Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Paris in the fall

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Like it or not, Paris Hilton has turned herself into the "It" girl of the Bush II era. Through a shewd combination of shameless self-promotion and self-promoting shamelessness, the hotel heiress, "reality" TV personality, horror film actress and home-video porn star gets more attention from the E! Network and Us magazine sector of the news media than Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice combined. Her impending nuptials to a Greek shipping heir also named Paris likely will draw more TV coverage than the investiture of the pope, as will their inevitable divorce. For sheer prurient interest, her exploits are rivaled only by the Michael Jackson trial. How long, I wonder, before bootleg videos of the happy couple’s wedding night show up on the Internet?

But why all the attention? Even with all the surgical enhancement, the woman’s not superficially attractive enough to make the cut in the kinds of beer commercials shown on ESPN. Just hasn’t got that scrubbed, wholesome, let’s-havehalf-a-dozen-cold-ones-and-watch-theballgame-with-the-guys look. She can’t sing, can’t dance. As for acting, the acerbic DCMediagirl. com characterizes her as "a rich bimbo who, had she not been born with the last name Hilton, would probably be churning out [low-budget porn] videos in the San Fernando Valley about now."

So what’s the secret of Hilton’s success? Well, "rich bimbo" is definitely part of it. What was it Gatsby said about Daisy Buchanan, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920s version of Paris Hilton? Her voice had "the sound of money." Except that where Daisy’s money rendered her inaccessible, n object of romantic fantasy, Paris’ wealth makes her an object of envy and lust.

Times have changed. Today’s fairy princess dresses and acts like a courtesan. The message: Anybody can have her, except you, because you can’t afford her. But she will let you watch, because she’s an exhibitionist who gets a charge out of titillating the peasants. Aren’tyou glad President Bush’s elimination of the estate tax lets Paris keep every unearned dime she’s inherited?

The media love Hilton for the same reasons. Consider the flurry of indignation over her latest escapade, a ludicrously over-the-top commercial for Carl’s Jr., a California hamburger chain. In it, the heiress, wearing a scanty leather bathing suit, cavorts with a bucket of soapy water and a garden hose while washing—what else?—a $200,000 Bentley. With a soundtrack playing a breathy rendition of "I Love Paris," Hilton pouts and writhes all over the hood of the car like a drag queen impersonating Marilyn Monroe before succumbing to her impassioned desire to take a big bite out of a humongous double cheeseburger, yum-yum.

Almost needless to say, the ad provoked a media controversy, precisely as it was designed to do. CNN, FOXNews, MSNBC and most of the rest jumped in with coverage of what "critics" said were the ad’s excesses. "This commercial is basically softcore porn," Melissa Caldwell, research director for the Parents Television Council, told the Los Angeles Times. "It’s inappropriate for television."

Caldwell’s boss, the ubiquitous L. Brent Bozell, went her one better on NBC’s "Today" in a mixed metaphor for the ages: "This is erotica," he sputtered. "It’s a quantum leap down this pike where we try to scrape the bottom of the barrel."

Whee! I love it when L. Brent talks dirty. I mean if that don’t bring your chickens home to roost, somebody’s gonna have to pay the piper or cut bait.

Of course, it’s erotica, Adweek’s Barbara Lippert explained to an ostensibly outraged Bill O’Reilly (who may have resented Hilton’s use of a sponge instead of a loofah to soap herself down). "[T] heir target market are these motorcycle-driving, beer-drinking men between 24 and 30 who love this stuff," she said. "They’re like the bad-boy advertisers of the fast-food industry. It’s only on the West Coast, so most people wouldn’t even see it unless it gets all this free media. But they particularly do this to be provocative, to get attention, to even be offensive."

In other words, to get plenty of free air time without having to pay for it. "She’s eating a burger there, but she’s not really eating a burger," O’Reilly complained. Pretty much the way "The O’Reilly Factor," " Today, "CNN, the Parents Television Council and the rest use the made-for-TV controversy to promote themselves, come to think of it. (A recent Mediaweek report showed that Bozell’s outfit was responsible for 99.9 percent of indecency claims to the Federal Trade Commission in 2004.) People can’t get all stirred up about Paris not really eating the burger unless they show the fool thing over and over, can they? We owe it all to Kenneth Starr. Like many innovations in the art of propaganda, the technique was perfected during the Bill Clinton years, when broadcast scolds learned to titillate and infuriate their audience simultaneously through endless repetition of the magical phrase," oral sex. "

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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