Celebrities & Cynicism

Rarely is cynicism an appropriate moral stance. But, now is one of those rarities. Yesterday afternoon, the important news about developments in Iran, where some analysts believe elements of the Republican Guard have effectively taken over control of the country from the mullahs (one analyst used the word "coup"), news that will affect the future of that country and the region, and of course the United States for a long time to come and in potentially horrific ways, that news vanished in the twinkling of an eye. Michael Jackson had been taken to the hospital. A short while later we learned that he had died.

Jackson is only a few years older than me. Indeed, I remember him when he still looked human. His was certainly a rare and engaging talent and his personal oddities made him perfect fodder for our tabloid culture. That culture has been omnipresent for some time and it is thoroughly pernicious. Over the next few days, people who only knew Mr. Jackson through the pages of "People" magazine or through television appearances and the such will wail and cry and stand in long lines to pay their respects. And you have to ask: Would they be so moved by the death of a neighbor? Of a loved one?


This phenomenon of public mourning for someone known only through the media was last on full display when Diana, the Princess of Wales, met her untimely end. Even today, so many years later, people in conversation will say they recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news, the way my parents’ generation remembers where they were when they learned President Kennedy had been shot or when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Princess did many good works and she was certainly beautiful, but she was no Jack Kennedy. If you doubt the existence of God or his sense of humor, he called Mother Teresa to Himself shortly after the Princess. The contrast between their life work was not in the royal’s favor. Consequently, having spent millions of dollars covering the funeral of the "People’s Princess" at Westminster Abbey, the networks were virtually forced by the last shred of conscience to send the crews on to Calcutta for the very different funeral of Mother Teresa.

One man will not be mourning Mr. Jackson and that would be Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, whose "hiking? Did I say I was hiking? I was actually off with in Argentina with my mistress" press conference was the most surreal political moment of the year. Like watching a bad accident, you couldn’t tear your eyes or ears away from it. Coming on the heels of the news that another conservative Republican who has long championed the Defense of Marriage Act, Sen. John Ensign, was also having an affair, one is beginning to think the GOP has lost its moorings. As Kathleen Parker mischievously asks this morning, the next thing you know there will be prominent Democrats who didn’t pay their taxes!

The implosion of Sanford and Ensign leaves the 2012 field even slimmer. It is dominated utterly by the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who remains the most – hell, the only – compelling figure atop the GOP. A recent poll shows her comfortably ahead of her GOP rivals for the nomination. Why? Check out "People" magazine. When was the last time you saw Newt Gingrich’s picture on the cover? So, this week, have a cup of cynicism with your morning coffee. It is not normally recommended but now it is downright necessary.



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8 years 4 months ago
"Jackson is only a few years older than me. Indeed, I remember him when he still looked human. " What a horrid thing to say. Didn't your mother ever tell you to never speak ill of the dead?  
8 years 4 months ago
As far as Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace.  To say anything else is to speak ill of the dead. On Iran, the Revolutionary Guard is not the problem, the Basij are.  The rhetoric of the mullah's may indicate that Mousavi is making inroads in pacifying the Basij and the Guard - in which case the revolution may actually succeed (no cause for cynicism there). I will leave the Ensign and Sanford family tragedies alone as well, and leave their political fates to the voters who elected them.  Any implications for either the Defense of Marriage Act or the inexorable evolution toward the recognition of gay marriage by the civil authorities (which will undoubtedly lead Catholic families with gay loved ones to demand better treatment for their children at the hands of the Church) are slight, since matters of civil liberty are best decided judicially rather than by majority vote in a natural rights democracy. As to Sarah Palin leading the GOP pack, I'm not sure where you are getting your information.  Go to race42008.org for better GOP polling, most of which indicates that Mike Huckabee is the leading candidate in head to head contests.  Mark Sanford's exit from the race makes him the only southern candidate with any realistic shot at the nomination.  While Romney does well among Republicans  in Blue States, the powers that be in the GOP may realize that playing to this demographic won't work for Romney any more than it worked for McCain in the general election.  Romney can't draw the base in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Virginia - while Huckabee probably can.
8 years 4 months ago
What is this "Republican Guard" in Iran? Your ignorance is amazing.
8 years 3 months ago
OK, Revolutionary Guard.  Some of us still have have Iraq on the brain - however the underlying truth of both his post and my comments are the same.


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