GOODNESS KNOWS, we in Washington are accustomed to the elephantine presence of what we politely call the Media at every conceivable public event: the electricians slung like Pancho Villa with their bandoleers of batteries, the hulking figures shouldering their cameras like bazookas, the field marshals with clipboards, the trucks and dollies and tripods and cables, cables everywhere, writhing and gleaming in tangled masses like the snake scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
It has got so you can't have an event, from a ribbon-cutting to the attempted assassination of a monument, without this scruffy pageant. Every reporter who ever covered a hearing on the Hill will tell you how those sessions are affected, even molded, by the coverage. I remember a hearing where someone tripped over a cable, pulling the plug, during testimony, and the chairman stopped the witness in mid-sentence, and the whole process froze right there until they got on-camera again.
We know all that. It's Washington.
Normally, as technology improves, apparatus becomes steadily less bulky. Compare the lavaliere mike to the big halo mikes of the '20s. News media technology must be in its fifth generation by now, but it is still not really housebroken. And this is not good, because it is coming into the house.
I mean that literally. The other night I attended a poetry reading by local women poets -- and Eugene McCarthy -- in a Cleveland Park home. It was McCarthy who drew the media, of course. Including me.
Here were these guys tromping around the small room, poking a yard-long mike into people's faces as they tried to converse, kneeling directly in front of them so the camera could stare unnervingly at them, totally dominating the scene.
The climax came when Deirdre Baldwin, dramatically speaking a poem, was all but brushed out of her chair by two trolls swishing through the room with their equipment.
She stopped cold.
"That's it," she said. "Why should I finish, when they walk in front of me?"
Did they apologize? Did they give any sign that they understood there was a problem and they were it? Are you kidding? They are the Media.
Which means that they are, or conceive themselves to be, the public. Which means that any event they are invited to becomes public, even in somebody's home. What bothers me, as part of this pageant, is not only the intrusiveness but also the resignation -- if not eagerness -- with which it is accepted.