Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus, Sanjaya, and Britney, oh my...

It’s amazing to me what makes news. The custody battle circus over the child of the late Anna Nicole Smith is still getting daily coverage on all the major news networks, even given the fact that the results of the paternity test are out. Britney Spears’ weekly rehab stints and irresponsible behavior have served to offer several strange – although brief - reprieves from all the Anna Nicole news. But now we’ve moved to something else….Don Imus.

The man who’s made his fame and fortune by spouting out controversial, over-the-top, insensitive, derogatory, and often racially-charged words has gotten fired for doing exactly that. Not only has he lost his job, but he has stirred up a major media feeding frenzy. His name and face are more known now than at any point in his 30+ year career – amazing! And you would think that, now that the media has “won” and Imus has lost both his jobs, that the “All Imus, All the time” coverage would stop. You would be wrong.

Still today you can’t go to any of the major networks without hearing about Imus and the “fallout” of the three words he wishes he could take back. It’s a sad commentary really. Our culture is driven by this sort of thing. “Celebrity” news is the most important type. We live in a culture that really wants to know all the details – from every conceivable angle - about Imus’ racial mis-statement, or Tom Cruise’ latest display of insanity, or whether or not Bobcat Goldthwait will set another couch on fire, or if Britney Spears is getting a tattoo on her freshly shorn head, or if Barbara Walters is going to finally fire Rosie O’Donnell, or….

We may say that these are just “side issues” and people don’t really care, but I think that’s simply untrue. If people didn’t really care, then the major news networks wouldn’t spend so much time covering it. But the fact is, the average American is more prepared to discuss whether or not Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie will ever regain their friendship of old, or if Sanjaya will win – and ruin – American Idol, than things that really matter.

I would be willing to wager that there are more Americans who can properly pronounce Sanjaya Malakar than there are that have any idea what the Fair Tax Movement is. I would also be willing to wager that there are more Americans who could tell you who Anna Nicole Smith was by simply looking at a photo than there is who could identify any of their State Senators by looking at a photo. We don’t know the voting record of any of our State Representatives, but we know all the pertinent stats on Kobe Bryant – or whoever our favorite sports superstars might be.

I can’t help but think that a culture that is so “hung up” on celebrity and entertainment cannot survive for very long. There was a point in the Roman Empire – the most powerful and advanced nation on earth at the time - that entertainment moved from being something for mere distraction and amusement to becoming a way of life. We all know how that story ended….

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