I hate Paris Hilton. Looking at message boards around the Internet when she becomes the topic, I know I'm not alone.
I know why I hate her. She's rich, stupid and vain with an enormous sense of entitlement. But honestly, that also describes our current Commander In Chief, with the main differences between them being that Bush doesn't have nice legs and Paris doesn't control the world's most powerful army. I can only find one instance of a poll taking her approval rating, and that was two years ago when 15% of the public gave her a positive rating. For comparison, Dick Cheney's worst number was 18% approval.
What she does with her life has no effect on me. The same can't be said for what Bush does with his life. But there are lots of so-called celebrities whose lives are fodder for the tabloids, the late Anna Nicole Smith to give another overdone example. I didn't actually hate Anna Nicole. I pitied her and was disgusted by some of her actions, but most of my strongest negative feelings regarding her were about the media who just wouldn't shut up about her. With Paris Hilton, my revulsion for the media circus spills over to her directly, largely because of how much she wants to be a celebrity without having done anything that warrants interest in her.
Marty Kaplan has a piece on The Huffington Post explaining that Paris Hilton is push news while a topic like the war is pull news. Some of us might want more information about the war other than military and civilian body counts, but that's not where the big ratings are. The numbers aren't lying; covering Paris Hilton brings in more eyeballs, so everybody covers Paris Hilton.
The dystopia of news as part of the entertainment branch of TV described in the movie Network is now our reality, and has been so for well over a decade. News organizations don't brag about the stories where they scooped the competition, like the Washington Post could brag about their coverage of Watergate back in the day. Now it's about ratings. Fox Noise has high ratings for a cable outfit, so it must be good and it must be emulated. Katie Couric has low ratings for a network news show, so she must be bad. (You might not know this, but Katie Couric's bad ratings are much higher than Fox Noise's good ratings; it's all a matter of expectations.)
The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff resigned yesterday. The official story is that the administration didn't want his re-confirmation hearings to be a contentious rehash of the past five years of war and lead-up to war. Another possible reason is that he has publicly said that attacking Iran would be nuts. It would be nice to know which reason was actually the case, maybe some administration official talking off the record. But of course, that isn't as important as what Paris Hilton wore to court.
The oceans are getting significantly warmer. There's no disputing that. Maybe human actions play a significant part in it and maybe our actions play only a small part. But the press wants you to know that Al Gore is fat and he has a big house!
We are running a huge deficit in this country and we have been running it for over twenty years, except for a few years where we took a break from deficit spending when some guy who likes blowjobs was president. We borrow massive amounts from the Chinese, whose national interests aren't the same as our national interests. But the press wants you to know that a casino called The Dow Jones Industrial Average is going great guns, so the economy must be A Number 1!
Our national health care system is a mess. Michael Moore is fat and he went to Cuba!
Illegal immigration is at a very high rate. Mexicans boo at our beauty queen when she falls on the catwalk!
Of course, the press has to give us this shorthand information on these topics, which they admit might have an impact on our lives. But let's look at their side for a minute. If they went into further detail on the war or climate change or the economy or the health care system or the immigration issue, they would have less time to cover the stories they know the public actually wants. This means less time devoted to Paris Hilton, and the ratings show that nobody really wants that.
Or more accurately, intelligent people are outnumbered by stupid people, and catering to the intelligent isn't how to make money in the free market. Yay, free market!