Media Criticism as Self-Defense

<p>Poor celebrities. Can’t we just leave them alone? Focus on the
real news in the world? As the website
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>
<em>Iraq Slogger</em> reluctantly reported</a>,
Paris Hilton, the embattled hotel heiress and pop-culture fetish
whose jail-house comings and goings have dominated headlines of
late, recently made an impassioned plea for more responsible
journalism. ‘I would hope going forward that the public and the
media will focus on more important things, like the men and women
serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around
the world.'</p>
<p>Those are tough words from the star of
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>1 Night in Paris</a>
</em>. And they were quickly
echoed by no less than O.J. Simpson, the modern prototype of the
media-magnet celebrity defendant. ‘When Paris Hilton was going to
jail last week, more people knew about that than knew that we were
sending people into space that day,’ Simpson told
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>
<em>Editor and Publisher</em>
<p>Though Hilton and Simpson make valid points, their critiques are
also conveniently self-serving (it’s difficult to recall an
instance of Hilton calling attention to the plights of our soldiers
from the red carpet). The two aren’t alone in co-opting media
criticism as a means of self-defense; it’s a time-tested tactic for
public figures on the ropes and in need of a fall guy. A recent
case of note: When former Republican Representative Mark Foley was
accused of preying on young male pages in the run-up to the 2006
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>MediaMatters reported</a> that conservative pundits
scrambled to find someone else to blame. ‘It’s clear to me,’ said
uber-conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh (no stranger to personal
scandal), ‘that what the Democrats are doing here in some sort of
cooperation with some in the media is to suppress conservative
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<p>Such deflections, whether from the worlds of Hollywood or
Washington, give a window into the sad state of meaningful and
nuanced media criticism today. But they are perhaps most telling
(and ludicrous) coming from the journalists fanning the flames of
scandal. In a segment captured by the right-wing blog
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Hot Air</a>
</em>, CNN anchor Heidi Collins
interlaced her coverage of the Paris Hilton story with a series
of sarcastic jokes about the celebrity. Collins even poked fun
at her own network’s tagline, calling CNN ‘The Most Trusted Name
in Paris News.’ And Collins wasn’t the only CNN anchor to
question the validity of the network’s coverage. Comedy
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>
<em>The Daily Show</em>
</a> showed a montage of
CNN reporters questioning the time and resources spent on the
Hilton story, even as they devoted endless time and resources to
reporting it. Host Kyra Phillips questioned, ‘Are we just so
pathetic and so lonely that we have to live life through people
like Paris Hilton?’ Host Jon Stewart’s response: ‘If by ‘we,’
you mean CNN, and if by ‘lonely’ you mean nobody’s watching you,
then yes.'</p>
<p>Go there >>
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Paris Hilton’s Plea: Focus on Iraq, Not Me</a>
<p>Go there, too >>
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>O.J. Simpson Hits Today’s Media Coverage —
Where’s Edward R. Murrow?</a>
<p>And there >>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>In Foley Scandal, Conservatives Find Plenty of
Excuses and Plenty of People to Blame (Other Than the GOP)</a>
<p>And there >>
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Paris Hilton Gets In A Car</a>
<p>Related Links:</p>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>’If I Did It’: O.J. Holds Forth on Paris Hilton
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Media Circus</a>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Siege of Paris</a>
<p>Related Links from the <em>Utne Reader</em> Archive:</p>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Damage on Parade</a>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Krassner’s Complaint</a>
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