I feel sorry for Paris Hilton. She got out of jail today and goes on The Larry King Show tomorrow night to tell about her experiences behind bars. And already everybody in the media is bashing her, making fun of her as if she was some kind of national joke.
Is it her fault that she is a pathetic 26-year old nobody, a queen of the party scene who is an incredibly stupid, vacuous person with the IQ of a gnat (perhaps: tests proving that are not yet in), possessing no observable known talent, except the uncanny ability to get on TV and in the papers and magazines?
Is it her fault that she has proven you can lead a hedonistic life of escapism and still be a role model for millions of young woman who have learned that all you have to do to capture the media attention is drink, take drugs, make sex videos and don't wear panties when there are photographers around?
We the media made her what she is. Without us, she never could have risen from an unknown to a nonentity.
I was fascinated in the run up to her jail sentence by the way serious MSNBC, CNN, and all the network anchors were issuing disclaimers saying, in effect, "We can't believe we are showing this footage." Then they show it again.
Paris served her time. All 23 days. It was hard time for Paris. She paid her debt to society, albeit with a credit card. Still she comes out of the can under a cloud of cynicism, skepticism and derision.
Was it her fault that at least two major news organizations were locked in a battle to get the first interview, as if she was Nelson Mandela? The numbers being reported for the right to be first with her words of wisdom were appalling: from 100,000 to 750,000.
And then ABC News and NBC News denied they were negotiating. F'er sure.
They denied it even crossed their mind. That is checkbook journalism, and they are against it in principle.
How easy it is to forget the wonderful speeches ABC News executives made denying they paid Michael Jackson for an exclusive interview he gave to Diane Sawyer, back in the days before he began serving the life of a pasha in the Arabian desert. Some alleged he received $2,500,00 in non-payment for his services. I still think Diane Sawyer should have won an Emmy that year for best dramatic performance as a news journalist.
Paying for interviews, everybody knows, is so crass. Why should they pay for an interview when they can give talent package deals? In Paris' case, it might have turned out to be a TV movie or miniseries about her life so far, a record contract, a three-book deal and the doll. Not to mention paying her beauty parlor bill. Also the hidden costs of hiring family members to serve as consultants, paying for weekends in New York, first class air travel, a new fur coat if the weather turns chilly, a $750 per day per person for "food" and they don't-care-what-you-do-with-it walking around money -- all perks that have been used in the name of news research.
Was it her family's fault that they seemed to be asking for that kind of money? It wasn't just greed. After all, they might have to pay for Paris' college tuition.
Poor Paris. She is not used to these sudden bursts of integrity. She has grown accustomed to the groveling media.
The networks suddenly backing off could lead to psychological damage. It can give her an inferiority complex. Her self-worth may have already been diminished. Her words are not worth $750,000? What is the world coming to?
It also might say her celebrity biological clock is running out. Could her 15 minutes be well nigh over? That can upset a woman with a fragile ego.
Fortunately, Larry King stepped in to the breach. The old suspendermeister is the man who can restore Paris' faith in herself. After all, Larry has everybody who is anybody on the show. Presidential aspirations are announced on Larry's hour.
The reason Larry is such a popular forum is that he never embarrasses anybody. He's a gentleman and people who do his show know that he never will ask them a difficult question. If he had OJ on, he wouldn't have brought up the recent unpleasantness of his wife. He would ask him who his tailor is, you've got great clothes, you know, talk about your golf swing, your 2,000 yards at Buffalo.
Some other guys like Bill O'Reilly would start off by saying, "So you murdered your wife and you take cocaine. Now tell us why we should even talk to you?"
Larry will be kind, throwing his whiffle ball questions at the woman who should be on her way to the Space Cadet Academy after things settle down. He will worm out of the ex-con her thoughts about the need for penal reform in the California prison system. Under the hot third degree lights, he will draw out what she really thinks about the food, the other inmates were too noisy. Larry will touch all the bases: what's her favorite champagne?
I just hope she doesn't go too serious on us with that religion and Women's Christian Temperance Union speeches, when what the public really wants to know for an important interview like this, is she wearing panties?
After Paris' 15 minutes are up will be time enough to ask, who is more pathetic, Paris Hilton or us?
I say us.
There are those who say journalism has hit the bottom of the barrel with the Paris Hilton coverage. They said the same thing with the 'Anna Nicole Smith is Dead' story. Not to worry. Just when you think we've hit the bottom of the barrel on any particular story, it's discovered the boards at the bottom have been removed. We are now on the ground below the barrel. The next time we will be in the basement. And after that, two stories underground in the sub-basement. Have no fear. The way things in the media are going Paris Hilton will be remembered as the golden age of journalism.