthers have not borne fruit — but it works often enough.
Second, if there’s a vivid detail, even one that turns out to be untrue (like the $16 muffin), then all journalists are much more likely to find it compelling and do stories about it. You’d think that the story of the guy who managed to bill for 100 hours of work per day would be pretty compelling. Guess not.
It’s also true that the simpler the story, the easier it is to get the low-information voter pissed off. Everyone knows what a muffin costs; even Starbucks can’t sell them for $16. But explaining billable hours or deliverables requires understanding of the actual process of contracting, and when you try to do that, you can see the eyes glazing over. That’s why Ronald Reagan was able to get elected making up stories about welfare queens in Cadillacs and young bucks buying t-bone steaks with food stamps. The better the lie the better the outrage quotient.