It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse, I know I'm not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hopes it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11. more than five years later, however, nearly half the American people still believes that Saddam was connected to the attack.(From Digby)
At first I thought it was the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just unfortunate excess --- and unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our news media. now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsession that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Late in the summer of 2006, American news coverage was saturated with the bizarre false confession of a man who claimed to have been p[resent at the death of JonBenet Ramsey --- the six-year-old beauty queen whose unsolved murder eleven years before was responsible for another long-running obsession. A few months prior to John mark Karr's arrest in Bangkok, the disappearance of a high school senior in Aruba and the intensive search for her body and her presumed murderer consumed thousands of hours of television coverage. Both cases remain unsolved as of this writing, and neither had any appreciable impact on the fate of the Republic.
Like JonBenet Ramsey, O.J. has recently been back at the center of another fit of obsessive-compulsive news, when his hypothetical confession wasn't published and his interviews on television wasn't aired. This particular explosion of "news' was truncated only when a former television sitcom star used racist insults in a night club. And before that we focus on the "Runaway Bride" in Georgia. And before that there was the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra levy tragedy. And of course we can't forget Britney and KFed, and Lindsay and Paris and Nicole, Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch and married Katie Holmes, who gave birth to Suri. And Russell Crowe apparently threw a phone at a hotel concierge.
In early 2008, the wall-to-wall coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death, embalming, and funeral plans and the legal wrangling over the paternity and custody of her child and disposition of her estate, served as yet another particularly bizarre example of the new priorities in America's news coverage.
And while American television watchers were collectively devoting a hundred million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness.