Tuesday, April 04, 2006

# Posted 4:45 PM by Patrick Porter  

THE DYING DARLINGS: Is it just a blip? Or could celebrity culture be dying? Kurt Andersen dares to hope:

The Nielsen ratings for this year’s Oscars were down 8 percent, and for the Grammys 11 percent. During the last half of 2005, the Enquirer’s newsstand sales were down by a quarter and Entertainment Weekly’s by 30 percent. The American OK! is said to be unwell, the magazine Inside TV was launched and killed last year, and a magazine called Star Shop was killed before it launched.
Admittedly, tv footage of glamorous stars does make me raise my eyebrow over the newspaper. Nevertheless, celebrity culture is a cancer, a poltergeist to be exorcised because it makes distraction and trivia overwhelmingly powerful against things we need to think about. During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur. I long for the day when the last salivating pundit is strangled with the entrails of the last vapid cinematic glamourpuss.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

I hate sounding like a free market obsessive but I am so here goes. I don't think it's the media's concentration on the trivial that keeps "us" from more important things (whoever "us" refers to exactly - I'm sure I spent at least as much time in June 2005 thinking about Darfur as about Tom Cruise). People choose what they want to see and hear - and the evidence is that they might be choosing to see less of the celebrity pap. Good for them - but good for them when they wanted to see more of it too! Finally, what's the alternative - a Committee of Public Propriety deciding what should be on TV?
None of the above takes away from my admiration for your always interesting and amusing blog...
hey seneca,

glad you enjoy the blog. I agree passionately that we should not dictate what people do and don't watch. See my post above railing against that kind of paternalism. I am simply critical of the media that encourages the population to make bad decisions, but of course they are freely entitled to make them.

But its also not exactly true that the media simply reflects appetites. It also serves to reinforce and encourage certain cravings above others. When circumstances change the focus of the media, it can have a dramatic impact on public opinion. The East Timor case demonstrates that once the media did devote more time to an important question, public interest and indeed public anger rose dramatically.
The post on diversity and dissent was spot on. Can only agree (and it is worrying, although not intellectually suprising, that student bodies can so easily turn to censorship and squashing opposing views).

I won't go on and on about the media but I still think we should give people some credit for knowing what's important - the East Timor case, like the Tsunami case, really shouldn't fall into the category of material the media chooses to highlight - they would have been failing in their job of providing news (which they occasionally still do) if they hadn't given prominence to what was happening. So really what was happening in the world affected people, not media priorities.
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