By Brigitte L. Nacos
The other day, an article by Heather Havrilesky and Rebecca Traister in Salon started with the following observation: “You can avert your eyes, cover your ears, change the channel and close your browser, but you can't escape the truth: Paris Hilton has become an omnipresent cultural icon, a symbol of the depravity of our times, and thanks to Friday's sobbing, O.J.-level arrest spectacle, she's destined to remain at the forefront of that rushing flow of global news until we're all old and gray.” Unfortunately, Havrilesky and Traister are right as is Nora Efron who closes the Huffington Post column “I love Paris” with the assurance at Paris Hilton is not going away—“We'll always have Paris.” Unfortunately, Ann Coulter and Anna Nicole Smith and Princess Diana and other media celebrities—however irrelevant they may be—will not go away either. Once promoted by the corporate media as celebrities, they receive more airtime than bloody wars, illegal immigration, health care problems, crises in education, climate change, or any other serious public affairs issues. Dead or alive—media celebrities get preferential treatment.
Take the media’s attention to far-right columnist and author Ann Coulter whose hate speech should disqualify her as a frequent source and guest of broadcast programs and print media. Yet, she remains the darling of media figures—especially those who strive for celebrity status themselves. Take Chris Matthews of “Hardball” who provided Coulter once again with a stage on his show and obviously arranged for Elizabeth Edwards to call in to confront Coulter and her put-downs of presidential candidate John Edwards. The polite Elizabeth Edwards was no match for the aggressive big mouth Coulter. But Matthews got what he and his kind strive for: confrontation, conflict, attacks, insults—not the civilized public discourse that Mrs. Edwards pleaded for.
A day earlier, Chris Cuomo interviewed Coulter at length on “Good Morning America” where she compared President Bush’s performance in the “war on terrorism” with President Franklin Roosevelt’s in World War II saying of Bush, “I do think what he's done in the war on terrorism remains spectacular…” But she also said that on domestic policy “Bush has been an embarrassment”—for example, with respect to the immigration issue. And in that context she remarked that ”Bush really is a uniter because we're all just waiting for this nincompoop to be gone. I think we all finally are on the same page on that.” This sentence—pretty much removed from whatever else she said-- earned her the lead-in in Tuesday’s column by the Washington Post’s media columnist Howard Kurtz.
As for the “Good Morning America” appearance, it was a promotion for Coulter’s latest book. Cuomo announced at the outset that the paperback version of “Godless: the Church of Liberalism's” is now available. This was the exchange at the end of the segment:
CUOMO: Ann Coulter, always appreciate having you in the chair.
COULTER: Thank you. Great to be here.
CUOMO: Thank you for coming. To read an excerpt from Ann Coulter's book, go to our website at ABCNews.com.
That’s how the mainstream media cover irrelevant media celebrities—and at the expense of real news.