News, Newser, Newsest
By Jeff Greenfield
Was it only last winter when journalists were moping about
their respective newsrooms muttering, "Isn't anything going on?"
These days the greenroom of CNN's Washington bureau looks and
sounds a lot like a big-city emergency room on a wild Saturday
Get the lawyers out of here! I want the terrorism experts!
Are you nuts? With Bonnie bearing down on the coast? We need the
With the ruble collapsing? Yeltsin tottering? Clinton in Moscow?
I've got six international economists and Kremlin watchers in
Hold it! Hold it! McGwire and Sosa both went yard! I need a
pretentious sports essayist stat!
This onslaught of news is not mere coincidence. It is, in fact, a
rarely understood law of nature--a kind of Harmonic Convergence.
Every once in a great while, the emergence of an important news
event generates so much energy that it actually produces more
news, much as the appearance of a bus, after a lengthy wait,
triggers the approach of four or five other buses immediately
I first spotted this kind of convergence in the fall of 1964. On
Oct. 7, in the midst of a presidential campaign, a top White
House aide was arrested in a YMCA men's room and charged with
indecent exposure. Nine days later--one day after the St. Louis
Cardinals won a seven-game World Series against the New York
Yankees and the Soviets ousted Khrushchev and replaced him with
Brezhnev--China exploded its first atomic device. That same day,
Harold Wilson became Britain's first Labour Prime Minister in 13
years. That week TIME put four people on its cover.
Ask a member of my generation for the most dramatic example of
Harmonic Convergence, and the answer is sure to be, 1968, of
course. I've got a different candidate: the fall of 1973.
Watergate was still dominating the headlines when, on Oct. 6,
Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel during the Yom
Kippur holidays. Four days later, Vice President Spiro Agnew
resigned. Over the next 10 days, Middle East and Persian Gulf
nations organized a total oil embargo against the U.S. because of
its support for Israel. And on Oct. 20, one day before the
embargo took full effect, came the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon
ordered special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired, Attorney General
Elliot Richardson resigned in protest, and an honest-to-God
constitutional crisis was born.
What makes that 1973 convergence so remarkable is that it was not
just a Harmonic Convergence but an Inter-Related Convergence as
well. The firing of Cox made impeachment a real possibility, but
so did the removal of Agnew, often seen as Nixon's best
impeachment insurance. And so did the oil embargo: by delivering
a hammerblow to the American economy in the form of higher energy
prices, the embargo further undermined Nixon's popularity.
So what about the summer of '98? Well, if the Clinton-Yeltsin
summit and the fear of economic collapse lead both McGwire and
Sosa to keep hitting home runs in search of enhanced income
possibilities, we may really have a brand-new Inter-Related
Harmonic Convergence to remember.