Candid camera for Novak

July 28, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD

If you worry at all about privacy in our 24/7 wired world, think about this: Now you can't even run over someone without ending up on an Internet video.

Well, not if you're the least bit famous, anyway.

Which brings us to the sad case of syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

As you may have heard, Novak was driving in downtown Washington last week when he apparently hit a pedestrian with his Corvette convertible.

To be honest, I never figured the 77-year-old Novak for a guy who tools around in a 'Vette.

I figured him for a guy who gets whisked around in a limo as he sticks pins in a Valerie Plame doll and barks at Dick Cheney on a speaker phone.

Anyway, the incident occurred in slow-moving traffic and the pedestrian, an 86-year-old man, was only slightly injured.

Novak said he didn't even know he had hit the guy, which is probably not a good sign. And he drove on after the incident.

But at least one witness - a bicyclist who caught up to Novak and flagged him down - said the pedestrian ended up on the hood and windshield of Novak's car before rolling off.

Which is quite a discrepancy, wouldn't you say?

Normally, if you're driving along and someone lands on your hood and windshield, it's something you tend to notice.

But Novak, whose nickname is the Prince of Darkness, insisted he didn't see anything.

And the police slapped him with a $50 ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian, but not for leaving the scene of an accident.

And there the matter would have ended - well, at least in the days before the Internet became the focus of all life for so many.

Sure, this being the United States of Let-Me-Get-Mine, the pedestrian might flop on the floor one day soon and claim he's paralyzed for life and sue Novak for a hundred mil.

But basically it was just another minor accident in a city where there are dozens of minor accidents every day.

Except ... right away a video of Novak at the scene of the accident was all over the Internet.

I saw it as soon as I logged on that day.

It was listed on my home page under "Top Stories" and carried the headline: "Columnist Hits Pedestrian."

Oh, is that beautiful?

Goodbye mortgage crisis, soaring gas and food prices, war in Iraq!

Here's today's real top story: Remember that guy who used to be on CNN? On Crossfire and The Capital Gang? He smacked into someone with his 'Vette! In a D.C. crosswalk!

Apparently, minutes after the accident, someone tipped off a local TV station that Novak was involved.

Soon a cameraman rushed to the scene and filmed the columnist climbing out of a police car with his ticket.

And soon after that, millions on the Internet were treated to video of a shaken and embarrassed old man giving reporters his version of what happened during a minor traffic accident.

Wonderful.

Is this a great country or what?

But this is how it goes now in the world of the new media - and we're all supposed to get used to it.

Now we have the Internet and thousands of Web sites and the baying of the blogosphere, all ravenous for breaking news, all demanding to be fed content, no matter how mundane.

Throw in this country's fixation with celebrity, no matter how minor or fleeting, and you see how Robert Novak popping a pedestrian with his 'Vette becomes such a hot story.

But where does it end, this unhealthy desire to know everything there is about the rich and famous?

I ask this because Robert Novak is hardly an A-list celebrity.

This isn't crazy Britney Spears checking into rehab.

Or Christian Bale, hot off another Batman mega-hit, getting into a dust-up with his mom and sister.

This is an old guy with wispy hair and an expanding waistline who spends most of his time tapping on a keyboard and talking on the phone.

Why, that almost sounds like, um ... me.

Only with zero celebrity status. And no syndication deal.

If I smacked a pedestrian in a crosswalk with my Honda CR-V, would someone actually make a video of the whole thing and put it on the Internet?

And would people actually click on it?

Never mind.

I think I already know the answer.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Online

Read recent columns by Kevin Cowherd at baltimoresun.com/cowherd

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